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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
58 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 2 The Dharma of Ubuntu In a country ravaged by poverty, violence, and AIDS, Buddhists Thanissara and Kittisaro are finding ways to make a difference in people’s lives—and discovering South Africans’ own deep sense of interconnectedness. All dharmas are forms of emptiness, not born, not destroyed, not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain. Bodhisattvas benefit living beings, but do not see any living beings. This is indeed a difficult and yet exquisite point; one cannot grasp it. —Nagarjuna IN 1994 WE WERE INVITED to lead a number of meditation retreats in South Africa. This began a long association that led us to founding a small hermitage and cofounding two HIV/ AIDS Outreach response programs. The hermitage is nestled on a mountain called Mvuleni, which means both “place of rain” and “place of opening.” It is where local people come to pray for rain. In response to the environment we called the hermitage Dharmagiri, which means “sacred mountain.” A quiet knock at our door is a frequent occurrence at Dhar magiri, usually followed by requests for help with schooling, funerals, medicine, money, advice, and the settling of disputes. One day Jabulani knocked and asked us to visit his friend Sipho who had just found out that he was HIV positive. In the nineties and early 2000s, such news was a certain death sentence. Sitting on wobbly plastic chairs in Sipho’s room, he told us his story. As the bleak news soaked in, we considered the ramifications. There was not much emotional processing; Sipho himself seemed curiously resigned after a short burst of anger. In the next meeting we discussed diet, careful sexual practices, giving up drinking and smoking, taking vitamins, and going for blood tests. All a huge leap in responsibility for a young man living in a crowded shack alongside an alcoholic THANISSARATOMASCAMPHER