City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
History and Background
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.
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 the Flower 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.”
西方佛教的發源地 - 極樂世界在聖城