The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: July 2020
Twelve weeks ago, we reached out to the BRC’s community of friends, practitioners, and supporters asking for your help. It was a time of great uncertainty and distress and you responded with generosity, warmth, and care. Your support has made it possible for us to keep the Dharma wheels turning in Ixopo, the Chi flowing and the Buddha Way open. We are deeply grateful for your donations. Without your help, the BRC would not survive. Thank you too to those teachers who have offered to teach online, and to those who have supported our online programme. It has been wonderful to see familiar faces and friends in the Zoom Room as our online Sangha grows.
The Centre opened its doors on 1 July for Conducted and Self Retreats. We have all the necessary protocols in place to ensure your safety and that of the staff. The number of people attending retreats will be restricted. Our retreats will lend themselves to alone time, physical distancing, fresh air, pure spaces, and feeling the ground beneath your feet. We will be very mindful to make people feel safe, comfortable and at ease.
|Image: Angela Shaw|
The BRC has been in quarantine since late March this year. We took heed of the severity of the virus and went into lockdown with everyone else. Since then, we have continued with a skeleton staff, but we have made sure that all of our staff members have been taken care of - thanks to your kind and generous donations.
In Ixopo, we focus a lot on our breathing when we meditate, and, ironically, in our fortieth year of existence - the BRC has had to take a breath. We have missed our visitors, but with our doors open again, we are looking forward to welcoming you back to the space and its energy.
We understand that people may have reservations about returning and retreating because the spectre of the virus is still very much alive, so we would like to tell you a little about our preparations and safety measures.
We will be practising social distancing and wearing masks, taking temperatures and asking our visitors to complete a log. Rest assured, we have always considered our visitors first and we have put measures in place to ensure a safe environment.
|A pop of colour||Image: Angela Shaw|
The BRC offers open spaces, trails and walks; the chance to sit at Nalanda Rocks overlooking the valley feeling the breeze on your face; to reflect and refocus at the dam or at the Stupa, to sit quietly in the Zendo; to take a step out of lockdown into fresh air and healing, tranquil surroundings after months of enforced isolation.
And most importantly, to breathe…….
Our July retreat programme in Ixopo will offer you the opportunity to tune into your body and to instill what the Buddha indicated we can do in difficult times - develop more compassion and wisdom in everything we do.
We hope to see you at some of our winter retreats.
Stay well and warm.
|14th Dalai Lama - Tenzin Gyatso||Image: Yancho Sabev - Wikimedia|
Celebrating His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday
We have the pleasure of inviting you, your family and friends for an on-line get-together celebrating His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday on SUNDAY 5th July at 14:00.
We are very excited to announce that Geshe Lhakdor will be our Guest Speaker, linking in from Dharamsala, India. Many of you will remember, with fondness, Geshe Lhakdor, who visited South Africa in 2014 at the request of the Tibet Society of SA when he gave Teachings, talks and conducted retreats in Durban, Cape Town & Johannesburg. He also accompanied His Holiness to South Africa on two occasions as His Holiness’ English Translator.
Geshe Lhakdor-la is a Tibetan Scholar and monk who works in close association with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For 20 years he acted as the Dalai Lama’s English translator and Religious Assistant and is currently the Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. Geshe-la was intimately involved in the writing of the book, “Beyond religion: Ethics for a Whole World”
Geshe-la will be outlining the principal commitments of His Holiness and we have invited some admired and respected Tibet supporters to give a short response.
The link to the Zoom session is given below and please forward this to others who might be interested.
Although His Holiness’ birthday is in fact on the 6th July, we are getting together on the Sunday so that it will suit the majority of people who would like to attend.
We look forward to welcoming you to this very special event.
Office of Tibet SA & Tibet Society of South Africa
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82229056996
Meeting ID: 822 2905 6996
We have also received confirmation that an International Tibetan singer Techung, and his partner, Sisa, will perform whilst we wait for people to come online. Techung will sing a song he dedicated to His Holiness and we look forward to welcoming them too.
|Birdwatching in waves of green||Image: Angela Shaw|
Stephen Coan, writer, journalist, poet and friend of many years, offers his first of three “Tea Stories”.
Tea story (1)
Those who have attended retreats at the Buddhist Retreat Centre will be familiar with the typed schedules dotted around the place – in the library, the dining room, the vestibule in the Lodge – schedules detailing the programme for the retreat and indicating what happens where and when: meditation in the hall, talks in the studio, and so on. One item on the schedule is common to all retreats, or at least the ones I have attended or led, and that is ‘Tea’ from 10am to 10.30am. Note well, the session is labelled Tea and not Coffee. I like to think this is because of the long connection between tea and meditation and, if leading a retreat, I tell a story about the beloved beverage at the appropriate moment. Each time I tell one of these, usually with an apology to those may have heard it before, I make a mental note to find some new stories about tea. Perhaps by consigning the old ones to the finality of the printed word as opposed to the spoken I will box myself into a corner and finally get round to finding some.
