The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in South Africa
The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple situated in the beautiful area of Bronkhorstspruit, South Africa, is the largest Buddhist temple and seminary in Africa. It serves as the headquarters in Africa for the largest monastery in Taiwan, the Fo Guang Shan Order (Buddha’s Light Mountain order). Fo Guang Shan, which is a Mahayana Chinese Buddhism monastic order, was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun in 1967.
In March 1992 the Bronkhorstspruit City Council donated a large piece of land to the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order for the purpose of developing a Chinese Buddhist educational and cultural complex. This donation of land was initiated by the council’s chief executive, Dr. Hennie Senekal, a former church minister who had previously visited Taiwan on business. Construction of Nan Hua Buddhist Temple began in October 1992 and cost over sixty million South African Rand. Since the completion of the temple a number of other building projects have been completed, including the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple Guesthouse, Nan Hua Village, African Buddhist Seminary and a Pureland Ch’an retreat centre. The funding for these projects comes from the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order as well as the large Taiwanese community in South Africa.
With the aim of promoting Buddhism throughout Africa, the Fo Guang Shan Religious Affairs Committee in Taiwan sent Venerable Hui Li to take the lead as founding abbot of the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple. To achieve their objective the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple has opened branches in other cities in South Africa including Johannesburg, Newcastle, Bloemfontein, Durban and Cape Town. From these centers the members of the temple are active in the local communities with regard to prison outreach programs and other charitable works.
Novices at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple come from all walks of life and different African countries, including Kenya, Congo and Zimbabwe. When novices enter the program at the temple, it is with the understanding that they may only contact their relatives by letter or telephone, but they will not be going home for three years. All novices are required to renounce their old lifestyles and relinquish attachments to material things. As a symbolic affirmation of their choice, novices have their heads shaved during the annual Head Shaving Ceremony. Most of the novices that leave before completing their three year course, are drawn back home either to care for households that need a wage earner or because of missing their families and the lifestyle they had pursued prior to entering the seminary.
Although Buddhism essentially requires a life of self-denial, many people are drawn to Buddhism because of its teachings of peace and tolerance. No doubt Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in South Africa will succeed in bringing this message to many on the African continent.