Buddhists open Christchurch temple

By IAN STEWARD, Stuff, February 28, 2007

Christchurch, New Zealand -- Serenity and enlightenment await Buddhist devotees with the opening of their new award-nominated Christchurch centre.

The International Buddhist Association centre in Riccarton Road, designed by Christchurch architectural firm Warren and Mahoney, includes a vegetarian cafe, art gallery, library and prayer hall.

The Christchurch president of the Buddha's Light Association, Almeric Cheng, said the centre's facade of Indian sandstone and bronze statues was modelled on the Dunhuang caves, a series of over 400 ancient Buddhist temples cut into a rock face near the Taklamakan Desert in north-west China.

The Buddha Hall, the main prayer room, conforms to an old Chinese proverb, "If you open the door you can see the mountain", with the grand central Buddha gazing at the Port Hills, he said.

The $4.5 million building was constructed to the latest "green" standards, with sustainable timbers, many windows for natural light and solar heating.

The centre has been nominated for a New Zealand Institute of Architects award in the community and cultural division.

Cheng said the association had more than 200 members and over 1000 people who attended the regular Sunday dharma service.

Resident Rev J. Hao said: "It's (the centre) not just for Buddhists; it is a gift to all the people of Christchurch."

The association is part of the Chan school of Buddhism, a northern variant of the religion popular throughout China, Japan and Korea.

The school is led by Taiwan-based Master Hsing Yun whom Hao said had similar status to the Dalai Lama. Buddhism is a religion that originated in India about 500BC.

It is estimated 350 million people follow the teachings of Buddha and believe in reincarnation and progression through various lives to a state of enlightenment through practising the "middle way" of non-extremism. The centre is open from Tuesday to Sunday.