The History of Intersein - A Dharma Talk by Karl Riedl

During our four week immersion at Intersein Center for Mindful Living, we were so curious to learn the history behind this impressive long-standing lay practice center. So we asked Founders Karl and Helga Riedl to share with us from the beginning the making of Intersein and how it all begin. They generously agreed, offering a Dharma talk to the entire community at Intersein and how the seeds of their practice started in Plum Village.

Please enjoy this rich and fascinating history in the words of Dharma Teacher Karl Riedl . . .

Stories from Plum Village to Intersein: Interview with With Karl and Helga

“We want our practice to be an expression of our deepest gratitude”

Here, we head straight into the stories and teachings of Intersein Founders, Karl and Helga. Splashing together interviews with their written stories, and using colorful anecdotes of the past to paint their teachings for us in the present, Karl and Helga offer a living window into the first years of Plum Village. Their early encounters with Thich Nhat Hanh (referred to affectionately by his students as Thay, meaning teacher), and six years as residents in Plum Village paved a foundation for later building the most established lay practice center in the tradition, Intersein-Zentrum. Weaving in and out of their stories, we offer old photos that few have seen of the very early days in Plum Village, including Karl and Helga’s building and stewardship of West Hamlet (a lay residence in Plum Village).

The historic meeting between Karl, Helga, and Karl Schmied, in front of the buildings which would soon become known as West Hamlet. Karl Schmied and a Vietnamese-German friend bought the property which Helga and Karl were tasked with completely renovating and overseeing for the next 3 years.


How did you arrive in Plum Village and where did your spiritual journey begin?

It all began in May 1992. But our spiritual journey and search had already been underway for fourteen years: it started in 1978 in Poona with Bhagwan/Osho, leading us to large international communities in England and America, to monasteries in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Japan and Thailand, and finally to Italy, to study and learn in the Tibetan-Buddhist tradition at the Lama Tsong Khappa Institute in Pomaia, south of Pisa.

When Thay and Sister Chan Kong arrived at the Institute in May 1992 to lead a retreat, it was as though we had run into old spiritual friends after a long, long time. Although barely recognizable, there was an intense feeling of closeness. Thay’s presence, his teachings and practice, gave us the feeling that we had arrived home after a very long journey. Encouraged by Sister Chan Kong, we took part in the three week June Retreat in Plum Village, and at the end we knew, ‘This is our spiritual practice, this is the language we understand and want to learn.’ We were completely clear that we needed a Sangha to progress along our chosen path.

The next step was the Winter Retreat 1992/93, to learn what it meant to live in a spiritual community. We were deeply moved by the cheerful warmth of our Vietnamese brothers and sisters in the Dharma, practiced and celebrated with them, and enjoyed the presence of Thay, especially listening to his Dharma talks while the whole community was squeezed into the kitchen of Lower or Upper Hamlet. When Thay subsequently asked, ‘Why don’t you just come and live with us’, we decided to move to Plum Village.

That was in May 1993. Our new life had begun.

Summer retreat participants with Helga and Karl in the early 1990's when the community was still small with only a few monastics. In the next decade, Plum Village would soon have thousands of summer retreatants very year.

Helga: Our new ‘home’ was the former kitchen in the Persimmon building, one of the large, old farmhouses in Lower Hamlet. We exchanged all the comforts of our large house and the wonderful landscapes of Tuscany for a small, dark and damp room. The view was no longer over the rolling hills of Tuscany and the Mediterranean, but rather rusty washy machines. For three days I wrestled with the question of whether I had made the right decision. Listening to Thay’s talks, practicing mindfulness, observing my mind, I realized that I had not come to Plum Village to indulge my own likes and avoid my dislikes; rather I had come for one reason only: to get to know my own mind and cultivate Bodhicitta.

Shortly afterwards I received an emphatic reminder of this from Thay. It turned out that we were given responsibility for the renovation of an old building. We saw this as a challenge and a chance to drop all our ideas and expectations and to do all that was needed and desired of us with joy. After we had successfully renovated the house we showed Thay around, admittedly with pride, and with the expectation of a few words of praise. Thay must have felt this as he turned to me and said, ‘Helga, this is not why you came to Plum Village.’ Although a little disappointed I could accept what he said, and then a few days later understand that I was still very dependent on praise and criticism. Thanks to this direct, personal comment by Thay, I was able to understand my reasons for coming to Plum Village more clearly.

