Discovering Australia's hidden gems

Archive for July, 2013

Cultivating Compassion at Chenrezig Buddhist Institute

Cultivating Compassion at Chenrezig Buddhist Institute

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Chenrezig Institute is the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Australia.

Nestled in the lush, green hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, it is a fertile environment for cultivating mind awareness, compassion, and loving kindness. Qualities that once taken root within, can  be carried with you wherever you go, benefiting all you come in contact with, and creating a beautiful sense of peace and equanimity within.

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DSCN0425eAs with all of my experiences at Chenrezig, today’s teachings have left me feeling more inspired, loving, open, and respectful of others’ rights and desires for happiness as being equally as important and strong as my own. Something we often forget in this individualistic, self-focused Western culture that we have become conditioned to.

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This morning’s teachings were on bodhicitta, which translates from Tibetan as ‘awakened mind’. Those who have achieved bodhicitta are known as bodhisattvas. The main aspiration of a bodhisattva is to achieve an enlightened mind for the purpose of being able to benefit all living beings and help alleviate their suffering.

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Buddhism can often be viewed negatively because of the strong focus placed on suffering. But as explained in today’s class, it is not until we fully understand the true nature of suffering that we are able to do something about it. As with any problem, we must understand it to know how to fix it.

The root of bodhicitta is developing true compassion, which is defined in Buddhism as “the wish for all sentient beings to be free of suffering”.

We are taught that it is essential that we understand our own suffering and develop compassion for ourselves FIRST. Otherwise, how are we able to help others if we don’t have these qualities within us to give?

Practicing loving kindness (having feelings of cherishing and caring for others), is the first step towards compassion. When you care about another you obviously don’t want them to suffer.

Tibetan Buddhism provides detailed steps/paths for developing compassion and bodhicitta which I won’t go into detail with here. However, if you wish to know more about these teachings there is an abundance of printed and electronic material available, as well as low cost or free classes on Buddhist practices. Specific meditation practices on loving kindness and compassion are also available.

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So the purpose of all this focus on suffering is not to make us feel depressed, despondent, or hopeless, but just the opposite. The purpose is to remove suffering (which is mostly a product of our mind and the thoughts we choose to believe) and restore our natural state of happiness.

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The concept of equanimity is the foundation of compassion and the awakened mind. Knowing that other beings are exactly the same as you in their wish to avoid suffering and experience happiness.

Whilst all being the same, we are still of course  individuals, who choose different paths and have different values and goals. But at the core I believe that we ALL commonly desire happiness and freedom from suffering.

Tibetan Buddhism teaches that each and every one of us has a ‘Buddha nature’, which means the potential to attain a pure, enlightened mind. In this state we will not only be completely free from our own personal suffering, but also able to help other beings overcome their suffering. What an uplifting, inspiring and hopeful thought! 🙂

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Chenrezig Institute, for me, continues to be a place of great beauty, both internally and externally.

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A place filled with love, compassion and kindness. A place that emanates serenity and a sense of well-being. It provides inspiration to become a better person, to help others be the best that they can be, and to create a better, kinder world.

DSCN9943e[And the perfect place to write up an article on compassion for my blog. :)]

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Oh, and they do an outstanding chai!

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For more information on Chenrezig Institute visit their website: http://www.chenrezig.com.au/

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Or Google Buddhism for more general information or resources in your local area.

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My personal view is that we don’t need religious beliefs, nor an enlightened mind, to make a difference. We are all capable of increasing our compassion for ourselves and for others to the best of our ability at this time.  And thus helping to create a kinder, more loving world.

May all living beings be free from suffering. 🙂

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Crystal Waters Permaculture Village

Crystal Waters Permaculture Village

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Today we decided to take a ‘re-tour’ of Crystal Waters – the award-winning Permaculture Village suited in the lush Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland Australia.

I say re-tour because we explored this place five years ago on one of our trips and are keen to see how things have evolved since then.

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This is our view as we make the one hour journey through the spectacular Hinterland. These photos show Queensland’s famous Glasshouse Mountains, another magical place to visit in Australia.

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Sweeping, breathtaking views like this were a great way to start the day, and reminded me how much I love this part of the world.

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The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this creek crossing as we approached the village was gorgeous. The water was so still it looked solid, like a smooth amber pathway meandering through the trees.

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These are the neighbouring cows on the green rolling hills opposite the Crystal Waters Estate. As well as having a guided tour of Crystal Waters today we have come to check out their markets.

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This is the view from the carpark! 🙂

DSCN9863eDSCN9860e The village green hosted the monthly market which had a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere. Lots of locals enjoying a social time in the sunshine and catching up on each other’s news over some wholesome food and drinks.

DSCN9858e No pluto pups or hot chips here – homemade chicken and vegetable soup for sale 🙂

DSCN9862eHealthy treats available too – homemade chai and gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate cup cakes. 🙂

DSCN0912ecThe bakery was a highlight, boasting it’s own flour mill upstairs.

Crystal Waters bread is also sold offsite to various stores in the Sunshine Coast region.

DSCN9864e The musical acts were unique and entertaining. This upbeat group hammered out popular boppy tunes on their xylophones!

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DSCN9869eThere were only a dozen or so stalls but I think what people really come for is the social interaction and relaxed community vibe that the markets provide. Trading goods and services is just a good excuse for a get together with some live entertainment amongst the glorious trees on a perfect sunny winter’s day.

DSCN0897eI did find a stall which had the cutest little hat just begging me to buy it. I don’t usually buy much at markets, I just like to look and soak up the vibe, but I fell in love with my hat as soon as I saw it and it made me feel silly-happy when I wore it for the rest of the day. It’s the simple things … 🙂

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DSCN0909eDSCN0908e After the markets we met up with long-term resident Barry for a two hour tour of the village. He covered the history of the village and an overview of the permacultural design of the property, as well as answering our many questions about permaculture and  communal living.

DSCN0920eDSCN0915eWe also took a drive around to check out the eco-friendly houses and features of the property.

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There are a handful of industries that operate within the eco village.

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DSCN9805e This bamboo provides one form of income for the community with its succulent bamboo shoots being sold to upmarket restaurants in Sydney.

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The Crystal Waters Community Vision Statement provides a nice summation of the community’s values and objectives, and contains a lot of things worth aspiring to.

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Well a lot has changed in the past five years. The permaculture gardens are more developed and healthier looking, and the communal facilities have improved and expanded . Most people you talk to about communal living are upfront about its ups and downs. As part of  an individualistic culture, there are many challenges to be faced with communal living, but the benefits must outweigh the difficulties for those who continue to choose this type of lifestyle.

DSCN0884e The social facilities and events have also improved since our last visit. The monthly markets are a catalyst for relaxed and friendly social interaction, and the community also holds regular film nights, yoga classes and live entertainment.

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Nestled in a picturesque valley in the spectacular Sunshine Coast Hinterland, a community of people dissatisfied with mainstream suburban living have dreams to create a more Utopian existence. And whilst the theoretical and the practical side of communal, self-sustainable living don’t always match up, there are many joys to be had from following an alternative lifestyle. And Mother Earth breathes a sigh of relief as some choose to tread just a little more lightly upon her.