Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:
On busy Crenshaw Boulevard there lies peace and tranquility in the large orange house on the corner. With a Buddha statue and large paper lanterns on the porch, it is unlike all the other homes on the block.
This house is the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Temple, where you can hear chanting everyday. The temple moved from Hollywood to Crenshaw in 1980 after facing religious and racial intolerance. The abbot and founder of the temple, Walpola Piyananda says he has never felt unwelcome in Crenshaw.
“There are beautiful houses, neighbors are wonderful not making any difficulties. Fortunately in this neighborhood we didn’t get any trouble,” said Piyananda.
Crenshaw Boulevard is the home of many other churches and denominations, however many residents in the area don’t know that the temple, or any practice of Buddhism even exists.
As a local Crenshaw reporter, said he’d never heard of any Buddhism in the area.
“I think most people from what I know in this area would probably be Christian, either Baptist, Methodist, mostly Protestant Christian within the area. I had no idea there were any Buddhist temples or anything Buddhist in Crenshaw period,” said Brian Carter.
There are over 400 Buddhist temples in the Los Angeles area, but only a few people practice and come to Piyananda from Cresnshaw.
“Here most of the people are coming in Sri Lankan communities, born Buddhist families, Tai people, sometimes other ethnicities,” said Piyananda.
The Dharma Vijaya temple offers spiritual advice, religious counseling, and meditation. They don’t advertise within the community and are open to all religions.
“Buddhism we are not trying to convert anyone to our religion. If anyone needs any assistance we help them,” said Piyananda.
After 32 years, the Dharma Vijaya temple has become a permanent fixture in Crenshaw and is helping give back to a community that knows little about its existence.