After two weeks of of living in Plum Village, Sister Chan Khong presents Helga and Karl with a task. Two German friends in the Sangha had donated an old crumbling building and beautiful piece of land not far from Plum Village. Karl and Helga were asked to make it a Sangha home. With shovels in hand and friends to help, Karl stands outside of the dilapidated old building, later to be known as West Hamlet.


It's hard to believe that these rooms would soon become a beautiful meditation hall and dining room. Helga works with a friend to completely renovate the ramshackle stone walls.


Karl: During the Winter Retreat, Thay gave his Dharma talks (Sundays and Thursdays) alternately in the kitchens of Lower Hamlet and Upper Hamlet. Even today I can still clearly see the small kitchen of Lower Hamlet before me: Thay sat against the one long wall with the large black oven to his right; opposite him, perhaps six or seven meters, was the kitchenette where food was prepared on large gas rings. In this intimate space, up to 30 of us huddled together... therefore, we were cosy and warm. I had taken on the honorable task of recording Thay’s Dharma talks, and had acquired the necessary equipment.

On one Sunday I was also the ‘Bell Master’, which meant I had to invite the bell before, during and after the talk in ‘masterly’ fashion. I had positioned the bell in a raised spot on the sideboard behind me, and had my equipment before me on the table. For some reason I was not able to achieve a particularly elegant state of concentration, and this was reflected in the sound of the bell. As the sound died away I heard Thay’s voice, ‘Karl, come!’ As I turned around shocked, the next sentence arrived, ‘And bring the bell with you.’ It seemed like an eternity before we, the bell and I, reached Thay, and I put the bell down next to him on the table. And then came Thay’s loving hand which guided mine in inviting the bell. A great tension in me disappeared. Only intuition now. Him and me, just that. I stood in this atmosphere of loving attention without the slightest hint of blame or rebuke, just goodwill.

After 10 minutes, he was satisfied. I went back to my seat and Thay began his talk. At the end, several mainly Western Dharma friends approached me with compassion and sympathy – rebuked before the entire community?!

No. It was the most impressive experience of Thay and his message: peace in one person creates peace in another.

Helga sharing a cup of tea and wide smiles with her teacher while still residing in Plum Village.

"The manner in which Thay teaches the Dharma and the Practice is both gentle and simple, yet also deep. And always unconventional. We cannot hold onto knowledge, should not pass on empty words and a practice that has been drilled into us. And he dedicatedly helps us to only teach what we ourselves have realized. On the one hand this still remains for me a great challenge, and on the other, it liberates me and gives me the encouragement to be myself."  - Karl

For one year, Lower Hamlet in Plum Village was a completely lay community while the monastics lived in the other hamlets. Thay offered a ceremony to present Helga as the abbess of Lower Hamlet during that period. Plum Village was later led completely by monastics. Karl and Helga stayed there for over 6 years during all of these changes. In 1998, their beloved Dharma brother, Karl Schmied, made a proposition to them to build a lay practice community together in Germany. 


What was your inspiration for moving from Plum Village to Intersein?

Helga: I remember when I was in Plum Village, in 93 or 94, and Thay said, “The noblest task that you ever can do is to build community. The noblest task is building a community that can reduce the suffering in the world, and to be there for people to transform. But first we have to transform, and then we’ll be able to help people to transform. So living 6 years in Plum Village, I knew that this is the lifestyle that I wanted to live. Otherwise, other things don’t interest me. And after 6 years, we thought, “This is our life now,” and we wanted to do the same thing in Germany that we experienced in Plum Village. This was our vision, to live this kind of life that Thay lived. And therefore we did...

