The Ramana Maharshi voice was recorded
When the St. Francis meditation house was founded on December 27, 1977 by the then Bishop Dr. Alois Brems from Eichstätt and Father H. M. Enomiya Lassalle S.J. was inaugurated, a new chapter began in the more than three hundred year old, eventful history of the Franciscan monastery in Dietfurt. At that time one could not yet know whether the idea of offering Zen meditation and other Asian forms of meditation and exercise in a Christian monastery would reach people and whether integration into the Christian faith would succeed. There were so many reservations and doubting voices.
The idea of such a project occurred to the brothers when they were sitting together one evening in 1974 and discussing how to counter the wave of meditation that had come from India to the western countries with an offer of their own. Didn't St. Francis also cultivate interreligious dialogue in his day? Didn't he always withdraw into silence in order to experience the presence of God more intensely? Aren't we Franciscans committed to extraordinary pastoral care? We Christians also once had a contemplative tradition. Contemplation and meditation had already been cultivated by the desert fathers and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages, but were later forgotten. The people who rushed to the Eastern gurus were looking for a spiritual experience that they no longer believed to be found in the Church. A concern that grows out of the deep human longing to find the meaning of life. We as a Christian order should also be able to give an answer here, they thought.
Father Viktor, the actual founder of the meditation house, was already traveling through the country to hold meditation courses. Born in Budapest, he was arrested in 1949 and wrongly sentenced to prison. In prison he met a student of Ramana Maharshi who taught him meditation. After the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and fleeing to the West, the mechanical engineer was urged to lead a spiritual life.
In 1967 he was accepted into the Bavarian Franciscan Province and ordained a priest in 1972.
When the brothers began thinking about what to do in 1974, there was still no concrete plan. But here a fortunate fate came to their aid. Father Viktor met the Jesuit Father Enomiya Lassalle, who had brought Zen meditation to the West. Father Lassalle came to Japan as a missionary in 1929, where he came into contact with Zen monks, whose deep religiosity impressed him. Later, after surviving the atomic bombing in Hiroshima in 1945, he took Zen courses himself. He realized that here was a path of deep religious experience that could fertilize Christian spirituality in the West. Finally, Father Lassalle came to Yamada Koun Roshi in Kamakura, the spiritual director of the Sanbo-Kyodan, a Zen lay association with roots in the Soto school. Yamada Koun Roshi had the openness and generosity, which was by no means taken for granted in Japan at the time, to instruct priests of another religious tradition in zazen. He expressly emphasized that Zen is a path of experience that can lead to the source of one's own religiosity. "You have to realize that Christ is in you," he said to Father Lassalle.
When Father Viktor Löw met the Jesuit Father Lassalle, he too traveled from monastery to monastery to hold meditation courses. Both priests and later Zen masters shared a vision, the dream of having their own house in order to offer a spiritual home to people in their search for deeper experience - regardless of which religion they felt they belonged to. What could be better than locating such a center within a Christian monastery? So the vision of these two people finally took shape. Concrete plans were made, presented to the provincial government and finally the foundation stone was laid in 1977. A harmonious Japanese-style meditation hall was built and the former novitiate building was expanded into a guest house. In December 1977 the meditation center was inaugurated as the first of its kind in Europe, and in 1978 the course work began.
"I want to sit and be silent and hear what God is talking about in me," said Master Eckehart. Zazen, sitting in silence, is also the heart of the Zen path. Getting in touch with the soul, your own depth and so on Finding the true home is his goal.
For over 30 years now, thousands of people have come to Dietfurt to take part in the courses. In addition to Zen meditation and Christian contemplation, there are courses in Ikebana, Qi Gong, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Sacred Dance, Music Meditation and Nuad Phaen Boran. Recognized teachers and masters from Europe and Asia teach here alongside the fathers of the house. Every day in the small chapel in the meditation area, a Eucharistic celebration is offered on a voluntary basis, which is always very popular. Quite a few course participants experienced the Eucharistic celebration anew through the effects of Zen meditation and were able to deepen their faith or to regain access to the Christian faith that they believed they had lost. Many people find their spiritual home here. This is where they come back to come to their senses and draw new strength for their everyday lives.
Today, when many monasteries are struggling to survive, the St. Franziskus meditation house with its courses has become a pillar for the Franciscan monastery in Dietfurt. It has also been accepted by the citizens, to whom "their monastery" has always been close to their hearts. When the course participants celebrate Easter mass together with the Dietfurt citizens in the monastery church on the Sunday after the Easter Sesshin, this is a sign that the vision of the two fathers of the meditation house has been filled with life and continues to live unbroken. What was written on parchment in a copper container during the laying of the foundation stone has come true: "May this be a place where the people of our time find what they are looking for so much: silence, internalization, God! "
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