Judging from the exterior of the suburban ranch-style house, a person would never guess it is a Burmese Buddhist Temple.
Get a little closer, though, and one will notice a multitude of sandals and shoes on the front step. Go inside, and the vast living room is empty save for a large altar, graced with a large statue of Buddha and a few pieces of furniture pushed up against the white walls.
Saddha Kawthala, 50, a Buddhist monk, runs the PO-A temple, 2025 E. Tillman Road. Opened a few months ago, Saddha Kawthala is reaching out to the community, hoping to draw people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions to learn more about Buddhism and to take meditation classes.
The class meets every Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and has loyal followers; despite the lack of power Saturday, several people attended.
Saddha Kawthala has been in Fort Wayne for about a year. Like so many Burmese in the Fort Wayne area, he originally left his homeland as a teenager. He spent the next several decades living in Thailand before moving to Los Angeles. Saddha Kawthala said he would spread the word of Buddha wherever he could, from subways to beaches.
He found out about the large Burmese population in Fort Wayne via the Internet and decided to move here a year ago.
The meditation Saddha Kawthala practices, unlike that practiced by Tibetan Monks, involves no chanting. Students sit cross-legged,with their eyes closed. Saddha Kawthala will occasionally direct the students' breathing or make spiritual remarks.
“Heaven is easy to talk about, but it's difficult to go there,” Saddha Kawthala said to his students.
In addition to the meditation classes Saddha Kawthala teaches Burmese children their language, Buddhism and meditation. With the children, he practices what is called “walking meditation,” where they literally walk around the large yard of the temple meditating. Saddha Kawthala said for children who don't like to sit still for a long time, it works very well.
“He's not like other monks; he goes out into the community and does things,” said Pyepye Aung, 14, a student at the temple. Pyepye Aung said Saddha Kawthala is not afraid of hard work, as he helped this spring during the Fort Wayne cleanup day.
On Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saddha Kawthala and members of his temple will join forces with Burmese Muslim Community, the Myanmar Ethnic Christian Association, and the 88 Generation Students to cleanup around the Autumn Woods and Eastwood Apartments.
Saddha Kawthala said these groups very rarely mingle, but here in Fort Wayne they are trying to change that by getting together for projects like this.