The thief left it behind: the moon at my window - Ryokan

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Infinite Heart

infinite Love : in all things and everywhere

My sense is we can never 'share' or 're-live' an experience.
We can speak 'around it', point to it, tell tales or draw pictures to illustrate
- but the experience itself can only be experienced with awareness.

The experience can only be experienced in the present
once experienced
it is in the past
- a memory or fantasy
not 'the thing itself'

Since the beginnings of time beings have been on a search
to experience the utter sacredness of all
to find meaning of Be-ing

Endless books have been written, tales told, paintings painted and
The Enlightened Ones in their compassion have left us trails and signs
and we each walk a path on our Life's Journey

and every path leads to
Oneness which is beyond words
which only takes place in the present

So can I share an experience
I can only invite you to experience it...

gratitude, love, wonder, awe, devotion, surrender ... words keep flowing in the attempt...

... Be-ing whispers its heart-language as sacred prayer.
No words, just surrender, devotion, infinite love ...

the Infinite Heart is realised

No matter what our path
unobstructed, receptive Be-ing in the moment
- the Divine flows through the window

in the thunder of silence
Many Windows
One light
raising Gaia's vibrations


Bowing to Beloved Guruji [Swamiji Sraddhasudhasharananda, also lovingly known as Swamiji Eli] who brought the GIFT of The Gaia Minute to all of us


The Gaia Minute has two aspects:
1. Sincere prayer by 1,500-2,000 people EACH day at the SAME appointed time.
2. At the individual level, Prayer as Daily Practice.

"... morning and night, for 9 minutes beginning at 9:09, in each participant’s time zone, this Divine Mandate – will join my heart with yours in combined prayer. An hourly wave that takes place on opposite sides of the globe simultaneously, every hour. Every hour, somewhere, it will be 9:09.
Please consider also, if both morning or night at 9:09 in your time zone, does not work for you, that you may also define time by the word MUHURTA, the moment of NOW. As noted, at 9 past the hour, someone, somewhere, will eventually be part of this prayer project and will be meditating with you."
Swamiji Sraddhasudhasharananda

sign in

practice The Gaia Minute daily

also join Siona's GAIA MINUTE CALL

organise a Gaia Minute prayer group where you live



Share experiences

Do you have a Gaia Minute link?

Prayers and Meditations

Spreading the message

Om Namo Narayanam


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farewell to FaceBook

For some time now my facebook account has been hacked. Although my profile page is visible, I have been unable to post, comment, etc. Now I have also been disabled to login, make inquiries about my password etc.

I would like to be able to login one final time in order to close my account and have written a request to FaceBook admin to close my account for me as I am unable to do so myself.

This morning I remembered that when I post a blog here from my HummingBird blogsite, it automatically shows up on FaceBook and so I'm attempting this avenue as an opportunity to say farewell to FaceBook - not to my friends and beloveds.

Those wishing to stay in contact are welcome to do so in the Gaia network where my name is hummingbird and my profile page is

I receive my Face Book notifications and have been sorry not to be able to respond to them. I would be grateful if those who read this message pass the word on so those who don't know, so they understand why I have not responded.

I have asked my daughter Natalie, who has lovingly downloaded all my photo albums, to post an explanation in my group 'passing', which I am most sorry to say goodbye to, but know all is as it must be and it will be in good hands. Those who wish to join in the Gaia Network which is a similar group are most welcome - it is a very compassionate and interactive group.

Clearly I am not meant to be here any longer. Thank you for the wonder filled journey together and may those who feel a connection contact me on Gaia - and those who don't wish to join another network, know the heart is the best meeting place of all

love a


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gaia Minute

Beautiful teaching on prayer
Join us on Gaia minute


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Guide To Prayer Prepared For The Gaia Minute

Great blessings!

It is so wonderful to hear this simple but powerful teaching

Guide To Prayer Prepared For The Gaia Minute -

What we’re asking here is pray, just pray.
Pray… Pray… Pray…
Gaia needs your prayers.
Just pray with total surrender,
in complete faith…
and that prayer collectively done –
at least 1,000 or 1,500 people,
done at the same time,
will generate the positive healing energy for all of us.
Not asking for anyone special,
not even for the betterment of general life.
Just surrender and praying.
Om Namo Narayanam.

If you keep your palms upside down,
how can you hold the blessings in your palm.
So to receive the prayers also,
to receive the blessings also,
you are to turn your palm the right way up and receive it.
Praying is that.
Although we know that the blessings are around,
but to be aware of the blessings
we’re to put our palm the right way up
so that it comes into our palm.
That is the prayer which has the maximum power.

p bows


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian 5 day Retreat conducted by Thich Nhat Hanh

I found this 5 day retreat series conducted by The Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. I have collected the whole series together so the retreat may be at the disposal of anyone wishing ‘to attend’. For any one giving this retreat the time it deserves there will be great benefit. Simply click the links below.

With metta, a

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a poet, a scholar, and a peace activist. His life long efforts to generate peace and reconciliation moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây) teaches, writes, and gardens in Plum Village, France, a Buddhist monastery for monks and nuns and a mindfulness practice centre for lay people. More about Plum Village

A long-term exile from Vietnam, he was allowed to return for a trip in 2005 and again in 2007. He has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He also publishes a quarterly Dharma talk in the journal of the Order of Interbeing, The Mindfulness Bell. Nhat Hanh continues to be active in the peace movement, promoting non-violent solutions to conflict. He conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007. He was awarded the Courage of Conscience award June 16, 1991. More

Day 1

Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 1 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 2 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 3 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 4 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 5 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 6 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 7 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 8 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 9 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 10 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 1 of 5 - Part 11 of 11

Day 2

Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 1 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 2 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 3 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 4 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 5 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 6 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 7 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 8 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 9 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 10 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 11 of 12
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 2 of 5 - Part 12 of 12

Day 3

Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 1 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 2 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 3 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 4 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 5 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 6 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 7 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 8 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 9 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 10 of 11
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 3 of 5 - Part 11 of 11

Day 4

Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 1 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 2 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 3 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 4 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 5 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 6 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 7 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 8 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 9 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 10 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 11 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 12 of 13
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 4 of 5 - Part 13 of 13

Day 5

Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 1 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 2 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 3 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 4 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 5 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 6 of 7
Israeli-Palestinian Retreat - Day 5 of 5 - Part 7 of 7


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gaia Minute

: 9:09 :
The Gaia Minute
a sacred time to beam your light, chant a holy mantra or say a prayer for 9 minutes

Each day at 9:09 in the morning and/or evening, let us contribute to the peace and harmony of Gaia, our Mother Earth, by raising our vibration and holding in our hearts all sentient and insentient beings.

