Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Canada getting the big Buddha

SIZE MATTERS A Taiwanese Buddhist group planning to build the biggest Buddha in North America in a Vancouver suburb hopes it will be awe-inspiring

AFP , Vancouver

Bigger is better, according to a Taiwan-based religious sect planning a 10-story Buddha at a temple in a nondescript Vancouver suburb.

"The size of the Buddha and the building reflect his importance. You're supposed to be awestruck when you look at the Buddha. Hence, the substantial size," said project developer Kabel Atwall.

The large statue is part of a seven-year project to build a US$35 million worship and education center, expanding an existing Lingyen Mountain Buddhist temple fourfold. Included will be a scripture hall and library, conference rooms and dormitories for visiting monks and other faithful. Outside, an apple and pear orchard and a vegetable garden will spread across most of the property.

The shiny gold-leaf Buddha sitting on a lotus leaf will be shorter than the tallest Leshan Buddha in the world in China which stands at 67 meters, but will be the greatest tribute to the eastern deity in North America.

"Spiritually, it will expose more people to the teachings of Buddhism and help cement the faith in North America. Of course, there will be economic and tourism benefits for the city too," Atwall said.

Reaction has been mostly positive so far even though the building will dwarf surrounding housing and a dozen churches in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. But city development director Raul Allueva warned that sentiment could change.

"This is not a small building. We don't see buildings this size except in our city centre. It's more than 30 meters taller than any nearby building," he said.

During the past 15 years, dozens of churches and temples have been built in outlying areas of Vancouver where land is cheaper and available in large parcels. The latest generation has evolved from small local churches to religious multiplexes.

"They don't just offer services on Sundays anymore. They have classes during the evening, child care and community outreach programs, so they have to be bigger and it's difficult to find space within a built-up urban area to accommodate these bigger churches," Allueva said.

But critics fear rural development is encroaching on farm land and increasing traffic congestion in a region flanked by mountains.

"We would like to have a world-renown complex in Richmond, but we have to balance that with community impact," Allueva said.

The Taiwan-based Lingyen Mountain Buddhists are part of the Pureland Buddhist sect and have 10,000 members in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia.

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