Photos and Text by Yiming Chen
The True Buddha Diamond Temple of New York moved to Flushing from lower Manhattan in 2006 and is a regional center for the True Buddha School. It is hidden inside a residential area in Flushing, Queens, where the population is mostly Chinese and Korean.
From the outside, it looks like a one-story house; passersby do not notice it is a temple unless they see the sign on the front or the statue in the backyard.
The temple, run by Master Lianja Charge and Reverend Lian Lei, practices Tibetan Buddhism. Most clergy and students are elderly Chinese immigrants.
During the Maha Cundi Bodhisattva Birthday, Master Lianja Charge would put food, milk, and alcohol into the fire for the god to enjoy.
Students meditate with the master while Reverend Lian Lei performs the ritual during the Guru Yoga Practice.
Believers say they interact with holy spirits by meditating, reciting Buddhist texts and praying.
A student of the temple making a paper lotus that sells for $38. Selling handicrafts, paper crafts, figures of Buddhist gods, along with believers’ donations, are the main funding sources of the temple.
Each day, Reverend Lian Lei leads evening recitation, a process of mediating, praying, kneeling and reading.
The tradition of burning paper for the deceased originated from Buddhism but has become a Chinese custom as well. Master Lianja Charge places paper on a fire so the paper may re-materialize in another world for those who have died.