The Chan Retreat Center Hartovski Vrh is a place dedicated to cultivating the mind; a meditation and residential center of the Dharmaloka Buddhist community. Since its opening in 2019, it has been the center of all our activities. Located in the inspiring environment of the Nature Park Žumberak, the Center offers instruction and support in adopting and practicing a holistic path of personal transformation and discovering one’s own deeper nature. It is the home of our teacher, Chan master Žarko Andričević.
The main activities at our Center are teaching and practice. We can consider it an educational institution that teaches how to understand, analyze and transform one’s own emotional and experiential interior. In other words: how to understand your own mind and how to understand what it is experiencing. And then, how to purify it, develop mindfulness and calm, open and arouse favorable emotional states like friendship, compassion and joy. It is a rare knowledge and a rare skill that we desperately need in these complicated times.
The Center’s program reflects this dual focus and is tailored to the requirements and needs of different types of participants. Education includes a basic meditation course, Tranquility and Insight, meant for beginners, as well as lecture cycles illuminating the meaning of various important postulates of Buddha’s teachings. At the heart of the practice are meditation retreats, ranging from one-day to seven-day meditation retreats. During these retreats, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, in this serene place, we practice calming our inner mental turmoil and anchoring ourselves in the deep silence and richness of the present moment.
A particularity of our group is zenyoga (or moving meditation) and zenyoga seminars represent a special program. It is a system dedicated to maintaining the health and vitality of our bodies and minds.
Individual stays or residencies at the Center are open to experienced practitioners who can deepen their mindfulness without an external schedule and group support.
In a broader sense and in addition to Chan-related content, the Center seeks to embody principles which inspire a responsible attitude towards our society and our environment. It is a platform for cooperation and dialogue with various domestic and international organizations in the educational, civil, artistic and religious sectors. The way of life at the Center, the design and technical solutions of its buildings are an example of the application of sustainable energy practices and an awareness of the environmental aspect of our stay on this planet.
What’s behind the name?
“Hartovski vrh” is the old name of the location where the Center is located — it was recorded during the earliest cadastral survey carried out in this area in the 19th century. The name is derived from a nearby village, Hartje. We decided to adopt it for the Center because the etymology of the name is very interesting and corresponds to the nature of this place.
Hartje is derived from the ancient Greek χάρτης, later on charta in Latin. It has several meanings, two of which are important to us — “thin matter made of vegetative fibers”, i.e. a sheet of paper or a map. Paper is a Chinese invention — therefore, our name subtly conveys a connection to the tradition we inherit. In terms of phraseology, “turning a new leaf or page” means starting over, turning to new solutions. Walking the path of cultivating the mind is equivalent to turning a new page in life; it’s a change in the way we think and act. And last, but not least: the Buddha’s teaching is often compared to a map that allows you to navigate the landscape of a spiritual journey. But a map is just a description — running your finger across it is not the same as really traveling. As Chan teachers would say: we show and ensure that you do not get lost — it is up to you to go, explore and find out for yourself.
Planning and design
Careful planning, a realistic assessment of our needs and an attempt to imbue the design of the Center with the simplicity and cleanliness that characterize Chan have spawned a project consisting of five buildings. The complex functions as a contemporary reinterpretation of a traditional mountain hamlet. The central building houses the Chan hall and adjoining spaces. One of the buildings houses a dining room / living room area with a kitchen. Another consists of rooms for resident and visiting teachers. Two identical houses are dormitories. Each facility, however, has multipurpose potential. A Chan room can also be a gym. The dining room can serve as a classroom, and the occasional dormitories can become accommodation for longer stays. The applied technologies, design and construction contribute to the buildings’ high energy efficiency with a minimum of adverse environmental impact. The last task on our list includes the installation of a photovoltaic power plant, which will ensure complete energetic self-sufficiency.
The Center’s project is recognized as a valuable example of contemporary architecture — in 2020, it was included among the four finalists for the annual award of the Croatian Chamber of Architects. The project was presented in the magazine Oris. In 2021, it was nominated for the EU’s Contemporary Architecture — Mies van der Rohe Award.
Origin and continuation
As a group, we dreamed one dream almost from the very beginning — our own home and better conditions for practice. A residential center dedicated to cultivating inner and outer peace, deeper understanding, and education in skills that embody the spirit of a nurtured presence. Guided by this vision, we started the project of fulfilling this dream many years ago, completely uncertain of the outcome. At that moment in time, we embarked on a lengthy quest for the right place. We’ve been planning for a long time. Then we’ve been building. It took a while, but here we are.
In 2019, we opened the place of our dreams. In the simplest truth, we can say that two virtues enabled us to do so — perseverance and generosity. The perseverance of a group of people who, in spite of everything, managed to subsist and become a Community along the way. The unparalleled generosity that spawned the Center we call home today. It is mostly funded by donations from our teacher’s international students. It incorporates hours and hours of donated work by many members of our Community. Perseverance and generosity have uplifted it and the same virtues still sustain it. Our program billing policy is not driven by profit but by affordability. We have always tried not to let finances be an obstacle to participation in our activities. All programs, except for the first meditation course, can be worked off, and reduced tuition fees are available for some. To keep it that way, we heavily rely on membership fees, donations and volunteering. We believe that this is the right model — we do not see the participants of our programs as clients, but as students and companions. Thus we see their deeper value and ensure that the Center survives as a place that nurtures precisely these values.