Guest article by Kadampa Buddhist monk, Gen Pagpa.
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The education system is in a dire state and there is 50% youth unemployment. However, in the midst of all this, COSAT High School shines out as a beacon of hope.
COSAT is in Khayelitsha Township, Cape Town, South Africa — it stands for the Centre of Science and Technology, and its core subjects are maths and science. Khayelitsha is one of the largest townships in SA, home to more than half a million people.
The retreat and the teachings really help one towards good decision-making and a peaceful mind. In the township there are things that disturb one’s peace, such as gangsterism and other stuff. ~ Elethu, aged 15.
I arrived in South Africa in 2007 to help set up Tushita Kadampa Meditation Centre in Cape Town. On a visit to Kwa-Zulu Natal I witnessed the extraordinary efforts of Patti Joshua to bring the practical teachings of Kadampa Buddhism to the rural communities, as explained more in this article, “Where can I find you?”; and this deeply inspired me to try and share these teachings within the African communities in Cape Town as well.
By connecting with a local hospice called St Luke’s, I have been able to give ongoing meditation sessions to cancer patients at the hospice in township locations. And it was through this that I met Sitheti, a local Anglican priest, who was acting as my interpreter for the IsiXhosa non-English speakers.
Developing a keen affinity with Dharma, Sitheti requested more teachings for other local people, which led to a seminal meeting between myself (a Kadampa Buddhist monk), Sitheti (an Anglican priest), and Phadiela, who is the Muslim principal of COSAT.
Ever since I joined the meditation group my life changed. I became a new person. I quit my old life and welcomed the new me because of meditation. I was not that peaceful from the first time but now I am able to forgive and forget. I was that harsh girl with anger but now I am no longer like that. ~ Mihle, aged 16.
Phadiela was immediately receptive to the idea of introducing meditation classes as part of the weekly extramural activities, so I started going there the following week — initially in sessions tacked onto the end of their drama classes! This was towards the end of 2013, but when I returned in 2014 I was delighted to discover that Phadiela had allocated meditation as a stand-alone extramural activity.
It was really humbling to walk into the classroom for the first time to see twenty smiling and eager students ready to go! Fast-forward to 2018 and these classes have gone from strength to strength. There are currently thirty focused meditation students in attendance, most of whom started in 2016. Here is a 4-minute video about it.
Each meditation session lasts for an hour. We begin with breathing meditation, followed by practical advice on, for example, how to develop and maintain a good heart of loving-kindness. As part of the teaching I encourage them to share their own understanding with the group.
Now I understand and know how to make myself happy. Meditation has been my boss over my emotions. Today I’m a peaceful, forgiving and loving Khanya, just like my name I bring light into the dark world, the problems of anger and pain. ~ Khanya, aged 16.
They always ask to sing the Liberating Prayer and Migtsema prayer, with trust and understanding that they have the freedom of choice to maintain their Christian faith. I also help them expand their English vocabulary and they, in turn, help me to learn their mother tongue IsiXhosa, which is a beautiful click language.
Here are some other testimonials from the students:
If we have inner peace then we realize that there are things we thought we couldn’t do because we did not discover our pure selves. Inner peace helps us to define ourselves and be a great example to others. ~ Alulutho, aged 15.
After the retreat last year I remember having a feeling that everything was ‘golden’. I felt a sense of love for everyone and everything in a way that I had never experienced before. ~ Aviwe, aged 15.
Meditation allows me to step outside the situation, see myself as the observer rather than the victim, and relaxes my body and mind. I turned to meditation as a means to enhance the process of healing and recovery in my breathing condition.
Ever since I started meditating I am less stressed, healthier, sleep better and have a positive outlook on life. It made me a happier person. ~ Lisakhanya, aged 16.
Support the girls
At the end of this year Tushita KMC will be holding the fourth annual COSAT away retreat for 30 learners at a local olive farm. If you would like to help with the retreat funding, please contact: email@example.com. If you are not able to contribute financially, please support us with your thoughts and prayers!
Very inspiring article. This is a great accomplishment and an example to be followed. Everyone involved, especially the students, is clearly benefitting greatly from the meditation sessions.
Great post! Education is so important.
This was very inspirational to my secondary students, immigrants to the US from Mexico and Central America who deal with deep oppression and poverty, lack of understanding in the media, etc. We have done some meditation this year, but in US has to follow mindfulness practices. I showed them the video. Was going to refrain from showing the second part due to the Buddhas, but all three classes insisted, they wanted to see what happened when the students went to Pagpa’s “house” as they called it. Thought that his “house” with the gold Buddhas were very rich, and were surprised he served them orange juice which is so expensive.
But more importantly, in reading their exit slips, most students felt that he was helping them with their anger, and to control and acheive peaceful minds, having studied a little South African poetry and about Apartheid (before they were born) they were impressed with Pagpa’s helping the students with their minds.
This is a wonderful thing to read — worth putting up this guest article just to reach these thoughtful students of yours. May I enquire how you found this article?
Thank you – I am so glad the ripples are being felt by the students there – we are all equal and interconnected – may everyone be completely peaceful and free!
The testimonials are so wonderful and heartwarming. How special to have gained such insights at such a young age. Meditation and how to control our mind should be taught in every school, I pray that it will.
Me too — what a wonderful start to adult life, learning the tools that can really help us solve our problems.
Thank you. It is really inspiring to see how the children have become more and more focused in their meditation, giving them abundant hope and confidence. It would be wonderful to see meditation on school syllabuses throughout the world 🙂
WoW!… What a way to start the Day… With this Inspiring and so… Emotional Post. Gratitude comes to mind to our Teacher Geshe la Kelsang Gyatso when he says; If you practice sincerely with a good motivation free from negative views, I guarantee that you will receive great benefit for your daily happiness…
Thank you, Obrigado…
For the precious holy Dharma
Obrigado Jorge 🙂 I love that guarantee from Venerable Geshe-la.