What the BRC is for: re-envisaging your life

We are sad to have taken our leave from Tessa Pretorius.  She has managed our finances for almost four years.  

It is in the nature of retreat centres like the BRC to have to live with staff changes.  Indeed, few people look upon a post at the Centre as more than an episode between other moves in their lives.

We are - sometimes grudgingly - happy to provide such a psychological interlude for people to re-assess where they have come from and where they need to go.  Many visitors and retreatants do the same.

Maybe that is what the BRC – and the Buddha’s teachings - are about.      

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We are on CNN.com!

When we first started to promote the BRC in the early 1980’s, we relied on the goodwill of friendly bookshop and health food store owners to allow us to put posters in their windows in the hope of attracting interest in our programs.   

Things have changed since then.  Powerful proof of that came recently when we had a call from CNN.com to say that they wanted to feature the BRC on their website as one of the 10 finest meditation centres in the world!   Did we mind?

You may like to look it up yourself: The link is: 10 of the world's best meditation retreats

Dreaming a New World into Reality - Talk with Thanissara in Cape Town

In our fast changing times, where political, religious, and economic structures are failing to meet the need for a more equitable and caring world, new and radical approaches are called for. The challenges before us are unprecedented, both within our beloved country, and globally.

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Why does the Buddha smile?

louischrisiThe Buddha’s First Noble Truth promises that you will meet up with plenty of problems in life.

You’ll grow old and get sick – you won’t like that. You will lose things you love and be forced to deal with people you loathe. You won’t like that either. But we are an integral part of a universe that works that way, so whether we like it or not, surely it is wise not to deny or avoid this obvious fact but learn to engage it uncompromisingly, as it comes, with all its disappointments and hurts, beauty and loveliness, with compassion, joy and moral integrity.

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BRC News

Wayward monks and misbehaving priests

You may have seen these headlines in the newspapers a while ago. The priests belonged to the Legion of Christ, which is centred in the Vatican. They had been up to the kind of tricks priests have been committing for centuries: sexually abusing seminarians and altar boys and fathering children with vulnerable women.  Nothing new there. There were major scandals in the USA and Ireland some years ago when it was revealed that this type of misconduct had been wide-spread for decades.

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The Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World

25 July: This is a wonderful, BBC-produced documentary that takes one on a tour of the principal events and cultures associated with the event of Buddhism, showing the ancient monuments and present-day activities in Buddhist communities and monasteries in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Japan. Commentaries by modern Buddhist scholars, such as Robert Thurman and Ernst Gombrich add depth to the film.

We will show this film at the 32nd Annual General Meeting of the Buddhist Institute of South Africa. Tea and snacks will be served.  Come and meet the members of your Committee and other friends of the BRC.

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What do a leaking roof, an African boma and the Buddha have in common?

The roof over the Lodge at the BRC was built 40 years ago from sheeting Louis bought at an auction sale of materials that had been salvaged from a 40-year old railway shed in Durban harbour after it was demolished. It cost next to nothing, but was of poor quality. Although it has now served us for another 40 years, it has finally given up the ghost.   Whenever there is a downpour, leaks spring up and rooms have to be vacated. It did not help when during a storm, hail stones punched about 200 holes in the sheeting.

To replace such a large roof costs money: approximately R. 120 000… What to do? As everybody knows, the BRC – in keeping with ancient Buddhist tradition – does not save for a rainy day to meet such expenses as this would increase our rates. We therefore need to think of other ways of finding this amount of money. That is why we hope we can count again on our Sangha Friends.

Louis had been thinking for a while about establishing a Buddhaboma - a circular meditation garden next to the labyrinth in which eight trees associated with the principal events in the Buddha’s life and teachings are planted. It will be a sacred Buddhist space, a refuge in the middle of an African indigenous forest. There will be a thatched meditation pavilion in the centre where one can sit and meditate, surrounded by the trees. One can circumambulate the trees and reflect on the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha – the trees being the unifying theme tracing the Buddha’s birth, his first samadhi experience under a Rose Apple tree, his enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, the various trees associated with his teachings and monasteries and concluding with his death (paranirvana) between two Sal trees. This will be the first such Buddhaboma in history. Chris Dalzell, who is busy establishing Botanic Gardens in Singapore and elsewhere in the East, has sourced all the trees. They are expected to arrive in South Africa soon.  



Here is our suggestion: help us to put a new roof over our heads by sponsoring a tree (R.10,000) a branch (R. 2,500) or a leaf (any amount) of the Buddhaboma. Your tree will outlive you many lifetimes over - to the enjoyment of countless numbers of people.

Good karma…

The Cake the Buddha Ate


Although we had expected our new recipe book to be successful, we could never have foreseen the impact it has made.  The publishers, Jacana Media, were running out of copies and had to hurriedly order a reprint - barely a month after the books’ arrival in the country. Exclusive Books displayed it prominently on their Home Brew selections throughout the country and are running a lucky draw for their Fanatics Club offering an all-expenses paid retreat featuring Daniel Jardim’s cooking at the BRC.

The Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban launches attracted a crowd of 600 people, all eagerly buying the book, sometimes 4 or 5 at a time.

 Of course, The Cake is more than just another recipe book. This one is different in that it features the fine vegetarian food that has been served at the BRC for more than 30 years, honed to perfection by a succession of talented cooks, amongst them Daniel Jardim who worked there as our chef for two years.

 Because you cannot divorce the food from the place where it is eaten, the book features beautiful photographs taken of the BRC, poetry and haiku, stories and anecdotes inspired by the Centre.

 The book is also for sale at our BRC shop.

The Buddha’s Nose on a Platter

buddha_noseAlthough I have been involved in various forms of art since an early age, I had never undertaken any sculpting before I agreed to build this Buddha statue. True, I had intended to do so – one day…

When a visiting monk, Ajahn Anando, heard this he challenged me to do so – now. He said he would mix the mortar for me. Indeed, he helped in the early stages of its construction, welding together the armature around which the concrete and plaster were going to be modelled. Anando was a delight to work with but he left shortly afterwards, back to Chithurst Forest Monastery in England of which he was the Abbot.

I felt somewhat intimidated by the prospect of sculpting such a huge statue. So I asked Peter Schütz, a good friend of mine and an internationally renowned sculptor, to help me model it – well, at least the face. But he only offered to do the nose for me. Why only the nose, I never found out. You could never be sure you could take Peter seriously.

He was a busy man, lecturing at university and forever preparing pieces for exhibitions of his work. So I was left on my own. I had to complete the five meter high statue myself, including the face. And that nose.

Years later, the Buddha statue completed, Peter had a run of exhibitions in which he explored the many-layered interfaces between baroque saints and the symbolism of the “dumb waiter”. One day he turned up at my house, with his customary bottle of red wine in one hand and a parcel, wrapped in brown paper, in the other. He gave it to me with a shy smile.

It was a dumb waiter, offering the Buddha’s nose on a platter…


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