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The Dharmagiri Dragon

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

We’d seen her fire, heard her thunderous roar And then, one night, we saw The dragon, flying through the sky. Backlit by moonlight, she appeared For just five breaths, then gone. As clouds dispersed, she hid again Inside the Sacred Mountain. The valley is her entrance hall, Baboons her sentry guards, And while we hold the name ‘Kuan Yin’ She listens on, at ease And sends out emissaries. The eagle, snake and dragonflies circle and survey, Then go on their own way.

At times, her forceful breath began to swirl As we gathered in the meditation hall. It whistled wildly round, bending trees And whisking up our minds. But we repented and renewed our vows Again, again, to start To sit, to soften, connecting to the stillness of the heart.

Our dragon left no footprints in the sky But in her wake she blazed a rainbow trail Guiding us to treasures deep inside. She reminded me of fairy tales and stories rarely told Of deities and devas, and the wish-fulfilling gems they hold. Or a princess, beautifully adorned, Not just with radiant face and lustrous hair, But a clear mind too, kind heart and wisdom, when her people feel despair.

I may be a restless Bodhisattva,  Still somewhat under-cooked, But a month of being slowly baked,  And glazed and fired in the dragon’s kiln, Leaves me ready to return, with intention pure and commitment strong, To listen, like Kuan Yin.

I first visited Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, in the majestic Drakensburg mountains, in 2016 for a monthlong retreat. Through the guidance of wonderful teachers, Thanissara and Kittisaro, we explored Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist practices, notably the four foundations of mindfulness and the Kuan Yin dharmas. It was a magical month and I offered this poem with a deep bow of appreciation.

Since then, Dharmagiri has become a leading retreat centre in South Africa in its commitment to bridge Eastern wisdom traditions with indigenous African contemplative and healing practices. This has been an area of my own research interest, and I am delighted to be returning in May 2023 to lead a retreat that brings together the still, silent practices from Buddhism, with movement-based contemplative practices that have long held communities together within Africa. The "Companions on the Path" retreat will be a wonderful chance for me to share Dharmagiri with others.

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