Author Archives: Mark Tompkins Author
The Hsi Lai Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in North America and encompasses 15 acres and a floor area of over 100,000 square feet. It is the Regional Headquarters of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. Traditional Ming and Qing dynasty influence abounds in the temple’s statues, gardens, and architecture. Hsi Lai means “Coming to the West” and portrays the Order’s dedication to spreading the teachings of the Buddha to Western culture (Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, 2018). It is located at 3456 Glenmark Dr. Hacienda Heights, CA 91745.
We checked the weather in San Pedro and with an expected high of 83 degrees we boarded our Can Am Spyder and headed out for our Saturday adventure. At the time, I didn’t consider how much cooler the coast of southern California is compare to inland destinations which resulted in much higher temperatures at the temple, despite it being nestled into the foothills. Parking at the temple was a nightmare and we had to circle the parking lot several times before heading down the street to seek parking elsewhere. It was 106 degrees and I let my wife off to stand in the shade of the main gate. I finally found a small place at the bottom of the hill on Glenmark Dr. that I could fit in, courtesy of the Spyder’s small footprint, and trudged my way back up the hill to my awaiting wife. Sweating profusely, we began to explore the temple grounds.
We entered Bodhisattva Hall and were greeted with the likenesses of several statues depicting enlightened sages clad in gold. Being unfamiliar with Buddhist lifestyle, we weren’t sure where we were allowed to roam until we asked one of the many helpful people we encountered throughout our visit. We exited Bodhisattva Hall to the wide expanse of the courtyard, which is used for walking meditation during retreats and other outdoor events. The pavement rectangles represent China’s rice paddies with weeds around the edges. The courtyard was massive and we had arrived just after some kind of outdoor presentation. Monks dressed in traditional robes called Kasaya walked with purpose, adding to the surreal atmosphere that transported my imagination to China. At that moment I felt far away from southern California. I was completely lost in the experience now and felt out of place in my shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.
We stopped in the information center and tried some delicious Fo Guang Tea, despite the heat. I was hoping it was cold but should have known better considering where we were. It tasted good, but I couldn’t drink very much because it only made me hotter. As we walked along the outer rim of the courtyard to stay in the shade, we saw gardens and many different statues of the Buddha and other entities made from many materials, including carved wood.
We found a tea room and gift store next to the dining hall and perused their offerings, sometimes aghast at the staggering prices of some of the merchandise for sale. The exotic gifts were incredibly beautiful, but I could not see paying thousands of dollars for a statue I could easily pack in the Spyder’s saddlebags for the trip home. My unfamiliarity with these items may highlight my ignorance of their value and they could have been good deals, but I do not have any experience for perspective.
We finally arrived at the Main Shrine and was greeted with a sign proclaiming no shorts were allowed. There were several women sitting at tables that immediately offered to provide my wife with a cover up to wear so we could go into the shrine. My shorts went to my knee and they said that was okay. I don’t know if the deciding factor was because she was female, or if her shorts were too short. We thanked them and went inside the enjoy the cool air for a bit.
Rows of seats lined the floor and we sat in the back to take in the sights. Three statues of Sakyamuni Buddha graced the center of the main wall overlooking many offerings. No pictures were permitted. Devotees entered, performed prayer rituals, then left, not staying more than a few minutes. The feeling of peace and tranquility I experienced there was palpable and for a few moments I was able to leave the busy city just down the street aside and clear my mind. There are too few times I can achieve that level of peace and this time was memorable. In fact, I didn’t feel the frenetic city energy the entire time I was on the temple grounds and its absence was notable.
By this time we were hungry, hot, and ready to get home, so we journeyed back to San Pedro with a long stop in air conditioned comfort of Denny’s. It’s hard to believe something as beautiful and unique as the Hsi Lai Temple exists in southern California. One aspect that really intrigued me is that it is fully functional and not just decorative or symbolic. I always thought I would have to journey overseas to visit an authentic monastic temple and see the incredible art and gardens, but it just goes to show the depth of culture one can experience in this great country of ours if you just get out and look around. Now get out there and experience something new!