In May 1999, Karl, Helga, and Karl Schmied bought an old hotel in the Bavarian countryside in south eastern Germany, near the Austrian border. Before launching the new center and moving in, they agreed that it was necessary to completely renovate the old building with its 20 bedrooms, pub and restaurant. For about one year a worker form a neighboring village did all the major work, with some guiding assistance from the founders. Karl and Helga continued to live in Plum Village during this time while overseeing the project. They believed that it was essential to move in together only when the house was near completion, in order to begin their community life by focusing on practice, and not simply on construction. Whatever was left to be done, which was still a lot, could be done in the working meditation period together, or “doing things joyfully period” as they called it. They finally moved in with two Sangha friends and began their new life of community practice together. After just a few years, their center was thriving and became a spiritual refuge for the greater Sangha in Germany. Their training in Plum Village and close relationship to Thay created a foundation for the community's strength and stability of daily practice.

What are some lessons that you have learned and can share with us?

Karl and Helga: One of the principles of our Sangha: never, even in difficult or seemingly pressing situations, put the practice aside, skip the scheduled activities. Yes, there is a lot to do for a small group of people – running a big center and many retreats, being there for many guests – and there are a lot of fascinating ideas and projects. But the main question is: is it in accordance with the life we would like to live, does it fit into our schedule, is it really necessary? Through this emphasis on a constant, uninterrupted practice, gradually the stability and happiness of the small Sangha increased and radiated out. People were intrigued by this concentrated and light atmosphere, noticing, how so much work was done with calm and ease, and how this contrasted with their own unskillful ways of their daily life. So, most people came back again and again, staying for even longer periods – depending on their time and financial resources – to be in close contact with the Dharma and the Sangha. Refreshed and with new insights they return to their families and workplaces – and coming back, they report their experiences, sharing their successes and difficulties.

Karl Schmied with Karl and Helga Riedl together at Intersein

Helga: When I arrived in Plum Village I was not aware how I was being pulled one way and another by my preconceived ideas and opinions. For 40 years we had not felt comfortable in our culture. This caused us to leave Germany. For over 20 years we travelled in Asia and did not have the least intention of returning to Germany. The county that attracted us most was India, our spiritual homeland. Thay must have noticed and it felt like he was talking directly to me when in one of his talks he put his finger on his heart and said ‘India is here’. I could hear myself spontaneously answer, ‘No Thay, for me India is India.’

When in 1999 our Dharma brother Karl Schmeid asked whether we would be willing to open a practice centre in Germany together with him, I only tentatively agreed upon the condition that I could spend 2 months a year in India. After returning from my second stay in India and after a long meditation, I asked myself the question, ‘How is it possible that Thay is always at home where he is, and what is it that prevents me from experiencing this for myself?’ It became clear to me that I had created an image in my mind that reflected my preferences, attachments and expectations but had nothing to do with reality. As a result of all of this I was able to free myself from the fixed idea that I needed to go to India, and to make peace with Germany. Not least of all, I no longer rejected the long, cold winter months, but rather came to see them as a productive time for introspection and meditation. So I finally understood what Thay meant at the time when he pointed to his heart with his finger and said ‘India is here’. However, now it was my own experience, which made it all the more liberating.

"For ourselves we see only one way of expressing our gratitude for all we have received: through our practice, and by passing on what we have received from him as well as we can and circumstances permit."

Helga and Karly each individually received the Dharma Lamp Transmission from Thay in 1996, offering them boundless trust and encouragement to teach the Dharma.


“Since the very beginning we inspired and attracted people to share our way of life and practice, that means to live under the same roof for twenty four hours in the spirit of the six harmonies.”

What has been your Vision for Intersein?

Karl: “The emphasis for us is always transformation and healing. You can help and support what is now referred to as evolutionary psychology. That means, humanity needs to raise its consciousness out of its kind of conditioned mind into a kind of a higher mind. Adn that is actually what Buddhism wants….

So we have to raise the consciousness, into a different state, you can call it a nirvana-state consciousness, where you don’t have such conflict, but you have wisdom, compassion and all these kinds of things. And then by itself you don’t have dukkha and don’t create dukkah (a Buddhist term reflecting our mind's tendency towards unsatisfactoriness or suffering). And then you are a lamp for other people. You are not a lamp for other people just because you are aware. That is nonsense, it doesn’t help. Awareness is to be ware of where you are stuck, and to help you raise your mind into a different kind of a mind. That is what we are here for.

