A Buddhist congregation in eastern Loudoun County is making plans to build a temple.
The Wat Yarnna Rangsee temple, which has been meeting in Sterling for about seven years, has submitted site plans to the county for an approximately 3,300-square-foot building on its 4.5-acre property at 22147 Cedar Green Rd.
Services are now held in the living room of a farmhouse on the site, where about five monks live at any given time, studying, meditating, chanting and teaching.
"When we have a big ceremony, nobody can get in," said Tee Pokin, an architect who volunteers as the temple's secretary. Only about 30 people can squeeze in, he said, and even fewer in the winter when everyone is wearing a coat. Space is especially tight during such important holidays as the Thai new year, which is celebrated in mid-April.
The new worship space would have room for about 200, said Pokin, 55, who lives in Fairfax County.
"We've come to the point we need to build something to suit all the people coming in," he said, estimating that more than 100 people have tried to attend past ceremonies.
The temple's name, Yarnna Rangsee, means "the radiation of light and wisdom" in Thai, according to Samrerng Pahaso, the temple's abbot. It was named by Pahaso's spiritual teacher in Thailand.
Pahaso said a larger temple would be more convenient for the growing number of Buddhists in the Loudoun area and that he thinks the temple would be well received by the community. Although most regular attendees are Thai, the temple also draws other Asians as well as non-Buddhists interested in meditation. The temple offers classes in meditation.
A recent Thai food festival drew about 300 people, including dozens of non-Buddhists, Pahaso said.
"People around here are open-minded," he said. "We never get a complaint from the neighborhood."
Wat Yarnna Rangsee was previously located in Fairfax County, where it ran into problems with zoning restrictions.
Pokin said the temple must be large enough to hold religious conferences and seminars that can draw about 200 monks. Leaders also hope to build another residence for monks. The site is surrounded by retail and commercial strips and warehouses.
A temple in Thailand has been helping to raise money for the new building. About $250,000 has been raised toward the estimated $1 million cost, Pokin said.
If the county approves the site plan, the temple will apply for a building permit, which could be obtained by the end of the year. Construction would take about a year.
Pokin said the single-story Thai-style building would be made of brick, with a curved roof. There would be about 55 parking spaces.
Inside the structure, rows of columns on either side of a main hall would lead to a 10-foot copper Buddha, now being stored in a garage on the property. Worshipers would sit on a red carpet, offer such gifts as flowers to the Buddha and meditate.
"Buddhism is the way of life for the Thai people," said Ruangrit Thaithae, a monk at Silver Spring's Wat Thai temple, one of the largest temples in the region.
Thaithae said Wat Thai draws worshipers from Virginia who drive more than an hour to attend special events. But some Buddhists might prefer to attend services closer to home, he said. "When we have more temples, it means you have more Thai people and more people interested in Buddhism," he said.