To do so, we can pray, meditate, hold intention or simply visualize all Gaia, and ourselves, as healed, healing, whole, radiant. When thousands of people join together in an endeavour such as this, the energies so generated can bring miraculous changes. And when each of us does this in our own time zone, our Mother Earth and all of benefit from a round-the-clock and round the world healing. An hourly wave will take place on opposite sides of the globe simultaneously, every hour.

Every hour – somewhere - it is 9:09

The idea is for 1,000 or more people to focus positive energy on earth and beings living on earth, simultaneously

Go ahead - join The Gaia Minute in your space!

If you wish you can also click to read the history - The Gaia Minute

- Spread the word -

love from Swamiji and all at One Light Many Windows

* * *
you can also
Conference call and participate with others
from all over Earth in a guided meditation


Dial-in Number: 1 (218) 862 1300
Conference Code: 855 676

Siona says -
'... those who are able and interested, I'd like to invite you .... to a virtual weekly gathering. Each Monday, at 9:09 am MST (GMT-7), I'll be hosting a brief guided meditation intended to help strengthen the connection between us each and benefit more fully from the power of a shared positive intent. I hope you can join me.'

Step out of the circle of time
And into the circle of love
- Rumi -


see also here



the heart holds nothing
yet is full

sitting in this fullness
nothing to hold

beloved Swamiji
thank you for the gift of your loving ways

the seeds you have sown

the myriad gifts you impart

- may they s
pread their branches
like wings

and soar


Note Some of the seeds planted and nurtured by Swamiji -
One Light many Windows
The Gaia Minute


Tuesday, September 15, 2009



Sharing my post in One Light Many Windows, and some Rumi ...

I woke from a dream this morning round forgiveness. My dream chose deep seated subliminal material. Gien and I talked and processed - I, muddling along between intellect and heart tears. I realised, we simply cannot always understand - the intellect cannot always 'work it out'. Otherwise I could spend the rest of my life trying to unravel the details, trying to understand why someone did the particular harmful deed they did, or why I did something in my past which I would not do today, and still get no closer to the answer.

It becomes so clear when I think of my children. They aren't 'perfect' in all their actions, yet no matter what they do or will do, I love them. I hold no grievances. And it is this same approach needed for all beings. Forgiveness comes with unconditional love.

It always comes back to the spiritual path. Developing awareness - intellect just is not the same thing. Mmm, so…

The Buddha said

“Everything is so perfect you may as well
throw your head back to the sky and laugh.”

The Intellectual

The intellectual is always showing off;
the lover is always getting lost.

The intellectual runs away, afraid of drowning;
the whole business of love is to drown in the sea.

Intellectuals plan their repose;
lovers are ashamed to rest.

The lover is always alone, even surrounded with people;
like water and oil, he remains apart.

The man who goes to the trouble of giving advice to a lover gets nothing.
He's mocked by passion.

Love is like musk.
It attracts attention.

Love is a tree, and lovers are its shade.


It's the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. he falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.

Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.

Not Like This Before

I wasn't like this before. I wasn't out of my mind and senses.
Once I used to be wise like you, not crazy, insane and broken down like I am now.

I wasn't the admirer of life which has no trace, no being.
I used to ask : "Who is this?
What is that?"
and search all the time.

Since you have wisdom,
sit and think
that probably I was like this before.
I haven't changed much.

I used to try
to make myself better than everybody.
I hadn't been hunted
with the ever-growing Love before.

I tried to rise above the sky
with my ambition
yet I didn't know.
I was just wandering in the desert.
At the end,
I have raised a treasure from the ground.


Thank you Swamiji Eli for this nurturing discussion topic


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When a beloved passes

“Last year at the end of August my father died.... I loved my father very much and for some months after he died I entered a strange sort of place. I found out I couldn’t relate to many things I usually do. So much seemed utterly irrelevant. I didn’t feel depressed, in fact looking back it was as if part of me was sort of in the realm of the dead, with my father in some way, kind of seeing him through. But so much in ordinary life, so much of peoples concerns, what people wanted to know, what people were concerned about, seemed pointless. Meaning was in the experience of mourning my father’s passing. Of fully acknowledging his passing. Meaning was in the experience of meeting people heart to heart. They as living, breathing beings. Meaning was in fact looking at leaves in the sunlight or listening to bird song in the early morning. Meaning was in these things. So much else seemed like empty noise.”


This morning while I was driving my son Neville to school, we were listening these words in a recording of a teaching by Padmavajra from Padmaloka Retreat Centre. As I heard him describe his experience at the time of the death of his father, I felt for the 1st time that my experience at the time of Gra-anna’s passing and the year that followed had been put into words - I said to Neville, ‘that’s just how I felt!’... and to some extent still feel. It’s as though the passing my child has forever made an imprint on me. What I’m more conscious of these days is how she has opened my heart to compassion. I am aware that through her I feel the suffering of all beings. She has torn my heart wide open.

The other day, Courtney, who was like a sister to Gra-anna, therefore a daughter to me, said she felt that with Gra-anna’s passing my spiritual journey began. I hesitated because in a sense I’ve always been on a spiritual journey. My precious mentor for seven years, Bill Ainslie, whose 20th memorial it is today, was a formative person in my life in terms of raising my awareness in so many ways. Among so much else, he introduced me to the stories of Mullah Nasrudin and Rumi’s poetry, which Gra-anna loved. But certainly it is true that I have never been the same since Gra-anna’s passing.