Helga: “What we want is for people to come here and feel attracted to really transform their deep suffering. And this is not every person’s interest, and this can be difficult. When we have retreats, it’s first for ourselves, and then we can share what we have learned with others. The aim is just to transform. The more we dive in, we see how deep rooted the suffering is. So we think, “Ah, we still have to learn.” And this keeps us moving, learning, and transforming. The more difficult it is, the more we say, “Ah I didn’t expect this, I thought that I was already done with this.” But then we say, “Oh, okay, another time.” Although it’s sometimes painful, but behind the pain, is the liberation, the freedom, because you have a chance now to tackle it. And this is what we actually want. We want for other people to do the same. First of all we are here to do the same. And when we realize the practice, then we can share it with others.”

Karl and Helga, after having received the Dharma Lamp Transmission, in the large meditation hall of Upper Hamlet, Plum Village

What do you see as your continuation?

Helga: “A continuation, in the sense of Thay’s teachings, is whatever we transmit to the people who come here – they are all our continuation. It’s not the continuation of this place, but our continuation. Like when we see people coming, and they tell us, ‘Ah, I have learned so much!’ So we have a lot of people who are transformed already by being here, and by the way we’ve shared our practice. This is our continuation. And so we are already happy with that.”

Karl: “Our experience now is that you cannot have a lay Sangha over a long period of time without a proper elder. So if you want to know how to really continue, then you need elders, and not only a Sangha. The Sangha comes to the elders. If you have a Sangha without elders, and it’s a kindergarten, then it doesn’t work. So if we don’t have an elder here, when we’re gone, then things are closed. That’s it. It might be bitter, but that’s the way. A Sangha itself, in this kind of lay atmosphere, does not have a continuation.

We had some ideas in the past and they didn’t work. But now, we have a new vision for Intersein’s continuation, and this is why we are so happy that you are here. Because of the international networks of people coming together in Sangha, we can now imagine that these centers can be sustained by the larger global community. You have to stabilize them and have an elder, in the greater Sangha. There are enough elders – a few - but they can shift around and hold places like we do at Avalokita center in Italy. We go to Italy 2 to 3 times a year to help hold the place, and sometimes they come here.

And this could be a new model. I think that is also what your intention and vision is. This might be the future that is possible for these kinds of lay practice centers, if you get these places working together, sharing energy, manpower, and support. For example, let’s say someone has lived in Plum Village or the Happy Farm for one to two years. Why don’t they come here at least for 3 months? They have good energy, and we can support that; they bring in energy, and we hold the energy together. We can shift people around in different communities where they can stay. They don’t need to stay stuck in just one place, which they don’t like. We can do it differently, and that is what you are for (points to us). We have done the old dinosaur stuff!

Thay is certainly right when he says that the next Buddha is a Sangha. But, it’s not the Sangha that he has in mind. It’s not a Sangha on the spot, in one place. It’s a kind of a network Sangha, where everybody knows each other. One can say, ‘Hey why don’t you come over, we need someone in the kitchen.’ ‘Okay, we’ll send you someone over who is good for that.’

So you see that is actually the answer…. Now it’s your job. We’re done here” (and Karl laughs heartily to close the interview together).

Young and enthusiastic souls rejoice among elders and all... A proper celebratory goodbye on our last day after a month long stay at Intersein. 

First Impressions, Deep Impressions: Meet Intersein Teachers, Karl and Helga Riedl

"After having lived in Plum Village for more than six years, we knew very clearly that we were wholeheartedly ready to adopt this practice and lifestyle." 

- Helga and Karl Riedl, upon beginning Intersein Center

From living in large international spiritual communities in the US and Europe, to residing at Plum Village for over 6 years in close proximity to Thay and Sister Chan Khong, and finally to their home practice center in Germany where they have been living and teaching for the past 18 years … it has been an incredible spiritual journey for these pioneering western Dharma Teachers. We will share a combination of personal interviews with them as well as their own written reflections.  In each account, we step deeply into their lives of practice, stories of community living, intimate encounters and lessons with Thay, unique interpretations and teachings of the Dharma, and how they founded the first lay practice center in the Plum Village tradition.

