In July this year, I presented a paper at the 17th World Sanskrit Conference at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. After the conference, I visited my cousin, Dalim Barua, who lives in the city of Montreal. He and his two friends recommended me to visit Tam Bao Son Monastery, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple, not too far from Montreal located in the Township of Harrington, Quebec. Venerable Phra Ananda drove us in his car from Montreal to the monastery.
I had not expected the area of temple and its design to be quite so beautiful. By the time we entered the monastery grounds, I was attracted by several remarkable-looking buildings within the monastery complex. The main building is special because inner sides of the four walls are covered with 1000 small statues of the Buddha. A big image of the Amitabha Buddha is placed in middle which we circumambulated after paying homage. A large bell and drum are placed in the shrine hall. As the monastery complex is a huge area, we hurried to visit it and to pay homage to the other shrines located in a short distance of each other.
The 337-acre monastery was established in 1988 to preserve the Buddha’s teaching, train monks and nuns, organize annual retreats, create replicas of scared places connected to the life of the Buddha, and to create a union of Vietnamese Buddhist monasteries in Canada. In the monastery grounds are magnificent Buddhist statues and a pleasant garden. The complex consists of two sections separated by a main road which connected with different sacred places.
The monastery was established in honour of the four sacred places connected to the life of the Buddha. The garden of Lumbini represents the birth of the prince Siddhartha. A baby image of the prince Siddhartha, an image of his mother Queen Mahamaya and many other statues
connected to the birth of the Buddha are placed here. Bodh Gaya represents Gautama’s attainment of Buddhahood. It comprises of a bronze statue of the Buddha in Thai style, under a special tree comprising six trunks which represents the six perfections. Sarnath represents the Buddha’s first sermon to his five disciples, and Kushinagar represents the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha.
I felt overwhelmed at seeing the image in Parinirvana posture of the Buddha with his head to the north and his legs to the south. The statue was immense. As this place is so peaceful we spent some time here and just soaked up the atmosphere. There are numerous shrines to be found in the grounds, with many statues of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Maitreya, and Vajrapani in various styles and postures. A statue of the Buddha receiving offering is placed to represent the aspiration of compassion and wellbeing for others.
A small section of varying sizes of Thai Buddha statues are spread around the temple grounds, along with chapels adorned with different types of statues and small bell. It also has a conference hall, the dormitory for guests and a library.
We had to leave earlier than I hoped as I had a flight in the evening. This was the first Buddhist temple I visited in Canada. I was so impressed! I felt at peace during the visit, and will remember every moment.