Short history of Das Buddhistische Haus
Without mentioning the name of the late Dr. Paul Dahlke with thanks and reverence, it would be impossible to talk about Das Buddhistische Haus. Dr. Dahlke, a devoted Theravāda Buddhist, had already realized his dream of a buddhist House on the island of Sylt.
However, when he saw his peace for meditation disturbed by the construction of the Hindenburg Dam and the flood of tourists it triggered, he returned to Berlin. Seizing a promotional action of the authorities to develop the then still quite sparsely developed region of Frohnau, Dr. Dahlke bought the whole hill, the acquisition of which the Protestant community refused because of the long walk and arduous climb.
In record time, he had the main building, the meditation hermitages (one of which now serves as a neighbor's garage), and the ablution room (no longer there) built according to his plans, which were inspired by Asian buildings. Part of the garden area was also completed by 1924. In 1926 the exhibition hall followed, also used as a lecture hall. This hall later became the temple. Despite some attempts to talk about Dr. Dahlke's monastic work, it must be said that a monastery cannot be created in a house where male and female persons live together. But the almost ascetic way of life of Dr. Dahlke, who demanded this kind of life also from all others, made the house including the practice a "Buddhist House".
On Uposatha days Dr. Dahlke gave lectures and was always available with explanations. Unfortunately, Dr. Dahlke died only four years after the foundation of Das Buddhistische Haus in February 1928. After his death, despite the lack of income from the former practice, the Dahlke sisters together with friends tried to continue the house in Dr. Dahlke's spirit.
With the outbreak of the war, Buddhist activities had to cease; the tolerant teaching with its all-embracing loving kindness was undesirable to the authorities. After the war the house housed refugees, for whose number its possibilities were completely insufficient. Financial means to repair and continue the house were no longer available. Even demolition was considered. A sale failed for lack of serious interested parties. The edge of the hill was gradually sold off. Dr. Dahlke's dream to make a "Buddhist House" out of the house where Buddhists live permanently, unfortunately came true only about 30 years after his death: in 1957 Mr. Asoka Weeraratna, the then secretary of the German Dharmaduta Society, Colombo, saw his long-standing dream to build a Buddhist Theravāda Temple in Germany coming within reach. After intensive preliminary work in Berlin and in Colombo, by transferring his entire fortune to Germany, and after a collection campaign among the Ceylonese people, supported by a generous bequest from the German Buddhist, Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Asoka Weeraratna acquired the Buddhist House and the central piece of land from the heirs of Dr. Dahlke.
In 1958, the German Dharmaduta Society bought two more remaining pieces of land from Mr. Dahlke's heirs. The main house was completely renovated. In 1962 the library was donated in a quite Buddhist way: The then ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mr. P.S. Wickramasinghe offered the proceeds of the sold jewels to his suddenly deceased daughter, Hemamala. The G.D.S. had the library and the guest wing below it, including sanitary facilities, built in an excellently fitting style. Books came as donations from most of all Buddhist countries. Countess Lavinia von Monts donated her reference library. The G.D.S. supplied the entire Tipitaka and works by well-known authors. The ceremonial inauguration of the library took place in 1967. Since then it is called "Hemamala Wickramasinghe Library" and is listed in the directory of public libraries of the city of Berlin.
In 1974 the "Ceylon House" was restored, made habitable and usable for meditation purposes. After the change of personnel in the G.D.S. in 2000, Das Buddhistische Haus experienced a renewal in all levels. The long-needed repairs have been planned (and now mostly carried out), and in addition to the usual activities, such as lectures and meditations, a focused program for the dissemination of the Buddha teachings to the masses is taking place. Life in Das Buddhistische Haus and its activities are a typical example of Theravāda Buddha teaching. Everything is casual for the lay follower. Everyone can engage with the teachings in his or her own way. There is no membership fee, nor church tax. Adapting to the national custom, instead of Uposatha days, there are lectures on Sundays and meditations five times a week.
All are welcome, everyone is welcome.
May all beings be happy, may Das Buddhistische Haus facilitate your pathfinding and
be helpful in "arriving at your destination"!
Das Buddhistische Haus