BONNYRIGG VIETNAMESE BUDDHIST COMMUNITY | Proposal to increase room for loved ones’ ashes

PROPOSAL: Artist's impression of the new stupa, or resting place for ashes of the deceased.
PROPOSAL: Artist's impression of the new stupa, or resting place for ashes of the deceased.

Phap Bao Pagoda at Bonnyrigg, Australia’sfirstofficialVietnameseBuddhist temple, has run out of room to store the ashes of deceased loved ones and hopes that plans to build a larger stupa to meet the needs of the temple’s community will be approved by year’s end.

The temple can currently store the ashes of nearly 500 deceased people. The new facility would increase that by roughly four times and is expected not to reach capacity until the year 2106.

The proposal is currently before FairfieldCouncil.

The Bonnyrigg temple has been a vital part of Sydney’s Vietnamese Buddhist community since the mid-1980s.

The Phap Bao Pagoda temple is open daily so the Buddhist community can practise religious traditions, based on respect, love and kindness.

The temple, at 2-4 Bibbys Place, sits in the centre of a cultural precinct respectfully shared by various cultures and religions, including a Chinese Presbyterian Church and the Bonnyrigg Mosque. There’s also a nearby bowling club.

The temple’s current stupa is now at capacity. The facility stores the ashes of 450 deceased people, where the ashes will remain forever, according to Buddhist culture. The current stupa has existed since the 1980s.

Temple spokeswoman Sister Mai Pham said the situation has caused some heartache for the local Buddhist community who wish to secure the final resting place of their loved ones.

“Our heritage-rich site has been embraced by the local Vietnamese Buddhist community,” she said. “Our traditions date back many thousands of years and the temple provides an important social and culture centre.”

Sister Mai said the proposal for a new stupa is currently being considered by Fairfield Council. She hopes the new plans will be approved before the end of the year.

“This new facility would give our temple extra room to store ashes. It would enable us to make improvements to the existing place of public worship.”

The plans would increase the capacity of the stupa to inter the ashes of 2000 deceased people.

The improvements would reinforce the cultural and heritage significance of the temple and would help meet the need of the Vietnamese community to take care of their deceased relatives without necessarily increasing the number of visitors, Sister Mai said.

The facility gets about one person’s ashes every three weeks, totalling around 17 sets of ashes per year, meaning it may take up to 88 years for the renovated stupa to reach capacity. Ashes are interred at the temple indefinitely, she said.

Building designer David Manche, of MancheDesigns at Revesby, was engaged to design the new stupa. The development proposal seeks to demolish part of an existing temple structure and existing covered outdoor area and build a new stupa, covered outdoor stage and new function area.