在萬佛聖城住了十六年，對妙覺山建設計劃的來龍去脈知之甚詳的張福麟居士說，他前後看過七、八個設計理念。其實早在一九八二年萬佛聖城已提出妙覺山興建計劃的申請，但未通過。張居士以詼諧的口吻說：「申請的過程十分漫長，如果沒有健康的身體，壽數不夠，還無法蓋成！」雖是玩笑話，但背後說明的是：佛教事業是一條艱辛漫長的道路。張居士還記得，一九七六年初購下萬佛聖城時，每晚聽經只有五、六人，廿五年後的今天已有一百餘人，成長了二十倍，「照這樣的成長速度，二十年後晚間聽經將有兩千人，所以需要更大的地方，現在要蓋一萬人的大雄寶殿就是拆小廟，蓋大廟，把自己心裡的小廟放下，大家同心協力同修大廟。」張居士問在場大眾：「我們心裡能容納一萬人嗎？如果我們打開心量，像上人一樣，後山計劃一定蓋得成！」最後張居士透露，有一次上人講得非常清楚，新的大雄寶殿，不要說蓋在「後山」，「後山」不好聽，要說蓋在妙覺山，大雄寶殿只是萬佛聖城整體發展計劃的一部份。 來自聖塔•蘿莎的蔡以理建築師，則介紹了妙覺山計劃的最新版本建築設計。建築群坐北朝南，山門外有小溪環繞，寧靜優美。蔡建築師表示，目前這項計劃還在「環境影響評估報告」的審核階段。 胡果相居士解釋，妙覺山計劃何以經歷多年尚未動工，是因為公聽會一直未通過。她以洛杉磯地區一座著名的佛教寺廟在五百多次公聽會之後，才終於通過，獲准興建為例，鼓勵大家繼續努力。她又說 ，上人生前曾說大雄寶殿在「上面」已經有了，這回再度提出申請，只要有信心，一定做得成。
來自洛杉磯的李親悟居士聽了大有體悟，他說，其實我們不只是為了自己的現世修建妙覺山，也不只是為了以後的修行人而建，他自認這輩子修行不一定能成就，將來還可能再度投胎娑婆世界，繼續在修行路上努力，因此，「事實上，很可能是為自己的未來而修建」。李親悟當眾大聲發願：「I'll come back（我將回來）。」
分耕耘，一分收穫」來形容。頭兩年，他參加的男校籃球隊輸得很慘，後來在瑜伽市和舊金山灣區，男校籃球隊越打越勇，屢屢為學校贏得獎盃，並被友隊封為 Buddhist Boys（佛教男孩）。在學業方面，同學們都進了想進的大學。（編按：吳適有在培德中學就讀期間，到曼都仙諾學院修課，獲得曼都仙諾學院的傑出學生獎。）
※Walking toward the proposed site of the International Institute of Philosophy and Ethics at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas held large Dharma assemblies for two consecutive days, Saturday, June 30th, and Sunday, July 1st, to commemorate the Sixth Anniversary of the Venerable Master's Nirvana and the 25th Anniversary of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, respectively. Groups from each of the branch temples of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association attended the celebration. Nine buses carrying disciples from Los Angeles and Long Beach arrived early Saturday morning. Six buses brought devotees from San Francisco and San Jose, including Vietnamese Buddhists. Together with disciples from other areas and countries, there were over one thousand participants in all.
Many Buddhists coming to the Sagely City found the grounds more beautiful than before. The area in front of the Buddha Hall had been transformed. Renovation work had commenced two months before the event. First, a large tent with space for several thousand people had been erected in the plaza between the Buddha Hall and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University building. Images of Shakyamuni Buddha, Manjushri Bodhisattva, and Universal Worthy Bodhisattva gave the temporary "tent" Buddha Hall a dignified air.