Welcome to founding teachers of Intersein, Karl and Helga Riedl.


First, we share with you our first meeting and introduction to them, as well as their unconditional support for our project of researching and writing about lay practice communities. Contrary to how they first met other practitioners at Plum Village in its very early beginnings, our first interaction with them were by email. But I assure you, the impressions they made on us were were no less profound.

About a year ago, I started putting my long-held dreams to tour and research lay practice centers into action. I reached out to these centers, and shared about my aspirations and dreams for this project, how I hoped that it would support other budding lay practice communities, and the greater community of practitioners worldwide. I asked to visit them the following year, and at a reasonable cost due to our shoestring traveling and research budget. Some of the centers didn’t respond back; others ranged from supportive to mildly encouraging. But Helga and Karl’s response was first, and most memorable of any community.

Dear David, right now I almost cannot express in words how much I'm touched by your idea and plan and how much I am excited, that all conditions will be sufficient for you to get it realized. It is kind as if a dream comes true for me that someone in this tradition takes care to let the Mahasangha know about the energy of lay practice centers, already existing and being vital in sharing the Dharma. We are doing that since 1999!

Well, in any case, we will support your project in any way possible for us. So you can stay, live and practice with us for any time you feel appropriate, just being our guest! Without any cost for you! … Please let the Mahasangha know about your project and share that in whatever ways possible.

With heartfelt greetings from Intersein-Zentrum from Karl and Helga.

Their depth of support, enthusiasm, and connection to our aspirations lifted me into elation. I forwarded the email to many friends, enthused that our project was gathering essential support and and could succeed after all. Almost exactly one year later, we were able to finally step foot onto the land of their beloved community and meet them for real.

Karl and Helga walking around the garden, and shining their Zen eyes upon its forms and needs.

Truly Arriving

We would have never guessed that just a week prior, they had their last snowfall over what was now fresh green glades between the forests. With a stroke of sunshine luck, we arrived midday with flawless spring weather. Vanessa chose to lay down in the shade, while I followed a blooming fascination to explore. I walked slowly around the property of seemingly never ending gardens, soaking in the sight of the ponds, budding lilacs and rhododendrons, white-stoned dry river beds, small and stoic sitting Buddha statues, and towering forest trees that encompass more than half of the property. It felt like the barriers between my self and the gardens were dissolving, as each ray of sunshine and each fragrant blossom passed through my being. I didn’t know it at the time, but I understood before I left – that in reality, I was already meeting Karl and Helga. Yes, their presence, caring attention, and service of joy was dug into the roots of each lupin flower and pine tree, and the soil of each stone placed around the ponds. Slowly and steadily, growing every day over the last 18 years, their presence now beams through every inch of this mindfulness oasis.

As I walked through from under canopy of oak and beech trees, I saw a tall, older, and slender man with little hair walking up the path from a building below. He had an air of quiet concentration, while also taking his sweet time walking up the hill. Drawing nearer, I could see he was both smiling and curiously staring me as I approached. “David is that you?”, he asks in a confidently curious but excited way. As I nod and confirm that it’s me, he says, “You’ve finally made it here, have you!?” We meet and embrace without hesitation or a moment of awkwardness. We’d never seen each other before, yet I felt so strongly as if I was being welcomed back home with the love and warmth of a grandfather or an uncle after having been gone for many years. After a few more words, he said, “Come now, it’s time for lunch”, as he took my left arm in his right hand, heading us towards the main building. Walking up and across a green glade together, a feeling of delight in my chest, face, and in the soles of my feet on the grass all told me - I was truly arriving.

As we entered the hall, people had already been serving food and sitting down to eat together, silently and serenely, as is their practice. But Helga noticed me coming in, and so instantly stood up from the table and came over to me near the serving table; also without hesitation, she gave me tenderly strong hug. We both looked up at each other, for just a moment or two, but with open brilliant eyes, and a rich smile that held nothing back. It was only a moment’s exchange, but I knew right then that I was completely at home with her, and at Intersein. I was right were I needed to be – I was at truly home with them.

