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 mediation 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.