The German Dharmaduta Society to celebrate 60th anniversary
Posted on September 17th, 2012

Janaka Perera

The German Dharmaduta Society, Sri Lanka will mark its 60th Anniversary (1952-2012) with an alms giving to 60 Buddhist monks at the B.H. William Hall, All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Colombo on Sunday September 23.

Among the highlights of the day’s proceedings will be the screening of a video documentary on the history of the GDS and a new website dedicated to its founder Asoka Weeraratne.   The society was the first to send a Theravada Buddhist Mission to Germany in 1957 when it was known as the Lanka Dharmadutha Society.  Weeraratne also founded the Berlin Buddhist Vihara and the Meethirigala Nissarana Vanaya (Mithirigala Forest Hermitage)

Much of the GDS work in the initial period was done in an upstairs back room of the now-defunct well-known business enterprise, Messrs. P.J. Weeraratna & Sons, 2nd Division, Maradana, where the office of the Society was first located. Ven. Nyanatiloka Maha Thera (the well respected German monk) was the first Patron of the Society.

In 1956 this Office was shifted to the newly built Headquarters and Monk’s Training Centre at 417, Bullers Road (Bauddhaloka Mawatha), Colombo 7, which was declared open by the then Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike on August 7, 1956.   The Society’s name was changed to German Dharmaduta Society on May 8, 1957. The following month the GDS sponsored the first Buddhist Mission to Germany from Sri Lanka. It comprised Ven. Soma, Ven. Kheminde  and Ven. Bope Vinitha, all recruited from the Vajiraramaya Temple, Bambalapitiya. They were later joined in Germany by Asoka Weeraratna, then Hony. Secretary of the society.

One of his most significant contributions to the spread of Buddhism in the Germany was the critical role that he played in the purchase of “Das Buddhistische Haus” which the German Buddhist Dr. Paul Dahlke had established in 1924 before his death four years later. Das Buddhistiche Haus, having an extent of nearly 6 acres, is located in the picturesque suburb of Frohnau in North Berlin, and was considered the Center of German Buddhism during Dr. Dahlke’s time.

Asoka Weeraratna personally negotiated with the nephew of the late Dr. Paul Dahlke and bought the property in December, 1957 on behalf of and in the names of the five Trustees of the German Dharmaduta Society (which comprised Dudley Senanayake (former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka) Henry Amarasuriya, Dr. P.B. Fernando, Nelson Soysa, Proctor, S.C., and Asoka Weeraratna). Today, it is the oldest Theravada Buddhist centre in Europe. It has been designated as a National Heritage site since 1995 by the German Local Government authorities and enjoys their protection.

The Ceylon Daily News (Dec. 21, 1957) reported the purchase of Das Buddhistische Haus, the title of which property was acquired by the Trustees of the GDS, on December 13, 1957 as follows:

The acquisition of these premises last week is an epoch making event, not only because these premises, will be the first Vihara and permanent Buddhist settlement which a Buddhist Country of the East owns in Europe but also because it will be a step forward in the successful achievement of founding the Buddha Sasana in Germany and the other countries of the West“.

Since 1957, the German Dharmaduta Society has continued to sponsor monks from Sri Lanka to take up residence at the Berlin Vihara and played a key role in cementing religious and cultural relations between the two countries. Today, there are impressive Buddhist activities in Germany. Many German Buddhists regard Buddhism in Sri Lanka as their spiritual home. The name of Dr. Paul Dahlke is held in high regard in Germany. The GDS converted the Das Buddhistische Haus, into a Buddhist Vihara by stationing resident monks, is now an important centre in the dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in Europe.

One Response to “The German Dharmaduta Society to celebrate 60th anniversary”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    The upcoming laying of the foundation stone of the Sanchi University in India is significant step in the right direction by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to develop and foster cordial relations with our Indian cousins in North India given the jaundiced attitude of Racist Demagogues in Tamil Nadu threatening hell, fire and brimstone against President Rajapaksa.

    Let us hope that the Hindu majority of India will not reject their hallowed heritage of Buddhism, just as we Buddhists of Sri Lanka do not reject our hallowed Hindu heritage.

    Let us hope that the Hindus of India will revere their Golden Heritage of Buddhism unlike the narrow minded Taliban Muslims of Afghanistan who blew up the Bamiyan Buddha statues built by their own enlightened ancestors.

    Blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas would be akin to modern Orthodox Christian Greeks blowing up the “Pagan” Parthenon … a step the Greeks would not contemplate in their wildest dreams …. for Rationality remains an enduring characteristic of the Greek mind.

    All Hail President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his wisdom and courage bearding the ragged Tamil Tiger in its den!

    May the Noble Triple Gem Bless & Protect him ALWAYS!

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