Buddhism in Oz - Pozible project just days away from closing
16 June 2014
People have just three days left to support a project aimed at creating a lasting legacy of Buddhism's history in Australia.
"Understanding Buddhism's place in Australian life and culture is still very much a work in progress," explained the project's leader Deakin University lecturer Dr Anna Halafoff.
"It is Australia's second largest religion, yet little is known of its long history in this country," explained Dr Halafoff.
Dr Halafoff, with Edwin Ng and Praveena Rajkobal, Research My World Pozible campaign aims to raise funds to film interviews with 12 Buddhist community leaders in Australia. People have until 19 June to donate. The project will be used as part of a broader investigation into the contribution of Buddhism to Australian society.
One of Australia's Buddhist teachers, Bhante Sujato said Buddhism was moving from a phase where it was seen as something exotic and alien to being part of the native Australian landscape.
"In the future I think Buddhism will be almost as Aussie as kangaroos and the Sydney Opera House," he said.
Dr Halafoff said Buddhists from China first began immigrating to Australia in the 1850s Gold Rush period, and since the demise of the White Australia Policy and the end of the Vietnam War, large numbers of Buddhists from Asia began settling in Australia.
Dr Halafoff said the first temples were small affairs, usually created in someone's house, until the communities became established.
"Religion plays a central role in helping migrants to settle," Dr Halafoff said.
"When people arrive in a new society they look for support structures and if religion is an important part of their life they will look for a temple to attend," she said.
"There are various Government agencies that assist with settlement, but the religious organisations connect at the grass roots level, they can rally together to help provide resources for people in need.
"We also have many wonderful teachers here from many different traditions, who attract followers from their countries of origin but also Western followers. ''
Dr Halafoff said Australians converting to Buddhism had played a role in the religion's growth.
"There are certain things about Buddhism that are compatible with a secular modern ideology," she said.
"In Buddhism there's an emphasis on reason, questioning and critical reflection which attracts people, and many people are interested in Buddhism as a philosophy or as a way of life, rather than a religion.
"The positive role models, like the Dalai Lama, create an association with peace and there's increased interest in the techniques of meditation and mindfulness.
"In contemporary society everything is going so fast and there are so many pressures, Buddhism has techniques that help you focus and slow down a bit."
Dr Halafoff said the interviews with the Buddhist leaders would be used to populate a website documenting the history of the religion in Australia.
Venerable Robina Courtin said the project was the best way to capture this history.
"I think this is the best way to tell a history, through the people who are involved in it and who are practising it," she said.
The material will also be able to be used as an education resource for the national curriculum and by researchers.
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