This Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre, whose name means “place of bliss and void”, was first established in 1988 by two devoted disciples of Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, Kimball Cuddihy (the previous Centre Director) and Greg Leith, who offered the land to Rinpoche for use as a retreat centre. It is an affiliated member of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
The Centre is situated on 1300 acres of wilderness at the western end of Kangaroo Island. The land is 3kms from the coast and elevated with long views out to sea and the islands in Investigator Strait. The land is extremely well-suited for retreat; the pure air and water of its pristine environment, the spacious vistas over the bush and sea, and the deep silence of its remote location provide ideal conditions for this kind of activity. 900 acres is in a completely untouched state and preserved in perpetuity under a Heritage Agreement with the South Australian government. The remaining acres were logged 40 years ago, and the vegetation there is rapidly returning to its natural state. There are no introduced plants, and foxes and rabbits are entirely absent.
Since the Centre’s inception, the principal effort has been to set in place detailed and thorough plans for its future development. It was seen as essential to gain all the relevant and necessary government approvals before seeking donations from our supporters for the Centre’s main projects, which comprise:
- The Enlightenment Stupa.
- A public teaching hall, underneath the Enlightenment Stupa.
- A main gompa or meditation hall for classes and meditation practice.
- Twelve retreat houses for teacher and student accommodation.
- A Group Retreat Facility, including a library and lounge for private study and discussion groups, an administrative office, kitchen, laundry, toilets, and bathrooms. An inner courtyard will also provide an outdoor educational setting.
Gen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup, the Abbot of Kopan Monastery in Nepal, visited in 1987 and gave very valuable advice on how to develop the centre. In 1988, Khensur Losang Thubten Rinpoche, ex-Abbot of Sera-je monastery in India, performed the first Dharma activity – a fire puja – on the land, making the prophecy that “many great meditators will come here”. In 1993 the Centre’s Spiritual Director, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, performed consecration practices on the retreat centre land for the success and welfare of all who do retreat there. Rinpoche commented at that time that the retreat centre “gives hope”.
The actual development of the retreat centre began in 1994 and was done primarily to meet the demand of the increasing numbers of people in Australia interested in studying and practising the philosophies of Tibetan Buddhism in a western setting.
Initially one small retreat hut was constructed and served as the “gompa” (meditation place) for many group and individual dharma practices and retreats. It was clear that the potential existed for a very successful retreat centre to be established, but that potential had to be actualised. Early years were spent finalising payments for the land and getting the necessary survey and legal work done. After years of careful planning, having obtained all state and local government approvals, five beautiful mud brick/rammed earth retreat houses are finished and available for use as well as a 14-metre Enlightenment Stupa.
The retreat centre’s long-term aim is to provide the most highly conducive conditions for Buddhist study and meditation in retreat conditions. The centre’s other primary purpose is to promote the study, practice and preservation of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism, and in particular the teachings of its founder Lama Tsong Khapa.
Another facet of De-Tong Ling is that a 450-acre parcel of land immediately adjacent to the centre is owned by the same two students of Lama Zopa Rinpoche who first established DTL. “Yacca Creeks”, as this land is known, supports the centre by way of its buildings and infrastructure. It provides an excellent supply of pure water from a fifteen million gallon dam that is gravity-fed to the retreat houses.
In the decades to come, as the world becomes ever more polluted and busy, our vision is that De-Tong Ling Retreat Centre will always remain as a place of peace and purity. It will offer many different retreat opportunities, from an hour by the Stupa to years in isolation. The quality of the Centre’s natural environment – uncompromised by its use – as well as its remote location will play an important role in the success of those retreats.
One day, perhaps, De-Tong Ling Retreat Centre will produce a Buddha.