Frequently asked questions

First Steps

Who are the programs of the Chan Center intended for?

Our programs are intended for everyone. We are here if you want to help yourself and others overcome dissatisfaction, restlessness, and emotional turmoil. We are here if you are interested in exploring your own nature. We are also here if you want to take the reins of your own life. Or, to put it simply, if questions like “how to relax” and “how to relieve stress” cross your mind, our Center is the right place to start the lever of your own transformation.

Do I need to be a Buddhist to join?

You don’t need to be a Buddhist to participate in the activities of the Center. Our mission is to reduce unnecessary and excessive suffering, tension, and conflicts. In doing so, we use traditional methods of cultivating the mind shaped according to the needs of contemporary people.

Can you recommend literature on Buddhism and Chan?

In Croatian, we can recommend the works of Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Japanese teacher Shunryu Suzuki, and Australian teacher Ajahn Brahm. For an introduction to Chan, you can look for “Subtle Wisdom” by Shifu Sheng Yen, published by our Center.

I want to learn to meditate, where do I start?

That’s a great decision! Every month, usually on the first Wednesday of the month, the Center organizes free public talks. You can check the exact schedule in our calendar. It’s an opportunity to meet our teacher, Žarko Andričević, a rare and comprehensive expert on meditation. You will learn how the wisdom of Chan understands everyday life situations. This way, you can find out if Buddhism as a teaching and Chan as a meditation method is something that would inspire you to go further. If so, the next step is the “Tranquility and Insight” course, our foundational program held three times a year over one weekend.

When can I join the meditation group?

The regular group meditation meets online once a week and is an excellent way to keep your practice vibrant. Members of the Center who have attended the “Tranquility and Insight” meditation course can join the group.

Visits, library and Zenyoga

Can I visit the Center?

Yes, at a time when there are no scheduled meditation retreats or other programs. If you wish to come, contact us.

How do I borrow books from the Center’s library?

Our library took decades to build. To be able to borrow, for a start you have to be a member. The library is physically located on Hartovski Vrh. When you come for any program you can borrow and return books.

Do you offer your own titles for sale?

Yes, but they are in Croatian. For titles in English please visit Wisdom Publications online bookstore.

What to expect on volunteering days?

Volunteering is a great way to spend a fulfilling day outdoors and at the same time it significantly helps us maintain the Center. The majority of our volunteer work includes gardening — weeding, planting, cutting grass and overgrowth clearing. You can come on days intended for spring or autumn work, or in any time when there are no scheduled activities. Expect good company and fine food! Read more about volunteering.

What is Zenyoga and is it suitable for me?

Zenyoga is a special form of exercising compatible with the practice of Chan — we call it meditation in movement! It harmonizes body, breath and mind through postures, series of movements and breathing exercises. It develops a deeper understanding of the body and leads to merging of movement with breath. We keep it open and suitable for any age group — we do not compete in outer appearance of the posture but develop deep awareness of every movement. If you want to find out how to join the practice, read this.

Meditation retreats, seminars and in-person programs

For whom are meditation retreats suited?

Chan Retreat Center Hartovski Vrh organizes meditation retreats of various intensity suited for different levels of practitioners. The Chan meditation course Tranquility and Insight is a prerequisite for all of them, or comparable meditation experience in vipassana or mindfulness meditation. It is important to note that the retreat experience is a continuation of your regular practice — retreats are therefore most suited for those who have been able to establish regular daily meditation. On top of that, we strongly recommend gradual approach: come for a day of meditation first and then proceed to three- and seven-day Chan retreats.

How do I apply for a retreat or seminar?

Every program has its own e-application form. Fill it out fully and send. After applying, you will receive a note from us confirming that there is a place available and that — in some cases — you fulfill the application requirements. We will ask you to make a payment of recommended donation in the same note. That is when the application process ends.

What if I have to cancel?

Life is unpredictable and sometimes it can happen that you have to cancel your arrival. On the other hand, please be aware that organizing a retreat or seminar is a complex and logistically demanding task, and that every cancellation can be a problem. If your application has been confirmed but you found out that you are unable to attend please kindly let us know as soon as possible. There may be a waiting list and by notifying us early you may be giving a chance to someone else to take your place. In that case we will reimburse your payment minus handling expenses. If that is not the case, and you have canceled up to one week before the retreat/seminar starts, we will reimburse 50% of your payment. In the event of cancellation after that time or no-show we will keep your full payment. Please bear that in mind when applying and thank you for your understanding.

Arrival and stay in the Center

How do I reach Chan retreat center?

Chan Retreat Center Hartovski Vrh is located in Nature Park Žumberak next to the village of Hartje — check our location on the map. It is easiest to reach us by car. When applying for a retreat or seminar we will ask you if you need transportation or offer a place in a car to organize a shared ride. We ask you to be ecologically and financially responsible and to support this arrangement. If the places in cars are insufficient, it is best to take a train from Zagreb in the direction of Karlovac and then exit the train in Lazina-Draganić station. We can organize a pick-up there at your expense.

When do retreats/seminars start and end?

In principle, on the first day at 5 p.m. and on the last day at around 2 p.m. You will find the exact time in the program description in our calendar. It is important to be on time.

Can I attend only part of a program?

Retreats are a rounded whole and it is necessary to attend from the start up until the end. If you know in advance that you will not be able to do that, try to find a more suitable date when you will have more time.

