Buddhist Holy Places

The Nilajan River

Prince Siddhartha sought enlightenment through many years of ascetic life. Despite undergoing such hardships as limiting his diet to one grain of barley a day, he was unable to find enlightenment. At the age of thirty-one, he decided to renounce his futile asceticism and went to the Nile Jan River to wash away the dirt on his body. There he accepted food offered to him by a shepherdess named Sujata. After meditating for forty-nine days at Gaya Hill under the Bodhi tree, he finally became enlightened.

The cave of ascetic practice – Snow Mountain

Prior to the Buddha’s full enlightenment, he diligently practiced an ascetic life in a cave on Snow Mountain. Gradually reducing his food intake until his body became so weak and emaciated that his sinews and bones showed. As he was unable to find full enlightenment by practicing austerity in this way, he began to take food to regain his strength.

The Enlightenment Stupa (The Great Stupa of Bodhagaya)

The Enlightenment Stupa was built with bricks and stones and has undergone various rebuilds over many years. The four small stupas on the four corners at the top, date back to the 14th century approximately and were erected by Burmese builders. The oldest Buddha stupa can be traced back to the early Gupta period.

The Vairasana (The Diamond Seat)

To commemorate the place in Boddhagaya where the Buddha attained full enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, a Vajrasana (Diamond seat) was erected. According to what is said, two hundred and fifty years after the Buddha’s passing, King Asoka went to pay homage to the holy remains and erected a temple beside the tree. He erected a diamond to illustrate the diamond-like firmness and sharpness of the Buddha’s meditative contemplation and wisdom practiced under the Bodhi tree; a practice which could cut off all defilements and produce full illumination. Now all that remains are the remnants of a rebuilt version of the Diamond Seat dating back to a later period of time.


Bodhgaya is six miles south of the town of Gaya. The Buddha attained full enlightenment there under a Bodhi tree. This place is the most important center for Buddhists going on a pilgrimage. The tree has been replaced three times, the present one, being the fourth generation, is located near a stone railing and a temple.


The site where the Buddha gave his first sermon to his first five disciples was at Sarnath (Deer Park). The location is marked with a stone Buddha sculpture from the Gupta period (5th century) and represents the refinement and elegance of all the Indian Buddha images. The Buddha is sitting in full lotus posture on the Dharma seat and is holding his two hands in front of his breast, one hand opposite the other. Between the fingers, there is the characteristic mark of the Buddha, namely the formation of a Web (all the Buddhas possess thirty-two specific marks, and this is one of them). In the center of the lower part of the precious seat is a carving of the Dharma wheel which symbolizes the Buddha expounding the Dharma. On both sides, there are the five Bhikshus and two followers, a mother and a son. In front of the Dharma wheel is a pair of crouching deer indicating that the place where this happened was Deer Park.


The Buddha stayed in this place for many years and preached some of the most important sermons there. The LOTUS SUTRA being one of them.

Jetavana Vihara

The Jetavana Vihara was in ancient Sravasti. It was built by the elder Anathapindika and offered by him to the Buddha. Now it has become a public park where the Bodhi tree, the foundations of the monastery, the stupa of the Buddha, and other structures still remain. In recent times, the site of the Jetavana Vihara has undergone excavation. Buildings dating from the time of the Gupta kings of the first century up to the tenth century have been unearthed.


”Bamboo Grove”. A Monastery and park constructed by King Bimbisara for Bhikkus are situated at Rajagaha.


This is the place where the famous Buddhist University came into existence. The Buddha visited this place in the course of His last journey.

