The Brno Centre is the second biggest of twenty-three Diamond Way Buddhism centres in the Czech Republic established by Lama Ole Nydahl and running under the spiritual guidance of the 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje. A stable meditation group appeared in Brno in September 1998. Since 1999, the centre functioned in a former kindergarten. In 2003, the house and its land were purchased and became the property of the Nydahl Endowment Fund, which is in charge of the Czech Diamond Way Buddhism assets.
With the growing interest in Buddhism and meditation, the centre capacity ceased to be sufficient, thus a new centre was built at the place of the former kindergarten in 2009–2010. During that period, the centre functioned in a temporary place at Špitálka Street 33. In January 2011, the centre moved to the new premises at Trtílkova Street 18.
The goal of our centre is to make the Buddha’s teachings on the Diamond Way level accessible to all people interested. We organize lectures by both Czech and foreign teachers, common meditations, exhibitions, and other activities. Public meditations are held five times a week and once a month we have meditation weekends.
A history of the Brno centre
From 1996 a dental office served as the first “centre” for a small group of Diamond Way Buddhist practitioners in Brno. In 1998, Lama Ole Nydahl held his first lecture in Brno and some of the people who took refuge became the first members of the Brno Sangha. One year later, regular meditation sessions still took place in unsuitable premises of a massage and healing parlor, until a former kindergarten appeared in sight.
Kindergartens are designed to become perfect Buddhist centres as they have all facilities including a big main room – the would-be Gompa (meditation room). Before we moved into the new house, Lama Ole had seen some pictures of the building and immediately said: “Ask for its price!” Thus, the story of the Brno Buddhist centre started in autumn 1999.
The municipality let the kindergarten for a cheap price, but at the beginning there were only a few Sangha members and it was never certain if they would be able to collect enough money for the rent. Gradually, more “Kagyu” visitors started to appear and together learned how to manage a centre, organize lectures and meditation weekends. After a certain time, a group of 6 people formed who resided in the centre. At first, we had to redecorate to cover all the princesses and childish fairytale heroes who embellished the walls. With the help of several friends, one of the biggest centres in the Czech Republic came into existence.
Brno is a university city, therefore students represented a majority among the centre users for a long time. We did not forget about Lama Ole’s wish to purchase the house, therefore we started to contact the authorities, even though the purchase looked so unreal at that time. The centre received a great support of the Deputy Mayor who promoted the rental and subsequently also the sale. Once, he stopped by in the kindergarten while cross-country skiing, he ringed the bell and resounded from the door: “Well, I just wanna check what you guys are doing here… I am the one who is renting the house to you…!”
At the beginning of 2000, the 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje visited Europe for the first time and the Brno Sangha set out in several buses to meet him in Düsseldorf, just after the New Year’s Eve party. These travels by hired buses to Lama Ole’s lectures or initiations became a popular tradition. Immediately after the Great Seal course in Těnovice in 2000 we organized the second Lama Ole’s lecture in Brno. Lama Ole came with his wife Hannah, and with Tomek Lehnert. The lecture was attended by approximately 700 people and it actually was our first attempt at organizing such an event – thus, we only started tying knots on the strings and printing the Refuge cards during the lecture. Lama Ole also inaugurated the Gompa in our centre at that time.
As the centre already had enough permanent members, its activities also grew. In 2000, the publishing activities were transferred to Brno; our publishing house (“Bílý deštník” or White Umbrella in English) was established and we started to publish Lama Ole’s books and the Czech “Buddhism Today” magazine. At the beginning, mainly Polish travelling teachers used to visit Brno, with whom we meditated a lot during the day and had a lot of fun during the night at our parties in the house or by the fire in the garden.
We were among the first Czech centres that started to do the ten-minute lectures before common meditation, and, finally, they became very popular. The centre was developing fast. Initially, the Gompa was only full during our common meditation sessions, mainly on Mondays and during meditation weekends. Today, the centre is busy and almost full every day. People come to do their Preliminary practices (Ngöndro), and introductory lectures are sometimes attended by 100 people – both from the Sangha and the public. However, nobody misses the old quiet days of a small Buddhist group. The formerly student and predominantly male group of practitioners gradually developed into a Sangha of people of varied ages and both sexes, while the number of families with children also started to increase.
This enormous development and interest in lay Diamond Way Buddhism was present in the entire Czech Republic, and today, Brno – with its almost one hundred members – is one of the biggest of twenty-three Czech centres. We organized an Open Day several times – for our neighbors as well as for the authorities and journalists. In 2006, we organized an exhibition called “Mind is Like Space” in the Moravian Library in Brno, providing information on Buddhism and the history of the Diamond Way, and displaying photographs from Buddhist places of the East and from the courses held in the West.
It has become a nice tradition that we also support other projects. Every year, we participate in organizing the big summer course in Těnovice, while the profit is always donated to one of the current projects. From the very beginning we have supported the Triangle Project – the co-operation of Czech, Polish and German Buddhists, the predecessor of the Europe Center project. We have also established a special relationship with Vienna centre friends and we sometimes organize meditation weekends together. Once we also joined the Sangha Bus Tour on the route Vienna – Bratislava – Brno – Těnovice -Vienna. Within the tour, we organized a party and an auction to support the purchase of the Europe Center. The moderator eventually auctioned off even the trousers he was wearing. Brno centre contributed a total amount of EUR 72,000 for EC.
Significant for our centre’s history was the year 2003 when the municipality finally agreed to sell us the house but we had to pay the price within the three months (EUR 88,000). Friends both from the Czech Republic and abroad helped raising the funds, and thus since September 2003 the house has been the property of the Nydahl Endowment Fund, which manages most of the Buddhist real estate in the Czech Republic. We managed to pay off our debts in two years. That was much faster than we originally anticipated. Meanwhile, we established a functional system of fundraising in the centre.
During his further visits, Lama Ole Nydahl was presented with our reconstruction plan, various drafts and designs of our future centre, as the house became too small for such huge number of visitors. Gradually, we developed an idea of building a new house at the place of the old one. The new centre would include a big meditation room – Gompa, a library hosting different Buddhist texts, several rooms for local practitioners, visitors, or teachers, a large lounge with a kitchen and bar, an office for project work, and a babysitting room. During realization of this project, we functioned in a temporary centre at Špitálka Street, which provided sufficient space for all our activities. We moved to our new centre in Trtílkova Street in January 2011.
The biggest event so far was surely the visit of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa in our centre in 2004. Karmapa Thaye Dorje was shown round the house and blessed it. He also saw presentations of other Czech projects. At the same time, Karmapa became the only person who holds the keys to our centre without having to participate at regular house cleaning. Karmapa was pleased by this present and said he would be using the key. The Brno centre is open to everybody, key holders or not, both from the Czech Republic and abroad.
We look forward to your visit!