Hidden world: White Sands Buddhist Center

November 16, 2017, Courtney Cox reports in Mims, Florida

The White Sands Buddhist Center has been open since 2005. Ron Henderson, the gardener of White Sands, came across Buddhism when he took his grandson on vacation in Japan. He said the hotel night stand contained the book of Buddha, but he never read it while in Japan, so he “stole it” from the hotel. Henderson brought the book home but never brushed up on any of it until a friend of his was going to be wed in a Buddhist temple. Now, he has found himself, at 80 years old, a proud gardener for the White Sands Buddhist Center. His knowledge of the history, culture, architecture and the people involved are endless.

“The gardener” explains the service. They meditate for a half hour in the simplest form: “following the breath.” This is where “you concentrate on the tip of your nose,” Henderson said. The only way to clear one’s head is through meditation, he said.

The Bodhi Tree lives to be about 200 years old. This one is only 3, said the gardener, Ron Henderson. The Buddha to-be, Siddhartha, sat under a Bodhi Tree for 49 days to be enlightened.

The Bonshō Bell is used as an alarm to announce service. The bells design was created in China in 200 B.C.E.

This Siddhartha statue depicts him at age 35. The lines across horizontal across the statue are where it was cut to be transported to White Sands Buddhist Center ; it’s cut in three pieces to be transported because it’s too heavy as one over-sized load.

Siddhartha at 80 years old when he was dying of food poisoning. His death is shown in the statue with a smile on his face and in peace. He taught for 45 years under his father’s kingdom in India, Henderson said.

Avalokiteshvara is the Buddha of compassion. She is giving the compassion sign in this statue, Henderson said.

Henderson said that Buddhism is strictly what someone wants and not what they need. “If you just want it to be your philosophy, that’s okay. If you want it to be your way of life, that’s okay too,” Henderson said.

Shoes stay at the door before entering the temple. This is done as a sign of respect, Henderson said. Also, upon entering bowing your head three times is the respectful manner.

The White Sands practices Mahāyāna Pure Land traditions (a school of Buddhism), Henderson said. This form is focused on the Buddha.

“The teacher is your master,” Henderson said. The master (the monk at White Sands) is Thay. Thay grew up in a monestry with 100 monks and 100 students. He made his decision to stay a monk at the age of 18. Now, Thay is the 41st master in his linage and speaks seven language, Henderson said.

The sounding staff (middle)contains eight rings at the top to represent the eight-fold path: Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

[The temple]Vietnamese have funded the White Sands Buddhist Center. The services are done bilingual. “There’s total no discrimination,” Henderson said. “You are what you are.”

The wooden gong announces that the nun and monk are entering the temple and chases any evil spirits away. Nuns and monks beet the gong before entering.

HY XA translates to sympathetic joy and equanimity.

TU BI translates to compassion and wisdom.

The driveway or path leading up to the White Sands Buddhist Center is lined with signs — each pertaining to the eightfold path.

Be more than a voice — be the change.