Story: Diverse religions

Page 4. Forms of Buddhism

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Theravada Buddhism

The Buddhism of Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka is known as Theravada Buddhism (meaning ‘path of the elders’). In 2003 the Auckland Khmer (Cambodian) Buddhist Association opened a temple and centre in Takanini, and others later opened in Māngere, Hamilton and Wellington. Theravadan Buddhist members of the Thai community opened temples in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The first Sri Lankan Buddhist temple opened in Ōtāhuhu, Auckland, in 1999. It was joined by the Dhamma Gavesi Meditation Centre in Tawa, serving more than 500 families in the Wellington area. Bodhinyanarama monastery in Stokes Valley, near Wellington, was established in the mid-1980s to teach Buddhism in a monastic setting. Its affiliated centres were the Auckland Buddhist Vihara in Mt Wellington, and the Vimutti Buddhist Monastery, founded in 1980 in Bombay, South Auckland.

Mahayana Buddhism

The Buddhism of East Asia is known as Mahayana (‘the great path’). The Vietnamese Buddhist Association has its own distinctive pagoda temple, Giac Nhien, in Ōtāhuhu, Auckland. The largest Buddhist temple in New Zealand, Fo Guang Shan in East Tāmaki Heights, Auckland, opened in 2007. It was built in a Chinese style and promoted ‘humanistic Buddhism’. There was also a Fo Guang Shan centre in Christchurch and the Buddha's Light Association for younger members. Another major Auckland Chinese Buddhist temple was the Tsi Ming Temple in Greenlane.

Teaching Zen

Sensei Amala Wrightson is an Auckland-born Zen priest and teacher of a branch of Japanese Zen Buddhism. She and her husband began Zen practice after attending a workshop in Sweden in 1982. She later trained as a teacher in the US and founded the Auckland Zen Centre in 2003.

The Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Buddhism (FPMT) is an international organisation with more than 100 centres around the world. In New Zealand FPMT has run the Amitabha Hospice in Avondale, Auckland, since 1995. It also runs the Mahamudra Centre, a retreat centre started in the 1980s near Colville, Coromandel; the Dorje Chang Institute for Wisdom Culture in Avondale, Auckland; and the Chandrakirti meditation centre in Nelson.

Zen Buddhism

The Auckland Zen Centre was established by Amala Wrightson in 2003 to teach the Japanese Zen Buddhism tradition. It was later joined by a number of other Zen centres and the Korean Buddhist community.

Tibetan Buddhism

A third Buddhist strand is the traditions of Tibet. The best-known Tibetan Buddhist is the Dalai Lama, the Nobel peace laureate who visited New Zealand on several occasions and addressed capacity crowds in Auckland and Wellington. The first teachers of Tibetan Buddhism came to New Zealand in the 1970s and by the 2010s a number of centres promoted particular Tibetan teachings and traditions.

The Dhargyey Buddhist Centre began in Dunedin in 1984 and later opened centres in Whangārei and Christchurch. These offered teaching and practices following the Tibetan traditions of the Dalai Lama’s Gelug School, as did the Trashi Gomang Centre in Māngere, Auckland.

Diamond Way Buddhism is part of an international network of meditation centres following the Karma Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Auckland group was established in 2008. There are also centres in Wellington, Golden Bay, Rangiora and Christchurch. The Compassion Buddhist Centre in Christchurch is part of the New Kadampa Tradition, as is the Bodh Gaya Centre in Wellington. The Shambhala Buddhist Meditation Centre in Auckland is part of an international organisation teaching Tibetan Buddhist meditation.

Other types of Buddhism

The Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) offered a ‘non-sectarian style of Buddhism’ at centres including the Auckland Buddhist Centre in Grey Lynn, Auckland; the Wellington Buddhist Centre; and Sundarshanaloka (Land of the Beautiful Vision), a retreat centre near Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is part of an international Buddhist organisation originating in Japan. The New Zealand group was founded in 1975 and had around 1,500 members in 2016 .

How to cite this page:

Paul Morris, 'Diverse religions - Forms of Buddhism', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 April 2024)

Story by Paul Morris, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 12 Jul 2018