Only sixty miles northeast of the commotion of the earth’s most preoccupied city, sits a tranquil and peaceful getaway in the rolling hills of Carmel, NY. The Chuang Yen Monastery is a peaceful respite for Buddhists and those interested in a tranquil location for sitting, walking and transcendental meditation.
The specific reason for our visit sits in the center of the Buddhist Association of the United State’s 125 acres – what we’ve heard is a beautiful 37 foot statue of the Buddha Vairocana. Vairocana in the Mahayana doctrine of the Buddhist face refers to the cosmic embodiment, or enlightened soul, of the historical Guatama Buddha.
We exited our car, and walked through the quiet stillness of the Bodhi path on our way to the Great Buddha Hall. The term Bodhi literally means “to awaken,” and this path is meant to symbolize the path taken by Buddhist to reach enlightenment. You pass by 18 statues, and followers are reminded of the 8-fold path.
At the head of the path is the Great Buddha Hall, also known as the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. After removing our shoes, we quietly entered the great hall. Its ceilings are nearly 80 feet high and the centerpiece is the stark white, 37 foot Buddha sitting on a large lotus flower and surrounded by 10,000 individual Buddhas, each facing the Big Buddha in the center. After gawking for a few moments and snapping a few pictures, we walked to the front of the building.
We were met by a huge stack of free-distribution books. Being a student of the Buddhist faith, I chose four interesting titles, left $20 in the donation bucket and gave the Buddha one last respect before we walked out to our awaiting shoes.
The place is truly inspiring. A highlight of the trip.