Pu Hsien Shrine
Stairs leading to the Samantabhadra Hall, (Pu Hsien Shrine Plan of First floor Guest House Plan of First floor Guest House Pu Hsien Shrine , in Chinese), which is above the Dining Hall, are on either side of the foyer to the Dining Hall. Shoes are removed before entering shrines as a mark of respect.
The Samantabhadra Hall is the main shrine room in the Guesthouse. The white elephant, on which Samantabhadra sits, symbolises spiritual practice through strength, stamina, diligence and firm resolve. The elephant’s six tusks represent the six virtues of an accomplished practitioner, namely morality, patience, charity, effort, concentration and wisdom. They also represent the six realms of existence: the hell, animal, hungry ghost, human, angry god and heavenly realms. The Bodhisattva holds a scroll in his left hand, containing his Ten Great Vows, describing the perfect practice for becoming a Buddha. His right hand points skyward in the mudra (gesture) of compassion. His right foot, resting on a lotus held up by the elephant’s trunk, indicates his readiness to spring into action to help suffering beings. Samantabhadra personifies the transcendental practices of all Buddhas. Each of his Great Vows is written in Chinese on the ten lamps, five on either side of the Shrine.
On either side of the Main Shrine are two fierce looking statues. These are the Temple Dharma Protectors. In ancient times, in pre-Buddhist Tibet, they were a cruel and angry warring people. After receiving and practicing the Buddha Dharma (teachings of the Buddha), they achieved liberation. Out of gratitude, they vowed to protect all virtuous beings who purify themselves and benefit others. The fierce demeanour of the statues signifies that all beings have the potential to be either evil or good. Each must choose which to manifest.
On either side of the altar are the Dharma instruments that are used during services to guide the chanting and help everyone to chant in unison. On the right is the gong and smaller hand-bell. The gong is used to announce the service to beings throughout all realms. On the left of the altar is the big wooden fish (mui, in Chinese) and next to it, on the smaller table, a small wooden fish. The small wooden fish is struck to keep time while chanting. The fish are stylised Koi. In Chinese culture, the Koi represents longevity, which is sought after and regarded as a blessing by Buddhists. Fish, having no eyelids, are always awake. This signifies constant awareness – a state Buddhists seek to achieve.
Fo Guang Shan Order is financed entirely by donations. This Temple was built with funds from generous donors in Taiwan and is maintained by donations from overseas and local donors. The Temple is very grateful to its donors and tries to acknowledge them in every way possible. The two towers of light, on either side of the shrine, recognise the generosity of our donors. In each alcove is a tiny statue of the Buddha, a light and the name of a devotee who has made a large donation to the Temple. The names below the small wooden statues of Samantabhadra lining the walls at the sides and back of the shrine also acknowledge generous gifts to the Temple. Specific items and even buildings around the Temple displaying a name on them indicate that the item was donated by one of our generous donors. Buddhists regard donating goods or money to Temples as very meritorious because it helps spread the Buddhist message of compassion and wisdom thereby relieving suffering.
On the low tables in the shrine, where people sit for services, are bookstands holding the sutras or religious texts that are being chanted during the services. The stands and sutras are covered with small, embroidered cloths. This shrine is used for early morning and evening services.
Above the entrance to the shrine, is a sauvastika, flanked by two lilies. The sauvastika has been used in Hindu and Buddhist cultures for the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good luck. It was adopted by the Nazis, turned around and pivoted as the emblem of Nazi Germany, and became known as the Swastika. Just as the beautiful lotus flower, rooted in the filth of the pond, symbolises purity, so human enlightenment arises from our greedy, angry, deluded, everyday minds.