Field Report Paper
The Hsi Lai Temple, located on 3456 South Glenmark in the city of Hacienda Heights, is a Buddhist Temple, which completed its construction in 1988 after 10 years of planning by Ming and Ching, founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun. Hsi Lai means "coming to the west" and denotes the teachings of Buddha to those in the west. The organization's headquarters is in Taiwan, but International Buddhist Progress Society is the charted name for this temple.
Master Hsing Yun, in 1967, established the Fo Guang Shan, meaning Buddha's Light Mountain, which is the largest monastery in Taiwan. This is a Mahayana Chinese Buddhism monastic order where in China, consists of 8 different schools; Tian-Tai, Pure Land, Chan, Hua-yen (Avatamsaka), Fa-Shiang (Yogacaran), Sanlun (Madhyamikan), Dhyana, and Esoteric (Tantra). Through a Humanistic Buddhist orientation, the Buddhist Order works to unite all Buddhist schools and sects.
They promote inter-religious dialogue among spiritual traditions through conferences, services, and symposia.
The Hsi Lai Temple is a place that provides confidence, joy, hope and convenience to people. People that attend the temple, visits to make prayers for themselves and pay respect to their ancestors as well. Others visit the temple, including in their prayers, a hope for something better or pray to continue the contentment that may already have. Some people make the trip to the Hsi Lai Temple just for the tranquility, since it is located on the top of a mountain, providing a calm feeling and a heavenly sight.
The construction of the Hsi Lai Temple was to serve as a spiritual and cultural center for those who are interested in learning more about Buddhism and the Chinese culture. Its objectives are to nurture Buddhist missionaries by education and to use cultural activities to propagate Buddhism.
The activities that were performed at the Hsi Lai Temple were similar to those of which was learned in class. The chant of "Omitofu" was heard in many of the meditations, which were made by the monks that were dressed in orange robes. During the prayers, an enormous amount of ceremonial food were also placed in front of shrines and elsewhere as a way of paying respect to ancestors and the greater spirits as well. Food was used to represent to extent the longevity of our lives; it sets free our articulation skill. They also had visualization meditations, in which many of the monks had their eyes closed for a portion of the time during the prayer. A few sacrifices were also made consisting of a house, clothing, money and many other accessories that were modeled with paper. These sacrificial rituals are performed as a few also chanted. The sacrifices of these particular items were to symbolize necessities and accessories to ones ancestor or to a spirit who might have the use for these articles in their greater life after death. These sacrificial rituals are more often performed at a ceremony of one's death, welcoming them to their new life, having with them all that they might need to continue their journey. Incenses were also burned in many prayers. Incenses were used to achieve our inner peace; it enriches our Dharma perception.
The Hsi Lai Temple impressed me with great awe. The location of the temple was one that really provided an atmosphere that was heavenly. The architecture and the buildings were meticulously built. The Bodhisatva Shrine was gold covered, if not made of gold, and the entire room was astonishing. What brought the most shock to me was the organization of the place. In every room, everything seemed to be placed in a particular way. The number of people that visit this temple was countless and its also amazing how tranquil this heavenly temple is even with a room full of people. The Hsi Lai Temple, in my point of view, gave me a glimpse of what they call heaven. The tranquility of this temple brought me confidence, joy and gave me hope for better things in my life.