HSI LAI TEMPLE
Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple is located in the northern Puente Hills of Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County, California. It is affiliated with the Fo Guang Shan order of Buddhism and serves as the North American regional headquarters for that organization. The branch temple was established in 1988 and was the site of the founding of Buddha’s Light International Association, a religious organization established in 1991. The temple practices Humanistic Buddhism, which emphasizes an individual’s potential for enlightenment without the need for clerical intervention or rituals.
In 1976, the founder of Fo Guang Shan, Master Hsing Yun, represented a Buddhist group from Taiwan to participate in America’s bicentennial celebration. Later that year, he was asked by American friends to build a monastery in the United States. Therefore, Fo Guang Shan asked Ven. Tzu Chuang, who became the founding and first abbess of Hsi Lai Temple upon its inception, and Yi Heng planned and organize the construction of the temple in the Greater Los Angeles area. It was officially registered under the name of the 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 Maywood—was called White Pagoda Temple (Bai Ta).
The planning and construction of the temple in the 1980s was a cause of suspicion and resistance from many in the surrounding community, who feared that it would bring more traffic and noise to their neighborhoods. Many felt that the building’s traditional Chinese architecture would clash with their single-family homes. The main reasons for resistance to the building of the temple were concerns over potential damage to the environment as well as worries about its impact on traffic.
In 1985, the temple was granted a building permit and groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1986. The temple opened on November 26, 1988. The opening was followed by several events, including the 16th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, which met from November 19 to 26, and an international Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics that lasted over a month.
In 2008, Hsi Lai Temple held a Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics and a Land and Water Dharma Service in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the opening of Hsi Lai Temple. In the summer of 2011, Hsi Lai Temple was featured as a starting location on The Amazing Race 19. On September 4, 2012, Hsi Lai Temple abbot Hui Chi was elected head abbot of the Fo Guang Shan order.
University of the West
In 1990 Hsi Lai Temple was completed and in 1996, after relocating to Rosemead, California, Hsi Lai University was founded by master Hsing Yun. The university has offered a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees in Buddhist studies and religious studies since 1997. These include an BA in Buddhist studies, an MA in comparative religious studies, and a Master of Business Administration. In 2004 the school changed its name to the University of the West, appointing Dr. Lewis Lancaster as president. He was succeeded in 2006 by another long-time Fo Guang Shan member Dr. Roger Schmidt who was replaced by Dr Allen Huang in 2008.
Monthly ceremonies and services
Regular services are held on Sunday mornings, usually consisting of chanting the Eighty-eight Buddha Repentance, the Diamond Sutra, the Medicine Sutra, and the Amitabha Sutra. Monthly service held in the evening on the second Friday of each month includes recitation of the Great Compassion Mantra, bowing, offering and circumambulations. On new and full moon days, a service consisting of the Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra is also held as a dedication to benefactors who made lamp offerings that year. The most elaborate and largest service in Chinese Buddhism involves inviting beings from higher realms to help beings in the lower realms escape from their suffering; this service is held once every ten years. Hsi Lai Temple provides community service opportunities for people in need of volunteer hours. These jobs include cleaning and sweeping around the temple as well as serving lunch in the dining room.