The Buddhist Temple, Brahmavihara Arama or Vihara Banjar as it is known, is a working Buddhist monastery and temple in Desa Banjar which is about 20 minutes from Lovina Beach by private taxi. The temple was first constructed in the 1960s with the monastery added in 1970 and officially opened in 1973. Vihara was funded by both the Indonesian and Thai governments: in one of the main building complexes, two bronzed-coated statues of Parninirwarna and Buddha stand in splendour, gifts from the Thai and Sri Lankan governments. It is touches like that that make Vihara part of the global Buddhist story and pilgrimage.
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. - The Buddha
Vihara is free to enter with several opportunities to make offerings. There are shops outside the temple that sell sarongs if you need to purchase suitable temple attire. 'Suitable attire' means that you need to cover bare legs; if you have pants, then it would be polite to use a sarong around your shoulders. In other words- cover bare skin and don a sarong anyway. Balinese people are extremely tolerant of Western ignorance, but if you don't adhere to these requirements, you will cause grave offence and even emotional stress for locals.
You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. - The Buddha
There are five main buildings or areas within Vihara to respect. Upastha Gara, which is on the top hill to the west, is a relief of Buddha's birth. It is a place for quiet reflection and a chance to consider such a pivotal point in history. Here, monks take their oath and engage in prayer and meditation. Dharmasala is to the east, which is a lecture room that hosts meditation and other spiritual-study courses. Here, you will find brochures about short courses and intensive retreats on offer. Compassion retreats are regular and can be organised before your trip to Bali.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth. - The Buddha
In the north-east, sun-soaked 'square' there is the Stupa, or bell-like building which houses a place for offerings. Small statues of Buddha, Kwan Yin as well as other deities common to both Hindu and Buddhist religions create an aura of dignity and devotion. Its 'hush-like' aura documents the relationship between the two religious traditions in Bali. Depending on which book you read, Buddhism came to Bali either just before Hinduism, or roughly at the same time which was in the 7th Century. Generally, Buddhism was absorbed by the Shiwaitic path of Hinduism: both paths have similar rituals and procedural practices.
I found the Stupa complex particularly compelling because of its colour, vibrancy and modernity. Cased in shining gold and orange, it reminded me of Thai temples but it was also 'Balinese' because of that same unabashed palate-tray. An open-square design, it made the most of Balinese natural sunlight which when reflected on the bright orange stupas, bounced and announced spiritual enlightenment and earthly beauty. Within a natural garden setting and without the heavier stone carvings that are usual in Balinese temples, it outstretched a very feminine invitation to spiritual service. Here, Kwan Yin is prominent: even though she has a presence in Bali, not much is known about her, and for me personally, it confirmed my own path and gently reminded me of the Bali-feminine.
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. - The Buddha
Vihara Banjar has an area or symbol that is bound to appeal to each and every person paying homage. The Bodi Tree in the north-west corner is decorated with reliefs. An ideal meditation nook, it instantly transports you back to Buddha's own enlightenment.
To keep the body in good health is a duty … otherwise we shall not be able to keep our minds strong and clear. - The Buddha
History is etched in the stone temples that preface the Kuti or Vihara Complex. For those who have been to Borobudur in Java, this will bring a smile- or depending on your level of devotion- may bring you to your knees as it is very much in the style of Borobudur story-telling and design-geometry. The Kuti itself is the homestay of monks and has statues that represent eternity and enlightenment. This whole area is laid out within frangipani and magnolia gardens, the sacred scents of Bali.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. - The Buddha
Vihara Banjar is grafted on a hilltop, overlooking Banjar village. Its location, design and the energy harmonises the expansiveness of the mountains, clear Balinese skies and lush greenery with the very reflective serenity of the Buddhist history and personal spiritual journeys. It is the oldest Buddhist monastery in north Bali, and its 31 concrete and sandstone Buddhist statues symbolise the 31 stages of life outside of heaven.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. - The Buddha
Originally, the first Buddhist temple in this areas was at the hot springs, which is not far from the temple's current location and well-worth a visit. In addition, have a look at Banjar and the surrounding villages of Tamblingan and Tigawasa themselves: they are older-style villages and archaeological digs have uncovered evidence of Balinese village life from the Stone Age through to the Hindu tradition.
The easiest way to get to Vihara from Lovina or Singaraja is by private taxi. The price will need to be negotiated as it depends on what you want to do and how long you want to stay in the area. The temple is a must-see of northern Bali.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. - The Dalai Lama