Venerable Master: When was our first monastery in Los Angeles established?
Helen Woo: In the beginning of 1976.
Venerable Master: Ah, that was when those two monks began their
“Three Steps One Bow” pilgrimage, right?
Helen Woo: Yes.
Venerable Master: The monastery was founded before the pilgrimage started!
Helen Woo: Yes.
Venerable Master: Why don’t you tell everyone about the history of our temples here, how many times we moved, and so forth?
Helen Woo: In 1976, when I first believed in Buddhism, I was trying to find a good teacher. I went especially to Taiwan to look for one and didn’t realize that there was such a wonderful teacher in San Francisco until I was back. I was so excited that I wished to go there to take refuge. At that time, some of us decided to go together. More and more people joined us, until there were so many of us that we could not fit in one car, and even a bus was too small. However, since we had not met the Venerable Master, it didn’t seem right to ask him to come to Los Angeles.
Finally Weiren Ni called the Master, who kindly consented to come to L.A. to hold the Refuge-taking ceremony. On that day, more than two hundred people, ranging from several months to over eighty in age, took refuge with the Master in the very hot hall of a club that we had rented. The Master was very kind, and he had brought several left-home disciples along. When the Master and his disciples began coming to L.A. to give lectures on a monthly basis, I thought we should have a temple here, and so I found a small house that was formerly a nursery school. That was the beginning of Gold Wheel Monastery in 1976 [editor’s note: Helen later remembered this was in 1977], and soon afterwards Dharma Masters Heng Sure and Heng Chau began their pilgrimage of bowing once every three steps.
Venerable Master: At that time some laypeople made the Bodhi resolve. They planted the roots for the accomplishments of today. Now we have a bigger place; in fact, we have two temples now.
Helen: Two or three years later, on Huntington Drive where South Pasadena and Alhambra meet, we found a larger place that could accommodate 150 people. It was a very old building and not suitable for our needs. We had to repair it and add a restroom. Two years later, the Master found a large, old church building on Sixth Street. Because it was quite rundown, several laymen from the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas came down and spent more than a year renovating it. Many years passed before we had the good fortune of finding the present site of Gold Wheel Monastery, on Avenue 58.
When we found the present site of Gold Wheel Monastery, the Venerable Master was away on tour in Taiwan. The big earthquake had just hit L.A., and the building looked like it was going to fall apart. There were many huge cracks in it, so the price was exceptionally low. Thinking that it still might be a very sturdy building, I took a structural engineer to inspect it. He found that the cracks were superficial and the foundation was very solid, much more so than in modern buildings. The Venerable Master bought it and some lay people renovated it, and thus we have the present Gold Wheel Sagely Monastery.
Venerable Master: That’s the history and background of Gold Wheel Monastery.