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Buddhists In Our Backyard

March 14, 2010, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Last month, golfer Tiger Woods ended his long silence and publicly admitted to extramarital affairs. Woods' televised apology also included a recommitment to his Buddhist faith as a way to straighten out his troubled personal life. Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with about 300-million followers, including some right here in KELOLAND. One of them brings Buddhism into his business.

Each morning, the workers at Lovely Nails salon in Sioux Falls bow in reverence to this small shrine near the front door. They leave treats, including coffee and even cigarettes for the Buddha god of fortune, hoping the offerings will lead to a profitable day.

"The more happy he is, the more good things he'll bring to you," said Lovely Nails owner Tom Tran.

Lovely Nails owner Tom Tran is a native of Vietnam, where he was raised a Buddhist.

"You think about the other before yourself," said Tran.

Buddhism is based upon the teachings of the Buddha, "The Enlightened One," who proclaimed some 25-hundred years ago that human suffering is overcome by freeing oneself from all earthly desires. Many Buddhists believe that everything we do, both good and bad, can affect lives for generations to come.

"Like for Catholics, you can go to church on Sunday, confess the sin and you be done with it. No, that's not for Buddhism, your sin stays with you," said Tran.

The Buddhist shrine at Lovely Nails is a curiosity to customers.

"It's unique, different. I guess I really never focused on it before, but it's unique," said Tiffany Bieganowski of Sioux Falls.

"It's funny. I'd have one in my house," said Kayla Henman of Sioux Falls.

Some of Tran's customers mistakenly link Buddhism with Voodoo. The two words sound alike, but that's where the similarities end.

"Some of them think we'll try to do some Voodoo stuff, no. We don't do all the chanting and trying to poison you or anything like that," said Tran.

Golfer Tiger Woods has brought more attention to Buddhism by saying he's re-embracing the faith to avoid future temptations. Tran is confident that Woods will find the redemption he seeks through Buddhism's moral codes.

"He doesn't know where to turn. I'm wealthy, I'm famous, I cheated on my wife with many women, he could go to a monk and what should I do? And they will lead him to a different path," said Tran.

Critics say Buddhism isn't so much a religion as a philosophy, lacking a true spiritual dimension to its teachings. But Tran, who left Vietnam aboard a fishing boat as a teenager, disagrees. He says Buddhism has been a guiding force for success at his family business, where faith and fingernails point the way toward enlightenment and the American Dream.

Other local Buddhists say it's difficult to practice their religion because there are no temples in Sioux Falls. The nearest is in Sioux City, Iowa. But Tran says a temple isn't a requirement to faithfully observe Buddhism.

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