SILVER RUN — A quiet Carroll religious group, whose beliefs center around introspective contemplation and inner harmony, suddenly finds itself in the middle of a tumultuous controversy.
Members of the International Meditation Center/USA, followers of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, are building a garage-sized pagoda on 11 1/2 acres of land on Bankard Road.
Area residents have expressed concern that Carroll's first Buddhist temple, near the Pennsylvania border, might adversely affect property values.
Also, some are objecting to the group's request to theCarroll County Board of Zoning Appeals to allow them to conduct a nine-day dedication ceremony beginning May 27.
At a recent hearing on the request, residents argued the ceremony would damage the dirt road leading to the $300,000 temple and set a precedent for future retreats that might impact water supplies and property values.
The board is considering whether to issue a conditional-use permit for a religious gathering.
"We want to be good neighbors," said Jim Emery, caretaker for the property.
The ceremony's first day would featurea public open house at the 700-square-foot facility. For the remaining days, 40 members from around the world would visit the temple and meditate from dawn to dusk to purify the building.
"That is our traditional way of consecrating a church," said David Young, a trustee for the group and the temple's architect.
The visitors would reside in segregated tents, and the group would bring in water and portable toilets for their guests.
The center's branch of the 2,000-year-old religion was founded around 1950 by U Bakahn, the accountant general of Burma, after the country's independence, said Craig Storti, the group's teacher. While only monks are trained in other traditions of Buddhism, this form was developed for lay people, he said.
"The emphasis in Buddhism is on meditation, but in many Buddhist countriesthe lay people don't necessarily meditate," said Storti. "We follow in the tradition learned from the monks. It's a very pure lineage andvery much what the Buddha taught."
Buddhism is based on five precepts -- no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or use of drugs or intoxicants -- just as Judao-Christian religions rely on the TenCommandments, Storti said.
"That is the essence of the moral codeand doing those five things constitutes virtuous conduct," he said. "The whole essence is to do good, to avoid evil and to purify the mind. As with so many things, it is very easy to grasp but hard to do."
Meditation is done to calm and balance the mind so one is less likely to do or say something evil, Storti said.
"The goal of meditation is awareness of what you are doing or saying so you're not sorry after," he said.
Although Buddhists attempt to meditate every day,they travel to the pagoda on weekends for more peaceful surroundings. There are about 20 members of the congregation, with about one-third from Carroll, said Storti.
"It's always nice to meditate together, so we sit together sometimes for two or three hours," he said.