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Berlin Vihara: A response to SoGen Ralf Boeck letter

by Senaka Weeraratna, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 28, 2012

My attention was drawn to an article under the title "On the situation in Berlin Vihara' by SoGen Ralf Boeck, Vice-President of the German Buddhist Union, in the Buddhist Channel, on Nov 22, 2012.

I will be writing in full in response to this letter with detailed information.

<< Das Buddhistiche Haus (Berlin Vihara) Frohnau

In the meantime I wish to state that it is a customary practice and basic courtesy in traditional Buddhist communities for office bearers of one Buddhist organisation not to engage in making derogatory statements in public about the conduct and management of another Buddhist organisation.

By engaging in conduct tantamount to ' washing dirty linen in public ' one harms the image of Buddhist Societies and in turn the image of Buddhism.

It was the civic obligation of the writer, being the Vice - President of a national Buddhist organisation in Germany, to first engage in a fact finding endeavour by writing to us to ascertain the truth and veracity of scurrilous and defamatory statements made in a website that has not been updated since January 2008.

There was no such prior communication from the writer SoGen Ralf Boeck, or the DBU directed to the German Dharmaduta Society nor have we received any official notice from the DBU of any other steps taken concerning the Berlin Vihara.

Among other things the writer has said are as follows:"You may be aware that the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Vihara was in 2007 - but in the last 5 years things have changed only for the worse. Today the Berlin Vihara is almost in ruins; it is now a Vihara where no monks reside any more".

Comments

1) The 50th anniversary of the founding of the German Dharmaduta Society was commemorated at a public meeting held in Colombo on September 21, 2002 where the Keynote address was delivered by Sister Agganyani (Christa Bentenrieder) , Secretary - General, Deutsche Buddhistische Union (DBU). The title of the address was "The Prospects for the Growth of Buddhism in Germany and other Western Countries", by Agganyani (Christa Bentenrieder). The text of the speech is available on the ' BuddhaNet' website.   http://www.buddhanet.net/growth.htm. The content in her keynote address constitutes a refreshing contrast to that found in the letter of your correspondent.

2) The writer also says 'Today the Berlin Vihara is almost in ruins; it is now a Vihara where no monks reside any more." This is factually incorrect. We have always had resident monks on a permanent footing since 1957. In the last five years we have had three monks on a resident basis and a host of other monks from both Sri Lanka and other countries, steeped in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, visiting the Berlin Vihara to conduct meditation retreats and deliver Buddhist sermons. One such monk was the American born Bhante Yogavacara Rahula. He spent the Vas season (Rain Retreat) at the Berlin Vihara in 2011.

Founded in 1924 by Dr. Paul Dahlke, eminent German writer and pioneer of Buddhism in Germany, Das Buddhistische Haus is almost 90 years old today. It is the oldest Theravada Buddhist Temple in Europe. It has been declared a national heritage site by the German public authorities since 1995. Currently restoration work is being done with funding assistance from the German authorities.

The notes of Bhante Rahula including illustrative photos taken at the Berlin Vihara in 2011, appended below, effectively rebut the unfounded allegations of SoGen Ralf Boeck, that 'Today the Berlin Vihara is almost in ruins; it is now a Vihara where no monks reside any more.

Thank you. With Metta
Yours in the Dhamma

Senaka Weeraratna
(Hony. Secretary)

...........................

Bhante Yogavacara Rahula

Born in Southern California as Scott Joseph DuPrez in 1948. Ordained as a Novice Buddhist monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya, Kalupaluwawa, Sri Lanka. Upasampada ordination at Wat Thai Los Angeles, May 1979. Lived at the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, West Virginia, USA from 1986 until 2010. Now on an indefinite travel/teaching tour.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Summer in Berlin

Dear Dhamma friends,

As many of you may know I am intending to spend the summer and the 'vassa' rainy season period here in Berlin, Germany. This is a little update on what I've done so far here in Europe since arriving on May 19th.

<< Bhante Yogavacara Rahula giving meditation instructions to a group of students. Rains retreat 2011

Upon arriving at the airport in Zurich I was told that I could only stay for three months in the Euro Zone countries because of the new Shengen agreement amonst Euro Zone countries, including Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU. So I will have to try and get my visa extended here in Berlin. With a letter from the Buddhistiches Haus Temple where I am staying, it should not be a problem. I'll have to wait and see. All things are impermanent.

Now I am happily ensconced at the famous Buddhistiches Haus Buddhist Temple. It sits on top of a small hill in the leafy suburb of Frohnau, in North Berlin. Das Buddhistiches Haus was started in 1924 by Dr. Paul Dahlke, a German doctor who had travelled to Sri Lanka a couple of times and had become an admirer of the Buddha Dhamma. It was the first Buddhist Center in all of Europe. In 1957 it was purchased by the German Dharmaduta Society of Sri Lanka who have been managing it ever since. They have been having a succession of Sri Lankan monks staying here since 1957.

I had first come here to Berlin and seen the Temple in 1977 on my return from Sri Lanka two years after my novice monk ordination. Over the years on my many teaching tours to Germany I have stayed here for short periods of time, given talks and lead some short retreats. Because of a lull in time I decided to stay this year for a longer time in Berlin and spend the vassa period here at the Buddhistiches Haus. Mr. Tissa Weeraratna, who is the Sri Lankan manager of the Temple very kindly accepted me to stay. I will be conducting three meditation retreats here over the summer period.

<< Back view and garden area

Das Buddhistiche Haus is considered a historical monument in Berlin. And after many years the Historical Monuments office in Berlin has agreed to spend a few million Euros to restore the time weary buildings and grounds back to their original appearance plus other needed improvements. I had a talk with the members of the government offices who were here making their final decisions. (see photos)

The work is now underway.



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