Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple is a mountain monastery in Los Angeles County’s northern Puente Hills, Hacienda Heights. The term Hsi Lai translates as “going west.”
Hsi Lai Temple is a branch of the Taiwanese Buddhist organization Fo Guang Shan. It is the order’s first overseas branch temple and the Fo Guang Shan North American regional headquarters. Hsi Lai Temple was the venue of the 1991 establishment of Buddha’s Light International Association. Humanistic Buddhism is practiced at the temple, as it is at its mother temple in Taiwan.
Master Hsing Yun, the order’s founder, represented a Buddhist group from Taiwan in America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. American friends asked Master Hsing Yun to create a monastery in the United States. As a result, Fo Guang Shan commissioned Venerable Tzu Chuang (who became the temple’s founding and first abbess at its inception) and Yi Heng to design and organize the temple’s construction in the Greater Los Angeles area. It was formally registered as the International Buddhist Progress Society. Ven. Tzu Chuang purchased an old church structure to serve as Hsi Lai’s interim headquarters while the temple was completed. The original temple, located in Maywood, was known as the Bai Ta (White Pagoda) Temple.
In the 1980s, the temple’s design and construction were met with skepticism and opposition by local populations, many of whom understood little about Buddhism and had erroneous suspicions of Buddhist rituals. Many people thought the project was too large for a single-family house community, and that the traditional Chinese architectural style would not fit in. The main grounds for opposition to the temple’s construction were the impact of weekly services, excessive traffic, noise, and environmental concerns.
Originally, the organization intended to build the temple in Gardena, California, but was unable to obtain land. They also attempted to purchase the ancient Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra, California, but were greeted with community opposition. Six public hearings and over 100 community meetings were held before the temple was built in its current site. The temple was ultimately awarded a building permit in 1985. The temple was finished on November 26, 1988, after a groundbreaking ceremony the following year.
Negative views concerning the construction of Hsi Lai have subsequently subsided as public awareness has grown and the temple and its occupants have shown to be excellent neighbors.
Many events were held at Hsi Lai Temple shortly after it opened. From November 19 to 26, the World Fellowship of Buddhists held its 16th General Conference and the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth held its 7th conference, an international Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony for monastics was held for over a month, and a Land and Water Dharma Service was held prior to the temple’s opening.
Next Point of Interest: Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum