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Monday, March 02, 2009

A retreat centre for the Low Countries

The new retreat centre is the building on the left with the church of the small village of Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants) in the distanceAkasasuri sends us this report from Holland -

“For over twenty years FWBO retreats have been held in The Netherlands. They were started by Vajragita in the eighties and later also in Belgium by Dhammaketu.

"Over the last four years we’ve held about twenty retreats a year, from a weekend to a fortnight, and most of them are reasonably booked up (about 20 -30 people). We hire three different locations ( a monastery and a youth hostel in Holland, and a monastery in Belgium) for the retreats, every time we have to create the retreat environment from scratch. We have been a ‘virtual retreat centre’. Our charity is called Metta Vihara – please do have a look  As the site is in Dutch, English speakers may like to go straight to "nieuw retraitecentrum" and then to "foto's".

“But now I'm very happy to say it looks like we’re reaching the end of transporting cushions, mats, Buddha images, food, etc!!!

“After 4 years of property search in a densely populated country like The Netherlands we’ve finally found a suitable place in the South of Holland (not far from the Belgium border).

“In the photograph it’s the building on the left with in the distance the church of the small village Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants).

“The Netherlands being what it is, there are LOTS of regulations to satisfy before we can finally say we’ve done it.

signing of the contract. from left to right: Karin van Kesteren, Manigarbha, Akasasuri, Hein Gietema (all trustees of Metta Vihara, including Dhammaketu from Belgium who could not be present)“Although we’ve bought the property, it won’t be until the 1st of June that we’ll know whether or not we can renovate the farm into a retreat centre – and even then we’ll only be 90% sure. By January 2010 we’ll know for definite. At present the buildings include a set of pigstables, and as part of the work we will have to take them all down. In their place a purpose-built retreat centre will appear, designed by Peter Van Assche who is a Mitra.

“At the earliest we hope to open our doors in autumn/winter 2010!!!

“For the Dharma to take hold in a country takes a very long time, like holding a lotus flower next to a boulder and hoping it will take root. So waiting for another 1 ½ years should not be too difficult even though we are very very keen. Manigarbha and I will be so glad once we’ve done the last van run for our virtual retreat centre and settle into our own place.

“I’d like to use this opportunity to thank people in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK who have encouraged, supported and helped us financially.

“We are truly all interconnected. Akasasuri”

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Possible new retreat centre in the Low Countries

Since 2004 METTA VIHARA, a Dutch FWBO charity started by Akasasuri and others in 2001, has been actively seeking a retreat centre for the FWBO (known locally as the VWBO) in Holland and Belgium. In 2005 the trustees decided to create 'a virtual' retreat centre as a way of demonstrating the projects’s viablility to the bank and potential dnors, and this has been an extraordinary success.

Akasasri says “last year and again this year we coordinated, planned and organised all the retreats in Holland and Belgium, running 20-22 retreats a year at 3 different locations spread over both countries. We (she and her friend the newly-ordained Manigarbha) are on all the retreats - we do the shopping, the bookings, the finances, the mail-out's, the PR, the setting-up of the retreats, the cooking, plus co-leading and leading some of the retreats etc. Everything is stored in our living room (mats, cushions, blankets, food, shrine material, etc); we bought a large van to transport everything from our house to the various retreats and back".

And nearly all retreats (but 3) in 2006 were fully booked with a waiting list – a remarkable and heroic achievement. There are 5 order members committed to living at the future retreat centre: Sarojini, Sobhanandi, Khemasiri, Akasasuri and Manigarbha; with nearly all the other Order Members in the Lowlands are involved in some way in attending, leading and co-leading the retreats.

And now they are on the verge of realising their dream – purchasing a property owned by a nature reserve organisation. It’s an old farmhouse, built in 1880, about 100 meters from a large estuary, with 5 acres of land, located halfway between the Amsterdam Buddhist Centre and the Ghent Buddhist Centre and easily accessible for the Buddhist Centres from Arnhem, The Hague and Antwerp. See photos of the building here.

Akasasuri says “Voices in our local sangha say 'this is THE place' and all are very keen for this to come off. WE ARE READY TO GO - JUST SOME MORE MONEY REQUIRED!

For their appeal they have created a website, have a proper brochure, became a member of the Buddhist Union and advertise in national papers, buddhist magazines and some new-age magazines.

Click here for a fuller introduction to the property and the appeal.

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