Buddhist Temple in Minnesota Holds Sacred Dance Troupe

A Buddhist community anchored by the ornate temple complexes here Minnesota Farmland is experimenting with new ways to ensure that its beliefs and ancestral cultures remain vibrant for future generations – open recruitment to sacred dance groups.

founded by refugees fleeing from Khmer Rouge By teaching young children sacred dances, Wat Muni Sotharam and its troupe hope to strengthen its connection with both Buddhism and Cambodian traditions.

“When I dance, I feel a stronger connection,” said 22-year-old Sabrina Sok, leader of the Wattanak Dance Company. about it.”

Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime killed an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia.Hundreds of thousands, first in neighboring Thailand and later in AmericaSoutheast Asian people are one of the largest refugee communities.

They have carried this sacred dance tradition with them. On a frigid early February night, Sok rehearsed for the upcoming Cambodian New Year’s Eve with theater troupe leader Garrett Souwer and his sister Gabriella.

Rather than red barn roofs and silos in a snow-covered field about 30 miles south of the Twin Cities, practices were held in temples whose golden spires gleamed. However, it was recently moved to a Minneapolis studio to make it easier for families to participate.

Recruitment was by word of mouth, but this winter’s enrollment was open to anyone with a passion to learn the dance form, resulting in record numbers after being posted on the temple’s Facebook page. .

Dressed in traditional Cambodian thick silk shirts and trousers, the three dancers stretched and flexed every part of their bodies, from joint-resistant toe curls. Each movement helps tell an ancient tale about the gods, the cycle of life, and other spiritual stories that intertwine elements from Buddhism, Hinduism, and animism.

“We are never ourselves. We are only the physical embodiment of a higher mind,” said Garrett Souwer, 20. “Dance was seen as a medium between heaven and earth rather than entertainment.”

A marketing student at Twin Cities University started dancing at the age of six and learned Khmer to delve deeper into divine storytelling. He will be one of his upcoming dancer teachers. At about 20, this is almost twice his size in the troupe, most of them under his teens.

“For me, seeing children perform these traditional dances is proof that they value and take our traditions and religion seriously,” he said for a long time. Garrett’s mother, Sophia Sour, who has volunteered at Wat Munithotaram, said.

In the temple’s ornate upper chambers, 10 monks recite and meditate daily surrounded by sacred texts and large Cambodian paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. Vyches Chum also emphasized the importance of what he called the “blessed dance”.

“Even if we move[to Minnesota]it’s very important to preserve and preserve the traditions of our ancestors,” said Cham, who came to the United States from Cambodia more than 20 years ago. Buddhist teachings are practices for peace and happiness, regardless of country.”

The monks at Wat Muni Sotharam (which loosely means a place where one enjoys learning from sages) practice Theravada Buddhism, one of the oldest forms of Buddhism rooted in Southeast Asian cultures.

During the Khmer Rouge regime and subsequent communist rule of Vietnam, religious institutions were targeted with violence and repression, but Cambodian refugees kept their traditions alive, says a specialist in Cambodian Buddhism at the University of Mexico, Colegio de Mexico. House, John Marston said.

The dance, in particular, dates back nearly 1,000 years, is associated with courts and temples, and has become a “landmark of Cambodian identity” in the US diaspora, he added.

Therefore, a dance group was started at Wat Muni Sotharam. Buddha A weekend in early February, frozen statues, stupas with relics and meditation ponds under knee-high snow.

Dozens of devotees similarly dressed in bright white to celebrate Maga Puja, a holiday that marks the gathering of 1,250 of the Buddha’s first disciples and the establishment of his rule for a new community gathered.

Cham and seven other monks, dressed in elaborately folded bright orange robes, lead a recurrent candlelit procession, complete with several golden Buddhas, glittering decorations and lotus flowers. Many times I passed an altar adorned with abundant flowers, including Or shipped from Florida.

Several children marched with American flags, Cambodian state flags and Buddhist flags, all sitting in neat rows on the carpeted floor and chanting in Khmer for two hours.

According to Cham, monks worry that young people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with religion, but life’s inevitable struggles eventually turn them into temples seeking guidance from the teachings of the Buddha. I believe he will come back.

“It’s like learning a map and then acting,” he said.

Garrett Sour, who grew up frequenting temples with his family, still understands how Buddhism culturally and religiously applies to his life.

But he’s fully embraced the sacred dance and is eager to share with his children what he’s learned from teachers, including an aunt who danced in a refugee camp before moving to Minnesota.

The troupe’s main goal is to “preserve the dance that was already there,” he says, and each summer hosts a special celebration of the spirit of former dancers whose altar is filled with dance ornaments and offerings. He added that it would be performed at a special ceremony.

Garrett’s mother smiled proudly at the recent rehearsal.

“The world uses them to educate other communities, and I keep reminding them,” Sophia Souwer said.

She hopes to take Garrett and Gabriella to Cambodia to learn more about their spiritual roots. Its core values ​​were respect for elders and respect for good deeds.

“If you do good things, good things will come to you,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s a religion or just life.”

The Associated Press’ religious coverage is supported through partnerships with AP and The Conversation US and is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. APs is solely responsible for this content.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-minnesota-khmer-rouge-united-states-hampton-b2280387.html Buddhist Temple in Minnesota Holds Sacred Dance Troupe

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