Buddhism in Hungary

(Originally written for the Blogisattva site in 2011, within the Buddhism Around the World Project.)

Instead of giving a historical overview of the early phases of Buddhism in Hungary myself, I would like share a couple of links (in English). First of all A Short History of Buddhism by Ernest Hetényi (PDF, Bulletin of Tibetology, 1973), and some about the most prominent Buddhists and Orientalists Hetényi refers to: Alexander Csoma de Kőrös from Transylvania (at that time Hungary, now Romania), Tivadar Duka (Csoma’s first biographer), Ferenc Hopp and Zoltán Felvinczi Takács (founders of the first Asian art collection), Aurel Stein archeologist and explorer, who disovered the Cave Temples of the Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang, Trebitsch-Lincoln adventurer, international spy and Buddhist abbot in Shanghai*, who wanted to found a Buddhist monastery in Hungary in 1943. 

The more recent history of Buddhism in Hungary begins with the author of the article above: Ernest/Ernő Hetényi and the founding of the Buddhist Mission** in 1951 (which became part of the Arya Maitreya Mandala founded by the German Lama Anagarika Govinda in 1952 and exists up to now). In the Communist Era the activity of the Buddhist Mission (and its educational project, the Kőrösi Csoma Buddhology Institute) was tolerated by the authorities, but Buddhism (as practising religion in general) was certainly not encouraged. With the political changes of 1989 Hungary became a new market for all kinds of religious, spiritual and New Age ideologies coming from the West. From then on we also can see a (reconstruction and) revival of the Shamanism of the early, nomadic Hungarian tribes. 

An example of this revival is one of the largest Buddhist communities (Karma Kagyupa**, in Tar), that emphasises the parallels between Vajrayana Buddhism, Mongolian and Scythian culture, and Hungarian folk tales. The largest Buddhist community with many centers all around the country is that of Diamond Way Buddhism by Lama Ole Nydahl. With many more Tibetan Buddhist sanghas (among others the Sakya Community of Sakya Trizin with a resident lama in Budapest, and the Dzogchen Community** of Namkhai Norbu), Tibetan Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhist practice in Hungary, probably due to the translation of the Dalai Lama’s books and also his visits (most recently in 2010). Zen/Chan/Seon lineages are also present, partly via the West (Mokusho Zen of Deshimaru Roshi, Kwan Um of Seung Sahn and One Drop Zendo** by Harada Roshi), partly by the presence of Chinese teachers whose communities** consist mostly of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants. 

Theravada Buddhism is represented by two Vipassana schools: Goenka’s international "movement" and Mahasi Sayadaw’s Buddhist Vipassana, and also by a monastery in progress in the Forest Sangha lineage: Dhammadipa Sangha**. There is one Buddhist monastery/temple functioning in Hungary: Wong Kwang Sa of the Kwan Um lineage. The most recent group is Hang Truong’s ComPaSS, that combines Ken Wilbers’s teachings, Engaged Buddhism, Integral Tai-Chi, meditation and mindful living. Another fairly new group is Jai Bhim, that integrates roma people in the trail of Ambedkar’s Dalit Movement with the help of the Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly FWBO). 

The Gate of Dharma Buddhist College was founded in 1991 by a handful of teachers who had studied (and later lectured at) the above mentioned Kőrösi Csoma Buddhology Institute. During its nearly 20 years of existence it has grown to an internationally acknowledged university accredited by the Hungarian State. The university is not affiliated with any lineage or school, the (core) curriculum gives a rather balanced overview of Buddhism. The research institute of the university cooperates with Prof. László Zsolnai in a project of Buddhist Economics.

** Link in Hungarian