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Hsi Lai Temple

Hsi Lai Temple Courtyard (Panoramic)

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.

Temple Gate

Temple Gate

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.

Bodhisattva Hall

Bodhisattva Hall

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.

Temple Courtyard

Temple Courtyard

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.

Statue 2

Statue 1Garden

 

Statues

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.

Main Shrine

Main Shrine

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/

References

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple. (2018). About Hsi Lai. Retrieved from Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple: http://www.hsilai.org/en/hlt/

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Fun, Historical, Places, Travel

 

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Reflections of Great Falls

As my time in Great Falls is nears its end, I reflect on my experience and find it pleasant. Sure, the gray sky dumped a few inches of snow on the already melting snow from the previous storm a week before we arrived, and the temperature dropped into a range the Louisiana winters seldom even come close too, but I get to leave, and that makes the weather bearable and beautiful. The rugged scenery is beautiful and evokes thoughts of the pioneer days when things were simpler, but not easier. I can see the settlers as they climbed from their wagon to snag a buffalo burger from the local McDonalds and decided to stay. It obviously was in the summer, and I can’t fathom why they didn’t move on to warmer climes once they realized how cold and snowy it would be, I know I’m not the only one to have pondered this conundrum. I guess we aren’t as rugged as our predecessors and I’m okay with that. If it wasn’t for technology and modern conveniences, I wouldn’t be able to see and experience the incredible scenery around me and spit my thoughts about it for the world to read. The bone chilling wind blows through my slacks, causing my wedding tackle to crawl as far back inside me as possible, and impatient drivers tailgate me as I drive on a sheet of ice and try not too notice that I can no longer see their headlights because they are so close to me. It’s just another average day in the chilly north, I’ve been on the opposite side myself. I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for seventeen years and as much as I hate to admit it, I was the one on someone’s ass as I tried to make it back from lunch on time, or hurried about my life, trying to live it as fast as possible for some reason. We live and we learn, and these days I try to slow down and do much more living. I get it now. I understand why we slow down as we age. We get tired of being pushed all day long and say, “to hell with it, I’m not going to be in a hurry anymore, now go around me if you don’t like doing the speed limit.” I am slowing down, of that I am sure, but I still work and things still need to get done, so I can’t slow down as much as I would like, not yet. My days of traveling the country, seeing the sights, and waking up to new sights all the time are still ahead of me, but I’m working on it. 20150201_130427 20150201_130837 20150201_132113 20150127_073925 20150131_115742 20150201_130538 20150201_131829 20150201_090733 20150201_075339 20150131_151311 20150131_131340 20150201_132154

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Places, Travel

 

Great Falls, Montana. My fight with a monster at 2K’s.

Tucked away next to a tire shop, it’s easy to miss 2K’s Kafe, and with only a few parking spaces next to the building one must park where you can and walk there. This tiny diner has 8 stools to sit around the diner bar, 6 booths, and 2 tables that seat 2. The first thing I noticed is how cozy and small it was as I looked for three chairs next to each other to see if we would have to wait. The second thing I noticed was an aircraft carrier of sugary confection sitting on the counter. At three inches thick and two feet long, I wondered how the glass underneath this behemoth of a cinnamon roll was standing the weight. But we’ll return to that later.

We didn’t have to wait and bellied up to the “bar”, which is really a peninsula of chairs and glass jutting into the main dining area, just wide enough for our waitress to serve the food. After opening the menu, our second clue that wondrous culinary mysteries awaited us were proclamations such as, “Home of the BIG BURGER,” and “Allow at least 20 minutes for burger orders.” Strange, burgers usually don’t take that long, unless…

The menu was filled with traditional fare and I was presented with a dilemma. Being in Great Falls for two weeks on a business trip, the same faulty logic ruled my brain every time I sat down to eat. Yes, I have been to Great Falls many times before, but you never know, this might be my last time here so I can’t just eat a salad or something healthy or boring, I can do that at home. I need to immerse my taste buds in the DNA of this city, I want to peel back the layers and find the tasty giblets hiding underneath the fast food and chain restaurants. I want to taste Great Falls like I never have before…well, at least some of it. After another inner conflict between what is tasty and good, and what is healthy and not the most exciting food in the world, I opted for the bacon cheeseburger. I mean if I’m going to cheat on an already busted diet anyway, I may as well go big. Besides, I see the cows on the side of the road and they look tasty and I figure I am really saving one of them from the numbing cold. Armed with my skewed perspective, I settle in for the twenty minute wait.

When the food arrived, my hunch proved to be correct. Our waitress, only half visible behind the mountain of meat, brought a monster I was supposed to fight. A one pound patty of beef awesomeness, covered in cheese and bacon and topped with lettuce, onion and tomato. All placed between a traditional sized hamburger bun; it took three big bites to reach the bun. I was swimming in beef with my hand out, trying to reach the safety of the carbs and when I finally succeeded all of the flavors came together in a rush and I was in heaven. This thing wasn’t only big, it was good, real good, and I finished it and the hand cut fries in less than ten minutes. The secret to eating something like that is to not put it down once you pick it up, otherwise there’s a good chance you only have a few bites before it begins to come apart. Not so with this monster, it only showed signs of defeat during the last few bites and by that time there was no need to put it down, I had most of the weight in my belly.

My coworkers ordered some of the U.S.S. Cinnamon Bun to go and fighter plane sized pieces, bending the spatula dangerously, were heaped into boxes obviously stronger than they looked.  Being allowed to heft one of them, I can vouch that the glass underneath the mother ship must be very strong indeed. As we left, I vowed to return one day, not to conquer the huge burger again, but to try as many things on the menu as I could. That is my motivation to ensure my feet once again trod through this frozen tundra. I will be back, 2K’s Kafe, and I will fight for a seat and celebrate my victory with something new and tasty each time.

It wasn’t until after returning to work that the real battle with the monster began. Overly stuffed,  I struggled to keep my eyes open for the rest of the day and skipped dinner that night so my body could begin to expel the small Wookie I’d stuffed into my gullet. If you are ever in Great Falls, Montana, google 2K’s and eat there, not all of the food is huge and a kid’s burger is available if you are hankering for meat, even though it is only marginally smaller than the big one. What’s more important than the size is the taste, the food is good and you won’t be disappointed. As I write this two days after my fight, I believe it is finally all out of my system and I vow to change my perspective, to squash the false fallacy of eating anything I can because I may not travel this path again and get back on the diet so I don’t have to buy new clothes. Hey wait a minute, is that a 36 oz. steak over there?

2K’s Facebook Page

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Dining, Places, Reviews, Travel

 
 
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