Kushinagar– The place where the Buddha entered into Parinirvana

Kushinagar is approximately fifty-five miles east of Gorakhpur in present day India. It was the place where the Buddha entered into Parinirvana at the age of eighty. His mortal remains were burned outside of Kushinagar. After the Buddha’s passing into Nirvana, a stupa was built there to worship the relics of the Buddha. This Nirvana stupa was rebuilt by Burmese Buddhists in 1927. An image of the Buddha entering into Parinirvana was created during the Gupta period in the fifth century. It was later buried until it was excavated in 1876 and refurbished. The image is 18 feet long and is now worshiped in the Nirvana Hall later built at Kushinagar. The head of the image is facing west, its body is clad in a yellow robe and is resting on a great marble stone. Each year, many Buddhists visit Kushinagar on their pilgrimage.

Pippala Cave—The collection and fixing of the Buddhist Canon

Four months after the Buddha’s passing into Paranirvana, the first assembly gathered to recite and collect the scriptures for the fixing of the Buddhist Canon. Six assemblies for the creation or revision of the canon were recorded; the first was at the Pippala Cave near Rajagrha under Ajatasatru. The notable three disciples to whom the reciting was attributed were Kasyapa for the Abhidharma, Ananda for the Sutra, and Upali for the Vinaya.

Buddha & Bodhisattvas


Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. After 500 previous incarnations, Sakyamuni finally attained to the state of Bodhisattva, was born the son of Suddhodana, of the kshatriya caste, ruler of Kapilavastu. In the search for truth, he left home, severely disciplining himself and became an ascetic. Finally at the age of 35, under a tree, he realized that the way of release from the chain of rebirth and death lay not in asceticism but in moral purity through wisdom and compassion – the “middle way.” He founded his community on the basis of poverty, chastity, and insight or meditation, and it became known as Buddhism.


The Buddha of boundless light or life. An imaginary being unknown to ancient Buddhism, possibly of Persian or Iranian origin, who has become the most popular divinity in the Mahayana Teaching. His name indicates an idealization rather than a historic personality, the idea of eternal light and life. The origin and date of the concept are unknown, but he has always been associated with the west, where in his Pure Land, Sukhavati, he receives with unbounded happiness those who call upon his name. This is consequent on his forty-eight vows, especially the eighteenth, in which he vows to refuse Buddhahood until he has saved all living beings to the Pure Land, except those who had committed the five unpardonable sins, or are guilty of blasphemy against the faith.


Maitreya, “The Friendly and Benevolent One” or “One who possesses loving-kindness” is widely adored by the Chinese Buddhists for his willingness to grant help to those who direct their minds towards him. He is also known as Ajita, ‘the Unconquered’ and ranks equally with the other great Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Mahasthamaprata, and Ksitigarbha. As the next Buddha-to-be, he alone enjoys the distinction of being the only Bodhisattva recognized and popularly accepted by both Mahayana and Theravada countries.


Mahavairocana (Sanskrit name) is a Buddha honored by the esoteric school of Buddhism. The name has three meanings:
(1) Elimination of darkness by total illumination. The light of the wisdom of the Buddha constantly illuminates everywhere, irrespective of inside or outside, day or night.
(2) Success in all affairs. The light of wisdom illuminating the whole universe will develop equal infinitely good qualities in all sentient beings and warrant full success in all excellent affairs in and beyond this world.
(3) Light of eternity. The light of the wisdom of the Buddha will not be reduced by ignorance, nor be increased.


BHAISAJYA GURU means Medicine Buddha, who heals all diseases, including the disease of ignorance. His image is often at the left of Sakyamuni Buddha, and he is associated with the East.


Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit name) is commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy who, in the spirit of great compassion, vows to reach out for the salvation of all sentient beings. She and Mahasthamaprata Bodhisattva, being the left and right hands of Amitabha (Buddha of boundless light and life) are jointly referred to as the three Saints of the West. As the regarded of world’s sufferings, all sentient beings who call upon her name will be heard and be liberated from suffering. She had indeed reached a state of utmost freedom without hindrance in respect of wisdom and actions.


