Tony and Mona began Sangsurya with the altruistic intention of building a non-commercially oriented, residential facility where people could come together to pursue their meditation and personal growth work. Of prime importance was to offer an affordable retreat opportunity for people of all income levels, and to facilitate a natural and nurturing environment which demonstrates humility, respect and equality to all people regardless of race, gender or religion.
Tony and Mona’s main spiritual practice was one of generosity with the aim to ‘polish the diamonds of the heart’ and Sangsurya provides an ongoing opportunity for many to realise greater aspects of love and awareness in themselves and others. Sangsurya’s mission is to effectively contribute to the cultivation of peace which is sorely needed in a world where there is wide-spread and escalating conflict.
Over many years an immeasurable effort of love and care was put into creating Sangsurya by Tony and Mona, along with their numerous helpers and friends. Their legacy and contribution to the health and well-being of our community lives on.
Core Values and Goals
The Core values set up by Tony and Mona and which are sustained by the Sangsurya Trust are: to provide a refuge for reflection and contemplation which is environmentally friendly and based on Sufi principles of integrity, remembrance, divine love and acting with the spirit of altruism, and Buddhist principles of non-violence, non-harm and ethical living; and to provide a sanctuary and retreat for the well-being and evolution of humanity thereby making a tangible contribution to the greater good.
A particular focus is on addressing alienation in society and re-establishing connectedness by: teaching people the necessary life-skills to navigate increasing levels of anxiety, grief, depression and despair; instructing people in self-help tools such as meditation practices, yoga, tai chi, qigong, etc; providing therapies which improve mental health and contribute to social harmony by offering an intelligent way of living.
Sangsurya’s comprehensive range of meditation and personal development groups support the well-being of our community by helping people live in a respectful and compassionate way. The long-term aim of Sangsurya is to provide the ongoing opportunity and service for many to cultivate the best qualities of the human heart and to live with wisdom, compassion and insight.
During the past 20 years Sangsurya Retreat Centre has had a positive impact on the health and well-being of 1000’s of people nation-wide and internationally. The value of this work is immeasurable and has enriched the culture of Byron Bay by reinforcing its identity as Australia’s foremost destination for health and healing.
Memorials to Mona & Tony
The following memorials are from some of Tony and Mona's long-time friends
Shirsha Marie – Tai Chi and Qigong teacher, Somatic Psychotherapist, Co-Manager of Sangsurya.
I have lived at Sangsurya since 2005 but knew Mona and Tony much longer than this. The Sufi Master, Mrs Irina Tweedie was their esteemed meditation teacher. Mrs Tweedie was the first Westerner to represent the Naqshbandi Order of Sufism. She was a formidable meditation teacher and in her lectures and her book, “Daughter of Fire”, highlighted this quote from the Upanishads: “If you want Truth as badly as a drowning man wants air, you will realise it in a split-second.”
Tony’s spiritual mentor was his beloved wife Mona who was one of Mrs. Tweedie’s closest students. Mona graced everyone with her sparkle and warmth and love touched so many people along the way. I always felt soothed and sweetened when I could glimpse her beautiful eyes. Tony would often say how Mona simply loved everybody she met, such was the depth of her majestic heart.
In 2005 Tony and Mona invited me to live at Sangsurya. After Mona passed away, I became a meditation companion to Tony. To me he was a true ‘Warrior of the Heart’. He was a spiritual traveller in the Sufi Lineage who dedicated his life to realisation of divine truth and love. Mercy and benevolence are the essence of Sufism, a result of the energy of the heart being quickened. This in Sufism is called “polishing the mirror of the heart,” through which one comes to glimpse their true nature. Traditional wisdom states “You are a Sufi when your heart is as soft and as warm as wool.” So many of us felt Tony’s big soft heart, his tenderness, modesty, kindness and discreet generosity.
Together, and with Mrs Tweedie’s blessings, Mona and Tony built Sangsurya Retreat Centre, “A place where the sun reaches everybody”, as a service to the spiritual path of love. They welcomed all traditions and authentic practices which uphold this essential wisdom. It brought Mona and Tony great joy to see so many enjoy this beautiful place – to have the seclusion necessary to do their inner work and come closer to the truth.
Radha Nicholson: International Insight Meditation teacher, Retired Clinical Psychologist
Mona and Tony were committed to a life dedicated to spiritual service inspired by their Sufi tradition and teacher Mrs Tweedie. Together they generously provided sanctuary for many, working tirelessly and selflessly to fulfil their vision. In a world which seems to be increasingly troubled and uncertain, Sangsurya offers a place for retreat, contemplation, and the cultivation of meditative awareness, compassion and wisdom.
Their practice was one of generosity and giving from the heart in order to contribute to peace in the world. Retreatants have the opportunity to immerse themselves in natural beauty with simple elegant comfortable surroundings and to inquire deeply into life.
Mona's dedication to her vision was so great that even while experiencing extreme pain as a result of terminal cancer, she made sure that those who stayed were comfortable. Even a few days prior to her death she continued in the spirit of service to attend to the needs of others.
Tony too worked until he collapsed and was admitted to intensive care where he died.
Both Mona and Tony hoped that Sangsurya would continue providing refuge to spiritual seekers for many decades.
Subhana Barzaghi – Diamond Sangha Zen Roshi and Insight Buddhist Meditation teacher
Spiritual Director of Sydney Zen Centre. Psychotherapist
I knew Mona and Tony for nearly three decades. I held one of the first Buddhist retreats at Sangsurya and over the years formed a close friendship with them both. Mona and Tony’s intention and aspiration in organising, creating and building Sangsurya was to create a beautiful nourishing space for people to practice and do their inner spiritual work to cultivate the body, heart and mind. These values were deeply in accord with their own philosophy and spiritual practice. Tony often said that his teacher Irina Tweedie told him that building a sacred place of light was his calling and his life’s work. Tony’s wishes were that Sangsurya continue to be a place for spiritual development and to be held in trust for this purpose.
Will James: International Insight Meditation Teacher, Retired Global Music Festival Organiser.
I first went to Sangsurya and met Tony and Mona in the year 2000. Since then I have visited and taught retreats 2 to 4 times a year and in that time I became very close friends with Tony.
Tony often talked about his and Mona’s vision for Sangsurya and how it was his life’s work to make this vision a reality. How in this day and age what society needed was a place of peace and natural beauty where people could come and find relief from the stress and pressures of modern life. A place where people could reflect and hopefully find a depth of meaning, understanding and spiritual fulfilment. A place to connect with nature and with each other in order to bring compassion and care into their daily lives.
Tony and Mona saw Sangsurya as a place of transformation and healing and this was measured not by financial success but by the changes it made in peoples’ lives.