※傳供 The Passing of Offerings
The program for the 6th Anniversary of the Venerable Master's Nirvana began Saturday after morning recitation with the transmission of the eight precepts, followed by the recitation of the Flower Adornment Sutra in compliance with the Master's final instructions: "After I am gone, you all may recite the Flower Adornment Sutra and the Buddha's name for one week or up to seven weeks..." After the Flower Adornment Sutra recitation, the assembly of over a thousand people did universal bowing and then walked in line to the Wordless Hall, where the Master once taught classes, to behold the sharira (relics) of Shakyamuni Buddha, Elder Master Hsu Yun, and the Venerable Master, as well as the articles and Dharma instruments used by the Master, and the Sutras he had studied. The Venerable Master's brush calligraphy, as well as the articles he had used, remind everyone of the tradition of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas: "No fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal advantage, and no lying." Next came the ceremony of Passing Offerings, with 108 kinds of offerings prepared by the Offerings Committee, the dining hall, and the Jyunkang Vegetarian Cafe. Each participant had a chance to hold the offerings in deep remembrance of the Venerable Master. Although the Master has physically been absent for six years, his spirit and his teachings are still very much present.
The afternoon program included a transmission of the Three Refuges and Five Precepts, a Liberation of Life ceremony, and talks on "The Life and Deeds of Venerable Master Hua" given by his disciples. These talks continued after the evening ceremony, with the Dharma Masters and laypeople in charge of planning the International Institute of Ethics and Philosophy (IIP&E) at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain giving a progress report on this project to the audience of over a thousand.
Bhikshu Heng Lai Shi said that an earlier IIP&E plan was rejected by the Mendocino County government in 1990 on the grounds that the sewage system, fire fighting equipment, and water supply were inadequate for such a major facility. Consequently the Venerable Master reduced the area of the project from 35 hectares to 18 hectares. However, the neighbors still had issues, and after several public hearings, the project has still not been approved.
※紀念法會 Memorial Ceremony
Abbot Heng Lyu Shi commented that with over a thousand participants at this weekend's event, not only was the Buddha Hall too small, but some guests had to spend the night in the student dormitories or the schools. And the tent Buddha Hall, without walls or doors, was an open invitation to burglars. It's no wonder that the Venerable Master had been anxious to see the International Institute Philosophy and Ethics completed, so that spiritual practice and interfaith activities could take place.
Bhikshuni Heng Liang Shi, manager of Joyous Giving House, listed some essential points of the Venerable Master's aspirations and vision for the IIP&E at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain. She said that the Master envisioned the Wonderful Enlightenment facility not only as a place to pay homage to the Buddhas and hold Dharma events, but also a place for Buddhists and those of other religions to study and practice together, for the Master saw religions in the modern world tending to overemphasize superficial rituals. In bringing the Dharma to the West, the Master proceeded step by step to propagate and lay a solid foundation for it, in the same way that he led his disciples to build the front gate, personally placing each brick by hand. Those who volunteer to help will all have a place on the Bodhi Path in the future. The Venerable Master has a pure and proper energy that is completely auspicious. His mind is so vast it could encompass the universe and the Dharma Realm. The Master wanted to build this Institute at the Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain not only for one generation of practitioners, but for practitioners 500 or 1000 years in the future. He also hoped that Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain's monastery could emulate the flourishing Nalanda Monastery in India from over a thousand years ago, becoming a center for religious and philosophical research and practice in the modern world.
Bhikshuni Heng Gwei Shi, manager of the City of the Dharma Realm, spoke of the Venerable Master's tremendous vision. Soon after the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was purchased in 1976, the Master thought of expanding the existing facilities. He said, "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a place for all Buddhists in the world, as well as all religious people, including Christians, Jews, Muslims. Anyone who wants to come may come, and anyone who wants to leave may leave. We are not afraid of there being many people, nor are we afraid of there being only a few. Our small dining hall could seat 500, and the Daoyuan Hall could seat 500. Now, with the new large dining hall with a capacity of 1000, we'll be able to seat 2000 people. This new dining hall is just a minor project. We also want to build a Flower Adornment Proper Dharma Hall to seat 10,000 people, as well as a jeweled pagoda, a Jeweled Hall of Great Heroes, a large athletic field, and a pool for liberating life. CTTB is blazing new trails. Each day there are more projects. Such expansion takes money, but don't worry, I won't solicit donations from you laypeople."
