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After congregating around a huge stone fireplace to eat a breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit, most of which they helped grow themselves, the volunteers meet at the construction site at 7 a.m. Those who chose to do so would join hands in a circle and say a Tibetan prayer for a safe and productive day, voices resonating off each other in a song-like chant of an old, foreign tongue. This was a typical morning for Josh Ibach of Dunkirk during his three-month stay as a volunteer at Odiyan Buddhist Retreat Center in Berkeley, Calif. What makes a 27-year-old man want to travel across the country to help construct a 10-story, dome-topped, octagonal temple?
Odiyan was created as a Tibetan Buddhist refuge in America after the Chinese took control of Tibet. In California, he started a non-profit printing shop to attempt to save some of the sacred writings from his homeland. After finding Odiyan online, Ibach was dazzled by such a foreign place in the middle of California. After saving up enough money for the trip, Ibach left for California right before summer in 2007. Ibach worked with other volunteers building, painting and decorating the interior of the sub floor of the temple.
The volunteers took turns cooking vegetarian meals for each other, so Ibach got to sample dishes from all across the globe.
Ibach and his roommate, Nick, became very close during their volunteer time and undertook an adventure together — a hike to the ocean. During their hike, they had to jump fences, cross a ravine and fight their way through thick brush. Although he had planned to stay longer, Ibach had to end his sojourn at Odiyan prematurely. After a moment’s pause and an ironic smile, he added that he also learned the ocean was a lot colder than he thought. High up in the hills of a remote stretch of the Sonoma County coast sits the world’s largest printing press for sacred Tibetan texts. In a 21,234 square foot factory on the grounds of Ratna Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center near Cazadero, volunteers work six days a week to print and collate more than 100,000 books a year.
The operators of Dharma Publishing – which was located in Berkeley for 36 years until it moved north in 2007 – say producing sacred texts is a mandate of their religion.
But all is not serene at the Ratna Ling retreat center, despite its yoga and meditation classes. Moreover, the operators of the printing press have violated their 2004 use permit numerous times and Sonoma County planning officials have been slow to make them comply with the permit’s restrictions, according to a neighborhood watchdog group. Today at 1 pm, Sonoma County’s zoning board is scheduled to consider a new Master Plan permit for Ratna Ling, which includes an expansion of both the retreat center and printing operation. Tarthang Tulku, one of the last remaining lamas to have received a complete Buddhist education before China’s 1959 invasion of Tibet, came to Berkeley in 1969. One of the community’s most high profile endeavors takes place each year in Bodhgaya, India, where Buddha gained enlightenment 2,500 years ago. Tarthang Tulku now lives in permanent retreat at the 1,000-acre Odiyan Retreat Center near Gualala, about 12 miles from the Ratna Ling Retreat Center.
The Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma community owns three building in Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.
Although Tarthang Tulku’s church only counts a few hundred full-time members, the lama has attracted a number of successful businessmen and women who have been very generous to the organization and made its growth possible.
One of the most high profile is Barr Rosenberg, an economist who taught at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Rosenberg became involved with Tarthang Tulku in the 1970s and has evolved into one of the organizations top leaders and donors. Another generous patron and leader is Jack Petranker, an attorney and the editor of Dharma Publishing and the director of the Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages.
Laurent Manrique, who was the executive chef at Fifth Floor and at Aqua, a two-star Michelin restaurant in San Francisco, was studying Tibetan Buddhism at the Nyingma Institute in 2001 when he came up with the idea of a gala to raise funds for the Tibetan Aid Project. The 12 nonprofits that make up the Nyingma community have assets of more than $25 million, according to documents filed with the SEC. When Tarthang Tulku bought the 107-acre Cazadero property in 2004, (the organization increased the acreage later) his representatives told county planners it would be used mostly as a retreat and meditation center, with the printing press as an ancillary operation. The 2004 permit application said the printing press would occupy an existing 13,000 square foot building that had been previously built as a lodge. About three weeks later, Ratna Ling asked to amend its application and build a new 18,750 square foot structure for the printing press. Ratna Ling sits inside a “Resource and Rural Development Zone” which the Sonoma County General Plan designates as a place for the production, processing, and protection of local resources and uses such as timber production, ranching, agriculture, fishing, and recreation.
