Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sanghaloka - the new FWBO Buddhist Centre in Krakow, Poland

Wednesday 17th September saw the opening of the new FWBO Buddhist Centre in Krakow, Poland. The name of the Centre is Sanghaloka, the Centre of Friends of Buddhism – or in Polish, Osrodek Przyjaciol Buddyzmu. Work on the centre had continued up to the very last minute of the day of the opening ceremony. As the deadline approached there was that feeling of planning a party but not knowing how many people would show up. And, being totally absorbed in preparations, it was something of a surprise when the first visitors started to turn up!

We were very fortunate in that we had much-needed help on the day of the opening from friends from Birmingham (UK) - Karunabandhu, Alokavira, Padmakumara and Roy. A Sangha friend Kasia, decorated the whole place beautifully and, suddenly, the Centre was revealed in all its glory. Seeing the Centre for the first time was as much a surprise for us as for our visitors because it had been covered up in protective plastic sheets and still looked more like a building site than a Buddhist Centre. Although still not completely finished, Sanghaloka looked beautiful, warm and inviting with its wood features and red and orange colour scheme. The opening ceremony itself couldn't have gone better. Forty or so people came, some from near and far in Poland as well as from England, Germany, France and Hungary. It was strange and lovely to see them all there. And it was heart-warming and inspiring to see so many Order Members’ kesas there.

Most importantly, Bhante Sangharakshita was there to cut the ribbon and launch the new Centre. He brought to the occasion the appropriate sense of importance – a reminder that another public Centre being opened enabled the Dharma to be communicated to more people.

After this, Nityabandhu gave a slideshow of the building of Sanghaloka. It felt significant to share with others the history of the birth of the new Centre. Bhante spoke about his involvement with the new Centre as well as his personal connection with Nityabandhu. He also said that the opening of Sanghaloka stirred up memories for him of the opening of the very first FWBO Centre in Monmouth Street, London, back in 1967.

In talking about the name 'Sanghaloka', he said that 'loka' also meant 'home' as well as realm or world. He placed 'sangha' very much in its context of the Three Jewels and talked about their interconnectedness. He also mentioned that a hundred years ago, Monmouth Street also had numerous second-hand clothes shops! (There are many of them in Krakow, and in its previous incarnation, Sanghaloka was itself a second-hand clothes shop).
After Bhante spoke, we had a ritual to enshrine in the wall some precious objects given by Bhante. Then we had the Dedication Ceremony in Polish, after which there was a surprise trumpet recital of 'Wonderful World' by Louis Armstrong. The evening ended with the enjoyment of tea and Polish cakes. Three days after the opening ceremony, we held our fifth Polish retreat. It almost didn't happen as our original venue had been flooded so a last minute search for an alternative venue ensued. Fortunately we headed off to the Polish countryside just a day later than planned for a week’s retreat with half a dozen or so others.

Now we're back and trying to rest and prepare ourselves for the next phase - opening the doors of Sanghaloka to the public! As I mentioned earlier, the centre isn't completely finished and we hope we have enough money to install heating before the Polish winter gets under way. If anyone wishes to contribute by making a donation, it would be very much appreciated. Check our new online fundraising page at or  write to us.

The main thing is that it seems there is genuine interest in Buddhism and meditation here in Poland so we will do our best to share what we know and love with whoever comes through the door. Probably small-scale to start with, then who knows

There’s already a Polish version of the FWBO’s main website – check  And some photos are online at

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