Where would I possibly find enough leather

with which to cover the surface of the earth?

Yet wearing leather just on the soles of my shoes

is equivalent to covering the earth with it.


Likewise, it is not possible for me

to restrain the external course of things.

But should I restrain this mind of mine

what would be the need to restrain all else?


Shantideva: Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life,

chapter V verses 13, 14



SAT CHIT ANAND was privileged to host a weekend retreat with GESHE PHENDE, a Tibetan Buddhist monk with a doctorate degree in Buddhist Philosophy. Geshe-la is from Nepal, and is presently resident teacher at the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Johannesburg.


On Thursday morning, we took Geshe-la to the farm we are busy purchasing with the intent of establishing a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the Garden Route (mid-way between Plett and Knysna). We set up an altar on the land, and Geshe-la performed a special ceremony, whereby he invoked the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and asked for their blessings for the proposed retreat centre. He also requested that local spirits grant their permission to establish a retreat centre on the land that they will share with us. He then performed a ritual to purify the land, to remove obstacles, and to protect the area. The sound of Geshe-la’s chanting, the ringing of his bell, and the cries of a Lourie (special and unusual bird) brought a magical atmosphere to this auspicious occasion.


Geshe-la gave a public Dharma talk on Thursday evening, before the retreat started. We were delighted and amazed that 50 people attended his talk! The retreat was also very well attended. There were 23 people, from Plett, Knysna, George, Carlitzdorp and Port Elizabeth. Thanks to all our participants for making the retreat such a success: Jane, Kevin, Adela, Clare, Jonathan, Lulu, Marie, Terry, Julia, Hayley, Dean, Fiona, Louise, Liesl, June, Christa, Rory, Alfredo and Helen. Thanks to Charl and Susan for helping. Thanks to Maurice for attending to practicalities, especially the great food. Thanks to Leela for organising the retreat and looking after Geshe-la (what a pleasure!)


The topic of the retreat was TRANSFORMING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS. The more negative and ego-centric our minds and hearts are, the more we suffer. The more positive and ego-less our minds and hearts are, the more we experience true happiness that does not depend on external conditions. Geshe-la spoke on some negative emotions that trouble most people, such as attachment, desire, pride, jealousy, anger; and he taught analytical meditation techniques to reduce these troublesome emotions, the ultimate technique being meditation on emptiness of inherent existence. Geshe-la spoke on some positive emotions that most of us want more of, such as unconditional love and compassion; and he taught practices to cultivate and increase these enlightened qualities.


Geshe-la’s knowledge is amazing, and he is kind-hearted and wise. He blessed everyone with his delightful presence: smiling, laughing, full of energy. Tibetan Buddhist monks all seem to have an incredibly joyful, positive, uplifting energy, which benefits those around them. We certainly wished we could kidnap him and keep him here! It is a real treasure to spend time with people who have good hearts and pure minds: all their actions are performed for the benefit of others.


On a physical level, the weekend ended far too quickly. On a spiritual level, the teachings were received, now they must be further studied and contemplated upon, so that they become part of our lives. Existence will provide opportunities for us to witness the relevance of these teachings in our lives, so that we may realise their truth, and then put them into practice. May it be so for our benefit and for the benefit of all beings. After the retreat, we took Geshe-la sightseeing for a few days before sadly saying goodbye to him … till next time.


And with gladness I rejoice

in the ocean of virtue for developing an Awakening Mind

that wishes all beings to be happy

as well as in the deeds that bring them benefit. 


Shantideva: Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life,

chapter III verse 4