Look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life

why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows
right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be




Sunday, August 16, 2009

Silenced by the thunder of blessings, we are the rain...

Buddhist Relics Tour 2009, Johannesburg South Africa


Please click here to see photograph album

The Buddhist Relic Tour was a great success on it's 1st visit to Africa. More than 2000 people visited Lam Rim Centre in Johannesburg to see the relics. There was a great sense of peacefulness and gentleness on every person’s face as they left the centre.

I am still assimilating the experience and sense it's going to take many weeks to do this. Somehow words are not flowing now - though the eyes do! I am grateful that Gien has written about his experiences here

Geshe Lama Konchog glowing relic

Geshe Lama Konchog

On the last day while Venerable Nyingje was speaking, one of the Relics belonging to Geshe Lama Konchog started to glow

Venerable Nyingje

Venerable Samden who also accompanied the Relics Tour


Saturday, August 1, 2009

7 Years

It is raining today, Jopoa.
I see your traces
like lines on a tortoise shell
each time I look into Giens warm heart
your ancient lined face
made gold by the alchemy of love

this love between you two
I place on my inner shrine
next to Gra-anna's face
I see…

an ancient woman holding the hand of a young man
each adoring the other
and a young woman with beauty in her sad eyes
- sorrow - the source
of the River of Eternal Compassion

7 years,
a sacred and complete cycle in time
It's raining today, Jopoa
this day of your memorial

I do not ask, 'where are you now'
or wish to hold you with questions.
May you be surrounded by that which you truly are


In this picture you are with precious beings
- your daughter, the mother of your\my precious 'Sum Goon Day',
main artery to your\my heart,
Gien, your grandson,
my husband


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Johannesburg and random google findings

December in Johannesburg

december in johannesburg
brought the heat wave
so familiar

to an anger torn again in
a brittle feeling of windswept leaves
high pitched laughter in
soweto shebeens and lilywhite
close corporate parties before a final
predictable violence of words
dying of maimed wounds in a brisk
afternoon of illegitimate reason.
another heat wave back home in gwalior
had cracked the north end fort wall
assaulting repeatedly the loneliness of
an earthy immortality
and sudden moments of madness that had once grappled
to stay in the shade of
your eye.

Amitabh Mitra

City Johannesburg

This way I salute you:
My hand pulses to my back trousers pocket
Or into my inner jacket pocket
For my pass, my life,
Jo'burg City.
My hand like a starved snake rears my pockets
For my thin, ever lean wallet,
While my stomach groans a friendly smile to hunger,
Jo'burg City.
My stomach also devours coppers and papers
Don't you know?
Jo'burg City, I salute you;
When I run out, or roar in a bus to you,
I leave behind me, my love,
My comic houses and people, my dongas and my ever whirling dust,
My death
That's so related to me as a wink to the eye.
Jo'burg City
I travel on your black and white and roboted roads
Through your thick iron breath that you inhale
At six in the morning and exhale from five noon.
Jo'burg City
That is the time when I come to you,
When your neon flowers flaunt from your electrical wind,
That is the time when I leave you,
When your neon flowers flaunt their way through the falling darkness
On your cement trees.
And as I go back, to my love,
My dongas, my dust, my people, my death,
Where death lurks in the dark like a blade in the flesh,
I can feel your roots, anchoring your might, my feebleness
In my flesh, in my mind, in my blood,
And everything about you says it, That, that is all you need of me.
Jo'burg City, Johannesburg,
Listen when I tell you,
There is no fun, nothing, in it,
When you leave the women and men with such frozen expressions,
Expressions that have tears like furrows of soil erosion,
Jo'burg City, you are dry like death,
Jo'burg City, Johannesburg, Jo'burg City.

Mongane Wally Serote


Please don’t show your soul to me
I think I’d see the light shine through
And please don’t greet me on the street
I’d like to see a world without you
Please don’t change your uniform
And start to mourn the thousands dead
And please wear what you’ve always worn
And don’t be drawn by what I’ve said

’cause I’ve found there’s nothing more
That I could say to you
Nothing I could do to change your mind
Change your ways and your tune

So please don’t feel you have to sway
Or move away from how you feel
And please say what you mean to say
And always stay with a heart of steel


Walking the poem that is Joburg.....

Portrait with Keys

Trade Paperback, 211 pages
RRP: R140, ISBN 1-4152-0020-3
Publication date: June 2006, Category: Memoir

A book about a city that has been described as ‘the Venice of the South’, Portrait with Keys is a portrait of life in Johannesburg – and ‘what-what’: home, habit, change, memory, mortality, friendship, ghosts, gardens, walking, falling, selling, stealing ... Neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, the book consists of 138 short texts organised in two parts – Point A and Point B – followed by Notes and Sources, Itineraries and an Author’s Note. Written by a consummate literary artist, this is a unique dossier of city life and a selective self-portrait of the author – in Ivan Vladislavić’s words “a bit like a map that shows only the side streets”.
Memory takes root only half in the folds of the brain: half’s in the concrete streets we’ve lived along. – Lionel Abrahams, poet and author.
Winner of the 2007 Alan Paton Award.
Winner of the 2007 University of Johannesburg Prize for the best creative work in English.
From Portrait with Keys, Point A, section 68
“In Johannesburg, the Venice of the South, the backdrop is always a man-made one. We have planted a forest the birds endorse. For hills we have mine dumps covered with grass. We do not wait for time and the elements to weather us, we change scenery ourselves, to suit our moods. Nature is for other people, in other places ...

Written over eight years, Ivan Vladislavić’s Portrait with Keys - Joburg & What What is a sequence of 138 passages depicting a shifting Johannesburg.

