Have you ever wondered about what it might be like to live like a monk? Well, your chance is here. Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Memorial Monastery in Southern Kaohsiung offers this unique experience in English and Chinese at its Weekend Temple Retreat, which is held on the second weekend of each month. Visitors can embark on a voyage of self discovery in a tranquil setting while participating in meditation activities, Buddhist chanting, vegetarian cooking, and daily monastic practices
Also known as Buddha Light Mountain, Fo Guang Shan is one of the oldest Buddhist organizations in Taiwan. It’s also one of the largest. The center is built on 100 hectares of land, and it is home to the famous Buddha’s tooth relic that was presented to the Venerable Master Hsing Yun by the Tibetan Lama, Kunga Dorje Rinpoche. The Tibetan Lama previously held this relic in safe keeping for 30 years.
Fo Guang Shan is an active propagation center for Humanistic Buddhism. Its charitable groups are established throughout the world to promote international cultural interchanges and to assist in times of need. It aims to offer spiritual refreshment and bring harmony to society through culture and art.
Construction on Fo Guang Shan started in 2003 and took nine years to complete. The result is nothing short of fantastic, especially when you stop to consider that the entire complex was created through the support of thousands of temples and millions of benefactors from around the world.
Eight pagodas comprise the front portion of the complex with a giant bronze Buddha statue located at the rear end of the complex. Vulture Peak is to the south and Jetavana Grove is to the north.
As we walked towards the Entrance Square in the early afternoon light, the imposing view of the Front Hall with a gleaming great golden Buddha smiling mysteriously in the background were quite impressive. John and I made sure to pose with the stunning elephant and lion sculptures guarding the entrance. From there, we made our way along the Wall of Benefactors, amazed at the thousands of names carved there.
Perhaps the most impressive feature, though, is the Great Path to Buddhahood flanked by eight stunning pagodas. We wandered around the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse for a while and admired the lifelike stone Arhats and the full size statues of the Patriarchs of the Eight Schools.
The Main Hall, Fo Guang Big Buddha Building, was our primary reason for visiting the monastery. As the landmark of the Buddha Memorial Center, the Big Buddha stands 108 meters high, and it is comprised of steel and bronze. It is the highest seated bronze Buddha in the world. We climbed up to the top to get a better look at Buddha and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the grounds. After that, we spent some time wandering around the Main Hall, where we visited several shrines, museums, and art galleries.
Although the weekend retreat sessions weren’t on offer when we visited Fo Guang Shan in February 2013. Having spent an afternoon there, it’s easy to envision how peaceful a weekend retreat would be.
Fo Guang Shan Official website. Monastery Tel: (07) 656-1921 ext. 1374 through 1377.