A beacon to light the future in South Africa

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.

Pagpa and girls in Khayelitsha.jpg

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. Pagpa and Patti

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.

PhadielaPhadiela 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow 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.

Testimonials

Here are some other testimonials from the students:

Cosat students groupIf 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.

Pagpa and girlsSupport 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: info@meditateincapetown.org. If you are not able to contribute financially, please support us with your thoughts and prayers!

Meditating for Gold

Pagpa and the Great Britain Men’s Hockey Team

The earliest recorded Olympic competition occurred in 776 B.C. Buddha Shakyamuni taught in 500 B.C. The ancient Greeks valued physical excellence, and that admiration has continued in the Olympics up to this day. The ancient Buddhists valued mental excellence, and this admiration too has continued amongst meditators to this day.

While in Cape Town on a local tour to play against South Africa and train for the 2012 London Olympics, the Great Britain Men’s Hockey team asked Pagpa at the Kadampa Center in Cape Town to come and teach them how to meditate. Taking a leaf out of the 2500 year-old Buddhist tradition, they are including meditation as part of their regimen for success. As a side effect, they are also reporting increased happiness and well-being 🙂

A calm, balanced, peaceful mind is likened to stable, shining gold in the Kadampa Buddhist Tradition – avoiding the extremes of over-excitement, like glittery diamonds, or dullness, like lead. We will see in October whether the UK hockey team bring home the Olympic gold again, but it seems they’re already making strides toward inner gold. Read on to see what their coach has to say:

“In football there is an old debate about whether or not it is possible to practise in preparation for the infamous penalty shoot-out. The England football team have lost on penalties at late stages of many major competitions. In the ruminations of the incident, football pundits generally agree that you can’t replicate the pressures of the penalty shoot-out, so at best any attempt to practise for it will be limited. It is true that you can’t replicate those pressures, but you can improve the ability to not be distracted by the pressures, to maintain a balanced and calm approach.

We in the Great Britain Men’s Hockey team are using meditation to try and develop this ability, and whilst in South Africa during a training camp we were privileged to be introduced to the power of meditation by our teacher Pagpa from the Tushita Buddhist Centre.

Many of the players reported how inspired they were by Pagpa’s introduction to meditation, and were amazed at the positive potential meditation has for their sporting performance and their general happiness and well-being.

We now integrate meditation time into our day and since doing so there has been a palpable improvement in the mood of the players, despite the increasing pressures they are experiencing as we get closer to the biggest sporting event of their lives; the 2012 London Olympics.

Irrespective of our performance at the Olympics, I am confident that the help Pagpa has given us in using the power of meditation will help us play to our best, whilst keeping a calm and balanced perspective.”

Jason Lee
Great Britain & England Senior Men’s Head Coach

Kadampa Buddhism in South Africa

Pagpa is an old friend. Here is a very quick potted history: Pagpa met Kadampa Buddhism many years ago at Madhyamaka Centre, while I was living there — he peeked his dreadlocked head around the door to Tharpa Publications, where I was working, and introduced himself as the son of two of my parents’ closest friends. He was attending horticultural college in the area, and then he moved into Madhyamaka Centre and became the laid-back gardener, until Geshe Kelsang scooped him out and asked him to be Director of NKT mother ship Manjushri Centre. From there he went to Malaysia to teach Buddhism for several years, until he was requested to teach in South Africa.

Pagpa and other religious leaders opening the World Cup Stadium 2011

Since he has been there, as well as teaching in Cape Town he has managed to open the World Cup stadium and help his fellow teacher and monk Sangdak bring Buddha’s teachings to Zululand. He and Sangdak are having way too much fun out there. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Sangdak in Zululand