Shaolin in Berlin-The First But Not the Last
Mt. Song: one of the most sacred places in China, a tourist destination, home to the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and of Shaolin Kung Fu. It takes years of training to become a Shaolin master, but nothing can prepare them for this. Six young monks are on an extraordinary journey. They travel halfway around the world to Berlin, Germany. Their mission: to establish Shaolin’s first official temple outside of China. Theirs is a remarkable journey. They are martial monks; equally 1)adept in 2)scripture and Kung Fu. But are they capable of 3)imparting the true Shaolin culture to German students, whose only knowledge of Shaolin is from Kung Fu movies?
It was big news in Germany when the Shaolin Kung Fu monks came to town. The Germans were more than happy. Journalists flooded the new temple, so too did students, eager to join. It was front- page news.
There is enormous media 4)buzz about their arrival. It seems that everyone has an interest in Kung Fu. It’s Kung Fu that first catches the attention of the German audience. But as the Germans will soon find out, martial arts really only play a small part in the daily life of a Shaolin monk.
Most students first come for the ancient form of martial arts. Kung Fu is the glamourous side of the Shaolin culture. It’s the main attraction for the youngest members of the temple. 5)Rigourous physical training is central to Shaolin life. Monks use Kung Fu to relax after hours of 6)meditation, but for young Berliners, it’s just a way of having fun. Meditation is as important as Kung Fu. Mastering Shaolin requires the understanding of both. That’s as true in Germany as it is on Mt. Song. No matter where you are, there is only one Shaolin way.
The Berlin temple provides the full Shaolin experience. For some students, Kung Fu is enough. Others want more. Prayer, chanting, study and meditation are all part of Shaolin life. There are many paths to enlightenment and following them consumes a large part of the monk’s waking hours.
They’re special German Christmas cookies, but it’s not Christmas. Cultures blend and 7)mesh in new and unexpected ways when crossing continents. Cookies for Buddha are the first of many cultural exchanges.
Although the Shaolin temple in Berlin is small, its reach is long. Almost every week, the monks are invited to teach not only here, but in neighbouring regions as well. The monk’s frequent road trips are a sign of the Berlin temple’s success. In a little over two years, the Berlin temple has grown to 500 8)disciples. A move to a larger space is urgent and there are even bigger plans for the future.
The Berlin temple has been a 9)rousing success. Stereotypes have been broken. German students now know that there is more to Shaolin than bulletproof, flying monks. More temples are opening across Europe and the world. With continuing cultural exchanges, Shaolin’s legacy is assured.