Where can I find you?

patti-and-schoolchildrenPatti Joshua has “brought hope, freedom, and inner peace to minds that didn’t believe that hope and freedom were possible,” according to a Buddhist monk in South Africa. She helped supply clean water to many rural communities over many years, and in the last year alone created 280 meditation classes at 27 rural schools all around Zululand, holding 2,100 sessions with 225 educators and no fewer than 11,039 learners. I hope you have a few minutes to watch this powerful video.


This video has been shown to principals at other schools in South Africa and opened the door for the healing power of meditation to be also introduced at those schools. ~ Kadampa teacher in South Africa

Patti has inspired me since I first learned about her work. I want to become a Bodhisattva like her, I really want to be like her. A devoted disciple of Geshe Kelsang, she said of the book Transform Your Life, especially the chapter on Accepting Defeat and Offering the Victory:

I tried to practice it and it worked. Incredible patience, love and compassion came out of it.

She then “used these amazing teachings from Geshe-la on Transform Your Life” in schools, rural communities, prisons — discovering that even with those “very ill with HIV, they realized they can still be happy, happiness from within.”trumpet.JPG

According to the same Buddhist monk: “The results of the school project have been swift and encouraging, with teachers, students, headmasters, and district officials all deeply inspired by what they have learned from the precious Dharma appearing in their lives in the form of Mam Patti and the beautiful Kadam Dharma from Venerable Geshe Kelsang in Transform Your Life.”

After a teaching on the Life of Buddha miles from anywhere, one little boy put his hand up … and, wanting to know more, he asked urgently,

Where can I find you?

Can you imagine having a life of such meaning, where you bring so much hope to others that they want to know how they can find you again? Spectacles held together with a paper clip, Patti’s life has been yet infinitely rich.

And the thing is, I have the same Spiritual Guide and exactly the same teachings, and there is no reason why I cannot do what Patti has done. I believe the same is true for you.

In Meaningful to Behold, Geshe-la says:

Nowadays, with the world in turmoil, there is a particular need for westerners to cultivate bodhichitta. If we are to make it through these perilous times, true Bodhisattvas must appear in the West as well as in the East.

“My heart will grow and grow until it fills the whole world.” ~ Ntuthuko

On September 28th, Patti was killed in a tragic road accident on her way to Richards Bay.

Here is another powerful video showing just what we have lost. Like Tessa, however, another of Venerable Geshe-la’s incredible disciples taken from our world too soon, I believe that Patti will now always be a light for the path.

Pay it forward

At her transference of consciousness puja on Friday, a teacher in South Africa told beautiful stories of her life, and said:

patti-black-and-whitePatti is greatly admired, respected, and loved by so many people in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, and around the world. She was a kind mother, daughter, wife, grandmother, mentor, teacher and Sangha friend to thousands of people. Her passing away is a poignant reminder that we all have to die and have no idea about when our death will come. The best way to honour Patti’s life is to embody the principles of joyful and loving kindness that she lived by, and to keep in mind “I may die today.”

And, as her family put it:

Yesterday we lost our mom…. Our hope is that you take the love she shared with you and pay it forward.

I realized earlier that I have no idea how old Patti is, and I couldn’t care less. She is timeless. Age can neither defy nor define a Bodhisattva, any more than can the sufferings of sickness, death, or rebirth. For she or he is a hero at any age, always a son or daughter of the Buddhas in line for the throne of enlightenment.

A true Bodhisattva

Here is what one good friend of Patti told me:

Mama Patti Joshua, a true Bodhisattva Heroine, a beautiful example of the practice of Dharma, an unwavering dedicated friend to everyone, especially the communities in rural Zululand and beyond, her inspiration lives on in all the thousands of hearts she touched, nurtured and guided. 

Patti translating into Zulu.jpgAnyone who had the good fortune to meet Patti would understand from just a little time spent with this very special lady that she was there for others. Her kind, wise and compassionate ways had a depth that could pacify, heal, encourage; and in a just a few words, or a gentle look from her, there would be hope and strength in the hearts of those she was touching. Whenever we spoke of Patti in our Centres here in South Africa, our minds would turn to Mother Tara — swift, kind, selfless, a liberator from sorrow, Patti is all the above and we are all deeply inspired and our hearts touched by the actions of our own venerable lady. 

