Dear members of our Community, dear fellow practitioners, dear friends in the Dharma,
The path behind us - our evolution from a small group of enthusiasts drawn to Buddhism, meeting at private places almost forty years ago, to a Buddhist community that obtained recognition in the country and repute abroad - has not been an easy one.
In our development we encountered many difficulties. In the beginning it was impossible to gain access to authentic Buddhist traditions and masters. Even the literature on Buddhism was scarce and unavailable. In such circumstances our pursuit was an experiment rather than a journey along a clear and well-trodden path. Given the political climate in former Yugoslavia, it is a wonder that we continued to exist, against all odds.
Later on, after the war that ravaged the region, we found ourselves in a new country and a new political system that gave us more freedom, but also brought some difficulties that we had not known before. While in the previous political system legal recognition could not even have been contemplated, in the new system the legal status has been granted to us, although without much practical benefit. Religions that had not been present in the region historically and do not belong to the European cultural circle could not enjoy all the rights granted to them by the law. In addition, we faced economic hardships in the past and have continued to struggle for essential resources until this day. Acquiring proper material resources for our activities has been beyond our reach. All the places that we have used and are still using are rented and not entirely adequate to our needs.
However, despite the social, political and economic conditions that have largely remained unfavourable to us, our community grew and matured through a deep inner transformation. That transformation started with the encounters with other Buddhist traditions and centres. Our membership in the EBU since early 1990's helped us to gain a broader perspective of our position. But the peak moment in our development was when we met Shifu Sheng Yen and the living teaching and practice of Chan Buddhism. It seemed as if all our previous history had been only a preparation for that encounter. Shifu Sheng Yen gave a guidance and inspiration to our community that has continued over the past 17 years. That inspiration brought us close to achieving a vision that has been with us since the early days – the vision of a retreat centre dedicated to the study and practice of Buddhadharma. Our future retreat centre will become another landmark in the development of our community. Its existence will provide the ground for Chan to grow deeper roots in our country. In addition, the potential of becoming a regional hub for teaching and practice will strengthen the presence of Chan in Europe and the lively process of transmission of Dharma from the East to the West.
It's been some time since I showed the first concept drawings of our future retreat centre to Shifu and received his blessings for our project. I wished with all my heart to have the centre built in Shifu's lifetime and to invite him to visit us in Croatia once again. Regrettably, I did not succeed. Then again, I know that Shifu would have agreed with me on the measure of success – before all else it is to be determined by the inner transformation and the benefits that arise in people's lives through the contact with the Buddhadharma. And it is precisely this aim that we have for the future retreat centre – to be the place of encounter with the Dharma, the place where the benefits of Dharma will unfold and spread. To use Shifu's words: “The Dharma is so good, yet so few people know about it and so many people misunderstand it.“ That is so true for our region that has suffered too much turbulence in the past.
To achieve this valuable aim, we need your help and support. No matter how little your contribution may seem to you, to us it will mean a support beyond measure. May your generosity bring you good health and happiness.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Chuan Hsin Jing Hui
Dharmaloka – Chan Buddhist Community, Croatia