His Lai Temple Website Link: http://www.hsilai.org/en/
Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple. (2018). About Hsi Lai. Retrieved from Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple: http://www.hsilai.org/en/hlt/
My opinion is yes, America is still the greatest country in the world. Statistical data aside, the U.S. offers many opportunities to live a fulfilling and prosperous life. Besides occupational opportunities, America offers plenty of leisure activities to help provide a well-rounded lifestyle. It also offers democracy, which allows the People to elect their leaders. Democracy is the cornerstone of the foundation of our government and must be protected for America to retain its identity in this ever-changing world. Political freedom is the spirit of democracy and is meant to protect and promote the People’s rights, welfare, and interests (Unknown, 2018). Great is defined as being considerably above the normal or average (Dictionary.com, 2017) and it is upon this definition the following points rest.
- Land of Opportunity – America is the greatest country in the world because of opportunity. America earned the nickname Land of Opportunity because people are mainly limited by their own imagination when deciding what they can do here. A fast-food employee can take the necessary steps to transition to a company CEO if they are motivated enough.
- Justice and Equality – America may not have always promoted equality, but modern times showcase the great strides made to correct this egregious mindset. America’s judicial system attempts to ensure justice is provided fairly and without bias. The system may not be perfect, but the mindset of innocent until proven guilty presents the best opportunity for fair and impartial treatment. American laws are the culmination of growth and understanding as times change and only when it is determined what is just and unjust can justice and injustice be properly related to what is fair or unfair (Adler, 2002).
- America, like every country, has had its share of growing pains and atrocities. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, the racial inequality of segregation caused much avoidable suffering and unjust treatment in the court system (King Jr., 1963). Some of the things that make America not the best country in the world have been from atrocious acts of mistreatment of humans. No country is without blame in this area, but the thought of this mentality being condoned in what is supposed to be a free country throws a dark stain on America’s image and calls into question the sincerity of America’s claims of tolerance and diversity acceptance, even today.
- Racial tensions aren’t the only blemish on the America’s social fabric, and as technology advances, the country seems to be weakening from the inside out. More and more people are turning to electronic sources of entertainment and social interaction which results in a decline in personal social skills needed to physically interact with each other. Putnam noted that the Internet and other virtual means of collaboration are causing a civic vacancy due to lack of personal engagement (Bella, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, Tipton, 1996). This is creating a nation of zombies more focused on the screens in front of their faces than real world around them. Of course, this is not only an American problem, it is a global epidemic that is contributing to the loss of the feeling of civic responsibilities.
America is still a great country and an economic powerhouse. Despite its learning stumbles, it is a shining example of capitalism and the application of the democratic method. The U.S. may not statistically top many of the lists societies use to gauge “greatness”, however, the constant stream of immigrants of all nationalities seeking entrance into our borders suggests many countries see America as a place they would rather be than in their own country. The U.S. still offers many opportunities to thrive beyond expectation and live a fruitful, engaging, and fulfilling life despite the issues/conflicts inherent in any democratic government setting.
Adler, M. J. (2002, January 8). Six Great Ideas. From Cyberspacei.com: http://cyberspacei.com/greatbooks/h2/6gi/gi_024.htm
Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1996, May 08). Individualism and the crisis of civic membership. The Christian Century, 113, 510. Retrieved from: https://www.religion-online.org/article/individualism-and-the-crisis-of-civic-membership/
Dictionary.com. (2017, April 26). Great. From Dictionary.com: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/greatness
King Jr., M. L. (1963, April 16). Letter from a Birmingham jail [King, Jr]. From African Studies Center – University of Pennsylvania: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Unknown. (2018, April 26). Week 1: The USA and the World. From Cyberactive.bellevue.edu: https://cyberactive.bellevue.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_478003_1&content_id=_9665260_1
The Runner, a 500 word or less flash fiction story by Mark Tompkins.
Phillip crouched in the bushes, the back of his pants wet from the morning dew on the leaves. He spied the cheating bastard running along the path towards him and readied himself for the attack. No one was going to get away with sleeping with his wife. He’d left the house this morning before she awoke and briefly thought about strangling her in her sleep, but he would be the prime suspect with no alibi and life in jail seemed much more trouble than the divorce he would initiate later today.
