|Forest Sangha Newsletter||October 1987|
Tudong in the LakesRock-hewn bridges, human constructions, enter disuse and pursue their cycle-of change. Now green fronds emerge from between the stones, ivy clambers and moss distends across the wall. This is not nature reclaiming but our participation, the human element in the flow of change. Layers of sandstone now are split, and swirling ferns appear. As yesterday, for a moment we were the Lune -- no river apart -- sediment formed upon our feet as wee, wee fishes explored our toes, planted in the cool running water. The inner and outer landscapes we contemplate: complexity and stability are twinned' in nature, and the stable heart is that which can accommodate all conditions in harmony.
Ajahn Sumedho, accompanied by Venerable Amaro and Nick Scott, went on a nine-day walk in the Lake District at the end of June this year. Here are some of Venerable Amaro's notes on the long wet hike:
"There is only one mind," as the Ajahn put it, "and it is the ultimate simplicity which contains all complexity."
A day of nature reserves and conservation areas bring these thoughts to mind; conservation being the sustenance of the great complexity for the blessing and benefit of all.
We arrived at Manjushri quite waterlogged. Nick is now busy masterminding the laundering of clothes -the tents are hanging, the Ajahn rests alone, and we are in the dry and protective embrace of thoughtful welcome.
As forest bhikkhus we were in our element, like woodland creatures, and we perched ourselves between the mossy rocks and spread the mats to take our meal.
Living with the Wet|
Yesterday, as we headed down from Hutton Roof crags, we talked much of living with the wetness.
"You can see the entry of self," the Ajahn said: 'My sleeping-bag is wet, my socks and my robe', the worrying mind goes on. But then this is simply the way things are, and when that is seen then there is no suffering; water in a sleeping-bag, so what?"
We were on our way to meet Arthur and Brenda of the Preston group. There was persistent drizzle. On the way, I mentioned to Nick that it would be deeply appreciated if he would stop constantly underestimating our distances. His optimism would always trim about a third off all the miles and time he had to reckon, which made the journey seem longer and longer all the time.
An hour and a half late again (this had become a daily. occurrence), we met up and then drove to the Gaitbarrows Reserve. After a little search we found a yew-grotto and strung our tent up to make a silver awning. As forest bhikkhus we were in our element, like woodland creatures, and we perched ourselves between the mossy rocks and spread the mats to take our meal. Little was said. Amidst the offerings of shelter, food and medicine there passed good feeling and the strength of kind support. We were damp and chilled, and we faced another long trek that afternoon.
Arthur and Brenda remained unquelled and walked with us for the afternoon. We beat through the bushes of flaweswaier Reserve, and rainsoaked, we arrived in Silvprdale. There was a sad feeling brought on by the sight of narrow-minded human ways, as we passed through some estates and farms around there. Nick described it as the: 'If it isn't a sheep or a blade of grass, kill it' attitude. Disease-free pig-pens, dead moles on a fence, a field of bullocks who rushed across to see us, all these brought a feeling of frustration and incompleteness, of an unkindness put upon the earth.
Happiness is a Dry Blanket|
We arrived at Silverdale station (an hour and a half late), and found a shelter on the platform there. There was a wondering moment, as we found that the next train across; the estuarv left far too late for us to reach our campsite.
"I wonder what happens now?"
Nick disappeared to see if he could find the house of some of his friends, who lived somewhere in the village. It was a moment of suspense. Somehow, however, the wonderful can always be discovered, in the midst of any situation.
"A beautiful smell pervades your clothing", said Arthur, "juniper -- just like Tibetan incense." Nick reappeared with the broad grin of success, and we were invited into the home of the Clothier family . . Four generations were gathered round a fire in their sitting room on this Sunday afternoon. We apologised for our invasion, and were presented in return with tea and warmth and commiserations about the rain. The rain!
After an hour or two, Arthur opted to drive us out to the edge of the reserve where we hoped to camp. I watched out of the windows of the car as we sped along -- the hike of light miles or so in this sheeting rain, hard work we would have had with it. And off we went to Roundsea Woods.
It was still raining when we reached the promontory, and found a spot to camp-beneath little oaks, Chinese and gnarly, low cloud and drizzle on the bay. It rained all night, but nonetheless we had to push to leave early. Everything the Ajahn and I had was waterlogged by now, so Nick shared out his last dry socks. We borrowed the veranda of an empty cottage as a shelter while we brewed some tea and dried our boots. Heaven was then a few dry feet in which to shake your tent out, a dry place to sit and watch the rain. A breeze-block public toilet became a palace for a while as we paused to adjust our gear and rest our packs.
These are the ways the mind instinctively reacts but, looking closely, what is wetness anyway? A feeling in the skin, unknown by the water, it has no name or expression for it's own nature. Water on skin, in cloth, on the ground -in grey rain it is tolerated; in a hot shower it is loved; appreciated in laundry, yet rejected in your boots.
As we have been journeying I have tried to attune to the ways of the Ajahn.
"I can't be bothered with trying to set the world straight -- it's just endless. You just have to go in the right direction yourself, and there will be some who follow and some who don't."
In turning to the ways of the Teacher, personality is seen to arise and be highlighted by the emptiness of his mirror. The self emerges like a spare part, accompanied by shadows of error and ineptitude. A moment of embarrassment dissolves, however, when the light is allowed to shine forth. The person has no owner, it appears for social convention only, a big red 'I' standing all alone.
Profound hospitality has met us at Manjushri; Roy Tyson, the director, has been attentive, respectful, sensitive and sincere. He introduced us to the resident teacher, Geshe Konchog Tsewang, who greeted us warmly -- no English, but no problem. At last the clouds have gone and the late sky has now dimmed to ultra-violet and aquamarine. It is late now, and the day has been long; I bid you all good-night.