The Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Centre outside Eudlo on the Sunshine Coast is the oldest and still one of the largest in the Western world. We visited this peaceful place today to see what it was like and liven up the place with our joyful sounds.
We take a scenic tour along the narrow, winding Brandenburg Road from Maleny to Mooloolah Valley.
The driveways at the centre are lined with colourful flags, each flapping in the wind to send prayers and positive energy throughout the area.
The land at Chenrezig is quite steep, so the road curves as it climbs the hill. The visitor carpark is at the bottom of the hill, but we opted to skip the steps and drive to the café.
At Chenrezig, a modest dress-code and sober behaviour-code is promoted to visitors and residents.
In the gardens, we spy a unique tree — probably an Australian native — with bouquets of flowers growing out of its trunk.
Johnny and I wondered if the flowers were real — they are! They have a very pale scent and are most definitely just growing out of the trunk.
Visitors are welcomed at Chenrezig Institute, and many people come for classes and retreats. Dorms are available for students, and there are communal toilets, laundries and even a fridge to cater to the spiritual-seeker.
This stupa outside the café is built according to idealised dimensions that represent an enlightened body, speech and mind — specifically, that of Buddha. This monument was built to honour the Chenrezig Institute's founder, Lama Yeshe.
The Big Love Café offers vegetarian food at set meal-times and provides tea and coffee free to visitors and residents.
From the café, steps and pathways lead to the temple, the dorms and the monastery.
The mosaic in the pathway echoes the colours of the flags overhead.
A large prayer wheel sits in its own building.
The well-greased wheel is easy to push into motion.
Aisha finds that she can hang off the wheel as it spins. I don't know how sacred this object is, but a child's pure enjoyment of life is surely the apex of an enlightened state.
Outside, a statue of Buddha sits under a Bodhi tree — the sacred fig under which Siddhartha Gautama — more commonly known as Gautama Buddha — is said to have achieved enlightenment.
This smaller prayer wheel has a bell which sounds when it turns.
Aisha tests out the wheel, predicting when the bell will ring as she spins the base.
The beautifully decorated Gompa — the temple or meditation hall — is accessible only by steps, something that becomes very relevant when travelling with someone who uses a wheelchair.
On the noticeboard, a memo detailing the procedures for offering money to the Lama concludes with this important statement.
Delaney likes to hold the stones under the spout — one at a time — until they're all wet. Watching her do this is an opportunity for me to practice patience and graciousness.
Further down the hill, a large shrine is nestled within manicured gardens.
The girls like to explore the building and the grounds. By the time we get here, the workers have finished for the day.
Paints and brushes are left on an outside table, ready to be picked up in the morning.
The Garden of Enlightenment is dotted with stupas dedicated to the memory of individuals. (A donation of $1700 will put you in good company, out among the flowers.)
The bush turkey is not one of Australia's finest birds, and so we're encouraged to practice compassion with animals — including this messy invader.
The plants in the Garden of Enlightenment are selected for their shape, perfume and/or colour.
The main stupa on top of the shrine is dedicated to a previous resident teacher at Chenrezig.
The girls like exploring the roof stupas. Each base has a little doorway, and the girls make stories up about who lives in these tiny boxes and why.
In the Buddhist tradition, the wind horse carries prayers from Earth to the heavens.
One of the eight roof-top stupas is reserved for a Fisher — still living, apparently.
I like the painted pillars — they are cheerful and not too garish.
Inside the shrine, smaller stupas and plaques memorialise more faithful Buddhists — both living and dead.
These little stupas are only $1000 while the plaques are priced between $20 and $200 (depending on whether you want your name on the front or the back and if you want a gold-leaf covering). I find the monetisation of religion fascinating and disturbing.
In a back room, a number of small statues are on display.
Calista is enthralled by this lotus light — it changes colour and looks "so pretty".
We felt welcomed by the staff at Chenrezig. Although they don’t usually allow casual visitors to stay — they’re not a campground — they did offer to let us park at the entrance to their property. After we finished our tour, we decided to drive on, and yet we feel blessed to even have been given the option to spend the night.
As we drive home again — content with our adventures — a fat, yellow moon rises to bless us on our journey.