Over 1,000 attendees came to the Theravada Dhamma Society of Iowa, a Buddhist temple in Marshalltown, to celebrate the completion of one of the largest Buddha images in the United States.
Families flocked in waves to a huge 18-foot-tall and 12-square-foot-wide Buddha statue on Sunday to take photos, pray and bring offerings. After a religious session in the morning, performers, including singers and dancers representing various ethnic groups within society, took to the stage. More than 30 Buddhist monks from across the state and nation attended the celebration, with at least one visitor from each of the 50 states in attendance.
The project to complete the image took more than two years and could not be completed without help, said Tay Tun, liaison with the Theravada Dhamma Society of Iowa. Not only was the statue included in the construction, but the image is accompanied by a waterfall and a bridge.
Needing more resources and manpower to work on the project, Tun reached out to JBS Marshalltown who provided the equipment, technology, funds, and time off to see the finished image.
“We are just very happy that JBS is someone we can count on for the community” Tun said.
More than 20 percent of JBS Marshalltown’s workforce, or more than 500 employees, is part of the Theravada Dhamma Society community in Marshalltown, JBS Marshalltown CEO Todd Carl said.
Carl attended Sunday’s celebration and said the Theravada Dhamma Society in Marshalltown is a very important community.
“We have always had a connection with this community, but we are improving that connection day by day and investing in partnerships and people. “ Carl said. “We’re going to be there to support them in any way we can, like the festival you see happening today.”
He said that while JBS Marshalltown is very aware of the Buddhist community, which has been present in Marshalltown for at least a decade, he said the average Marshalltown citizen was probably unaware of their presence.
“Exposing them to what exists, I think it’s very important” Carl said. “Once they get here knowing what this community is, it’s pretty inspiring for a lot of people.”
Tun said 95% of the members of his community work at JBS Marshalltown. Many within the community were from Myanmar, with as many as nine different ethnic groups among them including the Karen, Chin, Rakhine, Burmese and more.
“It started with one person, one person started working for JBS”, Tun said. “In our culture, if we do something right and improve ourselves in our life, we try to reach more people, that’s how we started one by one.”
Tun wants success to be shared with more than members of the local Buddhist community, but with the wider community of Marshalltown. Anyone can view the image at 2942 240th St. at any time or day without permission.
“We would like to show the community that hey, this is the representation of the Buddhist community here in Marshalltown”, Tun said.
He said that regardless of someone’s religious beliefs, the image can be a symbol of strength for the community of Marshalltown. He said less than 10 people worked on the image.
“It was very moving for me because we worked so hard”, Tun said. “Finally we made it and it’s so peaceful and happy to just watch it. “
Mayor Joel Greer, who spoke at the event, said what he saw on Sunday was phenomenal and that he was excited to see how the community grows in the future.
“More people need to know about it and to come and see it” said Greer. “It shows the pride of the community. “
Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or [email protected]