Nan Tien is Chinese for Southern Paradise. Just 90 minutes south of Sydney, this southern paradise is the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest Buddhist temple and Australia’s first government accredited tertiary institution grounded in Buddhism values and wisdom.
The Nan Tien Temple stands with a sense of serenity firmly amongst the trees near Wollongong, just a 90 minute drive south of Sydney.
The Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist temple offers retreats and workshops for those interested in learning about Buddhism, touring the temple, or simply spending a day relaxing. Walk-ins are also welcome.
After visiting the temple with friends I was inspired to learn more about Buddhism and spend more time in the temple soaking up all of that calm, positive energy, so it wasn’t long before I secured my spot for their One Day Retreat (the next available being months away after the sold out dates – so bookings are a must!).
My roommate and I drove down from Sydney early on a Saturday morning. As we walked up the stairs and into the reception area, the overall sense of peace and quiet was hard not to feel. We were early so I took the opportunity to read about meditation from various booklets sitting in a small bookcase lining one of the walls. Once our diverse group gathered we were welcomed by a friendly volunteer. We signed in and attached name tags, then we all sat down and watched a video introducing the principles of meditation. The recording was dated but the principles more relevant than ever.
Our retreat was lead by Reverend Lee, a young Buddhist nun with a calm and compassionate aura who was patient, wise, refreshingly funny, and encouraged us all to go slower, deeper, wiser.
Our day went a little like this..
9.00-9.10 | Registration and introductory film to meditation
9.10-9.20 | Walking Meditation – We were given the task of walking mindfully to the Meditation Hall, paying careful attention to and counting each step along the way. Any time our mind wandered we had to start counting from the beginning. What number had I reached by the time we stood outside the meditation hall? Four.
9.20-10.00 | Introduction inside the Meditation Hall involved learning how to sit mindfully and discussing the fundamentals of meditation, as well as going through what the day would hold.
10.00-10.20 | Tai Chi in the courtyard was an interesting experience. My first attempt at this physical form of meditation left me feeling calm and reenergised. I used to think the folks practicing Tai Chi in the park looked a little kooky but after learning how to combine the slow and gentle martial arts based moves with controlled breathing for myself I totally got it!
10.20-10.40 | Morning Tea was served which gave us a chance to have some tea/coffee and biccies and a short break before the first meditation session.
10.40-11.30 | Basic Meditation in the Meditation Hall was an easy beginner-level guided meditation.
11.30-12.40 | Lunch in the Dining Hall was a lesson in mindful eating. We were encouraged to pay special attention to what we chose from the unlimited buffet, filled with plenty of healthy sautéed mixed veggies, steamed greens, deep fried capsicum, rice, noodles, tofu and fresh orange slices. We were encouraged to be mindful of each sensory experience, from the cool metal of the cutlery to the smells and tastes of each mouthful. We paid special attention to the sight, smell, sounds, feel and tastes of mealtime as well as being thankful for the process involved before the food even made it to the buffet table. The cooks who prepared it in Nan Tien’s kitchen, the truck driver who transported the produce from farm to kitchen, the farmer who planted the seeds and harvested the crops.
12:40-1.00 | Walking Meditation around the temple grounds straight after lunch was a good way to walk off any food comas. We counted each step again and I was able to make it to double digits this time so I noted that the workshop was helping to improve my zen somewhat.
1.00-2.00| Our Temple Tour was led by Bob who managed to be both educational and hilarious. One of the many times we slipped up and broke our Noble Silence for the day was during Bob’s example of the meaning of integrity. To cut a long story short, Integrity is preparing a nice salad for your party guests and not double dipping the taste-testing spoon while your guests aren’t looking!
2.15-3.00 | Our last Meditation session was conducted similarly to the first session but felt a little easier after all of the practice we had been working on throughout the day.
3.00-4.00 | Discussion held after the last meditation session helped us reflect on what we had learned and ask any questions.
Address | 180 Berkeley Road, Berkeley NSW AUSTRALIA 2506
Phone | (02)42720600
Website | http://www.nantien.org.au/en/
Tuesday to Sunday | 9.00am – 5.00pm
Mondays | Closed