The Faces of Phat-An

Of the 150 to 200 people who show up to Phat-An every Sunday, each has his or her own story.

Quy Dang is 71 and has attended Phat-An Temple for 33 years. Quy says that she developed an interest in Buddhism at a very young age, at six or seven, and started attending Phat-An immediately after arriving in Minnesota. “I’m a Buddhist…and [Phat-An] was here since when I came,” she said, explaining her path to the Temple. She has volunteered ever since, serving on the executive board for twenty-three years. Now that she has retired from her job with the state of Minnesota, Quy devotes herself full-time to her role at the Temple. In particular, she arranges for visitors to attend Dharma talks, helps conduct larger services, and oversees many of the operations of Phat-An. Outside of this role, Quy attends the Dharma talk every Sunday, and participates in additional prayer sessions, such as the monthly Prohibitory Commandments practice.

Huong arrived in Minnesota in 1996 and lives 15 minutes from Phat-An, near White Bear Lake. She said she grew up in a Buddhist family, knowing about Buddha and karma, but she didn’t start practicing or attending Phat-An until 2012. Huong explained that, after coming to a prayer session with a friend, she developed an interest in Buddhism and began to research Buddha’s teachings online. She comes to Phat-An in part to learn from the monks, who, she said have a lot to teach her. Her husband and children do not attend with her, but she meets her sister-in-law and cousin at the Temple, catching up with them while they listen to the Dharma talk from an adjoining room.

Louie lived in Minnesota and attended Phat-An until moving to Florida around 2010 with his family. Around 2014, he returned to work for his former construction company in Oden, and he was living with his cousin until his family joined him at the end of the summer. Louie said that he never found a temple to regularly attend in Florida; he had to drive two hours to the nearest Vietnamese temple, and the nearby Thai temple had such different customs that he stopped going after three weeks. After returning to Minnesota, Louie said that he runs into people he knows at Phat-An, both customers from work and people he knew at Phat-An before he moved away. “It’s a small world,” he said.

Lam lives in Roseville with his parents and brother and teaches physics at a high school in St. Paul. He has lived in the United States since he was eight, and said he only comes to Phat-An occasionally, when he feels like it. Lam meditates at home and reads extensively about Buddhism, but said that he doesn’t really like the community at Phat-An. To him, many aspects of the Temple contradict Buddhist teachings. “Buddha was a prince and left everything to find the way; now we’ve returned to the castle,” he says, motioning to the spacious hall around him. Yet Lam came to Phat-An one Sunday because he’d encountered an obstacle in his meditation and wanted to discuss the matter with a monk.