Die Welt, German national newspaper carries article on Das Buddhistische Haus -Berlin on the traces of the Buddha
Lanka Web, April 7, 2012
To mark the visit of Dalai Lama to the capital Berlin: Die Welt looked at a center of the eastern teachings in Frohnau.
Berlin, Germany -- Berlin is the center of Buddhism in Germany. All three large currents of Buddhism – Theravada from Southeast Asia, Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism from Japan – are represented here. If today Dalai Lama on his current visit to Germany makes a stop in Berlin, 15,000 people would want to be there.
<< Das Buddhistische Haus, Berlin Frohnau
Tissa Weeraratna (58) would also have liked to hear, what the head of Tibeten Buddhism had to say in the afternoon at the Brandenburger gate. However unfortunately I have today an appointment in Vienna, says the Buddhist originating from Colombo in Sri Lanka. Since eight years he lives in Berlin and administers Das Buddhistische Haus (Berlin Vihara) in Frohnau.
Altogether there are approximately 50 Buddhist Centers, temples and Meditation Centres in Berlin. Buddhism began to be taught for the first time in schools in Germany beginning in 2003. Even in the penal institution at Tegel, the largest prison in Germany, Buddhist meditation is taught to the prisoners.
It is difficult to say how many Buddhists are in Berlin, since Buddhism does not have a status as an official religion in Germany. However there are about 5000 Germans engaged in Buddhist matters, according to an estimate of the Buddhist academy. And of the approximately 10,000 Chinese, who live in Berlin, one of ten visits the Buddhist temple.
The Buddhist house is the oldest Buddhist Temple in Europe. It was built in 1924 by the physician and pioneer of Buddhism in Germany, Dr. Paul Dahlke. During the first few years it was used not as a monastery, but only as a place to teach the teachings of the Buddha. Dr. Paul Dahlke died in 1928. Thereafter the house stood empty. Only almost 30 years later, Mr. Asoka Weeraratna from Colombo, Capital of Sri Lanka purchased Das Buddhistische Haus from the heirs of Dr. Dahlke.
Since then Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka have been living in Frohnau. Asoka Weeraratna is the uncle of Tissa Weeraratna. “I am happy to manage the house that my uncle purchased (on behalf of the Trustees of the German Dharmaduta Society)” he says. The beautiful house with its temple on the hill, surrounded by pine trees, is a German national cultural asset. Lectures are conducted regularly in the large rooms of the library. ” All are welcome” Tissa Weeraratna says spontaneously. “Without an appointment and without payment”. This is important to him. He wants to give something to people who visit him. ” Many people who visit us suffer from the pressure and stress of everyday life, he says; Buddhism intends to increase your good qualities and eliminate bad ones. This reduces the causes of stress”.
Many people come to Tissa Weeraratna. “About 40 persons per day excluding school children who want to get information” he says.. “We hold conversations or go to the Temple to engage in meditation. His dark eyes radiate behind his eyeglasses. He derives joy from his work.
In the Buddhist house in Frohnau meditation is conducted on the lines of the Buddhist Theravada tradition. There are courses for beginners and advanced, and workshops on weekends. Two Buddhist monks constantly live in the house. And another three are staying there as guests. If they do not speak to visitors, these monks with shaven heads and dressed in red robes go out and through the town of Frohnau or even the centre of the central districts. ” They are seeking conversations with people e.g. in shopping streets or shopping centres, some also meditate there”, says Tissa Weeraratne. They invite the Berliners to come and visit us. They gladly accept gifts they are given by people. “Something to eat and drink. However no money. ” Monks are not allowed to touch money” explains the Buddhist, ” since it is the beginning of corruption.”
In the 60's the Dalai Lama once visited the Buddhist house in Frohnau. This time he will not come, but speak only at the Brandenburg Gate. The Dalai Lama is not the head of all Buddhists, he says, however he is a very wise man. He finds it problematic that the Dalai Lama is the head of state and religion at the same time. This should not be the case, says Weeraratna. But otherwise he cannot understand why there are protests in connection with the visit of Dalai Lama. Protests should actually not be allowed. On the contrary, one must follow him.