An Auspicious Bond

 What started out was a simple Sangha-Announce request to offer a place to rest has grown into a real relationship and bond between the Cape Town sangha, now called Shambhala South Africa and her sister sangha, White River Shambhala Center in Vermont.

 Jennifer Woodhall, the director of the Cape Town Shambhala Group was looking out for Johann Vester who was making his first journey to Boston.

Johann would be going to the Mukpo Institute at Karme Choling for a year or more in order to become someone who could assist her in with the fledgling sangha in Cape Town, South Africa.

I responded by emailing, saying I was happy to offer Johann a room and bed to sleep after his long flight and travel and then drive him up to Karme Choling.

I had my own connection with Cape Town having spent three fascinating weeks there several years before.

After Johann rested for an evening, we headed off to Karme Choling the next morning.

During the drive, Johann shared his amazing and inspiring story.  A Zen practitioner for 10 years when he met Jennifer and the Shambhala teachings.

Inspired, he sold his home, transferred his clients to another psychologist,found a home for his dog, packed up his belongings and made the long flight from Cape Town to Boston.

Johann was the consummate student and practioner while at in the Mukpo Academy at Karme Choling completing 33 dharma programs up through Vajrayana Seminary at Shambhala Meditation Center in 2010 and Warriors Assembly before heading back to Cape Town.

Our center had been sending donated dharma books to the Cape Town Sangha for over a year and in December 2010, we decided it was time to really step up and send one of our senior teachers.  Donna Williams.

Donna was an early student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and is currently a student of the Sakyong, having attended Scorpion Seal Retreat Three this past summer at Dorje Denma Ling .  A seasoned teacher of the Shambhala Path and best yet she was willing to give a month of her time to teach and help in South Africa.

The catch was the airfare so a festive spaghetti dinner and silent auction was held at our center in White River Junction  in early December 2010.

The money was raised and Donna headed off to Cape Town for a month of back to back Shambhala programs in late February 2011, bringing with her a gift from our sangha of a Great Eastern Sun banner.

This year, our center is holding the 2nd Annual Spaghetti Dinner and Silent Auction this time to kick off a scholarship fund for the South Africa Shambhala Group to benefit those students who might not otherwise be able to finance the airfare and costs of the more advanced Shambhala programs.

What started out was a simple Sangha-Announce request to offer a place to rest has grown into a real relationship and bond between the Cape Town Sangha, now called Shambhala South Africa and her sister Sangha, White River Junction.

It is our aspiration that other Sanghas see the potential in this type of relationship and watch eagerly for an auspicious coincidence of their own to arise.


The Result of the 1st Silent Auction

Our first spaghetti dinner and silent auction was a great success.  Not only did we raise the airfare — we raised BEYOND the airfare with enough money after the cost of the dinner, rental for tables and glasses to be able to give to our White River Junction Shambhala Scholarship fund over $800.00

Donna went to South Africa as planned and taught every weekend she was there (4 weekends) much to the delight of the sangha.  Word from Jennifer Woodhull was that Donna was just loved by the sangha who found her delightfully funny and warm.  And less intense than Jennifer.

I had to laugh — Donna LESS intense?  I’m looking forward to meeting Jennifer 🙂

The success of this first auction has lingered in my mind for a year and sometime in August I approached Donna about doing the SECOND ANNUAL Spaghetti Dinner and Silent Auction to benefit the South African Shambhala Center.

Donna suggested raising money to start their scholarship fund, for advanced Shambhala Programs not held in South Africa.

GREAT idea.  We were given the green light by the center council, told Jennifer of our plans and we are preparing for the auction — only 13 days away.

The History of This Auction


Dear Community,

Please save this date — 11 December 2010 – Saturday – 6PM at the center for a spaghetti/pasta dinner AND silent auction with special door prizes FROM the Cape Town Shambhala Center.

As many of you know, we’ve been sending dharma books to Cape Town Shambhala Center for over a year.  These are well loved.

So — in keeping with our generosity as a sangha — I came up with the bright idea of LET’S SEND ONE OF OUR TEACHERS!!!

And Donna Williams has kindly agreed to organize her life so she can spend a month at the end of February through March 2011 to teach the Sacred Path … there are NO teachers in South Africa who are qualified to do these more advanced classes of Shambhala.

You might imagine IF Cape Town has trouble buying dharma books because of the exchange rate and cost — a PLANE TICKET is impossible.