The origin of tea and the drinking thereof is to be found in China. The traditional story has tea being discovered in the year 2737 BCE by the legendary emperor Shennong who when leaves from a wild tea bush were accidentally dropped into the boiling water of a cooking pot set above a campfire during his travels was sufficiently tempted by the pleasing aroma to taste the liquid. Fast forward to Five Roses.
But there is also a Buddhist story concerning the origins of tea. This tale features Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China in the sixth century CE. The ‘Barbarian from the West’ is frequently portrayed as possessing bulging, glaring eyes. The story goes that after a fruitless meeting of mutual misunderstanding with the Chinese emperor of the day Bodhidharma headed off to meditate in a cave on Mount Sung close to the Shaolin Temple - yes, the kung fu one. There he spent nine years in meditation facing the cave wall. At some point he began to nod off and annoyed at his backsliding, and in a bid to stay awake, Bodhidharma tore off his eyelids and threw them to the ground - which explains those fearsome, orb-like eyes - and where the eyelids landed tea bushes suddenly sprang up.
|A meditation on tea||Image: Angela Shaw|
Bodhidharma was later acknowledged as the founding patriarch of the Buddhist school called Ch’an in China and on its export to Japan, Zen. Ch’an, Zen – both words have the same meaning: meditation.
The story of Bodhidharma’s eyelids and the miraculous tea bushes was most probably composed in hindsight to explain the practice of Zen Buddhist monks who drink green tea in order to banish sleepiness during all-night meditation sessions.
Tea and meditation are inextricably linked. In Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits, the writer and translator Bill Porter recounts his 1989 trip to the Chungnan Mountains in central China to ascertain whether any Buddhist hermits had survived the death and destruction of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Hermits living in mountain hideaways had been an especial feature of Buddhist life in China: “Other than a mountain, they didn’t need much,’ writes Porter: ‘a little mud, some thatch, a patch of melons, a row of tea bushes.”
Porter trekked up various mountains where hermits, female and male, had been known to live in times past. Unfortunately some of these mountains had not only lost their hermits but also the forests that once cloaked their slopes. Arriving at a mountain and finding its forest had been harvested Porter came to the conclusion it was not worthwhile proceeding any further, hermits would be in short supply: “I reasoned no forest, no deadfall; no deadfall, no firewood; no firewood, no tea; no tea, no meditation; no meditation, no hermits.”
The good news: Porter found and interviewed over twenty hermits.
Enjoy your tea.
Forthcoming Retreats: July 2020
People often yearn for an opportunity to recalibrate their lives and to spend some time in quiet reflection among like-minded people. The BRC provides such a refuge - where silence is a precious commodity. Choose practices such as yoga, qigong and meditation to live with more meaning, purpose and joy. Treat yourself to a personal retreat where you can wake up to bird song, walk in the morning mist, rake the sand garden, listen to the wind chimes and meditate in the company of the mossy Buddha.
|Wind in the chimes
||Image: Lisa De Venter|
Conducted Retreats in Ixopo: July 2020
June Atkinson | 2 days | 6-8 July
Georgie Carter | Weekend | 17-19 July
Hannelize Robinson | Weekend | 24-26 July
Marc Kress | Weekend | 31 July-2 August
|Reflect||Image: Lisa de Venter|
Online Programme: July 2020
4; 11; 18 July | Colin Kemery
9 July | Christine Withiel
5 July | Dorian Haarhof
8 July | Katherine Fillmore
11 July | Lucy Draper-Clarke and Felicity Hart
“When you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them.” Marshall Rosenberg
We will practice both intra-personal and inter-personal mindfulness in order to cultivate skills of empathy, compassion and a better understanding of self and other.
Nia Technique: Explore The Movement Art That Conditions The Body, Focuses The Mind, Fine Tunes The Emotions And Allows Our Unique Spirit To Shine Through
12 July | Susan Sloane
15 July | Dominique Garnett
20 July | Judy Farah
July 28; 29;30 | Lynne Marion
These practical sessions on meditation, rejuvenation and relaxation will help you cultivate self-awareness and develop inner harmony.
Enjoy some serene “alone” time on a Self-Retreat in the beautiful, indigenous setting of the BRC with chi kung, meditation, communing with nature, enjoying the vistas of the velvet Ixopo hills, and relishing the delicious vegetarian food for which the BRC is justly renowned.
|Qigong||Image:Louis van Loon|
This Is Not Just Another Recipe Book
Whether it is to be or not to be a vegetarian, our recipes are inventive, tasty and nutritious and also give you an additional flavour: the feel of the Retreat Centre. We are immensely grateful to you for ordering our recipe books for yourself or for friends. For those who would like to buy the “The Cake The Buddha Ate” or “Plentiful” and “Quiet Food” we are able to courier the books to your door. Please call the office on 0878901687 or email: .
