By Anna Edlund
The Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist Temple, established in Tampa since 1981, offers Sunday markets, Thai culture and Buddhist services to the public.
Each Sunday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., guests are able to buy traditional Thai food from volunteers at the market. The food includes a variety of noodle soups and rolls, as well as many other delicious options. All proceeds from the events are donated to propagate Buddhist practice and teaching.
“I recommend anyone go because sometimes it’s a culture shock to people. I feel like it’s something different for people to experience and new foods to try,” explained Mia Ramos, a temple visitor.
Being half Thai and Cambodian, Ramos appreciates being able to connect to her culture through events at the temple. She especially enjoys New Year’s celebrations filled with food, dance performances and parades. Ramos additionally recalls how people often buy peace offerings and donate money to the temple to maintain it as a beautiful place for the monks who live on the grounds.
Visitors can also be engaged in religious practices and educational sessions that promote mental development. The temple holds meditation workshops, weekly religious service and Buddhist chanting services.
Buddhist chanting is often performed in Thai temples through Pali, a sacred language of Buddhism. The Wat Mongkolratanaram is special, as it often includes recordings of an American monk performing Buddhist teachings in English. English-speaking visitors who seek the opportunity to participate in these sessions are able to comprehend words through this unique and inclusive method.
“Being able to understand what is being said has created a welcomed level of understanding to what is taking place that I have been missing out on for years,” stated Rich Tyson, who finds clarity at the temple.
As an English-speaker who has regularly attended Buddhist ceremonies, Tyson is used to just appreciating the rhythm of the monks’ chants and not being able to understand the language. He appreciates the inclusion that he experiences at this specific temple, especially as he attends alongside his daughter and strives to expose her to her Thai culture.
Whether or not identifying with Thai heritage, the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist Temple grants partakers a space to explore Buddhism. All are welcome and encouraged to become immersed in the culture in new and enjoyable ways.
For more information on ways to interact with the temple, visit its website at https://wattampainenglish.com/.