City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
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|City of Ten Thousand Buddhas|
The mountain gate to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
|Address||2001 Talmage Road, Ukiah, California 95482|
The City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Chinese: 萬佛聖城; pinyin: Wànfó Shèngchéng, Vietnamese: Chùa Vạn Phật Thánh Thành) is an international Buddhist community and monastery founded by Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Western Buddhism. It is one of the first Chinese Zen Buddhist temples in the United States, and one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemisphere.
The city is situated in Talmage, Mendocino County, California about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Ukiah, and 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. It was one of the first Buddhist monasteries built in the United States. The temple follows the Guiyang Ch'an School, one of the five houses of classical Chinese Ch'an. The city is noted for their close adherence to the vinaya, the austere traditional Buddhist monastic code.
The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas site in 1974 and established an international center there by 1976.
Originally the site housed the Mendocino State Hospital founded in 1889. There were over seventy large buildings, over two thousand rooms of various sizes, three gymnasiums, a fire station, a swimming pool, a refuse incinerator, fire hydrants, and various other facilities. A paved road wound its way through the complex, lined with tall street lamps and trees over a hundred years old. The connections for electricity and pipes for water, heating, and air conditioning were all underground. Both the architectural design and the materials used for the buildings were state of the art. The heating and air conditioning were centrally controlled.
Considering the natural surroundings to be ideal for cultivation, Hua visited the valley three times and negotiated with the seller many times. He wanted to establish a center for propagating the Buddhadharma throughout the world and for introducing the Buddhist teachings, which originated in the East, to the Western world. Hua planned to create a major center for world Buddhism, and an international orthodox monastery for the purpose of elevating moral standards and raising people's awareness.
The city comprises 488 acres (2 km²) of land, of which 80 acres (0.3 km²) are developed. The rest of the land includes meadows, orchards, and forests. Large institutional buildings and smaller residential houses are scattered over the west side of the campus. The main Buddha hall, monastic facilities, educational institutes, administrative offices, the main kitchen and dining hall, Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant, and supporting structures are all located in this complex.
In 2009, the walls of the Long Life Hall were subject to structural damage caused by an electrical fire. However, no major damage occurred to the altar, artwork or statues inside the hall.
Sites of interest
- The Jeweled Hall of 10,000 Buddhas: Finished in 1982, the hall is adorned with streamers, banners, lamps and is graced in the center by the presence of an 20-foot (6 m) statue of a thousand-handed Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, popularly known as Guan Yin Pusa in Chinese and Chenrezig in Tibetan. Rows of yellow bowing cushions are lined upon the red carpet. Walls are adorned with 10,000 images of the Buddha, molded by Hua.
- Hall of No Words: This is where Hua often held classes for his disciples in the early years of the city. The abbot's quarters, where Hua dwelled, were on the second floor. This was also where Hua lay in state during the 49-day mourning period. Now, it is a memorial hall that contains relics of the Buddha, Master Hsu Yun, and Hua. It is closed to the public and opened on special days.
- Dharma Realm Buddhist University: In order to raise the level of education among Sangha members and train people to propagate Buddhism, Hua founded the Dharma Realm Buddhist University in 1976. The university aims to educate students to become wise and virtuous leaders in the world. Instead of merely transmitting academic knowledge, it emphasizes a foundation in virtue, which expands into the study of how to help all living beings discover their inherent nature. The university is working for accreditation in the near future, though no specific timetable has yet been announced.
- Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant: The university canteen, which serves only vegan food. The goal is to serve healthful nutritious food full of the good karma of non-harming.
- Tathagata (Rulai) Monastery: The dorm rooms for monks (left home persons) and male lay persons persuaded toward the monastic lifestyle.
- Great Compassion Courtyard: Dorm rooms for guests and visitors.
- Bell and Drum House: Houses the instruments that are played daily to ready monastics for daily practice.
- Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts: This facility was active in the early years at the city as a center for translation and as a residence hall for nuns and laywomen. The Institute has since moved to Burlingame, California.
- Tower of Blessings: Hua allocated the Tower of Blessings as a home for the elderly monastics residing in the city.
- Wonderful Words Hall: Site for daily gatherings to listen to Hua's taped lectures in the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
- Five Contemplations Dining Hall: Completed in 1982, it is where the monastics and resident lay community follow the formal monastic style in taking their lunch meal. Only pure vegetarian food is served here, and the hall can seat over 3,000 people.
- Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools: The elementary (kindergarten through 6th grade) and secondary (7th grade through 12th grade) schools were founded by Hua in 1976. The schools are divided into two divisions, Boys and Girls, and teach such classes as meditation, yoga, Buddhism, and World Religions. Many foreign and non-local students also reside on campus in school dorms for the duration of the school year (excepting Winter, Spring, and Summer vacations). As of Spring 2006, there were about 130 students in both divisions.
