Buddhism Meets Football in Hamburg

June 20, 2008

Author: Michael den Hoet and Chris McMahon

Source: The Buddhist Channel


Bathed in glorious sunshine, tens of thousands of fans recently crowded the Heiligengeist fairgrounds, not far from the centre of Germany's harbour city Hamburg.

They were there to cheer the opening games of the 2008 European Football Championships, broadcast live on a giant screen from Austria and Switzerland. Football (US: soccer) is Germany's national sport.

Just across the road and partly protected from the noise by a row of trees and bushes, an alternative event takes place: a festival to celebrate the historical Buddha's birthday. Twenty two Buddhist centres and groups from a wide range of Buddhist traditions gathered on 8 June to celebrate Vesak, the world's most important Buddhist holiday.

Despite Hamburg's great enthusiasm for football, the Vesak event here was never 'offside'. During the day an estimated 7000 people joined the celebration in the "Großen Wallanlagen", an area of grassy banks surrounded by ponds, shady trees, a playground and skating rink in one of Hamburg's most popular parks.