Talk on ‘Buddhism in Germany’ to mark the 70th anniversary of the German Dharmaduta Society
Posted on September 18th, 2022

Senaka Weeraratna

The German Dharmaduta Society will mark its 70th Anniversary (1952-2022) commencing with a talk on ‘Buddhism in Germany’ by Ven. Pandit Thalpawila Kusalagnana Thero on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, from 4.00 – 5.00 p.m., at the Siri Vajirarama Temple in Bambalapitiya. The talk will be relayed on the Zoom platform and YouTube.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86921521509?pwd=ZThGWE53clJ6SWxsVEN6SHBEcEljdz09

Meeting ID: 869 2152 1509

Passcode: 419619 

Youtube link

Ven. Kusalagnana is a Buddhist Scholar with several academic qualifications. He has an M.A. (Buddhist Studies), U. of Kelaniya, Rajakiya Pandita, Oriental Studies Society, M.A. (Indology), U. of Hamburg, among others. He is the Head of a Team currently engaged in translating the Pali Tripitaka into German.

He is the Principal of the Bhikkhu Training Centre, Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya in Maharagama, and Visiting lecturer on Pali, University of Hamburg, He is a resident monk of Das Buddhistische Haus (Berlin Vihara) since July 2021. He has been a resident of Germany for the last 15 years, is fluent in German and English, and conducts Seminars and Meditation Retreats in Germany.

Birth of German Dharmaduta Society

The German Dharmaduta Society (originally known as the Lanka Dhammaduta Society) was founded on Sept. 21, 1952, by Asoka Weeraratna, who also founded the Berlin Buddhist Vihara on the premises of Das Buddhistische Haus in Berlin – Frohnau, and Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya (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 (a well-respected German monk) was the first Patron of the Society.

In 1956 this Office was shifted to the newly built Headquarters and 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.

Buddhist Mission to Germany

The Society was the first to send from Sri Lanka a Theravada Buddhist Mission to Germany in June 1957. It comprised Ven. Soma, Ven. Kheminde and Ven. Bope Vinitha, all recruited from the Vajiraramaya Temple, and Asoka Weeraratna, then Hony. Secretary of the Society.

It must be noted that though Sri Lanka could not afford to give Germany, ravaged by a world war, houses, cars, or food, nevertheless Sri Lanka via the German Dharmaduta Society gave them a gift far more valuable – the teachings of the Dhamma which led them on a spiritual journey eschewing materialistic riches and one which teaches the elimination of human suffering by the conquest of the mind. The spectacular growth of atheism in almost all European countries today is largely due to the influence of Buddhism being the only major world religion that teaches Self – Reliance and high ethical conduct without reference or dependence on an external saviour.  

Purchase of Das Buddhistische Haus – an epoch-making event

One of Asoka Weeraratna’s most significant contributions to the spread of Buddhism in Germany was the critical role that he played in the purchase of Das Buddhistische Haus” which the German Buddhist scholar and medical Dr. Paul Dahlke had established in 1924 before his death four years later. Das Buddhistiche Haus, having an extent of nearly 6 acres, is situated 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 center in Europe. It has been designated as a National Heritage site since 1995 by the German public 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.”  

German Dharmaduta Society transformed Das Buddhistische Haus, into a Buddhist Vihara and has continued to sponsor monks from Sri Lanka since 1957 to take up residence at this Vihara thereby playing a key role in cementing religious and cultural relations between the two countries. The current chief resident monk is Ven. Pelane Dhamma Kusala Thera. The caretaker of the Temple is Mr. Tissa Weeraratna, a nephew of the founder Asoka Weeraratna. 

Today, there are impressive Buddhist activities in Germany. Many German Buddhists regard Buddhism in Sri Lanka as their spiritual home. The Berlin Vihara continues to be an important center in the dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in Europe.

Senaka Weeraratna

Hony. Secretary and Trustee

German Dharmaduta Society

……………………………….

 see also for your further reference 

Asoka Weeraratna _ Germany’s ‘Mahinda Thera’

http://archives.dailynews.lk/2012/11/16/fea03.asp

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