Kevin, however, would be stabbed by a mugger while jogging in the early morning darkness and it would be seen as bad judgment in a city known for its occasional violent tendencies. Just another tragic accident.
The slap of the runner’s tennis shoes on the dry asphalt signaled he was close and Phillip tensed, his muscles tight and ready. His hand ached from nervously gripping the large knife’s handle, and his rubber surgical gloves crackled quietly as he flexed his fingers before reaffirming his grip. The jogging path meandered through this little stand of trees and the overgrowth provided good cover for an ambush. He’d busted the light on the side of the path, which gave him the darkness to hide that ambush from anyone within eyesight.
The runner’s legs appeared in front of him as he ran by and Phillip leapt from hiding and wrapped his arm around the runner’s throat. He jammed the knife into the back of the black hoodie again and again, gritting his teeth in anger and asking Kevin if sleeping with his wife was worth it now. He could feel the warmth and slickness of the blood through this rubber gloves as he let Kevin fall to the ground writhing in pain.
Kevin’s voice was high pitched as he screamed, giving Phillip the satisfaction of hearing the man sound like a woman. The screaming continued; he had to shut Kevin up. He dropped the knife and knelt down, pulling the hood from Kevin’s head and slapping his hand over Kevin’s mouth. It wasn’t Kevin’s mouth and it wasn’t Kevin’s close cropped hair and square jaw. It was a cascade of blonde hair and a beautiful young woman’s face, undoubtedly one of the coeds from the university on the hill behind them.
Horrified, he held his hand over her mouth, muffling the screams until they stopped. What had he done? He had to get out of there, he couldn’t breathe. He stood and turned and ran, pulling the black bandana from his face.
Kevin stepped out of the way of the sobbing man in the black hoodie with his head down and let him run by. He stared after him, something about his gait looked familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it. Shrugging, he continued his run, thinking about his secret rendezvous later that day.
All of my work on Smashwords is free for the entire month of October at the following link: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/marktompkinsauthor. I hope you enjoy the mayhem. Please leave a review on Smashwords if you would be so kind, be it positive or negative, as it is one of an author’s few tools for judging his work and validating it’s literary value to the reading public.
There have been several inquiries concerning Outpost 86, the prison in Antarctica mentioned in my post about The Devil’s Work. The Devil’s Work specifically singles out the character Wesley Black, the prison’s most notorious tenant, and one of his adventures. Outpost 86 and Wesley are chronicled in detail in the novel, Outpost 86, which is in work, and has been for some time. Wesley is one of the main supporting characters.
Outpost 86 is the world’s most remote and technically advanced prison whose area is approximately 5 times the size of the Pentagon, which creates a labyrinth where the inmates can go without seeing each other for lengthy periods of time in the sparsely populated interior. The reason it is sparsely populated is it is relatively new and only select criminals are sentenced there. These inmates are fitted with special sensors that allow the governing entity to keep tabs on them from their Wyoming based headquarters made from the skeleton of an abandoned and decommissioned Atlas D missile site north of Cheyenne Wyoming on Highway 85.
The only entrance to the prison is controlled with a chamber bookended by two blast doors. The outer door is opened, the prisoner is placed inside, the outer door closes, and then the inner door opens to admit the prisoner to the interior of the prison. After a few minutes, the inner door automatically closes and the chamber fills with cyanide gas, so if the prisoner chooses to not enter the prison, they die. Due to a joint effort, a military base was built inside a mountain adjacent to Outpost 86 that is charged with supply and maintenance functions.
Blood nurses is taking the brunt of my time (when I am working on novels) and Outpost 86 must wait until it is finished. I hope to have it out sometime next year (doubtful), but I have to finish Blood Nurses first and I never know what life will throw at me or what weather will destroy that demands my time and energy. I have included a couple of possible covers below,but I haven’t decided on anything concrete. In the meantime, read The Devil’s Work and begin your insight into a dark and important character in Outpost 86.