One of Tarthang Tulku’s central tenets is that full time church members must devote their energies to work that promotes Buddhist teachings. Over the next seven years, Ratna Ling applied for 145 different permits to expand its operations and became an almost non-stop construction site, according to Singer. Ratna Ling got Sonoma County to approve the construction of four temporary tent-like structures of about 39,000 square feet to store books that could not be shipped to Tibet because of political unrest, bringing the total size of the printing operations to 60,500 square feet – about three times larger than was allowed in the original permit, said Singer. In 2010, neighbors filed a formal complaint against Ratna Ling with Sonoma County code enforcement.
Sonoma County officials sent out an inspector and photographer to investigate the grievances, but the report was lost when the inspector went out on extended medical leave, said Singer. Caton also acknowledged to Berkeleyside that for two or three years, Dharma Press was producing more than 100,000 texts a year.
Ratna Ling representatives agreed to remove three buildings from the property, reduce the number of books in storage to less than 500,000, and to bring the number of books published on site to under 100,000 a year, according to a memo. But six months after agreeing to cut back on its book production, representatives from Ratna Ling filed an application in March 2011 for a new Master Use permit, one that would allow all the uses that it had been doing previously, as well as additional expansion.
Dharma Press is also applying to eliminate all restrictions on the number of books and art objects produced every year. The new application also requests that the press be permitted to increase the number of people working there from 27 to 94 and to increase the number of people living on the property from 67 to 122. Singer’s group contends this application demonstrates that the printing press does not belong in a Resource and Rural Development Zone.
Ratna Ling officials said they have produced documents showing that the printing press is only a small part of the retreat center’s operations and thus fits the definition of ancillary use.
Sonoma County planning officials agreed with that assessment in a staff report on the Master Plan permit application. Want to get a digest of all the day’s Berkeley news in your email inbox at the end of your working day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. On the other hand, over the many years that the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Centers have been in that area, they have worked to reforest a heavily logged landscape and create a place of unimaginable beauty, while supporting a culture that is being oppressed abroad in ways that people who complain about noisy trucks can hardly imagine. No matter how much good is done for other communities abroad, the law of the land is still the one we must abide by.
The Midlands and Battlefields regions of KwaZulu-Natal draw the traveller away from the mainstream tourist attractions, off the highways and along country routes. Country routes and country living, for those who appreciate a slower pace of life, make the Kwazulu Natal Midlands a haven and a home. The Midlands region begins at Pietermaritzburg and ends in the foothills of the Drakensberg, a great barrier of mountains known by the Zulus as the Barrier of Spears. The arduous three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon starts from Pietermaritzburg each January (mid-summer).
The Midmar Dam draws a crowd of thousands as 10,000 plus swimmers take on the Midmar Mile every February.
Then there is the oldest and most celebrated of sporting activities, horse racing at Scottville Racecourse, celebrating over a century and a half of racing. Historic City Landmarks - Pietermaritzburg is reputed to have the largest all-brick building and the largest pipe organ in the southern hemisphere.
Several trails within and outside the city limits trace the historic events and monuments, icons to the history of the city. The young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a young lawyer in 1893 when he was infamously evicted from a whites only train carriage on a Pietermaritzburg station.
Nelson Mandela, South Africaa€™s first black president following his confinement for 26 year as a political prisoner of the country, was arrested on August 5th, 1962 just outside the city near Howick.

Parks, Gardens and Attractions in the vicinity of Pietermaritzburg - Queen Elizabetha€™s Park is popular for picnics. The Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve offers wildflowers, small antelope, walks alongside the river and birdlife.
The Midlands Meander is an extraordinary network of country routes within the greater Midlands region and the website is a great source of information for visitors exploring these routes. Leave ample time to explore the southern part of the Midlands Meander, between Midmar Dam and Nottingham Road, where the highest number of artists can be found.
A special attraction for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts is Karkloof Nature Reserve and Falls, northeast of Mooi River, with trout fishing, nature walks in the two nature reserves and Karkloof Canopy Tours.
Nottingham Road a€“ There is just so much to see and do in this little town, it is a recommended overnight stop. A hot air balloon flight as the sun rises over the Drakensberg can only be described as breathtaking and provides a perfect start to another day exploring and wine tasting (Kleinberg Wines or Stables Wine Estate). Greytown - The picturesque little town of Greytown is surrounded by sugar cane and wattle plantations and forests of pine and poplar. Wartburg - Founded in 1850a€™s by cotton growing farmers from Germany, some of the residents are 4th generation German.
A few miles north of Pietermaritzburg, Albert Falls provides water sports, game viewing and fishing.
