January 13, 2013
In this paper we will put to an end to the ongoing question if the Buddhists are bowing down to Idols or Gods and why they do what they do. This paper will go into detail about the temple that I went to and the different tours that I was able to go on and the interview I was able to hold. I will also go into great detail about what you experience during one of the services in the Main Shrine. The Hsi Lai Temple sits on 15 acres of land and has a floor area of 102,432 sq. ft. and is located at 3456 Glenmark Drive, Hacienda Heights CA 91745. The architecture when you first drive up is mind blowing and beautiful. The architecture stays true to the traditional styles of buildings, gardens, and statuary of the ancient Chinese monasteries. They started the planning and building of the temple in 1978 and finished the building ten years later in 1988. Hsi Lai means “coming west” and signifies the dedication of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order to spreading the teachings of the Buddha. Fo Guang Shan is the largest monastery and covers over 370 acres. When you walk up the first set of steps you come to what they call the gate. On the top part of the sign it says Hsi Lai Temple which again means “coming west” and then on the four pillars it says the four universal vows, which are “to save all sentient beings, to eradicate all worries, to study the boundless Dharma, and to attain supreme Buddhahood.” After you walk up the steps from the lower parking lot where the gate is you walk up more steps to the upper parking lot and then from their you walk up more steps to what they call the Bodhisattva Hall. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings that made a vow to selflessly serve others with loving-kindness and compassion and are committed to liberating all beings from suffering. It is said that each one of the bodhisattvas represents a virtuous quality essential to all Buddhists. When talking about the bodhisattvas they made a point to make sure that we understood that when we saw that people were bowing to them that they were not bowing to an idol, but rather a sign of showing respect and seeking their guidance to develop the virtuous qualities they represent. Bowing also shows our own humility and the curbing of our ego. There are five bodhisattvas are: Samantabhadra Bodhisattva which is symbolic of great practice, and helping us achieve more discipline in our daily life, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva which was known for his great vow to help all beings in hell and would not stop till hell was emptied of all beings, Maitreya Bodhisattva is the future Buddha and is the symbol of great benevolence and is often referred to as Happy Buddah, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva which symbolizes the perfection and loving-kindness, and Manjusri Bodhisattva which is known for great wisdom which empowers one to distinguish universal morality from wrongdoing. Underneath the five bodhisattva are engraved Chinese characters from the Diamond Sutra. Next to the Heart Sutra the Diamond Sutra is the most widely read of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, and is highly valued among sects in Chan Buddhism. While I was at the His Lai Temple I found that they have an information where you can go on two different types of tours of their temple: the first being a self-guided audio tour where they give you a cd player and it gives you valuable information about the temple and all its rooms and buildings as well as the gardens and information on the statues that are found throughout the temple, The second type of tour they offer is with a docent who is more than willing to answer any questions that may come up during the tour, while they inform you about everything within the temple. The two gardens I was able to see within the temple was: the first being the Arhat Garden where the eighteen arhats are seated. The Arhats have realized the truth of no-self and that all is a composite of the five aggregates dependant on other phenomena...