“The community supplies us with material nourishment” explained Samsok, one of the five monks of the temle, ‘and in return we offer them spiritual sustenance.’
And that community is a substantioal one: there are an estimated 20,000 – 25,000 Buddhists living in Denmark, with Asian immigrants and their descendants making up 80 percent of them. Of the 7,700 Thais living in the country, about 95 percent are Buddhist.
In the past, the monks frequently made trips into the busier parts of Copenhagen to receive alms from the community. But the harsh Danish winters and their traditional robes – designed for warmer climes – were ill-suited, and so now meals are cooked in the temple’s kitchen by volunteers from the community.
The meditation centre has seen a revival over the past few years, with membership numbers growing from 1250 to 2000 in the last 10 years. And weekends have become quite busy around the temple. Many visitors, including student groups from Sweden and tourists from Thailand, have been amongst those who have come with the aim of learning about the centre.
Somsak, who is originally from Bangkok, said many of those who come to visit take part in various celebrations such as ‘loy kratong’, or the Thai festival of light, and Vesak Day, sometimes informally called ‘Buddha’s birthday’, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Siddartha, who is better know as the Buddha.
“We currently have anywhere from 30 to 100 visitors during the weekend” he tells adding that funding for the temple relies strictly on monetary donations provided by these visitors.
The Dragør monks are looking forward to a ceremony to be held on 17 October, when the Thai ambassador, acting on behalf of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, will present them with a ceremonial robe.
Buddhism was first introduced into Denmark during the 19th century, when literary works began to inspire enlightenment thinkers and romantics alike to adopt the spiritual ways of a distant, yet seemingly recognisable and rational tradition. Today, Buddhists comprise around 0.5 percent of the population, making itDenmark’s fourth largest religion.