March 21, 2012
Berlin Zen Practice Center

After training at Zen Center for many years and receiving Lay Entrustment from Dairyu Michael Wenger, Bernd Bender is returning to Germany to establish a Zen practice group in Berlin.

Bernd describes the genesis and growth of this idea:

“I had a dream …” — quite literally, a few years back, a dream to carry Suzuki Roshi’s practice to Berlin. I shared this dream with my friend Ursula, a fellow Buddhist practitioner, who lives in Germany’s only metropolis. Ursula also dreamt about this idea one night, and after many daytime conversations between us, I am about to transition out of Zen Center and make a big leap back to Germany this spring. I want to inform my friends, acquaintances and fellow practitioners about our ideas for a contemporary, urban center for Zen practice. Of course, in order for these tender seed ideas to blossom, we are also humbly asking those of you who wish to support us to do so. Your support might be an inner wish for the well-being of our project, your feedback, or your material gifts.

For 16 years I trained at San Francisco Zen Center. I feel it is time for me to return to Germany and offer Suzuki Roshi’s practice as I carry it in my body, heart and mind. The following paragraph, quoted from a fuller description of the project, describes what we wish to offer and why we think Berlin is the place to do it. This brief document is attached to offer some additional information on this venture.

“Zen, to put it in a nutshell, speaks of a fundamental connectedness of all of life that is deeper than our consciousness can perceive. Zen also teaches practices to manifest this deep connectedness. Today, many people experience life as being painfully fractured. The ‘global village’ is marked by deep conflicts along political, economical and religious fault lines. In this situation we would like to offer a contemporary approach to Zen to support the healing of deeply rooted sources of discord that seem to be ripping the fabric of life apart. Berlin is an exemplary setting for this endeavor: It is the city from which unimaginable crimes and suffering spread in the first half of the 20th century. It is also the one major city that is still healing from the split that the era of the Cold War had inflicted upon it. Right there we would like to offer a place where people can rest in stillness and — no matter what their ethnic, political, sexual and religious identities might be — reflect upon and manifest our connected, shared humanity.”

A long journey starts with a single step. Recently Ursula has been in touch with people running a Tai Chi school in a beautiful space. They are very open to sharing it with us. So our first step will be to offer a regular zazen schedule right after my arrival in Berlin. A little later we will add classes and lectures and invite other teachers to give workshops and hold retreats. The space is large enough to seat up to 40 people. Sometime this year we would like to officially open the place; all are warmly invited to this event.

In a future step we would like to add a hotel and spaces for artistic expression. Zen is about taking care of each other, and our idea is to translate this into a space where people can simply be and feel at home. The meditation hall and the traditional practices of Zen would nevertheless remain at the heart of this project.

If you are in Berlin, please come and join us. If you would like to support this project materially, we will need some funds for a launching phase, which we expect to last for the next 12 months. Financial support would be needed for:

•  40 zafus and zabutons (meditation mats and cushions)
•  Ritual instruments
•  Design and printing of programs
•  Rent of approx. $1,000 per month
•  Funds to enable Ursula and me to spend some of our work time on this project

With the programming ideas Ursula and I have, we anticipate that the meditation space will be able to support itself financially within a year.

Please feel free to spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.

We will send out a regular newsletter about the growth and progress of this practice place. If you have any questions, want to get involved in this project, or want to be added to the newsletter mailing list, please contact Bernd at or through one of these addresses:

Bernd Bender, c/o Schaffner, 921 Treat Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94117 (until April 5, 2012)
Bernd Bender, Nerostrasse 34, D-65183 Wiesbaden, Germany (after April 5, 2012)

Thank you!

With heartfelt wishes for your well-being.

NOTE: Article updated March 22. -Editor