Interview with Vasanti who built the Buddha Hall in Magoulades near Arillas, on the Ionian island Corfu (Kerkyra).
So close to the stars…
Narayani came to visit Corfu in January and we practised some songs to play for the evening meditation on Saturday. She showed me a booklet she had received on the journey, in particular the page about our village here, and she translated it to me from the Dutch original.
The title was: “In Search of Yourself.” And the paragraph was: “Arillas is the esoteric centre of Corfu. Two specialised tour-operators in Germany offer holidays and courses here…“ The date that the booklet was first published was 2008. No wonder that an important place was not mentioned in it yet: our Corfu Buddha Hall.
I call it “our” because this hall is the reason I came here in the first place and why we were practising the songs. Last September, when I came to Corfu on a holiday with Amiten, we attended a Saturday meditation and were blown out of our socks when we saw the hall. It is situated a couple of km from Arillas, high up on the ridge just outside the village of Magoulades (it was quite a climb as we came on foot). Its stunning 360o view showed our Gravia islands from high above. We recognised the pass of Troumpeta which connects us to Corfu town, less than an hour’s drive from here; Pantokrator, the highest mountain on the island, and in the very distance, the Albanian Alps. This was just what we saw while walking around the balcony which surrounds the whole building.
When we entered the hall we were left with open mouths at the sight of the intricacy of the wooden roof (something which still fascinates me each time – my mind trying to understand the angles, the curves and the joints), the spaciousness created by the shining wooden floor and the view into nature from the large windows. On the floor was an enneagram which reminded me of Vasanti’s passion for the Gurdjieff dances. After the meditation Amiten and I looked into each other’s eyes and we knew that we wanted to be here — although, at the time, we did not know how this could ever become a reality.
But here we are!
I wanted to talk to Vasanti to find out what brought her here and gave her the courage to embark on such a monumental project. She came to visit me in the pretty holiday home where we had been staying for the last two months while house-sitting Ganga’s property during her absence and feeding her almost wild ginger cats.
A bright-eyed lady sat in front of me, sipping the cup of tea Amiten had prepared for us. She sparkled like a teenager but, knowing that I had met her in Pune 1 when I was working in the kitchen and she cleaning in Chiyono — the time when Italians would get to know each other and meet spontaneously just because we could speak in our own language – I calculated that she must be soon in her fifties. She opened her notebook and showed me the pictures of the construction of the hall.
“But why in Corfu?” I asked her.
“What I had in mind to build would not have been possible in Italy, for instance. Because it was not a traditional building we would not have received a building permit. We considered exotic places like the Philippines, Brazil, Sri Lanka, central America. Lesbos was also on our map, but we preferred Corfu because of its closeness to Italy and the easy accessibility from Europe.
Then suddenly things came together in my life: a beautiful villa in Magoulades came onto the market (a house which was already famous amongst sannyasins as many had rented it for holidays and birthday parties). It gave ample space for me and my partner, Michel, to live in, accommodation for facilitators and the possibility to continue the partying on the island. But, most importantly, there was space to build the hall. In Rajendra we found someone with great vision and he made the drawings. The briefing was: 200 sqm, no columns, wooden floor, round shape or maybe octagonal. But then it was the acute mind of Michel, who is a (nuclear) engineer by trade, and the construction experience of Loki and Himalaya (both from down-under) who turned my vision into reality.”
“And why such a hall?”
“When Osho left his body I felt that working in the commune was not enough. I felt I needed to do something for my spiritual growth, to be in the driving seat of my life rather than just floating in Osho’s energy. I took a weekly class in Gurdjieff dances and I was soon hooked. What I like about these dances is the silence and the discipline. In 1992 I then started to teach them myself. The first two years after the hall was completed we had mainly the groups for the dances (my own and those of Jivan Sunder) but for this year we have a much more varied programme. There will be Gurdjieff dance courses, of course, one for about 30 participants all of which are experienced dancers. They will come from all over the world. On top of that Melanie Monsour will come to play live music for the dances. This is why I have bought a piano!
This year we will also have Deva Premal and Miten in the hall with a concert for 200 people. They are also happy that, because of the size of the hall, they can offer their Tantra Mantra group to 80 participants, hopefully cutting down to zero the waiting list of disappointed late-comers. All groups in the programme are of a meditative kind, like Satori and Qi Gong, Mystic Rose, Yoga Teacher Trainings. As you can see, we are totally booked out this year!”
Narayani walked in and we had to conclude the interview. We got back to our songs for that night (I was just the rhythm woman but she was on guitar AND vocals). I feared it would be the last meditation with live music for a while, but her coming here had inspired many of us to pick up our instruments and clear our throats. For her it had also been a holiday with lots of walks in the olive groves and beaches of Corfu. She told me that she had felt the presence of a Buddhafield from the very beginning and immediately a feeling of welcome. And the Buddha Hall? “There is nowhere better to meditate than on top of a hill, above all other buildings, so close to the stars. To look at the starry sky and the cypresses from up there reminds me so much of Van Gogh’s paintings!”
Excerpt of an article written for and published in German by Osho Times, Cologne, April 2010 edition with the title ‘Am Rechten Fleck gelandet’ (I ended up in the right spot)