Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1988

Ajahn Chah's Birthday; Viradhammo Bhikkhu
Question Time; with Ajahn Sumedho
Co-operation & a Different "Golden Rule"; Santacitto Bhikkhu
To Arrive Where You Are; Conversation with Tudong Monks
Keeping it Simple; Ayya Candasiri
Ancient Meadows; Dr. Barry Durrant & Ayya Viveka
Family Camp; Ayya Thanissara, Upasika Medhina, & Children
State of America; Sucitto Bhikkhu


Keeping it Simple
The Buddha allowed four basic requisites for monks and nuns; these are robes, almsfood, shelter and medicine. Ayya Candasiri reflects on this as a way to learn contentment with a very simple life-style and considers that we don't actually need that much to follow the Way.

For example with shelter: the standard for nuns is, a roof over the head for one night". The old paint store on Amaravati's campsite provides such shelter, and at the prospect of sharing this with another nun for a two-week period of retreat there was a wonderful opportunity to watch discontent - "What kind of retreat is this?" - arise in the mind ... to let it go, and return to the simplicity of NOW.
Sitting quietly, listening to the day begin outside - the dawn chorus, the sound of distant traffic -- it was very pleasant to be alive.

Well, the retreat began and it was quite delightful - to wake up at 3, 4, or 5 a.m., light a candle, bow, roll up the sleeping mat and replace it with a sitting mat. Throughout the procedure it was necessary to move very gently indeed to avoid disturbing my neighbour behind the thin partition ... (opening the door was always tricky), then walking out briskly in the clear night air to dispel the final traces of sleepiness. Sitting quietly, listening to the day begin outside - the dawn chorus, the sound of distant traffic -- it was very pleasant to be alive. Each day was punctuated by the monastery bell, which called the community to gruel, the meal and evening puja; the changing light, as the sun made its way across the sky, provided a more subtle and natural rhythm.
Having determined to look at the time only on first waking, the periods of rest and meditation were determined by what felt right, rather than the compulsive desire to clock-up so many hours of formal practice ... what a relief that was! What a privilege to step aside - if only briefly - from the tyranny of the digital alarm clock!

Some days were very hot; the well-insulated kutis became like furnaces. In the evening the air cooled but by closing the door, the stored-up warmth was preserved through the night. My kuti had a wood stove (the other had a basin!); on chillier nights newspaper, twigs and one or two small logs made a fire giving more than adequate warmth for several hours (it will make a marvellous sauna in winter).

One evening a mosquito came to visit; I noticed how gently it settled down to feed, but the inflamed spots and itching remained for several days. On another occasion a large spider took up residence in my almsbowl; fortunately, we met 30 minutes before the meal offering. And I saw a lot of the cats; they seemed to like visiting the neighbouring cornfield: I'd notice one or other of them walking quietly by and through a hole in the high fence behind the shed, as I sat there at dusk enjoying the gradual transformation of the world as night fell.

There'd be a sense of lingering sweetness as I stealthily rolled out the sleeping mat and prepared to rest. Then bowing to the Buddha, Dhamma -and Sangha, I'd see the photograph-, of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho deep in meditation; these provide a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to attend to the mind, to watch inwardly and attune to the silence. The heart resounds with wonder and gratitude -for those who brought me into the world, and my companions and teachers. May all beings be free!