Nan Tien Temple
Nan Tien Temple is a Buddhist temple complex, located in the industrial suburb of Berkeley, Australian city of Wollongong. Literally, Nan Tien Temple means Southern Heaven Temple which is one of the branch temples of the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order. This temple was founded in 1967 by Venerable Hsing Yun. This Nan Tien Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Southern hemisphere.
Historical accounts of Nan Tien Temple
It is already mentioned that the Nan Tien Temple was founded as the branch temple of the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order which was founded in 1967 in Taiwan by Venerable Master Hsing Yun. This order has around 120 branches throughout the world. Fo Guang Shan Buddhism is rooted in the Mahayana Tradition which emphasizes that Buddhahood is within everyone's potential reach. Fo Guang Shan followers strive to bring Buddhism into daily life.
The site for the temple was chosen by Venerable Master Hsing Yun and the land was donated by the Australian government. It was said that the site has the proximity to Mount Kembla and have an auspicious resemblance to a recumbent lion.
The Temple Complex
The Nan Tien Temple complex is a Chinese styled palace structure built using modern architectural techniques. The temple was designed by Australian architects, Jones Brewster Regan and built by Australian construction workers. The temple complex consists of semi-rural hillside site several square kilometers in size and is set amidst landscaped gardens.
The complex consists of meeting rooms, a museum, cultural, conference and accommodation facilities and also a restaurant along with two massive prayer halls- Great Mercy Shrine and the Great Hero Hall- which houses multiple monumental statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva, an eight-level pagoda. This pagoda serves as a columbarium intended to house the cremated remains of 7000 people.
The front hall houses images of Thousand-Handed Avalokitesvara, also known as Kuan Yin in Chinese culture while the main hall houses the images of Five Dhyani Buddhas- Amogasiddhi, Ratnasambhava,Vairocana, Amitabha, and Akshobhya. Both the halls houses thousands of tiny Buddha statues on the walls.
Since the temple complex incorporates the features of several styles of Buddhism, it is believed that the architecture of the complex is extraordinarily designed and built. The pagoda is built with the Chinese style of architecture with flying eaves and an angular profile while the main temples incorporate features of Tibetan monastic architecture. The main temple is multi-storey painted temple which is set atop of high stone platforms. The courtyards are designed with Japanese-style gardens, while the statues and shrines often incorporate bright, South-East Asian color schemes, in contrast to the more austere styles favored in China.
Pilgrims at the Temple
The temple is one of the Wollongong's major attraction of the place. Therefore, the common people, Buddhist, and other followers visit this place most often. The temple conducts regular interval of retreats for pilgrims interested in Buddhism in general. So, there is accommodation facility along with restaurant for the visitors in the temple grounds adjacent to the large lotus pond. The accommodation consists of a 100 room motel style facility comfortable for all the visitors.
Nan Tien Temple is often regarded as an orthodox Buddhist temple by the local Chinese Buddhist in contrast with other shrines. These shrines are worship by Buddhist, Taoist, and mystical heroes in the same building. The temple complex also organizes various festivals.
Apart from daily Buddhist rituals in the temple, it also focuses on spreading the teachings of Buddha through Nan Tien Institute which is Australia's first government accredited tertiary institution. This institution is grounded in Buddhist values and wisdom which was opened in 2015. This institute is located opposite of the temple across the Princes Motorway.