BUDDHISM IN NEW ZEALAND
Few among men are those who cross to the further
shore. The rest, the bulk of men, only run up and down the hither bank. But
those who act according to the Dhamma, will cross the realm of Death, so
difficult to cross. ~ Dhammapada 85, 86.
The impetus to initiate a sangha of local New
Zealanders may well have started with the Ajahn Munindo ( Keith Morgan ) who
was born in the North Island in 1951. He ordained in Wat Bovornives under the
Thai Sanghraja Phra Somdet Nanasamvara in 1974, but in 1975 he reordained again
under Ajahn Chah in Wat Pah Pong in N.E. Thailand. He returned to New Zealand
for a period of six months in 1979 because of ill-health. During his time here
interest grew, in both the cities of Wellington and Auckland, in having
bhikkhus stay on a more permanent basis.
Almsround in New Zealand. Photo by Bodhinyanarama
By 1985, interest was sufficient for the
Wellington Theravada Buddhist Association to invite the Ajahn Viradhammo,
accompanied by Ven. Thanavaro to move from the United Kingdom to New Zealand
where they started the construction of Bodhinyanarama, or the Garden of
Enlightened Knowing. The monastery, in a 51 hectare Native Reserve of
regenerating bush 29 kms from Wellington, is set in a dramatic setting; at the
foot of a steep hill covered with lush forest and tree ferns. In 1989 a native
New Zealander was accepted into the bhikkhu sangha and Bodhinyanarama held its
Ajahn Viradhammo ( Vitauts Akers ) was born in
Germany to Latvian refugee parents. He encountered Buddhism while living in
India and ordained in 1974 at Wat Pah Nanachat, the international forest
monstery of Ajahn Chah in N.E. Thailand. Before coming to New Zealand he stayed
with Ajahn Sumedho in the United Kingdom and was involved in the establishment
of both Cittaviveka and Ratanagiri monasteries there. In 1994 he left New
Zealand and presently resides in Amaravati monastery in the United Kingdom.
Ven Thanavaro ( Giuseppe Proscia ), an Italian was
ordained in 1979 by the Sri Lankan bhikkhu Ven Dr Saddhatissa on a boat in the
river Thames, London. Subsequently he trained in the British monasteries. He
left New Zealand in 1990 to found Santacittarama monastery in Italy. Ven
Thanavaro disrobed in 1996 after 18 vassas as a bhikkhu.
The sangha at Bodhinyanarama is also associated
with another vihara in the city of Auckland and its bhikkhus extend their
teachings to several cities in both North and South Islands.
Apart from Bodhinyanara, there are several other
Theravada viharas set up by the Thai, Laotian and Khmer ( Cambodian )
~ Forest Sangha Newsletter
~ Seeing The Way, Amaravati Publications, 1989.
~ Bodhinyanarama home page.
Dhammaduta ( http://www.quantrum.com.my/duta)