FO GUANG SHAN, Chung Tian Temple
Chung Tian Temple follows Chinese palace architectural style employing gold and red in the traditional manner of Chinese Emperors. The gold represents enlightenment while red is an auspicious color for Chinese, symbolizing happiness, prosperity, luck and energy. These colours provide an attractive contrast to the greens in the bush background. Visitors enter the Temple itself through the large red wooden doors at the top of a stone staircase. This construction symbolically depicts the journey upwards through the present life toward enlightenment as well as the ideal of Buddhist practice, following the ‘middle path.’ Appearing in the centre is a large courtyard leading to the Worship Hall, with function rooms on two sides.
CHUNG TIAN TEMPLE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE
For historical reasons, traditional Chinese Temples are often of Chinese palace architectural style. Buddhism was introduced to China in the first century AD, following an invitation by Chinese Emperors to some Indian Masters to share their knowledge. The earliest Temple was built in the city of Loyang. This Temple was called White Horse Temple because the first sutras were delivered on a white horse. A Temple was originally a place for sutra (scripture) translation and Buddhist teaching. Since Temples in later times were usually built by Emperors for great masters, the palace style became the architectural style normally used in Temple construction.
Gargoyles or mythical figures protect some of the buildings. On the corners of the roof, a bird sits looking backward. This is the phoenix, considered to be a compassionate bird. The phoenix is a reminder that those who have achieved prosperity should look back and care for those less fortunate.
Dragon heads are also found on the high points of the roof. The dragon is the most ancient emblem in Oriental mythology, representing celestial and terrestrial power, wisdom and strength.
The two elephant statues in the front court represent endurance and a strong and steadfast character. According to Buddhist texts, Sakyamuni’s mother, Queen Maya, had a dream that a white elephant with six tusks entered her side – a sign of divine conception. Thus, a white elephant has long been associated with the origin of Buddhism.
Two lion statues at the front doors represent Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who are strong in mind and fearless. The lion’s roar is likened to a thunderous call which awakens all sentient beings to the power of the Dharma. These statues evoke the importance of the teachings of the Dharma and the superior strength of the mind. Traditionally, Chinese people like to place a lion couple at the front gate of their home – one male and one female – to create an appearance of grandeur and an image of a strong household.
The Buddhist flag is hoisted in the front court. The flag originated in 1952 at the Second World Fellowship of Buddhists Conference held in Japan. The five colors of the stripes in the design – blue, yellow, red, white and orange – represent the radiations emitted from the Buddha’s body after his enlightenment. They also symbolize various skin colors of people around the world. The horizontal stripes suggest harmony amongst all races, while vertical stripes represent world peace.
In the foyer outside the Temple reception, there are two statues. A large bronze statue of Venerable Master Hsing-Yun faces outward while a statue of Maitreya, The Bodhisattva of Joy faces inward. Venerable Master Hsing-Yun is the founder of the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order and the Buddha’s Light International Association for lay Buddhists. He was born in China in 1927 and was fully ordained at the early age of 14. In 1949, amid the turbulence of civil war, he went to Taiwan. He has traveled throughout the world to promote Humanistic Buddhism. Fo Guang Shan emphasizes education and services. It has established public universities, Buddhist colleges, libraries, publishing houses, Buddhist art galleries, free mobile clinics, children’s home, retirement homes and a television station. Venerable Master Hsing-Yun is recognized for his bold and innovative methods of spreading Buddhist teachings which meet contemporary needs.
The Bodhisattva Maitreya, who represents loving kindness, is often called the “Happy Buddha” and is expected to be the next Buddha to appear in this earthly world. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened person who is completely motivated by love and compassion for all sentient beings and commits oneself to liberate all beings from pain and suffering. Maitreya Bodhisattva once manifested himself as a rotund and generous monk in China centuries ago which is how he gained the Happy Buddha label. His big tummy represents his capacity for tolerance and acceptance, and his big smile represents the loving kindness he feels for all sentient beings. Incidentally, rubbing the tummy for good luck is not encouraged. Many consider that practice as merely a superstition and a disrespectful act.
The figure of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, The Bodhisattva of Compassion is centred onthe altar. In Chinese the Bodhisattva is known as Kuan Yin. The Bodhisattva has perfect and penetrating hearing to listen to all appeals. Kuan Yin’s manifestations are numerous in both male and female forms. The manifestation depicted in the Hall is the ‘Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes Kuan Yin’ symbolising an immense capacity to see and help all beings in need.
In front of the altar are Dharma instruments: a round wooden fish on the left, a gong on the immediate right with a drum and a bell at the far right. The wooden fish is a wooden block carved with two big eyes and scales. Just as a fish never closes its eyes and is thus always ‘awake,’ one should similarly be acutely aware in earnest dedication to Buddhist practice. These instruments are played by the Monastic’s during services to lead the rhythm of chanting.
The displays on the altar represent the Buddhist way of giving and sharing. All offerings are made in admiration for the teachings of the Buddha, not as a form of worship. Offering incense can serve to purify the hall and our mind.ntricate pagodas meticulously made of match-sticks by prisoners, a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha practicing asceticism, items displaying micro-engraving, and replicas of well known Chinese treasures.
An offering to Buddhist teachings may be made by ringing the large Blessing Bell in the centre court. There are many merits in striking the bell if the intention is to bring benefit to others. The following inscription is written on the bell:
Let the chime of the bell alleviate sufferings,
Cultivate wisdom and induce enlightenment.
Let those hearing it refrain from hell and the burning flame,
But vow for attainment of Buddhahood and delivering all sentient beings.
