Bendigo: The Jade Buddha arrives home

Bendigo’s Great Stupa of Universal Compassion will play host to the consecration of the Jade Buddha on Friday 18 May 2018; on the days following there will be the Illumin8 festival at the Great Stupa, Bendigo.


The statue has spent the past decade on a world tour, visited by more than 11 million people. It might seem odd that its final home is in regional Victoria but since 1981 these 210 acres of land have been donated to the creation of a Buddhist centre by former advertising executive Ian Green and his family. Green was the Jade Buddha’s travelling companion across 130 countries and it’s he who bought the jewel after consulting with his teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

The statue slowly took shape in the oldest carving factory in Thailand and in 2008 it began its hectic tour. As of Friday 18 May, it can meditate in peace in the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion.


 Workers carve the Jade Buddha in Thailand

While the stupa is in daily use, there are a few years of work to go. When it’s finished there will be 80 shrine rooms around its six-storey perimeter and people will ascend through them as a form of meditation. Green’s masterplan is to have a Buddhist village on site. There’s already a monastery and the Atisha Centre, which hosts meditation retreats, but last year a spanner was thrown in the works: new fire regulations mean much more land has to be cleared for building to commence and consequently the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning must be appeased with $8m to $13m worth of offset planting.

Last year, the Atisha Centre and stupa received 26,000 visitors from around the world, with 60% being Buddh-curious. “We get lots of Probus clubs visiting and they’re keen to know about karma and the Dalai Lama,” Green says. “The questions are terrific.”

A new attraction is the interfaith Peace Garden, which includes a statue of St Francis of Assisi, donated by the Catholic diocese of Sandhurst, and other symbols coming from local Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Mormon and Indigenous organisations.

The garden and the stupa will be lit up during Illumin8, the annual festival of light and peace that this year also celebrates the arrival of the Jade Buddha. Thousands of lanterns and fresh flowers will garland the ground, to a backdrop of music, dancing and fireworks, all fuelled by the vegan and vegetarian food vendors. It’s a huge spectacle but presumably a breeze for a team headed by Green. In any case, he says jovially, “Nothing can go wrong with the Jade Buddha there.”

A festival celebrating the arrival of the Jade Buddha, Illumin8, takes place from 18-20 May at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo



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