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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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Is America Still the Greatest Country in the World?

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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.

References

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

 

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