Sunday, 31 May 2009

Off duty

A thermos and a good book - what more could you want at lunchtime?

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Belmore Park

First, sorry I haven't responded to comments of visited other city daily photo blogs lately. There's seveal reasons, including beign extremely busy at work which means long days, and having to attend to "real life" at home, and I have been away from home on work-related matters several times, thus I upload a week of photos on the weekend to publish automatically.

Sydney is really a city of evergreens, though there are stands of deciduous trees in parks and street plantings. This autumn scene is in Belmore Park opposite Central Railway. YOu can see the sandstone facade of the station through the trees.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Wollongong City Beach to Port Kembla (Skywatch Friday)

A windy day at Wollongong - looking south towards industrial Port Kembla from Endeavour Drive at Lions Park.

To see other skies around the world this Friday, click here.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Nan Tien :a last look

I couldn't resist one last look at these cute little Buddhas in the gardens of Nan Tien temple.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Nan Tien temple: the pilgrim lodge (hotel)

If you feel like lingering longer in the tranquil and beautiful setting of Nan Tien temple, there's a hotel. They host retreats, but also accept casual visitors - as long as you don't want to bring meat, drugs or alcohol on-site.
Rates are quite modest, atarting at $80 a room.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Nan Tien temple: the front

The front of the temple complex - underneath, a lovely tea house, and above, a dining hall, meditation hall, reeception room, front shrine. Visitors are welcome to eat in the dining hall, where a couple of delicious vegetarian selections are cooked every day. The temple complex is built in the Chinese palace style, and some of these views reminded me of photos I've seen of Tibet. Then I read the info below on Wikipedia.
It was built was built using traditional techniques and materials by Chinese craftsmen.
The architecture incorporates the features of several styles of Buddhism. The pagoda is distinctly Chinese, with flying eaves and an angular profile. The main temples incorporates features of Tibetan monastic architecture, with multi-storey painted temple buildings set atop high stone platforms. The courtyards feature Japanese-style gardens, while the statues and shrines often incorporate bright, South-East Asian colour schemes, in contrast to the more sombre and austere styles favoured in China. The halls are carpeted, and pilgrims and visitors are required to remove shoes before entering, a practice more common in India, Korea and Japan than China.
From the Nan Tien website I have learned that:
"Chinese temple architecture has long been influenced by secular building design, especially that of imperial palaces. Structures and colours used throughout Nan Tien perpetuate this tradition. Grandiose roofs, visible from afar, indicate status: The greater the height and slope, the higher the rank. The Main Shrine thus has the most lofty and impressive roof. In dynastic China the colour yellow was used exclusively by the emperor. Hence, terracotta yellow roof tiles are symbols of importance, as are the yellow temple walls. Small mythical creatures lining the roof hips are traditional guardians against fire, a real danger in the days when the entire structure would have been built of wood. While much of Nan Tien's roof framing is largely made of steel, it mimics timber construction with painted end beams extending under the eaves.
Red is another auspicious colour associated with the emperor. It was used to cover imperial columns, beams, and lintels, as is also the case at Nan Tien. Palace balustrades were typically carved white marble; Nan Tien's concrete balustrades are fashioned in a similar manner and painted white. "

Monday, 25 May 2009

Nan Tien Temple: Car park Buddha

This Buddha is visible down the stairs from the pagoda, and provides a point of interest in the car park, which is also landscaped with lovely flowers and shrubs.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Nan Tien temple: Incense

Incense plays a role in many religions. I'm not familiar with the tenets of Buddhism, so I had to look up the meaning of incense in that religion. Apparently, incense symbolises the fragrance of pure moral conduct and reminds us to cultivate good conduct.

Incense use in religious ritual was first widely developed in China, and eventually transmitted to Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

These incense sticks are in a large incense bowl at the entrance to the pagoda. Having read the quote below, it makes sense to me why the aroma of incense would be so strong at the building which is used as a crypt for cremated earthly remains.

One site on Buddhism Studies says:

"Imagine that you are a stick of incense. Someone comes along and light up a matchstick. The person then uses the lighted matchstick and lit you up. Immediately, you are burning away.

As you are burning, your body gives off a lovely fragrant smell. This fragrance spreads through the air and brings joy and happiness to people's heart.

