Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1987

Settling in at Stokes Valley; Ajahn Viradhammo
Roots of the Forest; Ajahn Sucitto, (part II)
Letter from Chithurst; Ajahn Anando
Tudong in the Lakes; Venerable Amaro's notes
Desana; Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro
Meditation and Prayer; Ajahn Sucitto


Letter from Chithurst

Part of a letter written by the Abbot, Ajahn Anando, to his mother in the United States.

July 5th was our annual ordination ceremony. We were very fortunate that for two weeks prior to the ceremony we were blessed with beautiful warm, sunny weather which offered us the opportunity to do all the things that one tends to procrastinate about but which need to be done in order to prepare the grounds for the ceremony. Everyone in the community worked with a feeling of purpose and willingness; it seemed we all realised the importance of the occasion, and that every effort added to the sense of celebration. I think the ordination ceremony can be seen in such a way -- there's a going forth, a dying in one sense, a dying of old habits and ways. Yet one is also being accepted, welcomed into a new situation in the community.

The grounds were looking so beautiful that I asked one of our neighbours and friends if I shouldn't enter the monastery in the "Better Monasteries and Gardens Competition". Laughingly she said, "Oh yes, please. I'm sure you'd be first".
This meditative life is so exquisite, it becomes glaringly obvious that to be of service is the raison d'etre.

About 200 people came for the ordination, friends and family of the newly ordained people. Even Venerable Anigho's parents came from New Zealand -- offered his robes and sat quietly during the ordination, watching this very ancient ritual of leaving behind the old and embracing something new.

The four recently ordained monks will be staying at Chithurst at least until the end of the year, and we will have an opportunity to go through the Vinaya -- the monastic rule -- in some detail, particularly now during the retreat season.

I am on retreat with half the community down at the cottage near the woods. This meditative life is so exquisite, it becomes glaringly obvious that to be of service is the raison d'etre, and the seemingly paradoxical aspect is that it brings such joy. Service, of course, doesn't necessarily mean being in the market place; although, as you know very well, there is a time and place and need for such activity. I suppose what I'm thinking about could be called "service of the heart", which is a quality of being which is open, accepting, available and giving. It is a turning away from selfseeking concerns to maintain the image or mask of numero uno.

I have been exploring the world of devotion and feelings, which are very much intertwined. The inspired mind can be a way to tap the fount of our spirituality, and flood the mindheart-body with feelings of blissful surrender to nothingness. We limit ourselves so miserably by the unfortunate habit of grabbing hold of notions of self as the good, bad, right, wrong, jealous, loving, wonderful, terrible, sinful, pure one; spinning with manic speed and wondering, only briefly, why we feel dizzy -- our minds find no rest. It can be so hard to truly let go, for when it comes down to it we are faced with the awesome knowledge that we have to be a Buddha-Christ, to be utterly free. The heresy, if any, in not having the trust in one's innate goodnesswisdom to dare to simply be.
It would be delightful to have you visit. After years of serene elegance, Chithurst is once again a building site. We have taken down the main staircase because it has dry rot; something we knew since moving in. To see the main hall littered with broken plaster, scaffolding up to the ceiling, to smell the pungent stench of dry rot treatment fluid in the air, with power tools here and there, brings back nostalgic feelings of the good old days at Chithurst when long hours of heavy building work was the norm. Black, sweet tea for breakfast was the fuel and slumping through the evening meditation (if you were not still working) was the result.

It would indeed be wonderful to see you again. Please bring some work clothes ....I'm teasing. If you were coming, September would be a wonderful time. We have a project on which I refer to as the wildflower project and which Ajahn Munindo refers to as the weed project. However, it was started some time ago and the idea is to gradually reintroduce meadowland in the fields around Chithurst House. We began first by consulting with a long-time friend and supporter, Nick Scott, who, after some investigation, gave us a list of the types of flowers that would have grown in the fields at Chithurst prior to their being cultivated and modern grass seed sown. He suggested as a test that we plant out in seed trays 50,000 seeds, expecting that we would ' have 25% to 30% germination success rate. And at that time, one of the anagarikas, Viveka, was at Chithurst, and I asked her to take responsibility for the wildflower project which she very capably did. When I returned in April,after accompanying Ajahn Sumedho on his trip around the world, I found that we had a great many more flowers than expected. Instead of 25% to 30%, we had 90% and when I asked Viveka what she had done to be so successful, she smiled and said, "I chanted mantras as I was planting them out". Do you think we should let the local nursery know about this secret?

So we now have about 42,00 flowers to plant out in the south-facing field towards the South Downs. If you think any of the family would like to come with you to plant out the flowers, we could, of course happily accommodate all of you. . . .