The City of 10,000 Buddhas
A talk given by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The "City of Ten Thousand Buddhas" did not get its name because there are ten thousand
Buddhas here. The name remains the same regardless of whether there is one Buddha,
ten thousand Buddhas, or one hundred million Buddhas. The number "ten thousand" represents infinity. Whoever comes to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has the ability to become a Buddha. If you come here, you'll be a Buddha in the future. However, if you do not want to become a Buddha, then you should not come. Moreover, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas also has been prepared by a myriad of Buddhas to enable all of us to do the Buddha's work.
The causes and conditions for establishing the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas were determined limitless eons ago. It was determined then that the Buddhadharma would be propagated to the west, and when that time came, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas would appear. However, the City did not make its appearance by falling down from the heavens or by welling forth from the earth. Rather, it was built by people. Seventy to eighty buildings were constructed here. How did these buildings come into being?
They were constructed before WWII, during a period of great affulence in America. That is why a complex of such magnitude could be built. These buildings were not constructed shoddily with inferior materials. Rather, they are very sturdy because they were constructed with honest labor and materials of especially high quality.
Originally a large state hospital complex built by the California government was located on this site. Its construction started in the 1930s, and all of its buildings and facilities were first rate. There were over 70 large buildings and 200 rooms of various size....... However, in the mid-1970s, California suffered a drought of unprecedented severity.
It was possible that the hospital did not have any funds left after the completion of its
construction. In addition, as there were around 6,000 patients and hospital workers living here, the water consumption must have been quite high and other expenses must have been
considerable as well. In addition, water is very scarce in this area, and there were a lot of nearby orchards and vineyards that also needed water. Indeed, the owners of neighboring orchards often brought their grievances to the local government, voicing their opposition against a public institution's competition with the local people for water. This was another reason that the hospital was forced to close. Since there was no water, people could not even cook their meals. Two of the Five Elements, water and fire, were unable to provide mutual aid - the water could not help the fire, and the fire could not help the water. Similarly, people could not help the water, and the water could not help people. Under these circumstances, the government decided to sell the property.
At that time, even though the Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco, was located in a three-story building with 18,000 square feet of space, it was still too small to accommodate the crowds that came to attend Dharma assemblies. One of my disciples, after leaving the home-life, wanted to do some work for his teacher. So he went everywhere to look at properties. On his way back to San Francisco from a trip up north, he passed by this hospital. When he saw that it was for sale, he asked me to go and take a look.
So I went with 5 disciples to see the place. When I saw the property, I thought it was a very fine place with so many buildings. But the price was so high, what could we do? Even a millionaire monk would not be able to afford it, not to mention a poor monk like myself.
So we didn't even dare to think about it, much less to buy it!
After half a year, someone came and negotiated with me, suggesting that I purchase the hospital as an investment. However, I didn't have enough funds, let alone capital for investment. Despite this, I still took 18 people to take a look at the place again. I first looked at the clinic building located at the front of the property. When i saw the building, I thought "After spending so much money, they could not even manage to finish constructing the clinic." I then turn to the others and said, "We are all disciples of the Buddhas, and we should do something on behalf of Buddhism. If we fail to do so, we should be greatly ashamed of ourselves. We will not be able to hold up our heads before the world. Therefore, today, I am making a vow to buy the entire property with all its buildings and land!"
Everyone, just think about this, I am a poor monk and do not have very rich lay supporters. Yet, incredibly, I managed to accomplish something that no one else in the world could do - the founding of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In this Dharma-ending Age, when a Way-place of this scale emerged from the ground, it was the culmination of the causes and conditions that would enable a Way-place to be readily available for us.
Therefore, it is really inconceivable that we could easily build this big Way-place, and also be in the process of establishing a university where we can train students with a genuine sense of righteousness, morality and humaneness! If we examine this inconceivable state, how could we have accomplished such a feat without the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time helping us to do the great work of a Buddha? So we should understand that the Buddhas manifested such a large Way-place so that everyone could come here to cultivate diligently.
At this time, when Buddhism is just beginning to dawn in the West, do not turn it into the
Dharma-ending Age. The proper Dharma must certainly dwell long in the world. What does it mean for the Proper Dharma to dwell in the world? If you cultivate honestly without craving
fame, profit, or offerings, then the Proper Dharma is dwelling in the world. If every Sangha
member upholds the precept of not touching money, sits in Chan meditation, eats one meal a day at noon, wears the precept sash at all times, and upholds the precepts strictly, then the Proper Dharma is dwelling in the world. We should put the Buddha's teachings into actual practice.
If you want to help Buddhism, you have to actually propagate the Buddhadharma, set a good
example for others, maintain good deportment, keep the five precepts, and save living beings by means of the four limitless minds of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving. Our conduct should be based upon the Six Guiding Principles of not fighting, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying. If we practice the Buddhadharma according to these guidelines, then the Proper Dharma will be present wherever we are. The decline of the Dharma will not manifest.
Buddhism is just starting in America, and it needs a good foundation, because without a good
foundation, Buddhism will not flourish. So how can we lay a good foundation? It begins with
education. Therefore, at the City of 10,000 Buddhas we have Instilling Goodness elementary
School, Developing Virtue Secondary School, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and Laity
Training Programs. In the elementary school, education is based on developing filial piety; the secondary school emphasizes how to be good citizens; and, the University focuses on the virtues of humaneness, righteousness, and morality. The foregoing is just a general concept of how our schools aim at improving and reforming the education system in society. The Sangha and Laity Training Programs provide training for people who aspire to pursue careers in Buddhism. Through education, we can produce talented individuals who are capable of translating the Sutras and lecturing on the Buddhadrarma.