Buddhist boon: Celebrations across Australia as religion maintains popularity

The 2016 census shows Australians are less religious than ever, but one religion is maintaining its popularity, with various celebrations planned across the country this weekend.

The number of Australians who in the census said they had no religion rose from 13% in 1991 to 30% in 2016, while the number of Christians rose from 74% to 52%.

Between 1991 and 2016, Hinduism grew from 0.3% to 1.9%, Buddhism from 0.8% to 2.4% and Islam from 0.9% to 2.6%.

However, some Buddhists believe their percentage could be higher as increasing numbers of Australians practice Buddhism without officially identifying with the label.

Pairoj Brahma, a former Buddhist monk from Thailand, lives on a farm near Mullumbimby in northern New South Wales, where he teaches meditation to people who practice Buddhism but don’t necessarily call themselves religious.

“Buddhism is growing rapidly in Australia because the basic Buddhist teaching is kind of geared towards logical thinking and intellectual minds,” he said.

“It’s about cause and effect, not things coming out of the air. It’s about seeing the interconnectedness and how things relate to each other.”

Pairoj Brahma teaches meditation based on Buddhist principles.(ABC North Shore: Samantha Turnbull)

Pairoj said Buddhism was not a universal religion, as evidenced by the range of celebrations planned for the next few days.

Many Theravada Buddhist communities across Australia, especially those with ties to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, will mark Buddha’s first sermon this weekend at celebrations under various names, including Asalha Puja or Dharma. Day.

Pairoj said he usually chooses not to participate in Buddhist ceremonies.

“If the ceremony has some meaning to create context and purpose and we know the logic behind it, that’s OK.”

Dharma Day brings Thais together

Buddhist monk Phramaha Weraphong Ritchumnong will host Dharma Day celebrations in the rural community of Richmond Hill near Lismore in northern New South Wales on Sunday.

He said the Thai Buddhist community would gather to eat, sing and meditate, while celebrating the Buddha’s first sermon which dealt with the origins and consequences of suffering.

“It is an important day because it was the foundation of the basic concept of the Buddha’s teaching, cause and effect,” he said.

Phramaha said Buddhism gave him direction after his parents died when he was nine, but he believed Westerners were drawn to the idea of ​​peace.

“Becoming a monk and having no attachment was lucky for me because I had nothing,” he said.

“When I studied Buddhism more deeply, I discovered that it is very peaceful inside, and when you don’t hurt yourself, you don’t hurt the people around you.”

Phramaha Weraphong Ritchumnong
Phramaha Weraphong Ritchumnong is a Buddhist monk from Thailand.(ABC North Shore: Samantha Turnbull)

Refugees celebrate Dalai Lama’s birthday

In Newcastle’s Hunter Valley town, the small but growing Tibetan Buddhist community is celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 82nd birthday this weekend.

Former monk Yeshi Sangpo, his wife Pema Tso and their 17-year-old daughter, Yangkyi Sangpo, are Tibetan refugees who fled their homeland after Yeshi escaped from a detention center, where he was held by the chinese font.

Yangkyi said the celebrations this weekend helped keep Tibetans connected to their religion and culture.

“It’s something we’re really proud of,” she said.

Yeshi and Pema work in nursing homes, while Yangki hopes to become a cardiologist.

“You are kind to people and show compassion to people and that’s what we strive to do every day,” Yangki said.

“As Buddhists, we strive to help anyone. No matter who they are, we tend to help them.”

Seated from left to right are Yeshi Sangpo, Yangki Sangpo and Pema Tso.
Yeshi Sangpo, Yangki Sangpo and Pema Tso are part of a small, growing Tibetan Buddhist community in the regional city of Newcastle in New South Wales.(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

Celebrate the Compassionate

In the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Buddhists will hold a ceremony on Sunday to mark the enlightenment of Guanyin Bodhisattva.

Reverend Maio You, director of Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong, said Guanyin Bodhisattva was an icon said to be “one who has compassion”.

“Guanyin is the enlightened being who hears people’s sounds or cries,” she said.

“Without Guanyn, Buddhists will not see their cries heard and their suffering released.

“It is an important day for Buddhists.”

Nan Tien Temple houses a shrine dedicated to Guanyin Bodhisattva, where the ceremony will take place on Sunday.

Reverend Maio You sits in the garden of Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong
Reverend Maio You is the director of Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)