THE HISTORY AND REASONS FOR ESTABLISHING AMIDA SOCIETY
In the early 20th Century, the late great lay Buddhist teacher, Xia Lian-Ju, called for Buddhists of the Pure Land School to establish Amida Society Organizations all over the world. Decades later, Venerable Master (VM) Chin-Kung realized Mr. Xia’s will, and began opening centers in the United States. Under the instruction of VM Chin-Kung, the Amida Society in California was established and registered on January 8, 1990 as a religious nonprofit corporation as described in Section 501(c)(3), 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(i) of the Internal Revenue Code, and Code Section 23701d (Church) of the Revenue and Taxation Code of the State of California. This is an organization of lay practitioners of Pure Land Buddhism that focuses on recitation of the name of Amida (Amitabha) Buddha.
Amida Society uses a 13,000-square foot, 2-story temple building on an 18,000-square foot property on Cloverly Avenue at Las Tunas Drive in the downtown area of Temple City, Southern California, across Ralph’s supermarket. The temple has been open to the public 7 days a week since September 1997 at this location. Regular group practices of Buddha name recitation/chanting and sutra study classes separately take place in two spacious halls on the ground floor of the temple. Both halls take the basic, upright shape of a square and are suitably decorated to express adornment of the Dharma. They provide a superb environment for chanting meditation practices and sutra study. The second floor of the temple is used as a library, storage of dharma treasures, and general office and computer functions. The library has accumulated over 10,000 volumes of Buddhist sutras, literature, and related publications, as well as audio/visual recordings of dharma lectures by VM Chin-Kung and others. All library materials are provided to the public for free.
Amida Society is solely devoted to the practice and promulgation of Pure Land Buddhism. Regarding personal practice, the primary goal is rebirth in the Western Pure Land of Amida Buddha. Personal practice places equal emphasis on understanding sutra teachings and chanting Amida Buddha’s name. Regarding promulgation of the Dharma, our mission is to plant the seeds of the Pure Land Dharma and foster true harmony and happiness in society and the world through our spiritual merits and moral conduct. To these ends, Amida Society currently dedicates all Wednesdays to group chanting practice in seven sessions from 5:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Similarly, the last Sunday of each month is dedicated to group chanting practice in five sessions from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. In addition, regular group chanting practice and sutra studies are scheduled every Saturday, beginning at 12:45 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Attendance of the group chanting practices and sutra study classes averages 100 people. Lastly, Amida Society also hosts one or two large scale, 3-day or 7-day group chanting events each year. Participants in these annual events have reached 300 people.
Sutra study classes include:
Promulgation of the Pure Land Dharma is primarily achieved by massive, free circulation of various dharma educational materials, including: scriptures, commentaries, and essays in books; various beautiful hanging pictures of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and other printed religious matters; recorded seminars and speeches on sutras by VM Chin-Kung and others on CD and DVD; electronic players of Buddha name chanting; wrist and neck mala; and desk-top statues of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the temple, in various community events, and by mailing to fulfill out-of-town requesters. Additionally, all educational materials and information on Amida Society’s activities are published on the society’s internet website, amtb-la.org. Every year, Amida Society also organizes events for the release of captive and to-be-slaughtered animals such as fish, crabs, etc., for followers and their friends and relatives to participate in the practice of the virtues of compassion, loving-kindness, and genuine respect for all life forms. The generous giving of dharma materials and life-saving animal release activities represent Amida Society’s commitment to dharma education by deeds.
In recent years, Amida Society has grown in both human and material resources and has been reaching out to the mainstream society of America to build mutual friendships. Beginning in 2002, we have started to generously distribute dharma materials and treasures in the Southern California Buddhist community’s celebration of the birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha and annual Book Festival at UCLA. Our generosity and sincerity to share Buddhist teachings have received high praise in the local American and Chinese communities. Every year since 2004, Amida Society is invited to participate in extra-curriculum study of world religions and cultures by nearly 180 middle school students in Temple City. We provide 4-hour classes to introduce the right views of Buddhism to the young students, their teachers, and parents. It is our hope that these educational outreach activities will contribute in a small way to the big picture of introducing Buddhism to mainstream American society. Amida Society is also involved in philanthropic contributions to local charities such as the Los Angeles Mission, and to residents of Temple City in providing foods and daily life materials to the homeless and many other people in need. We earnestly practice the Buddhist ideals of compassion, equality, and equanimity by serving people and organizations in society that are in need, regardless of their ethnic and religious orientations.
Amida Society is dedicated to giving and abstains from solicitation. We give according to need and our ability, while only accepting recognition as a virtue of generosity. In all times and places, Amida Society strives to serve in accordance with the flow of causes and conditions and avoid exertion in disguise of service. This way, our actions would be in accordance with the Buddhist core values of purity, equality, and equanimity. Additionally, we practice the spirituality of questing as learned from the late VM Yuan Yin, who made 3 quests the center of his spiritual practice — the quest for blessings, the quest for wisdom, and the quest for rebirth in Amida Buddha’s Western Pure Land. It is the goal of the Amida Fellowship that all members attain these three virtuous quests and eventually fulfill the great Bodhisattva vow of returning from the Western Pure Land to benefit all sentient beings. Thus, it is the goal of Amida Society to provide the best possible environment and atmosphere for these attainments.