Dear reader (m/f),

I hope you are doing well.

This is my first English newsletter.

Someone told me this week that her elderly neighbour had been hospitalized with a heart attack and sighed that she would so like to do something for him.
‘Sharing merit,’ was my response. ‘Recall a meritorious deed and express the wish: “May through the meritoriousness of this act of mine, my neighbour recover soon.”‘
Now we are not usually so pleased with ourselves that we easily remember meritorious acts of our own.
If really no meritorious act comes into your active memory, remember a random act and apply the contrast frame: ‘I also could NOT have done it.’
Ah, there you go! Even something seemingly normal, getting out of bed this morning, can then turn out to be meritorious. Thus we also develop kindness and self-respect.

Sharing Dhamma is the highest gift we can make. Above all, don’t think that we have to be monks or nuns to do that. We can all do that! It’s a matter of thinking differently, relating to ourselves differently. The above seemingly small thing is an example of it.

A special – and very meritorious – form of sharing Dhamma is the establishment of a retreat center or monastery. This is a desire I have had for many years, and recently I was offered such a special opportunity . . .  that you are now here reading this newsletter.

In this newsletter:
1. St Raphael Monastery
2. Winning and Losing: Reflection after General Elections
3. Retreats 2024

With heartfelt greetings,
Guus Went

1. St Raphael Monastery

Photo: Stephan Pesch / BRF

On March 8, I received a call from the director of Reliplan, Mickey Bosschert, that there is a beautiful monastery for sale in Belgium. Monastery St Raphael, Klosterstrasse 66, Montenau, located at 430 meters altitude in the Belgian Eifel, has been vacant for six years.
In the meantime, I have been to see it twice. It is fantastically beautiful location, and yet can be reached in three hours from Utrecht. I am very excited about it and see a lot of possibilities.

The number of 50 rooms refers to the entire complex.
There are three corridors with 8 guest rooms each and 2 ladies’ and 2 men’s toilets/showers, so actually 24 guest rooms.
In the villa, the front house, there are 11 larger rooms, suitable for permanent residence.
There is over 8 acres of land around it, including two building lots right across the entrance.

Earlier in my life I experienced that having an own center can unleash unprecedented positive forces. It seems like that again now. Mickey Bosschert favors us very much and contributes all kinds of ideas, yogi Rolf is an architect and puts his expertise to use, the same goes for yogi Reinout, who is going to write a business plan. The community of Amel is very involved in the monastery, and is thinking along with us to the fullest. The owners, the Missionaries of Steyl, have given us an option until May 20.

Dear yogis, don’t hesitate to come forward if you think you can contribute something. How wonderful it would be to perhaps travel to Montenau weekly with a small group to see, feel, smell. How nice it would be to be able to report on developments in short newsletters over the next two months!

2. Winning and Losing: Reflection after General Elections

Candidates showing up in the Youth News Broadcast of national broadcast NOS, a few days before the election of November 22. (The numbers are the seats they would get in Parliament)
From left to right: Frans Timmermans (Green-Labour) 25, Rob Jetten (Liberal-Democrats) 9, two journalists, Caroline van der Plas (Farmer Party) 7, Dilan Yesilgöz (Liberals) 23, Henri Bontenbal (Christian Democrats) 5, Geert Wilders (Freedom Party) 37. Not present: Pieter Omtzigt (New Social Contract) 20.

Winning and losing are two of the vicissitudes of the world. There are eight vicissitudes, divided into four pairs:

  • gain and loss (or: advantage and disadvantage)
  • good reputation and bad reputation,
  • being praised and being reviled,
  • happiness and suffering (or: ease and discomfort).

These vicissitudes are impersonal, natural, actual phenomena that occur, independent of the people experiencing them. Even the Buddha did not escape them. We need not identify with them.

The sublime state of Equanimity helps to deal with these vicissitudes. ‘You win some, you lose some,’ we might say. Or ‘Every downside has its upside.’ The knack is to be a good winner and a good loser. Before tennis players enter the Centre Court at Wimbledon, they pass the famous lines from Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

The Buddha says:
Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live, giving up victory and defeat (Dhammapada 201)

Winning and losing are impersonal processes that breed hatred.
Losers live in hatred – which can be anger, but also fear or sorrow. This is not the victor’s fault, but inherent in losing.
Do not think and say too easily that it is people who sow hatred! And even if someone were to sow, it is always possible – one way or another – for a seed not to sprout.
It would be good for a victor to be magnanimous and also grant the defeated some. Don’t stir up extra hatred in the loser.
And if you are a loser: take, accept your losses.

