LA Fridays with Bob and Tom: Hsi Lai Temple

LA Fridays with Bob and Tom

 Week 21.  Hsi Lai Temple


This week we visit the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. This Buddhist Temple completed in 1988 serves as a spiritual and information center for those interested in learning Buddhism and Chinese culture.  Hsi Lai means “coming to the west” and it is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the western hemisphere.  The interior space of the buildings remains faithful to the traditional Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasty style of architecture.  Likewise, the temple’s courtyard, gardens, and statuary echo the style of ancient Chinese monasteries.

The Temple’s symbolic gate provides a welcome; the Chinese characters on the back of the gate list the four universal vows of Buddhists: to save all sentient beings, to eradicate delusion and stress, to study the boundless Dharma, and to attain supreme enlightenment.  Seated in the Arhat Garden are the Eighteen Arhats, disciples of the Buddha.  These disciples have realized the truth of no-self and overcame the defilements of greed, anger, and ignorance. The Avalokitesvsara Garden and the Courtyard contain symbols of Buddhist teaching.

The Main Shrine is the most important place in any Buddhist monastery because most religious services are conducted therein.  Known also as the “Precious Hall of the Great Hero,” it is dedicated to Sakyamuni Buddha, who possessed the heroic qualities of unsurpassed wisdom, virtue, compassion, and the power to subdue evils, thus saving all sentient beings from ignorance and afflictions.  The monumental statues above the alter depict three Buddhas who manifest perfect enlightenment.  We were permitted to join a religious ceremony in the Main Shrine.  Monks provided audio translations of the prayers enabling us to participate.

The drive from LA took 45 minutes, plenty of parking available.  A vegetarian buffet lunch is available on weekdays from 11:30am to 1:30pm.  Admission to the Temple is free.



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Robert (Bob) is a PhD physicist whose career has spanned academia, government and private industry. As a faculty member of the Department of Physics at the University of Tennessee, a Branch Chief at the United States Department of Energy and Vice President of an American International Group Company, his scientific endeavors include radiation physics, environmental research, environmental insurance and nanotechnology.

Originally from the East Coast, Bob was seduced by his sons and their families (and the California weather) to leave Washington, DC after retiring in 2010. While recovering from culture shock, Bob found many outlets to reconcile his eclectic interests. As a member of Senior Scholars for over six years he continues to take courses in a myriad of subjects ranging from film to art history to brain science and finds great intellectual and social rewards in Senior Scholars and the Plato Society.

As a latent artist, he sketches scenes about town once a week with an artist friend from his college days and is attempting to learn to play the electric guitar.

On moving to Los Angeles, he found Tom Jacobson, another recent transplant. They became great friends and decided to explore their new town together leading to over 113 sites in our city. Dubbed “LA Fridays with Bob and Tom” they are happy to share their experiences with others.

Bob lives in Brentwood with Phyllis, his wife of 56 years, an education policy executive. They have two sons and four grandchildren, one of whom plays a guitar a lot better than Bob.




Thomas (Tom) is an attorney who practiced trial and constitutional law in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born in 1938 in Bamberg Germany, he was one of the youngest passengers on the ill-fated voyage of the Damned, the SS St. Louis, turned away from Cuba in 1939.

Tom represented local civil rights activists and Dick Gregory and twice argued cases successfully in the United States Supreme Court. In 1970 he was the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General.

Retiring in 2008, he and wife, Peggy, moved to California to join their two sons and four grandchildren, and enjoy the warm weather.

Tom has kept busy as a member of Senior Scholars and Plato for the last six years keeping his brain stimulated and active. Yoga and swimming have kept his body in shape.