The Drakensberg (dragon mountains in Afrikaans and uKhahlamba in Zulu, meaning "barrier of spears"), are more ancient than the Himalayas or Alps; they were inhabited by the San people for 40,000 years and possibly up to 100,000 years. The nearby winding mountain pass, called the Sani Pass, goes up to Lesotho and tracks the route the San would use from mountains to sea when following game. The tragic story of the San genocide is woven into the fabric of South Africa's bloodied and difficult history. However although not physically present, their spirit is felt in the elemental movement of weather patterns, the spectacular mountains and in the rock art. The San rock paintings weren't just representations of life but repositories of it. When shamans painted an eland, they didn't just pay homage to a sacred animal, they harnessed its essence. They put paint to rock and opened portals to the spirit world, enabled through trance. Corollaries between cave images and trance ceremonies appear in the cave paintings around Dharmagiri. These ancient images offer a bridge into the mists of time.
Dharmagiri is 50 acres nestled in Bamboo or Mvuleni, mountain in the Southern Drakensberg range. mVuleni in Zulu means ‘Place of Rain' and indeed the mountain attracts unusual and dramatic weather patterns. On the back of the mountain and hidden from sight is a cave with San paintings, one of which (unfortunately removed to Pietermaritzburg musem), depicts a shaman wrestling a rain beast. The belief was that the ‘rain beast' responsible for weather lived within the mountain. Its weather patterns include powerful summer lightening and thunder storms and dramatic rain falls and high winds and snow in winter. Frequently the mountain is cloaked in mists or bathed in gorgeous golden and red hues at sun rise or sun set.
To this day Mvuleni is known within the local Zulu community as a place to gather to pray for rain. Among many other smaller creatures Dharmagiri has frequent visits from Eland, Jackal, Baboon, Deer, Eagles, Cape Vultures and African Hare. At night Leopard, Lynx and Serval hunt invisible to the human eye.
When Dharmagiri first started the land had been abandoned for many years and was overgrown and lacked care. Before opening the hermitage several years were spent taking out invasive gums and pines and encouraging indigenous species. In 2000 a generous donation made it possible to build a hermitage wing, a kitchen and dinning area and a large room for meditation and library.
Dharmagiri South Africa is a government recognized tax exempt charitable organization, a not for profit Section 21 Company, registration number 2001/026196/08. It is also a government recognized Non Profit Organization (NPO 028378) and a Public Benefit Organization (PBO 18/11/13/1926)
Dharmagiri South Africa Mission Statement: To support, promote, and celebrate the study, practice and teaching of the core principles of Buddhism in South Africa, and to support interfaith, educational programs and eco-awareness. Dharmagiri also initiates and supports non denominational Outreach Programmes particularly in health and education within the under privileged communities in its local area.
Dharmagiri Management: Dharmagiri has 4 Directors: Kittisaro (HR Weinberg), Thanissara (LM Weinberg), Nobantu Mpotulo and Chris Kudla and 23 members in South Africa, the UK and USA who oversee the accounts and voting of Directors at yearly Annual General Meetings which are required by law. Dharmagiri's book keeper is Jane Patterson, its overall maintenance and grounds manager is Martin Randall, and guiding teachers are Chandasara, Kittisaro and Thanissara.