Buddhist monk sells Canadian temple for Tsunami relief

Wed Jan 5, 5:10 PM ET

VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - A Buddhist monk in western Canada stunned his congregation by putting his temple up for sale, in a bid to raise half a million dollars for victims of the Asian tsunami tragedy.

"Life is very precious and the loss of life and property during this tragedy of unparalleled proportions is so enormous," said abbot Thich Nguyen Thao.

"This is the least I could do to provide some comfort to the victims who are suffering unbearably. Their need is urgent and greater than our own," said the abbot as he touted the temple in a Vancouver suburb.

Buddhists who meet at the building, many of whom fled Vietnam in boats as refugees in the late 1970s, were at first stunned by the monk's announcement -- but are now on side.

They were moved by his argument that the pledge is an expression of gratitude to the people of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia who provided refuge to the abbot and congregation when they fled Vietnam.

"They housed and fed us. This is a small gesture to thank them," he said.

The sale of the temple is one small example of a wave of generosity prompted in Canada by the tsunami disaster : Prime Minister Paul Martin said on Wednesday that 70 million dollars (57.4 million US) had already been pledged in private donations.

Asian communities have been at the forefront, while the Vancouver monk mulled selling his temple, Sri Lankan community leaders across the country in Toronto raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency relief.

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