What motivated you to write Portrait with Keys – Joburg & What What?
A while ago, I was approached by Graham Friedman, who was putting together a celebratory anthology for the 70th birthday of Johannesburg writer, author and poet Lionel Abrahams. In preparing my piece for that book, I looked over a lot of the work that Lionel had done and I was struck by how much it had to do with the city. It got me interested in Johannesburg in a new way. I started making some notes towards a book of some kind, though I wasn’t sure what kind of book it would be. The next major momentum came when I was editing a book on SA architecture and my co-editor more or less insisted that I write something for the book, so I produced a piece called Street Addresses, which looked at sites around the city; that was the core of the book.

What is it about Johannesburg that interests you?
It’s different things. The way that the book grew also reflects my different interests in the city.

How long did it take you to write the book?
It’s hard to quantify because the pieces were collected over eight years. I worked on it in concentrated periods; when I was commissioned to produce a sequence of texts for a publication I would work on that in quite a concentrated way for a couple of months, but in the interim I was working on many other things.

In the years that you’ve lived in Johannesburg, how has your perception of the city changed?
I was born and raised in Pretoria and I came to Johannesburg as a student to study at Wits. When I came here I was a nice Pretoria boy and Johannesburg had this reputation for being really fast, dangerous, big and English. I’ve grown to appreciate what’s interesting about the city; I don’t think it’s a place that reveals itself obviously, you have to work quite hard to find the things that are pleasurable about living here. Often living in Johannesburg feels like hard work, but it’s also an extraordinary place with a lot of character.

Yes, because Johannesburg is aesthetically quite an unattractive city but it also has places of exquisite and surprising beauty.
I agree, but for me there’s even a beauty in the shabby, industrial side of Johannesburg. There’s nothing quite like driving on a Johannesburg highway alongside one of the industrial wastelands and seeing the remains of a factory or a mine; I think those places have a decrepit appeal to them.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
That’s difficult to answer. I suppose one of the challenges was making a coherent book out of the collection because it was written over such a long period.

Did you edit some of the older pieces at all before putting them all together?
I specifically didn’t change things. I was tempted to because the city changes so quickly and one’s perceptions of it change too. There were certainly observations about parts of the city that were no longer quite true and by the time I put the book together it was clear that I was thinking differently about things; but I thought there was a value in keeping the pieces as they were because it’s a documentary text.

The criteria for the Alan Paton Award say the book must ’illuminate truthfulness, especially those forms that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power.’ How does your book do this?
That’s a sweeping and grand statement; it’s not something that I, as a writer, would comment on easily about my own work. What I was trying to do was illuminate a few small corners of my own experience of the city. If that strikes a chord with other people, if they feel like I’ve captured something that rings true, that would be gratifying for me. I suspect that Johannesburg is a city of many truths.

How has democracy changed writing in South Africa?
We’ve been freed from an obsessive focus on the political. Writers have more freedom of movement both literally and imaginatively; there’s no sense of having to carry around the past and I think that’s reflected in our writing.

Having said that, do you think there is anything particularly lacking in South African literature?
The main thing lacking in SA literature is readers, but that’s another story. I think there’s so much to write about here, and not just about contemporary society, there’s still so much to write about the past. Having said that, we’re free to write more creatively and imaginatively and look at a much broader range of subjects. I don’t think that means that writers shouldn’t be looking at the past. The amount of information becomes more available and the kind of overview that you might need to write a really large, inclusive novel about apartheid becomes more possible as the period recedes a bit. That’s one area that’s still open to writers.

When, how and where do you write?
I write at night. I understand the virtues of writing early in the morning but they don’t work for me. I don’t have a rigid writing programme because I work as an editor as well. My rule is to write consistently. If you’re going to produce work regularly, you have to write regularly; it has to become a habitual thing.

What lessons did you learn from writing this book?
I learnt the lesson I learn from every book that I write — that it’s hard.

Which writers do you admire most?
It’s a shifting group of writers that changes all the time. I have certain favourite writers that I go back to a lot. I’ve just started reading Charles van Onselen’s The Fox and the Flies and that sort of work really impresses me.

What do you think separates the great writers from the good?
I think that some writers and artists are born with a gift; there’s an element of luck with genetics involved. I think what really sets the great writers apart is hard work; the ability to pursue your writing interests over a long time.

What impact would you like Portrait with Keys – Joburg & What What to have on those who read it?
I don’t think too much about that. I would hope that people find it diverting and engaging and that they recognise some corners of their own city in it.

If you were deserted on an island, which book would you take with you?
I would take a self-help book like Robinson Crusoe or The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Forgot the moon

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the beginning...

Chinese language classes are being introduced into a school in South Africa ...


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Imagining giving the Dalai Lama a birthday present...


It is His Holiness the Dalai Lama's birthday in a few days.

Would you like to give him a birthday present?

The idea of having the opportunity of giving His Holiness a birthday present just fills me with complete, dancing on my finger tips, delight!

Well you can!

Gien and I started an amazing site after consulting with the local Office of Tibet, called Gift to the Dalai Lama.

Members have the opportunity to post a pledge and also express their gratitude to His Holiness for his tireless compassionate work. After his birthday, all pledges and expressions of gratitude are sent to His Holiness's Office by the local Office of Tibet.

Click here if you wish to gift the Dalai Lama.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Death of a tree

a photographic journal on the death of the precious tree which has taken my breath away for as long as I've lived in its shade - as long as I've received the sparkling light filtering through it's branches and listened to its whispers… which now brings tears to my eyes as I say goodbye. Aah Sonnet our cat is crippled by fear as the chain saws hack the air all about


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Genie love


Good morning on Giens b-day! All of 48 years old, he’s in bed with a hot cuppa litchi and lemon with a dash of green tea, homemade by his wife and room temperature – due to its being a winter morning - fruit salad. The fruit salad inspired by his dream where oranges featured strongly - the symbolism made me wonder if his body wished for those vitamins. He’s writing a book born today, about a love story - birthed on the internet – LOL guess who! This book seeded by our many discussions and the so many questions and mails we receive from others looking for love and too often not finding it. We so often ponder why so few seem to find love and remain seekers of it, or give up... so that’s the beginnings. Watch this space! Next to him lies the Nepalese meditation cushion and maroon Mala bag decorated with symbols I gave him as a birthday gift. Also the beautiful book by the Dalai Lama lent to him by a friend from our Sangha... the stage is set - the day is beginning...



my daughter, Natalie, emailed Gien
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Gien!
Happy birthday to you!

