Thousands celebrate completion of large Marshalltown Buddha statue

More than 1,000 attendees came to Theravada Dhamma Society of Iowa, a Buddhist temple in Marshalltown, to celebrate the completion of one of the largest images of Buddha in the United States.

Families flocked in waves on Sunday to a massive 18-feet-tall, 12-square-feet-wide Buddha statue to take pictures, pray and bring offerings. After a religious session in the morning, entertainers, including singers and dancers representing various ethnic groups within the society took to the stage. More than 30 Buddhist monks from around the state and country attended the celebration, with at least one visitor from each of nearly all the 50 states in attendance.

The project to complete the image took more than two years and could not be done without some help, Theravada Dhamma Society of Iowa liaison Tay Tun said. Not only was the statue included in the construction, but the image is accompanied by a waterfall and bridge.

In need of more resources and labor amidst work on the project, Tun reached out to JBS Marshalltown who provided the proper equipment, technology, funds and time off work to see the completed image.

“We’re just very glad that JBS is somebody that we can rely on for the community,” Tun said.

More than 20 percent of JBS Marshalltown’s workforce, over 500 employees, are a part of the Theravada Dhamma Society community in Marshalltown, JBS Marshalltown general manager Todd Carl said.

Carl attended Sunday’s celebration and said Marshalltown’s Theravada Dhamma Society is a very important community.

“We’ve always had a bond with this community, but we’re improving that bond day after day after day, and investing in partnerships and people,” Carl said. “We’re going to be here to support them in every way that we can, such as the festival that you see happening today.”

He said while JBS Marshalltown is very aware of the Buddhist community, present for at least a decade in Marshalltown, he said the average Marshalltown citizen probably is unaware of their presence.

“Exposing them to what exists I think is very important,” Carl said. “Once they get here, knowing what this community represents, it is pretty inspiring for a lot of people.”

Tun said 95 percent of the members of his community work at JBS Marshalltown. Many within the community came from Myanmar, with up to nine different ethic groups among them including Karen, Chin, Rakhine, Burmese and more.

“It started with one person, one person started working for JBS,” Tun said. “In our culture, if we are doing something good and getting better in our life, we try to reach out to more people, so that is how we started one by one.”

Tun wants the achievement to be shared with more than just members in the local Buddhist community, but with the wider Marshalltown community. Anyone can visit the image at 2942 240th St. at any hour or day without permission.

“We would like to show to the community that hey, this is the representation of the Buddhist community here in Marshalltown,” Tun said.

He said regardless of what someone’s religious beliefs are, the image can be a symbol of strength for the Marshalltown community. He said less than 10 individuals worked on completing the image.

“It was very emotional for me because we worked so hard,” Tun said. “Finally we made it happen and it’s just so peaceful and happy to just look at it.”

Mayor Joel Greer, who spoke at the event, said what he saw on Sunday was phenomenal and he is excited to see how the community grows in the future.

“More people need to know about this and come out and see it,” Greer said. “It shows the pride in the community.”

Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today