Patti worked tirelessly under the most uncertain of conditions with very little external resources, rural Africa is no playground for us spoilt urbanites, we would snap, turn to jelly. With her tremendous faith in Geshe-la and her teachers, and the power of Kadam Dharma, nothing was an obstacle for her. Her patient acceptance could absorb any situation, transforming it into a beautiful smile on her face, her eyes shining brightly through her glasses held together by a paper clip, she always had a plan. She had to, with hardly any money to pay for things, she depended on the kindness of others, such faith, and through her ocean of inner wealth she accomplished so much in her community and beyond. Quiet, yet everyone knew about her, gentle yet everyone appreciated her out-of-the-ordinarypower, loving and determined. When you were with Patti, you could feel she was focusing on your potential, drawing that out of you, gently, peacefully creating a vision together – you were always encouraged by her graceful presence.

She always had space in her heart for one more — one more community, one more person, one more class, one more child to hold, one more person to try to feed, one more person to encourage — her heart could take them all, almost naturally, without a huff or a puff, or a what about me, it wasn’t about her. Everyone was a part of her family.

We pray that this work may continue in some form, for Patti’s presence here is deeply missed. 

Always space in her heart for one more

If we exchange our self with others, we will always have space in our heart for one more. patti-tribute-to-ven-geshe-laAnd we will get good things done. Compare this to self-cherishing, where we are consumed with one person, ourselves, and which has got us precisely nowhere since beginningless time. There is a beautiful verse in Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra, which Patti seemed to exemplify:

Since throughout beginningless time until now, the root of all my suffering has been           my self-cherishing mind,
I must expel it from my heart, cast it afar, and cherish only other living beings.

As another friend put it:

She always seemed to be doing everything for others all at once, and all of it effortlessly, without any drama or fuss.

The object of both our self-grasping ignorance and our self-cherishing is the same – the patti-with-small-groupself that I normally perceive. Self-grasping grasps it as existing, and self-cherishing thinks that it is most important. But that self does not exist! Which explains why self-grasping and self-cherishing are doomed to failure, every time. Far better, and far more sane, to follow Patti’s example instead.

So I made myself a promise today. Whenever I notice that I am starting to feel sorry for myself, for whatever reason, I am going to try to remember Patti and the thousands of people who loved her with good reason. That is one way to pay it forward. And then one day all of our epitaphs might also say:

Where can I find you?!


Patti’s funeral was held on Saturday in Eshowe, and the obituary is now in the comments below. A website is going to be set up for tributes and I will link to it. Please feel free to write in the comments of this article too.


Thank you to the 2 close friends of Mam Patti in South Africa who co-wrote this article with me.


Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

21 thoughts on “Where can I find you?”

  1. Patti’s obituary

    In life, leadership means more than making the big decisions on what is to be done. It means being able to inspire and motivate people to action, through one’s own action and example. We know leaders who walk this path in the glare of the media spotlight. But there’s another category of leader who hardly ever makes the news; the tireless, grassroots worker – head down, shoulder to the wheel – ever striving to better the lives of communities, for little to no pay. For ordinary South Africans living through desperate times, these unassuming leaders are real lifelines. The Eshowe area has lost one of those precious lifelines.

    Patti Lorraine Joshua was a well-known and respected community organiser who spent her life helping communities in the area and surrounding areas, through numerous social upliftment initiatives she launched and worked on. That life of service ended tragically, at age 62, after a road accident. Patti was born in the Gingindlovu area, into a family defined by community engagement. Even before she began her social transformation work she was blazing trials, opening the first black-owned hairdressing salon allowed to operate in Eshowe’s CBD in 1979.

