The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

By Chuck Flagg, The Dispatch, May 20, 2005

Ukiah, Calif. (USA) -- Last Sunday, May 15, marked ?Vesak,? the celebration of the Buddha?s birth, enlightenment and death in what is now Nepal. This prince, who renounced a life of riches and dedicated himself to the pursuit of enlightenment, founded a religion some 2,500 years ago.

<< The entrance to City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

With 360 million followers, Buddhism is the world?s fourth largest religion. Practiced originally throughout Asia, it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and other Western countries.

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, legislation was passed to close many of the state?s mental health facilities and turn the patients over to community-based programs. Although much of our current homeless program is attributed to this decision, it had a fortunate side effect.

After the Mendocino State Mental Hospital was closed, a religious organization purchased the property. Today it is a fascinating place to visit: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Of the 488 acres which comprise the site (located in the small community of Talmage, just east of Ukiah), about 80 acres are currently being used. There are 70 large buildings, containing more than 2,000 rooms which can accommodate 20,000 people.

The first thing a visitor notices is the city?s entrance, a three-arch gate surmounted by a pagoda-looking roof. Built in 1980 from glazed yellow tiles and red brick, this distinctive portal marks a special place.

There is a good deal of landscaping among the spread-out buildings constructed on streets with names like ?Patience Way? and ?Kindness Avenue.? Dozens of colorful peacocks wander freely among the buildings.

Visitors should stop at the administration building to register and get a map. Inside is a gift shop which offers for purchase statues, prayer books, candles, incense and Buddhist literature printed in many different languages.

A short walk away is the Jeweled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. A 20-foot statue of the Buddha is directly outside the entrance, another just inside the lobby, and a third is within the prayer hall itself. The interior walls of the hall are lined with compartments floor to ceiling, each containing a golden Buddha, thus giving the hall its name.

Rows of prayer mats cover the floor, and the scent of incense is pervasive. Also notable are four 20-foot high murals, one in each corner of the room.

A nearby building houses a vegetarian restaurant. Because residents of the compound eat in a communal dining hall, this café is provided for visitors.

Although most of the buildings provide living quarters for residents and guests, many are set aside for special purposes:

  • Dharma Real Buddhist University aims to ?educate students to be wise and virtuous leaders.?
  • The Sangha and Laity Training Program offers education in the the ?practical affairs of Buddhism.?
  • The Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts has published more than 200 volumes from Chinese into English, French, Spanish, Vietnamese and Japanese.

A unique program allows students from Humboldt State University to take field trips to the CTTB each semester. Their professor, a Roman Catholic priest, celebrates Mass in the hall, ?a mutual exchange unprecedented in the Buddhist monasteries around the world.?

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