Brahma Wihara Arama is Bali’s largest Buddhist monastery, located up in the hills of Banjar, only 1.5km west of the Banjar Hot Springs. Opened in 1970, Brahma Vihara Arama comprises a hectare of hillside, with numerous meditation rooms, libraries, beautiful gardens, and an impressive mini replica of the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site, Borobudur on its highest grounds.
The monastery is an approximate 20km drive from the Singaraja main town, and a 10km from the major beach resort of Lovina. Up from the Jalan Raya Seririt-Singaraja main road is a quaint street lined with Alphonse Lavallée vineyards that provide a scenic intro to this uphill attraction. After a few minutes, the community of Dusun Abian comes to view, and clear signposts show you directions to the famous hot springs and to the monastery.
Parking is opposite the site’s entrance, which features Balinese architecture with a rising Balinese-style bell tower housing a metal bell instead of the traditional wooden kul-kul. Inside the front office are Buddhist calendars, posters, and printed shirts depicting the landmark, available for visitors in exchange for ‘donations’. Another gate has a flight of stairs lined with guardian statues, with each step marked with aspects from Buddhist ‘eightfold path of enlightenment’. Its name, given by the monastery’s late founding father, Bhante Giri, consists of three words: Brahma, Vihara and Arama, which when combined, mean ‘a place for self-cultivation’.
Tall pine trees, trimmed lawns, well-maintained flower gardens and its high altitude all add up to the sense of peace you can enjoy here. Several main sections include the Uposatha Gara, which is a restful and quiet meditation room in the western section, with walls depicting Prince Siddhartha Gautama’s birth, and a statue of the Buddha in his state of reaching Nirvana. The room also serves as a main venue for new bikhu or Buddhist ‘monk’ initiations.
The Dharmasala, located in the monastery’s eastern part, is a study where the bhiku conduct their prayers, lectures, and other solemn activities. A short walk along a footpath in the western part of the complex leads you to a Bodi tree mini-garden that features a large tree with a sitting Buddha image underneath, and a mural that depicts his path towards Nirvana. Throughout the gardens, you will encounter various Buddha figures in different postures. Most notable are two gold-plated bronze statues which were gifts from Thailand and Sri Lanka in 1977.
The site is also a meditation place for Buddhist pilgrims during the holy day of Vesak or Asada. This important Buddhist observance is when the monastery grounds and mini Borobudur are at its most attractive with monks in procession.
Proper attire as common in Balinese Hindu temple visits applies, namely a sarong and sash around the waist, which are available at the front office and free for use during your visit.