Hip hip hooooooraaaaaaaayyyyyy! Hip hip

Wishing you a wonderful birthday and amazing year!

You are a wonderful addition to the family, thank you for making my
mom so happy.

Love Nats :)


Gien replied
Hi Nats,

I love your mum a great deal
and she loves me in the same way
Our bliss is very natural and spontaneous

In Buddhism there is the idea of compassion or "Bodhicitta"
this means love for all beings
I think this is profoundly important in a relationship
and the actual "secret" to true happiness

For a genuine relationship to flow effortless and free
we must love both the other person AND ourselves in the relationship

We know that the joy we bring our partner
is returned to us many times over
In bringing joy to another
that is the only genuine way that we ourselves can receive the others joy

If we were to take a selfish view instead
and try to GET joy for ourselves from the other
by controlling the other and dictating conditions to the other
that is when it backfires

What we create instead
is an environment for a desire and attachment filled relationship
where the conditions no longer exist for love to flow freely

When we perceive that something is wanted from us
we feel used and objectified
and that closes down our natural propensity to give
How does it feel when someone comes to us
and demands "I want this", "Give me that"?
It doesn't feel right, does it?
There is no sense of gratitude
no expression of appreciation of the other

For this reason
we have the paradox
that the selfish attitude when manifest in relationships
leads to the very failure of the relationship
while the limitless giving to our partner
is what creates the condition
for our partner's limitless giving to us

Many Blessings to you and Jason


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Catching up and sharing

I haven't posted much personal news lately so today I've decided to take a little time writing to my friends. Today is a public holiday here in South Africa, Youth Day. It feels peaceful - but I will never forget the dreadful history it arises from. I will also always remember how South Africa transitioned from being one of the worlds most oppressed backward countries to being potentially among the most progressive. Now I hope to see SA rise to it's potential.

My son Neville is starting high school next year. He won a scholarship and we are very proud of him! Can you believe how time flies! He was a little cherub with dimples and wings breaking through just the other day. Now his a gangling ‘growly boy’, into hip hop and taller than his mom.

We are going to need to move at the end of this year in order to be nearer his new school and are having to start finding a new home. I can see the circumstances which have led to this but I am not totally convinced I should be living in a landlocked city for most of my adult life...

Speaking of time flying, Gien and I are celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary in about 2 weeks - where did the year go! It feels we’ve known one another all our lives and we're still to have our first fight... lol which I just can't imagine us doing!

We’re both happily busy with many varying projects. Gien is trying to set up business\es based on his many awesome ideas and vision while he still works for his previous employer in Canada. He never ceases sprouting brilliant ideas and he implements them – I am a firm admirer!

I really feel we are not in one of those dependent relationships – but I do do more because he is in my life than I would if he were not. I am still filling my days with a range of activities such as teaching yoga, art, writing workshops, running a self help course, meditation sessions, counselling at LifeLine, building websites, connecting on various networks, etc. We’re both also engaged with projects at the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre and absorbed by our spiritual journey.

The other thing on my mind right now, is I’m wanting to publish a self help book I wrote, Walking the Labyrinth, which I have actually designed already, also being a graphic designer specialising in book design. I already run workshops based on the book and created a website for them. I’m asking everyone if they know how I can go about getting it published without spending the rest of my life sending it to publishers... Having experience in publishing I could take the self publishing option – but this wouldn’t get the book out as far and wide as I’d like.

Sending love to all my friends


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


My sense of 'I' in relation to the universe has been shifting - I guess it shifts constantly. I had been thinking the universe is something kind of unchanging\complete and I - a vessel tapping from this existing wholeness. Now I sense nothing is static and all is ever changing perception.. and the more I write, the more gobbly gook unravels…

I sense the mysteries which my rational mind will never grasp because it is not designed to.

I read this quote below recently and it dawns on me that 'the ego' is an error of perception. I quite like this because I thought I had to learn how to 'dodge' the ego - this attitude felt sort of 'Calvinistic' and seemed like a lot of hard work, like doing acrobatics to outwit myself - now I have the sense I need to unlearn a mistaken way of thinking.

There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, ie, holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to disidentify themselves with the ego, by realizing its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure being.
- Fingers Pointing Toward the Moon by Wei Wu Wei


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peace and Compassion March 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Peace and Compassion March which took place under the auspices of TSSA consisted of under 100 marchers, but felt like a good beginning.
Geshe Dhonden-la blessed the march at all its stages. He opened the march with a blessing at Gandhi Square, half way through on Mandela Bridge, he blessed the march and ended with a blessing too. Guest speakers, Jo Mdhlela (South African Human Rights Commission) and Sonam Tensing (Representative of the Dalai Lama in Africa) set a wonderful tone, both speaking with wisdom, awareness and as liberation activists. The memorandum’s of the march were read and there was a sense of good spirit as marchers carried banners which spoke of peace and compassion, some bearing words of Shantideva, such as, “All happiness comes from the desire for others to be happy”.
Some marchers chanted Om Mani Padme Hum while walking and the we ended with marchers in a circle, holding hands and chanting the Mani Mantra again. We have a date established for an annual Peace and Compassion walk now and can start planning well in advance for a Peace and Compassion event next year.

One can shout “liberation” in the wind but the words will not carry very far – the words of the march’s memorandum reveal more of the secret of success: “This march is our statement of our commitment to the practice of Peace and Compassion.”

