First Anglo-American Accepted into Vietnamese Buddhist Order of Monks
Port Arthur, TX -- Halloween, high school football and the end of hurricane season make for typical October celebrations in this Gulf Coast petrochemical town.
But this October 28th, a celebration of a different kind will unfold here. For the first time in Texas, an American will be ordained into a Vietnamese Buddhist monastic community.
Florida native (Michael Paul Schlosser) Bhante M. Kassapa, who has served as a resident monk at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple since November of 2006, will be ordained into the Vietnamese Theravada Sangha, or community of Buddhist monks. Bhante M. Kassapa received his initial ordination in October 2006 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Bhante Kassapa, 55, was raised in a middle-class household of seven children in Florida. His mother was a homemaker who later worked as a chief operator for AT&T and Southern Bell. His father was a real rocket scientist with Pratt & Whitney, the company contracted to build engines for NASA.
Bhante Kassapa enlisted and served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. He began his formal training in the Jesuit Associate Program in Houston. Later, Bhante Kassapa entered the Franciscan order as a monk. His transformation from the Franciscan Roman Catholic order, founded in Italy, to Theravada Buddhism founded in India is a story he likes to tell. In his own words he writes;
I had spent over a decade in religious life in the Catholic Church. I remember one of the monks asking me one day how I meditate. I told him I sit and allow myself to empty. He offered that "we do not meditate that way." I began to think. I discovered that my meditation technique was geared toward eastern philosophy rather than the west, so after some time I left the church to pursue my own way. I had been studying Buddhist philosophy for some time and I needed to find a temple and develop a relationship. One day I happened to catch a glimpse of a Buddhist monk near my home. I asked him about his temple. He gave me the location. I searched up and down Gulf to Bay Blvd but never found it. Two weeks later I saw the same monk walking out of Home Depot. This time I just waited for him to drive to the temple, and I followed him. At his temple, a group of young men were working, painting -- doing all the things the temple requires for up-keep. One of them introduced me to the monk. At the end of our visit, the late Rev. Giac Chanh, abbot of Phat Phap Buddhist Temple, thanked me for coming. I thanked him for showing me his temple and sharing his time. He stopped at that moment to correct me in saying, 'it is not my temple, it is your temple.' I knew I was home. My journey into Buddhism had begun.
Bhante Kassapa spent 16 years studying Buddhism while working with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority in Tampa, Florida before taking his initial ordination in the fall of 2006. In addition to Bhante Kassapa's high ordination, October 28 will see the first initiation at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple of eight Americans into the Buddhist faith. Four tropical gardens surround the Buu Mon Buddhist temple making it an excellent location for the ordination. The temple and its gardens bring to this Southeast Texas community a touch of Southeast Asia. In the summer months the gardens are filled with lotus plants, a symbol of the Buddhist faith. Both ceremonies will take place October 28, 2007 in conjunction with the temple's annual Kathina Ceremony, which commemorates the giving of new robes to the monastics, and the Second Annual Southeast Texas Bamboo Festival, October 27 -28, 2007.