‘Build it on a hill’

By Chris Thomson | posted on December 13, 2018

A BUDDHIST monk who was once a mechanical designer has drafted plans for a monastery overlooking the Porongurup Range at the leafy south coast locale of Elleker.

“What we want to do is have a smaller version of Bodhinyana monastery, that’s at Serpentine in the Perth Hills, here in Albany,” Venerable Mudu told The Weekender from a 65-hectare bush block atop Grasmere Hill where the monastery is planned.

“We’re gonna have four or five monks here, which means we’re gonna have four or five monk huts – they’re called kutis,” he said.

“We had a problem up in Serpentine, we’re trying to build six new huts because we’re overflowing with monks up there, and so the boss, Venerable Ajahn Brahm, told the monks to spread their wings and if they could find another monastery to go to, then off they go.

“But no-one left because, to be honest, it’s very comfortable at Ajahn Brahm’s monastery.”

With no push factor prompting him to take up the boss’s challenge, Venerable Mudu became the only monk motivated to do so after a family connection pulled him to the south coast.

“I wanted to come down here to see my brother,” he confessed.

“He’s down here with his wife and three girls.

“He said: ‘I know the Thais down here; they’ll want you to come down, won’t they?”

Later, from her Thai Angel Hand Massage service on Stirling Terrace, prominent Thai expatriate Wasana Poonwiset says she is 100 per cent behind Venerable Mudu’s blueprints.

“There are beautiful views, and it will be very good for Albany to have a monastery,” she tells The Weekender.

“It is difficult for us because we currently have to go to Perth.

“Lots of people around here, Katanning, Denmark can go there and bring the family, and the kids can see the culture.”

Ms Poonwiset, who also owns the landmark Joop Thai Restaurant on Lockyer Avenue, says about 30 Thai families call Albany home.

“The people are very good people,” she adds.

“To have something to hang on to will be great.

“Buddha’s message is universal – that’s karma, to do good, to give before you get.”

Earlier, back at the block, Venerable Mudu said Ms Poonwiset was “the big boss” of the Thai community in Albany, and had been a driving force behind establishing the south coast’s first monastery.

“It will become an Ajahn Brahm branch monastery because he’s so well known now,” he said.

“But it’s more than that.

“To build this monastery, I’ll be riding on his back because I would never be able to get the support on my own to pay however many couple of million it’s gonna cost to develop this and build it.”

The highest part of the monastery is planned to be 110 metres above sea level, but not visible from Elleker-Grasmere Road down on the plain.

“At the lowest part of the property is where our windmill is – at the time it was put in it was the largest Southern Cross windmill in the Great Southern,” Venerable Mudu said.

“We’ve still got it down there; it’s not working.

“But I’m a car guy, I like to swing the spanners, and when we get the opportunity we’ll put it in our workshop, and when I need a break from meditation I’ll be in there fixing it up.”

Venerable Mudu said the elevated block was chosen after an extensive site selection exercise.

“This is something that Buddha instructed us to do, to live close to nature, not to destroy nature, and to be as kind to nature as possible, to live close to the living beings,” he said.

“He said that when you build your monastery, don’t build it too close to the town, but don’t build it too far away that it’s a burden for the donors to come out and support you.

“Buddha said don’t build your monastery near a swamp, in the lowlands near where the water is – he said build up on a hill.”

Venerable Mudu said Buddha’s instruction to keep things simple was why the huts would be humble three-metre by four-metre structures.

“The idea is to use a lot of local companies, so once the development application is approved I’ll probably hand the details over to a local architect to see what we can do,” he said.

Venerable Mudu has discussed his self-drafted plans with senior City of Albany planners and said he would lodge a development application soon.

Photo: Venerable Mudu on site with the Porongurup Range perforating the horizon. Image: Chris Thomson