- Organic Farm: A ten-acre CCOF-certified organic farm, whose produce supplements the meals in the dining hall.
Traditions held at the monastery
Two distinguishing features of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are that unlike many other Chinese Buddhist monasteries, the monastics always wear their kasaya sashes (long sashes that are worn outside the monastic clothing), and they eat only one meal a day and only before noon.
At night most of them sit up and rest, not lying down to sleep. Monastics at the city do not have any social lives, nor do men and women intermingle. Whereas many ordinary Chinese monks go out to perform rituals for events such as weddings or funerals, none of these monks do so. Some monastics even choose to maintain a vow of silence, for varying periods of time. They wear a tag saying "No Talking" and do not speak with anyone.
There are monks and nuns who maintain the precept of not owning personal wealth and not touching money, thus eliminating the thought of money and increasing their purity of mind. Master Hua often reminded his disciples,
"In cultivation, we have to stick to our principles! We can't forget our principles. Our principles are our goal. Once we recognize our goal, forward we go! We've got to be brave and vigorous. We can't retreat. As long as we are vigorous and not lax in ordinary times, we could become enlightened any minute or any second. So by no means should we let ourselves be confused by thoughts, and miss the opportunity to get enlightened."
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a strict Buddhist monastery adhering to the traditional Asian monastic culture although it is located in a liberal area of California. The organic farm and peaceful way of life appeals to most Westerners who want an alternate lifestyle. This creates an interesting mix of different ideologies. While the traditionalists are more drawn to the spiritual and devotional side of Buddhism, Westerners are often more interested in meditation. Some of the boarding school children are Westerners from the local community who want their children to grow up in a community-oriented place, while some of the children come from Taiwan and China, even from European countries, such as France, Belgium, and Holland, where parents think highly of Hua. The liberalism of Westerners and the strict traditionalism of Easterners may clash at times.
Unique to the City, the monastery houses both male and female Sangha, students from the boarding school, and is open to the public. Many monasteries in China, Taiwan, and in the West house only monks or only nuns but not both, and are closed to the public. However, males and females have separate campuses, with gender-neutral buildings in the middle of the campus.
Guiding Principles and Customs
Hua set up the six principles for all monastics and lay practitioners to follow as guidelines for spiritual development. These principles were "to not fight, to not be greedy, to not seek, to not be selfish, to not pursue personal advantage, and to not lie."
Since spiritual development is a full-time endeavor, certain rules and customs are followed by the community:
- Different sections of the campus are designated for men or women, and generally the genders do not co-mingle. This is particularly noticeable at ceremonies and meals, where men and women separate into different sections.
- Out of respect to the lifestyle of the monastics, modest clothing is worn by the laity at all times.
- Smoking, drug use, and the consumption of meat products and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Other notable customs:
- Unlike in many temples found in Asia, no incense is ever offered personally by any of the lay practitioners and guests. Hua believed that it was totally superstitious to insist on personally offering incense to the Buddhas, and pointed out that high-quality incense is expensive while poor incense can ruin the walls and statues. Instead, a single stick of incense is offered by a monastic for the entire assembly, and then all practitioners would simply bow and pay respects.
Many animals roam the grounds of the City, including peacocks, deer, squirrels, and other species. The peacocks are generally quite accustomed to the presence of people and are tame. Peacocks pose a large problem on the farm, so countermeasures have been taken against the peacocks, including covering the plants, moving the peacocks to a walnut farm, and planting extra food based on the assumption that a significant fraction will be eaten or damaged by peacocks. During special Dharma Assemblies, a Liberating of Life ceremony is held where many animals - especially pheasants and chukars - bought from hunting preserves are set free.
- 4:00-5:00: Morning Recitation
- 5:00-6:00: Universal Bowing
- 6:00-7:00: Meditation / Self-study
- 6:15-6:45: Breakfast
- 7:00-8:00: Avatamsaka Sutra recitation in Chinese
- 8:00-10:30: Classes, study or work
- 10:30-12:00: Meal Offering / Lunch
- 6:30-7:30: Evening Recitation
- 7:30-9:40: Lecture/Closing recitation
Largest temple in the Western Hemisphere
Another temple known as Hsi Lai Temple, located in Hacienda Heights, a city in Southern California, has claimed since 1988 that they are the largest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere. However, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has over 80 acres (320,000 m2) of built-up land on 488 acres (1.975 km2) of property as compared to Hsi Lai Temples' 15 acres (61,000 m2), but rather than a temple complex as is Hsi Lai Temple, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is more of an entire community with several large buildings clustered together. Therefore, it is unclear which is the largest, as there is a significant difference between the structure and location of the two Buddhist organizations.