Ksitigarbha (Sanskrit name), is the Guardian of the Earth. He vowed to save all sentient beings in the six realms of existence. According to the Ksitigarbha-Sutra, Ksitigarbha should have achieved Buddhahood but in order to devote himself to educate and save all sentient beings, he is willing to remain in the status of Bodhisattva. The Sutra mentions that those who chant his name in great faith, give offerings, or worship his portraits or statues will be relieved from all sorrows and sufferings. They will not regress into evil realms but will be rewarded with ten or twenty-eight kinds of benefits. Ksitigarbha is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism.

MANJUSRI (Budhisattva of Wisdom)

Manjusri (Sanskrit name) is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism. Manjusri and Samantabhadra, being the left and right hands of Sakyamuni Buddha (the founder of Buddhism) represented Buddha-wisdom and Buddha-discernment respectively. He is often depicted riding on a lion, symbolizing strength and courage.


Samantabhadra [Sanskrit name] is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism. Manjusri, often depicted riding on a lion and Samantabhadra, riding on a white elephant, served on the left and right sides of Sakyamuni Buddha [ the Founder of Buddhism] respectively. In the Avatamsaka-Sutra, Chapter 40, the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra were recorded. The tremendous credits of these vows were explained, and all sentient beings, following the guidance of Samantabhadra will be able to reborn in Amitabha’s Western Pureland after death.

Buddhist Terms


The altar supports different images of Buddhas. The arrangement and choice of personages on the altar vary from temple to temple. One often finds Sakyamuni Buddha being side by side the Amitabha Buddha and the Medicine Buddha, the two great Buddhas of past eras. At other times, a single Buddha may be seen seated between his two Bodhisattvas such as Amitabha Buddha with Avalokitesvara (Kuan Yin) and Mahasthamaprata Bodhisattvas. It is common to find altars dedicated only to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, the most compassionate one. At the altar, beside the dharma instruments devout Buddhists offer their prayers. Offerings of incense, candles, flowers, fruits, and other gifts are placed on the table in front of the altar.

Sarira (Relics)

Sarira is relics left after the cremation of a Buddha or saint and are formed as a result of a serious cultivation of precepts, meditation and wisdom during a lifetime. These relics were usually placed in stupas and worshiped, the white representing bones, the black, hair, and the red, flesh. A Sarira-stupa is a reliquary or pagoda for relics.


The sutras in the Tripitaka are the sermons or discourses attributed to the Buddha. Nearly every sutra begins with the words, “Thus as I hear,” indicating that it contains the words of Sakyamuni Buddha which were recited by Ananda.

Dharma Instruments

Dharma instruments are located in front of the altar in temples and are played by monastics to produce a rhythm during chanting services. They are typically arranged with the wooden fish to the left of the altar, the large gong to the immediate right, and the drum and suspension bell at the far right. They may be accompanied by the smaller Dharma instruments such as the hand bell-gong, tang, and chia.


Khakkhara is a monk’s staff that is partly made of metal. It has four sides with twelve metal rings, representing the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Nidanas (Twelve Causes and Conditions). In the olden days, when a monk went for almsgiving, he held the staff and shook the metal rings at the door to announce his presence. This staff was also used for the expulsion of demons.

The Almsbowl

During the time of Sakyamuni Buddha in India, it was a usual practice that Sra manas carried a bowl and collected alms from people. In return, they would have time to cultivate themselves, preach to people, and help them in their spiritual reliance. When Buddhism was transmitted to China, monks were highly respected and the practice of collecting alms was taken to be too humiliating and was thus abandoned. Today, almsgiving is still considered as an offering to the Sangha and can generate a lot of merits.