LOTUS TREASURY WORLD
This area represents Buddha’s world of peace, tranquility, and harmony. There are many lotus flowers, a strong symbol of Buddhism since the exquisite flowers develop from poor beginnings in marshlands. Lotus flowers are reminders that a pure mind may be cultivated within the turmoil of this world.
The mirrors at each side of the room reflect the Buddha nature of those who stand before them. Facing the mirrors, numerous images in front and behind are displayed, suggesting the continual cycle of samsara, birth, and rebirth, past lives and future. An additional message is that the present life is not a beginning nor an end but simply a stepping stone to enlightenment. In several profound ways, the room expresses many lessons of Buddhist sutras, including the Law of Cause and Effect and the principle of Dependent Origination.
Meditation is the fundamental practice of Buddhism; it promotes peace of mind, clarity in thinking, and the development of wisdom. The area provides space for regular meditation classes and retreats and many individuals engage in personal meditation here.
The Hall enshrines Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. He was born more than 2,500 years ago as a prince in Northern India. To search for the truth of life, he left his privileged life at the age of 29. After six years of meditation and reflection, he achieved enlightenment. His wisdom revealed that all beings are potential Buddhas, each of whom has the ability to reach enlightenment through practicing his teachings.
SUTRA TRANSCRIPT ROOM
Buddhism stresses mind cultivation or ‘mindfulness.’ This can be practiced in a variety of ways including formal meditation, chanting, and sutra transcription. While originally the sutras were passed orally, sutra transcription originated in China before printing was invented. At that time hand- copying was required and it was considered that those who carried out this important task gained infinite merits. Nowadays the practice of transcription, also termed writing meditation also assists in purifying the mind by exercising concentration and has become an art form in its own right known as calligraphy.
Chinese writing or calligraphy has a rich linguistic meaning and aesthetic beauty. It encapsulates the tradition of more than 5,000 years of the evolution of Chinese characters. Considerable skill is required to write well with brush and ink and even a great calligrapher may take a lifetime to achieve mastery.
The conference room can accommodate 120 people. It is equipped with modern faculties and is an ideal of lectures and workshops.
The Museum displays a wide range of beautiful Chinese arts and artifacts including Buddha and Bodhisattva statues from regions such as China, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Tibet. The fact that Buddhism has long been blended with local cultures in different areas is well illustrated by the facial resemblance of the statues to the people in the regions where they were made. There is also a souvenir shop which sells chanting beads, incense, candles, Buddhist books, CDs, and various other items. Other attractions include intricate pagodas meticulously made of matchsticks by prisoners, a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha practicing asceticism, items displaying micro-engraving, and replicas of well-known Chinese treasures.
CHUNG TIAN ART GALLERY
The Chung Tian Art Gallery aims at exhibiting arts and paintings with cultural and artistic value, both from local and overseas artists, to bring Eastern and Western cultures together to raise the cultural awareness in the community through art, both traditional and contemporary.
WATER DROP TEAHOUSE
“Repaying droplets of kindness with springs of gratitude”. A drop of water can nurture countless lives. The Teahouse provides visitors tranquil and comfortable surroundings to relax with light vegetarian meals and refreshments.
The Tea Room is intended to provide a peaceful haven for visitors as well as a setting in which to conduct the tea ceremony. Visitors are invited to help themselves to refreshment and/or to sit quietly with friends to reflect on the beauty of the Temple.
The Chinese Tea Ceremony is conducted for tour groups as part of a familiarization with Chinese culture as well as a means of meditation and respect for others. The Chinese were the first to discover tea leaves. They were also the first to make drinking of tea an art form.
Tea was known to be consumed in China as early as the 9th century BC. During the Spring and Autumn Period, people ate fresh tea leaves as vegetables. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea’s refreshing effect made it a favorite among monks in Za-Zou meditation. In the 8th century AD, tea was introduced into Japan by Buddhist monks as a means of keeping awake during meditation.
The Pagoda is set amongst the natural surroundings and with its traditional Chinese design is a peaceful and beautiful place to have a memorial to loved ones. Opened in 2007 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun who described it as helping to create the Pure Land in Australia, the Pagoda has seen many visitors who come to admire the Seven Level building.
The Pagoda has three halls. The Centre has a large Amitabha statue and represents the Pure Land. The ceiling with its Eight Celestial Beings conveys the ideal beauty of the Pure Land. The Western Hall has Amitabha Buddha seated on the Lotus throne. This hall is used for memorial services and to pay respects to ancestors and family. Around the walls are ceramic plaques of Amitabha Buddha that can be purchased as a memorial. The Eastern Hall has Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva – The Bodhisattva of Great Vows reminding us of our practice to keep vows and the Bodhisattva practice to help others. His vow was “Not until Hell is vacant shall I become a Buddha”. The walls are lined with plaques of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
CHAN, ZEN & ARHAT GARDENS
The gardens contain statuary and plants chosen to create a peaceful ambiance while the presence of a Bodhi tree is indicative of the place at which the Buddha found enlightenment. Eighteen majestic Arhat statues are placed in the Garden Area.
An Arhat is a being who has traversed the Noble Eightfold Path and transcended samsara (the cycle of rebirth). Arhats are said to remain in this world to protect the Dharma (Buddhist teachings). They are often represented as possessing various kinds of supernatural power, symbolized either by objects held in their hands or by wild animals crouching submissively beside them.
The Venerable maintain a peaceful ambiance and conduct daily services with the chanting of Amitabha Buddha’s name. Visitors are welcome to pay respects and make offerings of incense, flowers, candles and fruit. During Dharma functions, the chanting merits are transferred to the deceased.