Buddhism rising in Europe, say Germans
Colombo, (Asiantribune.com): Buddhism is definitely making headway in
Germany and the rest of Europe.
Expressing this view were prominent German invitees to a very
significant event marking the 50th anniversary (1957-2007) of the first
Sri Lankan Buddhist Mission to Germany, at the Savsiripaya Auditorium in
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka on August 22.
Sri Lanka honoured the mission - sponsored by the German Dharmadutha
Society - with the issue of a commemorative postage stamp and a first
day cover by the Government Philatelic Bureau. This is the second time
that a Sri Lankan Postage Stamp depicting a scene in Germany has been
issued here. Nihal Sangabo Dias designed the new stamp issued on
Guest of Honour, German Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Juergen Weerth
thanked the Sri Lankan Authorities for honouring his country in this
manner. Focusing on Buddhism's contribution to the creation of close and
sustainable links between the two countries, he said the understanding
the teachings of the Buddha had been growing in Germany and the rest of
Europe for the past 50 years.
He said: "Germans have always been fascinated by the Buddha's
teachings. Arthur Schopenhauer called it the most perfect of world
religions. Einstein said that if there was any religion that would cope
with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.
Why are we fascinated? It is because Buddhism is a philosophy of
rationality, realism and ethical purity. The respect for Buddhist
approach towards creation in general can lay the foundation of universal
social ethics - that are dedicated to ecological well-being and social
justice and to world peace."
Delivering the keynote address - 'The German Contributions to
Theravada Buddhism and the Reception of Buddhism in Germany and its
influence on German Culture ' - Professor Karl Heinz-Golzio of the
University of Bonn: traced the history of Buddhism in Germany from the
early 19th Century to the present day and drew attention to the services
of many a German thinker and scholar to the cause of Buddhism in Europe.
Among them were, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Eugen Neumann, Dr. Paul
Dahlke, the Venerable Nyanatiloka (the first German to become a bhikku)
and the Ven. Nyanaponika.
"Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer," Prof. Golzio said, "was among the
thinkers who had recognized the validity of Buddhism before its sources
were edited and translated into European languages."
Golzio said: "To him Buddhism was the best of all religions because
it is preferable to Brahminism with its caste system and even more to
Christianity with its fallacious ideas about God and its defective code
of ethics in which animals were given no consideration".
The Professor further noted: "Schopenhauer claimed that his own
philosophy agreed with the Buddha's teachings. The affinity between
Schopenhauer's philosophy and Buddhism is in many ways striking. "
Golzio said that the advent of the Nazis heralded a dark period for
Buddhism in Germany. Some Nazi sympathizers had distorted and
misinterpreted the Buddha Dhamma, giving it a racial connotation and
called it an Aryan religion similar to Hitler's National Socialism. At
the same time true Buddhists suffered under the Hitler regime.
Among them was Dr. Paul Dahlke's former Secretary, Dr. Kurt Fischer
who published a Buddhist Journal each issue of which the Nazis censored.
After Fischer died of a heart attack in 1942 upon hearing that he was to
be arrested by the notorious Gestapo, the latter confiscated all his
books on Buddhism.
"Today, " Golzio noted "More and more and more Western people have
become interested in Buddhism - especially in meditation - as a way to
mental peace and calmness. And they convert to Buddhism after a critical
He said that Buddhism - although still not an officially recognized
religion in Germany - it is now a subject in the school curriculum
there. This according to him is very significant.
"It is a chance to teach Buddhist values and Buddhist ethics, loving
kindness and compassion and unselfishness to the younger generation of
Germans - especially at a time of materialism, consumerism,
environmental crime, pollution and natural disasters, terrorism and war.
Many western people have lost confidence in Christianity and are
searching for rational ways of leading a spiritual life. They are also
looking for guidance to lead meaningful and happy lives."
Richard Lang - Director of Geothe Institute, Colombo - observed:
"One of the articles on Buddhism by Golzio has been particularly
quoted again and again - because he puts forward a very interesting
question: Whether we can expect even a larger number of Europeans
turning to Buddhism in the future - probably because of this in world
which we are living."
Chief Guest, Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Karu
Jayasuriya said that the German Dharmadutha Society's first mission -
Initiated by a young Sri Lankan Businessmen Asoka Weeraratne - was the
beginning of a long and deep-rooted relationship between Sri Lanka and
"It was not a mission for conversion but an undertaking to meet the
German people and give them solace in their hour of need. Asoka
Weeraratne saw the immense potential for Buddhism in Europe ,
particularly in post-World War II Germany.
"I reiterate that this mission was not for conversion but to give the
Buddha's message - to give that philosophy. It is the greatest gift Sri
Lanka can offer to the West. I cannot think of anything better."
The Minister said that today Buddhism has become part of the Western
culture. According to him, in America alone there are over a million
people looking at Buddhism. "Germany and Sri Lanka have had a very long
and warm friendly relationship. People of this country have a very
special place for Germany.
Sri Lankans will never forget names such as Wilhelm Geiger, Paul
Dahlke, Ven Nyanatiloka and Ven Nyanaponika. Socially Germans are very
fond of this country. When they visit once they visit many times. I
thank the good work done by the German Cultural Institute (Goethe
Chief Sanghanayaka of Europe and Chief Patron of the Austria Buddhist
(Theravada) Society, Sri Lankan Bhikku Venerable Dr. Wijayarajapura
Seelawansa after speaking briefly in Sinhala gave a lengthy talk in
German on Buddhism to the Germans in the audience.
He said that many Germans are deriving an immense benefit from the
services that the Berlin Buddhist Vihara (Das Buddhistische Haus) in
Berlin - Frohnau in offers. Giving the vote of thanks Emeritus Prof J.
B. Dissanayake spoke on the Buddhist connection between Sri Lanka and -
Greece - the first European country known to people here.
Honorary Secretary of the German Dharmadutha Society Senaka
Weeraratne also spoke. Raja Kuruppu was the compere.