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In Lowell, Plans for a $10 Million Pagoda

A campaign in Lowell hopes to raise $10 million for a new pagoda in the city.

Fundraising officially began over the Cambodian New Year last month for Wat Khmer in Lowell, which would also act as a cultural and community center, organizers say.

Maya Men, a member of the fundraising committee, which counts 12 monks among its 162 members, said the hope is to raise $10 million in three to five years.

In the past, different factions have vied for control of the old pagoda, but Men said she belied the new project will unite the community.

“Cambodian Buddhists see that what we are going to build will become a heritage for the younger generation, as well as a shelter for aged grandfathers and grandmothers,” she said.

Samkahn Khoeun, another member of the committee, said the project will join all parties, who have split in the past over their varying Buddhist practices, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The new pagoda will serve as a learning center about Buddhism, he said.

Venerable monk Nhem Kim Teng, who came from Cambodia to take part in the fundraiser and other events, said the young need to learn more about Khmer culture to understand their parents, and a new pagoda can help. “Thus interaction in the family will be better,” he said.

Sao Khon, head of the fundraising committee, said the property where the pagoda will sit cost $1.25 million for five hectares and a house. The design and architecture for the pagoda will cost more than $700,000.

Until now, fundraising was conducted “like whispering in someone’s ear,” he said, but with more public efforts, “more funding will come.”

Individual donors and families will see their names carved into the pagoda’s statuary, he said, and fortune will smile on them in the next life. More than 1,000 statues were added over the New Year, he said.

“My life and yours are not uncertain or vulnerable,” he said. “When we die, our souls have Buddhism.”