West of Pietermaritzburg, the Buddhist Retreat Center is situated in the hills of Ixopo, offering conducted retreats and self retreats.
The Boston-Bulwer Beat is a relatively new game viewing and adventure route but also offers arts and crafts. The Kwazulu Natal Midlands is a melting pot of culture, history, cuisine and art, where fresh air, friendly faces, hospitality and great accommodation will inspire the soul, refresh the senses and infuse the visitor with a love of life.
During his reign, the British had ventured up the coastline from the Cape Colony and established a small settlement at Port Natal (modern-day Durban). Shaka was not able to escape assassination a second time and he was succeeded as king by his half brother and co-assassin, Dingane.
These Afrikaans pioneers of Dutch descent (also known as the Boers) were distancing themselves from British rule in the Cape. On February 6 1838, the Voortrekkers met with the Zulu King at his royal kraal in Ulundi, to finalise their agreement. After putting his royal household to the torch, King Dingane fled north to rebuild his authority. This resulted in the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879, where 20,000 Zulu warriors descended on the British army encamped at the foot of Isandlwana, over-running and defeating them in the bloody battle that ensued.
Not long after Isandlwana, a handful of only 100 British soldiers held off an army of 4,000 Zulus during the Battle of Rorkea€™s Drift. Across much of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, monuments commemorate the brave warriors who fought for their land and the soldiers who fought for their country and their lives.
Walk through a tropical butterfly house in Pietermaritzburg a€“ a fantasyland of free-flying colorful butterflies from around the world.
Let the kids take a break - pony rides, paint ball, raft building, learn to bake bread in the ground, picnics, tubing and slip n slide - Nottingham Road-Mooi River. Take a break during your tour of the Midlands for an eco-friendly spa in the heart of Karkloof Game Reserve. Sit on the battlefield of Isandlwana, mesmerized by the remarkable narration of this great Zulu victory on an expert-guided tour. Visit a Zulu homestead at Isibindi Zulu Lodge (Rorkes Drift) to experience life of a rural Zulu family, largely unchanged since the days of Shaka Zulu. Reflect on the historic conflict of the Battle of Blood River - visit both monuments to the heroism and tragic lives lost. Venerable Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche is the founder and creator of the Copper Mountain Mandala, Odiyan Retreat Center. It soon expanded and, with it, so did the ability to help preserve the 2,000-year-old Tibetan culture from being totally wiped from history. Because of its freedom of religion, America is a safe haven for the Buddhist texts and art.
Odiyan is constantly seeking volunteers and Ibach immediately contacted them for an application.
Dinners were eaten in a big hall with long wooden tables that were only a foot high, so volunteers sat cross-legged on cushions.
I learned so much so fast,” he said, mentioning not only all the aspects of Buddhism but new skills in construction, landscaping, cooking and how to live, work, learn and play together as a community. The texts are then shipped off to India and Nepal for distribution to monasteries and refugees from China’s brutal crackdown on Tibet. Neighbors in the rural area say the press operation is too big and too industrial for the site and claim the followers of Tarthang Tulku are using the cover of their religion to operate a business that would not normally be allowed in the area.
Despite the neighbors’ concerns, the board is expected to approve the application, which has gone through more than a year of review. While Ratna Ling volunteers do print thousands of Tibetan books on modern presses a year, as well as art objects and prayer flags, the printing is not obtrusive or noisy, according to Curtis Caton, a Berkeley attorney who is helping Ratna Ling with its permit application. He started a church, the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center, which quickly attracted followers intrigued by his application of Buddhist principles to western ideas.
Known as the World Peace Ceremony, it was started by Tarthang Tulku in 1989 and now attracts 25,000 people from Tibet, exiles, monks, nuns, and lay people annually. It owns three buildings – almost a whole city block – on Harold Way in downtown, including the old Elks Club, which is now the Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, the Dharma Press bookstore, and the old Armstrong College building, which will officially open as Dharma College in the fall.
Many have given up their high-paying jobs to volunteer full-time for the Nyingma community. Rosenberg made his fortune by applying quantitative analysis, a theory that applies mathematical formulas to price stocks and bonds, to money management. Thanks to his involvement during the last decade, top chefs from around the country donate their time to two Taste and Tribute galas each year, one in San Francisco and one in New York.
