There is nothing that does not flow forth from the Dharma Realm,
and there is nothing that does not return to the Dharma Realm
If one leaves San Francisco, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, and heads north Highway 101 for 110 miles, one will reach Ukiah, a small town surrounded by vineyards. Passing the small airport in Ukiah, one enters Talmage. After a five minute drive, beyond the intersections of Talmage, one will see the imposing main entrance to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, dazzling golden in the sunlight. This is the first large Buddhist monastic community in the United States. Over a hundred volumes of Buddhist scriptures have been translated into English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages here, laying a solid foundation for the dissemination of the Buddhadharma in the West.
I. History and Background
The three thousand great thousand worlds
arise in a single thought.
When the great manifests within the small,
another world is reached.
As the breeze blows through Ukiah, fragrant flowers smile.
When it rains in Talmage, moistened plants rejoice.
With boundless joy and giving, bring benefit to the multitudes.
With vows of kindness and compassion, alleviate suffering and bestow happiness.
The constant changes of the land are speaking the great Dharma.
Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain wells forth from the earth.
–Composed by Venerable Master Hua on April 20, 1978
Dharma Realm Buddhist Association purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1974 and established its headquarters there. The City currently comprises approximately 700 acres of land.
The Venerable Master described the founding of the City as follows:
It could be said that the causes and conditions for the establishment of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas were predetermined limitless eons ago. It was decided then that the Buddhadharma would be propagated to the West at the present time, and that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas would appear. The City didn’t make its appearance by falling from the heavens or welling forth from the earth. Rather, it was built by people. Seventy or eighty buildings were constructed. How did seventy or eighty buildings come to be constructed? It was done before World War II, during a time of great affluence in America. That’s why such a large complex of buildings could be built. These buildings were not built in a shoddy way with inferior materials. They were built with honest labor and are very sturdy. The materials used were of especially high quality.
Originally, this had been the site of a large state hospital constructed by the California government beginning in the 1930’s. All the buildings and facilities were first class. There were over seventy large buildings, over two thousand rooms of various sizes, three gymnasiums, a fire station, a swimming pool, a refuse incinerator, fire hydrants, and various other facilities. A paved road wound its way through the complex, lined with tall street lamps and trees over a hundred years old. The connections for electricity and pipes for water, heating, and air conditioning were all underground. Both the architectural design and the materials used for the buildings were state of the art. The heating and air conditioning were centrally controlled. The entire complex could accomodate over 20,000 residents.
In the mid-1970’s, California suffered a drought of unprecedented proportions. There was mandatory water rationing, and those who failed to comply were fined. The drought had a tremendous impact on the hospital. There was not enough water to supply the entire complex. That was one of the main reasons the hospital was later sold. At that time, the more they pumped, the less water there was. Finally, the government hired a first-rate American drilling company to dig a well. They tested various spots and drilled several hundred feet down into the ground, but failed to find any source of water. The government had no choice but to gradually transfer the employees elsewhere and sell the hospital. The Venerable Master Hua commented:
It’s possible that they didn’t have any money left after they finished the construction. Also, given that there were around six thousand patients and hospital workers living here, the water consumption must have been quite high and the other expenses must have been considerable as well!
The water supply is a very scarce in this area. All the local orchards and vineyards need water. The owners of the neighboring orchards often brought grievances to the government, opposing the fact that a public institution was competing for water with the local people. That’s another reason the hospital was forced to close down. Since there was no water, they couldn’t cook meals. Water and fire were unable to help each other out. The water couldn’t help the fire, and the fire couldn’t help the water. People couldn’t help the water, and the water couldn’t help people, either. Under these circumstances, the government decided to sell the property. It was purchased by a wealthy man who believed the hospital could bring in a profit in the future. After he bought it, he decided he didn’t want to run a hospital, and so he put it up for sale again. He tried to sell it for several years, but no one came to inquire about the property. There were no prospective buyers.
At that time, even though Gold Mountain Monastery had three floors and 108 square feet of space, it was still too small to accommodate the crowd that came to attend Dharma assemblies. There were vagrants in the city, too, and even though they didn’t bite people or eat people, people were afraid of them. We all wanted to find a place in the countryside. One of my disciples, Heng Lai, who wanted to do some work for his teacher after he left the home-life, went out looking at properties everywhere. He probably looked as far north as Seattle, and on the way back he passed by the site of the hospital. Seeing that it was for sale, he decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. Then when he got back he said we could buy a portion of the property. He even suggested which building could serve as the Buddha Hall, which place could be the teacher’s residence, and which place could be the disciples’ quarters.
Estimating that one building could house a hundred or more people, he thought we could buy twenty or thirty buildings. He asked me to go take a look. I went there with five people to see the place. It was such a fine place, with so many buildings, but the price was so expensive. What could we do? Not to mention a poor monk like myself, even a millionaire monk wouldn’t be able to afford it. So we didn’t even dare to think about it, how much the less buy it!
