Discovering My Buddha Nature at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

Discovering My Buddha Nature at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain

The three thousand great thousand worlds arise in a single thought.
When the great manifests within the small, another world is reached.
As the breeze blows through Ukiah, fragrant flowers smile.
When it rains in Talmage, moistened plants rejoice.
With boundless joy and giving, bring benefit to the multitudes.
With vows of kindness and compassion, alleviate suffering and bestow happiness.
The constant changes of the land are speaking the great Dharma.
Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain wells forth from the earth.

–Composed by Venerable Master Hua on April 20, 1978

As a public speaker, I have had the opportunity to teach in many venues, from the United Nations to the Smithsonian Institute, to academic institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and Trinity Universities. Perhaps one of the great highlights of my career came recently, however, when I found myself at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Established in 1974 by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is located north of San Francisco in Ukiah, California. It comprises approximately 700 acres of land.

The Venerable Master Hua describes the founding of the City:

It could be said that the causes and conditions for the establishment of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas were predetermined limitless eons ago. It was decided then that the Buddhadharma would be propagated to the West at the present time, and that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas would appear. The City didn’t make its appearance by falling from the heavens or welling forth from the earth. Rather, it was built by people. Seventy or eighty buildings were constructed, before World War II, during a time of great affluence in America.

Entering the City, one passes through the gate of three arches.  Constructed in 1980, it is replete with golden-yellow tiles and yellow brick walls. The grass fields provide space for ten thousand people to attend Dharma lectures from a platform above the arches.

My lecture took place in The Jeweled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. This magnificent setting is where the seven assemblies of disciples (Bhikshus and Bhikshunis; fully ordained monks and nuns), Shikshamanas (those training to be Bhikshunis), Shramanas and Shramanerikas (novice monks and nuns), Upāsakas and Upāsikās (laymen and laywomen), and students from the school, gather to attend daily ceremonies and, on this night, to hear me speak.

Rows of yellow bowing cushions lined the red carpet. I felt humbled by my surroundings. There is a nearly twenty foot high wooden statue of the Thousand-Handed, Thousand-Eyed Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva. This magnificent figure is crowned with transformation Buddhas. And all around the walls are a grid of compartments, each containing a Buddha statue. A total of ten thousand Buddha statues, great and small, lend credence to the name of this unique city.

Surrounded by the splendor of Buddhist iconography, I prepared to give my lecture. As the translator prepared herself and the videographer adjusted the camera, I watched as the audience entered.  My topic, consciousness transformation, is not new material to this audience. And yet they listened (monks, nuns, students, and lay people) with rapt attention and curiosity as I described decades of research that my colleagues and I have conducted at the Institute of Noetic Sciences as summarized in the book Living Deeply.  I also shared the trailer for the soon to be completed feature documentary, Death Makes Life Possible.

As I shared my work, I was struck by the vision for the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. For it seems, according to The Venerable Master:

Everybody who comes here has a chance to become a Buddha…Therefore, anyone who arrives at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas will eventually enter the stream of Sagehood. So! No matter whether you are wholesome or evil, good or bad, you all have planted the seed of Buddhahood. When you plant such seeds, they will surely bear fruit in the future.

As I transitioned back into the mundane world, I felt touched by the power of such intention. Watching this video from that night helps me remember my Buddha nature and the importance of our shared work to help nurture positive transformations in the world.