The press facility would include a press, a cutter, a folder, a collator and a binder, and ample space to assemble the books (which are not bound) by hand and wrap them. It also stated its intention to start building some already-permitted cabins for staff and guests. Normally, the county would not allow a printing press in that zone, but Ratna Ling officials made the case that operating the printing press was an integral part of the Nyingma Buddhist  religion. Volunteering at the printing press fulfills this obligation because publishing Tibetan books, art, and prayer wheels and making them more widely available spreads the word about Buddhism. In 2007, Dharma Press left its facility on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley and moved five presses up to Ratna Ling – without amending its use permit, she said. The organization also erected yomes – a combination yurt and dome – without filing for the proper permits, said Singer. They spent six months documenting what they considered zoning violations and presented a two-inch thick binder to the county. However, county officials met in August 2010 with representatives of Ratna Ling, who acknowledged the printing operation was larger than allowed and out of compliance with its 2004 use permit, according to an internal staff memo from Pete Parkinson, the director of the permit and resource management department. Ratna Ling had mentioned that figure in a letter it had written to the county before the permit was granted, but only meant it as an estimate, not a firm figure.
Ratna Ling wants to add eight additional guest cabins, more storage areas, and a retreat house on a separate parcel. Instead, the size of the operation would be controlled by the limiting the number of trucks allowed on the property. The report also points out that places of religious worship are allowed in the Resource and Rural Development Zone. Over the years I have driven the back roads from Highway 1 to Cazadero several times and have watched as the wilderness has slowly changed. I lived and worked at Odiyan for 4.5 years, and therefore know the organization and the landscape well. This organization does good, important work, selflessly, and creates tangible change for the volunteers who go through there and are willing to work. These backroads encounter historic small towns, streams and rivers, landscapes of rolling green hills, waterfalls and picturesque farmlands. The backroads landscape changes from city to forests and small towns, from asphalt highway to rural sand roads and back to asphalt.
To explore the Midlands may take a day, or several days to fully explore and learn of the historical leaders and events that have left their mark on the region and to meet the artists, artisans and farmers who ply their trade in this serene and beautiful place.

It is a tough river race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and is the oldest river race in Africa (boasting half a century). Midlands Meander routes were defined and documented by a group of artists, weavers and potters in 1985 in a successful effort to feature this beautiful area and to make the arts, crafts and produce of the area more accessible to the public. Drive on to the little villages of Nottingham Road and Rosetta en route to Mooi River.A  This is dairy and sheep country interspersed with stud farms, offering horseback riding, short walks to waterfalls and game farms with free roaming zebra and antelope. Browse through Shuttleworth Weaving where beautiful carpets, throws and scarves are hand made. Albert Falls Dam is rated as one of the best bass fishing dams in the world and annually hosts an international fishing competition. Self Retreats are available on weekdays and are unstructured: reading, listening to recorded talks, walking, meditation or resting as one chooses. Boston and Bulwer are located in the foothills of the Drakensburg and demarcate the route. Shaka trained and led powerful and intimidating regiments of impis armed with short stabbing spears, body-length shields and innovative battle strategies, defeating all rival tribes across modern-day KwaZulu-Natal. The British at Port Natal offered refuge to thousands fleeing the rule of Dingane, training some in the use of British weaponry. Instead, Dingane had Piet Retief and 101 Voortrekkers put to death and his impis went on to massacre other Voortrekkers camped at what would become known by the Afrikaans as Weenen - the 'Place of Weeping'. On December 16 1838 - a week after making a 'vow to God' - they stopped at the Ncome River to pray and prepare to face a bloody conflict.
Six months later he attempted to defeat and occupy the Swazi kingdom with what remained of his military resources. The Zulus tolerated the colony that was forming in Natala€™s Port simply because it offered them a trading post. The heroic actions of the vastly outnumbered British resulted in the award of 11 Victoria Crosses.
Reinforcements were dispatched and the Anglo-Zulu War raged on until Britain eventually emerged the victor in 1887. Expert guides and historians now offer guided tours to the very foothills and grasslands where these mighty battles took place. A celebration of the human potential that belongs to us all, a home for the Dharma in the West, the traditional temples and libraries of Odiyan restore and preserve the ancient symbols, rare sacred texts and art that connect the heart and mind to the Path of Awakening. After a few inventive attempts at waking his roommate, they work together to cook pancakes for the rest of the volunteers. Moreover, making the books is an essential part of the Nyingma Buddhist religion and therefore legal on the property. Over the next 40 years, he and his growing group of supporters created a cluster of non-profit organizations that both explore Tibetan Buddhism and work to preserve Tibetan culture. The Tibetan Aid Project, which was established to support education and literacy in Tibetan communities in Asia, has distributed 3.5 million sacred texts and art objects produced by Dharma Press in the last two decades. The community also owns a spiritual center on Highland Place known as the Nyingma Institute. The Barr and June Rosenberg Foundation routinely donates around $7 million a year to the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center, according to the documents filed with the SEC.