After half a year, someone came and negotiated with me, suggesting that I invest in the hospital and use it to do business. But I didn’t even have any starting capital to invest. Later, I took eighteen people to look at the place again. I first went to look at the clinic building. I was swayed and thought to myself, “They didn’t even manage to finish building the clinic after spending so much money.” I turned to the group of eighteen and proposed, “We are all Buddhists, and we should do something on behalf of Buddhists. If we don’t manage to do anything for Buddhists, we should be greatly ashamed and we won’t be able to hold up our heads before the world. Therefore, today I am going to make a vow: I’m going to buy the entire property with all the buildings and land.”
Considering the site to be an ideal site for cultivation created by Nature, the Venerable Master personally visited the valley three times and negotiated with the seller many times. The Venerable Master wanted to establish a center for propagating the Buddhadharma throughout the world and for introducing the Buddhist teachings, which originated in the East, to the Western world. He planned to create a fountainhead of world Buddhism and an international monastery of orthodox Dharma for the purpose of elevating the moral standards and raising people’s awareness.
It’s very strange: After purchasing the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, in order to solve the water crisis, the Venerable Master used his wisdom-eye to locate the water source and then hired workers to excavate a well. As it turned out, the water gushed forth in abundance. “A miracle!” people exclaimed. Everyone still loves to talk about it. How did that inconceivable event take place? The Venerable Master was walking around, holding a staff. Suddenly he tapped the staff on the ground and said, “Excavate here!” The worker said, “It won’t work—we’ve already tried excavating all around this spot. We’ve surveyed this area. There definitely isn’t any water here!” The Venerable Master said, “Don’t worry! Just give it a try. Dig on!” When they had excavated over a hundred feet down, water started coming out. The supply was so plentiful that even with ten thousand more people, there would still be enough for everyone.
II. Ten Thousand Buddhas Shine Their Light Upon the Sagely City
After undergoing a period of renovation and clearing away the overgrown vegetation, the newly established Way-place looked quite new. In the fall of 1977, the fourfold assembly of disciples of Gold Mountain Monastery moved to the new Way-place—the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—to continue working hard at their cultivation. The gate of three arches at the City’s entrance was constructed in 1980 with golden-yellow tiles and red brick walls (later painted light yellow) as its hallmarks. The platform above the arches can serve as a podium for Dharma lectures. There is room for an audience of more than ten thousand people in the surrounding grass fields. Inside the City, one encounters verdant green trees providing shade, their swaying branches casting shadows on the ground. There are a dozen or so cottages with gardens along the road. It really is like a city; the “City” isn’t an empty name. The Venerable Master once said, “Don’t come to the mountain of treasures and return empty-handed.” Why is it called the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? The Venerable Master said,
Everybody who comes here has a chance to become a Buddha. As long as you come here, someday, surely you will be a Buddha. And it is not only ten thousand people, but a hundred thousand, a million, ten million, one hundred million, billions and millions of billions of people here in the City will become Buddhas. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a generic name. You may say the number of Buddhas here is as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River. Why? Because as it says in theFlower Adornment Sutra, “There is nothing that does not flow forth from the Dharma Realm, and there is nothing that does not return to this Dharma Realm.” Therefore, anyone who arrives at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas will eventually enter the stream of Sagehood. So! No matter whether you are wholesome or evil, good or bad, you all have planted the seed of Buddhahood. When you plant such seeds, they will surely bear fruit in the future.
Currently about 80 acres of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have been developed for use as part of the monastic complex. Twenty-five of the more than seventy large buildings are already being used for religious, educational, administrative, and residential purposes. The remaining 400 acres are fields, orchards, vineyards, and woods. In the springtime, the flowers bloom and the trees have fresh young foliage. In the autumn, the red leaves flutter down, filling the City. Squirrels, deer, and hares dwell in the woods. Peacocks dance in the vineyards, feeding on the grapes. Whether seen from a distance or at close quarters, the City gives people a feeling of cheerful expansiveness. When faithful devotees from all quarters come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, it is always with hope and yearning. Whether they come from far or near, visitors spontaneously give rise to the wish to transcend the mundane world.
The Main Entrance Gate of Three Arches
On the main entrance to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a gate of three arches, the words “The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas” are engraved at the top in the center. “Tathagata Monastery” is engraved on the left and “Dharma Realm Buddhist University” is engraved on the right. The first line of the engraved matching couplet says, “The Flower Adornment Dharma Assembly, the Shurangama Platform, and the Forty-two Hands and Eyes establish the Heavens and the Earth.”
