Bendigo, Australia -- THE Dalai Lama visited Bendigo today to bless the biggest Buddhist stupa in the Western world, which is under construction and due to be completed by 2010.
About 2,000 people watched as the Tibetan religious leader give his blessing to the Buddhist religious monument in the central Victorian city.
Buddhism has had a presence in Bendigo since 1850 when Chinese immigrants came looking for gold and boasts a Buddhist monastery and a Buddhist information centre.
Stupa project director, Ian Green, said more Buddhists have moved to Bendigo in recent years to take part in the construction of the two-storey stupa, which is being funded with donations from around the world.
It is expected to cost $15 million by the time it is finished.
The stupa is on the outskirts of Bendigo and sits on 120 acres of bushland.
“It is a very major pilgrimage place for Buddhists,” Mr Green said.
“People come here to experience it as a refuge for peace and harmony.”
The Dalai Lama, on his second full day in Australia, was welcomed by the traditional owners of the land, the Jarra Jarra people, who took him through an Aboriginal smoking ceremony before he entered the stupa.
The Dalai Lama also unveiled a four-metre high statue of Guru Rinpoche, the Tibetan saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet.