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Frequently Asked Questions About Hsi Lai Temple

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 Where is Hsi Lai Temple?

Hsi Lai Temple is located in Hacienda Heights in the Los Angeles Area. Our address is 3456 S. Glenmark Drive, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745. You can also contact us by phone at (626) 961-9697 or by fax at (626) 369-1944.
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What are the activities organized by Hsi Lai Temple?

The activities organized by the temple are categorized as follows:

1. Education
        The study of Buddhism is conducted via weekly lectures and special workshops in Chinese, English, and Cantonese. For the community, there are instructional classes on languages, cultures, arts & crafts, and special studies. In addition, summer camps, community projects, conservation campaigns, international examinations on Buddhism, and scheduled daily radio and television programs take place throughout the year.

2. Culture
        Multifaceted efforts for cultural development include monthly publications of Buddha's Light Newsletter, Universal Gate magazine, and other Buddhist periodicals; exhibitions of Buddhist artifacts; various International Buddhist Conferences; and audio cassette recordings and video in different languages.

3. Cultivation
        Weekly: On Saturdays and Sundays, prayer services are held, including the recitation of the Diamond Sutra, Amitabha Sutra. Meditation sessions are also held.
        Monthly: The Great Compassion Repentance Service, the Lamp of Brilliance Prayer Service, and the Prayer Service for Gratitude and Birthdays are held.
        Yearly: The Seven-Day Amitabha Retreat, the Seven-Day Meditation Retreat, World Peace Prayer Service, the birthday celebrations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Short-Term Monastic Retreat, the Five Precepts Ceremony, the Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony, the Eight Precepts Retreat, Sangha Day Celebration, and various repentance services are held.

4. Charity
        Organized charitable efforst include the Winter Relief projects, the Handiccap Children's Fun, the Poor Children's Fund, other emergency relief funds, medical services, blood drives, and assistance for special events.

Who may participate in these activities?

Anyone with a sincere motivation and willingness to learn about Buddhism is welcome to participate in the activities at Hsi Lai Temple.
Is Buddhism taught in English?

What is Humanistic Buddhism?

Humanistic Buddhism is a basic philosophy of life that encourages us to integrate the Buddha's teachings of kindness, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity into our daily lives for the benefit of ourselves as well as others. In addition, it teaches us the ways to cultivate the wisdom that clearly understands the true nature of all things.

What are the steps to become an official Buddhist?

The first step of a Buddhist is to take refuge in the Triple Gem. The triple gem refers to

(1) Sakyamuni Buddha the founding master,
(2) the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, and
(3) the Sangha, the congregation of monks and nuns who have renounced the world and have devoted their effort to a lifelong practice of the Dharma.

Taking refuge in the triple gem affirms our spiritual strength by empowering the confidence and rational in us during times of adversity and confrontation. It steers us in the right direction of living our lives in a more meaningful way.

Why does Buddhism advocate a vegetarian diet for practicing Buddhists?

A vegetarian diet is good for the health. Moreover, it inculcates the mind to be more compassionate toward all living beings. Buddhism advocates the love for all animals and respects their right to live. Under extenuating circumstances, Buddha did allow early disciples to consume meat with the three pure qualities:

(1) the animl's slaughter is not witnessed by the consumer,
(2) the sound of the animal's slaughter is not heard by the consumer, and
(3) the animal is not slaughtered for the consumer. However, to be a Buddhist one does not have to be a vegetarian.

Why learn Buddhism?

There are two aspects in looking at this subject. First, by his display of charisma, wisdom and compassion in delivering the word, the Buddha was an exemplary role model. He had attained the supreme enlightenment and revealed the universal truth for emancipating life's suffering. As human beings, we have the potential to accomplish the same achievement due to the inherent Buddha nature within us. Second, studying the teachings of the Buddha fills the void of philosophy and science, in particular, it solves the doubts and suspicions about the meaning of life and existence.

Why do people fold their palms?

Folding the palms is a graceful gesture and a dignified way of greeting which originated in ancient India. By bringing the ten fingers together, we symbolically make all ten Dharma realms become one are are reminded of the Buddha nature within every being. By folding the palms, we show respect to and concentrate our minds and our hearts upon the teachings of the Buddha.

Why do Buddhists bow and prostrate to the Buddha?

Bowing and prostration are humble expressions of respect and appreciation for the historical Buddha, our Teacher, who understood the Truth of the universe and our nature. Based upon his kindness and compassion to liberate all sentient beings from suffering, the Buddha serves as an excellent model for humanity. Therefore, in bowing before the Buddha, we are also reminded of our own Buddha nature. We humbly examine our mind, and renew our vow to remove any obstacles from our mind and life which prevent us from become a fully enlightened Buddha, manifesting the kindness compassion and wisdom our Teacher has shown to us, in order to benefit all sentient beings.

What is the purpose of prayer beads?

Prayer beads are used as a method of counting while chanting the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or the Dharani (mantra). Our sincerity in chanting while relying on prayer beads will help eradicate our random thoughts and purify our minds. Today, Buddhists wear prayer beads as an emblem of their dedication and belief in Buddhism.

What do lotus blossoms signify?

Lotus blossoms symbolize how we rise above the mire of life to become pure through our practice. Yet just as the lotus blossoms grow out of, but are not independent of the mire, we should never remove ourselves from the suffering or ignore the world in the name of practice. Just as lotus blossoms grow in the heart of the summer, we need to turn the bothersome troubles and defilement of our lives into opportunities to further our practice and cultivation.

Was the Buddha a God?

No, the Buddha was a man who through his effort, practice and cultivation, attained enlightenment. He subsequently helped others by directing them to the path of liberation.

Why do monks and nuns shave their heads?

Monastics need to renounce all the mundane desires and longings in order to more readily achieve purity, be free from delusions, remove hindrances, and enter the way of practice. Once they shave their heads, they can easily be distinguished from those who have not joined the sangha.

Do all the monastics have incense marks?

The custom of burning incense marks is unique to Chinese Buddhism. It did not exist in the earliest Buddhism and is not practiced in other countries. When Buddhism first reached China, in about 65 CE, the monastics were held in high regard by the society. During the Tang Dynasty (618 CE - 907 CE), the imperial court ordered that incense mark burning to be incorporated in the precept ceremony in order to prevent people from impersonating the monastics. This custom has been preserved to the present day.

What is the role of Hsi Lai monastics?

A Hsi Lai monastic devotes his/her life to spread Buddhist teachings and benefit all sentient beings. Buddhist lectures, classes and activities are organized on a regular basis for people to learn Buddhist teachings, experience the monastic way of life, and apply the teachings to their daily lives. These teachings will liberate people from anxiety and stress helping them to examined the source of their troubles.
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Does Hsi Lai Temple offer tours of the temple?

Hsi Lai Temple offers guides for groups of 15 people or more. An appointment is advised for group tours. For individual visitors, Hsi Lai Temple offers self-guided cassette tours where visitors can borrow the cassette and a Walkman from the Information Center.