Eric Liao (d. 2004) was a Cantonese businessman who arrived in Australia in 1961. In 1972 he established the Chinese Buddhist Society of Australia at his garage in Sydney. In the same year the Prajna Temple was opened in the heart of Chinatown. Liao did not differentiate between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. In 1984 he set up the Australian Buddhist Library in Sussex Street. Funded by Liao and his family, it housed the complete Mahayana and Theravada canons in several languages, as well as over 3000 books relating to Buddhism. It served as the venue for weekly talks by the Australian-born monk Phra Khantipalo (Laurence Mills) and as the meeting place of the Buddhist Council of New South Wales.
In 1987 Liao decided that it was not financially feasible to maintain the Library and he presented the collection to the National Library. Liao donated further books in 1988.
The collection consists of over 3000 items. They include a number of tripitakas (the Buddhist canon) in various languages such as Thai, Pali, Sinhalese, Burmese, Chinese and English. The Burmese-Pali tripitaka, published in 64 volumes in 1956-83, is based on ink and stone rubbings taken from 729 engraved marble tablets at Mandalay. There are also encyclopaedias, dictionaries, yearbooks, books dealing with Buddhist history, biography, literature, doctrines, philosophy and way of life and Buddhist folk tales. They were mostly published between 1960 and 1985, but a few of the Chinese works are a good deal older.
The collection also contains audio tapes of lectures on Buddhism, pictures and a statue of the Buddha. The 120 audio tapes mostly comprise talks and lectures. The speakers include Joseph Goldstein, Phra Khantipalo, Ayya Khema, Ajahn Sumedo and Ven Mahinda. The statue of the Buddha weighs 184 kgs and is approximately 115 cm high. It is made of bronze and is a replica of a 12th century Thai work. It is currently in the foyer outside the Ferguson Room on the first floor of the Library.
The Australian Buddhist Library collection is held in Asian Collections. It is arranged in sections: Chinese, English, Sinhalese, Burmese, Thai and Japanese. Many but not all of the books have been catalogued individually. The call numbers have the prefix ABL followed by a Library of Congress Classification number. The audio tapes are held in the Oral History Collection at TRC 2573. They have not been catalogued, but there is a summary listing.
Browse records for the books in call number order in the catalogue.
Croucher, Paul, Buddhism in Australia 1848-1988, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 1989
Faulk, Tina and Gosling, Andrew, Collecting Karma, National Library of Australia News, vol. 9 (7) April 1999, pp. 3-7
Lau, Lai-chu, comp. The Australian Buddhist Library held in the National Library of Australia, Canberra; a classified catalogue, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1989