Heng Gwei Shi concluded, "The Venerable Master hoped to build the IIP&E not only for Buddhists, but for all who wish to study the truth. The seventy-some buildings in the front portion of the City will be devoted to education at the elementary, secondary, and university levels.
Upasaka Fulin Chang, who has lived at the City for 16 years and knows the ins and outs of the IIP&E project, said he has seen seven or eight different plans drawn up. Actually, the City submitted a plan for the facility as early as 1982, but it was rejected. Upasaka Chang quipped, "The process of getting approval takes so long that without good health and a long life span, one cannot hope to complete the project!" The underlying implications of this joke is that the work of Buddhism is difficult and long-drawn-out. Upasaka Chang remembers that back in 1976, when the City was first bought, only five or six people showed up for the evening Sutra lectures. Today, twenty-five years later, over a hundred people attend the evening lectures - a twenty-fold increase. "At this rate, there will be two thousand people at the Sutra lectures in twenty years' time, so we'll need a larger place. Our intent in building the Jeweled Hall of Great Heroes for 10,000 people is to expand our minds." Upasaka Chang asked the audience, "Are our hearts big enough to hold 10,000 people? If we can make our hearts as expansive as the Venerable Master's, the 'back project' will certainly become a reality!" Lastly, Upasaka Chang imparted this bit of information: Once the Master made it very clear that we should not say the new IIP&E is being built "in the back," for that doesn't sound good. Rather, we should say it is being built at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain, and is only a part of the entire City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Mr. Elee Tsai, an architect from Santa Rosa, introduced the latest architectural plan of the IIP&E. The entire complex will face the south. A creek winds by the front of the main gate. The setting is tranquil and lovely. Mr. Tsai said that the entire plan is still awaiting approval of the Environmental Impact Report.
Upasika Guo-Xiang Woo explained that the reason the project had not begun construction after so many years was that it has not passed the public hearings. She encouraged everyone to continue their efforts, citing the example of a well-known Buddhist temple in Los Angeles that was only approved after more than 500 public hearings. She also quoted the Venerable Master's statement that the Jeweled Hall of Great Heroes already exists in the "above." Therefore, as long as our faith holds firm, our application will certainly be approved.
Upasika Guo-Tsan Nicholson said that the Mendocino Planning Commission will be voting in October to decide whether or not to approve the Environmental Impact Report and the building plans for the Institute. She hoped everyone would pray sincerely and dedicate the merit to the project's being approved without incident.
On Sunday, July 1st the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas began at 6:50 a.m. with people making full prostrations every three steps from the front gate to the Buddha Hall. Tom Macmillan, an old friend of the City as well as a Baptist minister and a professor at Mendocino College, arrived early to participate in the bowing. After making over 400 prostrations in forty minutes, he was sweating profusely but felt great both physically and mentally. "Although I bowed to the Buddha Hall, compared to Master Heng Sure's bowing journey of two years and nine months from Los Angeles to the CTTB Buddha Hall, I must still bow for two years, eight months, twenty-nine days, 23 hours and 20 minutes, beforeI can understand the peace and clarity of mind that Master Sure must have experienced."
Simultaneous with the bowing, more than three hundred people recited Guanyin Bodhisattva's name as they walked behind Heng Lyu Shi and Heng Liang Shi to the proposed site of the International Institute of Philosophy and Ethics at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain, where they recited the Great Compassion Mantra. Heng Lyu Shi pointed out the site's boundaries and remarked, "Descendants enjoy the shade of trees planted by their forefathers. When completed, the International Institute of Philosophy and Ethics will be a blessing for future practitioners." Heng Liang Shi emphasized that the important thing is not whether the architecture of the IIP&E will be Chinese style or American style, but that it will be a refuge for all beings in the Dharma Realm.
