My recent trip through the NSW south coast saw me swinging in to the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere on my way to Paperbark Camp. Fortunately here there were no weird animal noises, just a lot of good food and culture.
May was also such a beautiful time to visit, as all the leaves on the trees were a riot of autumn colour.
Nan Tien Temple is one of 200 temples of Fo Guang Shan, founded in 1965 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun. The name means “Paradise of the South”, and the temple focuses on the exchange between Eastern and Western cultures, and the interchange of the traditional and the modern. It is a beautiful, fascinating place to visit if you find yourself down Wollongong way.
The temple is home to many services, including tours, “Buddhist Awareness” excursions, conferences, weddings, classes, mediation lessons and retreats, and places to pray.
It had the most peaceful, reverent vibe. The temples themselves were utterly amazing. Each of the walls were covered with tiny golden buddha statutes lit with their own personal light. The effect was incredible. My guide, Joey, told me that Master Hsing Yun thought it would be better to have Buddhas everywhere so everyone could be close to one, rather than all crowding at the front nearest the one at the altar. Very clever! Also just very beautiful. It would be hard not to feel like you want to be a better person in such a space.
Each temple was created with dedication and care, right down to the placement of the windows. So much love has gone into building this place for people to come and learn more about Buddhism or to connect with their fellow Buddhists.
We took a walk up the hill to ring the Gratitude Bell (which also comes with an incredible view!). Each toll of the bell shows that you are grateful for your parents and family and all they have sacrificed for you. It’s also very satisfying slamming that big wooden log into the gigantic bell, just quietly.
Before our trip, we stopped at the Dew Drop Inn Tea House for lunch. Eateries also include the Dining Hall, which is a much larger (it can seat 200) buffet-style dining option that provides a selection of healthy vegetarian meals based on both traditional and modern recipes.
The Dew Drop Inn is wonderful for a pot of tea and something from the a la carte menu.
I did NOT just do a “something”. I did LOTS of somethings. Probably very frowned upon from the Buddhist perspective, but boy did I eat. We were treated to a sample of various things from the menu and they were all so good I wished my stomach was twelve times bigger.
Again, everything is vegetarian and there are vegan options. I tried the prawns, drumsticks, dumplings, salt and pepper tofu, the nuggets, the lemongrass beef and one of the many wonton soups on offer. Joey said I was very good with chopsticks and I was chuffed. I take that talent very seriously! No fork for me.
I also sampled the Lotus Tea, which is not only pretty, but is refreshing too. You can also buy gorgeous tea sets and chopsticks and other items that I now regret not buying.
We took a stroll after lunch over the road to the Nan Tien Institute across the road, a brand-new facility for learning. They offer undergraduate and graduate programs in humanities, economic and business studies, social sciences, religious studies and Asian studies with a holistic focus on life and education.
I toured the art gallery and the museum and learned so much just from that! Having said that, I’d love to do a mindfulness course or something similar.
A couple of you said you had been meaning to visit, and you totally should! Eat some good food, ring the Gratitude Bell, be mindful in the beautiful shrines, get an eyeful of the golden Buddha walls. A really great place to go for an afternoon of something different.
Nan Tien Temple is situated at 180 Berkeley Rd, Berkeley, NSW and they are open 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. You can find out more information (including accommodation onsite) here.
Thanks to Nan Tien Temple and Destination NSW for the hospitality!