Forest SanghaNewsletterApril 1988

Monastic Winter Retreat; Reflections
Magha Puja; Post Retreat Stats
Life in the Sangha's Forest; Ayya Thanissara
Mask of The Great Unknown; Ajahn Sucitto


Mask of The Great Unknown

In assembling a newsletter, one is always juggling with the uncertainties of the future and with subjective interpretations of the present and the past. There's a feeling that if you set it down in black-and-white and get it to the printers on time, maybe that will actually help recorded or proposed events emerge from their dreamlike reality into actuality. A similar process is experienced at the beginning of a year; when the mind has been sharpened by a long meditation retreat, one begins to understand what that compulsion is. It is the becoming that is in towards birth. 1988: what will happen? What are the plans? there's a scurry to get the year planned out before the actuality of the uncertain and the unpredictable merrily chews up the diaries and the projects and the visions. Someone is taken ill. Some machine breaks down, people and events arrive which weren't expected - and what we planned for doesn't get born. Then, if you haven't understood how things are, you suffer.
Even the best plans are only perceptions in the mind
In the spiritual life, the underlying intention is away from becoming and birth, but our situation in the world asks for plans, events and statements. So we prepare a framework for events to establish the right intention of bringing Dhamma into the world, and let things take their natural course. Even the best plans are only perceptions in the mind, but right intention means that whatever does arise will be conducive to Dhamma. There is so little that we can expect or control, but in that is the need for, and the discovery of, a pure heart.

So here is 1988: the current Mask of The Great Unknown. And here are the viewpoints of a Newsletter, based on the intention to keep in touch: can't do better than that - and at least it shows that someone is watching.

Ajahn Sucitto





Dhamma for Families: A Review
It is now three years since the first Family Day was held (a little timorously) at Amaravati and also since the first "homegrown" (to put it politely) edition of Rainbows was printed and handed out to a few local friends of the community. This was a beginning, and as in any new situation, experimentation has taken place - amidst some uncertainty. The experience needed for such an undertaking could only be gained by trying things out and by reflecting on the results. Now, three years later, it is possible to determine a direction that will best serve families who are interested in having the Dhamma taught in a way that children can easily comprehend.

Over this time the Rainbows mailing list has increased considerably to include places such as New Zealand, Australia, Poland and America. This growth encourages the perception of a global community, which seems a more skilful way of viewing the human family than through cultural and national differences. In response to suggestions, ideas and criticisms, Rainbows has undergone various improvements, and no doubt will undergo more as the future unfolds.

The annual Family Summer Camp, held at Amaravati, initially grew out of the Family Days and, like Rainbows, has developed in an organic way. At present it is felt that the Camp is very worthwhile and has much potential.

The Family Days, which have been the source from which both Rainbows and the camp evolved, have been rather uncertain affairs. This is mainly due to the lack of continuity that individual families can offer. For many, the long travelling distances to Amaravati have allowed for only occasional visits. Running Family Days has always been unpredictable - there's no way of knowing who will come and what ages the children will be. A great deal of adaptability has been necessary to make the best of these days. Actually, in spite of the uncertainties, each of the gatherings have been delightful, with a sense of sharing and warmth amongst the people involved. However, until there are more interested families able to come on a regular basis, the idea has been put forward to hold these days less frequently.

So for this year, we shall hold three main Family Days with overnight accommodation available. This could stretch to a week-end event within which a wider scope of activities and more involvement with the community could be offered for both parents and children. There will also still be a few regular Family Days which will now function more as a "class" for children. This "class" would be from 1-3 pm on occasional Sundays and would comprise of a Small puja, story, discussion, reflection and some kind of activity. For dates and further information, see Looking Ahead or Rainbows, both available through SAE from Families at Amaravati.


A Distinguished Visitor:
Tan Ajahn Pannananda is one of the most loved and respected monks in Thailand. Very much one of the grandfathers of the Thai Sangha, his warm, benevolent and wise manner cannot help but impress all those who meet him. Like his teacher, Tan Ajahn Buddhadassa, he considers himself to be a servant of the Triple Gem: he has dedicated his life to helping people develop right understanding of Dhamma, and fearlessly speaking out against corruptions in Buddhism.

As abbot of Wat Cholapratahn, a large monastery in Nonthaburi on the outskirts of Bangkok, Ajahn Pannananda regularly teaches and has a Dhamma school. As well as attending to the duties as abbot of his monastery, he is also invited to give as many as four talks a day to different sectors of society: students, teachers, civil servants and soldiers. He has the ability to make the teachings of Buddhism accessible to the understanding of a whole variety of listeners, and he regularly appears on National radio and T.V. His direct but fair comments On the ethical conduct of the nation - even of its eminent figures - make him a voice of Thailand's moral conscience. Because of his service to Buddhism he has been honoured by the King with the ecclesiastical rank of Tan Chao Khun; recently his official title was upgraded to Tan Chao Khun Depvisuddhimedhi. Like many monks however, he uses his ordination name, and people refer to him in affectionate respect as "Luong Por Pailfla".

Ajahn Pannananda is taking a very sincere interest in the Dhamma as it is spreading to the West. He regularly travels overseas to offer his support and encouragement to new monasteries in the United States, Australia, New Zealand - as well as here in England - and has put a lot of effort into speaking on behalf of our Sangha in Thailand. He first visited Chithurst in May 1983 and since then has made an effort to return regularly.

We are once again delighted to receive him as our guest at Amaravati and Chithurst for the latter part of June and early July. Although he speaks good and charming English, the Dhamma flows more naturally for him in Thai; so we have arranged two venues for him to give talks primarily to the Thai community: at Amaravati on Sunday June 26 (with English translation) and in Thai only at The Camden Centre in London on July 3rd.