Participating chefs have included Elizabeth Faulkner, Gerald Hirigoyen, Mark Richardson, Gavin Kaysen, and many others.
The operators of Dharma Press said the press would produce about 100,000 books a year and operate six days a week from 7 am to 10 pm. The permit application was approved in 2004, with the caveat that the press remain an ancillary operation of the retreat center.
At the center of their complaint was the contention that the industrial printing press operation was not an appropriate use under the zoning laws and it had grown so large it could no longer be considered an ancillary operation. The definition of book in Tibetan culture is different than a western definition since Tibetan books are not bound and are more like pamphlets. It also wants the county to make permanent the 39,000 square feet of temporary book storage. The press wants the county to approve 730 truck trips a year, up from the 12 allowed in the 2004 use permit and the approximately 300 trips approved later. Ratna Ling’s application goes into detail about how working at the printing press is part of the spiritual practice of the community. The cross was constructed from wood recovered from the scene of this great WW1 battle (July 1916). They could work and sell from their homes and keep prices lower - and as their popularity grew, new businesses, restaurants and guest houses popped up. Stop at any of the many restaurants for delightful local cuisine before visiting the Nottingham Road Brewing Company to taste ales and lagers. The Wartburger Hof Hotel and the Orion Wartburg Inn provide the ambience and style of a German mountain inn. Magwaqa Mountain (The Frowning One) has earned international recognition for hang-gliding and paragliding. Dingane was unhappy with the increasing growth in British population of Port Natal, the shelter and arming of dissidents and the overland arrival in 1837 of Voortrekkers.
In the resulting battle, 464 Boers defeated an army of 10,000 Zulu warriors, where over 3,000 Zulus lost their lives.
Dingane failed, and his humiliation was compounded by his half-brother Mpande's defection to the Boers, along with 17,000 Zulus. It was not long before the British and the Afrikaners came into conflict over who was to rule the area and they fought it out bitterly. Where we were there are wild boars, mountain lions, bob cats, rattle snakes, black widows and scorpions.
We ate our cold pizza and celebrated our victory, watching the waves crash violently against the rocks below. The organizations publish books, make films, rebuild monasteries, produce sacred texts and art objects, promote Tarthang Tulku’s teachings to the world, and hold numerous classes and spiritual retreats.
Rosenberg left to co-found the institutional money management firm AXA Rosenberg and ran it until September 2011 when the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of securities fraud for hiding a coding error in the program used by his investment firm.
The $350-person a head gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco raised about $150,000 in 2011. Each month, a 40-foot truck would bring the paper needed to make the books, according to the application. Until the neighbors brought it up, Dharma Press never realized there was a firm numerical cap, he said.
Volunteers start their work day by chanting a Tibetan prayer, listening to one of Buddha’s teachings, and performing a brief yoga exercise to relax the body and mind and focus on the work day ahead.
His life sentence, much of which was served on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town ended with his release on February 11, 1990.
Today, the fascinating Meander routes are well documented and provide a perfect weekend getaway. The river was said to have run red with blood and the battle at the Ncome River became known as the Battle of Blood River. Mpande and the Boers then launched a joint campaign against the Zulu king, who was eventually hunted down and assassinated near the Swaziland border. In 1879, however the British, motivated by word of the discovery of gold inland, laid claim to the whole of Zululand and gave Zulu King Cetshwayo notice that the Zulu must surrender their weapons. The presence of such a link does not imply a responsibility for (or endorsement of) the linked site, its operator, or its contents. Not only that, but between us and the ocean was a thick redwood forest, hills, rock cliffs, and a river to cross. A He had his first court appearance in Pietermaritzburg and delivered his final public speech as the South Africaa€™s president here. A Included is a small but developing wine industry, dairies offering cheeses, yoghurts and ice creams as well as honey and lavender producers.
Today, two monuments stand alongside the river, commemorating the bravery of both sides - Zulus and Afrikaners. When that did not materialize, British troops were mobilized and marched inland from Port Natal in search of the Zulus.

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