Hsi Lai Temple

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Hsi Lai Temple
Mountain Gate of Hsi Lai Temple.JPG
The mountain gate of Hsi Lai Temple
Basic information
Location 3456 South Glenmark Drive, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
Geographic coordinates 33°58′33″N 117°58′04″W / 33.9757°N 117.9679°W / 33.9757; -117.9679Coordinates: 33°58′33″N 117°58′04″W / 33.9757°N 117.9679°W / 33.9757; -117.9679
Affiliation Humanistic Buddhism
Country United States
Website www.hsilai.org
Architectural description
Founder Hsing Yun
Completed 1988
Hsi Lai Temple
Traditional Chinese 佛光山西來寺

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple (Chinese: 佛光山西來寺; pinyin: Fóguāngshān Xīlái Sì) is a mountain monastery in the northern Puente Hills, Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County, California. The name "Hsi Lai" means Coming West

Hsi Lai Temple is affiliated with Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan. It is the order's first overseas branch temple, and serves as the North American regional headquarters for Fo Guang Shan. Hsi Lai Temple 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.


Hsi Lai Temple and its surroundings

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 planning and construction of the temple in the 1980s was met with suspicion and resistance from local communities, many of whom knew little about Buddhism and had unfounded fears of Buddhist practices. Many felt that the project was too big for a neighborhood of single-family home and that the traditional Chinese architectural style would not fit in. The main reasons for resistance against the building of the temple were the impact of weekly services, heavy traffic, noise, and concern about environmental damage.[1]

Originally, the organization had planned to build the temple in South Bay, Los Angeles but were blocked from acquiring land. They also tried to acquire the historical Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra, California, but also met opposition from the community.[2] The building of the temple at its current location survived six public hearings and more than 100 community meetings. In 1985, the temple was finally granted a building permit. The groundbreaking ceremony was held the following year, and was completed on November 26, 1988.

Negative feelings about the building of Hsi Lai have since diminished as the general level of awareness has been raised and as the temple and its residents have proven to be good neighbors.[1]

Immediately after its opening, Hsi Lai Temple 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 Land and Water Dharma Service was held prior to the temple's opening.

In 2008, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the opening of Hsi Lai Temple, another international Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics and a Land and Water Dharma Servce was subsequently held.

In the summer of 2011, Hsi Lai Temple was the starting location for The Amazing Race 19.[3]

On September 4, 2012, Hsi Lai Temple abbot Hui Chi was elected to the post of head abbot of the Fo Guang Shan order, succeeding Hsin Pei.[4]

University of the West[edit]

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 relocated to Rosemead, California in 1996. It is one of the first Buddhist colleges in the United States.

Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctorate in Buddhist studies, comparative religious studies, and a Master of Business Administration are available at the university.

In 2004, the university changed its name to the University of the West and appointed Dr. Lewis Lancaster, a professor at University of California, Berkeley and longtime member of Fo Guang Shan, as president. Dr. Roger Schmidt became Lancaster's successor in 2006, and was replaced by Dr. Allen M. Huang a year later.


The Arhat Garden in the temple
  • The Bodhisattva Hall (五聖殿): The first shrine before entering the temple. It is a large hall that honors five Bodhisattvas, Samantabhadra (Pǔxián), Ksitigarbha (Dìzàng), Maitreya (Mílè), Guanyin, and Manjusri (Wenshu). Outside the shrine, on each side, honors Skanda (Weituo) and Guan Yu (Qielan).
  • The Arhat Garden (十八羅漢): Located on the left of the temple, it depicts 18 of the earliest known disciples of the Buddha.
  • The Avalokitesvara Garden (慈航普度): Located on the right of the temple. It depicts the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin), surrounded by her acolytes and the Four Heavenly Kings.
  • Main Shrine (大雄寶殿): The heart of the temple's activities. The main figures depicted in the hall are Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. Thousands of niches containing an image of the Buddha can be seen on the walls. Outside, a large bell and drum can be seen on either side. The bell and drum are only used to mark special occasions.
  • Memorial Pagoda (懷恩堂): Located at the summit of Hsi Lai Temple, it functions as a memorial to the deceased. Formerly a mausoleum until the construction of a larger columbarium at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.
  • Meditation Hall (禪堂): Located on the back of the main shrine, meditation classes are held here.
  • Dining Hall (五觀堂): The main dining area for visitors to the temple. A vegetarian lunch buffet is served daily for visitors and sometimes dinner on special days.
  • Translation and Publishing Center (佛光山國際翻譯中心與佛光出版社): The Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center and Buddha's Light Publishing are located on site. Buddha's Light Publishing was established to publish Buddhist books translated by the Fo Guang Shan International Translation Committee as well as other valuable Buddhist works.

Retreats and Education[edit]

A bell within the grounds of Hsi Lai, traditionally used to mark the start or end of daily activities at a monastery.

The temple offers a wide variety of retreats and classes in English and Chinese to promote Humanistic Buddhism and has started an extended retreat program for those who want to experience monastic life for a longer period of time. The retreats generally consist of classes, meditation, mindful eating through the traditional practice of formal Buddhist dining, and communal chores.

Recurring retreats[edit]

  • Eight Precepts Retreat (八關齋戒): A weekend retreat for participants to get a taste of monastic life.
  • One, Three, and Seven Day Meditation Retreat (一/三/七日禪修會): A retreat focusing on meditation for varying lengths of time.
  • Short-term Monastic Retreat (短期出家修道會): Offered annually for children and bi-annually for adults. It is roughly one week long and allows for laypeople to temporarily be a monastic, including taking on the vows of a novice monk or nun.
  • Five and Bodhisattva Precept Retreat (五戒菩薩戒戒會): Held bi-annually, this retreat confers the five precepts and Bodhisattva precepts to participants to observe for lifetime after lifetime.
  • Hsi Lai Buddhist Cultivation Program (西來佛教書苑): An extended retreat ranging from six weeks to three months for participants to have a fuller understanding of monastic life.

