Buddhist Monasteries in Berlin

Photos: Jakob Ganslmeier

Videos: Jakob Ganslmeier

Buddhism is a religion followed by millions of people in the East and has long been sold to the West as an esoteric lifestyle. In recent years it’s not just this adaption of Buddhism that has proliferated. Traditional Thai Buddhism has attracted more attention and followers, especially in big German cities whereit is well organized and financed by donations from the German-Thai community. Thai Buddhist temples known as Wat were established within Berlin’s peripheral areas during the last decades. The temples are also a meeting point for the local Thai community; to pray, meditate, share traditional meals and celebrate holy days. The Wats are managed by live-in monks and nuns, who are responsible for the day-to-day function and maintenance of the temple. In this series I captured how their community is organized, adhering to ancient rules within the “German” framework that they live in. I spent time in three Wats on the outskirts of Berlin, which are each inhabited by approximately ten nuns and monks. My first impression visiting a Wat was that it is a partially concealed parallel world. After a second look, I realized that these two seemingly disparate worlds of traditional rituals and western culture form a hybrid.