The Jade Buddha of Universal Peace’s 15 year worldwide journey came to an end in Bendigo this week.
Fate and destiny played a role in bringing the Jade Buddha to Bendigo.
First, it started life as an 18-tonne boulder called “Polar Pride” that was discovered in Canada in 2000.
Then after being purchased by the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, it was cut down with diamond saws and shaped with diamond chisels in Thailand during a period of five years.
The now four-tonne Jade Buddha then went on a worldwide tour to 135 cities in 21 countries before arriving home in Bendigo this week.
Great Stupa chairman Ian Green said it had been a phenomenal journey.
“To see it completed and in the place designed to have it on display, it's like a dream,” he said.
“I never thought we'd get such a beautiful Buddha. This weekend will be such a joyous occasion.”
This weekend marks the Stupa’s annual Illumina8 Festival with thousands of people expected to visit the Myers Flat monastery.
Thousands more will come to view the Jade Buddha.
Sitting wisely in the main room of the Great Stupa, the Jade Buddha is an impressive but tranquil display.
It sits on an alabaster plinth and its specially made pallet and is decorated with endless amounts of fresh flowers.
It is amazing to think a four-tonne statue started life as something four times its size in Canada.
Even more incredible is that it has finished up in Bendigo. Some would attribute it to luck.
“It depends what you mean by luck. According to Buddhism, luck and coincidence doesn't really happen, it’s all about karma,” Mr Green said.
“I think it was the right time and place and that the cause and conditions came together.”
Mr Green heard about the 18-tonne boulder of jade in 2003 from an American jeweller he knew.
“He rang and said I had to come see it. It was the largest boulder of gem-quality jade ever discovered,” he said.
“This guy said we should make it into a Buddha. By coincidence I was in Santa Cruz, so I went and met him and chatted and I got very interested. We then went to Canada to look at this big boulder.”
Coincidence also played a role when Mr Green’s Buddhist teacher called him and told him about a vision he had seen of a boulder becoming a Buddha and shining a light around the world.
“He rang me enthusiastically saying must make it a holy object and offer it to world. I was thinking ‘I’m already building a stupa, do I need another big project?’,” Mr Green said.
“We had to raise money to buy it. The miners were asking one million dollars US. We bought it over a five-year period and raised the money.”
The miners reluctantly agreed to the five-year payment plan and then the carving began.
For Mr Green there was also a touch of destiny in purchasing the boulder.
“About three weeks after signing the contracts, the miner called me and said as soon as we signed, he had offers for much more,” Mr Green said.
“This big burly miner said ‘this thing is destined to be a Buddha in Australia’.
“It was incredible. He said it was so unique it had to be a monumental piece but couldn't find (the right buyer) until we happened to come along and the conditions came together.”
A team of experts in Thailand designed and carved the Jade Buddha.
“It was an 18-tonne boulder of jade. From there it was cut roughly by diamond saws, then diamond chisels,” Mr Green said.
“It's incredibly tough. Diamond is the hardest (mineral) – it’s about 10 on the hardness scale – jade is about eight but jade is much tougher. A diamond will shatter but jade won’t.”
To see it completed and in the place designed to have it on display, it's like a dream. I never thought we'd get such a beautiful Buddha... This weekend will be such a joyous occasion.Ian Green
The Jade Buddha was completed in 2009. It then embarked on an almost decade-long world tour.
Initially the tour was set to be six months long but the Buddha’s popularity extended it.
“It’s has been on a world tour for nearly 10 years,” Mr Green said.
“It made a very quick tour to Australia in 2009 when it went to to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. It was just a couple of weeks in each place because we had to get it to America.
“The whole thing has been a 15 year program that is now finishing.”
The Jade Buddha’s return to Australia has seen it come straight to Bendigo.
“A lot of places in Australia wanted to have it,” Mr Green said.
“But we wanted to bring it home to Bendigo because it has been travelling for so long and it will bring people to the Stupa as well.”
Mr Green said a series of incredibly complicated logistics were required to move the four-tonne monument into its new home.
Needed was a specially built shipping container that could also be loaded onto a truck to help ship the Buddha from country to country.
A crane and forklift were then required to move the Jade Buddha into the Great Stupa.
“The forklift needed to be a minimum six tonnes and there’s only one in Bendigo. It was put down (into place) with a crane,” Mr Green said.
“When it is up like this, my heart is in my mouth.
“To see him settle down in position, wow. I was literally in tears. It was an incredible moment to see him safely settled in his home.”
Tara joins Jade Buddha at Stupa
Joining the Jade Buddha on display is a smaller statue from the same boulder of a Jade Tara, which is the female embodiment of Buddha.
“She was made from an off cut of the boulder and is always seen in a dancing posture left foot up, right foot down,” Mr Green said.
“We happened to have a big chunk of green, nephrite jade and thought ‘we have to do a green Tara’.
“It has been travelling with the Buddha and on display with him. It is a real bonus.”
Great Stupa ready to illuminate the night
The arrival of the Jade Buddha of Universal Peace coincides with the Great Stupa’s Illumin8 Festival in Myers Flat.
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion will light up this weekend for its annual festival.
Thousands of people are expected will visit the Stupa to celebrate peace, marvel at the light installations and see the newly arrived Jade Buddha.
Great Stupa chairman Ian Green said the Jade Buddha’s arrival was well timed.
“It was just timed it so it would all come together with the Illumin8 Festival,” he said.
“The festival is not only celebrating the Jade Buddha but Buddha's birthday and a lot of other things.”