Fire in 2017
Since taking over the property in October 2017, we have experienced many trials and tribulations.
Before we took over, this place had been abandoned for many years. Many buildings and equipment were heavily damaged and decayed. Every roof was leaking. The place was covered with stinky garbage, animal corpses, feces, and moldy carpets. The smashed walls and wastes were all piled up. The Master led his disciples in an arduous struggle to protect the environment. It took nearly a year to clean up the mess which filled more than 30 rented garbage containers.
While facing extremely difficult situations that average people can hardly imagine, we have worked very hard to build this homeland of peace and great love. Although it was a tiring process both physically and mentally, our efforts are worthwhile. We felt so happy and relieved at seeing this formerly smelly, derelict wilderness becoming cleaner and beautiful by the day.
Just as we had completed both the planning and design and were ready for vigorously pushing ahead with the construction project, Jinyin Temple encountered an unexpected fire. The old event center, which had been planned as the Main Prayer Hall after renovation to accommodate up to 3,000 visitors praying at the same time was razed to the ground overnight. In addition to the total destruction of the original building, 13 boxes of Buddhist decorative artpieces inlaid with precious stones, over 100pieces of mahogany furniture, a bronze bell, many books and papers, numerous paintings and calligraphic works, a painting and calligraphy mounting machine, Mandala Vajra statues unique to Sino Esoteric Buddhism, more than 500 chairs, air conditioners, audio equipment and a large quantity of building materials were destroyed. This colossal damage upset the entire plan. All these precious materials had all been donated by devout believers from all over the world.This loss was extremely grievous and painful for us.
The fire accident prevented us from pushing ahead with this renovation project under the original design plan. First, we must find experts to redesign a new prayer hall. Second, the ruin demolition cost us a lot of money, energy and time. Third, as all the construction materials donated by believers worldwide had been burnt down, it would take much longer to organize additional fundraising. Last but not least, after the fire, we communicated and negotiated with the insurance company about the claim settlement as soon as possible. To date, we have yet to receive the payment from our insurance claim. This has directly affected the redesign and construction processes of the Praying Hall and delayed the opening of Jinyin Temple as a whole to the public. With these challenges, we are already facing serious financial hardships.
In addition, we have encountered an even more difficult situation. When registering Jinyin Temple, we applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) as a non-profit organization. Ours is a temple devoted to spread the Buddha's great love and wisdom. Although the temple satisfies the basic requirements of a religious public charity, we are now facing the possibility of a hefty tax for unified schools as well as other taxes──this is completely beyond our imagination.
Even worse, we just learned that we have been heavily charged for the use of the sewage system on the construction site the moment we bought the property, and under the previous resort classification. As of now, the EDU cost is running as high as nearly $80,000 dollars! As we are not open to the public yet, there are simply no large numbers of visitors to use these wage pipes and bring pressure on the civic sewage system. The charge is utterly unreasonable since it does not reflect the realities. This is heartbreaking to us.
Furthermore, there were two buildings one of which was dismantled in early 2018; the other structure with 3000-people capacity destroyed in the fire. Now that the buildings don’t exist anymore and are therefore not taxable, but the local government is still levying tax on us for them! As new comers here, we did not know the local policies well and there were no friendly reminders from the local competent departments. This has cost us and is still continuing to cost us a lot of resources──in human, material and financial terms. These experiences came as a shock to us.
We applied for local property tax exemption but the communication process has been difficult. We have been having good interactions with our neighbors and institutions in the local community, which has helped establish friendship based on mutual understanding. They all welcomed our move to bring the wisdom and love of the Buddha and the profound Mandala culture here. We have also had regular exchanges with the local faith organizations as we view this as a good way for us to understand the community and learn from other community members. For example, recently we attended a multi-religion forum under the theme of “How to eliminate violence, hatred, fear, and discrimination between different religions, races and cultures, and how to strengthen mutual understanding." The mission of Jinyin Temple is very much aligned with the philosophy of all participants. Everybody there was very friendly and welcoming to us.
What surprised and puzzled us is the vastly different attitude shown by the hearing committee from that of the local residents. The hearing committee members did not seem to welcome us. We fail to understand that, if the hearing can't represent the interests and opinions of the residents, then whose interests does it represent? Why did the hearing choose to ignore the myriad of efforts we have made and even deliberately avoid them? If they only focus on the immediate economic benefits from a new resident, it is sheer short-sightedness and doesn’t show any tolerance or an open mind. Such an unfair treatment has greatly impacted our efforts to integrate into the local community.
We have cleaned up the garbage, beautified the environment, repaired the buildings, fixed the leaks, replaced the equipment, opened the temple, prayed for good blessings, displayed art and participated in cultural exchanges. We have made a huge investment here out of great sincerity. This, we believe, is also beneficial for the local government and residents. In return, we’ve got neither support nor understanding. If you put yourself in our shoes, how would you feel? Therefore, the application of tax exemption for Jinyin Temple is not only a matter of money──it is a matter of trust, a matter of dignity, and a matter of respect.
We come here not to dig gold mines, not to do real estate operations, not to open a restaurant, not to manage a hotel, but to spread the spirit of kindness and compassion, to promote world peace with people here. We are looking forward to building this location into a center of meditation, a center of culture, a center of pilgrimage, a center of great attraction, and a center of world peace that brings sustained and substantive support for the development of tourism, culture, and economy in this region.
To achieve this objective, for more than a year we have made tremendous efforts and put in huge investments, including, but not limited to, the property purchase cost, deed tax, building maintenance, demolition and cleaning for the burnt down building, exterior/interior decoration, fire alarm system, overall planning, and Buddha sculptures.