CHABBANNA DHAJA (Pali name) – This is the six colors were taken from the rays RANAI (P), which radiated from the Holy Body of the Buddha, immediately after he had attained Full Enlightenment under the BODHI TREE at BUDDHAGAYA in B. C. 588. From thenceforth, during the rest of His life, He radiated these six colors, whenever He wished. Sometimes He sent His luminous body with these colors to convert people. The colors are as follows:
(1)blue; (2) yellow or golden color; (3) red; (4) white; (5) orange; (6) Lit: resplendent (A mixture of the above 5 colors)


“Zen is the display of mercy, wisdom, and humor, and has the power to calm an irritated heart. The “Zen Pitaka” which took ten years to compile and edit, is not only a collection of literary works but also covers the area of philosophy. It enables people to discover their own Zen heart, and therefore light up their own spirit being. “These words are spoken by Ven. Master Hsing Yun during the book donation ceremonies in which the collection of “Zen Pitaka, Fokuang Triptaka” were broadcast over four television stations, to one hundred and forty tertiary institutions and universities in Taiwan.

“Zen Pitaka” is a monumental accomplishment resulting from many scholars’ hard works for over ten year period. The complete set consists of fifty-one booklets in luxurious packing and collects the exploits, saying and thoughts of the most well-known Chinese Master from Tan, Sung, Yuan, Ming, Ching dynasties through to the Republic of China. Contributions from overseas countries have been grouped into four main categories which are: Historical Biography, Sayings, and Preachings, Theory of various branches and Miscellanea.

Sutra of the Eight Realisations

For all disciples of the Buddha:
morning and night, hold them in your mind,
and chant them often, these eight realizations
of great beings.


Realize that this world is impermanent, that nations are unsafe and unstable, that the four elements cause suffering and are empty, and that there is no self within the five skandhas; that all things that arise must change and decline, and that they are but false appearances without any stable essence; that mind is the source of evil, and that form is a congregation of wrongdoings. Contemplate all of this, and gradually you will disentangle yourself from the cycle of birth and death.


Realize that excessive desire causes suffering. The fatigue and troubles of the cycle of birth and death arise from greed and desire. Have few desires, be receptive, and you will be content in body and mind.


Realize that the mind is insatiable and that it constantly strives for more, thus adding to its transgressions and mistakes. The bodhisattva is not like this; he thinks often of being satisfied with what he has, and his is peaceful in poverty and upholds the Dharma. Wisdom is his only concern.


Realize that laziness leads to downfall. Be diligent and break the hold of harmful fixation. Defeat the four demons and escape the prison of this dark world.


Realize that ignorance gives rise to the cycle of birth and death. The bodhisattva studies widely listen carefully and thinks often in order to increase his wisdom and develop his talents in speaking so that hi is fit to teach and transform others, and show them the greatest joy.


Realize that poverty and suffering leads only to more of the same. A bodhisattva is generous and equal-minded towards both friend and foe. He does not dwell on old wrongs, or make new enemies.


Realize that the five desires bring nothing but trouble. Though we live in this world, we do not become stained by worldly pleasures. Instead, we think of a monk’s garb, his bowl, and his chanting instruments. Having set our minds on monastic life, we uphold the way and purify ourselves. Our morality encompasses all, our compassion includes everyone.


Realize that life and death are like flickering flames, and that suffering is endless. Take the Mahayana Vow to befriend all things. Vow to take on the illimitable suffering of sentient beings, and lead them all to ultimate bliss.

Buddhism in Brisbane

Buddhism in Brisbane

The introduction of Buddhist practice into Brisbane is a very recent event in the 2,500-year history of Buddhism, with the first record of a Buddhist presence here dating from the 1880s.

Among Brisbane’s Chinese population was a small group who identified themselves as Buddhists. They gathered at Brisbane’s first temple, the Temple of the Holy Triad, which was built at Breakfast Creek in the mid-1880s and remains on its original site. Religious practice at this temple was not exclusively Buddhist, but a blend of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. By the 1900s, the number of Chinese people in Brisbane and the practice of Buddhism had declined.

