BENTLEYS TO BUDDHAS. Dave Ley, co-owner of Exoticars, an auto
restoration shop specializing in classic vehicles, pulls a restored
statue of the Buddha outside in McCandless, Pennsylvania, on October 11,
2021. Eyes closed and sitting in the lotus position, the Buddha
underwent weeks of painstaking work at Exoticars. The statue sat amid an
array of vintage vehicles from Bentleys and Corvettes to Porsches and a
1951 Ford pickup. In the bottom photo, the newly restored statue of the
Buddha shines in the sunlight outside Exoticars. (AP Photos/Jessie
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #12 (December 6, 2021), pages 7
Bentleys to Buddhas: Vintage-car shop restores temple
By Peter Smith
The Associated Press
McCANDLESS, Pa. — 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 October 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
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