Kiwi lama returns to break new ground
Our very own "Kiwi Buddha" returned to the country this week to mark a special occasion.
The Venerable Pong Re Tulku Rinpoche, the first high lama born in the southern hemisphere, led prayers and ceremonies on Monday ahead of the construction of a new Tibetan temple in Alfriston.
He also dug up the first piece of soil - a symbolic gesture marking the beginning of building work.
Rinpoche grew up like any other Kiwi kid in the small community in Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland.
But his life changed in 1999 when he was declared to be a reincarnation of a high Tibetan lama who died in the 1950s.
He left New Zealand as a 7-year-old in 2000 to begin his Buddhist studies at the Sherab Ling monastery in northern India.
He was very happy to return home for this "really special" day, he says.
"I'm here representing my guru who can't be here himself but I'm here to do the ground-breaking ceremony on his behalf," he says.
The Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal charitable trust is building the temple on a 5.8ha rural site that will also include 28 houses for followers.
The project will go a long way toward "helping others and helping poor people", Rinpoche says.
"People can come here and learn the true meaning of life."
Trustee Michael Barraclough says the ceremony is very special "as it marks the place where the main temple is to be built".
Several monastery representatives were also present for the occasion.
The temple is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.