Monks' mantras upset locals

by Leah Hallett, Gold Coast, Dec 10, 2007

Brisbane, Australia -- BUDDHIST monks seeking nirvana in the Gold Coast Hinterland have been accused of disturbing the peace of their neighbours.

Monks from the Hwazan Buddhist Association have been warned they can only pursue enlightenment on their own property between 7am and 7pm after being told their late night chanting on their Clagiraba property was disturbing their neighbours.

Their application to council to build a buddhist meditation centre at 131-139 Clagiraba Road earlier this year sparked the issue.

Since then neighbours have complained the monks' amplified mantras are more painful than peaceful.

In a letter to council, one resident likened the monks' broadcast chanting to 'annoying airport announcements'.

"It felt as if we were at Heathrow airport," wrote the neighbour.

"Each time they made an announcement it was exactly like being at the airport -- sound effects and all.

"It was not just very annoying but gave me a headache."

Other residents complained the night lighting and amplified chanting disturbed nocturnal wildlife and destroyed the area's ambience.

"We are followers of a different religion and we wouldn't put our prayers over a PA system as this detracts from the rural peace that we currently enjoy," wrote one resident.

"There has in the past been loud monotonous chanting very late into the night and the sounds carry right into our bedroom making it impossible to sleep."

However, despite residents' complaints, the council is expected to approve the application today after meditating on it for a week.

Under approval conditions the centre will be able to operate seven days a week but only between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

Ironically, the name Buddhism comes from the word 'budhi' which means 'to wake up' and thus Buddhism is considered to be the philosophy of awakening.

Buddhism is now 2500 years old and has about 300 million followers worldwide.

The proposed meditation school will be built at the site of a former resort that adjoins Clagiraba Creek and the Little Clagiraba Reserve.

The site covers an area of 4.3ha and contains a tennis court, swimming pool and fish pond, as well as a former restaurant and tourist facility and a house.

The association plans to convert it into a school for up to 20 students, who would be looked after by a maximum of five buddhist monks and three ancillary staff.

Students requiring more than one day's meditation will have the option of residing onsite in dormitory-style accommodation.

There are no plans at this stage to change the outside of the main two-storey building.

However, the inside would be changed to provide a large meditation hall, bedrooms and kitchen.