Saturday, June 23, 2012

Buddhism on the Maribyrnong

While taking the train across the Maribyrnong River, I have been observing the building of a Buddhist temple on the Western bank the most striking feature of which is a 16m tall gold-painted statue of Mazu, gazing out over the industrial ugliness on the Eastern bank towards Port Phillip Bay.
A golden goddess gazing over industrial ugliness
I have been meaning to walk over and have a look, so this morning I did.

A touch of China in Footscray
I find a new Buddhist temple bothers me much less than a new mosque.  While Buddhism hardly has a perfect record--it has played an invidious role in Sinhalese chauvinism in Sri Lanka and in encouraging militarism in Imperial Japan--it has a much better record of playing nicely with others than Islam.

So I was a bit surprised to find myself having a negative reaction, while I was looking at the temple, to the fact that every piece of writing was in Chinese. It seemed an almost deliberate distancing from the society around it. Because religious figures in emigre cultures are about traditions  "back home", they can often be a barrier to integration; particularly as the role of a cleric is so often to be a "gatekeeper of righteousness".

Of course, there was an extra little touch.
Stating where we are
On the way back, I came across an Asian man (probably in his 30s) rugged up in Demons beanie and Parramatta Eels jacket fishing alone on the river bank. He had clearly embraced his Australian tribalism!

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

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