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Feb 23
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Featured Stories, Germany
Buddhist Youth Festival 2008
Michal, Bea, Tasio and Sjors

Michal, Bea, Tasio and Sjors

When I received the invitation for the Buddhist Youth Festival 2008, my first thought was “Yes!” Of course, I wanted to spend 5 days in a wonderful atmosphere – to dance into the new year with lovely people again. It was definitely a “first thought-best thought” decision. This year, I enjoyed and loved the program even more than the 2007 Buddhist Youth Festival.

Like most wonderful things in life, the Buddhist Youth Festival started as a dream, a vision… Two young Shambhala Buddhist practitioners – one in the US and one in Europe – had a dream to create an event for young Buddhists and young people interested in Buddhism. Both had heard that many young people feel lonely or strange, because most of the people in the sangha were much older. Or – if they didn’t belong to a sangha – none of their friends where interested in “weird things” like Buddhism! So, when Sophie Maclaren from Boulder and Susanne Becker from Germany met, it didn’t take very long before they created the first Buddhist Youth Festival in December 2007.

Karl, Sophie and Susanne at calligraphy practice

Karl, Sophie and Susanne at calligraphy practice

The following year, in December 2008, we had the opportunity to attend the second Buddhist Youth Festival. Both years it took place in the Hotel Schloss Heinsheim – a beautiful old castle, near Bad Rappenau, Germany, in a little village surrounded by a lovely landscape, combining hills with forests and the calming energy of the river Neckar. The Shambhala owners of the Hotel (Kalapa Hotels and the von Racknitz family) have very generously offered to sponsor the event every year.

When I finally arrived at Schloss Heinsheim, on the 27th of December, after a long journey from Greece, I immediately felt a warm, loving atmosphere and totally forgot the hours of traveling. It felt a bit like coming home. There were approximately 50 people between 16 and 35 from 11 different countries in Europe and the US. Some were practitioners of different Buddhist traditions, and for others it was the first time encountering the dharma. This diverse group seemed like a large painting with many different colors. How amazing to see people of different ages, countries, continents and cultures, becoming so close during the program. I felt that there was some kind of connection between all of us, because all of us were open hearted, open minded and willing to find out new things in life.

Meditating under our buddha faces

Meditating under our buddha faces

The schedule of the Festival had a wonderful mix. About 50% of the content was pre-planned and the other half was spontaneous, based on ideas from the participants. There was plenty of free time, so people could sit together and share their experiences and views on different topics.

Some of the participants also offered workshops. For example, Carmen Mensik, a professional thangka painter and teacher in Amsterdam, did a presentation and slide show on the history and methods of thangka painting and showed us how to draw a traditional Buddha face. Gabriella Darvas, from Hungary, taught “Simin Active Chan,” a combination of Tai Chi and Chi Kung developed especially for monastics. There was also time set aside for yoga or running, offered by Sophie and Susanne.

The program also featured talks by Shambhala leaders and teachers. Chris Tamdjidi presented on leadership, describing how meditation can be a support for working with others – by cultivating clarity, stability of mind, and the ability to be in the present moment. He also conducted exercises so that the participants could feel and explore the meaning of open-hearted leadership.

President Richard Reoch honored us with a video web conference, in which he discussed meditation in extreme times and the role of Buddhists in cultivating world peace.

Karl-Ludwig Leiter gave a talk introducing Buddhism and meditation. For many participants, it was their first time meditating! Karl intrigued and empowered them by saying that the Buddha was the first non-Buddhist. In that way, he encouraged them to open their minds and question everything. He also led a calligraphy workshop focusing on fearlessness and being in the present moment. At the end of each talk, there was plenty of time for people to ask questions and have a discussion.

Finally, an important part of the program was rota . On the arrival day, everybody got assigned a daily job – like preparing a meal, cleaning up the kitchen and things like that. That turned out to be a nice part of the program, because through work, participants got to know each other and to cultivate a sense of responsibility and respect for the place.

Our closing circle, on New Year's Eve

Our closing circle, on New Year

The days went by quickly and, before we even realized it, it was our last day, the 31st of December. That night ended with a formal banquet – the kitchen staff really did an amazing job – and a New Year’s Eve dance party. It was a great party, filled with the feeling of joy, happiness and love! People danced until the early morning hours. On the departure day, we all helped to clean up in order to leave Schloss Heinsheim as nice as (or even nicer than) before.

And then… we had to say goodbye to all the wonderful people. There was sadness in the air. But it was a cheerful sadness. It was love, happiness, sadness, cheerfulness – all together! Again, it seemed like a large, colorful painting…

For photos taken by the participants click here.

Click here for “Every Moment is Young,” a short video from the first festival in 2007.

Sophie and Susanne are now searching for funding, so that they can bring the Buddhist Youth Festival to young people in different regions of the world, starting with the Americas. For more info, or if you are interested in being a part of the planning and development team, please contact Sophie at [email protected] or see our website.

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3 responses to “ Buddhist Youth Festival 2008 ”
  1. Mikayla Sanford
    Feb 26, 2009
    Reply

    This sounds so great and such a wonderful way for the youth in the sangha to get together, yet many of us as much as we would love to attend this kind of program do not have the money to fly all the way out there. Are there any scholarship opportunities to attend this kind of program? and if not are there plans to start one? or a way to work off the costs? I know many many youth who would love attend this kind of thing but can’t because of money! Sounds amazing though…

  2. Hi Mikayla!
    Yes, there are always scholarships available for the Buddhist Youth Festival- Especially for participants traveling from far away, or from countries outside of the European Union with difficult currency exchange rates. We do our best to keep the participation fee, and costs of hosting the festival as low as possible, and we do not want anyone be unable to attend simply because of finances. There are also possibilities to staff and attend for a lower rate. For more info on staffing or scholarships, just email me : ) [email protected]

  3. PS- we hope to bring the festival to more regions of the world in the coming years, starting with one for North, Central, and South Americas in 2010!


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