Africa, a continent not commonly associated with Buddhism. When we think of Africa, we might rather have an image of lively, colourful and joyful people, or – in the worst case – bloody conflict or poverty, much rather than people sitting silently in meditation. However, our monastics have already visited the continent three times which resulted in several Sanghas, and even a Wake Up Sangha since Brother Bao Tich’s recent tour through Botswana and South Africa together with Brother Phap Khoi. Here is his story.
Can you tell us something more about the African Sanghas?
There has been an all-ages Sangha for many years in Botswana, and now we established a new Wake Up Sangha there. There is also a new Sangha in Johannesburg, South Africa, and one in Mozambique. In Johannesburg, a lot of young people came to the retreat we organized there, but because the Sangha is so new, we did not encourage the young people to start a Wake Up Sangha yet. But there might be one in the near future.
The Botswanan Sangha is very nice, very diverse in age and race, many young people and locals. The energy of togetherness is very strong. They meet regularly, once a week. In places in Africa with a history of tension between races, it is wonderful to see such a diverse group coming together.
People from Africa are very expressive; it is really fun to see this. They bring a lot of love, joy and good humor to the practice. We even had a dancing meditation!
What are the challenges for the Dharma in Africa?
In Botswana, as in many other African countries, youth is looking to the West and is loosing its traditions and culture and forgetting there is a lot of beauty and wisdom in there. I really hope they can go back to their roots and reconnect with its wisdom.
Also, as Botswana is quite a well faring country, consumerism and materialism are coming up strongly. It is a beautiful country – nature is so beautiful there – I hope they can hold on to their roots of community and nature more.
Furthermore, relationships and true love also continue to be a big issue, especially for young people in Botswana. Traditionally Botswana has had a system of polygamy. They need to look deeply to see how that is appropriate for this current time, considering the third mindfulness training about true love and the teaching. They need to come up with an answer that is appropriate for their society.
Can you describe one fun moment where you really tasted true brotherhood and sisterhood during the Wake Up event in Botswana?
There are so many. If you see the photographs, it is very clear how much fun we were having then, since we were all just giggling while taking them. It was also very inspiring for us to take a look at photos and videos of what is happening around the globe in Wake Up.
What is your biggest dream for Wake Up and Wake Up in Africa?
I think that as young people we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, so I guess that my dream is that together we can make this world more beautiful for ourselves, being happier and connecting to nature and helping to protect the environment Also, the aspiration is to serve people who are less fortunate.
As to Wake Up Botswana, they already tasted the practice and they are having a lot of fun doing it. I hope they can be supported by the elder Wake Up groups and be happy by building brotherhood and sisterhood.
How would you describe Wake Up to someone who has never heard of mindfulness before?
Wake Up is a group of young people coming together with a similar aspiration to practice, to transform their unwholesome seeds, like anger, fear, craving and together with the energy of brotherhood and sisterhood build a more beautiful, compassionate and loving society.