Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Monks and Money
25 March 2014
Monks and Money
I attended The Great Compassion Ritual service at Hsi Fang Temple on March 16, 2014, which started at 10am. The Hsi Fang Temple is a Chinese Buddhist temple located in the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights. I walked up to the temple, and took notice that the building was mainly bare except for words “San Diego Buddhist Association” and a golden Buddha on the wall. I have never been part of a religious service other than Catholic so I was nervous as well as excited to experience my first Buddhist service. In this essay I will give a description of “The Great Compassion Service” that I attended and then I will explain the controversial issue of money within the monastic Buddhist community.
When I first entered the Buddhist temple, I saw that everyone had removed their shoes, so I did before heading up the stairs. While climbing, I noticed a banner that was mostly in Chinese but had recognized the words “The Nobel Eightfold Path” written at the bottom. There were many banners that contained of the terms that we have been studying form the semester. Upon reaching the third level, entered the room where the service was being held, I was completely mesmerized by the giant golden Buddha in the front. He was the biggest Buddha I had ever seen. He was surrounded with flowers on both sides as well as two platters of cupcakes. I must have looked lost because almost immediately after arriving I was approached by a nun in a dark brown robe. She walked me over to a pew and handed me the English translation of The Great Compassion mantra. On the pew there was also a small plate that contained a stick of incense, a bag of rice, and a flower. The service began with a ringing of a bell followed by a woman speaking in Chinese and then everyone started chanting in unison.
Through out the service I tried to keep up with the endless amounts of kneeling, bowing and standing. I tried my best to keep up I felt completely out of my element. This became most apparent when everyone began slowly parading around the pews while chanting The Great Compassion mantra. I tried to keep up with everyone, but found myself unable to pronounce the words on the paper correctly. The nuns around me were very adamant about me keeping up. Every time I fell behind there was always a nun who would walk over and help me out. The service ended with everyone making an offering of incense. I didn’t go up, but many people lined up to place their incense in a small side room.
At the end of the service, one of the monks passed out bottles of water that were labeled holy water. A monk gave a talk in Chinese that was translated for me using a radio given to me by a nun. He talked about how service involves showing...