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The Sima Boundary is a boundary around a temple that makes it official, holy, and legitimized in a Buddhist community. In order to be eligible for a Sima Boundary, a temple must have fulfilled certain requirements: having a place of living and a place of worship for monks as well as having enough practicing monks. This boundary is often the ultimate goal for a temple. “Every king wants a palace, I suppose,” says Sophia Sour. “So every head monk, they have a vision…they want to have a place of worship and they want word to get around and they want to come and invite whoever is interested to come and worship with us,” she continues. For the 2007 consecration of Watt Munisotaram's boundary, the word certainly got out as shown by the thousands of people (including many monks) not just from Minnesota but also from the Midwest, other regions of the country, Cambodia, and other countries who attended the celebration.
The boundary is created by 9 holes surrounding the temple, representing each direction (North, South, East, West, Northeast, etc. and one in the center), meaning that everything you bring inside belongs to the community and becomes official as belonging to the community. During the celebration, gifts and offerings, like books, pencils, or makeup, are placed in each hole, to represent your daily life and what you want your next life. “Pencils and books, all of that represents your education [so] that you can be smart,” explains Phan. In the final segment of the celebration a special polished marble ball weighing 480 pounds is placed into each hole. Nearly everything in this celebration is holy: the dirt from the hole, the flowers, the cotton thread tied around the temple. “People fight, literally fight for it, because it’s blessed” Phan explains. “We just stayed inside where it’s safe!” replied Sour. More seriously, Phan explains that every piece of the celebration is “like a piece of history,” for the Sima Boundary happens only once at each temple. And, each Sima Boundary is very important to the Buddhist community. Phan and Sour both describe their understanding of the importance of the Sima Boundary: “They always say if you in your lifetime go through seven of these Sima boundaries…and you set your purehood in believing it them you’re set. Your merits are billed already, [which] gives you a step to higher spiritually.” Yet in the process of consecrating the boundary, there are evil spirits that want to prevent this holy act.
Sour and Phan recount Watt Munisotaram’s struggle with spirits.
It is an extremely exciting time for a temple, most importantly. There are vendors and food and dancing and singing and nearly everything else. Just listening to Phan and Sour remember the three days is exciting. “It was a lot of fun”; “I had so much fun doing it!”; “But it was so much fun!”; “Oh my god, I will never forget it. It was so much fun,” the two say. This consecration is why so many people come to this temple, to Watt Munisotaram. “It makes me feel good to have that statue not just in the community here [but also other places]…once you say you live in Minnesota they say ‘Oh, the temple!’” says Sour. Minnesota has other Cambodian Buddhist temples, but the Sima boundary makes a difference.