about dharmagiri

sacred mountain retreat

Dharmagiri was founded in 2000 by meditation teachers and ex-monastics Kittisaro and Thanissara.
We offer an environment of simplicity, a sense of belonging and a feeling of coming home. Our intention is to help all people find more peace in their lives and to reclaim their full potential for their own well-being and that of their communities.

Our offerings cover a range of practices from different traditions including silent meditation retreats, yoga, creative and nature based practices. Retreats are led by experienced teachers to offer support on your journey of awakening.

Dharmagiri is an intentionally inclusive space; our teachers, retreatants, community engagement and offerings truly reflects and serves South Africa.

Community Engagement 

Dharmagiri Outreach was initiated by Kittisaro and Thanissara in 1995.

Through the generosity of our sangha, Dharmagiri has supported projects responding to the socio-economic challenges of our community, including scholarships, skills training, gardening projects, infrastructure for schools and for the children’s home Kulungile, which was started by Sister Abigail Ntleko. We are currently seeding new ways of supporting particularly the youth in our community and envision Dharmagiri as an accessible space for everyone.


Meet the Team

Maia Marie

Maia is a healer and a storyteller. Previously she has worked as a social researcher, editor and teacher. She has facilitated transformative storytelling, self-expression and listening projects with people in schools, NGOs, through art projects and on retreats. She is also an initiated healer within the West African Dagara tradition. 

Maia has been exploring meditation since she was 17 and first started practicing with Kittisaro and Thanissara at  Dharmagiri in 2014. She was the co-founder of ‘lalela. a place of listening’, with her partner Niel, which was a home, farm and space for retreat in Magaliesburg for five years. Here they hosted retreats integrating mindfulness, art and healing. Her main aim is to create spaces of gentle holding where we can all just be ourselves. Maia’s poetry can be accessed at https://maiamaries.wordpress.com/ 

Maia blesses the team with her organisational skills, her warm facilitation and her powerful work as a healer who is deeply intuitive.

niel van zyl

niel is a 10th generation South African, born and raised on a sheep-farm outside Edenburg in the southern Free State. 

Before moving to Dharmagiri in November of 2022, he and Maia founded and ran a small retreat centre outside Magaliesburg called ‘lalela. a place of listening‘ for five years. niel previously trained as a monastic at the Chithurst buddhist monastery in the UK, and has drawn inspiration for his practice from Kittisaro and Thanissara, Ajahn Brahm, Antony Osler, Ajahn Sucitto, and Thich Nhat Hanh. 

niel is a cellist and has in the past worked as a South African diplomat, beekeeper and mushroom cultivator. He is a proud co-parent of Freddy and Luna, the two corgis resident at Dharmagiri. niel is honoured and grateful to be able to live, love and work on Mvuleni mountain at Dharmagiri.

niel graces Dharmagiri with 16 years of meditation and deep listening practice that can be felt in his facilitation, the way in which he takes care of the needs of the centre and the land, and how he holds space for guests. 

Nompilo Sosibo

Nompilo has been a part of the Dharmagiri family since she was a young girl. Her family has worked closely with Kittisaro and Thanissara since the nineteen nineties.. Nompilo and her partner are the proud parents of two children.  She has been cooking professionally for the past eight years at Underberg Country club finessing her culinary skills. 

She officially joined the Dharmagiri team in January 2021 and has been an anchor for the team since then. 

She has a passion for healthy cooking and providing sweet surprises during the retreats. She makes Dharmagiri a truly South African centre with her wholesome meals that reflect our local grains, plants and vegetables. She has a deep spiritual practice that can be felt when you are in her still and peaceful presence.

Phumla Shongwe 

Phumla began her meditation practice 20 years ago and this practice opened up the door to her ever deepening spiritual lifestyle. She is now a multi-certified yoga teacher, a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and a healer.

Her corporate career centred around managing in-house SETA accredited courses for large organisations. Upon leaving the corporate world she founded and ran her own yoga studio for years, and also worked as an educator at a preschool.

As a facilitator, Phumla has taught, guided and held space for individuals, studio and corporate groups. She has found that her most powerful work is when she is hosting multiple day retreats that allow deep progressive work within a group setting.  Her programs are intentionally inclusive, safe spaces for everyone including BIPOC, LGBTQI+, allies and all persons no matter what their background or orientation. Having been through the rebirthing process of initiation, she is able to instinctively create safe spaces for individuals to move deep into their heartspace and explore the soul wisdom emerging from within. Phumla is humbled and honoured to be living, working and practising at Dharmagiri. 

Phumla brings her visionary nature, intuition and joyful energy to her skillful guidance of our retreat programme and communications. She also plays in the kitchen and facilitates retreats with soulful depth.  

Freddy and LunA

Born in 2017 in the Free State, Freddy identifies as a protector of his humans and a lover of nature walks and food. He loves cuddles when he is available for them. 

Born in Pretoria in 2020, Luna sees herself as a puppy-for-life and a fairy. She enjoys living a care-free life and cherishes the company of her best friend Freddy.

Dharmagiri is an Non-profit Organisation. Our board of directors includes Moyra Keane, Nobantu Mpotulo, Nolitha Tsengiwe and Shivani Ranchod. Our boookkeeper is Marlene Howie. 

A present, aware and listening heart, attuned to the deeper intuitive intelligence of the Dharma – of life and nature – manifests as wisdom and compassion.