This Festival was organised by the Office of Tibet in Pretoria and the Tibet Society of South Africa to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 70th birthday in July 2005. The Dalai Lama is regarded as an emanation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.


The Dalai Lama serves as inspiration to millions to people of all races and religions. He is living example of the positive potential and innate goodness that exists within all beings. Buddhism calls this our Buddha Nature. We all have Buddha Nature. With people like His Holiness it is patent; for most of us, it is latent. We need more enlightened mentors like His Holiness, because they show us what is possible. We pray for his long life. 


Tibetan culture is one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world, steeped in spirituality and symbolism, and depicted in art, music, song and dance. In recent years, Tibetan Buddhist monks have been travelling around the world, conducting healing ceremonies, creating sand mandalas, and performing traditional religious dances and music. They travel to promote world peace, and to bring awareness to the Tibetan peoples’ struggle for religious and cultural freedom in their own country, currently under oppression by the Chinese government. We pray for the freedom of Tibet.

The Festival consisted of a weekend of interesting and inspiring events, held in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. There were ceremonies and Dharma talks; talks on Tibetan medicine and sacred art; award-winning movies like ‘Cry of the Snow Lion’; stalls; exhibitions of Thangka paintings; and photos of this incredibly beautiful country with its high mountains and lakes.

The highlights of the Festival were the construction of a sand mandala by two monks from His Holiness’ Monastery in Dharamsala, India; and concerts by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) also based in Dharamsala. These highly talented artists travel around the world giving performances, and this was the first visit to Africa. Their colourful and exotic costumes, ritual dancing, music and singing, was captivating.


Mandalas are symbols of the Universe and of enlightened energy. They are constructed for world peace, harmony and unity. Mandalas differ in design according to the deity with which they are connected. We were blessed to witness the creation of a mandala for compassion, in keeping with the theme of the Festival.


Opening ceremony: The construction of the sand mandala started with a blessing ceremony, consisting of chanting, meditation and mantra recitation. Construction of the mandala took 2 full days, with millions of grains of coloured sand poured with special implements into geometric and artistic patterns. It was the most beautiful creation - you could not believe that it was made of sand.


Consecration ceremony: The creation of the sand mandala was concluded with a ceremony requesting the blessing of the deities of the mandala. Geshe Phende did the Chenrezig puja. Geshe-la is resident teacher of the Lam Rim Centre in Johannesburg, where the mandala was created in their lovely shrine hall (which used to be a church). Geshe-la did our first retreat at SAT CHIT ANAND (and will be doing another one in November). He has just returned from India, we are so lucky to have him back in this country. It was great to see him again. 


Closing ceremony: The mandala was dismantled, by sweeping up the coloured sand to symbolise the impermanence of all life. Meditating on impermanence helps us to reduce our attachment. Attachment is a negative emotion. It is one of the three mind poisons – ignorance, attachment and aversion. We are attached to things we like and want, which generates aversion towards things we don’t like and don’t want. The more attachment we have, the more we suffer. More attachment = more anger. Less attachment = less anger.   


A small packet of sand was given to those present as blessings for health and healing, and to put on our altars to remind us of impermanence. The rest of the sand will be thrown into rivers and oceans so it can move with the currents and carry its blessings around the world.


We thank those who made this wonderful event possible.

Newsletter compiled by Leela with photos by Maurice.


Plettenberg Bay, South Africa