The person then offers you to the Buddha. You are being put into an incense pot. You stand happily in the incense pot because you know that you have an important role to play. Your fragrance symbolises the fragrance of pure moral conduct. And this reminds people to cultivate good conduct. This fragrance spreads in all directions throughout the world.

As you are burning away, you also remind people to try and burn away their bad, unkind or selfish thoughts. They should try to be like you, burning away their selfish acts and bringing fragrance and happiness to the world. Let every breath everyone breath out into the world be full of sweetness and love. Continue to spread your fragrance in all directions."

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Nan Tien temple: - mountains and sea

Above: At the top of the steps, with my back to the pagoda (shown yesterday), we look over Mount Kembla. Apparently the site for the temple was chosen because of its location between mountains and sea. Mount Kembla is said to have an auspicious resemblance to a recumbent lion.

Mt Kembla forms part of the Illawarra escarpment, itself part of the eastern part of Australia's Great Dividing Range. Here it comes extremely close to the sea. When Captain Cook saw it as he sailed along Australia's east coast in 1770, he noted it as 'a round hill', its top resembling a hat.

Kembla is an Aboriginal word meaning "wild game abundant" or "plenty of game". The Aborigines called the area "jum-bullah" or "Djembla" which means a wallaby. Mount Kembla has been described as a "sub-tropical belt of rainforest " which "housed a variety of game life which provided an abundant food supply". Meat is banned in the precincts of the temple; Buddhists are vegetarian.

Left: There is no escaping the fact that Wollongong is a major industrial city, most famous for its steel works in the suburb of Port Kembla. I took the photo looking towards the sea and Port Kembla from the first platform of the pagoda.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Nan Tien Temple: the Pagoda (Skywatch Friday)

On a recent visit to Nan Tien temple in the Wollongong suburb of Berkeley, the sun was shining and autumn colour was abundant.

Nan Tien means "Southern Heaven Temple". It is one of the branch temples of Fo Guang Shan, founded in 1967 in Taiwan. There are over 120 branches worldwide. To see more of the temple, look back over the past few days' blogs.

The temples's website tells us: "Pagoda has its origin from the Indian stupa, an ancient type of building used to store sutras and sacred relics of the Buddha. With the spread of Buddhism to China, Chinese architectural elements from gate towers and various wooden structures were gradually incorporated into pagoda design. The seven-tiered style of Nan Tien's Pagoda reflects a similar convention of the T'ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906). Its tapering design reaching to the sky is synonymous with the idea of practicing Buddhism step-by-step which eventually led to supreme enlightenment.

Nan Tien's Pagoda is a resting place for the cremated ashes of devotees and their relatives; it can accommodate the remains of over 7,000 people. Inside the Pagoda is a wishing bell, visitors may make a wish and sound the bell."

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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Nan Tien Temple: The Lotus Pond

From the Nan Tien website:
"Lotus - whether shown as a developing bud, in full bloom, with or without a stem - is one of the most complex and prominent Buddhist symbols of purity and enlightenment. From the swampy depths it grows into an exquisite and fragrant flower. Likewise, people can emerge from ignorance, become pure, and blossom into enlightenment. The lotus is also a cosmic flower, representative of the supramundane. Lotus imagery abounds throughout Nan Tien Temple. Most of the Buddha and Bodhisattva figures are on lotus thrones."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Nan Tien Tenple : the little Buddha statues

In the gardens around the temple and pagoda were lots of these little Buddha statuettes. They seemed to emphasise the virtues of physical exercise, mental exercise, rest, work and prayer.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Nan Tien Temple: the Lumbini Garden

Lumbini means "the lovely", and is located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal.

It is here that Queen Mayadevi gave birth to the baby (Prince Siddhartha Gautama ) who would become the Buddha.

Mayadevi was apparently travelling back to her parents' home in to have her baby when she came across a beautiful grove full of flowers and fruit. She stopped to rest here and soon after gave birth.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Nan Tien Temple: Main Shrine

Above: The main temple viewed from across the Lumbini Garden, which we will see more of tomorrow. "The stairs reminds us of our aim to gain enlightenment. One cannot be given enlightenment, we have to gain it ourselves. It might take many many lifetimes and we have to take each step at a time steadily, it will be a long way but we ought to make those steps ourselves. " (Source: Official website of Nan Tien temple)

Below: Detail of the main temple. Photography is prohibited inside, so this is as close as I can bring you. Inside are statues of 5 Buddhas, representing five aspects of Buddha's teachings, as well as a very large offering table, and places for prayer. The official website shows the 5 Buddhas.

