Volunteers cooked sticky rice and set up tables in the dining hall. Monks lit incense and brought in zafus, or meditation cushions, to the temple. Patrons trickled into the temple ready to celebrate and pray.

Vietnamese Buddhists gathered inside the Chùa Hương Đạo Temple, 4717 E. Rosedale St.,  on Aug. 23 to celebrate the life and 41st death anniversary of Most Venerable Ho Tong, one of the founding members of Vietnamese Theravada Buddhism.

Tarrant County has 29,128 Vietnamese residents, or about 1.6% of the total population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That number has only increased since.

“This is every year. It’s the anniversary of the very first founder of the Theravada tradition with Vietnamese people,” Sophia Nguyen, a patron at the temple, said. “It needs to be known.”

Born in 1893, Tong grew up and became a doctor. At 32 years old, he detached from the materialistic life and realized that life was impermanent. He began to seek Dharma, or the teachings of Buddha.

What is Theravada Buddhism?

It is the commonly accepted name of the oldest existing Buddhism school, which emphasizes the oldest, most conservative practice of the religion. It is mainly practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Tong eventually founded Theravada Buddhism and practiced this doctrine exclusively. He built Dharma schools and temples in Vietnam, translated many religious teachings to Vietnamese and grew the Theravada Buddhist population in the country.

He and a few friends visited Saigon in the 1930s and spread Buddha’s teachings. The first Theravada Buddhist temple in Vietnam opened in 1938 — Bửu Quang.

Tong died at 88 years old in 1981. Now, congregations around the world celebrate the life and accomplishments of Tong annually on Aug. 23-25. 

Over the next few decades, the Chùa Hương Đạo Temple will construct a $100 million 14-acre expansion of 840 stupas, or Buddhist commemorative monuments, that will house the sacred teachings of the Buddha, the Report reported previously.

“It’s going to be drawing a lot of tourism to the area. I really would like to see Fort Worth grow here cause it’s a very beautiful city,” Nguyen said. “It’s very diverse.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.