Forest Sangha Newsletter January 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



Sister Viveka was one of the women who took the ten-precept ordination at Amaravati in July. During her first Vassa as a siladhara she offered these reflections on the Going Forth.

It is only 2 months since I took the Going Forth as a nun, yet life in a brown robe is certainly very different from that of an anagarika. The hustle and bustle of cooking, driving, serving, endless washing, suddenly dissolves and develops another momentum. One is no longer running ahead of oneself in a frantic battle to ensure that the material environment is OK, because control over that material plane has been relinquished. Surrender is the most constant invitation, and in numerous situations the only possibility. The monastic form, the numerous rules of deportment and behaviour are there keeping watch, checking throughout the day and helping to centre and still the restless, confused, fiery energies of an untrained mind. I must admit, a few purifying fires have raged through during my two years as an anagarika, and although there is plenty more to burn away, the preliminary flamer have made it possible to live in what can seem like a pretty tight box. (Of course there is a sense, perhaps the best word is "faith", a kind of intuitive knowledge that the box is an illusion.) Allowing oneself to be locked in also leads to the eventual discovery that the box isn't really there at all, and the freedom to gaze at the marvellous.
Now I own nothing. I have no control over providing my body with its needs for survival.

Going Forth has been the most, perhaps the only, truly wondrous experience of my life. That is not to say that life has been devoid of experiences many of which would conventionally be labelled exciting, stimulating, fascinating or even fulfilling. But looking back, everything which I did or relationship I had, left behind it the same energy with which it was approached: there was always something more to want. Now I own nothing. I have no control over providing my body with its needs for survival. Living entirely dependent on the goodness and generosity inherent in people, the jog and gratitude which fills me when someone offers me a cup of rice gruel in the morning is something I could not have imagined. Being encouraged to approach each situation with a mind of renunciation, no longer expecting to get what you want, seems to bring with it that very sense of fulfillment, of nothing more to seek, which had been so often missed.
Joy comes in many ways: walking with our empty alms-bowls to receive offerings of food for our meal, bald as new born babies and almost as helpless, is one of the most beautiful moments of the day. Greeting the softness of the air at 4.25 am to walk to the Sala for morning puja is another precious time. I am becoming more aware of the unique quality of Sangha: the beings who have surrendered themselves to this way of life so that it has continued for 2,500 years. For those who have started their training before me; who are now guiding, supporting, correcting and inspiring all of us who are young and insecure in this life as ,samanas, I feel a growing sense of gratitude and love. Sometimes it is hard to believe that all this has happened; that I should have found such a fine and wholly good way to live, in the most unexpected place.