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MONKS at the Thubten Shedrup Ling monastery in Myers Flat are in shock after their new prayer room was completely destroyed in a fire on Friday.
The fire destroyed $145,000 worth of property and the building was yet to be insured.
The fire was accidentally lit by a Nepalese family who travelled from Melbourne to the monastery north of Bendigo to mourn the death of their father.
The family lit a lot of small candles on the altar during their ceremony and did not put them out before they left.
The candles caught other items on the altar and within minutes the entire building was alight.
Monastery director Gyatso said the family "blissfully" drove back to Melbourne, unaware of what had happened.
The monks have no contact details for the family, but don't want to contact them anyway.
"They'd feel terrible, there's no point," Gyatso said.
"I think better they remain in ignorant bliss."
Gyatso said a big problem was the building was not yet insured.
"It was on the list of things to do," Gyatso said.
"It didn't occur to me - an internal fire in such a new building."
He estimated the damage to the building to be worth up to $100,000 and the value of items such as statues and Buddhist texts to be worth at least $45,000.
The spiritual loss is more difficult for the monks because most of the items are irreplaceable.
There was a wooden Mongolian statue worth $15,000 which Gyatso himself bought and it is completely gone.
But he said he was taking the loss in his stride.
"Images are just aids anyway, they're not vital or essential," he said.
"They provide the atmosphere and they're focuses to keep the mind in line with the teachings.
"They're symbolic value, like a crucifix."
The prayer room was finished in September last year after 18 months of labour by the monks, volunteers and tradesmen.
The ground level of the prayer room is totally burnt and the upper storey has extensive smoke damage. A part of the floor in the upstairs lounge areas has been damaged so it cannot be used until engineers assess its safety.
"We're all stunned. It was so beautiful and it was functioning so well," Gyatso said.
By the time the monks noticed the building was on fire the prayer room was full of smoke and it was impossible to get inside.
Gyatso said the CFA came very quickly, but the fire consumed the building very quickly, in about 20 minutes.
He arrived at the monastery just as the last fire truck was leaving.
"I thought there's no point getting upset," he said.
"Teaching in Buddhism is everything is impermanent.
"Fortunately no people were hurt."
Gyatso said the prayer room was an essential part of the monastery because it was the main meditation room and accommodation for visiting teachers.
The monastery has employed a Tibetan monk from South India to become its new abbot and the plan was for him to live in that building.
"I was so looking forward to showing him the new building," Gyatso said.
A Buddhist teacher connected to the Thubten Shedrup Ling monastery has already donated $50,000 to rebuilding the prayer room, but the monks will also have to fundraise.
"It'll be different when it's rebuilt but we'll just go ahead and do it," Gyatso said.
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