Over the next 4 weeks, it was more of the same: unconditional support and delight at both having us there to join their deep community practice as well as partner together in our respective Sanghabuilding endeavors. But each week we saw different shades and colors of their personality and wisdom of practice, as we got to know them more personally and intimately. We met individually on three separate occasions in their simple yet elegant quarters (formerly, Thay’s personal Intersein ‘hut’ whenever he came to teach). After every interview, as Vanessa and I walked slowly out of their quarters, the two of us stopped nearby, overlooking the hill and glade of grassy wildflowers. Knowing what we had both experienced, we looked at each other with eyes of both astonishment and deep gratitude, recognizing what precious gifts we had just received.

In a side conversation with Karl one afternoon, he shared that he and Helga have lived in community for over 25 years now! Ironically, the following morning, the Intersein residents surprised them with a birthday party to celebrate 18 years of Intersein! They blew out birthday cake candles, the residents offered a song, and we celebrated this special anniversary with them. In their typical humble and humorous style, they said that Intersein was finally not a young kid anymore. 

As stepping stones on their way to Plum Village, Karl and Helga had lived in a spiritual community in Oregon and England for over a year, as well as a Tibetan Buddhist center in Italy, before meeting Thay and moving to Plum Village. “What is it that keeps us here in community?” he asks with a curious smile, but with eyes that convey some ripe answer behind them. Clarifying that he and Helga get along very well with just the two of them, they could be very happy living together on their own. "There must be something here that keeps us going.... Or we must just be crazy” he says with a big smile again as he looks into me. I respond quickly back at him with my own smile and truth of the matter, “Well, I hear you there. That’s my kind of crazy, too!”

I shared with some friends there that each interview with them was like reading stories of the Buddha and his disciples's lives, the first ancestral teachers of Buddhism.... but in person! Reading accounts of the Buddha, Shariputra, Mahakaccana, and Moggallana in the book, Old Path White Clouds, I felt great awe and respect for their depth of wholeheartedness and skill in sharing the Dharma with so many others who were eager to learn the path. I felt that similar extent of respect, gratitude, and awe as we sat with Helga and Karl and listened to them again and again, wholeheartedly transmit the depth of their experiences and wisdom of living the practice over many years. Knowing that we would be sharing our journey with others, and also simply to encourage our path, they poured themselves fully into every encounter we had. Each moment was an opportunity to connect and transmit, imparting to us that their time would soon be passing, and sharing their faith in us and our generation to continue. But it was also light, easy, and very playful as we shared tea and stories. We laughed at their ways of Sanghabuilding in the old days as they renovated old buildings together; and they broke into laughter with incredulous eyes when we explained about using Thay's Facebook page to promote retreats and internship programs (the fact that Thay even has a Facebook page was practically a mini-enlightenment for them). 

"You can do it differently, and that is what you are for (points to us). We have done the old dinosaur stuff."

I could share much more about our personal interactions with them over our month long stay. But that's enough for now... Let's transition to a more in-depth look at 25-year spiritual path of living and teaching in community of these two elders.  

In the following post, we explore their lives and stories from the beginning....


 Can you see Karl and Helga glowing through the sunlight, forest, and building of Intersein?.... Look deeply....

Welcome to Intersein (The Inside Tour)

Brightness and simplicity is the main impression of the house. Everything manifests simplicity - solid wood furniture, bright linen curtains, Ikebana-flower-arrangements and Thay's gathas. The same Buddha-relief as in Lower-Hamlet transmits concentration and serenity in the meditation hall. Whoever comes, immediately feels at home. The mind naturally calms down, leaving hurry and worries behind and relaxation can set in. This whole atmosphere is a first, but essential aspect of the practice center. People easily turn towards the practice, and mindfulness can already be a deep experience.

 - Karl and Helga


"I Have Arrived, I am Home"

Take a walk with us, a visual mindfulness tour through this magical mindfulness palace of Intersein. A palace of beauty, coupled with simplicity. A field of awareness, coupled with ease. A home for retreats, coupled with a family atmosphere of practice.

