One day in August 1981, Ian Green OAM went for a walk with his Buddhist teacher, Lama Yeshe.
On that walk, Lama Yeshe told Ian and a companion about a vision he’d had.
In the vision, he’d seen the land transformed into a Buddhist retreat. At the heart of the retreat stood a stupa - a spectacular monument which provides a place to meditate and pray.
From that day, Ian's work on The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion began.
"I've been involved with this project now for 41 years. So, in a way, The Great Stupa has become my life's work," said Ian.
"What we have been doing in that time is making Lama Yeshe's master-plan a reality," he added.
From the beginning, it was a family affair, with Ian and his parents providing 90 hectares of land in Myers Flat, just outside of Bendigo.
The Great Stupa was modelled on Tibet's Gyantse Stupa. Ian travelled to Tibet in 1995 to measure every nook and cranny of one of the Buddhist world's most treasured buildings.
"In a sense, we've taken this incredible stupa from Tibet and we're taking it to Western world," said Ian.
Year by year, Ian and his team have made Lama Yeshe's vision a reality.
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion was completed in 2020. It is now the largest Stupa outside of Asia.
In June 2022, a power and lighting show was added to the Stupa and the surrounding Peace Park to support night-time festivals and events.
The project was funded by $520,000 from the Victorian Government's Regional Tourism Investment Fund. It involved the installation of the lights, plus a sustainable converter and battery electrical system to power them.
Ian explains the request for sustainable power came from the highest source.
"When His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited here in 2007, he told us he wanted this to become a symbol, a showcase of sustainability," said Ian.
The lights made their successful debut at the 2022 Illumin8 Festival and Ian is confident they will help draw visitors to the Stupa year-round.
"We envision light shows as being a key part of The Great Stupa going forward," he said.
"We can now run them regularly throughout the year. I'm envisioning once a month, but at certain key periods like Easter, Christmas and school holidays, it could be two or three times a week," he added.
Ian is expecting 70,000 visitors to the Great Stupa in 2022, and he is confident the lights will help grow that number to 150,000 a year by 2025.
The Great Stupa also promises to be a major tourism destination when Bendigo will be one of the four regional hubs hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
As Chairman, Ian is keen to welcome all visitors to The Great Stupa, regardless of their background or faith.
"I've really stressed from the outset that this is a Stupa for all beings," he said.
"This is a place where we all work together in harmony and respect each other."
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion power and lighting upgrade is now complete.