    It wasn’t long before her passion for people and empowerment led her to her calling. A fluent isiZulu speaker, Patti founded the Senzokhule CBO network, an organization that hosted a broad range of community-run projects in the Eshowe area from feeding programmes to skills training workshops to literacy and peacemaking campaigns. Her lifelong mission to uplift and heal – which began as a practitioner of natural healing therapies like reflexology – came full circle in more recent years, taking on a more spiritual tone after she embraced the Buddhist faith in 2002 and later becoming a resident Teacher in 2012. She brought the therapeutic value of meditation, she found in her own life, into her work. In response to the impact of trauma and hardship on the communities she served, Patti introduced rural residents to group meditation. The results can be seen in a poignant YouTube video documenting her groundbreaking ‘Transform Your Life’ programme, as children describe how meditation has helped to cope and find inner peace. Patti offered the same benefits to prisoners as well.

    Today, we honour the life of an exemplary human being who put the needs and care of others first – an internationally recognized humanitarian who was as humble as she was determined, always seeking solutions. The many who knew and loved Patti will miss her big smile and easy laugh (she could find the humour in almost anything!) that made it easy for others to engage with her, as she opened her heart to all. She lived Ubuntu. In this tragedy, we as her family know that her wish would be to not be held up as a hero but rather as an example of how we should pay goodness forward. Patti was a loving wife, a devoted mother, a caring grandmother and a trusted friend. She is survived by her husband Trevor Joshua, her sons Kelsang Phuntsog, Arthur Joshua and Carl Joshua, her daughter Adelaide Joshua-Hill and four grandchildren.

  2. Tremendous. I watched the lovely video first THEN read and found out that she passed only a few days ago in a crash…it was devastating to me. What a loss but what a find! I’m so inspired, thank you for sharing. Pete

  3. Carrying food with Patti at the Summer Festival 2016 it felt again that I was working with my Mother… She enjoy in a way my shouting of “Hot Food Coming” and we would talk over about when was i moving to the North Coast Of Natal… Well; I’m coming soon… knowing her… i can ear this whispering; “Miss me but let me go to the Pure Land of Buddha” Okay… Then, Thank you Patti for been such a Good Mother in this life and for touching so… many around YOU xx j.

  4. Wow….Thank you for the videos and sharing the life of Patti Joshua. I didn’t know about her, or the book she has taught from, until now. My heart goes out to everyone close to her, and to all of us who are trying in our own ways to cultivate inner-peace and awareness. Namaste. May this work continue and continue, rippling out. Inspired and grateful, and very moved ~ Blessings.

  5. My sympathy, love, prayer and heart goes to Patti’s family. Thank you Luna for writing this very touching and powerful article! Tears just filled my eyes and heart when I read this amazing bodhisattvas’s stories.
    It’s so inspiring that I feel I have to rearrange my life priority and practice so I can follow her example to spread the Kadam dharma to touch many people’s lives. I see her smiling face among all the dakinis in the Dakini Land. She has not gone far but is in our heart… what a perfect example to practice and teach dharma! With all my love and prayer!

  6. What an inspiring life story of what one individual with Bodhichitta motivation can do to empower and change others lives (makes me think of Geshe’la’s life work). I never met Patti, but I feel I know her through her actions and will look at my own life to muster some of what Patti was able to do in this world. I was especially struck with “accepting defeat and offering the victory” as a motto she lived by (often times not the first teaching in Dharma that we gravitate towards) and she described how “incredible patience, love and compassion” came out of that practice. I’m sure she is in the Pure Land, continuing her work to liberate us all from suffering.
    Much love.

  7. I met Mrs. Patti only once at Manjushri Temple, six or five years ago. We never exchanged a single word, but this lady had such a strong presence, such a strong light that I could not help stop looking at her. Now, after reading this article, I realised why she had such a magnetic strenght.

  8. At the learners retreat camp near Cape Town last December Patti was so kind and caring to the group of teenage girls who were attending their first ever meditation retreat. She inspired six of them to travel by bus for 24 hrs each way to attend the SA national Kadampa festival in Durban. She hosted them at a hostel along with a large group of Zulu people from the rural areas, who filled a whole bus. She made sure they were all comfortable and cared for where they stayed, shepherded them to the festival sessions and served as the translator for the Zulu people to be able to listen to the teachings and meditations.

