If you feel your questing for enlightenment needs a pilgrimage to a remote area where the miracle of giant Buddha statues are placed randomly at the end of a narrow windy mountain road, then look no further than the Lieu Quan Meditation Center out in Warner Springs.
I had been out there before but wanted the experience to be fresh for the readership, so I dragged my roommate early Thursday morning for a road trip to see this sacred site. We were going to go early enough to watch the sunrise there, but it occurred to me that the roads are super dark and winding as the ascent is over 3,000 feet and the gate that leads to the center may not be open at that hour, so we waited till about 5:30 a.m. to head out before it got too hot.
It takes about two hours from Oceanside to get to the locale, and the GPS stops a little ahead of actually arriving, so keep going until you see a row of brick pillars with carved lions on them. Then be prepared to stand in amazement as you scan the horizon and view the largest Buddha sculptures in America. Intermittently spaced and peeking through oak and pine trees that adorn the parcel of land that makes up the monastery, this day was fresh from the obvious flash floods and it occurred to me that this special place is yet another powerful spiritual vortex and it was only enhanced by the fresh smell of sage and pine, cool sand underfoot.
It’s a totally random place with no signs or instructions but to walk in and make your way to stand before these stunning giant statues. How did they get there? Why are they here? Attitude changes from giddy to resolute; talkative to silent reverence. Awe may be the better word. An overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration is produced by this grand, sublime and powerful silent retreat center.
That must be the effect that Lieu Quan’s founder, the visionary monk Reverend Thich Nguyen Dat had been going for when he envisioned creating this tranquil meditation center in a beautiful scenic area that gently demands one take the time to contemplate. When we set out to experience the center, we were consciously preparing for a time of tranquility and that in itself creates a certain peace that then vibrates out to the world from this Buddhist Culture Center. The monastery opened in 2000 to give people an opportunity to do just that — enjoy a peaceful place to commune with nature and reflect on the Buddha’s teachings. Everyone is welcome here, regardless of religion.
The statues represent the four stages of Buddha’s life from birth to enlightenment some 2,500 years ago. The Reclining Buddha (Nirvana) Statue is one of the largest such statues in the United States. It stretches a magnificent 46 feet long, reaching up to 10 feet high. The Enlightenment Buddha Statue towers up to 20 feet high and is 10 feet wide; the Wheel of Dharma Buddha Statue is 25 feet high, 12 feet wide and weighs in at 245,000 pounds; and the Maitreya Bodhisattva is 14 feet high and 10 feet wide. People are tempted to climb up onto the statues, but please maintain respect for this sacred space so it remains intact for future generations to visit and enjoy.
We all have a Buddha nature within us. Each of us is seeking enlightenment in some way since time began. All the great thinkers, saints, and Bodhisattvas have had or attained spiritual knowledge or insight mostly by spending time in nature and contemplating God. Each simple yet majestic, elegant hand-carved statue causes one to reflect just long enough to ponder the meaning of life. Each statue is a vast forest unto itself. And just like the great Buddha, once we discovered this, we had to share it with you, our readers.
You don’t need to be a Buddhist to appreciate the beauty and meaning of each of these carvings. They are a reminder of the quest. A reminder to be still and know. That the truth is and always has been within. Where the fire stirs in the soul.
Lieu Quan Meditation Center is located at 31130 Chihuahua Valley Road in Warner Springs, California.
We continue our quest next edition with a visit to the historical Integratron with an overnight at Boulders Hideaway in Joshua Tree.
Susan “Sully” Sullivan is a Spiritually Conscious Realtor with Windermere Homes and Estates in Carlsbad Village.