You are welcome to view more pics of our march, click here
If you are interesting in starting a Peace and Compassion event or simply wish to journey with us, join us here


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The place which is home


After our long struggle for liberation, South Africa has placed economics above our hard won progressive stand for human rights and plain down right decency toward our fellow human beings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an international icon of peace and compassion - objectively it makes no sense at all to ban such a person from any country. Personally, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is my spiritual leader and I feel very sad that my country has slammed its door closed in the face of someone so precious. I realise, in order not to feel loss and bereavement, that which I call home can no longer be limited to the soil on which I stand but has to expand to the place of my heart. We should all follow the example of His Holiness and embrace all beings lovingly. I hope the people governing the place where I was born will soon learn from their error, open their hearts and allow their actions to be governed by loving kindness rather than fear.


Sunday, April 26, 2009


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Invitation to South Africans: Peace and Compassion March

Please circulate to your South African mailing lists...
... and those in other countries: Perhaps you'd like to organise a Peace and Compassion March too?


DATE: Sunday, 17 May 2009

TIME: 10h00

STARTING POINT: Gandhi Square (Cnr Rissik St & Fox St Johannesburg)

ROUTE: Gandhi Square to Mandela Bridge and back to Gandhi Square (approximately 4km. See map below): Ghandi Square, Rissik St, left into Jeppe St, right into West and onto Mandela Bridge.

Sonam Tenzing; Office of Tibet, South Africa
An invitation has also been extended to a human rights speaker and to The Honourable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to address the Peace and Compassion Marchers. If unable to to address the marchers in person, he will hopefully forward us a letter which can be read on the day.

WHO IS INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PEACE AND COMPASSION MARCH: Everyone who wishes to uphold and undertake the march’s theme of Peace and Compassion! Including human rights organisations - all individuals, groups and organisations who support the theme of Peace and Compassion will be welcomed.

MEMORANDUM: Organisations are welcome to send in their own memorandums to be attached to the general memorandum of the Peace and Compassion March. Memorandums should be in keeping with the spirit of the theme of the Peace and Compassion March. Deadline for submitting memorandums: 5 May 2009. Please make arrangements by calling Anna: 072 387 3900 or Elizabeth: 031 7014307.

On the 17 March 2009 we are marching in the spirit of Peace and Compassion.
We are members of the general public and also specific groups and organisations.
We uphold and practice the principle of Peace and Compassion and undertake to do all we can to foster this principle within our immediate society and the world at large.
This march is our statement of our commitment to the practice of Peace and Compassion.
We are aware that as long as there is suffering in the heart of even one individual, there will be no peace on earth.
In many countries around the world, such as Tibet, Burma, most countries in Africa and many others, we see great strife either from natural disasters or from violence and warfare implemented by our fellow human beings.
We call on South Africa to:
  • take steps toward demilitarisation and set an example of non violence to the rest of the world.
  • take steps to end violence, strife and suffering where it is found, in our country, continent and the world.
  • ensure there are no children to be found on our streets and all homeless children be cared for in a place of safety.
  • take every step possible to take care of the sick and aged.
  • ensure those without employment receive food and shelter.

  • Please being water to drink and if necessary, a snack for sustenance while walking (please do not litter).
  • comfortable walking shoes
  • comfortable clothing. It may be cold so please ensure you will be warm enough
  • Peace and Compassion marchers may carry banners, etc appropriate to the theme of Peace and Compassion. Banners can be related to any points in the memorandum and human rights issues and if deemed necessary, can express disappointment at SA government's recent decision of not issuing visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to travel to SA to attend the 'postponed' Peace Conference. Those representing organisations may carry their own organisational banners and further can express anything pertaining the Peace and Compassion theme. All banners, etc must worded in language appropriate to the theme of the march ie; NO aggressive, abusive, angry language or tone. We reserve the right to remove banners that are seen as inappropriate to the theme of the march.
  • This march is our statement of commitment to the practice of Peace and Compassion. Marchers are requested to come prepared with an inspirational quotation, piece of writing or picture relating to the theme of Peace and Compassion, in a letter or on a card. On the day of the march everyone will exchange their letter or card with a stranger who is also participating in the march. This exchange will be a gift and also a bonding with someone we do not know but who shares our vision in their unique way.


  • The march has been organised under the auspices of the TSSA (Tibet Society of South Africa) but is not an event exclusive to this organisation and is open to ALL who wish to uphold the principles of Peace and Compassion to march in their own right as individuals or to represent their organisation.
  • Generally, May 17 can be seen as a symbolic day where we can bring to our awareness, the suffering of others and set the intention to bring about change by firmly committing to uphold the attitude and practice of Peace and Compassion in our lives. This was the date when Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was abducted by the Communist Chinese Government in 1995. Aged six years old at the time, he was effectively the world’s youngest political prisoner. Panchen Lama, now a young man, is still under arrest and little if anything is known about him and his well being.
  • TSSA ‘Peace in Tibet’ t-shirts can be ordered by those who wish to wear these on the day of the march. Please see t-shirt order details below
  • Due to the march taking place on a Sunday, our memorandum’s will faxed by the march organisers, (rather than handed over): To His Excellency the President Kgalema Motlanthe (this mail has been compiled before the upcoming elections – memorandums will address the current president of South Africa) and copied to: UN Secretary-General Banki-Moon and the European Union Representative in Pretoria and the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria.


Memorandums of individual human rights and other organisations will be attached to the Peace and Compassion March’s memorandum.

