Hsi Lai Temple – the biggest Buddhist temple in America
When we hear the word Buddhism, we immediately think of China and Shaolin monasteries, but you should know that there are Buddhist temples all over the world, including America. The biggest Buddhist temple in America is Hsi Lai Temple.
Hsi Lai Temple
Hsi Lai Temple is affiliated with Fo Guang Shan, which is a Buddhist organization from Taiwan, and it serves as their base of operations in America. This temple was built in 1988 following a lot of difficulties related to the beginning of its construction. At first, there were a lot of negative feelings and resistance from the local community because people knew very little about Buddhism and feared their practices. However, since then, the negative feelings have diminished, mostly because the temple’s residents have proven to be good neighbors.
Fo Guang Shan community activism
Fo Guang Shan aims to promote Humanistic Buddhism and create peace and harmony among people. Their master Hsing Yun reminds people that in order to change the world, they need to actively engage with the local community and help people.
The organization has a few different programs including the social and medical program, the educational program and Buddhist practice.
The social and medical program
The social and medical program is truly wonderful. It refers to helping the poor, the sick, and the homeless in any way possible. The program includes help in the form of providing free clothes and food, giving free medical care at the main monastery or dispatching mobile clinics. There is also the Compassion Foundation that has many different facilities for giving birth, treating disease, and supporting old age. The Tatzu Children’s home is home for abandoned and disadvantaged children, and the Retirement home with its peaceful surroundings is a perfect place for elderly people who want to enjoy their time.
The educational program
The educational program is just as fascinating. It consists of four Buddhist colleges that are further divided into four divisions. There are two universities in Taiwan, one university in the United States, a high school in Taipei, nursery schools, kindergartens, and even Sunday schools for children. The best part about studying at one of these places is that it’s free of charge.
What does Hsi Lai Temple have to offer?
There are a lot of different sites in this temple that you can visit, such as the Bodhisattva Hall, which is the first shrine you see before you enter the temple, the Arhat garden, the Meditation Hall where meditations are held, the Main Shrine, the Dining Hall in which you can get a vegetarian lunch buffet, and many more.
If you want to visit this temple, you should know that there are quite a few rules that you must obey. Smoking and consuming meat and alcoholic drinks are prohibited and you can’t wear sleeveless shirts, tank tops, skirts, shorts, and slippers when entering the temple.
The visiting hours are from 9 am to 5 pm every day and the temple is open for everyone. Self-guided tours are free of charge and they last about 40 minutes. Weekend Drop-In tours are for 14 or fewer people, they are free of charge, and they cover the whole temple except for the museum. Tours for larger groups need to be scheduled ten days in advance.