Sydney residents oppose Buddhist monastery development

IANS, Aug 18, 2008

Sydney, Australia -- A Buddhist society’s plans to build a temple in south-western Sydney is facing an outcry from residents, coming as it does close on the heels of the recent furore over a proposed Islamic school in suburban Sydney.

A resident of suburban Wedderburn, a 40-minute drive south west of Sydney, has lodged her opposition with the city council against the Da Bao Monastery’s plans to expand its four-bedroom meditation retreat, raising concerns about noise, traffic and amenities.

‘It will really disturb our neighbours. It’s going to take away our peace, harmony, tranquillity and privacy,’ the resident, Beatrice Alderden, was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia monastery, built eight years ago for monks and nuns, is seeking permission to build two prayer halls, a single-storey accommodation building, two cottages, toilets, a five-metre-high stupa and a car park.

‘You don’t go building big halls and accommodation out here. It’s a winding road and very narrow and it’s hazardous at the best of times,’ Alderden told the newspaper.

In recent years, immigration from Southeast Asia and the Middle East to Australia has expanded Buddhist and Muslim numbers considerably. Since the 2001 census, the number of people affiliated with Buddhism increased by 17 percent, with Hinduism by 55 percent and Islam by 21 percent.

According to the 2006 census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s three most common non-Christian religious affiliations were Buddhism (2.1 percent of the population), Islam (1.7 percent) and Hinduism (0.7 percent).

Of these groups, Hinduism experienced the fastest proportional growth since 1996, more than doubling to 150,000, followed by Buddhism that doubled to 420,000.

With the number of Buddhist followers growing, the monastery has outgrown its capacity and stressed that its expansion would not disturb the neighbourhood.

Sister Giac Anh, a nun with the monastery, told Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The planned retreat would not be open to the public or host noisy celebrations. We are very, very, quiet and practice walking meditation in the hall.’