Nan Tien means "Southern Heaven Temple". It is one of the branch temples of Fo Guang Shan, founded in 1967 in Taiwan. There are over 120 branches worldwide.

Fo Guang Shan Buddhism follows the Mahayana tradition which emphasises that Buddhahood is within everyone's potential reach. Fo Guang Shan followers strive to bring Buddhism into daily life and describe their philosophy as "Humanistic Buddhism."
It was completed in 1995. The land was donated by the Australian government.

Left: The huge gong hangs under the eaves of the main shrine.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Welcome to Nan Tien Buddhist Temple

For the next few days we are going to be visiting the Nan Tien Buddhist temple, not far south of Sydney in Berkeley, a suburb of Wollongong. Wollongong is linked to Sydney by freeway and rail and is part of Sydney's commuter belt.

Nan Tien is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. Visitors are very welcome, and there are all sorts of delights in this beautiful place, which we will explore over the next week.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Seasonal change

On April 3 this year, I published the photo at left - a colourful bougainvillea in early autumn, a last flush from summer.
Above is the same plant captured last week - the blooms are fading fast.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Autumn skies

In Sydney, autumn skies are often clear and deep blue. Lately, we've been seeing just such skies. As I walked along my street yesterday morning I was struck by the contrast between the blue of the sky and this red roof. Then I got to the park a block away and loved the image of the blue sky as background to autumnal display of leaves on the plane trees.

To see skies from around the world, click here.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The old school house

The original school house at Arncliffe Public School , dating from about the 1860s, sits in the playground of the now much larger school, surrounded by Victorian buildings, 20th century wooden additions and a late 20th century library (not shown).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

That bridge again - from Cabarita

In Cabarita Park, on Sydney Harbour/Parramatta River is the Cabarita Swimming Centre. Through the shadecloth over the toddlers' pool, Sydney Harbour Bridge pops up. In Sydney, you never know where you'll glimpse it.

To see more pics of Cabarita pool, click here.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Breakfast Point Village Green

For information about Breakfast Creek, see the post from two days ago. Cricket is a summer game, but there are those fanatics, my son amongst them who play in a "winter cricket" competition on Sundays. The private Breakfast Point wicket is not amongst the venues.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Breakfast Point Country Club

For information about the American-style Breakfast Point development, see yesterday's post. Even the term "country club" is borrowed from our friends across the Pacific. It is not a term in use in Australia (and it's certainly not in the country!). It, along with things like the (unstaffed) security gate lend an air of exclusivity to the suburb. The Country Club.

Friday, 8 May 2009

This is not a church - so what is it? (Skywatch Friday)

Breakfast Point is a brand new, still-in-progress housing development between Mortlake and Cabarita, on the Parramatta River. The site used to be a gas works. Environmentalists and some residents say that the formerly heavily industrialised site still contains toxins, and that clean up plans are inadequate. See here.

It's an interesting development, on a huge site. Lots of people would love it, but when we drove around my son just kept saying "It's so clean! It's TOO clean..." In the end he said "OK, enough - let's leave - it's just too., tooooo....American looking."

It does have that manicured-edge look of a Pleasantville or Stepford or Wisteria Lane of the Desperate Housewives. The houses and apartments are cookie-cutter perfect, every blade of grass manicured. But we know what sorts of dark secrets those places hide!

And I think the fake-New England church, which is a community hall is just too "cutesy" for words, and makes me laugh. The Country Club lends that air of exclusivity, and I think is meant to evoke the "romance" of Connecticut in the 1950's, when only "the right sort of people" were allowed to join, and housing covenants ensured none of the "wrong sort" appeared - Blacks, Jews and the like.

Of course, none of that would apply here, and the few people I saw getting in and out of cars (I was the only person walking anywhere) were very diverse. But it all just looks far too twee for me to be happy there.

I think one of the most interesting aspects is that many of the residents have turned NIMBY and oppose the proposition of a marina for luxury boats in the bay upon which this development is located. There are "No Marina" signs adorning various balconies. But in keeping with the overall "look" they are uniform, neatly blue and white - no hand-painted individualistic placards and protest at Brekky Point!

I'm going to poke around Brekky Point a bit more in the next few days if you want to come with me.

Other places, other skies.