Located in Hacienda Heights, California and completed in 1988, Hsi Lai Temple is widely recognized as the largest Buddhist temple in the United States. The product of more than 10 years of planning, legal wrangling, construction, and development, Hsi Lai encompases over 15 acres of temple, gardens, outbuildings, and statuary, all in the styles of the Ching and Ming dynasties. A branch temple of the Fo Guang Shan monastery in Taiwan, Hsi Lai (the name means "coming to the West") was built to spread the teachings of the Buddha and the particular beliefs of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order to the Asian population of the Western United States, as well as to traditionally non-Buddhist peoples. Hsi Lai also serves as a Chinese/Taiwanese cultural center, preserving and teaching traditional cultural forms such as art, dance, and music.

Founding and Construction
Hsi Lai temple was a long time coming. After the creation of Fo Guang Shan monastery in 1967, founder Venerable Master Hsing Yun sought a way to make Buddhism accessible to both Westerners and Asians living outside of the traditional Buddhist world. The temple was first conceptualized in 1978, but faced a number of cultural and legal hurdles. After 6 public hearings to assure the local population that the temple would not be disruptive to the area, construction of the temple began in August of 1984, and was completed a little over 4 years later in November, 1988.

Tradition and Teachings
Hsi Lai is a branch temple of the Fo Guang Shan monastery, and follows the teachings of Humanistic Buddhism, as taught by temple founder Hsing Yun. The teachings of his order emphasize the integration of Pure Land and Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism, and includes practices and teachings from both traditions. The unity of self-power (jiriki) and other-power (tariki), as represented by the unification of Zen and Pure Land teachings, is strongly emphasized. The teachings of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order also emphasize the humanity of the Buddha, and that his teachings are fundamentally aimed at achieving enlightenment through humanity. To this end, the order teaches that one can live fully in the human world while fully practicing Buddhism.

Facilities, Programs, and Services
Hsi Lai temple covers over 15 acres, with 102,432 square feet of floor. Its structures include a tea room, classroom facilities, a cafeteria, a museum, a main courtyard and two smaller gardens, two main shrines, and a memorial pagoda. The temple also includes a library, meditation and lecture halls, residences for monks and nuns, a conference center, and teaching and performance space for traditional Chinese arts.
The temple runs a number of programs for temple members and the larger community. Programs aimed at assissting immigrant members of the community include citizenship, law, health, and tax workshops. A number of family programs are offered, including family living classes, visits by monks and nuns to Buddhist families, and visits to the elderly. Political figures and business leaders are often invited to visit or speak. The temple also promotes cultural exchange through programs with its mother temple in Taiwan, as well as other branch temples located throughout the world. Community service is also encouraged, with regular programs to help the homeless, as well as temple sponsorship of community special events. Regular services include classes on Buddhist meditation, philosophy, and ethics, talks on Buddhism, meditation sessions, and chanting. Services and classes are usually offered in both Chinese (Mandarin and some Cantonese) and English.

Most Americans know Hsi Lai as simple 'the Buddhist temple', as in 'the Buddhist temple where Al Gore met his campaign finance Waterloo'. In April 1996, the Democratic National Comittee took in $140,000 from a fund raiser held at the tax-exempt Hsi Lai temple. The organizers of the event, John Huang and Maria Hsia, were indicted in 1998 on federal charges of laundering campaign contributions, alleging that they used monks and nuns from the temple as 'straw donors' to hide the origins of contributions, and circumvent donation limits. Gore maintained that he did not know that the event was a fund raiser. . . but DNC memos to his staff seemed to later prove otherwise. The DNC paid back much of the money collected, and repaid the temple for the cost of the event, admitting that it was wrong to hold a fund raiser at a tax-exempt religious institution. Some of the clerics used as straw donors were called to testify about the matter, but a number of them fled to Taiwan to avoid testifying. The event was a black eye for the temple- Hsi Lai Temple was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the indictment- as well as for Gore. Allegations were made that the event was being kept in the media because of resentment over Gore courting support from non-Christian, non-white Americans. Most observers agree that the monks and nuns involved, unfamiliar with the nit-picking morass of US campaign finance laws, were unaware that they had done anything wrong.

In addition to its mother temple, Fo Guang Shan, Hsi Lai is associated with temples and organizations across the world. Hsi Lai University in Rosemead, CA, was founded by Ven. Hsing Yun, and offers education in Buddhist Studies, religious studies, and business management at the undergraduate and post-grad levels. Nan Hua University in Taiwan provides similar programs. International Buddhist Progress Society branches operate on every continent except Antarctica, providing temples, meditation halls, education, and cultural programs. The Buddha's Light International Association operates in the US, Australia, and Asia to encourage cooperation among different Buddhist groups while engaging in social service. The Merit Times, a daily newspaper established by Ven. Hsing Yun, publishes information about social justice, charity work, and current events, emphasizing 'the positive side of life' (from their 'About' page, http://english.hsilai.org/merittimes/Aboutus.asp). Circulation is around 10,000.

Contact Information
Hsi Lai Temple
3456 South Glenmark Drive
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745


email: info@hsilai.org
WWW: http://www.hsilai.org

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