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Personal Perspective Essay

When this paper was first assigned to us I didn’t have any clue as to which Asian American religion was worth doing research on. As timed passed and more thought was given to the project I finally decided to go with Buddhism. The reason why I choose Buddhism as my topic is to allow me to relate more closely to the friends and family members who are Buddhist. In my family most of them are strong believers in Buddhism. As a child I never really understood the things that went on during time of prayer at my house in Taiwan. This is the main reason why I choose this particular religion to do my study on.

Hopefully by the end on this paper I will be able to relate to my family better. Through out my life I have visited many Buddhist temples. As I walk through the temple I remember becoming very interested in the what happens within these walls. I was never the religious type. Therefore I have no preference as to what religion I should be. Because of this my relationship with my family on a religious aspect has drifted wider and wider apart. This is why I choose the Buddhist religion , hoping to closing the gap which exist between me and the rest of the family on a religious aspect.

Introduction This study which is being conducted is purely a observational study. This study was done at the Hsi Lai Temple located in Hacienda Heights. This temple is the Los Angeles branch, the original is located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan ( Fo Guang Shan ). The Hsi Lai temple is about 102,432 sq. ft. The name Hsi Lai when translated means “coming to the west”. This temple signifies the dedication of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order to spread the teachings of the Buddha to those in the west. It also serves as a bridge of cultural exchange between the east and the west.

In order for this study to be successful a lot of time was spent at the temple. It was about a little past noon on a Saturday when the study took place. It was pretty crowded around this time of day. There were a lot of activities going on here. There were people praying, there were those who took in the scenery within the temple walls, and than there were also those came to study. Many visitors visits these premises every day. It place is also an tourist spot for those who have just came from Taiwan. The reason why so many people come by is because they are interested in how a western temple would look like.

Hsi Lai temple compared to its parent monastery in Taiwan is much smaller. Many of the monks who resides there are from Taiwan. They came for the purpose of taking care of the temple. Each individual has their own daily chores. Some are in charge of giving tours to the visitors that comes here and others are either in charge of keeping the grounds of the temple clean or assisting those who are lost within the temple. Objective There exist four objectives within the Hsi Lai Temple. The first of the four is that it wants to expand its skills and talents through education.

The second is that they want to foster an awareness of Buddhism through its cultural activities. The third is to benefit society through charitable events. Lastly it wants to cultivate the human mind through Dharma practices. These are the four major objectives which the temple focuses on. Physical Description The Hsi Lai Temple was built according to the architecture of the Ming and Ching dynasty. It took about ten years for the completion of this temple (1988). The initial concept of building the temple started in 1978. It took six public hearings and over a hundred community meetings to clear its proposal of building the temple.

The actual planning of the temple took place on August 22, 1984 and the actual construction of the temple was on July 28, 1986. The Hsi Lai Temple was built to serve as a multifunction international Buddhist center. This center consist on a main shrine, meditation hall, lecture hall, a Dharma hall, Tripitaka hall, a library, lodging for traveling monks and nuns, an international conference center, twenty classrooms, two gardens, a memorial hall, a cultural exhibition room, a school for Chinese arts and culture, a dining hall, and living quarters for monks and nuns.

The first thing to be seen upon entering the temple is the large gateway with Chinese characters inscribed into it. Then after the gateway at the top of the stairs is the Bodhisattva Hall. After the hall at the other end there is a big courtyard. This courtyard is used for the purpose of walking meditation. At the opposite end of the courtyard is the main shrine. There are other facilities running along both sides of the courtyard. If one was to observe closely you will notice that the shape of the temple land is like the leaf of the Bodhi Tree in India.

Social The social aspect of the temple is one of the most important thing to the temple. The reason is that because they depend so much on people who goes there that they are really concern with their social outlook. The temple organizes many social events through out the course of the year. Many of these events welcome the participation of others. There also seems to be a sense of unity here at the temple. The people here seems to interact as a family unite. The interaction between the monks here at the temple and the people that come there is like a father and son relationship.

The monks are there to give advice, support, and guidance to these faithful just like a father to his son. Even though it is an older crowd that come to these temples, there among the elders still exist this type of father and son relationship. On Saturday prayer services are held and many faithful would gather and chants along with the priest. After the services many finds themselves in the cafeteria to get lunch. Even though the services are over and people had their lunch most stick around to part take in one of the many lectures / workshops that goes on in the classrooms.

The purpose of these lectures and workshops is designed as a way to pass on the teachings of Buddhism to the younger crowd or to those that are interested in it. These weekly lectures and special workshops are conducted in Chinese, English, and Cantonese. Besides the lecture and workshops the Hsi Lai Temple offers guides for groups of 15 people or more. People are often greeted at the main entrance of the temple to make them feel more comfortable. Most of the people who come here are usually casually dressed.

Some would wear shirt and tie but most wear whatever they are more comfortable in. The temple is a great location to meet people from many different background and origin. Conclusion Even though the time spent at Hsi Lai Temple wasn’t enough to get the true essence out of the place I was still amazed by how well organized it was. The planning of the temple was well thought out before the construction of the place and the great structures of the buildings was very impressive. I was especially impressed by how traditional the place was build.

The traditional style of the building gives the area and the people more of a sense of belonging. Just the structure alone brings a lot of the east to the west. The main purpose of this place is to bring and introduce the teachings of Buddha to the west. So far it has done just that. The Hsi Lai Temple is the largest temple in the U. S. most Buddhist come to this particular location to carry on their practices in the west. This place in not just at place of worship but it is also the meeting grounds of those who shares the same religion.

Many activities and events are carried out to spread the teachings of Buddha. They have charities to help the poor and function where they get to meet people. After having done the study I came to realize that Buddhism is a family religion. The reason is because I have notice that within the temple everyone function as one. They are a very family oriented religion. Everything that are done are done in groups. Where they work with each other to accomplish a certain task.

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