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The Buddhist Retreat Centre
|SANGHA SUPPORT : Letters from lockdown - Wesak 2020|
|Dear Friends and Supporters
The full moon of May Wesak celebration was scheduled for the 9 May in Ixopo. Instead, we are sending virtual greetings to you and inviting you to honour this tradition of remembering the birth of the Buddha and to use this celebration to deepen your own spiritual journey and path.
Image: Andrew Brown
As Antony Osler writes so eloquently:
“We are all custodians of some kind of spiritual tradition or way of life. To use Zen language, we are all custodians of the Dharma, each of us in our particular way. For Margie and myself, our practice is – as one friend put it – to go to the zendo every day and ring the bell. This we do whether there are retreatants or not, whether or not there is anyone to hear it. Your custodianship will be different. This lockdown can be an opportunity for each of us to take responsibility for our own life, to see what feeds us and what diminishes us, to refine the way we live, and to be an encouragement for others.”
Wesak is an annual Buddhist celebration honouring the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Death, all of which are traditionally associated on the full moon of May. It usually consists of traditional teachings, chants and meditation, a shared meal and distribution of gifts to the poor. A form of "Buddhist Christmas”.
|Image: Tsunma Tsondru|
Stephen Coan has written a beautiful message below capturing the spirit and mood of Wesak in Ixopo which has been an annual celebration for forty years.
We will sorely miss you all in our accustomed togetherness. We promise a celebration, cake and all, next year, come what may.
We are deeply grateful for your support, heartfelt messages, wise counsel and generosity that are keeping the Dharma wheels turning in Ixopo.
May we all continue the Wesak spirit for the rest of time.
Louis and Chrisi and the BRC team.
|Image: Angela Shaw|
pink seeding grasses
Late on a May afternoon driving the twisting R56 as it ascends the southern side of the Umkomaas valley the sinking sun backlights the autumn grasses growing by the roadside rendering their seed heads blush-pink. It’s a familiar sight at this time of the year for those on their way to the Buddhist Retreat Centre to attend the annual Wesak retreat held under the full moon of May (or the closest weekend thereto) to commemorate and celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, ‘the awakened one’, 2500 years ago.
Sadly, the road to Ixopo will be undriven this year as South Africa and the world grapples with the Corona virus pandemic. In conformity with the national lockdown the retreat centre is closed. An added sadness is that this year’s retreat was also intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the centre opening its doors in 1980.
|Image: Rudene Gerber|
That milestone aside the retreat would have followed its typical programme of sitting and walking meditation with talks and reflections in the studio around the fireside, but the real heart of the retreat is the ceremony which takes place in the evening, beginning in the meditation hall before moving outside into the gardens for a traditional circumambulation of the Buddha statue.
The ceremony in the hall has taken various forms over the years – in 1992 Antony Osler, who led the retreat with Louis that year, handed out sayings and poems to be read aloud by retreatants as they sat in a large circle, one reader passing a candle to the next. Here’s a poem from Ryokan read on that night:
At night, deep in the mountains I sit in meditation.
|Image: Lennarte Eriksson|
In 2005 Louis kindly invited me to join him in leading the Wesak retreat and, barring an odd year or two, we have done so ever since – Antony joined us in 2010 for the Wesak retreat marking the centre’s 30th anniversary; only fitting as he was its first resident manager and teacher back in 1980.
Over the last few years the ceremony in the hall has coalesced into a set pattern: a period of silent meditation followed by a reading of the relevant chapters from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Old Path, White Clouds describing the Buddha’s enlightenment. Then we go outside into the cool (if not cold) May evening where scores of plain brown paper bags half-filled with sand and planted with a candle light a path to and around the Buddha statue.
As the retreatants leave the hall each is given a lit stick of incense as they form a single line, one behind the other, and walk the illuminated pathway into the garden towards the Buddha statue and, as is the tradition all over the world, circumambulate the statue three times. After the final turn each person places their incense stick in a bowl at the statue’s feet, bows, and steps back to form a group facing the Buddha. When all are gathered together Louis chants some Pali verses and these are likely followed by English versions of the Heart Sutra or the Metta Sutra. Then silence. On a clear night – not always guaranteed at Ixopo in May - the moon shines full and the star-spangled haze of the Milky Way is a silver scarf thrown across the sky. If you are lucky you might hear the call of an eagle owl.
|Image: Tsunma Tsondru|
Gradually, one by one, or in small groups, people move away towards the studio. Tea and cake awaits – even the one the Buddha ate.
The silence closes in again as the retreatants wend their way to bed. The candles around the Buddha still aglow.
|Image: Andrew Brown|
Rudene Gerber who led many meditation sessions in the Zendo, remembers….
This Is How I Feel
When I step into the foyer, the energy envelops me and I am awed into stillness. Bending over to remove my shoes is also a bow of respect to the space and to all those who have practised here before me.
Settling on the cushion is like arriving back home - a feeling of familiarity and a warm embrace.
The first deep breath and then it is only the now, the present and being aware that matters.
I miss the Zendo at the BRC.
|Image: Andrew Brown|
More Teachers' Offerings
Anna and Jonathan, Vipassana meditation teachers based in Prague, will be offering the following for BRC students:
Teaching support for daily meditation.
Any students who have done Vipassana meditation with us at the BRC are welcome to phone and discuss, report, ask for help with their daily meditation practice. Free. Ph 00420722008067 (Whats App)
Vipassana home retreat
We offer instructions and support for any students who have done a Vipassana course at the BRC with us if they want to do a short retreat at home (5-10 hrs meditation per day, maximum 10 days). By donation. 00420722008067 (Whats App).
Meditation talks on Zoom
Donation to BRC.
9 May Introduction and Basic Instructions for Vipassana Meditation. 11:00-12:00 am
|Image: Lisa de Venter|
Tapping Into Your Buddha Nature To Manifest Your Goals And Desires
(Voluntary presentation in aid of the BRC)
Teacher: Tronél Hellberg
“One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art in conducting oneself in lower regions by memory of what one has seen higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” ~ René Daumal
We are powerful beings! We know this… and we don’t... We know it when life is calm and effortless, but when we are in the midst of a dark storm like the one right now, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the raising level of uncertainty – losing sight of possibilities and hope. It is in times like these that we need to remember who we are and access our unlimited Source of power, inspiration and creation – our Buddha nature! Now, more than ever, it is important to know where we are heading and how to tap into realities beyond the physical eye!
About the teacher
Tronél is a Master Transformation Life Coach, author and speaker. She specialises in empowering people through inner transformation with mindfulness as cornerstone. Tronél is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves. She guides them towards discovering their purpose and inner power by asking staggering questions, making powerful realisations, and letting go of non-serving emotion and beliefs. More than this, it is about fulfilling her higher calling: raising global consciousness. Since the start of lockdown, Tronél started presenting live Facebook talks and meditations on Coach me to Grow’s Facebook page to assist people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Image: Andrew Brown|
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