Missed Lunch, Found Peace: Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights

"Who let Vishnu in? Where's security?"
Who let Vishnu in? And where in Buddha's name is security?

I’m going to be honest. I have been salivating to visit the largest Buddhist temple close to my home in Southern California.

Hungering for enlightenment, wisdom and peace.

Delicious Chinese vegetarian food, prepared by monks (who else would prepare them, right?). At bargain prices, according to Yelp!

In an attempt to impress family who visited recently (some of my most favorite people) and grab a delicious lunch in the process, we headed over to the Buddhist Hsi Lai Temple. And no, of course I didn’t tell them about my secret lunch plans. It was going to be a culinary surprise for me. For them, of course.

Here are the facts you need to know about the Buddhist sanctuary in case you show up 2 hours too early for the tour: Temple sits on a 15-acre parcel of land. 20 miles east of Los Angeles. Situated here for about 25 years.

Founded by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun, of Taiwanese descent. Represent!

Established this Buddhist order in 1967. 200 branches worldwide. Ordained more than 1,500 monks and nuns to serve the order. (Don’t fear, I’m not one of them.)

This temple serves as a cultural and spiritual hub of Buddhism for Taiwanese and Chinese Americans in the area. We took an early morning stroll around the temple grounds and soaked up the peaceful energy of this Buddhist sanctuary, some call the largest Buddhist temple in America.

We toured the grounds, snapped many photos and I decided to secretly take on the role of Indiana Jones – on a mission to find the vegetarian lunch!

Bottom line: lunch is only served at 11:30. Life Lesson: Don’t go to a temple without finding out what time food is served!

All we left with was some *&#^@())@@!# peace of mind.

And these photos below. If you’re in the Southern California area, drop by and visit this serene and heartening shrine dedicated to Buddha.

p.s. If you’re picky and have high demands for good quality photos, better check out Annie Hall’s blog, featuring Hsi Lai temple photos.

Get your peace on.




Throw your hands up.
Real women meditate.


Do you visit temples for the food or the spiritual knowledge and wisdom? No…I’m being serious.

Any recommendations of Buddhist temples to visit where you live?  Commenting below will guarantee spiritual realization for you and a person of your choice. Peace 🙂


  1. Gosh! I haven’t thought about food in a temple for …decades! Generally when we are back in Penang, we always go to the Burmese Buddhist temple, although the nearest ‘big’ one is the Thai Buddhist temple in Wimbledon, which is on our to visit list.

    1. Not been to that one Li-Ling but will be spending some time in Penang next year so will put that on my to-visit list. Keep me posted when you do visit the Thai temple in Wimbledon.

      Thanks for your visit.

  2. Ha – there used to be a time when I visited temples solely for the food…. especially the Iskcon ones! They had wonderful Sunday afternoon feasts but you had to sit through the very dry talks on Krishna if you wanted to participate…. 🙂 Thankfully the dancing and singing made up for it. But the Iskcon people used to say themselves that they use the food as a ‘hook’ to get people in through the door. And then slowly, the transformation starts…. 🙂

    1. Yes…I used to also only go for the food…oh, maybe that’s still the case:)

      Dancing and singing at Krishna temples is a really glorious experience. I would almost go for that part of worship without food. Almost:)

      Once our stomach is filled, we can work on our souls, right?!

  3. I visited a Hindu temple years ago when I took a class on the world’s major religions. What an experience!
    Sorry you missed lunch, my friend, but I loved the photos and could sense the peace of this beautiful place.
    Blessings always, Vishnu!

    1. Thanks Martha for your visit. Sounds like an interesting class I wish I could take today. It was a beautiful place indeed and very serene.

  4. There is a small and lovely Kwan Yin temple here in Portland. I went there on my 50th birthday. The monk was so nice and gave me a beaded Kwan Yin bracelet for my birthday.

  5. You might not have found lunch Vishnu, but you certainly brought a smile to my face. After all who needs enlightenment, wisdom and peace when there’s food to be had!

    I didn’t realize that Buddhist temples served food. But I think your photos are wonderful, next time I’m in LA I’ll try and fit in a trip around 11.30 you say. Hmmm.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Elle. We gotta eat before we can have self-realization:) Yes, 11:30 is about right – you can go early to stroll around the temple as well. Of course, if you’re going, please allow me to join you:)

  6. Hi Vishnu,

    This temple looks beautiful and the photos you shared were great.