The second line says, “The World Honored Ones of Wonderful Enlightenment and the Bodhisattvas of Equal Enlightenment, with a billion transformation bodies, can turn oceans into mountains.” On the other side of the gate, “Teaching and Protecting All Nations” is inscribed in the center, “Educating for Outstanding Abilities” is on the left, and “Adorning with Dharma and Precepts” is on the right. The first line of an engraved matching couplet says, “With kindness and compassion, cross over all. Those who believe will be saved. Bring forth the Bodhi mind and advance with courage and vigor to perfect the Right Enlightenment.” The second line says, “With joy and compassion, cultivate together. Those who worship will obtain blessings. Make firm vows and practice patience and Dhyana-concentration to awaken to the true teaching.”
The Administration Building
When visitors arrive at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, they must first come to the Main Office in the Administration Building to register so that arrangements can be made for them. The Administration Building has an Exhibition Room and a Book and Gift Shop. The Exhibition Room displays photos from Dharma Realm Buddhist Association’s thirty-year history of Dharma propagation, as well as photos and pictures of the Venerable Master Hua’s life. Most precious are several samples of the Venerable Master’s calligraphy.
Aside from Buddhist souvenirs, the Book and Gift Shop primarily sells translations of the Venerable Master Hua’s Dharma talks and lectures on Sutras published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, the Buddhist Text Translation Society, and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University. There are bilingual (Chinese/English) publications as well as volumes in Chinese, English, Vietnamese, or other languages. There are also tapes of the Venerable Master’s lectures in Chinese, with or without English translation, as well as tapes containing only English or Cantonese translations. There are also issues of the The Buddhist Monthly—Vajra Bodhi Sea, which is in its twenty-sixth year. Aside from propagating the Buddha’s teachings these publications serve to further the cultural exchange between East and West.
The Jewelled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas
The Jewelled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas is where the seven assemblies of disciples (Bhikshus and Bhikshunis (fully ordained monks and nuns), Shikshamanas (those training to be Bhikshunis), Shramaneras and Shramanerikas (novice monks and nuns), Upasakas and Upasikas (laymen and laywomen)) gather to attend the daily ceremonies. Rows of yellow bowing cushions are lined upon the red carpet. Many ornate banners are suspended above. The entire Buddha Hall is magnificently adorned in ancient style.
Probably no one would guess that this spacious hall used to be an indoor basketball court. Thus its structure is completely sealed with no windows. There is a nearly twenty foot high wooden statue of the Thousand-Handed, Thousand-Eyed Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattvain in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Majestic and towering, this adorned figure is crowned with transformation Buddhas. There are a thousand hands in the front and back, each with a compassionate eye in its palm. Over ten years ago, the Venerable Master commissioned Layman Wang Taisheng, a master carver of wooden Buddhist statues from Hong Kong, to come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to carve this statue. Layman Wang spend several years creating this Thousand-Handed, Thousand-Eyed Guanshiyin Bodhisattva statue. One thought of sincerity can dispel myriad disasters. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s compassion and her response to prayers are inconceivable. As long as one is sincere, one’s wishes will be fulfilled. There are countless stories of responses received from Guanshiyin Bodhisattva at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
The most eye-catching thing about the Jewelled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas is that the walls on all four sides are covered with a grid of compartments, and each compartment contains a statue of a Buddha. There are a total of ten thousand Buddha statues, great and small. When one stands amidst them, one feels as if one is in the Thousand Buddhas Cave in Dunhuang, China. It should be mentioned that these ten thousand Buddha statues were made by the Venerable Master himself over ten years ago. Foregoing sleep, the Master spent the nights casting each statue from a mold and then etching its features by hand. The features are simple and serene, not elaborately decorated. It is said that when the Master cast the molds, he added a snatch of his own hair to each statue. The Master said,
When I first came to America, I made a great vow. What have I come to the West for? I have come to be a sculptor. I want to sculpt living Buddhas, living Bodhisattvas, and living Patriarchs. I also want to turn the living beings of the whole world into living Buddhas, living Bodhisattvas, and living Patriarchs.
The Murals of the Four Great Heavenly Kings
On the outside of the Jewelled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, there is a mural of the Heavenly King Increasing of the South on the right side. On the left side of the Hall is a mural of the Heavenly King Broad Eyes of the West. In the back of the Hall, the left wall is painted with the Heavenly King Upholding the Country of the East. The right wall has a mural of the Heavenly King Much Learning of the North. These splendid and imposing twenty-foot-high murals convey the awesome and majestic bearing of the Heavenly Kings. Each one wears a golden helmet and golden armor, holds a Dharma treasure, and wears cloud shoes. The main artist Professor Yang asserted that, “Even in China, such large murals of the Four Great Heavenly Kings can’t be found.”
