The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association has a monastery in Australia. If you fly from Canada, it takes 12 hours to reach Hong Kong, and another 8 hours from Hong Kong to Australia. Then it’s an hour’s drive to the monastery from Brisbane Airport. The monastery sits on 22 acres of land; it was donated to Dharma Realm Buddhist Association by an Upasika [laywoman] in 1995 and was named “Gold Coast Dharma Realm Monastery.”
The Upasika who established the monastery is a Malaysian who lives in Singapore. In 1978, she took refuge with the Venerable Master in Malaysia, after which she made numerous visits to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). Whenever the Venerable Master went on tour to propagate the Buddhadharma, he would call and ask her to join the delegation. In 1990 when the Venerable Master went to Europe to propagate the Buddhadharma, he also asked her to come along. After the trip to Europe, the Venerable Master often brought her along when he went looking at properties. The Venerable Master said to her, “I wish the Buddhadharma could be transmitted to every place in the world.” And deep down this Upasika was thinking, “I too want to help my Teacher to transmit the Buddhadharma.” Because her child was studying in Australia, she hoped that there would also be a monastery there. She later found a plot of land there but never informed the Venerable Master; she began working on this project quietly.
When the Venerable Master went to the White House to attend President Bush Sr.’s inauguration, she was one of the Venerable Master’s disciples who went there. The Venerable Master asked her, “You found such a large piece of land; what do you want to do with it?” She said, “I am hoping CTTB can have a branch there!” The Venerable Master just smiled and did not say anything.
Her wish did not change after the Venerable Master passed into stillness in 1995. The property she originally purchased was 53 acres. Since various restrictions prevented her from building a monastery on the property, she therefore gave up on it. Afterward, she and others found the place we have now, located in Brisbane, Queensland. The property is 22 acres in size. The building plan and environmental report were easily approved. She then started to put up structures one by one on the property. First, the Main Hall was built, then the Five Contemplations Dining Hall, a small library, an administration office, and a Chan room. Behind the Chan room, there is a men’s residence; they built another one for women. When we went to the monastery, upon entering we beheld a graceful Guanyin statue standing in a lotus pond against a backdrop of tall and beautiful purple bamboo. Water flowed through a mound of stones into the pond. At night, underwater lights would project beams of different colors to the surface of the pond. The serene yet colorful scene stirs the mind to reflection.
The most special place of all is the Arhat Path. Paved with light green granite slabs, the Arhat Path meanders through trees and bushes and is lined by life-sized statues of the Eighteen Arhats. In front of the Arhat Path is an amphitheater for Dharma lectures with a statue of Amitabha Buddha on the platform. Everyday, birds of different colors sing in joyful harmony in this land of ultimate bliss.
We appreciate the care that this Upasaka put into the project. She had been looking forward to DRBA accepting the monastery for a long time. DRBA has already been sending Dharma Masters to the monastery to propagate the Buddhadharma. Currently, Dharma Master Heng Chih is leading a Shurangama Sutra Retreat which will last for 4 months. The monastery can house 40-50 people. Right now, there are 25 people, including 5 or 6 local Westerners. This monastery is unique in that many Westerners visit. For instance, during the first day of the Shurangama Sutra Retreat, about twelve local people attended. These people had participated in previous activities at the monastery, and they all like to meditate.
Editor's Note: Buddhism is said to be the fastest growing religion in Australia. When monastics from DRBA passed through the Australia customs, some officials were very friendly and even asked questions about meditation. The building plan for extension of the Gold Coast Dharma Realm Monastery has already been approved by the local government.