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Vihara Maitreya: Surabaya, East Java

The new Vihara Maitreya in Surabaya is one place that would be well worth a visit. Opened in late November last year, it functions not only as a centre for prayer but also for teaching.

Vihara’ for faithfull to raise own self-awareness

If the size, style and opulence of the new Vihara Maitreya in Surabaya are any measure, then Buddhism is booming in Indonesia.

Technically, only 1 per cent of the population is registered as Buddhist. But with 300 Maitreya Vihara alone across the country and at least six other prominent schools of the religion all with their own places of worship, the official figures look a little wonky.

The Great Hall of the Surabaya Vihara is dome-shaped, like a mosque, and three storeys high. There’s a lift to the upper levels, large chapels behind and a huge auditorium. A library, childcare rooms, communal kitchens, souvenir shop and dormitories make the Vihara a major addition to Indonesian religious life.

With its great timber doors, hectares of polished ceramics, closed-circuit security cameras and computer systems, it’s clear no expense has been spared.

Although officially opened last November, facilities are still being completed. It’s big, but not the largest in Indonesia. That title is held by the Vihara on Batam Island, opened in 1999 and covering almost two hectares.

Pandita Harmono Njoto from the Surabaya Vihara said it was important to differentiate between religion and tradition.

“We’ve embraced modern technology,” he said. Technology is neither good nor bad; it depends on how you use it.

“This is an open faith. Everyone is welcome.”

In Buddhism, individuals are responsible for their faith and priests are not required to intercede. Vihara are built to help worshipers develop their own self-awareness.

A central feature of Buddhism is acceptance of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The Truths acknowledge the recognition that all existence is full of suffering caused by a craving for worldly objects.

Suffering ends when craving ceases.

The Eightfold Path leads to enlightenment and invokes perfect views, resolve, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.