A little way out of Bendigo is Atisha Centre, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation and study centre.
It’s here they’re in the process of building The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, something I’d never heard of before.
Based on the design of the Gyantse Stupa in Tibet, it is 50 metres square at its base and nearly 50 metres high, making it the largest Stupa in the Western World. It’s being funded entirely by donations, so it’s expected to be many years before it’s finished.
I’m not sure there are words to describe the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace. The Buddha was carved from a rare boulder of transluscent jade, ‘Polar Pride’, discovered in Canada in the year 2000. It is 2.5 metres high, and sits on an alabaster throne of close to 1.6 metres high. It weighs around 4 tonnes.
Internationally-known author and gemologist, Fred Ward, in his book, Jade, says of ‘Polar Pride’: “Without doubt, this is the largest piece of gem-grade jade found in my lifetime and perhaps the millennium … it is a very, very rare occurrence.” To read about its fascinating journey from discovery in Canada to Jade Buddha in Bendigo, click here.
This little statue sat on the altar next to the Buddha. Carved into a block of the deepest-coloured jade you can get, it was so beautiful, I wondered if I nicked off with it, anyone would notice. Not really practical. It weighs nearly 100 kilos.
Another massive holy object is the four-metre-high Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) statue, which was consecrated by the Dalai Lama when he blessed The Great Stupa in June 2007.
A Stupa is the most sacred building in Buddhism. It symbolises the enlightened mind and the path to enlightenment, along with housing holy relics of the Buddha and other highly-realised beings.
Along one side of the Stupa is The Peace Park, a series of gardens dedicated to interfaith harmony. Many symbols have been offered by different faiths, including Sikh, Islam, Hindu, Catholic and Buddhist.
They say Buddhists don’t believe in suffering. I turned up that morning with terrible back pain, as often happens when on the road. After spending a couple of hours at the Centre, it had magically disappeared.