The Buddhist Society of 
Queensland

History of the BSQ

 

Buddhist immigrants belonging to both the Theravada and the Mahayana traditions of Buddhism have lived in Queensland for well over a century, and Buddhist activities to cater to their spiritual needs had taken place, but before the 1950s there was no attempt to establish a regular Buddhist organisation to serve the needs of those interested in Buddhism amongst the general population of Queensland.
 

The first Buddhist Society of Queensland was founded in 1953, the same year that saw the establishment of Buddhist Societies in Victoria and New South Wales. But unlike its Southern couterparts the Queensland Society was wound up after only three years of activity. During this time it brought out the first internationally-known Buddhist teacher to visit Queensland in the person of Ven. Narada Maha Thera. The second attempt at organising Buddhist activities in Queensland was the establishment of a short-lived Buddhist Discussion group in 1962. It was followed by another Buddhist Society, but this seems to have been even less of a success than its predecessors, and it soon vanished from the scene leaving no trace. Thus when the 1970s dawned there was no organized Buddhism in Queensland.
 

It was to end this isolation from the mainstream of Australian Buddhism that the well-known English Bhikkhu Phra Khantipalo set out on a historic mission to Queensland in 1975. The Venerable Bhikkhu had arrived in Australia, after considerable experience in Buddhist work in Europe and Asia, in order to revive Buddhism which had slid into a backwater since its introduction in the early 1950s. A meeting was convened, presided over by Phra Khantipalo. After considerable discussion it was decided that while it was not possible to start a Buddhist Society right away, those who were interested in this objective should in the meantime act as an informal group, and continue with the task initiated by Phra Khantipalo. This group, which was subsequently to become known informally as the "Group of 75" , continued to meet at various places in the Western suburbs and in the West End. The meetings were irregular and became less and less frequent, but interest never died out completely, and the original objective was never lost sight of.
 

Meanwhile in 1977 a Buddhist group was established under the name of the Theravadin Buddhist Contact Centre (TBCC) at Wacol on the fringes of Brisbane. The Group of '75 had generally subscribed to the original Buddhism as contained in the Pali Canon, but had not adopted a sectarian position, or emphasised doctrinal issues, but instead concentrated more on meditation and the practice of the silas. The TBCC on the other hand, as its name indicated, was strictly Theravadin in its doctrinal orientation. But because of their common interest in Pali Buddhism the two groups soon joined together in the common cause of furthering Buddhism in Queensland. Both the Group of '75 and the TBCC were informal groups. This meant that they did not have constitutions, executive committees, office bearers, regular membership criteria, membership fees or annual general meetings. However both groups had as one of their primary aims the establishment of a regular Buddhist society with all these attributes. As it was felt that the time was ripe for the establishment of such a Society the two groups pooled their resources to accomplish this task. The result was the establishment of the Buddha Dhamma Association of Queensland (BDAQ) in October 1976 (but the Association did not begin its formal activities till the beginning of 1979).
 

The BDAQ proved to be quite successful, and held quite a number of meetings, including a Public Meeting celebrating Vesak (the anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment) of 1979. However the name proved to be something of a stumbling block as Pali was not well known. As a result the arguments originally advanced by the Group of'75 gained ground in the BDAQ, and in the first annual general meeting of the Association in October 1979 it was decided to change the name to the Buddhist Society of Queensland. Formal activities of the BSQ was to commence on the 1st day of January 1980 so as to usher in the new decade with a new (although in historical terms really the third) Buddhist Society of Queensland. Thus the wheel set in motion by Phra Khantipalo in June 1975 to establish a Buddhist Society in Queensland had finally succeeded in reaching its objective.
 

The new Society engaged in a variety of activities in the furtherance of Buddhism. The Society sponsored speakers and emminent Buddhist visitors to Brisbane. These included Ven. Shanti Bhadra Thera, Ven Ananda Mangala Thera, Phra Khantipalo, Anagarika Munindra, Ayya Khema, and others. These distinguished Buddhists addressed the members of the BSQ and the general public. Vesak was celebrated in well attended meetings, always in a City venue, in which many ethnic Buddhists participated. Regular discussion meetings were organized at various venues. The Society participated in several public festivals, like the Annual Fiesta organized by the ethnic groups in Brisbane.
 

The Society had always co-operated with other Buddhist groups in the furtherance of Buddhist activities. A noteworthy feature of the early days of the BDAQ/BSQ was the link established with the Maleny Abhidhamma Study Group,situated some distance from Brisbane. For a time this Group acted as an outstation "branch" of the Society. When the Abhidhama Study Group was dissolved it donated part of its valuable Library to the Society, and this donation has been the nucleus of the Society Library. The Society was the only member of the Buddhist Federation of Australia in Queensland, and played a leading part in promoting co-operation amongst Australian Buddhist groups. The BSQ hosted two Biennial Conferences of the BFA in Brisbane, and for nearly two years provided 4 of the BFA' s 5-member Executive Committee. Finally the move to reconstitute the BFA was initiated by BSQ representatives on the BFA committee, who also undertook the task of drafting the Constitution of the revamped BFA which will begin operations in 1966. This Constitution was adopted with minor changes at the Biennial meeting of the BFA in 1965. Earlier the BSQ had been a foundation member of the Buddhist Council of Brisbane. The task of drafting the Articles of Agreement of the BCB was likewise undertaken by BSQ representatives to the

BCB.
 

The BSQ began publishing a journal initially known as the BSQ Newsletter. This Journal published lengthy original articles on various aspects of the Ohamma, especially on controversial issues which were avoided by many Buddhist publications. The first issue also carried what was to become the logo of the Society: the eight-pointed Dhamma Chakka surmounted with a map of Queensland, the upper part of the rim of the Chakka bearing the inscription "BuddhIst Society of Queensland" and the lower part the motto of the Society "Appamadena Sampadetha" (Strive in Earnest) reputedly, the last words of the Buddha. The name of the journal was changed to Virnamsa in April 1983. The Editor explained the new title in these words: "The Pali word Vimamsa is usually translated as 'investigation', 'inquiry' or 'pondering'. It is the appropriate title for the Journal of a Buddhist Society which had from its inception adopted a critical and creative approach towards the Dhamma, seeking out the best way of applying the Buddha's teaching to the objective conditions of the late 20th Century, especially in a Western-type society. It is clear that this is an area where there is considerable room for investigation, inquiry and pondering". The BSQ also publishes phamphlets on various aspects of Buddhism.