This Temple began years ago as Reverend WonGong’s vision: She wanted to expand opportunities for people to learn about and practice Won Buddhism in the United States, and she saw that North Carolina was a place rich with potential. Having seen North Carolina’s promise, she consulted the Reverend Mother of the Eastern Diocese, and with her blessings, came to Raleigh in 2003.
Once in North Carolina, Rev. WonGong began teaching meditation to a single student in a small room rented in Chapel Hill. Over time, more people joined them and a meditation group was formed. As the room became crowded, the group relocated to the more spacious environment available at Plum Spring Clinic in Southern Village. In 2005, a permanent residence was purchased with support from the New York Temple, savings from Rev. WonGong’s employment as a social worker, and donations from local practitioners.
It was not long before the number of practitioners joining community meditation services outgrew the space available in the residential building, so plans for creating a Dharma Hall began. Local fundraising events for this project included the annual Temple Bazaar, benefit concerts, and other events, large and small. In addition, Rev. WonGong traveled to Won Buddhist communities in Korea, and described the growing North Carolina sangha and their need for a place to gather and practice. Moved by her message, these Korean communities generously provided her with honoraria and donations by “passing the plate.” Together, all these funds combined together and helped make the Dharma Hall building project move forward. During the construction of the Dharma Hall, over 100 volunteers donated their time and effort for its completion. Even the local North Carolina clay made a contribution, as it was used to make the traditional Korean-style interior walls of the Dharma Hall.
The dedication ceremony that celebrated the opening of the new Dharma Hall was held on October 11, 2011. Shortly afterwards, the community was honored to welcome the Head Dharma Master of Won Buddhism, Venerable KyongSan, into the new Hall.
Currently, two kyomunims, Rev. WonGong and Rev. Ginger, serve the Temple. In 2005, the Temple’s first practitioner took a dharma name and accepted the first ten precepts of Won Buddhist discipleship. Since then, over fifteen practitioners have become dharma name recipients. Together, they have created a kyowhadan, a group whose members are committed to a sincere practice of mutual support for each other and the Temple community.
The community’s ministries have grown, too. Summer dharma camps for children are held annually. Groups studying Won Buddhist scriptures meet weekly, and morning meditation is held daily. Dharma services are offered on both Saturday and Sunday, allowing those who also worship at another church or synagogue to join as well. Meditation retreats are held both in the Temple and at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center. Temple members have made five pilgrimage trips to Korea, including a group of 22 practitioners who attended ceremonies marking the centennial of Won Buddhism in May 2016.
Won Buddhism in North Carolina is also growing roots in Raleigh. Beginning in 2008, the Raleigh community met for weekly meditation sessions in a private home, and then moved to a yoga studio for the next 8 years. In October 2014, they purchased a residence, part of which was converted into a Dharma Hall, where they are now able to join together for community meditation services.
Won Buddhism is now entering its second century, and communities in many countries are growing and flourishing. Its growth here in the North Carolina Piedmont reflects this global vitality.