Emanuel World Religions at Nan Tien
Our Jewish Studies class went on an excursion to the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, located near Wollongong. This excursion was part of our Judaism and Other World Religions course, and it was only fitting that we visited this Buddhist temple to understand more about Buddhist practice and ritual.
When we first arrived, our class was greeted by Sandra, who was our tour guide for the day. Our introductory activity was a twenty minute Tai Chi lesson in the main courtyard. The purpose of this was to connect our mind with our body all through movement and meditation. We then visited one of the shrines dedicated to the Guanyin Buddha who is associated with compassion, mercy, and good deeds.
After spending fifteen minutes in this shrine, we went to the dining hall to enjoy a traditional Buddhist meal. We were given a portion of fried rice, steamed vegetables and vegetarian curry and tofu on each plate. In the Buddhist tradition, it is customary to eat lunch in silence with the intention to fully appreciate the meal and relax your mind. Following lunch, our class went on a short walk around the temple and the grounds beyond it. On the walking track, we stopped at the Gratitude Bell where each of us took a turn ringing it and thinking of something we are grateful for. At the conclusion of the walking track, we visited the temples main shrine, where we were instructed to remove our shoes and hats as a sign of respect. The shrine contained five large statues of the different Buddha traits. These were: confidence, long life, wisdom, inner beauty and peace. After discussing the different artefacts and features of the shrine, our class returned to the main entrance of the temple and crossed the bridge over to the Nan Tien Institute.
The Nan Tien Bridge signifies the connection between the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere and Australia’s first ever government accredited higher education institute with Buddhist foundations. Once we got to the institute, we looked around an art and photography exhibition produced by current students and had a short tour of the museum, while learning further about the history of the building. Upon exiting the institute, we walked around a lotus pond, similar to what the Buddha would have sat beside as he reached enlightenment. The significance of a lotus to the Buddhist religion is that it represents purity of the body, speech. and mind, relating to the 3 Acts of Goodness; say good words, do good deeds and think good thoughts. To conclude our day and connect the theme of lotuses, Sandra demonstrated how to make origami lotuses, followed by a visit from one of the temples reverends. This reverend was referred to as Venerable and she gave us some insight into her daily routine and the practices of Buddhist nuns in general.
Our class really enjoyed this experience because it allowed us to explore a religion other than Judaism and learn more about faiths that are less familiar to us. The excursion also taught us many things about the Buddha, Buddhist followers, nuns, and the religion’s history.