In 1953, the first attempt was made to organize Anglo- Australian Buddhist activity in Brisbane, through the foundation of the Buddhist Society of Queensland. The high point of the Buddhist Society’s brief period of activity was the April 1955 visit to Brisbane of the first internationally known Buddhist teacher, the Venerable Narada Maha There. Despite the success of the visit, the society’s numbers dwindled and it ceased to function after 1956.
The most important influence on the growth of Buddhism in Brisbane was the arrival, from the late 1970s, of immigrants from Buddhist countries; in particular Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand.

In recent years, people’s contact with Buddhism has increased through visits of prominent Buddhist teachers, most notably His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the growth in spiritual and tourist travel to Asia and the influential profile created by Hollywood celebrities like Richard Gere.

The growing appeal of Buddhist philosophy and meditation in the changing world has seen the number of Buddhist organizations in Brisbane increase by 10 times – from 4 in 1982 to 40 in 2004. Attendance at the various Buddhist festivals in Brisbane also continues to rise, In 1997, its first year, the Buddha Birthday Festival at South Bank attracted 5,000 people and last year up to 180.000 attended. This celebration of Buddha is Brisbane’s best-attended festival and showcases the growing importance of Buddhism in our wider community.

Buddhism In Australia

Buddhism in Australia

Department of Studies in Religion, The University of Queensland

As Fo Guang Shan Buddhists celebrate the tenth anniversary of their Chung Tian Temple in Brisbane, it is appropriate to reflect on the nature and history of Buddhism in Australia as a whole: how Buddhism was brought to this country, and how its diverse schools and branches have developed since arriving here.

Buddhism in contemporary Australia is recognised as having two main strands. Chung Tian Temple is a good example of the first strand, known to sociologists as ‘ethnic Buddhism’. With its distinctively Chinese architecture and its Chinese-speaking nuns and monks, Chung Tian represents Buddhism of the sort that bears clearly the features of the nation and culture from which it was transplanted to this continent. Ethnic Buddhism in its diverse manifestations – Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao, and so on – is probably what most Australians have in mind when thinking of Buddhism in Australia.

The second strand in Australian Buddhism is less conspicuous and numerically smaller but no less significant. It is made up of the growing number of Australian Buddhists of non-Asian (mostly Anglo-Saxon) origin who do not necessarily have any contact with temples or any involvement in ritual activity. These are converts to Buddhism, or at least serious and sympathetic students of Buddhism, who came to the religion as outsiders, rather than having been born into it.

These two main strands in Australian Buddhism have generally remained discrete and separate. However, recent years have seen increasingly frequent intersections and interactions between them, a trend that becomes apparent when one surveys their origins and historical development.

The early beginnings

Though actual records of the event are meagre, it is likely that Buddhism first arrived in Australia with Chinese miners who came here at the time of the gold rushes, beginning about the middle of the nineteenth century. Most of them returned to China a few decades later when the gold ran out, and consequently the Mahayana Buddhist element in their religious practices had little lasting influence on religious life in Australia.

More enduring was the effect of Japanese pearl divers and their families, who arrived shortly after the Chinese to settle in the pearling centres of Broome, Darwin, and Thursday Island. Their public celebration of Buddhist festivals became a popular feature of life in Broome. It ceased during the World War II internment of Japanese in this country but has since resumed.

In the 1880s came Sinhalese labourers from Sri Lanka, most of who were Theravadin Buddhists. Brought here to work in the sugar industry, they constructed Australia’s first Buddhist temple (since demolished) on Thursday Island, and planted bodhi trees there. Like the Chinese, most of these Sinhalese Buddhists returned to their homeland by the end of the nineteenth century. Some remained, however, and descendants, recognisable by their Sinhalese names, can be found among the members of some present-day Buddhist societies in Queensland.

The gradual introduction of Buddhism to Australia by Asian immigrants might have continued into the twentieth century, had it not been blocked by the passing, in 1901, of the Immigration Restriction Act. This bill, one of the first passed by the newly constituted Federal Parliament, was the legislative basis for the infamous ‘White Australia Policy’. Designed to halt Asian migration to the new nation, it fulfilled that function very effectively until it was repealed half a century later.

