World Buddhist Village—Croatia, Dharmaloka

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World village—Croatia, Dharmaloka

Introduction:

In 1997, Master Sheng Yen led the first Chan retreat in Croatia at the invitation of Zarko Andricevic, founder of Dharmaloka. By following the Master’s footsteps, Zarko started to regularly guide Chan practice in Europe and American, as well as take part in cross-religion dialogues, ever since becoming a Dharma heir of the Master in 2001. After many years of collective efforts, they finally bought the land and built the Dharma practice center, a Buddhist community in Europe focusing on Chan Practice. Now Andricevic is sharing how all this was made possible as follows.

Before I met Shifu (Master Sheng Yen) I was a teacher in a group that had up to that point practiced martial arts, yoga and Buddhism for over 20 years in Croatia. I was, however, searching for a meditation teacher and wanted to make a connection with a living Buddhist tradition. Our practice until then, in lack of an authentic teacher, was more a sort of free exploration and experiment, then it was following a clearly set and well-defined, traditional Buddhist path.

Luckily, my investigation led me to Shifu and Chan Meditation Center in NY. Meeting with Shifu was a turning point in my personal life and practice, as well as in the life of our community as a whole. Shifu has given us the orientation, vision and inspiration that were of crucial importance for the development of our community and for walking on the path of Chan.

Finding a way out

We are usually talking about Western culture, implying its uniqueness, but there is a need to know that there are significant cultural differences between Europe and America and equally there are differences between individual European countries. In that sense, some states have some cultural, political and economic specific features that make them more or less suitable for accepting the Dharma.

Let's say that unlike in England, we are the first generation of Buddhists in Croatia. Further, we have the legacy of war, we are a Catholic country, economic situation is difficult, legal position of our Buddhist community is not equal to the Catholic Church and other traditionally present religions in Croatia, and very few Buddhist texts have been translated into our language. That is a set of not particularly favorable conditions in which we as a Chan community have to work. All these circumstances modify how we teach Chan in Croatia.






Our longstanding challenge is to create material conditions for our work. I am very happy to say that we are now much closer to that achievement. In our Centre we have established a program of study and practice. Through the study program we cover the teachings of early Buddhism and its later development through the great schools of Mahayana, as well as Chinese Buddhism with special emphasis on Chan tradition. Framework of this program is accomplished through the cycles of lectures on topics from the areas mentioned, but also through study groups, seminars and public talks. We are hoping in the near future to start a two or three-year study program for Dharma teachers.

It is difficult to say exactly how many members we have, because many come and participate in our activities without becoming formal members of our Community or Centre. Approximately we have several hundred members.

New Center, New Hope

A few years ago, Dharmaloka started to build a retreat center near Zagreb. There has been visible progress to the new Chan retreat centre construction in Croatia — all five buildings of the complex are now elevated including a beautiful, 7-meter high Chan hall! In addition to the Chan hall, two dormitories for practitioners and the kitchen and dining area, the centre will have a residential area to be able to accommodate guest teachers and residents.

The weather is dry and sunny now so the construction continues: roof and facade are laid on kitchen and dining area and Chan hall buildings. Inside, insulation and electricity installation are put in place.

In construction, we are using natural building materials with low embodied energy —mainly wood for load bearing structure and stone wool for the insulation of outer walls. Buildings will be using solar gain during winter time for heating and natural air circulation for cooling during summer. Photovoltaic cells will be used as electric power source for lightning, additional heating and cooling. Sewage water biological purifying facility will allow the return of purified grey water to the surrounding environment. Biological waste will be composted and returned back in a natural cycle as fertilizer for the orchards and garden.

Our aim with this centre is to demonstrate and promote a lifestyle that has minimum ecological footprint and low adverse impact on the environment. But most importantly, newly built retreat centre will serve as a place for practice and study of Chan Buddhism and as such it will become an important factor in spreading Chan in Croatia and Europe.

The project has advanced a lot; however, we still seek continued support in order to be able to complete it. To provide for installation of water, heating, interior design and landscaping, we are still fundraising. More info on Chan retreat centre in Croatia on www.chan.hr

Written by : Zarko Andricevic(Founder of Dharmaloka)

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