Oakland, California

Phap Duyen Tu: The Buddha Shrine of Oakland

A hardware store Buddha statue installed to deter vandalism wound up attracting Vietnamese immigrants who came to pray. 

In an effort to discourage crime, vandalism, and dumping on their street corner, an Oakland resident set up a small Buddha statue that his wife purchased from Ace Hardware. He was not religious, just fed up and thought the Buddha might help dissuade the trashing of his block. The statute worked, and it also had an unexpected effect.

The humble statue wound up attracting dozens of Vietnamese immigrants in the area who came to pray and provide offerings to the newly installed Buddha. The Buddhist community embraced the statue to such a degree they also began making improvements and extensions to the shrine: building a covering for the Buddha, painting the statue, hanging framed pictures, adding additional statues to the corner, and even hiding a speaker softly playing music.

Not all of the neighbors were happy about the new attraction and the worshipers’ morning visits though, and after complaints the city said it would remove the Buddha, despite its positive effects on the cleanliness of the corner. The neighbors and worshipers fought back and began a successful campaign that saved the Buddha from removal.

The expanded shrine is visited by Buddhists and others on a daily basis, and the offerings of fruit, flowers, crackers, and drinks are cleared out weekly. A recently added sign has even given the shrine a proper name: Phap Duyen Tu, which is Vietnamese for “tranquility.”

Know Before You Go

Located on the corner of East 19th St. and 11th Ave. Please be respectful of shrine and neighbors.

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