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I’ve recently returned from the first convention of Triratna Buddhist Order members in mainland Europe, held in northern Germany from 19th to 25th July. Around 80 women and men gathered at a vegetarian retreat centre by a large lake north of Berlin.
Order members from all over Europe, including the UK and Ireland, have regularly met at “European” Conventions held in Britain. However, the Order in mainland Europe is now large enough to hold its own: there are now over 190 Order members living in 17 countries in continental Europe. Fifty eight Order members (including me) live in Triratna’s Nordic Region alone (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden).
Over the five days we had talks celebrating the Dharma and the Order, “conversation cafés”, workshops and plenty of time to enjoy ice cream, conversation, qi gong, swimming and canoeing. (We also collected money for Sangharakshita’s 90th birthday present and you can join us! Euros will do nicely if you prefer them to British Pounds.)
There was a huge diversity of nationalities (15), countries represented (13 or 14) and languages (maybe 12). Though English was the common language, we commonly switched between several languages at one dinner table. Pujas were multilingual, in English, Spanish (Castiliano and Valenciano), Estonian, Flemish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, German, French and Russian. South and Central America being part of Triratna’s Spanish-speaking region, there was also one woman from Mexico!
A high proportion of us were not living in our countries of birth: Brits living all over the place; an Italian in Spain; Canadians in Germany, Germans in Britain; etc.
People commented on what a difference it made not meeting in the UK, where despite the friendliness of British Order members, Mainlanders are inevitably always foreigners among a British majority. There was no toast whatsoever, and a lot of fresh coffee.
Someone asked why it is so hard to get British people to come on retreats in mainland European countries, when Mainlanders are so used to having to attend British retreats. If you’re not a mainland European but fancy a retreat at Abhayaloka, Dhammagiri or Metta Vihara, all of them beautiful in different ways, check them out. They all have English-speaking retreats on their programmes and you’d be welcome.
History was all around us: the wonderful venue, Schlüßhof, is a country house and estate in what was communist East Germany. Not far from the concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen, it had been commandeered by Nazi officers and later used as a training centre for the Stasi, the East German secret police.
For photographs and audio interviews from the Convention, visit the Convention pages on The Buddhist Centre Online.
We’ll let you know when the Convention talks are available online.
Pictures courtesy of Viryabodhi.