COMMUNITY

Travel Log ~ Visiting Tergar Groups in Portugal

By Ditta Odor • 8 min read

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It so happened that the end of last year and the beginning of the new one found me in Portugal for a longer period of time, enjoying the cities of Porto and Lisbon as a visitor, cat-sitter for friends, and avid explorer on the quest for the best pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese pastry. 

Portugal has been quite a buzz-word in the Tergar world lately, partly because of retreat centers-in-the-making there, but also because two new Tergar practice groups in Porto and Coimbra started meeting in the last quarter of 2023. Thus, once I was in Portugal, a great opportunity presented itself to spend some time with the initiators and members of these new groups. Tergar practice groups practice Mingyur Rinpoche’s meditation teachings, the Joy of Living.

My visits started in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal and a World Heritage Site, where I met the wonderfully kind and welcoming practice coordinators Carolina Castro and Ivonne Ruthe Anes de Almeida. They shared the community’s history and showed me around the fascinating home of Tergar Porto: a typical, tiled Portuguese townhouse with enchanting wall paintings by Ivone. 

Rua Antero de Quental 155, home of Tergar Porto

Murals with tiny magical creatures is in the house of Tergar Porto. According to the community, the creatures come and go and play hide-and-seek as they please. The longer you look at the mural, the more creatures you will find. But whether they will be there next time you look is anybody’s guess! 

Tergar Porto with practice coordinators Carolina and Ivonne, third and fourth in the front row from the right.

TERGAR PORTO

Tergar Porto originated from a community that grew around the charismatic figure of Dr. Balkrishna Maganlal (1950-2022), a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and practitioner of meditation and Tibetan Buddhism for 40 years. 

Bal — as he is fondly called — completed a three-and-a-half-year retreat under the guidance of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s greatest masters, the legendary Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He founded the center in Porto and a breathtakingly beautiful retreat center in the south of Portugal. In the last years of his life, he turned to the teachings of Mingyur Rinpoche, whom he met personally before he passed away. Before his passing, he suggested to the community in Porto the study and immersion in the Tergar lineage and Rinpoche’s teachings. 

Thus last year three members of the community — Oriana Fernandes, daughter of Bal; Carolina and Ivonne, all long-time meditators — reached out to the Tergar International Community Building Team, expressing their wish to start a Joy of Living Practice Group. In December 2023, they officially became Tergar Porto.

They meet every Sunday evening for meditation practice, usually followed by a small meal of soup or cake and tea. The center, with a spacious and elegant meditation room and cozy kitchen, feels like an ideal home for a diverse and supportive community. I was lucky enough to join them twice during my stay, and Carolina, Ivonne, and Oriana kindly invited me to their annual three-day silent meditation retreat in Karuna Center, Monchique, to commemorate the passing of Bal two years ago, on New Year’s Day. 

TERGAR COIMBRA
On a sunny Saturday morning in the first days of the new year, I took the train from Porto to Coimbra. After enjoying the views of the ocean and sand dunes passing by, I was met by Dani Yeshe Dawa and her husband, Drupchen Dorje. Two other community members joined us downtown, and we shared a coffee and chat in a beautiful old Café Santa Cruz.

Dani has been a Portuguese interpreter for Tergar for some time, and both she and Drupchen are long-term practitioners of meditation and Tibetan Buddhism. Following Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings, they expressed their aspiration to start a group in Coimbra in the summer of last year. After the initial training and groundwork of finding a venue in a yoga studio and putting the word out, they became an official group at the same time as Tergar Porto in December 2023. 

At the café, we shared our thoughts and ideas about the group’s plans, possible collaboration within the Portuguese community, life in general, and the Joy of Living. I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm, commitment, and respect for sharing meditation with others. 

Tea with Coimbra community volunteers Maurício, Drupchen, Dani and Lúcia with Ditta second from right.

TERGAR LEIRIA
After meeting the Porto folks in December and the Coimbra community members in January, the first day of February found me in Leiria. The adventure began at the charming seaside town of Nazaré, famous for its giant waves and surfers. Micael Inês, who is a practice leader at Tergar Leiria and a colleague of mine as a part of the Tergar International Events Team, was keen to show me around. We strolled on the beach, looked down from Ondas da Nazaré’s viewpoint at the endless comings and goings of waves, and talked about all things Tergar community.

Ditta and Micael in Nazaré

Later, we joined the members of Tergar Leiria in the yoga studio where the group had just started meeting in person again after a long period of post-COVID online existence. Therefore, quite a few new participants were present. We started with an “experimental experiment” in the form of a guided meditation to explore and appreciate the qualities of meditating alone versus with a community. After the discussion, we opened the floor for questions and answers about Tergar and the community and had a beautiful time sharing in the group and personal conversations. 

Tergar Leiria

Meeting the communities in Portugal was the highlight of my stay in this beautiful country. I feel more grateful than words can convey to the community volunteers and group members who welcomed me with open arms — literally, as Portuguese people are great huggers, which I personally really appreciated — and inspired me in my work and practice equally. 

Unfortunately, meeting Paulo Borges and Daniela Velho, leaders of the Lisbon Practice Group, did not work out this time due to time constraints and other obligations, but at least I have another wonderful reason to go back to Portugal as soon as possible, which I hope can happen very soon! 

Muito obrigada, dear Carolina, Ivonne, Oriana, Dani, Drupchen, Maurí, Lúciocia, Micael and all the wonderful Tergar volunteers and participants in Joy of Living practice groups in Portugal. 

TERGAR LISBON: Paulo Borges and Daniela Velho, supported by the mentorship of Tergar Instructor Antonia Sumbundu, established the first Tergar group in Portugal – Tergar Lisbon – in 2016 after being deeply inspired by Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings in France that year, and thereby providing a foundation for the groups to flourish in Portugal.

About the Author

Ditta Odor makes her home in Budapest, Hungary. She is the Community Lead for Europe, Middle East and Asia on the Tergar International Community Building Team.

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