Talk about a small retreat right in the heart of Hurstville. Stepping into Nan Tien in Hurstville - right opposite Hurstville Train Station - you wouldn't even realise that it's right in the city centre. You're met with the soft sounds of a small water fountain, and taking the stairs up you'll be greeted with various decor, and relaxing Buddhist chants playing quietly.
I have to say I was surprised though. I expected pagodas and huge steps leading to a large shrine as I've been familiar with, however this Temple had neither. Located in a building right off the streets of Hurstville, I almost walked past it - or a visitor like myself, I wouldn't have known that inside this door led the way to a Temple. Nonetheless, it possessed the distinct tranquillity of any other Temple - pagodas or not. And it was lovely. A homely, and cosy feel that made me feel at ease immediately.
This Nan Tien Temple is in fact one of many suburban branches (the others being Parramatta, Chatswood, and Sydney CBD) of the Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong. However, I was told by my friend when visiting that during festivities, many devotees from all the branches head south to Wollongong to celebrate. Other festivities, such as the recent Buddha's Birthday, is celebrated in Sydney's Darling Harbour, with food stalls from each branch and other attractions. What an awesome sense of community!
Entering a temple you'll see various bracelets, statues, and books you are able to buy. Straight ahead is a room for prayers, where you're given a small silver dish and flower in which you place into water before the statue of Buddha, after which you say your prayers. Two small classrooms with beautifully decorated chairs featuring Chinese signs and symbols to add the finishing touches of a temple classroom. On the walls hang hand made posters of the BLIA (Buddha's Light International Association) and the BLIA-YAD (Buddha's Light International Association - Young Adult Division) achievements for 2013. The BLIA was founded in Taiwan 20 years ago on the 3rd of February, 1993, and officially inaugurated in Los Angeles on May 16 1992 by the founding president, Venerable Master Hsing Yun. To see the BLIA spread its wings to Australia where it has been continually nurtured is a great testimony to Sydney's renowned diversity.
The Temple invites visitors to come, pray, and relax at all times from Tuesday - Sunday, 9am - 5pm and all Public Holidays. Other activities include:
Dharma functions - such as regular Dharma services, Avakilotesvara Dharma function and Ullambana function Dharma talks Ch'an Meditation classes Dharma Study Groups Art and Craft classes such as flower arrangement course, beading class, traditional Chinese instrument class, and vegetarian cooking class Spreading the Dharma in the local community with involvement in - Clean Up Australia Day, Chinese New Year celebrations and a range of other community based events Cultural Exchange through the Dharma in Merit Times newspaper, Mid-Autumn Festival, social outings and other events.
For Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, the Temple provides a great place for learning more about Buddhism, and the way of life it teaches.
As for me - I'll definitely be coming in again. Being only a short 20 minute car ride or 20-30 minute train ride from Sydney CBD, it's a neat and serene little retreat to spend your day! Even if not the Hurstville branch which I visited today, there are other Nan Tien branches to visit, pray, relax, and replenish at.