Fo Guang Shan Temple, Outside of Kaohsiung, Taiwan December, 2007.
Fo Guang Shan means "Buddha's Light Mountain". It is an international Chinese Maayana Buddhist monastic order that has gained a worldwide presence, and has chapters around the world. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organisation itself is also one of the largest charity organizations in Taiwan. The order also calls itself the International Buddhist Progress Society.
This was my second visit to Fo Guang Shan. My wife and I first went to visit the temple in 1985. At that time, I remember thinking that the temple was large and spread out and a fairly busy place. However, I also felt that most of the buildings and the grounds were not particularly well maintained and that it seemed like most painting and construction was poorly done. This time (end of 2007) it was almost as if the entire place had undergone a renovation. The grounds were nicely maintained and fresh paint was in abundance. It gave the whole temple complex a very nice feeling.
There were a lot of volunteers working at various places. Most were driving people around in electric carts or working in the restaurant or gift shops. The volunteers were so friendly and helpful. Its hard not to run into someone who just wants to help you find something or explain the various buildings and their purpose. For that alone, the visit is worthwhile. What really made the day pleasant for me was the feeling of dedication to the religion being practiced there. There weren't any large, noisy crowds to deal with. Just a serene, quiet place to wander through and enjoy. I walked through the museum and was surprised to see that it was almost completely filled with statues and images of Buddha. Display case after display case of them. It went on for hundreds of feet. And once outside of the museum building, I found myself in a beautiful garden setting with trees and a pond with waterfalls. It was very relaxing and made for some great pictures. Take a look at the Fo Guang Shan photo album below to see some of the pictures I took.
Fo Guang Shan was founded in 1967 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, a renowned Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar. The order promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a modern Chinese Buddhist philosophy developed through the 20th Century, and made popular by this and other modern Chinese Buddhist orders. Humanistic Buddhism aims to make Buddhism relevant in the world and in peoples lives and hearts. My trip to Fo Guang Shan was very enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone who goes to Kaohsiung for a few days. Getting away from the noise and congestion of the city is wonderfully soothing and the people are a joy to be around. I felt almost recharged after spending three hours there. The devotion displayed by the kind people of Fo Guang Shan is truly good for the soul.
Note: The Hsi Li Temple is one of Fo Guang Shan's sister temples. In 1996, I went to Hsi Li Temple with my family to visit for a few hours. Its also a very nice and serene location. It is located on the foothill region of Hacienda Heights, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. The name "Hsi Lai" means Coming West, by which they mean the "Great Buddhadharma Coming West." If you ever have the opportunity to visit, please don't hesitate. We enjoyed the visit immensely!