Education programs[edit]

The temple holds Buddhism classes in Chinese on Saturdays and in English on Sundays. The temple also has occasional lectures by monastics or professors in both Chinese and English. The classes in English are divided into Core Teachings and Sutra Study. The classes in Chinese are divided into lectures (sutra study), practice (meditation and pureland chanting), and crafts (flower arrangement, guzheng, erhu, drum troupe, and Tai Chi). The temple also has separate Saturday Chinese language programs for children and adults in addition to an after school program for children.

Dharma services[edit]

Dharma services are held in Mandarin, but the chanting books have English pinyin phonetics and translation. Each service is accompanied a Dharma talk by the presiding venerable. Monks and nuns who reside at the temple speak a variety of languages besides Mandarin, primarily English and Cantonese.

Main Hall.

Annual ceremonies and services[edit]

  • Thousand Buddhas Dharma Service (禮千佛法會): A short ceremony paying homage to Buddhas and bodhisattvas; held on Lunar New Year's Day.
  • Grand Offering to the Triple Gem and Celestial Guardians (供佛齋天): A ceremony inviting heavenly guardians of Buddhism. Held during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
  • Annual Lamp Offering Inauguration/Completion Service (上燈法會/圓燈法會): A service held at the start and end of the lunar year to formally offer an annual lamp to the Buddha.
  • Bowing Pilgrimage (朝山): Held multiple times a year for Avalokitesvara's birthday, enlightenment, and renunciation, as well as the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Lunar New Year's Day.
  • Water Repentance Service (水懺法會): A one-day repentance service for filial piety. Held annually in the month of the Qingming Festival.
  • Buddha Day/Buddha Bathing Dharma Service (浴佛法會): Celebration of the Buddha's Birthday held in and outside of Hsi Lai Temple, and is co-hosted by other temples in Southern California.
  • Sangha Day/Sangha Offering Dharma Service (供僧法會): Held around July 15 each year, following the summer retreat the temple continues the tradition of making offerings to the monastics following the rainy season with an alms round by monastics from all over the Americas.
  • Emperor Liang's Repentance Service (梁皇法會): A week-long repentance service held annually as part of the Ullamabana celebrations, which is also known as the Ghost Festival in Chinese folk religion, observed in July or August.
  • Yoga Flaming Mouth Service (瑜伽焰口): An elaborate Tantric ceremony inviting and feeding sentient spirits. Held in the afternoon after Sangha Day, and at the end of the Emperor Liang Repentance service.
  • Medicine Buddha Dharma Service (藥師法會): A multiple-day service involving the recitation of the Medicine Buddha Sutra and the offering of lamps. A separate altar is prepared for this event and is used in addition to the Main Hall for the service.
  • Amitabha 7-day Retreat (彌陀佛七): Seven days of nianfo and mindful recitation of the Amitabha Sutra, held at the end of December around the time of Amitabha's birthday. It is concluded with a Triple Amitabha Contemplation Dharma Service (三時繫念佛事) lasting an entire afternoon.
  • Dharma Day (法寶節): A celebration of Sakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment. The temple holds performances and activities in both English and Chinese to spread the joy of learning the Dharma. Special porridge is cooked and offered to visitors in memory of Sujata's offering of milk rice to the Buddha shortly before his enlightenment.

Monthly ceremonies and services[edit]

  • Weekly Dharma Service (共修法會): Regular Dharma services are held on Sunday mornings, usually chanting various sutras such as the Eighty-eight Buddha Repentance, Diamond Sutra, Medicine Sutra, and Amitabha Sutra.
  • Great Compassion Repentance Service (大悲懺法會): Monthly service held in the evening on the second Friday of each month. A popular service at Hsi Lai, it involves the recitation of the Great Compassion Mantra, bowing, offering, and circumambulations.
  • New and Full Moon Dharma Service (光明燈法會): On the new and full moon, a service consisting of the Universal Gate Chapter of the Lotus Sutra is also held as a dedication for benefactors who made lamp offerings that year.
  • Land and Water Dharma Service (水陸法會): The most elaborate and largest service in Chinese Buddhism, which involves inviting beings from higher realms to help beings in the lower realms escape from their suffering. Held very rarely, Hsi Lai Temple has held this ceremony multiple times.

Hsi Lai Temple offers community service to a variety of people in need of hours. Jobs range from cleaning and sweeping around the temple to serving lunch in the dining room.

Past Abbots and Abbesses[edit]

The first abbess, Tzu Chuang. Behind her is Venerable Tzu Jung, the fifth abbess.
  • 1978–1989: Ven. Tzu Chuang (慈莊法師) (1st term)
  • 1989–1993: Ven. Hsin Ting (心定和尚)
  • 1993–1994: Ven. Tzu Chuang (慈莊法師) (2nd term)
  • 1994–1995: Ven. Yi Kung (依空法師)
  • 1995–2000: Ven. Tzu Jung (慈容法師)
  • 2000–2003: Ven. Hui Chuan (慧傳法師) (1st term)
  • 2003: Ven. Yi Heng (依恆法師) (acting abbess)
  • 2003–2005: Ven. Hui Chuan (慧傳法師) (2nd term)
  • 2005–2013: Ven. Hui Chi/Hsin Bao (慧濟法師/心保和尚)
  • 2013–present: Ven. Hui Dong (慧東法師)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]