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sights & culture

No magic robe, great summers

Balatonkeresztúr is not the buzzing type of south shore spot with endless nights. Buddhist peace becomes it. Small wonder that the Tibetan Culture Centre was set up here with 9, comfortably equipped guest houses and a sanctum, where you can meditate with Andreas, the Buddhist monk. Buddhism, of course, is no pre-requisite of spending time here: Christian guests won't be built into the stupa now under construction, but they spare the lives the lives of mosquitoes. Because, peace.

Killing the mosquitoes is a no

Well, how can anyone not flatten out mosquitoes on the attack by Lake Balaton in the summer? This question has been bugging me ever since we said goodbye to Andreas, the German monk of the Rabten Tashi Ling Tibetan Culture Centre in Balatonkeresztúr. Buddhist faith is against killing, and the lucky mosquitoes of Balatonkeresztúr are no exception. Although the days of Andreas have a strict schedule of meditations, prayers and household chores, he and her help, Gudrun still have time to chat with guests.

"Many battered souls or people trying to find their way visit for a retreat, strangely, it's mostly men. I always ask the newcomers whether they needed anything, but here, nothing is compulsory. Some stay here because of the peace, without anything to do with Buddhism. And there are some visiting for a week of meditation together with a Tibetan monk, asking him advice, or talking to him about their problems" says the German-born Gudrun who speaks Hungarian perfectly and has been the caretaker of the centre since the beginnings.

No one is born a monk

Unlike Andreas, she is not a monk: she is just so engulfed in Buddhism that now her children moved out, she spends her winters translating Buddhist books and all her time from spring to autumn working for the centre.

But neither was Andreas born a monk: originally, he worked as a high school teacher in Germany. "After a while, I felt my ego was too large. I was full of anger and negative feelings that poisoned my relationships, and I wanted to change that. I started searching for new paths, and found what I truly needed in Buddhist teachings. I studied two years at a Tibetan monastery in Switzerland, and was called here two years ago as a volunteer monk." he explains in broken Hungarian.

Not everyone is a Buddhist

The centre consisting of 9 small, two-storey houses is open to anyone. We can testify: you don't have to believe in Buddhism for the feeling of infinite peace and tranquillity touch yo on the Szőlőhegy of Balatonkeresztúr. Though the houses are simple, they are nicely and practically equipped. Their price is modest, especially with the level of peace in mind: a house for 4 costs around 10 000 HUF per night.

One of the houses was transformed into a sanctum with Buddha statuettes and flowers, while the stupa is under construction right next to it. The latter will be a huge construction of concrete boxes, where each level will be filled with personal belongings. It is no joke: it will hold, for example a guitar, since it used to be important for the donor, carrying positive connotations. When a level is filled, a monk is invited to consecrate it in the frame of a long ritual, before it is poured into concrete.

Can we come and take photos?

Gudrun says that by now the locals have also accepted them; once Andreas was even asked to conduct a funeral together with the Catholic priest of a nearby settlement. "The centre has been running for 15 years. I remember that at the beginning most of the locals were wary of us - then they slowly got to know us. The Catholic vicarage realised we won't steal their congregation, since Buddhists rules do not even allow us to evangelize others. Many tend to believe that the monk's attire is magician's robe, but when they see that Andreas hoes in the garden or cleans windows like they do, they start to see him as a human. However, it still happens that people call asking whether they could come and take photos, as if that was our function here."

Andreas thinks Western culture tends to distort Buddhist teachings. "Many pursue meditation as a lifestyle, when it is simply a tool of conscious reflection. All our lives, we are working on being happy and avoiding suffering. The teachings of Buddhism help you overcome your anger and stay calm, which will affect also those who approach you with anger."

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