In spite of this barrier, Buddhism found its way into Australia, gradually and almost unnoticed, by other means. Throughout the early part of the twentieth century, a small number of Anglo-Australians acquired knowledge of Buddhist teachings and practices through reading, contact with the Theosophical Society, or travel in Asia. Some of them organised themselves into Buddhist study groups. The first such group of which any record exists was established in Melbourne in 1925. It called itself the Little Circle of the Dharma.

By the early 1950s, there were Buddhist study and practice groups throughout the country. A significant factor in the formation of these groups was the occasional sponsoring of visits to Australia by Buddhist monks and nuns from overseas. Prominent among these visitors was Sister Dhammadinna, an elderly Buddhist nun from the USA, who had spent many years in Sri Lanka. On her first visit, she stayed for almost a year, lecturing and teaching meditation, and generating much interest in Buddhism. As the number of Australian Buddhist societies grew, a need was felt for an umbrella organisation that could bring them all together. This led to the formation, in 1958, of the Buddhist Federation of Australia. Led by veteran Buddhist Charles F. Knight, it spoke on behalf of Australian groups at meetings of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, which had been founded eight years earlier.

The style of Buddhism that attracted the attention of those early Australian Buddhists was, in most cases, Theravada or ‘Southern Buddhism’, the school that has long predominated in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana or ‘Northern Buddhism’ evidently had less appeal, with the exception of Japanese Zen, which was promoted by several groups. Vajrayana, the style of Buddhism practised mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, had not yet established a foothold here. By early in the 1970s some of Australia’s Buddhist groups had set up simple monasteries, complete with resident Theravadin monks invited from Asian Buddhist countries. Also, a growing number of Australians were themselves undergoing Buddhist training in the Theravadin monasteries of Thailand, Burma, and elsewhere. Some of them took ordination as monks in the Sangha (the Buddhist monastic order), a few subsequently returning to Australia to teach.

The period of refugee immigration

The mid-1970s saw a turning point in the history of Australian Buddhism, with the arrival of large numbers of ethnic Buddhists as refugees from the Indochinese wars. Most were Vietnamese and therefore Mahayanists, but there were also numbers of Lao and Kampuchean adherents of Theravada Buddhism.

The Theravadins among the refugee immigrants were fairly well able to associate themselves with the Theravada-oriented groups that already existed here. Those groups despite having been established initially by non-Asian Buddhists had become increasingly open to Asian patterns of thought and practice, partly under the influence of their Asian-trained monks. They now provided an environment that Lao and Kampuchean refugee Buddhists found welcoming. Some of the groups sent people to meet the refugees on their arrival in Australia and then helped them to settle in.

The immigrant Vietnamese Buddhists faced a very different situation. As Mahayanists, they were less able to fit in with the existing Theravada-based groups. Consequently, the Vietnamese preferred to form their own Buddhist societies. Many of these subsequently established well-endowed temples with resident Vietnamese monks and nuns. Such societies and temples became important as centres of ethnic identity, places where Vietnamese language and customs were kept alive, and newly arrived migrants could be made to feel at home.

Another group of refugee Asian Buddhists that arrived during the 1970s were the Tibetans. Though few in number, Tibetans in Australia have had a substantial religious impact. Their Vajrayana style of Buddhism (which developed out of Mahayana) holds a strong fascination for many westerners. One factor responsible for this may be the colourful Vajrayana symbolism; another may be the charismatic figure of the Dalai Lama, who has visited Australia several times to teach and conduct Vajrayana rituals. Whatever the reason, the arrival of the first Tibetan monks in 1974 soon led to the setting up of several Tibetan Buddhist institutes, where large numbers of followers, mostly non-Tibetan, began to study and practise.

