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Australia's Buddhism

By Ian Nance - posted Friday, 13 March 2015


I'd like to speak about the rise of Buddhism in Australia in the hope that none of its devotees surrenders to the millennia-old habit of some traditional religions' demands for a state-sanctioned authority, powered through faith-based fear rather than just physical force.

Early English church tradition shaped the habits of village and city dwellers in the acceptance of that institution as an integral, and sometimes legal, part of their life.

Many European nations also sought to regularise orthodox religion's undue influence over of minds and possessions, just as did this British cultural habit. It made their results ruthlessly effective. Faith and authoritarian structure can be a powerful tool for the imposition of behavioural standards.

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I suggest that some of the things which our convict antecedents discarded were the religious, as well as class-driven mores of the lifestyle they had left when they began their new existence here.

Now, our local culture, influenced as it has been by Anglo and European traditions, perhaps could unwittingly destabilse our newly emerging custom of Buddhism as a form of selfless lifestyle, if any greed, envy, anger, or hatred is allowed to flourish as a challenge to its existence .

Buddhism has achieved strong Aussie growth, following the arrival of vast numbers of refugees from those south-east Asian countries which had been involved in warfare in the last few decades.

These new arrivals added not only their national traditions to our expanding multi-national society, but many of them also brought practical Buddhism to our shores.

In the 2006 Census, it is marked as the second largest "religion" Australia after Christianity; Buddhism is enjoying considerable expansion here.

It began long ago in the gold rush days when large numbers of Chinese migrated in search of their fortunes; a number of these were Buddhist.

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That's not surprising considering that the truths and foundations of Buddhism were revealed to the Nepalese people around two thousand six hundred years ago by its founder, one of their princes possessed of an enquiring mind. Ultimately after many years of striving to understand the nature of existence he became completely enlightened one night during a session of intense meditation. The Sanskrit term for an enlightened being is "Buddha", and that's how the name originated.

This Buddha's revelations and teachings spread rapidly cross India, China, Japan, and South East Asia, and today underpin the lives of many millions right across the world.

In modern Australia, the Buddhist community still has a high Asian make up, yet also a surprisingly large number of home-grown Australian Western-culture adherents.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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