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Wat Mongkoltepmunee

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Basic information
Address:
3304 Knights Rd, Bensalem, PA 19020, USA
Sectarian affiliation(s):
  • Theravada
Cultural, linguistic, ethnic affiliation(s):
  • Thai
Geographic Origins of Institution or Founder:
  • Thailand
Best time to visit:

Meditation instruction in English on Fri. and Sat. 5-7pm, full weekly service Sun. 9am–1pm.

Date last visited: April 15, 2018
Currently active?: As of the last time it was visited by our research team, this location was open.
Other Basic Information:

Established in 1984. Branch of Wat Paknam Pasichareon in Thailand, and is an important center on the East Coast for Thai Buddhism. There are 5–7 monks in residence.

Local setting, neighborhood, demographics

Located on a large campus with multiple Thai-style buildings in suburban Bensalem, the temple serves the regional (PA/NJ/NY/DE) Thai population. Services include Thai-language religious services, Sunday school for children, and Thai language/culture school. There is a larger attendance on Sundays than on any other day, and holidays might attract as many as a few hundred people to the temple.

The member/participant population is predominantly Thai, and social and business activities are almost wholly conducted in Thai language. A small number of predominantly Caucasian attendees attend evening English-language meditation sessions. We also noted a large number of Caucasians attending the new year's festival (songkran), most of whom appeared to be married to Thais.

Connections with medicine, healing, wellness

The temple teaches a meditation using a crystal ball. It is said that this method helps delve into the deepest parts of the mind to help find inner strength, to heal mental problems, and to eliminate the root cause of suffering. The meditation, which is typical for institutions affiliated with the Wat Paknam tradition, involves visualizing a crystal ball  in seven different parts of the body. After visualizing each individual body part, the mantra “Samma-Araham” is said before moving on to the next area. The meditation is explained by interviewees as being able to heal many physical illnesses, including slowing or even curing cancer, by positively affecting the mind. Chants to focus and calm the mind are also taught, which we are told contribute to balancing one’s health.

Interviews were held during the annual Thai new year (songkran) festival, a large gathering with several hundred people. Festivities center around the giving of gifts of a large amount of food to the sangha (sanghadāna) for purposes of earning karmic merit, which is then redistributed to the participants after the monks have eaten their fill. In addition to being an important means of earning merit and a focal point for the community to celebrate its cultural identity, specific Thai foods are also associated with various health benefits. Strong flavors and specific blends of spices are credited with various health effects on the body, including spicy and sour foods to stimulate digestion, garlic and ginger for protection against infections, and juices and teas made from fruits and flowers for cooling the body.

At the time of the interview, a member of the temple community had established a station to check blood pressure with volunteer nursing students from a local college. The station distributed information on congestive heart disease and other cardiovascular ailments.

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