Cambodian Temples of Western MA

In Cambodia it is typical for every village to have a temple. During the war many of these temples were destroyed and monks were killed or derobed.

When the Cambodian refugees settled in Amherst they worked with the Brittany Manor apartments to develop plots of land for gardens and they negotiated space for a temple in the basement of one of the apartment buildings. The increasing need for a bigger temple pushed the community into looking for a more established and formal space for worship. After years of fundraising, volunteer labor and planning by dozens of Cambodian families, two temples opened: Wat Kiry Vongsa Bopharam in Leverett in 1986 and Wat Santivana in Pelham in 1999.

Beginning Again from the Ground Up

Buddhism was introduced to Cambodia in the 5th century, and Mahayana Buddhism had established itself during the Khmer Empire by 1122 AD. By 1400 AD, the Theravada had become the established form of Buddhism and exists to this day in the teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha about the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and establishing commmunities of. monks and nuns. As of 2019, it was estimated that 97.1% of the population of Cambodia are Buddhists.

The first Cambodian Temple was set up in the basement of one of the Brittany Manor Apartments in Amherst in the late 1980s. It became a place for the younger generation to connect with the elders of the community. The multigenerational space was an important place where people could speak Khmer, eat Cambodian food, and continue to practice Buddhism.

Anywhere Cambodians settle, there will be temples and monks.

–Mao Sokhen

Monk Rath Muni

Monk Rath Muni at Brittany Manor temple

Meditation at Brittany Manor Temple

Gathered in prayer at Brittany Manor temple

Monks visiting community members at Amherst Crossing apartments

A nuns retreat at the Leverett site

An Vouch and Moeun Hen blessing a donation to the temple

Leverett Temple

In 1986, the Cambodian Buddhist Temple Society of Western Massachusetts was formed with an initial group of ten Khmer families led by Bou Boay, Prak Ky, and Svay Sivorn. The land was purchased at the suggestion of the venerable Maha Ghosananda, the highest ranking monk outside of Cambodia. Over the course of the next 13 years the Wat Kiry Vongsa Bopharam was planned and built with mostly volunteer labor and fundraising.

Those who worked diligently on its creation envisioned that it would reconnect the Cambodian refugees and immigrants in the Western Massachusetts area to their Khmer culture. Presently the completed Wat is a residence for elders, Buddhist nuns, and Buddhist monks. In addition, the ashes of community members are placed in shrines. The Wat hosts many Buddhist celebrations and festivals.

Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda and Bou Lap at the Leverett Temple

Monk Rath Muni at Brittany Manor temple