    Your question at the end got me thinking about last Sunday when I went to Hindu temple for some bhajans. Not only did I gain some spiritual insights, but I was also fed as well. So, it was a win-win all round! 🙂

  7. There’s this beautiful Hindu temple in Bangalore,India that I visit, never fails to bring me a sense of peace, but must confess I kinda time my visits to coincide with their evening prasad, just the yummiest hot vadai(Fried savory fritters)…salivating just thinking abt it!

    1. Anu, thankfully I know what vadais are and have eaten hundreds of them in my life. I’m salivating about the evening prasad now. Actually, I’m getting hungry – I think it’s time for dinner:)

  8. That’s a really cool temple Vishnu. I may not be actively practicing any religion, but I’m constantly seeking out new perspectives on life. I haven’t made it out to southern California yet, but I will be headed to Thailand in 2014 and I’m sure I’ll get to experience some great temples.

    I really like your writing style btw – it’s fun and entertaning all the way through 🙂

    1. Definitely! MOst beautiful Buddhist temples in Thailand. Keep us updated on your travels and the culinary delights:)

  9. NICE!! This reminds me of the Hindu temple I love to hit up in Malibu… good times every time. And I actually snagged lunch once too… great prices, great food, great cafeteria lighting..:)

    1. I’m going to be going there soon Bjorn and will be updating with photos. No, not simply because you mentioned the delicious cuisine and bargain prices 🙂

  10. Wonderful pictures of the temple, Vishnu. Too bad you missed lunch! It is always fun to find the sanctuaries that are hidden away that can provide a little calm in our lives. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’ve never been to a temple but the one you mentioned might be worth checking out, for the experience and food:)

    1. Dan, if you’re ever in the area, you know who to call! You’ll get the tour of your life. Let’s go at 10:30ish shall we say:)?

  12. Wow, commenting guarantees me and one other spiritual realisation?! I’d better get commenting more so I can save the world 😉

    I had lunch today in a Hare Krishna temple cafe in Soho London. It’s attached to the temple but still charges quite high amounts, normal prices for London. I went there purely for the food and was honestly a little scared to enter the temple. Apparently they do vegetarian feasts and welcoming for newcomers in the temple on Sundays, so I am going to head back one day – to get a dose of the spiritual experience plus the food.

    Food made with love and devotion elevates your consciousness, just as pretty much Anything in life done/ made with love does. There are many ways to grow spiritually 🙂


    1. Thanks for sharing SSS and your welcome on the realisation part 🙂 I’m sure you had a delicious lunch as Hare Krishna temples have the best food ever! You should definitely go on Sundays – the music and singing truly is a divine experience. “Food made with love elevates your consciousness” – quote of the year for me:)

  13. Dude, it’s scary how eerily similar we are. I went to that EXACT SAME temple for the EXACT SAME reason!!!

    Fortunately, I did manage to score lunch there. However, even though it was set out buffet style, it had all these signs talking about how you should only eat until you were filled and being content with just enough. I was almost too embarrassed to go back for seconds.

    Almost. 🙂

    1. haha there’s nothing wrong with us Jammie! you can’t find peace and realization until you’re no longer hungry!

      I love the signs encouraging you to eat less. I would have felt embarrassed too because I would have gone back for seconds! As you did 🙂

      Another reason now for me to go back to this temple!

  14. We have a Buddhist temple at the end of our street and I have not visited it yet inside. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to.

    I love the images that you shared… is that all there is inside? I think the design is generic in all temples… Well, the food, I didn’t know they serve food.

    But what i remember was my parents and my sister visiting a temple in Thailand [if I’m not mistaken]. They were given bread to feed the fishes. They didn’t understand that it was for the fishes and thought it was for snack, hahaha…so they began eating the bread and was later reprimanded by the tourist guide, lol.

    Anyways, back to your story, I hope you find what you’re looking for next time you visit a temple 😛

    1. Melissa – most Buddhist temples are open to the public. You should 1) inquire if it is 2) find out when lunch is 3) find out what they’re serving and 4) attend when you have some time. lol

      Glad you enjoyed the photos. Unlike other Buddhist temples, this temple was quite large! And the story about your family feeding themselves versus the fishes sounds like something I’d do.

      I hope I find realization, and a full buffet the next time I go back.

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