Amsterdam, famous for its red lights and liberal drug culture, doesn’t immediately come across as a spiritual city. But in fact, it is home to the largest Buddhist temple in Europe – Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple.
Situated in the heart of Chinatown on the Zeedijk stretch, the temple is a gilded gold emblem of timeless beauty and a very special faith. It’s name, derived from the Chinese word for flower, is meant to inspire the local community and visitors to ‘blossom’ with Buddhism.
Entrance is free and all are welcome to alight the blue stone steps that lead a pathway through the temple’s high arches. Literally translated as ‘mountain gate,’ they represent the traditional Buddhist monasteries housed in mountain settings.
Inside, the temple is open and tranquil. The most imposing feature is a shrine dedicated to Avalokitesvara, the bodhisatva of compassion. She is said to have vowed to help others on their path to enlightenment.
Her bronze statue exhibits the many hands characteristic of her legend, each holding a symbolic item. It is at her feet that visitors offer incense and light candles. These items are also available to purchase for a modest price.
Along the temple’s walls are reliefs and engravings dedicated to the building’s benefactors. There is also a meditation room and meeting hall.
This quiet escape from bustling city life is an important part of Amsterdam. A city that lacks a strong religious leaning, this temple reminds that spirituality is always welcome here.