Forest SanghaNewsletterJanuary 1988

Wood Hammered at Chithurst; Ajahn Anando
Serpentine, Western Australia; Chris Banks
Looking for the Sweet One; Ajahn Jagaro
Wish You Were Here; Venerable Sumano
Kathina 1987; Sister Candasiri & Upasika Susilo
Off the Beaten Track; Venerable Kovido
New-Born; Sister Viveka
Amaravati Summer Camp; Medhina
The Way the Wind Blows; Ajahn Sucitto



The Way the Wind Blows

For most people, New Year begins on January 1st but for us the seasons are not so closely tethered. The end of Vassa in October is something of a reference point, but radical changes occur at their own time, the old drops away, and the new situation arises with its own inevitability. Like the hurricane that blew through in October's third week, life changes are unpredictable and immeasurable. You view them afterwards, marvel at what survived, puzzle over what went down and proceed with a sense of wonder.

It was the first Vassa for four new bhikkhus and two new siladhara, and the presence of new aspiration and commitment is always a rejuvenation for the Sangha as a whole. It was also the first Vassa in Britain for two Thai bhikkhus from Wat Sanghatahn, and Venerable Kassapo from Wat Pah Nanachat. There were the losses too: Sister Rocana passed way in New Delhi in March, Venerable Bodhinando went to New Zealand in the spring, Venerable Thitapanno left for Thailand in December; and two bhikkhus disrobed. However Ajahn Sumedho, reviewing the gear at the English Sangha Trust's AGM, seemed pleasantly surprised by the way the wind has blown:
With Sangha you have people committed to the life style of Dhamma-Vinaya, and then within that country you have the opportunity to make that commitment.
I want to express my appreciation for the past decade because it has been a very inspiring time for me. To see the growth of the Sangha in this country is something that really touches my heart. I didn't expect it. I didn't think it would grow to the extent it has in ten years. . . . There are men and women of all ages, of all nationalities coming to study, to practise and to take the precepts; and these people are benefitting from their life here in a way that proclaims the validity and truth of the Dhamma.... Sometimes they feel like failures or they go through disillusionment, but their intention is not coming from emotion or inspiration, but from deliberation. It's a deliberate choice to live in a way in which they can realize that goal of liberation from all ignorance.

One of the more recent developments has been a studied overhaul of the Sangha's administration. The Theras (senior bhikkhus) used to meet occasionally to talk things over, but this year has seen the formalization of a Thera Council to give guidance to the Trust. At Amaravati a nucleus of lay administrators has been established to implement decisions and manage works, accounts, retreats and publications. In characteristic "jump in at the deep end" fashion, their first job will be to run Amaravati during the January-March monastic retreat, aided by the people who've decided to come and help out.

Tan Ajahn also spoke of future developments overseas: meditation groups that have been associated with the teaching of this sangha seem to be moving out of the "retreat" mode into the "advance" of a deeper commitment. The Swiss vihara is due to open in May, and there have been invitations to set up viharas in the USA. Commented Ajahn Sumedho:
There is an awakening to the need for Sangha; and this is quite different from a meditation retreat. With Sangha you have people committed to the life style of Dhamma-Vinaya, and then within that country you have the opportunity to make that commitment.

"When you've got a big fire on your hands, you'd better call for the Fire Brigade" was the way that some of our future American supporters put it when they stopped over in the summer. Next year, Ajahn Sumedho will be teaching in California in March, and Ajahn Sucitto in Massachusetts in May: before long it seems likely that the tickets will be one-way.

This year the wild flowers were planted at Chithurst, and trees in Hammer Wood; another few yards of the road to the Devon Vihara were paved; the construction of further living quarters at Harnham got off to a good start; and at Amaravati it was plenty of everything. Now another year borne along by Dhamma sheds its busy-ness. The skies darken early; monks and nuns swell visibly with winter clothing; hammers, saws, and lawnmowers enter their final stage of activity before the winter retreat: time to be still. May your New Year be as pleasant as the world will allow; and as peaceful as your practice can make it.

Ajahn Sucitto




These pine trees teach us
to gently sway in hard times
patient with our growth.

Quieting this mind
to hear only sweet silence

that is our being.

Joseph Ciarlo