Take a thirty minute drive south-west of Brisbane’s bustling CBD, and you’ll find yourself in the outer suburb of Mount Crosby.
Hidden in this quiet hinterland, down a solitary dirt track, is the Dhammagiri Forest Monastery.
This Theravada Buddhist monastery is located on an 84 acre property which is purpose-built to take its residents and visitors on a journey of self-discovery.
Dhammagiri’s resident abbot, Bhikkhu Dhammasiha lives alongside two other monks and a postulant monk in a set of small, simple huts in the thick of the forest.
“The journey to the monastery prepares your mind for the experience. You drive out to the forest and you leave the burdens of your daily life behind,” he says.
The Theravada strand of Buddhism focuses heavily on meditation and inner reflection, a practice suited to the rambling hills and solitude of Mount Crosby.
“The forest tradition of Theravada means that we do not live in the city but retire to the solitude of the forest to practice true meditation,” he says.
However seclusion is only a small part of the picture at this monastery, which opens its doors to the Brisbane community on a regular basis.
“The Buddha wanted us to practice in solitude, but at the same time he wanted to make sure that the lay community could have contact,” he says.
To achieve this, the Dhammagiri monastery is open to the public every day with food offering ceremonies held every Saturday and guided meditation every Sunday.
The teachings of Theravada Buddhism prohibit monks from eating unless the food is offered by a member of the community.
With the monastery tucked away in the forests of Mount Crosby, collecting food is often a long and difficult process for the monks.
Accordingly, the Dhammagiri monks rely on community engagement to practice their lifestyle.
“People from the community bring food offerings from 10am on Saturdays, we all have a meal together and afterward we discuss the teachings of Theravada,” says Bhikkhu Dhammasiha.
Bhikku Dhammasiha says the monastery always welcomes community members who are interested in learning about the Buddhist lifestyle.
“You don’t have to be Buddhist, as long as you enjoy generosity, then you can come and join us,” he says.
While the self-reflective ideals of the Dhammagiri monastery are admirable, for many of us navigating through a typical 21st century life, finding the time to relax can be difficult.
Bhikku Dhammasiha suggests a few simple exercises to apply the practices of Buddhism to our daily lives.
“Don’t do things mindlessly but observe what is actually going on.
“No matter how hectic your lifestyle, there is always an opportunity to help other people and share what you have with others who are less fortunate,” he says.
Allowing ourselves the time to forget deadlines or ignore our electronic devices is a foreign concept to many, but one that the Bhikku highly recommends.
“For one hour every week switch off all the screens. That’s the iPad, the smartphone, the television, switch it all off and look at what’s happening in your heart,” he says.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.
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