A former hotel, this has been the Sangha's home for the last 18 years. As we walk or sit from room to room, don't hesitate to pause from time to time, relax into your body, and let the calming energy of this center penetrate your mind and body.

Remove your shoes or sandals, and slowly proceed into this welcoming room. The unbroken melody of running water, perhaps some jingling wind chimes, a warm glowing background light, and Thay's callligraphy... all say the same thing in different languages..."You Have Arrived." 

Through the first door, into the common rooms we go...

The golden surface of the dining tables warms the heart of this house. Let us meander around...


Ikebana arrangements from their gardens pervade the hall. In every direction, they light up the room with spring's newest gifts.

Hello there little friend. Hope you have a peaceful day, too!...

At the rear of the dining hall is the tea room. A perfect place on a cold and rainy day to enjoy a warm drink with friends, or to break out your laptop. (This is where the hotspot is!)

Feeling thirsty for peace? A combination of spiritual nourishment and physical nourishment is Intersein at every level.

Here, A wonderful selection of herbal loose leaf teas all come from their own garden. In addition, there are always one or two large containers of wonderful herbal concoctions, prepared fresh each morning.

Front and center, Thay's calligraphy reminds us...

"Mindfulness is the Source of Happiness"

I hear a bell... let us stop and breathe for 3 breaths...

Centering body, speech, and mind in oneness, resident practitioner, Tom-Phillip invites the bell, calling the community to stop, breathe, touch life deeply, and then gather promptly together.

Let's head into the hall to see what's happening...  Ahh, I hear singing as well...


"Guten Morgen, Guten Morgan! Good Morning, Good Morning!...."

It's time for the community Morning Circle!  This is the powerful start to the day here at Intersein, where meditation meets joy and togetherness.

A short guided meditation, some inspirational words by Helga, Karl, or one of the residents, holding hands for a few moments to connect with each other...  Let the morning silence end, and a joyous day together begin!

While the begin their morning work in the garden, we'll keep checking out this big place...

Winding up the stairway, green light pours in from every direction...

"Opening the window, I look out onto the Dharmakaya.

How wondrous is life!  Attentive to each moment, my mind is clear like a calm river."

The river of Intersein's mood flows through each room: simple, warm, natural, and spacious. This simplicity offers more attention to the large windows and glass doors that open to greater sources of beauty...


Another simple bunk room for two...

Across the hall, we head to an interview room

Where teacher and student can meet quietly, on chairs or cushions.

"Where does the dharma and your life meet the road together? I want to hear..."

Let's take a peak out the window, as I overhear a sharing circle starting outside...

Wow, so many friends gathering, to share about the practice! We're in the middle of a "work retreat". And the community gathers to share about practices of mindfulness in the course of their morning work together. So inspiring to see them sharing deeply about the practice.

I think someone spotted us... Let's give them some privacy and respect their confidentiality

Up to the third floor now we go...

Perched under the southern rooftop, this little Buddha room has lustrous advantages.

It is our evening haven as long-term guests or residents when retreatants have evening activities downstairs.

This is the resident studio which also contains half of Karl and Helga's library collection. It is a gorgeous room to work in. But if you want access, then think about living here long-term...

And finally, we arrive at our room...

Entering onto our balcony, the Bavarian country side in morning springtime glory...

Surely, we've been born in a Pure Land realm....

Looking southwest, a brilliant beech tree meets morning beams, and a flower garden slowly awakens below.

Would you like to join me for a cup of tea while we're up here?

Then we head down to the meditation hall. So if you thought the first one was nice... that was just an appetizer

Wonderful!  Karl is sharing about the history and inspiration for Intersein. They lived in Plum Village for over 6 years, so they have many old stories to tell us kids in the Sangha. We listen with wide eyes, curious minds, and grateful hearts.

We come to the end of our indoor walking tour. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we did!

We close here with a relief of the Buddha and Jesus, holding each other as friends on the path. Intersein is located in a traditionally strong Catholic region.  But they have found a home for their friendship in this Sangha dwelling in the Bavarian countryside of Germany.

