Bentleys to Buddhas: Vintage-Car Shop Restores Temple Statue

Dave Ley, co-owner of Exoticars, an auto restoration shop specializing in classic vehicles, pulls a restored statue of the Buddha outside in McCandless, Pa., on Monday. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

McCANDLESS, Pa. (AP) — The major branches of Buddhism are often known as "vehicles," or ways of spiritual practice.

So it's only fitting that when the monks of the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center needed a major restoration of its outdoor statue of the Buddha, they turned to an auto restoration shop specializing in classic cars.

This partnership of ancient Asian spirituality and modern American craftsmanship came to fruition recently with the reinstallation of the newly refurbished, gleaming white statue at the center's temple.

Eyes closed and sitting in the lotus position, the Buddha underwent weeks of painstaking work at Exoticars in the town of McCandless, north of Pittsburgh. The statue sat amid an array of vintage vehicles from Bentleys and Corvettes to Porsches and a 1951 Ford pickup.

Workers stripped multiple coats of deteriorating paint and primer — a task that required precision tools as they worked on the Buddha's hair, depicted in detailed curls.

They also repaired cracks in the fiberglass, added a metal strip to strengthen the statue's base and put on a new coat of white auto body paint, giving it a glasslike sparkle in the sunshine.

The repair job fascinated customers and also the classic car enthusiasts who bring old hot rods and sports cars of their own to Friday evening happy hours hosted by the shop, according to Exoticars co-owner Dave Ley.

"There's always something here that people follow the progress on," Ley said, and for a few weeks this fall, the Buddha "was a big hit."

The Pittsburgh Buddhist Center practices the Theravada vehicle of Buddhism common in Sri Lanka, where the monks are from and where the statue was manufactured. Paid for by a donor, the Buddha was first installed in 2006 at the temple's previous location in Harrison Township, another suburb.

After the original paint started going bad years ago, monks applied new coats on top as a temporary measure, said Bhante Soorakkulame Pemaratana, abbot of the temple.

But when they moved earlier this year to their current location in West Deer Township, also north of Pittsburgh, they began seeking a more permanent solution.

A carpenter who had done some previous work for the temple recommended the auto shop.

The result, unveiled at the temple Oct. 24, is "so great" and "beyond my expectation," Pemaratana said. He expressed gratitude that Ley and his crew stripped the paint by hand rather than using a power sander, which could have damaged the statue.

"I also appreciate his courage to take this job," the abbot said. "It's beyond his comfort zone."

Buddhists use such statues to help focus their devotions and to contemplate the virtues of the religion's founder.

According to Pemaratana, this particular one depicts the Buddha in a pose symbolizing samadhi, or stillness. The monks regularly take it to an annual festival celebrating the birth of the Buddha, a gathering that brings together Pittsburgh's various Buddhist groups.

Pemaratana turned out at Exoticars for one of the Friday happy hours, delighting many there who he said had never before come face-to-face with a Buddhist monk.

"They have seen monks in the movies, but not a real monk," the abbot said. "I'm so happy for the relationship we built."

So is Ley.

"We figured we're getting some good karma," he said.

Ley also tried out what could become a slogan for the shop: "We work on everything from Bentleys to Buddhas."
___
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.
 

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.

 

more from IFYC

Join IFYC on February 7 at 10 AM CT for an important conversation with Black thought-leaders, activists, and organizers engaged in on-the-ground efforts to destigmatize HIV and eradicate the virus.
The metaverse has dramatic implications that should make all of us sit up, lean in, and claim our role in shaping the worlds within the world that is being created.  
A chance encounter with an army chaplain put Colonel Khallid Shabazz's military career on a different path.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived a hostage-taking at his synagogue last Saturday, gave the closing remarks at an online White House briefing Friday, with an impassioned plea for civility.
Rather than focusing on canonical doctrines, a workshop trains educators to teach “lived religion” -- all the creative things that people do with their traditions.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, described as 'the second most famous Buddhist in the world, after the Dalai Lama,' by one expert, founded a worldwide network of monastic centers. He once said: "My life is my teaching. My life is my message.”
Many content creators use their platforms to build community beyond their brick-and-mortar congregations, to dispel myths, break stereotypes and invite people from diverse faiths to get a glimpse into their lives.
IFYC's innovative online learning experience, #Interfaith: Engaging Religious Diversity Online, offers lessons on how to approach others online in a way that leads to building bridges.
Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.
In his new book, Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer reexamines the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel and finds lessons for interfaith political activism today.
King drew criticism from Billy Graham, who told journalists that he thought King was wrong to link anti-war efforts with the civil rights movement.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.