The intention of the silent auction is to raise the airfare to send Donna.  It will be a White River Shambhala Center act of generosity to help bring more dharma to South Africa.

Donna will be teaching in Cape Town, Johannesburg and possibly Durban (where there is a small group).

The auction evening going to be REALLY fun — several have already pledged items for the auction; including Elixir giving a free dinner!!

So — please — come.  I think you’ll find some lovely items that can be Christmas, Hunukkah, or Shambhala day presents WHILE making this trip become a reality!!

(and Shambhala Cape Town has promised to send some little native-made crafts we can use for door prizes).

More details later — am heading into a 2 week retreat at Karme Choling — when I return – I’m be working on gathering things to auction.  So, look around your homes and see if you might be willing to part with a lovely painting, piece of pottery, jewelry, dharma art or thankga or buddhist statue!!


How It All Began

You are invited to attend a silent auction & sphaghetti dinner to
raise money to send Donna Williams to teach in South Africa, on
Saturday, December 11, 2010, 6PM at the White River Center.  Here is a
message from the organizer of this event, Christine Baranay:

Dear Community,

I had the good fortune about 18 months ago, to meet Johann Verster
from Cape Town, South Africa.  He had sold his home, transferred his
clients to another psychologist, packed up his belongings and made the
long flight from Cape Town to Boston.

He did this so he could attend the Mukpo Institute at Karme Choling
and hopefully do enough classes in the course of a year or two to be
able to return to Cape Town and assist Jennifer Woodhall with the
fledgling sangha she had begun. Johann did over 33 programs in his
time in the US, just a bit over a year culminating with Warrior’s
Assembly and Vajrayana Seminary.

Last January I suggested to Donna Williams — one of our senior
teachers who travels to Chile and Mexico and other less distant places
to teach — that she should think of going to Cape Town and teach.

This is coming to pass.  Cape Town is thrilled to host Donna as this
means that many of the students there can do several of the programs
that Jennifer is not authorized to teach, bringing their goal of
Warriors Assembly even closer.

The only catch is the cost of the air fare – approximately $2,000
which Cape Town is not able to raise.

SO — Donna and I thought about a spaghetti dinner/silent auction.

The sangha in Cape Town has just sent a package of native artisans
products which we will use as door prizes.  We’ll have picture of the
Cape Town sangha as well as Cape Town.

PLEASE join us on Saturday December 11th at 6PM.  We will all gather
in the shrine room for a festive and fun dinner – the auction items
will be in the living room.  So you’ll have plenty of time to view
them and place your bid.

Many people have already donated items which range in price from
starting bids of $20 and up.  Lots of lovely things which can become
Christmas presents, Hanukkah or Shambhala Day.  Or simply grace your

ALSO — we are still gathering more auction items.  Please look around
your home and donate something.  Perhaps a picture, or a piece of
jewelry, or pottery and a scarf.  Use your imagination.  There will be
a clear plastic bin at the Center in the mud room under the coats to
drop things off.  Please mark the item as yours and the opening bid.

See you there!!!  Friends and family invited of course.

PS:  Please RSVP to me — cabaranay at so we can plan the menu

Books: Covering and Cataloging

A short message from Jennifer Woodhall about the dharma books our center had been sending for a couple of years:

20 April 2010:


… and tons of them, all with that gorgeous, specially printed bookplate! We’re terrifically grateful for the gifts themselves, but almost more important is knowing that our far-flung little sangha is held in some way by our sister sangha in Vermont. Your generosity has prompted us to organize our library and to start strategizing to get all these great books out there. They’re not what any heartfelt seeker is going to find on your average South African book store shelf.

Thank you so much for keeping the flow coming, and also for continuing to think of me when inviting fans to such worthy pages as our parent organization (joined this morning).

And here’s another quick message from Jennifer:

13 September 2010

We’re organizing a book-covering party to cover all our library books with transparent plastic. One of our trustees (and new Shambhala Guide), Jackie, has catalogued them all and created a spreadsheet of titles so that our members can select what they want me to bring to whatever group they attend (this is the best system we can come up with for now; my apartment seems to be the only place with enough room to house our books). Jackie was going to cover them all herself, but we decided it would make a nice community event, with potluck snacks etc. Here in South Africa, schoolchildren are required to cover all their textbooks in brown paper, so we all have deeply habituated skills at book-covering. People have responded to the idea with a sort of wry nostalgia.