Great Stupa of Universal Compassion near Bendigo to host interfaith library of religious texts

Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, BendigoA library devoted to texts and artefacts from different faiths will be built at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, near Bendigo in Central Victoria, which organisers hope will attract scholars and people from around the world. The library is a project 42 years in the making when the Great Stupa’s chair, Ian Green, envisioned a library to become a leader in libraries on theology and philosophy.

The region’s religious leaders say the library will be a place for people to learn about spirituality, enlightenment, religion, faith, and science. Organisers of the Great Stupa already have 1,500 texts put aside to catalogue into the library when it is finished in November this year.

It includes 250 texts uploaded into its online library, which it is hoped scholars and people from around the world will use for education. “All the work started seven years ago but in a very small way, with just a few boxes of donated books,” said volunteer librarian Barbara Rozmus.

Catalogue of faiths bound for shelves

Ms Rozmus worked as a librarian at the National Library of Canberra for 12 years and in public libraries before that, project managing library science and developing public programs with multicultural communities.


Barbara Rozmus at the Great Stupa
Barbara Rozmus says the library already has quite a big section on interfaith, presenting other faiths.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

“So it’s still pretty small, but big plans,” she said. “It’s developing along with the themes of faith and science. “Buddhist faith and Buddhist books are certainly very well represented in the library, but we also have quite a big section already on interfaith, presenting other faiths.

“The very particular angle we are taking is looking at materials, supporting knowledge, but intersection of faith, Buddhism, and science.”

The construction of the library will start in a matter of weeks and is expected to be completed by November so that it can open by the end of this year.

Vision of old Tibetan monk

The library is a project 42 years in the making when the Great Stupa’s chair, Ian Green, envisioned a library to become a leader in libraries on theology and philosophy.


Ian Green at the Great Stupa of Compassion
Ian Green says he’s waited 42 years for the library to be started.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

“It was in 1981 that Lama Yeshe said to me that up on that hill up there we have a big stupa, and in this big stupa would be a big temple and a library. So now it is about to become a reality,” he said.

“It will become a resource that scholars and those interested in these particular subjects will actually come along and have a place where they can study. “Where they can come here, work on computers, do research, but also they can login remotely as well.”

The president of the Kehiliat S’dov Zahav, the progressive Jewish association of the Goldfields in Central Victoria, David Kram, said being a library that transcends faiths, people will be able to find the Holy Quaran, the Hebrew Bible otherwise referred to as the Old Testament in Christianity. Dr Kram has already donated several books on Judaism that place the faith in the wider world.

“It’s important to have religious texts that are written not to, not for, members of their own faith, but to the world at large,” he said.

“I really welcome this wonderful idea of building blocks of education to combat ignorance.

“The three building blocks [of the library] are Buddhism, interfaith, and science. Science as we know it, of course, comes out of a wider branch of knowledge called philosophy, the love of knowledge.”

Near the Great Stupa is the Atisha Centre where Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns live and study at a retreat. Its director Gaylten Dondrup wants to see some of the older texts dedicated to the Lamrim path to enlightenment that many practising Buddhist begin with, autobiographies, and historical accounts such as videos of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche at an early age.

Thubten Yeshe was a Tibetan who was exiled in Nepal and co-founded the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition which the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion falls under. Thubten Zopa Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. “Most people don’t understand most faiths,” the Venerable Dondrup said.

“So by having a library here, having a bit of access to know what those philosophies are and being able to share those with us, gives everyone a bit more bit more of an understanding.”

The Victorian government is spending $430,000 to help the Great Stupa organisation build the library, and its Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, said it was vital the texts were made available for online research. “There’s the science component to it as well — connecting the science with the faith across the world,” she said.

“Bendigo is already a very diverse community and we have many, many people from different multicultural backgrounds already. “We have more refugees from the Karen community than anywhere else in Victoria.”

What all leaders, religious and community, agree on is that the library will be a place that accommodates all faiths. “It just brings about harmony, peace and harmony, within the community,” the Venerable Dondrup said. “That’s the most important thing, to be able to share all the different faiths.”


Bendigo Interfaith Council at Great Stupa
From left, Interfaith Council of Bendigo chair Judy Causon, Bendigo Iman Atalla Khawaldeh, Interfaith Council of Bendigo vice-chair Heri Febriyanto, Kehiliat s’dov Zahav founding president Howard Nathan, Atisha Buddhist Centre director Gyalten Dondrup, and President of the Indian Association of Bendigo Abhishek Awasthai.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)


Image Credit: Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, Bendigo, ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton


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