Welcome to Intersein (The Outdoor Tour)

2 Senior Teachers

6 Residents

4 story practice center

18 years running solid

20+ retreats year-round

10,000s trees surrounding

1 Practice


1 Community

Intersein - Center for Mindful Living

Born in 1999, it is the longest standing, largest, and has been the most robust lay residential practice center in the Plum Village tradition.

How can one capture the gorgeous surroundings of this mindfulness center, community of practitioners, teachers, residents, guests, birds, forest, flowers, ponds, buddhas, bodhisattvas, breath-taking views, meditation gardens and all?

It’s beauty and magic is overwhelming on so many levels of body, heart, and mind, such that we will let these photos speak first.  

So please, come with us!  We will take a mindful, leisurely walk around the land, gardens, building, and people of this community. Take off your sandals or shoes, enjoy the bare grass, and enjoy each step on our path...

Sitting in a field of wildflowers in the distance, Intersein appears, snugly embraced by the surrounding forest.

Taking some steps closer, we see gardens of rhodendrons, lilacs, and an assembly of trees... intrigued by the lower garden's beauty, we saunter further.

Slowly approaching, one finds a smiling Buddha, quietly watching over the pond and garden, ensuring its serenity, moment to moment.

Crossing over a trickling stream, we look back to see the meditation hall, facing this serene oasis.

Turning around and facing south... it takes your breath away. Let us pause for some moments, and savor 3 full in and out breaths to fully soak in this spacious beauty into the depths of our store consciousness....

Walking under a refreshing canopy of beech and oak leaves, peering down a row of rhododendrons.... our spirit settles under the shade, but our senses continue to awaken at each violet blossom and herbal fragrance.

Where will this ambrosial path lead next?

 Turning the corner into sunshine... a compassionate friend greets us to her garden, with a soft gaze and everlasting smile. We greet her compassionate presence with a bow, and remember to kiss the earth with each step on our path...

Walking up the hill, we peer over the former the hut of our root teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. Now, this refuge within a refuge is the simple yet gorgeous abode of Karl and Helga, founding teachers of Intersein.

Avalokita quietly protects their entrance with an unceasing compassionate gaze.

Walking onto the upper field, we see a friend taking a break, soaking in shades of green, and the musical array of many feathered friends.

One never wanders far without seeing a family of tulips showing off together. In the near distance, friends share a cup of tea on the patio.

Just around the corner, and look who's there! ....  A couple of joyful sister weeding the garden together, surely making Helga very happy.

Over some flower bushes, another friend pops out with shovel in hand and smile in full force. Hello Stephan!

And at the other end of the glade, retreatants shovel their love, sweat, and mindful attention into the soil together. Only through community can we grow these most beautiful gardens.

Walking on the cool grass across the field of the Sangha's backyard...

Ahhh, work is finally over for the morning. A resident couple, Andrew and Claudia, enjoy each other's support for a lazy loving break.

Come on, let's give them some space and keep walking towards the forest...

The spruce giants shelter this center like a mother hugging her child. Let's wander into her wooded realm, and explore a few treasures...

Just a few moments away, exists this other refuge of stillness, beauty, and peace.

We find some friends during outdoor walking meditation, having finished work in the garden. Allured by their peaceful river of steps, we follow them for a short while, enjoying each breath and step behind them.

We'll come back and explore the forests here in greater depth and beauty later. For now, let's make our way back to the center.

On our way, we see the teachers, walking around and sharing their zen eyes over the garden. Hello Karl and Helga!

In the front gardens, sunlight pours over Intersein in its mid-morning glory.

We approach the entrance, beholding the beauty of this Sangha home. Our outdoor walking tour is coming to a finish. Before we head inside, we turn around once more towards the plum cherry and beech trees spanning the view...

With gratitude, we feel our seeds of peace and beauty have been watered with each step, and each breath of forest air. We turn around to step inside, but just before we enter...

We see our an inspiring old friend, who welcomes us with his peaceful smile and look of compassion, as we finally enter this Sangha home....