First Ever Visit to Africa
Tara Rokpa Centre hosted Drupon Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist Mediation and Mind training Master. This was his first ever visit to Africa. I was privileged to attend his retreat from 30 August to 7 September 2017, in the beautiful Groot Marico. Rinpoche and his entourage, which included Lama Katen, Kunga, and Jampa Dorje, travelled from all over the world in the hope of benefitting the African people.
This was a rare opportunity for Africans to learn from Rinpoche’s teachings, notably The Precious Garland of the Supreme Path—which contains the oral instructions of Lord Gampopa—and the practice of Guru Yoga. The retreat was as rigorous as it was satisfying. Our mornings began at the dark crisp hour of 6am, when we had the first session of Guru Yoga until 7:30am. Breakfast was held under the morning African sun, and the next session commenced at 8:30am with teachings. Tea was usually 15 minutes or less, depending on the teachings. We then did another session of Guru Yoga, followed by lunch, and then marathon sessions until 8:30pm. There was a much welcomed but all too brief break for tea in between.
Rinpoche’s teachings were simple, the schedule strict, his style direct. He is a “tell it like it is Lama”. He advised us that he gets right to the point where our problems lie with the very best intentions. This is true compassion. Rinpoche addressed key questions that affect all of us: like how to balance our dharma practice with our jobs, family, and other responsibilities. He also encouraged us to say prayers in English, to make the dharma easier to spread in the West. It was the first time that I have said prayers in English, and initially it was a bit odd but later I got to really like it, tune and all. (I wonder if German Christians felt the same way when Luther translated the bible into the vernacular).
In addition to great dharma, we had amazing vegetarian food prepared by taste artist, Jeanne. She definitely needs to release a Recipe Book so we can relive the beautiful tastes. A fellow retreatant confided that the schedule was not what she expected, and that she was ready to pack her bags and leave. This was my second retreat with Drupon Rinpoche, and I suggested that I had also felt completely overwhelmed at first. Yet his teachings had benefited me more than any other dharma teachings I can remember. Luckily she stayed, and ended up feeling the same way. At the end of the retreat she confided, “the depth, quality and simplicity of his teachings changed my mind and I realized the unparalleled privilege of hearing these teachings and being in his presence. I have total respect for the integrity of Drupon Rinpoche”.
The Retreat Feast
The retreat ended with a celebratory lunch sponsored by Rinpoche in which about 150 adults and children from the local community attended. It was an apt way to end the retreat with traditional African singing and a feeling of “Ubuntu”, which is the African word used for essential human virtues, compassion, and humanity.
I was fortunate to have a personal interview with Rinpoche. His advice, that I stop doing pujas and meditation, and devote myself instead to the study of dharma books and teachings, shook my Buddhist identity. When I shared this with my roommate, Tania Potter—who has been attending Drupon Rinpoche’s teachings since 2010—she laughed, and said, “That is so Drupon!” She then kindly reminded me to trust him.
Tania was right. On the second last day, I wanted to scream out, “Eureka”!!! I finally understood Rinpoche’s advice. I now know that my practice needs to go back to pre-meditation dharma beginnings. That is what is right for me. I feel secure and comforted. The last night of retreat ended with a beautiful yellow/orange Groot Marico full moon. This was, to me, an auspicious end to an immensely beneficial retreat.
Rinpoche is a force to be reckoned with, he is a true dharma protector and can turn your world upside down. I have indeed, to adopt Tania’s expression, been “Druponed”.
Karma Palden Wangmo
(An African who has benefitted greatly)