  • The winners of World War I (England, France, Russia and the U.S.) inflicted so much punishment on the losers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) that the seeds for the next war were sown. ‘Without Versailles, there would have been no Hitler,’ said SS General Rauter shortly before he was executed by firing squad in The Hague after the war.
  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and after the Warsaw Pact dissolved itself in 1991, many people in the West thought that this meant they had won the Cold War (1945-1991) against the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, their leaders turned out to be bad winners who had learned nothing from history. And where were the common people with the so-called Peace Movement when it was needed more than ever? Mind you: We had two World Wars in the 20th century – and in both wars Russia was our ally! Could we not have disbanded NATO in 1991, just like Warsaw Pact? Could we not have extended a helping hand to the so-called losers then? For thirty years, the complete opposite of war mongering has happened. The war in Ukraine is the sad result.
  • It could also be different. When Japan had surrendered in 1945, Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) confessed guilt to Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers: ‘I stand here not as an emperor, but as a war criminal. Please punish me and not my poor people.’ General MacArthur was so impressed that he halved the punishment he had in mind for the emperor. Here we see a loser who takes his loss, and a winner who is magnanimous. Who will deny that Japan prospered thereafter?

Winner and loser alike: turn inward and examine yourself. The Buddha says:
Though one should conquer a million men in battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself. (Dhammapada 103)

Last year, on November 22, there was General Election in the Netherlands When the winners as well as the losers would do serious self-examination, they might find the following in themselves, for example:

1. Lying:
– whoever is not psychologically educated and nevertheless refers to someone else, even whole groups of people, as ‘-phobic,’ or as someone who has a phobia, thereby pretends to know the psyche of other people, but is himself nothing more or less than a confused mind;
– whoever – on top of that – also blames another for this supposed phobia, thereby sows, breeds and maintains hatred in himself;

2. Coarse speaking:
– Whoever from a self-assigned authority calls (a ‘fatwa‘) to kill an opponent, thereby sinks through the moral lower limit of humanity, influences an entire society and sets a tone of hatred in it; this has perhaps more influence than one actual act of killing;
– wishing someone a disease;
– mocking someone for body, age, sexuality or dress (e.g., ‘head rag’ instead of headscarf).

3. Divisive speech: causing disharmony
– putting labels on people, categorizing them (as ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘-ist’, ‘-phobic’ etc.);
– accusing other people; with this we maintain hatred within ourselves;
– turning people against each other;
– lifelong blaming someone for mistakes made.

Turning inward offers a perspective for winners as well as losers to become a noble victor. The gain of a noble victor is not worldly and vicissitude, but transcends the world, even the boundary of life and death. Giving up bad behavior is a victory that sows joy and kindness even in opponents.

A text from the Christian tradition:
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.(Luke 15:7)
The nice thing is that this heavenly joy can also be realized on earth.

3. Program 2024 (for international retreats: see Calendar)

April 5 – 10: 5-day retreat at Hof van Kairos, Winterswijk Kotten
April 26- May 1: 5-day retreat at Hoeve Wetermans, Olst

June 14 – 25: Sayadaw U Vivekananda en Sayalay Daw Bhaddamanika, 10-day retreat, Hof van Kairos, Winterswijk Kotten

After having guided a 10-day retreat online in 2022 and 2023 at the Abdijhoeve in Doetinchem, this year Sayadaw and Sayalay are coming to Europe (Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands) in person. In order to keep accommodation costs as low as possible and to be able to work with our own cooks, this year 2024 we have chosen the location Hof van Kairos.
There are still a few places available in a 2-bed room and with your own tent. And we can still use a cook for 4 – 5 days!

July 26 – 31: 5-day retreat at Hoeve Wetermans, Olst
August 5 – 16: 10-day retreat with Guus Went and Jerome Stoel at Hof van Kairos, Winterswijk Kotten
August 23 – 28: 5-day retreat at Hoeve Wetermans, Olst
October 4 – 9: 5-day retreat at Hof van Kairos, Winterswijk Kotten
October 12 – 26: 14-day retreat with Guus Went at Satipanya, UK
November 1 – 3: Long Weekend with Jerome Stoel at Hof van Kairos, Winterswijk Kotten