A Brief Introduction to Little Potalaka Meditation Park
The Chinese “Pu-to-shan” is a shortened sound translation of Potalaka (Potala or Potaraka) in Sanskrit. The correct sound translation in Chinese should be “Potalaka Shan (Mount).” It is supposed to be the shrine sacred to the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin (Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit). Potalaka literally means “bushes of light,” because the Mount is characterized by many bushes with fragrant white blossoms and eternal boundless light. The name is attributed to the Bodhisattva to honor His “Boundless Light of Great Compassion” as well as “Enlightening the sentient beings with unlimited ways.” The Mount is known for its bushes of light and thus is named Mount of Light, Mount of Little White Blossoms, or Mount of Magnificent Bushes. In ancient Sanskrit, Potalaka also means “boat” or “harbor,” which means Potalaka is not far away from some harbor, or an island near some harbor. Hence, legend has it that the Mount is located somewhere off Southern Indian coast. It is abundant with rare treasure, unique rocks, springs, ponds and pools—a magnificent pure land blessed with brooding fog and vapor, green trees lining around, fragrant flowers and blossoms, and sparkling abundant fruits. It is also a resort for a lot of sages and saints. On top of the Mount is a crystal pond flooded with water that becomes a winding river around the Mount and runs down the south of the Mount into the sea. Beside the pond is the Bodhisattva-creating Stony Palace, where the Bodhisattva dwells. Those who desire to see the Bodhisattva have to make a great vow for undertaking a challenging journey full of risks characterized by dangerous mounts and waters. In Flower Adorment Sutra, Sudhana is said to travel into the Mount to pay homage to the Bodhisattva during his quest for wisdom around the South. Several Mahayana Buddhist Scriptures such as Amitabha Buddha’s Great Thinking Sutra and Great Dharani (Great Compassion Mantra) Sutra were supposed to be lectured in this Stony Palace.
The construction of the Park started in 1992 and was completed on August 15th (in the lunar calendar) the next year. The design of the Park, as it is rightly named, is mainly based on Potalaka, and the cosmology of The Lotus Sutra as well as some theories of Tien-Tai School, aiming to visualize the wonderful state of how the Bodhisattva employs His perfect wisdom to benefit the sentient beings as well as to illuminate for the spectators the ideal of One-Buddhayana in The Lotus Sutra. Ultimately, the spectators will be hereby inspired to a zeal for learning Tien-Tai School. Therefore, all objects and scenes in the Park have their symbolic meanings, such as statues of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, hymns, unique rocks, waterfalls, springs, ponds, mini-bridges, winding paths, pavilions, and caves. Strolling around the Park, the visitors could experience a sense of wonder while tracing some tree-lined paths that lead to other spectacular and ethereal scenes, climbing up to a site for overlooking the Park, crossing some paths with their heads lowered, or ascending some paths with their eyes looking up. As far as they could see are green grasslands embroidered with various flowers, bushes, and trees, and colorful carps swimming in the ponds embellished with blooming lotus, and rare birds sitting on unique perches. The whole landscape in the Park displays a labyrinthine view that creates some magic microcosmic visual effect for the visitors while they are ascending and descending the winding paths. The scenes are sometimes evading and blurring as the spectators walk around. People can easily fall into state of sublime or serenity by indulging themselves in the fragrance of the blossoms and flowers, the scent of trees and bushes, singing of insects and birds, or the murmuring sound of the waterfalls and springs, while gazing at the clouds floating over the mountains in the distance. Unconsciously, the spectators seem to be initiated into the essence of the Dharma, which manifests itself at every site and every scene in the Park. The Park is thus truly a blessed land of meditation and spiritual purification.
The Park extends from the gate of the Monastery to Bodhisattva Abode, with an area of approximately 3.6 acres. Its main scenes of special tourist attraction are listed as follows: 24 Unique Mounts, Purgation Pond, Precious-Ball Rock, Earthliness-Purging Bridge, Wonderful Lotus Pond, Buddhahood Cave, Sutra-Bowing Pavilion, Five-Flavor Peak, Vulture Peak Platform, Threefold-Truth Rock, Three-Insight Bridge, Hundred-Suchness-Realm Cave, Thousand-Suchness Cave, Perfect Wisdom Pavilion, Mind-Observing Pond, Herbal Land, Unlimited Enlightening-Access Path, Manifested Realm, Dharma-Teaching State, Three-Saint Cliff, Nirvana Path, Six Bodhisattva-Stage Pavilion, Initiation Way, Prajñ? Boat, Kuan-Yin with Dragon-Head, etc. Visitors to the Park can either take the short-cut by proceeding to Heavenly Falling-Flower Hall that leads to the Main Hall of the Monastery, or stroll through the whole Park. Meanwhile, they could try to stop by a serene site in the Park according to their preference to do a short meditation. And this is why this Park is named “Meditation Park.” No matter which path the visitors take, the short journey around the Park could become a preliminary pilgrimage in which the visitors cultivate a sentiment of revere toward the Buddha/Dharma/Sangha before they finally proceed to the Main Hall. Hence, the Park happens to offer a good access to transforming the delusion caused by six fields of senses into a motivation for undertaking spiritual cultivation and benefiting the sentient beings. Hopefully, all the visitors to the Park are well motivated and full of revere to start a quest for the blessed Bodhisattva land so as to consummate the Buddhahood.
Winter, 2000 (2553, in the Buddhist Calendar)
Tien-tai Bhikkhu, Shih Fa-tsang