When one walks into the Ordination Platform inside the Ordination Hall, one sees mirrors on all four sides. The endless reflections make one feel as if one has entered the Flower Adornment state. The Venerable Master’s ingenious design actualizes the infinitely layered Flower Adornment state. The Ordination Hall is the setting for the transmission of the Buddhas’ pure precepts. Before participating in the full ordination ceremony, preceptees must first undergo 108 days of intensive training during which they memorize the Vinaya for Daily Use, the Shramanera Vinaya, the Bodhisattva Precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra, and either the 250 Bhikshu precepts or the 348 Bhikshuni precepts. Only then will they be qualified to receive full ordination, which will establish a foundation for their cultivation.
Wonderful Words Hall
Through the years, Wonderful Words Hall has been the place where the four assemblies of disciples at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas gather to investigate various branches of learning. Aside from the daily gatherings to listen to the Venerable Master’s taped lectures in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, most academic courses and the matching couplets class taught by the Venerable Master have been held in Wonderful Words Hall.
The library is housed in a Tudor-style brick building centrally located in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), and is open to all students, teachers, and residents of CTTB. Aside from housing a collection of general works in English and Chinese, the library is distinguished by its large collection of Chinese and English Buddhist scriptures and books on Buddhism. In addition, it provides foreign language textbooks, tapes and literature. The periodicals collection contains many publications on Buddhist studies and Buddhism. There is a rich collection of books on Chinese Buddhism, including commentaries on scriptures of orthodox Buddhism and translations of those scriptures into other languages. There is also a microfiche collection of Tibetan Buddhist materials.
Five Contemplations Dining Hall
In the fall of 1982, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas constructed the spacious Five Contemplations Dining Hall. It has an A-shaped frame of reinforced aluminum sheet metal, and there are over ten windows and skylights. The Dining Hall has ample natural lighting and natural ventilation. There is room for one thousand people to dine at the same time. It was built adjoining the original dining hall, and those two halls, a third hall nearby, and adjacent outdoor areas can together accommodate up to 2500 .
Other buildings in the City include the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, the Hall of No Words, the Hall of the Source of the Way, the Great Compassion Court, the Joyous Giving House, the Tower of Blessings (a seniors’ center), the boys’ and girls’ elementary and secondary schools, and a vegetarian restaurant. In addition, there are Bodhi House, Horse Whinny House, Dragon Tree House, Unicorn House, Lion House, and other living quarters, which can together accommodate over a thousand people.
Instilling Goodness Elementary School
The foundation of genuine national defense is a sound educational policy. In order to develop a good national defense, we must begin by concentrating on the education of youngsters. In early 1975, the Venerable Master founded Instilling Goodness Elementary School in San Francisco with the aim of promoting filial piety. Children are taught to be filial and obedient to their parents and respectful to teachers and elders. They are instilled with the principles of ethics in human relationships, so that when they grow up they will be good citizens. In 1977 the school moved to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and separate schools were established for boys and for girls, encouraging youngsters to learn their different roles, to concentrate on their studies, and to develop an indomitable spirit to work for the good of humanity.
Developing Virtue Secondary School
Some time after Instilling Goodness Elementary School had been founded, the Venerable Master founded Developing Virtue Secondary School at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Boys and girls also study separately at the secondary school. With filiality and fraternal respect as the principles of education, the schools aim to raise moral standards. The schools’ motto is the Six Great Principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuing of personal advantage, and no lying. In addition to the general courses offered in American public schools, students also receive exposure to the principles of ethics and moral integrity. If their thoughts are well-grounded and their conduct is guided by a purpose, then in the future they will be able to work for the flourishing of Buddhism and the peace and prosperity of all beings. The strict education offered at the schools has won the acclaim and faith of local citizens. Many Americans send their children to attend school in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Dharma Realm Buddhist University
In order to raise the level of education among Sangha members and train people in the skills of propagating the Dharma, the Venerable Master founded the Dharma Realm Buddhist University in 1976. The University is based on the principles of humaneness, righteousness, and morality, and aims to groom students who can become virtuous and wise leaders for the world in the future. Therefore, in addition to offering an academic education, the University places special emphasis on the development of moral character and encourages students to pursue the ultimate goals and values of life. Through the process of purifying and transforming the mind and spirit, students actualize their inherent wisdom and compassion and develop their potential abilities to the fullest extent. Dharma Realm Buddhist University offers an education of the highest spiritual integrity, firmly refusing to follow the corrupt trends of the world. It aims to educate outstanding individuals who can become capable leaders of mankind and increase the spirit of righteousness in the world.
Sangha and Laity Training Programs
In the world of today, there are very few monasteries that actually practice the Buddha’s regulations and strictly uphold the precepts. Teachers of genuine wisdom and proper understanding are also very rare. In light of the situation, the Venerable Master founded the Sangha and Laity Training Programs at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1982 with the purpose of giving students the chance to bring their religious practice to maturity. By providing training for people interested in pursuing a career in Buddhism, the Programs support the continuing propagation of the Buddhadharma.