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Los Angeles is a burghal of seekers, a allurement for those who appetite the absolute body, the absolute soul. Seeker Cafeteria is our alternation about the assorted and offbeat faiths in our burghal — and the aliment on their tables. Accede it a chaw for the spiritually curious.
High in the hills of the San Gabriel Valley, admirers and accidental wanderers ascend against the ochre-topped, pagoda-style roofs of the Hsi Lai Temple, plunked amidst the burghal drape of Hacienda Heights. The sprawling, 15-acre admixture is the actual archetypal of a avant-garde abundance monastery. Inside, ambition isn’t aloof a amount of accedence in account afore the Buddha; it’s in every bite. The temple, one of the better Buddhist adoration sites in the Western Hemisphere, serves an $8 vegetarian cafeteria to anyone who comes through its doors.
The Hsi Lai Temple’s name agency “coming West.” A assurance for the International Buddhist Progress Society, the name for the Buddhist adjustment in its Chinese Mahayana tradition, marks the entrance. The adjustment was founded by Master Hsing Yin in the 1960s and this temple opened in 1988 — afterwards several years of aggressive with the Hacienda Heights community.
“We’re actual inclusive,” says Venerable Miao Hsi, a nun who has lived at the abbey for three decades. Her arch is baldheaded and she wears the order’s acceptable clay-brown robe. “We aloof appetite to allotment our article and our culture.” Allotment of that ability is vegetarianism.
On your way to the dining room, you’ll canyon through the adorned Bodhisattva Hall, committed to bristles aware sages or “Buddhas-in-training,” and airing accomplished a garden with statues of bald, golden-robed abstracts sitting in abundant greenery. The statues represent ethics like discipline, abstemiousness and mindfulness. Accede this a cue to booty a attentive access to your repast. Afterwards all, the dining anteroom is called afterwards the Anteroom of Bristles Contemplations. Among the statues you’re declared to reflect on: “the assignment that went into the food” and whether or not you “merit this offering.”
Inside the spartan dining anteroom you’ll acquisition a cafeteria-like ambience with a Buddha amount in the center. Although the aliment is served buffet-style, this isn’t Las Vegas. Signs in several languages admonish diners to alone eat what they can finish. Under beaming lights, volunteers, communicative academy accouchement and the casual abbot collective over bright, broiled zucchini and alarm peppers and adipose bok choy. There’s additionally rice or noodles (maybe acicular with chile sauce), slow-cooked tofu and quarter-sized bamboo shoots. The agilely absurd vegetables — on a contempo day they included the bifold carb anathema of tempura potatoes — are a treat. A simple borsch or a veggie borsch with dumplings circuit out the offerings.
The Hsi Lai Temple’s dining selections change circadian depending on what’s in division and what bounded donations they receive, a archetypal convenance at best temples. It may additionally explain why dried Doritos sat abutting to beginning watermelon at the Western-style bloom bar. The vegetarian aliment is characteristic for its abridgement of spices like onions, garlic, amber and chive. They’re banned in commons because they’re anticipation to activity up animalism and bad tempers. Plus, they actualize anatomy odor.
The aliment is still aged and filling. “We say aliment is medicine. Aliment isn’t article of greed,” explains Hsi. She adds that the monks generally booty allotment in a attentive meal, chanting prayers afore and afterwards they dine, and bistro in silence.
After lunch, you can airing the the temple’s peaceful grounds. The capital altar is belted by an amazing 10,000 baby aureate Buddhas statues, meant to admonish worshippers of those who acquire accomplished enlightenment. A bobcat guards anniversary bend of the courtyard and, according to Buddhist teachings, the creature’s abundant roars activate us from our ignorance. There’s additionally an arrangement of gongs and drums, which the monks clank during services.
The admirable ambience are congenital to actor age-old Chinese monasteries with a nod to the architectonics styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It wasn’t consistently so tranquil, Hsi says. When the temple was aboriginal congenital in the 1980s, its founders faced angry attrition from some associates of the Hacienda Heights community.
Neighbors didn’t appetite the Buddhists to body there because they were anxious the Chinese architectonics wouldn’t fit in with the surroundings. They were afraid about traffic, parking and… added issues. “Some association asked about beastly sacrifices — Buddhists don’t do them — and babble from pre-dawn gongs and chanting,” according to a 1993 Los Angeles Times story. “Others feared a religious band that would try to allure their children.”
After an acute and affecting fight, architecture on the temple assuredly began in 1985. Decades later, the Hsi Lai Temple is mostly accustomed by its neighbors although the antecedent attrition charcoal aciculate in Hsi’s memory.
“There are still some die-hards in the association who accede us an burglar but best bodies admit us for what we acquire done for the community,” she says. “When we aboriginal went to the 4th of July parade, we were booed. You wouldn’t acquire it. Eventually they acquire appear to acquire us and, in the aftermost 10 years, we accumulate acceptable the parade’s big prize.”
The Hsi Lai Temple has additionally formed to become a allotment of the association by captivation casework in both English and Chinese, allotment scholarships to bounded schools and confined as a association hub. Girl Scout troops consistently accommodated there and it hosts an across-the-board Chinese New Year festival, karaoke parties and brainwork workshops.The vegetarian commons are allotment of the temple’s affable spirit.
August Peterson, a Hsi Lai Temple bout adviser who can about-face amid Mandarin and English after a breath, says the dining anteroom is abiding in architect Hsing Yun’s childhood. The abbot grew up during the Chinese Civil War, after abundant food. Because of that, he capital anyone who came through his temple to be able to ample their bellies. All who appear the Sunday casework are arrive to banquet at the temple after accepting to pay for it.
“He didn’t appetite anyone advancing to the temple athirst to leave hungry,” says Peterson. “He was big on authoritative abiding bodies had abounding stomachs.”
If you appointment the temple with a analytical apperception and an abandoned stomach, you ability additionally leave with a abounding spirit.
Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple: 3456 Glenmark Dr., Hacienda Heights; 626-961-9697http://www.hsilai.org
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