The current period

Since the late 1980s Asian migration to Australia has been characterised by an ever-increasing proportion of so-called ‘business migrants’. Coming mostly from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, this class of migrants includes large numbers of Chinese Mahayana Buddhists, who have had a big impact on Buddhism in this country. Fo Guang Shan Buddhism (led by Master Hsing Yun), the Amitabha Buddhist Association (Master Ching Kung), and the Tzu-chi Foundation (Master Cheng Yen) are examples of Taiwan-based Buddhist movements whose arrival and growth in Australia can be attributed to this development.

At the same time, Buddhist groups that are exclusively Sri Lankan, Burmese, Thai, Lao, or Kampuchean have developed, most of them associating readily with non-ethnic Theravadin groups. This has facilitated the establishment of several large Theravadin monasteries, based on the Southeast Asian model, though with a mainly non-Asian monastic membership. Especially noteworthy among such centres is Bodhinyana monastery, located outside Perth. Bodhinyana has become sufficiently large that people can be trained there and ordained as monks in the Theravadin branch of the Order.

As a result of the historical developments outlined above, all three of the major branches of world Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana – are now well represented in Australia. Also, within each of the three, significant varieties are to be found. For example, while most groups representing Tibetan Vajrayana belong to the Gelug School, there also exist groups belonging to the Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu schools.

The different styles and teachings of the various schools of Buddhism clearly appeal to different segments of Australia’s Buddhist population. For the majority of non-Asian Australian Buddhists, one of the most valued things offered by Buddhist groups is the opportunity for meditation practice. Such people, approaching Buddhism from outside the established traditions, may find the rituals a little alien and the doctrines sometimes difficult to accept in full; but they can usually relate readily to the essential Buddhist message about the nature of the human mind. This message is that a precious inner liberation can be attained through calming the normally turbulent mind (tranquillity meditation) or gaining insight into how the mind functions (insight meditation).

The members of Australia’s many ethnic and cultural minorities who associate with Buddhist groups are probably, in many cases, seeking something more tangible and specific to their particular social situation. For them, membership in a Buddhist group may open up a variety of incidental benefits, ranging from social interaction with people who share the same cultural heritage, to language instruction for their children who might otherwise forget their mother tongue. For them, the Buddhist group fulfils not only a religious function but many social functions as well.

A recent count put the total number of Buddhist groups in Australia at 361. Roughly speaking, the number of groups doubles every ten years. The total number of individual Buddhists in the country cannot be known with certainty because of difficulties in interpreting the census data. At present, it is likely to be approaching 200,000. Buddhism has been identified as the fastest growing religion in Australia, and this trend seems set to continue. As a well-known Chinese Buddhist saying has it, ‘Fo Guang Pu Chao’-The Buddha’s Light shines everywhere.

Spread Of Buddhism

Spread of Buddhism

Buddhism is a Western term, which became popular in the 19th century to refer to the teaching of the Buddha. There is no direct equivalent for this term in the Buddhist sources where terms like “the Teaching of the Buddha”, “the Word of the Buddha” and “the Doctrine of the Buddha” are used instead.

More about the Spread of Buddhism

Indian Buddhism developed in three main stages, each of them containing a great diversity of schools and practices:
In the first 400 years after the Buddha’s death, a diversity of early Buddhist schools developed in India. The only one to have survived down to modern times is Theravada (the Teaching of the Elders). It is characterized by its Pali Canon, the earliest complete set of Buddhist scriptures.

A major movement in Buddhist tradition called Mahayana (The Great Vehicle) began c.2nd century CE and reinterpreted fundamental doctrines of earlier schools. It placed great emphasis on the twin values of wisdom (Prajna) and compassion (Karuna) and included the Bodhisattva (Enlightenment being) who sacrifices the attainment of their own Nirvana to devote themselves to the services and liberation of others.