Psychoneuroimmunology With Dr Ian Weinberg - In Your Home
Ian Weinberg, a neurosurgeon and pioneer in PNI, has led his renowned retreat “A neurosurgeon probes wellness and performance: Psychoneuroimmunology: PNI” for 12 years, twice a year, at the BRC. His retreats are hugely popular and always fully subscribed to.
In these uncomfortable times in which we are challenged at every level of our being - physical, psychological and emotional - Ian’s expertise and insights will provide one with practical tools to explore optimal, integrated wellness, and to understand how our thoughts inform our immune system - and how by reframing the way we react to the world around us, we can completely alter our health and quality of life.
Ian is offering to assist the BRC to raise funds to ensure its continuity. He has uploaded his full, comprehensive, PNI weekend retreat onto his website in 5 edited modules: See www.neuronostic.com under COURSES – ONLINE MENTORING COURSES. The programme includes slides in PDF format, an online diagnostic and workbook.
If you would like to support this fund-raising venture, please consider purchasing his online programme through the BRC at a significantly discounted price (R1,500) relative to the online listed price (R5,500). Proceeds will go to the BRC.
|Mossy Buddha||image: Brendon Hatcher|
Poster - Print Fundraiser
This unique artwork has been created by illustrator and nature book author Duncan Butchart whose 'African Journey Collection' of poster-prints are in the style of the popular vintage travel posters of the 40’s and 50’s.
Butchart has travelled widely and carried out ecotourism assignments in eleven African countries. His poster-prints including Kruger, Cape Town, Okavango and Drakensberg can be seen here: dbnatureworks.com
As a boy, Duncan was entranced by the ‘Adventures of Tintin’ picture books created by the legendary Belgian cartoonist Hergé, and has used that distinctive ‘ligné clair’ style as the inspiration for his minimalist poster art.
The prints are available in three sizes and printed digitally on deluxe matt art paper with archival pigment inks, and each one is signed by the artist. Print and post for R600.00. Proceeds to go to the BRC. Please contact the BRC office:
|View from Nalanda Rocks||Image: Angela Shaw|
About the BRC
Perched on a ridge at the head of a valley in the Umkomaas river system in KwaZulu-Natal, the Buddhist Retreat Centre looks out on a vista of indigenous valleys, forests and rolling hills receding like waves in the blue distance. Here, for thirty-nine years, people of all religions and none have come to experience peace and tranquility. It is a gentle, sympathetic space where one can be still and get in touch with oneself and reflect on the things that crowd one's life.
The BRC was voted by CNN as one of the ten best meditation centres in the world.
CNN Travel awarded another feather in the BRC’s cap by voting it as one of the ten best spiritual centres in South Africa, recently.
The BRC was awarded Natural Heritage status in 1995 under the auspices of the Department of Environmental affairs and received a certificate to that effect signed by President Nelson Mandela for turning an eroded farm into the natural paradise it has become - thousands of indigenous trees were planted by retreatants under the supervision of Mervyn Croft - with 160 species of birds, including the Blue Swallow, otter, deer, antbear and indigenous forests. The Centre was also given the special status of “Custodian of the Blue Swallow” for its work in preserving the breeding areas of this endangered bird.
The BRC facilitated the founding of Woza Moya, the community-based NGO, located in Ufafa Valley, twenty years ago, on the estate. Their vision is for all people in the community to be healthy and productive, to live in a safe and clean environment, with good access to services and social justice. The Centre continues to support the organisation in a variety of ways by contributing Dana, sponsoring their Directors, trainers and visitors' accommodation, and showcasing and promoting their wonderful crafts in the shop such as the sock monkeys, cushions, bags, scarves, beanies and stationery. The Woza Moya Crafters are local women who receive ongoing training and support to enable them to create these unique and charming best sellers. As a result of retreatants' Dana (Generosity) in 2019/20, the BRC was able to donate R 24,000 to Woza Moya to further enable their good work among the community and to help support the 50 children who attend the Woza Moya play school.
Please continue to support the BRC to get back on its Dharma feet by becoming a friend of the Buddhist Retreat Centre (a non-profit organisation) and find out more about the BRC's Paid-Up-Yogi and Sangha Friends’ projects.
We have been very touched by your appreciative letters, emails, support and friendship towards the BRC - your spiritual home from home.
Visit our website for further information, directions, image gallery etc.
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