Tahiti, the pearl of Buddhism in the Pacific

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

In Tahiti, in the Vajrayana Naropa Center (1), since the 90s, about thirty practitioners with unfailing motivation have grown together on the path of dharma.

The time difference with France does not discourage them. In the middle of the night, behind their computer, notepads in hand, active members of the Meditation Center Naropa follow an online program of Buddhist studies initiated by the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Broadcast live, the teachings of Géshé Tenzin Lodèn (2) take place in the Tarn, at the Vajra Yogini Institute, nearly 16 km from Papeete. Either in this season, twelve hours earlier than in French Polynesia. Right now, when it's 000 a.m. in Toulouse, it's 10 p.m. in Papetee. The nights are therefore particularly short for the group concerned, but they know that this training will allow them to then transmit the lessons received. In Tahiti, the disciples do not benefit from the daily presence of a master. Thus, for nearly thirty years, they have organized weekly practices and lead meditation sessions and sutra readings.

In French Polynesia, unity is strength

The center was born following the first visit in 1993 of Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche (3), spiritual director of the FMPT. In 1993, Brenda Chin Foo, specialist in Oceanic art and former director of the Paul Gauguin museum, had organized the stay of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the monks who accompanied him. One of the highlights of this trip was their traditional welcome at a marae, a sacred site. “Placed under the sign of peace, this moment shared with personalities of Tahitian culture was rich in emotions,” recalls Annie Green, a member of the center from the start.

Following the meeting with Lama Zopa, Brenda had set up a practice center at her home in Papara, south of Papeete. For 26 years, monks and nuns followed one another to teach there. Then, in 2009, the community, led by Frédéric Fabre, moved to Punaauia. And, in 2011, at the request of Lama Zopa, in Papeete, in the Quartier du Commerce, on the second floor of the Building Rouleau. It is now part of the religious landscape of French Polynesia, in which spirituality holds a decisive place. Protestants of the Ma'ohi Church (formerly Evangelical Church of French Polynesia), Catholics, Mormons, Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses rub shoulders on good terms.

“Their next big project? The construction of a prayer wheel for the Pacific, a wish of Lama Zopa for the good of all the inhabitants of the ocean and to pacify the disturbances of the elements earth, water, fire, so undermined by climate change. »

Over the years, a solid organization has been put in place. Each week, four members take on the role of animator, adapting to the requests of the participants, who are more numerous when a master is passing through. Sixte Vincotte, lay teacher residing in Italy, makes regular stays of a month and a half to deepen the knowledge and practice of the group. He is behind the five or ten day retreats organized at Teahupo'o (4), a place famous for surfing. "From the first moments, the teachings of Sixte Vincotte echoed in me and allowed me to acquire the method that allowed me to put this path to enlightenment into practice", underlines Céline Lacarte, 48, secretary of the Naropa Center. According to her, although far from everything, the closeness between the members of the group motivates them and helps them not to give up. "When we are overwhelmed by the problems of everyday life and the agitation of those around us becomes strong, the sangha is very important, because it calls us to order and makes us understand that we can act differently, without judgment. notes Angela Taputuarai, one of the members, originally from Tahiti.

To progress, the center also provides teaching videos and books in French and English.

The regular passage of teachers and a solid structure

Today, the Naropa Center brings together around thirty members of all ages, including a large number of women, natives of Polynesia and France. Among those present from the start: Annie Green, retired senior high school and college education advisor. This fulfilled grandmother, a fan of hard rock and heavy metal, speaks of her meeting with Lama Zopa Rinpoche as a revelation: “From the first conference, his words touched me. I had the feeling of finding the answers to the questions that I had been asking myself for a long time”. She therefore takes refuge with him and invests herself in the logistics of the place by becoming in turn treasurer, secretary and responsible for the spiritual program. By his side since 2006 is André Mamet, 63, a dental technician. When his father died, this fan of wind surfing, paragliding and traveling became aware of the fragility of life and discovered Buddhism through his sister and Bardo Thödol, Le tibetan book of the dead. "Buddhism brought me stability and more compassion, and allowed me to sometimes open my eyes to reality," he admits today. The message of His Holiness the Dalai-Lloves “never give up” helps me a lot. »

Their next big project? The construction of a prayer wheel for the Pacific, a wish of Lama Zopa for the good of all the inhabitants of the ocean and to pacify the disturbances of the elements earth, water, fire, so undermined by climate change. In 1983, in Tahiti, during hurricane Veena, the winds reached 230 km/h in the space of two days.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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