Lama Yeshe Rinpoche with Lamas Tsondru, Zangmo and Rinchen at Samye Ling during the Kagyu Monlams

During March, our southern African centres had the privilege of hosting Lama Rinchen Palmo, one of the lamas in the Samye Ling mandala, for 3 weeks. Lama Rinchen is based in Belgium at Kagyu Samye Dzong Brussels, and she is also the director of the Samye Meditation Gardens, a retreat centre near the French border. It was Lama Rinchen’s first visit to southern Africa, and it was interesting to witness our African centres through her fresh eyes. The topics that Lama Rinchen taught at the centres were the Four Thoughts, and Green Tara instructions and practice, of which Lama Rinchen is an adept.

Lama Rinchen’s first stop was a weekend at KSD Cape Town, where they deeply appreciated her presence and teachings. She then travelled to Johannesburg and offered three evening talks at the two Samye Dzong centres. People loved her teachings and would have appreciated a longer visit with her! In Joburg, Lama Rinchen was able to                                                                         spend some time with Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, who was in residence at the KSDJ Temple.

At the weekend, Lama Rinchen went to Tara Rokpa Centre to guide a weekend of Green Tara practice called A Courageous Heart. TRC is very much associated with the energy of Green Tara, which was why Akong Rinpoche asked that Green Tara be the principal practice at the centre. There was a very mixed bag of practitioners at the retreat – some who had been doing Tara practice for many years, and some total newcomers. Lama Rinchen skillfully guided and taught everyone at their level, and the weekend culminated in a 3.5-hour session of Green Tara, with some time for final questions and answers. At the end of this session, it was agreed that the weekend was way too short and that more time was needed to practice with her.

At the end of the retreat, Lama Rinchen had some free time which she used to explore Tara Rokpa Centre. There are many parallels with her retreat centre in Belgium, which is also a retreat and permaculture/ecological centre. Lama Rinchen shared her experiences, and suggestions, and also learnt about the way some things are done at TRC. She also fitted in a visit to the back valley of the property, where Akong Rinpoche said that long retreats would take place, and she tied a kata around a tree as an auspicious gesture. May Rinpoche’s vision be realised soon!

 

The next stop on this Lama Tour was Harare in Zimbabwe, where Lama Rinchen was joyously welcomed by the Zimbabweans and some 15 practitioners from the DRC, who had come to attend her Green Tara teachings and retreat. The topic during the first week was instructions on Green Tara. And at the weekend, the topic was the Four Thoughts. A similar schedule was followed each day – a combined puja before breakfast, and then Lama Rinchen taught in English during the morning teaching sessions. After lunch, it was the turn of the Congolese when Lama Rinchen taught the same topics, this time in French. What stamina Lama Rinchen displayed – she never seemed to tire!

During the last week of the visit, there were intensive Green Tara practice sessions – a short (1.5 hours) Tara Puja before breakfast, a 2,5 hour Puja after breakfast with 2, 3 and 7 Praises, and another long session after lunch. The days were rounded off with a jubilant Chenrezik Puja with the Congolese in the evenings.

A new group of practitioners manifested from Dzivarasekwa, Zimbabwe, led by Bright and Kevin, who are long-time members of the Zimbabwean Dharma community. The DZ group arrived to welcome Lama Rinchen one morning with two cakes, dancing and praise singing, as instructed by their spirit via the sekhuru. About 40 of these new practitioners took refuge with Lama Rinchen.

 

So many people benefited from this short, whirlwind lama visit. It is not necessarily the actual teaching or retreat topics that are the most important part of visits like these, but the contact with an authentic teacher, who brings the transmission from the lineage masters. Hopefully, some of Lama Rinchen’s qualities of grace and serenity rubbed off a little on us. At the end of her visit, Lama Rinchen expressed an opinion that the future of Dharma was in Africa. The energy and foresight of Akong Rinpoche and others who established the Dharma centres here in southern Africa are paying dividends. Our community is growing and maturing as practitioners, and Dharma in Africa is blooming.

Due to the kindness of Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, (and the persistence of a particular organiser), we will be blessed with future annual visits from the Samye Ling lamas, starting with a four-week visit from Lama Zangmo in July/August 2025, which is something to look forward to.

Sylva, April 2024