In honor of Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, University of La Verne Souljourn organized a tour of the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights on Sunday. Five students, with University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, attended.
Hsi Lai means Coming to the West and signifies the dedication of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order to the spread of the teachings of the Buddha to those in the West.
The temple, one of the largest Buddha temple in the United States, is the North American Regional Headquarters of Fo Guang Shan. It was built to serve as a spiritual and cultural center for those interested in learning more about Buddhism and Chinese culture. Signs throughout the temple tour described the symbols and statues.
The Dharmachakra, or the Dhamma Wheel, symbolizes the path to enlightenment and reaching Nirvana. The Dhamma Wheel was portrayed throughout the temple, looking similar to what a ship’s steering wheel would look like.
“(The) connections that the tour guide made between Buddhism and Christianity was really cool because I identify as both,” said Damairis Lao, senior art and art history major. “The tour guide used the Holy Trinity to connect the three wheels to Christianity.”
The main shrine is the most important place in any Buddhist monastery. Before entering, an incense stick is provided and a prayer is said. At the shrine three statues of Sakyamuni Buddha that possess wisdom, virtue and compassion grace the center of the main wall overlooking the temple.
The Sakyamuni Buddha, who possesses those three values, is the spiritual teacher and the founder of Buddhism.
“It is very big and beautiful and amazing, with the 10,000 Buddha on the wall,” said Uyen Ho, freshman computer science major. “It is one of the biggest main shrines in a temple that I have been to.”
The first hall is the Bodhisattva Hall, where there are “Buddhas in training.” Each bodhisattva represents a virtuous quality essential to all Buddhists.
The statues in the Bodhisattva Hall depicted promising and important figures in Buddhism.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva helps to achieve more discipline in our daily lives. Kisitigarbha Bodhisattva is renowned for his commitment to saving those who are suffering. Maitreya Bodhisattva, also known as the happy Buddha, is the future Buddha and is a symbol of benevolence. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva symbolizes the perfection of compassion and loving-kindness.
The last of the five statues was the Manjusri Bodhisattva, who is known for his great wisdom. Below the Bodhisattva, and above the altar, the Diamond Sutra was engraved in Chinese characters.
“You can feel the sense of community and peace and the desire to do good in the world,” Wagoner said. “Students are interested in Buddhism and it is one of the most popular trips we do each year. We try to see and show a lot of different traditions.”
Hannah Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.