One of the most peaceful and serene places in Los Angeles is just a stone's throw from one of the busiest and congested freeways in the country. The Hsi Lai Temple is a religious haven with ties to Far East Asia and its doors are open to you -- for free!
The Buddhist Temple is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. It was built 22 years ago by an order of Buddhist monks who promote open dialogue among religions and cultures. The 15-acre sanctuary has a prime view of the San Gabriel Valley and is tucked among the hills of Hacienda Heights.
"They are curious. They are amazed sometimes to find something like this in the heart of Southern California," says Temple Director Ven. Miao His, of first-time visitors.
Just inside the main gate is an exquisite reception hall with the "Happy Buddha" positioned to greet visitors. Just beyond its doors is the Grand Courtyard. It is flanked by two magnificent gardens populated with golden statues of what are affectionately called "Buddhas in Training."
At the end of the courtyard is the main shrine. This is where you will feel like you have been taken to China -- minus the plane ride. Inside, you will find high ceilings -- golden in hue from floor to ceiling. Thousands of Buddhas line the walls, and large Buddhas are located behind the main altar.
Hsi says visitors "can walk around. Sit in the main shrine. If they have worries or troubles on their minds, they can sit for awhile and feel so much better when they leave."
Anyone is welcome inside. The doors to the Hsi Lai Temple are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with guided tours at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Admittance is free.
If you get hungry, you can try the vegetarian cafe. It has been given four stars for its traditional Chinese vegetarian dishes. There is a dress code. No shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops. There is also no meat allowed anywhere on temple grounds.