The Dharma Centre positions itself as the home of contemporary Zen in Africa. It was founded by Heila and Rodney Downey in 1981 in Somerset West. In 1994 they moved the centre to Robertson while simultaneously setting up a new urban centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town. In 2018 the Rondebosch centre found its new home in the Sufi Temple in Newlands. Both Cape Town and Robertson venues function independent Zen centres with practices and teachings that are in harmony with African heritage.
The Dharma Centre is known for its Mindfulness Awareness In Action (MAIA) programme that it runs in prisons as a rehabilitation tool for inmates. It has also developed The 20 Steps programme which teaches individuals to develop meticulous awareness to every activity in daily life.
The centre hosts monthly yoga, Zen and sangha retreats throughout the year which vary from 2-day retreats to intensive 7-day retreats. It offers regular practice and meditation instruction on Monday evenings with chanting, two rounds of sitting meditation (30 minutes each), a short walking meditation in between, followed by a teaching reading.