Queens—New York City’s most ethnically diverse borough and its largest in area—ranks second highest in religious diversity among all United States counties, according to the 2020 PRRI Census. Even narrowing it down to Buddhism, Queens’s population is particularly diverse, as the borough is home to some of the country’s largest populations of immigrants from Tibet, Korea, and China.
The architecture of Queens’s Buddhist sites also ranges widely, from small nondescript houses to detailed temples nestled between typical city buildings. Construction is less dense than most of the rest of New York City, which leaves space for meditation in stunning flower gardens and backyard barbecues to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Temples belonging to a variety of traditions serve families and visitors alike all across Queens.
1| New York Tibetan Service Center
The New York Tibetan Service Center (NYTSC) works hard to keep Tibetan youth connected to their heritage and to strengthen community among the large Tibetan refugee population in Elmhurst and the adjacent Jackson Heights. They provide free after-school and summer camp programs along with peer mentoring and parenting workshops specifically geared toward Tibetan and Himalayan immigrant families. You can help support NYTSC’s programming at cultural events they host throughout the year, such as a Losar festival, with an art market, traditional Himalayan food, and performances in Tibetan and English.
83-02A Broadway, Elmhurst
2| Hanmaum Zen Center of New York
If you look closely between two houses on 32nd Avenue in Flushing, Queens, you’ll spot a pagoda-like building behind thin metal gates. The Hanmaum Zen Center is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the grassy grounds alone offer an oasis amid the busy city. The temple belongs to the global organization Hanmaum Seon Center, a branch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, which has locations across the world.
145-20 Bayside Ave., Flushing
3| Sera Jey Buddhist Cultural Center
The Sera Jey Buddhist Cultural Center—the US extension of Sera Jey Monastery in India—provides a long list of invaluable services to New York City’s Tibetan Buddhist community. You can visit them at the house they’ve been renting since 2012, where they host open events on holy days. If you live nearby, blessings and prayer services can be performed in private homes. Their mission includes interfaith dialogue and preservation of Tibetan language and culture, and their monks frequent Tibet House in Manhattan for ceremonies and other cultural occasions.
41-30 57th St., Woodside
4| Jung Myung Sa Buddhist Temple
In the decade before Jung Myung Sa Buddhist Temple was founded (in 1994), Queens’s Korean Buddhist immigrants had to travel hours north to the Catskill Mountains to practice. Now, the three-story temple provides a thriving community space for Korean Buddhists. Most of the temple’s current programming is in Korean, and they are currently working on expanding to include services in English. But even if you don’t speak Korean, the temple is worth walking by to view the lush garden surrounding the temple and the beautiful calligraphy sign that hangs above the front door.
162-11 Stanford Ave., Flushing
5| Chan Meditation Center
Originating as a small meditation group led by Master Sheng Yen, the Chan Meditation Center (CMC) moved to Elmhurst, Queens, in 1979. Since then, they’ve grown so much they’ve had to purchase three adjacent buildings to accommodate their sangha. The buildings serve as a small monastery for a handful of monks and nuns and as the headquarters of Dharma Drum Publications. CMC welcomes anybody interested in meditation and Buddhism to their meditation and chanting sessions, dharma talks, and t’ai chi classes. Though their main address is currently under construction, their temporary address is just up the street. You can find the full schedule of events on their website.
91-26 Corona Ave., Elmhurst
6| United Sherpa Association
The United Sherpa Association is a central point of community outreach in Queens. Working out of two locations—a community center and a temple—they have set up a food bank for Nepali students, raised over $138,000 for Nepal earthquake relief efforts, distributed NYC ID cards with forms in Nepali and Tibetan to make them more accessible, and provided many other crucial community services. The association also hosts Himalayan cultural and religious festivals, presented as closely as possible to how they would be put on in remote villages. The United Sherpa Association is always working on something new, responding quickly to the Himalayan community’s needs as they arise. Be sure to check out their current efforts and events on their website or social media.
41-01 75th St., Elmhurst
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.