Thousand Buddha Temple and Massachusetts Budhi Siksa Society

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 July 2018.

Phone: 617-773-7745
[flickr_set id="72157621939302390"] History Before 1990, Pure Land Buddhists living in Quincy had to travel to New York City to attend services in Cantonese. When Rev. Sik Kuan Yen and her teacher Rev. Sik Wing Sing visited the Quincy area from Hong Kong, they were surprised by this and decided that a temple in the school of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism would greatly benefit the area. Inspired by her teacher, Kuan Yen moved to Quincy and began to establish what has become the second largest Chinese Buddhist temple in New England. She formed the Massachusetts Budhi Siksa Society, Inc. (MBSSI) in 1990 and began hosting services from home in a residential neighborhood in Quincy. As more and more people began to attend services, participate in festivities and join the activities of the Temple, neighbors started to complain, even bringing court cases against the temple. Kuan Yen and her community decided to relocate-a process that took over three years. After looking at more than sixty locations, they settled on a former church hall in a commercially zoned location just outside Quincy Center. The community established the Thousand Buddha Temple in 1996 under the auspices of the umbrella organization, MBSSI. When the temple opened its doors in July of that year, the large dedication celebration splashed the headlines of The Boston Globe. According to the coverage, more than 2,000 people attended the festivities for the opening of the temple. The temple is named for the more than one thousand Buddha statues that encircle the main meditation hall. These represent the people who donated money and time to build the temple. The Boston Globe quoted then-spokeswoman Mylissa Tsai as saying that the building would have cost up to $700,000 if volunteers and donors had not pitched in (1). Today, Kuan Yen adds that these thousand Buddhas are symbolic of the Buddha-nature in each person. They are intended to serve as inspirational models to practitioners. Activities and Schedule Pure Land Buddhism is part of Mahayana Buddhism (the Great Vehicle). Generally, Mahayanists “believe the Buddha is not only historical but also eternal and cosmic, manifesting in a threefold body: the spiritual body, rewarding body and transformation body" (2). Within this tradition, the Pure Land school emphasizes faith and devotion to Amida Buddha with the goal of being reborn in the Pure Land-an ideal place where Amida Buddha exists (Amida literally means “infinite life and light” and, in the Mahayana tradition, Amida Buddha is the “manifestation of oneness”) (3). The Pure Land is “an environment wholly designed to foster one's ability to ultimately achieve liberation” (4). Practice within this tradition generally includes chanting, meditation, vows and Dharma teachings (Buddhist teachings). Each of these is a part of the ritual life of the Thousand Buddha Temple. Today, the Thousand Buddha Temple is home to four nuns who, with the help of numerous volunteers, run the daily operations of the temple. On Saturdays and Sundays, the temple hosts meditations and offers Buddhist teachings. The primary weekly service is on Sundays at 9:30am until noon and concludes with a community vegetarian meal. The average attendance on Sundays ranges from 30-40 people. Until recently, the temple offered a nursery where they taught Buddhism to children during the services. As of June 2006, the number of children has outgrown that space. Working to remedy a problem they are happy to have, the temple purchased land and a building across the street which the temple plans to turn into a larger space for teaching Buddhism to children. The temple hosts seven to eight big occasions a year. The biggest celebrations are the Buddha's Birthday and the Chinese New Year. Close seconds are the celebrations for four Bodhisattvas (Bodhisattva literally means “wisdom body" - this refers to a being who helps others reach enlightenment). One event is planned for four of the Bodhisattvas--one represents wisdom, another compassion, a third hope and a fourth action. The number of participants swells to 200-400 during these celebrations. In June 2006, the Thousand Buddha Temple celebrated its ten-year anniversary and the MBSSI its sixteenth. The community commemorated these two events with seven days of chanting. The Thousand Buddha Temple is also home to a rather extensive library of books and resources about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings, which includes a study space. Approximately 20% of the books are in English and the rest are in Cantonese. The library includes books of Tripitaka (the Pure Land Buddhist canon of scriptures) and offers informational and instructional books for members of the temple to take home for personal study. Demographics Approximately 1,600 families are members of the Thousand Buddha Temple. The temple sends a quarterly newsletter out to keep all of the members up-to-date. The majority of attendees at the Temple are immigrants from Mainland China and Hong Kong. The director reports that they also have participants who hail from Thailand, Vietnam and other South Asian countries. The Sunday services, temple signs and the temple's newsletter are primarily in Cantonese (though translators are generally on hand for the larger occasions, like the Buddha's Birthday). Most of the members live in the Quincy area, but there are also several people who come from Connecticut to participate in the life of the temple. Temple Leadership The temple's director is Rev. Sik Kuan Yen, who was also its founder. She keeps tabs on the daily operations of the Temple and relies heavily on the help of the four nuns and volunteers. Her teacher and inspiration for the Temple, Rev. Sik Wing Sing, lives in Hong Kong. While old age and deteriorating health precludes him from frequent visits to Quincy, Kuan Yen relies on him for advice and his authority is trusted by members of the temple. Despite this, Kuan Yen is quick to note that the temple cannot be run by one person and requires the work of everyone involved. While he does not have a formal leadership role, Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa, a monk from Malaysia who recently finished university in England, currently works from and with the temple. He is in the midst of research of perceptions about Buddhism in the U.S. and Buddhist philosophy. Around the temple, Dhammadipa serves as a teacher, offering a small group meditation meeting during the week. He also assists Kuan Yen and the other nuns as a translator. IntraBuddhist and Interfaith Work In May 2003, the Thousand Buddha Temple joined many other Buddhist communities in Boston to participate in a city-wide celebration of the Buddha's Birthday. Kuan Yen commented that while all of the local Buddhist temples function independently, the members of each community help each other and attend one another's temples. Since September 11, 2001, Rev. Sik Kuan Yen has been invited to participate in interfaith forums and has helped organize prayer groups. Additionally, she has been invited to several churches to give talks about Buddhism. In turn, she has invited members of churches to visit the temple. She believes that each religion works for the good of society on the whole and that makes cooperation between religions important. Though Kuan Yen is interested in continued participation in interfaith dialogue and interreligious exchanges, the language barrier is a major obstacle to further work of this kind. Endnotes Note: This profile incorporates a temple tour and interviews with Rev. Sik Kuan Yen and the Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa that took place 29 June 2006. Translation from Cantonese to English was done by Rodney Yeoh & Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa. 1. Kelly, Omar. “Rejoicing in Quincy: Buddhists Dedicate a Temple after Six Years of Struggle.” The Boston Globe. 29 July 1996: B6. 2. Zhu, Ciafang. “United Celebration of the Buddha's Birthday (2003)". Pluralism Project Report. Accessed 29 June 2006. 3. Seager, Richard Hughes. Buddhism in America. Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series. Columbia University: New York; 1999: 66. 4. Seager, 64.