The Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc. (CBS) was organized in 1976 and incorporated in the State of Maryland in 1978 as a non-profit, religious, and educational organization. It is the first Cambodian Buddhist temple to be established in the United States. The headquarters of the society the Cambodian Buddhist temple, called Vatt Buddhikarama, was located first in Oxon Hill, MD, then in New Carrollton, MD. The temple moved the present to Silver Spring, MD in 1986.
The four objectives of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc., are:
- to conserve the Cambodian Buddhist religion
- to conserve the Cambodian culture
- to provide training
- to provide human assistance
CBS is governed by a Board of Directors of fifteen members. Except for the Buddhist monks on the Board, all members of the Board are elected every four years. Also, internal auditors are elected. Four stranding committees are created to perform different tasks
- Committee in charge of ceremonies
- Committee in charge of cultural affairs
- Committee in charge of security and public relations
- Committee in charge of construction and maintenance
Vatt Buddhikarama has approximately 6-7 Buddhist Monks. The monks serve as Dhamma teachers and counselors and preside over various ceremonies. They perform religious and traditional ceremonies at the temple and upon invitation private residence. Ceremonies include birthdays, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and house warmings, to name just a few. Cambodians invite Buddhist Monks to give them blessings.
Vatt Buddhikarama is not only a place of worship, but also serves as a community center. It is the main contact for government agencies to reach out to Cambodian-Americans. Every Sunday, the temple conducts classes on the Cambodian language, Cambodian classical and folklore dance, Cambodian music, and chanting. Also, every Saturday, the temple provides citizenship training for people, especially the elderly, who want to become citizens of the United States. At the same time, English lessons are given to the elderly.
CBS presently has 3 major buildings:
- Residential building with a ceremony hall, Vihara (Buddha Hall) to host cultural classes and religious ceremonies
- Stupa stores Buddha Relic and family’s ash
- Monk Headquarters where families can work with temple volunteers and/or monks to schedule Buddhist services
The Vihara (Buddha Hall) The Buddha Hall is a genuine Cambodian shrine which has all the characteristics of a typical Cambodian Vihara in Cambodia. On the outside, the shrine is decorated with all the Cambodian art works reserved for a Buddhist temple. Inside on the main floor, a giant Buddha image imposingly sits on the altar surrounded by smaller images. Large oil paintings depicting the life of the Buddha decorate the wall, and two large crystal chandeliers along with ceiling spot-lights provide lighting for the shrine. The building was completed at the end of 1992 and was consecrated in July 1993. The total cost of the project was about $1.7 million dollars. Because of this distinctive and artful Vihara, the Cambodian Buddhist temple is a point of interest for tourists visiting the Washington DC area. The main instigator of the shrine was Ven. Oung Mean Candavanno, former abbot of the Cambodian Buddhist temple.