    A few weeks ago Patti emailed me the picture from the meditation day retreat she gave to the Zulu learners at the Centre in Eshowe – see picture above with Patti wearing the red t-shirt. I love that her t-shirt says ‘out of the ordinary’. I replied ‘out of the ordinary indeed!’

    The radiant light of her loving kindness will keep on shining brightly.

  9. What a truly inspiring loving woman! Just from reading this tribute and watching these videos.. I feel so overwhelmed with love and warmth. My heart goes out to family and friends worldwide. How fortunate you all are to be apart of her life. I really hope these projects continue here in South Africa, I would love to be apart of them and to make a huge difference in others lives. With love & sincerest gratitude, Niki (Cape Town, South Africa).

  10. I only met Patti once for a very brief moment in the bookshop at Manjushri but knew instantly how special she was she gave me some of her dharma wisdom and the memory of meeting Her was of meeting an emenation of Tara. I feel blessed to have met her and send love and sympathy to her family and friends

  11. Dearest Trevor, Adelaide and the entire Joshua family, our sympathy, prayers and thoughts are with you I know that Patti will ever be in all of our hearts and that the work that she so lovingly threw herself into, body and soul, will long continue. Wouldnt it be wonderful if we all modelled ourselves on Patti’s example. Sending love to you all.

  12. Very powerful this article. I felt pushing, to practice more vigorously, avoiding laziness and discouragement. Thank you, was very powerful, and inspiration to me. May I put the Dharma into practice, as well as Patti did.

  13. Thank you for writing this wonderful tribute for my mom Luna. Mommy has been my hero for so long. When I was young I never understood why I had to share her but as I grew older I realised how blessed I was because I shared her. She taught me so much and I know that from the stories I hear of her, she will teach me so much more.

    Again thank you for this tribute. My mom was more then my mom she was my friend and I will forever try and be a little more like her every day.

    1. I really appreciate you writing this comment, Adelaide. My heart is with you. Thank you so much for sharing your precious Mom with us all. I hope I get to meet you one day.

  14. Thank’s for your beautiful text, it put English words on the little experience I had with sister Patti. Her life is an exemple of a real bodhisattva life. We could feel that strong patience, love, compassion just seating with her. I feel fortunate to shared moments with her in a summer festival

  15. You do you know. You exemplify Geshe-la’s good example. Ah my heart is tender tonight. What a beautiful example to follow.

  16. Our beautiful Aunty. Gone to soon but forever an angel in the lives of so many. May we use her careless and selfless ways to help others around us.

    Thank you for your beautiful words. We cannot make the trip and are grateful for articles and memories shared of this beautiful soul we called ‘Aunty’ and ‘Mum’.

  17. What a wonderful memorial story Luna! Really feel the love for and of Patti in this article. And very inspiring to see how this all goes beyond good and bad, life and death, straight to the core essence – Bodhicitta.

    Thank you for sharing her story. I wish Patti well and she’ll be in my prayers, along with all beings. It’s a great reminder that i can work for the benefit of others without getting caught up in mind games. It is possible and it’s an honor to be able to work towards just that.

    Om Mani Padme Hung

  18. Breathtakingly beautiful tribute Luna – thank you so much! I am so inspired by reading about Patti’s selfless and giving nature. Another example of how much can be accomplished from one persons loving heart – Just like our Guru. Keeping her extraordinary example in my mind I will ‘pay it forward’ in her honor. Om Mani Peme Hum….adding my prayers to the collective pot while knowing she’s already reached the pure land. My heart goes out to all those that will miss her so.

  19. What a beautiful story of how Buddha’s teachings through Geshe-la and his disciples can reach just everyone of this world, and an incredible woman who helped make that happen. Very inspiring! Thank you, Luna and friends. May all the Buddhas swiftly take Patti to the Pure Land, and may her work continue in South Africa through others. Love, Gary

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