Retrial in ’91 Buddhist temple massacre tests members’ faith

Darrell Kitchen, one of the monks who practices at Wat Promkunaram, in Waddell, AZ

A retrial is underway for Jonathan Doody, who was convicted, along with Alessandro Garcia, of the 1991 massacre of six Buddhist monks, one nun, and two lay students at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist Temple in Waddell, AZ. Represented by high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz, Doody’s conviction was overturned in 2008 in a ruling that his confession was coerced.

This past Wednesday, the Arizona Republic ran a feature on the Waddell temple and how its members are faring with this deeply painful chapter in its history now thrust back into the spotlight.

“Although the temple was devastated by the crime,” the Republic reported, “it is still a thriving center for Buddhism. The faith teaches temple members not to hold on to dark feelings about the tragedy and to feel compassion for everyone involved, members say…Since the massacre the temple has recovered to become a vital center for local Theravadin Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian Buddhists, as well as serving Mahayanist Buddhists and non-Buddhists, according to the history. The monks are predominantly Thai, though some are Euro-American Buddhist monks.”

“After such a horrific crime, the impulse might be that of revenge or to hold a grudge against the killers,” the Republic further observed. “But that contradicts the Buddhist belief to not hold grudges or wallow in the past, [temple member Lek] Henderson said. Buddhists believe that enlightenment comes when you move on from a past you can’t change and refuse to dwell on a future you can’t foretell, she said.”

An annual ceremony is held at a memorial to the nine victims in a special garden on the Wat Promkunaram grounds.

The trial is expected to continue until October.

You can read the full article, which includes ten images of the Wat Promkunaram temple and its members today, as well as a detailed timeline of events, by clicking here.

Photograph by Nick Oza, Arizona Republic