SAT CHIT ANAND
- DECEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER -
ENDINGS AND NEW BEGINNINGS
Another year draws to a close. A lot happened and a lot didn’t happen … We started this year with the intention of doing weekend spiritual retreats. I had one planned with GESHE PHENDE, whom I met in Durban when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited in November 2004. He did our first retreat and it was fantastic, a real privilege to have him here, probably the first time a Buddhist monk has ever set foot on this part of the African continent! We very much had a sense of being part of history in the making, as the footprints of the Buddha are starting to walk on foreign soil, and in years to come, this will lead to the evolution of African Buddhism. Buddhism is a growing religion that is fast moving into the Western world, as the divisions between east and west disintegrate and we realise our totality and global interconnectedness.
After such a great start to the year, I wondered how it could and would continue, but it did, with our regular weekly teachings, and further retreats with REVEREND PANNASEKARA, Sri Lankan Buddhist monk and Abbot of Temple in Tanzania; SHENPEN, our very own South African Buddhist monk; JENNIFER from Cape Town and America, and myself. Each retreat was different, taking on the style of the teacher and the tradition. This gives people an opportunity to experience the different ways that Buddhism is presented, and to learn from them all, for all traditions contain gems and there is something for everyone. A weekend is short, but it is intense, and people learn and benefit a lot from the retreats. From our side, it is a blessing to host the retreats, and it is very rewarding to be part of the spiritual growth and transformation that is happening to so many people. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our retreatants for their presence, it is all the uniquely special and individual parts that make up the whole.
Spiritual safari at CAPE MOUNTAIN RETREAT CENTRE
After hosting six retreats this year, it was a treat for me to go on a 10-day silent re-treat on Mind Training with ROB NAIRN, internationally sought-after teacher of Buddhism and meditation, and author of three books: Tranquil Mind; Diamond Mind; and Living, Dreaming, Dying (available locally and highly recommended). ROB is one of the pioneers in presenting Buddhist philosophy and practice in a way that is accessible to the Western mind. He overseas the Kagyu Buddhist Centres in Africa. The Kagyu Lineage is one of the four main traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, headed by HH the 17th Karmapa. The retreat was held at their new retreat farm, CAPE MOUNTAIN RETREAT CENTRE, which is located far away from the maddening crowds in the beautiful mountains between Villiersdorp and Worcester. See www.kagyu.org.za for more information about this very exciting project, overseen by high Tibetan Lama, DR AKONG RINPOCHE (featured in Dec/Jan issue of Odyssey Magazine).
Goodbye to PURE LAND FLORAL KINGDOM
Nearly two years ago, we purchased some land between Plett and Knysna, with the intention of establishing a Spiritual Retreat Centre in the country. The sale was subject to the suspensive conditions that the land be subdivided from the existing farm and rezoned out of agricultural. We regret to announce that the subdivision and rezoning was refused. So PURE LAND FLORAL KINGDOM will remain a beautiful place that we created in our minds. Sorry that we can’t share it with you in this physical dimension, but it wasn’t meant to be. Either the time, or the place wasn’t right, or destiny has different plans for us. So for now, we will remain in our present location in Plett.
It seems that I have spent my life seeking some kind of Utopia, the fabled land of milk and honey where there is no suffering, and everyone and everything is peaceful and harmonious. However, my spiritual teachers say that suffering is a stimulus for spiritual growth, it is the mud out of which the beautiful lotus flower grows. Suffering develops compassion, the all-embracing, unconditional caring that arises within the mind of an enlightened being. Compassion is the most powerful force in the Universe, because it acts to relieve the suffering of other beings. Jesus tried to save the world because of his great compassion, and the Buddha’s teachings are all about attaining complete freedom from all forms of suffering. Compassion is regarded as a wish-fulfilling gem, the greatest jewel we can develop in our minds, because it has the power to liberate us from self-cherishing, the source of all suffering. All our difficulties arise due to ego-centric grasping, and its attendant negative mind states, which dissolve in the warm light of compassion.
When you are free from the veils of illusion and your perception is pure, then you no longer suffer or seek to escape to some distant heaven. The Pure Land is here and now, under our feet, we just need the enlightened eyes to see it, and the karmic vision to experience it. This means purifying our minds, because when your mind is pure, then the enlightened reality of the Pure Land manifests all around you. Ahh, something to look forward to … May it come to be for all beings. More short-term, wishing you a wonderful New Year. Hope to see you on retreat, we have a great programme for 2006, more details to follow early next year. With much love, Leela and Maurice
Here is the Pure Land,
the Pure Land is here.
I smile in mindfulness,
and dwell in the present moment.
The Buddha is seen in an autumn leaf,
the Dharma in a floating cloud,
the Sangha body is everywhere,
my true home is right here.
Breathing in, flowers are blooming,
breathing out, I am aware
that bamboos are swaying.
My mind is free and
I enjoy every moment.
[Poem by Thich Nhat Hanh]
LEELA and MAURICE
all dressed up for sister’s wedding