Those words sparked a sudden awakening in Upasaka Qin-wu Li of Los Angeles, who commented that we are not building the IEP&E just for our own generation, nor merely for future practitioners. If we do not perfect our practice in this life, we may have to be reborn in this Saha world and continue to advance along the Path. Therefore, he concluded, "It's very likely that we are building this for our own future." He loudly declared before the assembly: "I'll come back."
At 8:00 a.m. "A Review of CTTB's History and Outlook for the Future" commenced with members of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth Group taking turns to report. The speakers were all alumni of Developing Virtue Secondary School. Sarah Babcock related that a nun who taught her Chinese once showed her some recitation beads that had started out coarse and light in color, but had become polished and deep in color over years of use. At that time Sarah thought her teacher was bragging about her own cultivation. Later, after encountering adversities in her studies and in life in general, Sarah realized that the teacher had been trying to teach her the values of perseverance and determination. If one perseveres, one will always bring things to a satisfactory conclusion.
Franklyn Wu, currently a graduate student at Stanford, had grown up Baptist and came to attend summer school at CTTB in 1991. At that time he could not speak English. He was very apprehensive when he first came, for he had heard about the numerous rules - one could not listen to music or ride a bike, had to be vegetarian, and could not have a girlfriend. Fortunately the summer camp was fun and not hard to get used to. However, the first year he lived at CTTB, he would recite "Jesus Christ" to himself every time he bowed in the Buddha Hall. Franklyn graduated in 1995 after four years at Developing Virtue Secondary School. He summed up those four years by saying, "You get as much as you put in." When he first joined the Boys School basketball team, it suffered agonizing losses. Later, however, they played better and better in Ukiah and the San Francisco Bay Area. They won numerous trophies and were nicknamed the "Buddhist Boys." Academically, students were all got into their universities of choice. [Editor's note: While studying at Developing Virtue Secondary, Franklyn Wu also attended classes at Mendocino College and received the Outstanding Student Award from the college.]
Franklyn mentioned several important concepts that he learned while studying and living at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. First, everyone makes mistakes, but we should be quick to correct them. Second, everything we do ultimately comes back to ourselves. For example, the United States habitually locates its pollution-generating industries in developing countries in order to reduce pollution in the U.S. However, scientists in Kansas have traced their local pollution to China's Gobi Desert.
Dharma Master Mingzhao, who had followed the Venerable Master for many years and now heads a Vietnamese Chan temple in Seattle, asked Franklyn, "Having left the City and received a good education, will you return to teach the next generation?" Franklyn replied quickly, "I personally do want to come back. It may be very soon or maybe after a while. I'd like to come back as a teacher or work in an administrative or some other capacity. I know other alumni who have the same idea, but I cannot speak for them." [Editor's note: Bonnie Lin, another alumna of Developing Virtue Secondary, returned to work as a volunteer teacher after completing her undergraduate studies at the University of California in Berkeley.]
Tina Yang, who has lived at the City since age five, has listened to the Venerable Master lecture Sutras ever since she was little, but never knew how to interpret the Master's words. Recently, it dawned upon her that actually, we are not only the child of our parents, but also the child of all our teachers. Everyone is part of one big family, and the Venerable Master is the head of that family. The Master's great vow is to unite the world's religions, for many of the wars in the world are religious wars. Tina Yang recently participated in a conference held by the United Religions Initiative in Utah, and she is very moved by the cause of interfaith cooperation and exchange.
Stacy Chen, currently a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), pointed out that the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth group is starting to take shape, especially since there are many young Buddhists in the Berkeley area. Stacy encouraged all the young people in the audience to study Buddhism. She said although the speakers of the day had all grown up and studied at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, CTTB's young people were not the only ones who could study Buddhism.
After the vegetarian lunch, the Hall of No Words was opened to display the sharira. There was another transmission of the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts, and the "Review of CTTB's History and Outlook for the Future" also resumed. Little by little, visitors from afar started on their return journeys. The two-day Dharma assembly soon drew to a close, yet the ongoing traditions and future prospects of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas were deeply imprinted in everyone's mind. One layperson from southern California commented that although the round trip took twenty hours on the bus, she was determined to find opportunities to come more often.