Birmingham Buddhist Vihara and Dhammatalaka Peace Pagoda is the only traditional Myanmar style Pagoda in the Western hemisphere. It is a Buddhist temple in the centre of Birmingham, near the Edgbaston reservoir. During Birmingham Heritage Week, we were able to visit as the Pagoda was open to visitors. We had the opportunity to go inside and speak to one of the monks at length, which was quite illuminating.

The Dhamma Talaka Peace Pagoda was opened in 1998 and is the only such building in traditional Burmese (Myanmar) style in the Western hemisphere. There is a monastery (vihara) where monks reside and a Dhamma teaching hall in the grounds.  The Buddhism practised is of Theravada tradition. The pagoda complex is managed by Birmingham Buddhist Vihara Trust, a charitable trust registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Birmingham Heritage Week

The inside of the Peace Pagoda

Once inside, we spoke at length to one of the monks living in the grounds. The monastic life is not for everyone, he told us, but he enjoys the routine of the centre and the time he can devote to his own studies. I was quite moved by the peacefulness of the peace pagoda. Coming from working in commercial law, where restoring our client’s material possessions takes up the majority of our day, to a place which represents the antithesis of my work had quite an effect on me.

The base and walls of the pagoda are octagonal. The interior focuses upon a gold-painted shrine on which there is a large marble statue of the Buddha in meditation posture, sculpted in Burmese style in Mandalay. Images of the Twenty Eight Buddhas were created on site by a Burmese workman and mounted round the inner dome. The entrance is reached by a gabled arcade. Teak doors on three sides of the building are carved with temple guardians and two traditional lion statues at the arcade’s entrance provide protection from evil elements. The inner dome supports a gold-painted stepped spire in the same style as the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, rising to an ornate umbrella feature above which is mounted a crystal bud. Wikipedia

Koi in the pond behind the Pagoda

The grounds contain the monastery but also a Buddhist Academy. There are numerous retreats and lessons available which I hope to take part in. As Buddhism is a philosophy and Catholicism is my religion, I hope trust Jesus will not be vexed by my doing so. Please do go and visit the Pagoda if you can, even if just to see it from outside the grounds.