Memorandum submitted by TSSA:
Tibet Society of South Africa (TSSA), calls for:
a) the unconditional release of Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his immediate family members, who have been under house arrest/captivity for more than 13 years, and calling on the PRC government to allow access to Panchen Lama by UN representatives;
b) the release of Tibetan political prisoners, who participated in peaceful protests/demonstrations;
c) independent international bodies/organizations to investigate the real conditions and situation inside Tibet;
d) the PRC government to allow foreign media to travel to Tibet for an 'unbiased' reporting of the actual situation; African leaders, including South Africa to urge PRC government to allow foreign journalists access to all parts of Tibet, without fear and conditions;
e) African leaders, including South African leaders, to urge PRC leadership to resolve the issue of Tibet through dialogue. To this end, the African leaders can urge the PRC leadership to discuss the recent proposal submitted by His Holiness' Envoys entitled : "Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People" with sincerity (proposal submitted to the Chinese leaders on October 31, 2008 in Beijing)


Kindly complete the following form & return it to before 5 May, 2009 so that the t-shirts can be ordered on-time. T-shirts will be issued on the morning of the march. Kindly bring correct payment.

NAME: ...................................
CONTACT TEL NR: ....................................
Quantity / Size:

............. small

............. medium

.............. large

............... XL

............... XXL

Cost of the t-shirt R55.00 X ............... = TOTAL: ...............................

NB: If for some reason you cannot attend on the day and we have ordered you a t-shirt, won’t you please commit to paying for it so that we are not left with a large account to pay. Thank you!

Kindest regards
Peace and Compassion March organisers

If you have enquiries please contact:
Chris Kudla, Chairperson Tibet Society of SA; 031 2668 182 - office hours
Elizabeth Gaywood, Co-ordinator TSSA; 031 7014 307 - after hours
Or Anna Varney-Wong, on behalf of Peace and Compassion March organisers;


The Kingdom of Lost Boy

Generally, May 17
can be seen as a symbolic day where we can bring to our awareness to the suffering of others and set the intention to bring about change by firmly committing to uphold the attitude and practice of Peace and Compassion in our lives. This was the date when Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was abducted by the Communist Chinese Government in 1995. Aged six years old at the time, he was effectively the world’s youngest political prisoner. Panchen Lama, now a young man, is still under arrest and little if anything is known about him and his well being.

The Kingdom of Lost Boy 1
The Kingdom of Lost Boy 2
The Kingdom of Lost Boy 3
The Kingdom of Lost Boy 4
The Kingdom of Lost Boy 5
The Kingdom of Lost Boy 6

Brief Introduction (obtained from the YouTube videos: The Kingdom of Lost Boy)

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is believed that several years after the death of select religious leaders their reincarnations can be identified as young children. These young children, or tulkus, are immersed in a rigorous 20-year education that facilitates their spiritual growth and transfers the rich knowledge of their spiritual lineage from generation to generation.

Thus, the story of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima begins long before he was born. His story stretches across the generations to when the lineage of the Panchen Lama was founded.


In the 15th Century, the 1st Dalai Lama established a vibrant monastery called Tashi Lhunpo in the Tibetan city of Shigatse, just west of the capital city of Lhasa. Two hundred years later, when the 5th Dalai Lama was a young boy, the abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery (Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen) guided his spiritual upbringing as a Buddhist monk and scholar. History says that when the abbot died, the Dalai Lama (also known as the Great Fifth) dedicated the Monastery to his late teacher declaring that he would reincarnate again and again, and that each successor would be known as the holder of the Panchen Lama lineage (the term Pan-chen means "great scholar" in Tibetan).

As a further token of his respect, the Great Fifth offered his former teacher gifts of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery and vast tracks of surrounding land. The 1st Dalai Lama had originally established the monastery in 1447 and it was an enormously influential center of spiritual learning. Following the Great Fifth's statements and offerings a young Panchen Lama was identified as a child and grew up to fulfill his role. Thus began the lineage of the Panchen Lama at the Tashi Lhunpo monastery.

Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is both the secular head of the country as well as the spiritual leader. He is believed to be the emanation of Avalokisteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. The Panchen Lama or "Great Scholar" plays primarily a religious role. He is believed to be an emanation of Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light.

Over the course of history the Panchen Lama became one of the foremost teachers and leaders in Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibet he is seen as second in importance and influence only to the Dalai Lama.

The Panchen Lama also shares a very unique and special relationship with the Dalai Lama. Tibetans sometimes refer to whoever is the elder lama as the "spiritual father" and the younger lama as the "spiritual son." Tibetans also refer to the Dalai Lama as the spiritual "sun" to the Panchen Lama's "moon." The elder lama gives Buddhist teachings and initiations to the younger one. For generations, the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama maintained this unique teacher-disciple relationship of the elder mentoring the younger. The elder lama may also help find and identify the reincarnation of the younger.

For generations, the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama maintained their unique teacher-disciple relationship of the elder mentoring the younger. Successive rulers of British India and China have quite often tried to use the good offices of the Panchen Lama to gain a political foothold in Tibet. When such efforts failed, the foreigners (especially the rulers from China) have attempted to create a division between the institutions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

The 10th Panchen Lama

When the 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Trinley Choekyi Gyaltsen, was born in 1938, Tibet was an independent country and the 14th Dalai Lama was just a young boy. The two tulkus were forced to mature quickly as the political situation in Tibet steadily worsened upon the Chinese invasion of eastern Tibet in 1949, the ensuing occupation, and the eventual annexation in 1959. This was the year that the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his life in danger, was forced to flee into exile with 80,000 of his people. The Panchen Lama, a young man of 21, stayed in Tibet and was appointed by the Communist Party as the acting chairman of the Preparatory Committee. He spent the next thirty years of his life traveling between Tibet and Beijing, gathering first hand information of the reality of the situation for Tibetans under Chinese rule. The Panchen Lama's observations during this tour formed the basis of his famous 70,000-character petition, which eventually triggered his condemnation and imprisonment by the Chinese government.

As the second most revered religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism and the most venerated lama remaining in Tibet after the Chinese invasion in 1949, the 10th Panchen Lama's death at 50 years of age was a blow to the Tibetan nation. And though there is mystery shrouding his death, no one could fully investigate what occurred in this Chinese occupied land.

