I was attending a Buddhist Conference this past weekend, and one of my friends from Oakland was also planning on attending the event as well. Because he was flying in from out of town, I told him I would pick him up at the LA Airport. The event was being held at the University of the West which is about forty miles from LAX, but Al’s plane landed about six hour before the conference was scheduled to commence. I thought about what we could do, besides going to a restaurant and having lunch, and realized that Al had never had the opportunity to visit Hsi Lai Temple. Because the temple was practically on the way to the event, we agreed we could both go and visit this unique facility together.
|Rev. Al Jigen Billings, BPSN|
Over the years, I have visited this landmark many times and find it a compelling location to visit with out of town friends. There is also a small museum on the premises, which interests those with Buddhist leanings. It was a nice sunny Friday in Southern California and we had a good visit touring the facilities.
Hsi Lai Temple is a Chán Buddhist monastery located in the foothills of Hacienda Heights, California, USA, a suburb of Los Angeles County. The name can be translated as Coming West in the sense of the "Great Buddhadharma Coming West."
The temple is affiliated with one of Taiwan's largest religious organizations, the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order. It is one of the first overseas branch temples, and is often called the "Western torch of Dharma" by order members. Hsi Lai was the site of the founding of Buddha's Light International Association, established in 1991. The temple, like its mother temple in Taiwan, practices Humanistic Buddhism, which incorporates all of the eight traditional schools of Chinese Buddhism - primarily the Línjì Chán and Pure Land schools - to provide guidance deemed most useful to modern life.
In 1976, Master Hsing Yun, the founder of the order, represented a Buddhist group from Taiwan to participate in America's bicentennial celebration. Master Hsing Yun was asked by American friends to build a monastery in the United States. Therefore, Fo Guang Shan asked the Venerable Tzu Chuang (who, upon the inception of the temple, became the founding and first abbess of Hsi Lai Temple) and Yi Heng to plan and organize the construction of the temple in the Greater Los Angeles area. It was officially registered under the name of International Buddhist Progress Society. Until the temple was complete, Ven. Tzu Chuang bought an old church building, which was to be Hsi Lai's temporary headquarters. The original temple, located in the city of Maywood was called the Bai Ta (White Pagoda) Temple.
The temple was finished at a cost of ten million dollars. Immediately after its opening, Hsi Lai was the venue of many important events. The 16th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the 7th conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth were held from November 19 to the 26th, an international Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics was held for over a month, and a Liberation Rite of Water and Land, the first of its kind in North America, was held prior to the temple's opening.
In 2008, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the opening of Hsi Lai, another international Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics and a Liberation Rite of Water and Land was subsequently held. In 1990, in conjunction to the completion of Hsi Lai Temple, Master Hsing Yun founded Hsi Lai University, one of sixteen Buddhist colleges and universities operated by Fo Guang Shan. The university was relocated in Rosemead, California in 1996. It is one of the first Buddhist colleges in the United States.
Degrees are currently offered for Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Buddhist studies, comparative religious studies, and a Master of Business Administration. In 2004, the university changed its name to the University of the West and appointed Dr. Lewis Lancaster, a religion professor at UC Berkeley and longtime member of Fo Guang Shan, as president. Dr. Roger Schmidt became Lancaster's successor in 2006, who was then replaced by Dr. Allen M. Huang a year later.