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Beginning of the Chicago Temple

When we purchased our present building in June 1992, it was very rundown and in disrepair. So we began our Dharma work by fixing the kitchen and building public bathrooms. After cleaning out all the junk and debris from the building—there was so much of it!—it became clear that the work would be nothing short of a major renovation. New plumbing, heating and electrical wiring were required. We had a limited budget to pay for all of this, therefore much of the work load fell on volunteers from the Toronto temple.

Photo: Sunim, Sujata, and Tohaeng David Steel: a few days after the action begins. 

Anjali (Jacque Oule) a delightful Frenchman of incredible strength, Chibul (Eric Johnson) jack-of-all-trades and man of righteousness who used to sleep in a public phone booth during the Canadian winter in order to develop a compassionate heart towards homeless people, Anicca (Bengt Skoggard) a happy-go-lucky person of good Samaritan heart, Acala (Jeff Legro) a local member and old Dharma friend at whose apartment we stayed during our visits to Chicago in search of a temple, and Hasan (Bill Epperly) a man of great patience and sense of humor who could struggle with himself to his wit's end.

Photo: Chibul—wild man and jack of all trades—taking a break from his work for the camera

Together we worked as hard as giants, unmindful of the trying circumstances. Every day was a long and full day with plenty of wonderful work. Anjali would sing the Great Compassion Dhararni while Chibul recited Three Refuges. Their great voices reverberated through the building. It was an inspiration to hear them chanting while working in order to make the place ready for public meditation.

Photo: Anjali breaking the concrete floor of the women's bathroom with a pnematic drill

We were poor and there was not much to eat. Old Korean women devotees heard of a Korean monk struggling to build the temple and they brought their government assistance food to feed us. One of the ladies was so touched when she saw us working cheerfully under hardships that she vowed to help us build the temple. She would come to cook us lunch every day. She was old and in poor health and there was no hot water in the temple. Undeterred she persevered and made simple delicious meals everyday for one hundred days! I will not forget her happy smile as she watched us enjoy our meals. At the end of the day we went to the YMCA to wash ourselves. They gave us free passes to take showers. It was such a great joy to be able to take a shower at the end of a long day.

Photo: Korean lady who vowed to provide hot lunches for 100 days

When the first snow fell in late November seven of us sat around a wood stove for Sunday morning meditation. Toan Sunim (Jose Castelao) arrived from Toronto for a change-of-guard duties. He worked through the winter all by himself. The wood stove donated by a Toronto Temple member was the only source of heat. It took nearly two years to have the ground floor, public bathrooms and second floor (the Buddha Hall) ready for public meditation service and events. In 1994 Payoga (Stella Evangelidou), the architect, and Anjali returned. Payoga designed a bookstore out of the old abandoned bathroom and dump site and Anjali built it. Jim Strambler, an old hand in the Chicago Buddhist world, kept dropping by to check things out, bring food and give a hand. 


Photo: Toan checking for leaks in the third floor ceiling

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