The Search for the 11th Panchen Lama

But the story of the 10th Panchen Lama does not end with his death as reincarnation continues this story to the birth of the 11th Panchen Lama. Traditionally, H.H. the Dalai Lama identifies the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and guides his training through adulthood. But exiled in India, H.H. the Dalai Lama was not permitted by the Chinese government to contact the search party. This delayed the search, usually performed only two years after the death of a lama.

Finally a search party was formed with Chatral Rinpoche, the acting abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, as the head of the Chinese official search party. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Panchen Lama identification team is made up of high-level lamas from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Their guidance comes in the form of visions that prophetically direct their search to the true reincarnation. Following these mystical signs, the lama's test the most likely candidates by asking them to identify personal objects owned by the previous Panchen Lama. Oracles are then consulted and divinations performed to reconfirm the final candidate. H.H. the Dalai Lama himself normally carries out these final steps.

The search party compiled a list of numerous young boys whom could be the possible successor of the 10th Panchen Lama. Through hidden contact, H.H. the Dalai Lama received information and photographs of these boys. From his divinations, he identified and proclaimed Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995.

By May 17, 1995, the six year-old boy and his parents disappeared from their home, reportedly taken into Chinese police custody for their protection. Denouncing H.H. the Dalai Lama's proclamation as illegitimate, the Chinese authorities drew lots from a golden urn to select their own Panchen Lama on November 29, 1995. Six year-old Gyaltsen Norbu was selected and subsequently enthroned on December 8, 1995 sparking off massive protests all over Tibet.

To validate their authority in choosing the Panchen Lama, the Communist government cites a recommendation made in 1792 by the Manchu rulers to the Tibetan Government. The Manchus (the monarchy government of China from 1644 - 1912 made up of non-ethnic Chinese rulers) suggested that in selecting high lamas the Tibetans should institute a lottery, which was referred to as the Golden Urn system. One name would be chosen and then forwarded to the Chinese Central Government for final approval.

The Tibetans have asserted all along that a lottery system should be used when there are two very good candidates - making it difficult to choose between them - and, that they have their own lottery system which predates the Manchu recommendation. But, more importantly, the Tibetans also assert that H.H. the Dalai Lama should have a role in identifying the Panchen Lama.

Now that the 11th Panchen Lama is held in detention at an unknown location, Tibetans and supporters of religious freedom around the world are concerned about his physical welfare and spiritual upbringing. Tibetan traditions require that the Panchen Lama receive the care and instruction at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery for his well-being and proper religious education. Despite worldwide appeals, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents remain in detention. China has refused to provide information of their location or condition and will not allow any independent observer to see them.


Further reading:

A collection of news articles on the current Panchen Lama from The Office of Tibet.


Students for a Free tibet


Sunday, April 12, 2009

South Africa's history and the world in 40 seconds

This blog sprouted from a conversation with Meenakshi

in the World Heritage Society group in Gaia

In South Africa it seems so often there's a self consciousness which creeps in when people of different colour or culture are in each other's company - so often there's mutual distrust. Ive seen sometimes people are apologetic or feel personally guilty because of our history and go to great lengths to try and 'make up for it all' - all in one conversation over tea - it can be quite exhausting to witness! Sometimes people are anxious because of assumptions they imagine the other to be making about them and they eager to prove they're not 'like that' and start acting out these issues. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable because of differences they perceive and this leads to awkward behaviour. Sometimes people over generalise ... all sorts.

There's racial awareness and also racism - sometimes the lines between the two blur - one or both are so often an underlying flavour when people from different cultures are together. I dream of a world where theres an embracing of both the differences and the common humanity of all beings. I guess the experience of the country I grew up in has created this yearning. This is a country where the average person you meet over a certain age has spent some time in jail.

I was no major activist yet I spent a night in jail in Pretoria, covered in a grey blanket which smelt of vomit and received a 3 year suspended sentence if I were ever 'involved in mass action' again. A couple of days later there was a tiny article in one of the papers accusing us of fraud rather than the change we'd actually called for in the racial structure of how the state theater was being run at the time. There were times I would be on the phone having a conversation with a friend or family member when a voice would jut in letting me know I was 'being watched'. The art centre I taught at in one of the townships was raided and they told us minutest details about each one of us who taught there. Sometimes on my way home my car was stopped by soldiers and the seats would be removed and the whole car searched inch by inch - for who knows what? And all I was doing was giving a fellow staff member a lift home - but I was a white girl in a black township and therefore suspect. That's all it took. Then sometimes I would experience a smash and grab after I'd left the township, losing my handbag to some person who needed to put food on the table...

I decided I was going to simply live in 'an ordinary way' and not spend my time and energy looking over my shoulder. And so my phone calls to friends continued as if no one was listening and I still gave my friends a lift home.

I remember meeting an African American in the days before Apartheid was history who told me that in his experience he felt the racism in the States was simply more sophisticated and he actually preferred the South Africans he'd met. I have never been to America and could not judge this for myself - also his words were but those of one person who'd had very a limited experience of South Africa.

South Africa was a backward and damaged country with an insane law imposing Apartheid on its people. We have not recovered and recently it feels we're going back to almost square one and many are wondering what we'd been fighting for for so many years. This time its not about racism but human rights more generally and democracy.

In some of the newer countries on our planet, the indigenous people have been all but obliterated by colonialists and older nations have similar histories buried in their past. Now we witness the Communist Chinese Government which responded to the west who fed them opium and caused terrible harm to their people. ... and how often does good grow from harm?

We see what feels like a replay of bygone centuries when we look at what's happening in Tibet, Burma and other countries - now the Communist Chinese government makes it's inroads into Africa and most recently we see our government in South Africa bow to the Communist Chinese government under the weight of financial arrangements.

The mind starts to wonder about us human beings and our tendencies to power mongering and war.

I have said a lot more than I thought I would and also so little! I guess this is what
happens when one scratches the surface of 100s years of history...


On a lighter note, I've heard people from other countries ask questions about South Africa which reveal that they imagine our country is jungle - they ask questions like 'do we have lions roaming round the air port?' And we have to chuckle and respond, we actually have cars in our country!