Vesak celebrations at Das Buddhistische Haus ( Berlin Buddhist Vihara) in Germany
Posted on May 19th, 2022

Senaka Weeraratna Trustee German Dharmaduta Society

Vesak was celebrated at the Berlin Buddhist Vihara on Sunday May 15, 2022 in a fitting manner. The Vesak ceremony was conducted outdoors in bright weather conditions against the backdrop of a picturesque natural setting that is the hallmark of this Temple which is called ‘ Das Buddhistische Haus’ (DBH) in German. It is the oldest Theravada Buddhist Temple in Continental Europe and was founded by the pioneering German Buddhist Dr. Paul Dahlke in 1924.

Asoka Weeraratna, founder of the German Dharmaduta Society, led the first Buddhist Mission from Sri Lanka to Germany in 1957. The Mission comprised Ven. Soma, Ven. Kheminde and Ven. Bope Vinita Thero, all chosen from the Vajiraramaya Temple, Bambalapitiya, Colombo 04.

Asoka Weeraratna purchased the property of DBH from the relatives of Dr. Paul Dahlke, on behalf of the Trustees of the German Dharmaduta Society of which he was one Trustee, in December 1957. It thus became the first Buddhist Centre in Continental Europe to come under the management of an Asian Buddhist Society. Asoka Weeraratna thereupon under the auspices of the GDS transformed the DBH into a Buddhist Vihara with necessary repairs and structural changes and by lodging Dharmaduta monks mainly from Sri Lanka, on a long term footing to spread the Dhamma in Germany and other Western countries.

To this day monks from Sri Lanka and other Theravada Buddhist countries, like Thailand and Myanmar, plus German and other European Buddhist monks have taken up residence from time to time at the Berlin Vihara to deliver Buddhist sermons, conduct meditation retreats, participate in discussions, and teach and guide children on the basics of Buddhism. German Buddhist laymen are regular lecturers at DBH.

Das Buddhistische Haus is a protected heritage site and has been declared a National Monument by the German Government. DBH is marked as a destination for tourists on the national tourist map. It is one of the few large buildings in Berlin that escaped the massive Allied bombardment of that City during World War Two. The German residents of Frohnau, which is located in the Northern part of Berlin, in particular are very proud of this landmark site as it has placed the picturesque town of Frohnau on the world map. During the time of the German Monarchs, the Kaiser Park was located in Frohnau. 

100th anniversary of DBH in 2024

Das Buddhistische Haus will be celebrating in 2024 the 100th anniversary of its founding. Both Sri Lanka and Germany, and rest of the Buddhist World are expected to participate in this commemorative event. Das Buddhistische Haus is an iconic symbol of Buddhism in Europe and the longest standing cultural link between Sri Lanka and Germany. 

Vesak

Vesak was observed this year at DBH in the presence of a sizeable gathering of Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Germany, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, and Argentina. 

Among the dignitaries present were Ms. Manori Unambuwe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Germany. Mr. Karunasena Sonnadara, one of the long standing dayakayas of the Berlin Vihara and who was a member of the Third Buddhist Mission from Sri Lanka to Germany in 1962, now aged, was also present with his wife and children.

Mr. Sonnadara who attended the inaugural meeting of the Lanka Dhammaduta Society ( later renamed as the German Dharmaduta Society) held on September 21, 1952 in Maradana, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka, is now the last remaining survivor of the 1960’s era of Das Buddhistische Haus. He has rich anecdotal memories to share of the bygone days in both Sri Lanka and Germany.

There were four Buddhist (Sinhala) monks in attendance, namely 

1.Ven. Pelane Dhammakusala Thero ( Resident monk of DBH), 

2. Ven. Marthagoda Uparathana Thero, Viharadipathi, Denmark Copenhagen Buddhist Temple, 

3. Ven. Kannimahara Piyasiri Thero, Viharadipathi, Munich Buddhist Temple, and

4. Ven. Minuwangoda Gnanavasa Thero.

The religious program commenced at 7.00 a.m. with several dayakayas clad in white taking ‘ Sil’. The monks solemnly walked in line on Pindapatha outside the Temple premises enabling the dayakayas to give alms i.e. place food inside the Bowl carried by the monk. 

The religious program contained both Sila and Bhavana components. In the morning session, Ven. Marthagoda Uparathana Thero delivered a sermon centered on the ‘ Sukho Buddhanang Uppado’ verse. It means the ‘ The Birth of the Buddha is a cause for happiness’.

In the afternoon session the Dhamma Discussion was conducted by Ven. Minuwangoda Gnanavasa Thero. 

It was followed by a session on Meditation with a talk in German by Mr. Tissa Weeraratna, caretaker of the DBH, on the theme ‘ Cultivation of the Mind is an essential pre – requisite for achieving success in Meditation’. 

The Berlin Vihara was well decorated with colourful Buddhist flags and traditional Vesak lanterns for the  occasion.

The Sri Lankan residents in Berlin organized a Dansala providing a range of vegetarian food for lunch and afternoon tea for the participants. 

Ven. Pelane Dhammakusala Thero acted as the host monk while Mr. Tissa Weeraratna, the caretaker of the DBH, oversaw the arrangements with the help of both the Sri Lankan (Sinhala) and German Buddhists.

The proceedings concluded at about 5.00 p.m.

Senaka Weeraratna

Trustee

German Dharmaduta Society

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