101 Things To Do: Watt Munisotaram in Hampton, Minn.
Editor's note: This is the latest stop in our new series, 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.
Atop a small hill in a cornfield just off Highway 50 between Farmington and Hampton, a golden temple dominates the skyline.
It is Watt Munisotaram, a Cambodian Buddhist temple that supports a Theravada Buddhist community of about 9,000 Cambodians living in Minnesota.
The main structure was built in 2002 to 2007, but scaffolding and piles of materials around the grounds indicate that Watt Munisotaram is a work in progress.
"A mix of people come here to visit," said Vicheth Chum, vice abbot at Watt Munisotaram. "Some are Buddhist followers, supporters. Others come to take a look, take a picture, ask questions."
Visitors are welcome to walk around the campus on their own, or ask questions if they want, according to Chum. He said they frequently have visitors that are high school or college students working on multicultural diversity projects or a religion class, and the staff at the temple will help them.
"We communicate some points about Buddha's teaching," Chum said. "We advise people to help people."
Chum noted that human beings are concerned about two issues, the physical and the mental. He said doctors help us with the physical by giving treatment.
"Buddha's philosophy is mostly about the mental, the mind," Chum explained. "We share what we experience, what we learn. We share our knowledge, and if they are interested, they can learn more. They have to think about it and then decide."
Chum explained that the Cambodian Buddhist community in the Twin Cities first met in a house in Minneapolis. They outgrew that location and moved to a house in St. Paul, then a house in Eagan. Each time space seemed to be a problem, so the move to the 40-acre campus just west of Hampton has been a good one.
"Some people are very interested in learning more about Buddhism," Chum said. "Unfortunately, we don't have an English class for Buddhism."
He said the staff is busy with construction and the Cambodian Buddhist community, but a class in English may be possible in the future.
"We have a plan for that," he said, "and we want to try to engage a new generation."
Chum said there are several Buddhist celebrations held at Watt Munisotaram including the Cambodian New Year held in mid-April each year. More information on the celebrations is located on the website and Facebook page.
If you go...
What: Watt Munisotaram
Address: 2925 220th St. E., Hampton, Minn.
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. summer, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. winter
Admission: Free. Donations appreciated