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The Portobello Stupa

The Portobello Stupa is the southernmost stupa in the world. It is located on a knoll below Harbour Cone, which is an iconic hilltop above the township of Portobello on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin in the south of New Zealand's South Island. A traditional Buddhist monument, the stupa enshrines relics of the late Venerable Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. He was the highly respected and beloved inaugural teacher and founder of the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre in Dunedin, where he lived and taught from 1985-1994.

The Portobello Stupa is an enlightenment stupa, symbolising Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment and commemorating his historic, spiritual achievement when meditating under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India, over two and a half thousand years ago. Stupas hold great significance in Tibetan Buddhism, symbolising enlightenment, wisdom, and the path to spiritual awakening. A stupa's architectural design varies in different Buddhist cultures and countries. In Tibet, eight types of stupas with slightly divergent shapes refer to specific events in the Buddha's life. Each element of the stupa holds symbolic meaning, reflecting the Buddhist cosmology and teachings.


After Geshe Dhargyey passed away, the ritual care and cremation of his body were overseen by one of his closest disciples The Venerable Lhagon Tulku. The cremation ceremony was performed on August 17th 1995, at the site where the stupa now stands. Following an ancient Tibetan ritual, relics in the form of bone fragments were carefully picked from the ashes to be enshrined within the stupa. A year later, the stupa was constructed under the joint supervision of Venerable Jhampa Thupten Tulku, Geshe Dhargyey's successor at the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, and the architect Venerable Sonam Chodron. The stupa was then consecrated on Friday morning, September 13th 1996, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on His second visit to Aotearoa New Zealand, with mana whenua representatives, Buddhist community members, and many locals and visitors in attendance. On the occasion of the consecration, His Holiness bestowed the name of "Zhi-de-Ling" on the stupa grounds, a name which can be translated as "Place of Joyous Peace". Significantly, His Holiness dedicated the Portobello Stupa to local and global peace, drawing on the premise that true universal peace can be best achieved in societies where individuals are striving towards peace within themselves.

In 2013, subsequent to the remarkable, extended death meditation process 'tukdam' of The Venerable Thupten Tulku, the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre again offered a traditional Tibetan cremation ceremony on the Portobello Stupa site. This second cremation was also officiated over by The Venerable Lhagon Tulku, his heart brother. It was aided greatly by the presence of The Venerable Za Choeje Rinpoche, who has a deep, shared history of association with them, both of whom are from the same region in Tibet.


The attentive caring for this unique environment and all its life forms is symbolised by

a cypress tree on the stupa grounds, planted by His Eminence Yongzin Ling Rinpoche when

he visited Dunedin as part of his first New Zealand tour in March 2020. In his previous

incarnation H.E. Ling Rinpoche was the revered Senior Tutor to the present Dalai Lama as well as a principal teacher of Geshe Dhargyey. This tree planting ceremony was dedicated to the peaceful co-existence of all sentient beings. Other prominent Tibetan Buddhist Teachers who have blessed the stupa site with their visits include Venerable Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Venerable Khensur Kangurwa Rinpoche.

With this theme in mind, the Portobello Stupa is a place with peaceful surroundings in a landscape of tranquil, natural beauty, offering sweeping and inspiring views of the Otago Harbour right out to the open Pacific Ocean. Together with neighbouring lands, it forms a private nature reserve with original and regenerating New Zealand bush, hosting a broad spectrum of native forest and birdlife.

Visiting the Portobello Stupa

The stupa grounds are open to visits by members of the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre and the

wider public by prior arrangement. From the city centre of Dunedin, the drive takes about half an hour on the picturesque Portobello Road alongside the Otago Harbour to Portobello township and then to the stupa location just below Harbour Cone hill. Access and parking are on private land owned by members of the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.

If you are interested in calling to view the stupa, visitors from the wider public are requested beforehand to contact the resident guardians of the stupa grounds by emailing to: Please kindly ensure a minimum of two days' notice before your intended arrival. The stupa is situated on private property and permission for entry is subject to the discretion of the guardians. Please be aware that the path on the grass can be slippery, especially in wet conditions, and has the occasional rabbit hole. Take care! Accessing this private property entails assuming your own risk. As the stupa grounds are considered to be a sacred place, we request visitors to act respectfully and with dignity.

By visiting the stupa, you can align yourself with Buddha's enlightened mind. It is a place of quiet contemplation and meditation. As is customary Buddhist tradition, you may want to walk clockwise around the stupa. You may also like to sit in the shade of the trees and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, the bird calls, and the stunning harbour views. Due to fire risk at the site, we request that you refrain from lighting candles or offering burning incense at all times.

Community activities at the Portobello Stupa

Apart from individuals and small groups visiting the Portobello Stupa, people associated with the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre gather at times for "gardening working bees", announced through DBC members' information channels (see the monthly edition of the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre Newsletter on the DBC Website or Facebook pages, plus text messaging for weather-related date changes).

These gatherings are focused on tasks like weeding, pruning, and filling in rabbit holes. They are carried out without using noisy power tools and followed by a sociable cup of tea at the guardians' house. Stupa gardening "working bees" are a good opportunity for closer contact with the spiritual teachers and members of the DBC community and for forming a closer connection to the stupa grounds.


We warmly invite volunteers for other regular maintenance work, such as lawnmowing. If you wish to participate, please get in touch with the resident guardian, Dieter Dunkel, at:

Stay-and-Work at Portobello Stupa

For those wanting to form an even deeper connection with the Portobello Stupa and its surroundings, the guardians of the Portobello Stupa grounds, located within the Harbour Cone Sanctuary, provide opportunities for short-term Stay-and-Work visits. These cater to physically fit people who are enthusiastic about actively contributing to the upkeep of this special environment. In exchange for their contributions, visitors have access to a tranquil and comfortable self-contained unit, complete with a kitchenette for self-catering, allowing guests to attend to their culinary preferences at their convenience. The unit is in the building at the base of Stupa Hill and is generally used to accommodate the guardians' private guests. It accommodates a maximum of two people. The Stay-and-Work program is subject to the stupa grounds' requirements and the unit's availability.

The following areas are examples of maintenance and development projects:

  • Stupa Garden Zhi-de-Ling (Place of Joyous Peace)


  • Other gardens, e.g. "Garden of Balance and Harmony"


  • Meditation paths, like the "Path of Tranquillity"


  • Driveway and parking area.

Please feel welcome to email: .

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