Is it possible to come before and stay after retreat/seminar ends?

Generally speaking, yes. You can express that wish in “Note to the Center” field in the application form. However, if you do not have your own ride that may be difficult to organize. Also, bear in mind that you will be asked to take part in the daily schedule and ongoing chores.

When on retreat and seminar

What are the retreat rules?

The rules are simple and designed to help participants engage in the retreat’s rhythm and activities in an easy and smooth manner. The first retreat rule is silence. We see it as a prerequisite to turn the mind’s eye inward. One part of establishing silence is not using mobile phones or similar devices. The second rule is punctuality. The retreat schedule is adapted to the abilities of short and long-term practitioners. We ask all participants to abide by it. The third rule is tidiness and attentiveness in dealing with people and things. The fourth is mindfulness in all activities.

What is the accommodation like?

We offer group accommodation — there are four modern and well fitted sleeping rooms in two dormitories with four bunk beds in each. Each sleeping room has two bathrooms. If your “crowded” alarm just went on, no need to worry: having in mind the type of activities and retreat program, silence and the fact that everyone is minding themselves, the sleeping conditions are very comfortable.

How to dress and what to bring?

Amount of personal luggage
Personal closet space is limited so please pack lightly. Walking paths on the grounds are not trolley-friendly; it is better to pack in a rucksack or hand-held luggage. We provide bedding but please bring your own towel.

Clothing and shoes
The center is located at an altitude of 500m and enjoys mostly a mountain climate. You will always need slightly warmer clothes than in the city or in plains. Bring a warm jacket, robust walking shoes for the woods and outdoor work, convenient put-on/take-off shoes (no shoes inside the houses). Bring umbrella, cap and gloves if coming during winter. And slippers, for indoor work.

Meditation gear
The Center has meditation cushions in two sizes, meditation towels and mats. Bring your own cushion if you prefer so. If you use a meditation bench please bring your own. It is always good to bring a light blanket to cover the body during sittings. In wintertime we keep the temperature in the Chan hall at 19 degrees Celsius. Meditation clothes should be loose, comfortable and in darker shades. Please no shorts or sleeveless tops. We serve tea in the hall — bring a small thermos to use there.

Bring biodegradable and non-antibacterial ones. That is how you help us to non-harmfully dispose of sewage waters. Please do not use wet wipes and, especially, do not dispose of them in the toilet. They are plastic.

Žumberak area does not collect waste separately. As we do, we have to transport all our waste 40 km to the nearest recycling yard. We apply the mountaineers’ rule to personal waste — please “leave no trace” and take with you whatever you brought up the mountain. Thank you.

What is the food like?

Delicious! Nourishing, cooked with love, and vegetarian. We make an active effort to source all our ingredients locally and organically.

Will I be asked to contribute with any work?

You will. That is one of the retreat pleasures — to watch how a group of people take care of themselves, sharing all the work. Errands include cleaning, kitchen help, gardening work or maintenance. That arrangement reflects the principle of Chan communal life, or the good old “all for one, one for all”. And of course, we understand all our work to be an opportunity for practice of mindfulness in movement, preparing us for life outside the retreat.

Will I have any opportunity for other types of activities while on retreat?

Mindful exercising such as yoga and tai chi can be practiced during breaks outside or on the Chan hall terrace. At certain times you can use the Chan hall itself for exercising, but that will be explained during retreat. We ask participants to refrain from loud activities. Also, it is in the spirit of retreat not to read or write.

Is it OK to go out during retreat?

We ask all retreat participants to keep themselves within the Chan Center’s grounds. It is possible to take a walk in the woods bordering the property but — if it is your first visit and you are yet unfamiliar with it — only after a group walk. When you go on your own it is important not to go too far, especially if your orientation is poor. The wood is a hunting ground — we do not enter on Sundays.

What if I have to be contacted in case of emergency?

As you do not use mobile phones during retreat, you can pass your family or friends the Center’s e-mail or mobile phone number if they need to get in touch in case of emergency. Please ask them to write or send an SMS. It will be replied to at the first possible occasion. Phone nuber will be provided in the last email that we send out before designated start of a program.

Recommended donation

What does a recommended donation cover?

It covers your accommodation and food expenses, professional help during the retreat (chef) and organization. Also, we use that fund to cover other expenses of running the Center, such as building and garden maintenance. It does not include teaching donations.

What is dana, giving?

In Buddhist tradition, teachers offer their teachings freely, for it is considered priceless. If you wish to thank them, one of the ways to do so is to make a dana, your donation directed expressly to them. Dana is a Sanskrit word for giving and it describes the virtue of sincere generosity. By that virtue the tradition of Buddhadharma was preserved up until today, and built our Center.

After the retreat

Can I join a meditation group and continue the practice together?

That would be great! During retreat you have accumulated inspiration for practice that is best kept alive by attending weekly meditation with the group and teacher. For a start, you have to be a member of the Center.

Contact us

How do I get in touch if I still have questions?

You can email us here.

How do I sign in or out from your mailing list?

You can do that by using the application form found here. After signing in, you will receive an occasional newsletter in which we announce forthcoming events and publish transcribed public talks. If you are a member, you will receive a Zoom meditation link or announcements intended especially for you. Every newsletter issue contains a link to opt out of our mailing list — all you need to do is click “unsubscribe” at the bottom.