Around the 7th century CE, a special path called Tantric Buddhism (also Vajrayana, – Diamond Vehicle or Mantrayana – Mantra Vehicle) arose within Mahayana Buddhism. It claimed to provide a quicker, alternative path to Enlightenment through lay practitioners, rather than monks and nuns. Buddhism mostly disappeared from India c.12th century CE, but remains the most important Indian influence on the rest of Asia and can be found in the following areas:

Southern Buddhism

The Theravada school (with elements of Mahayana) is present in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and partly in India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Bangladesh. It has the oldest Buddhist Canon composed in Pali language.

Eastern Buddhism

The Chinese version of Mahayana school (with elements of Tantric Buddhism) is found in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam. It has a Buddhist Canon in the Chinese language.

Northern Buddhism

Tantric Buddhism (the late version of the Mahayana), is present in Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, Northern Nepal and some provinces of the Russian Federation. It has a Buddhist Canon in Tibetan and Mongolian languages.

Western Buddhism

Buddhism had very early contacts with western cultures from individuals such as Alexander the Great (4th century BCE) and the Greek King Menander (1st century CE), but its study by western academics did not begin until c.1800. It now flourishes around the world, as a religion/philosophy/way of life. Since the 1960s, western Buddhism has grown enormously becoming one of the fastest growing religions in Australia.

Life of the Buddha

Life of Buddha

Buddha, “the Awakened One”, is a descriptive name for all those who have attained Enlightenment, the goal of Buddhist spiritual practice. Buddhists believe that everyday human beings are asleep and unaware of the human condition, but the Buddha are those who are awakened to the true nature of reality as taught in the Four Noble Truths.

The name of the historical Buddha is Siddhartha Gautama; Siddhartha (meaning ‘one whose goal is accomplished’) and Gautama his family name. He was born into a noble family of the Sakya clan and therefore he is also known as Sakyamuni (the sage of the Sakyas). His father was a king of Kapilavastu, a city in the south of present-day Nepal. The name Buddha became his title after his Enlightenment/ awakening.

The exact dates of Buddha’s life are still uncertain and debated across the Buddhist world: 624-544 BCE (before current era) in Sri Lanka and southeast Asia, 448-368 BCE in east Asia, 566-486 BCE or 563-483 BCE in secondary Western literature, and according to recent scholarship c.485-405 BCE.

The Buddha was born in Lumbini, a park not far from Kapilavastu; the fortune tellers saw his 32 marks of a Great Being and foretold that he would be either a Universal Monarch or a Buddha. He spent this first 29 years in the royal palace in Kapilavastu and accepted the prevailing Indian worldview about the cycle of life and death, transmigration, karma, and liberation. He was concerned about the problem of human suffering and how to resolve it. He married and had one son.

At 29 he went forth to seek liberation from human predicament: practiced asceticism, fasting, breath control, concentration and finally developed his own style of practice.
In Bodhgaya at the age of 35, he attained awakening and liberation (Nirvana), and liberation from its suffering (Dukkha). After this enlightenment, the Buddha went to Sarnath where he delivered his first discourse on the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Noble Path.

After his awakening, he attracted many followers and established a monastic order (Sangha) of monks and nuns. The remaining 45 years of this life he spent as a wandering teacher traveling through north-east India. The Buddha taught that others could replicate his experience.

The Buddha died in Kusinagara at age 80 and was cremated outside this town. His teaching (Dharma) was memorized by his disciples and transmitted orally until it was written down several centuries later.

What is Buddhism

Buddhism is a way of life which is based on the profound and wholesome teachings of the Buddha to all people, revealing the true face of life and the universe. The Buddha did not preach to win converts but to enlighten listeners. It is a religion of wisdom where knowledge and intelligence predominate. Buddhism has brought peace of mind, happiness, and harmony to millions of people in its long history of more than 2,500 years.

Buddhism is practical religion devoted to conditioning the mind through a normal daily lift in such a way as to lead to peace, tranquility, happiness, wisdom and perfect freedom. As a plan of living which derives the highest benefit from life, it is sometimes referred to as “Humanistic Buddhism.”