Forest Sangha Newsletter January 1999
Question Time; Tuhn Ajahn Sumedho
Arrive at Where You Are; Kittisaro Bhikkhu
Desire to end Desire; Tuhn Ajahn Maha Boowa
Filling in the Dots; Sister Abahassara
Zeal and New Land; Subbato Bhikkhu
Kwan Yin & the Noble Elephant; Sucitto Bhikkhu
Thoughts From a Forest; Vipassi Bhikkhu
A First View of Buddhism; Arnold Handley

Returning Homeless:
Working With Nature:

To Arrive at Where You Are
The three bhikkhus and two anagarikas of the Devon Vihara walked from Devon to Chithurst in July. Here are extracts from Ajahn Kittisaro's letter, beginning with the time of leaving the Vihara.

The unknown sharpens the mind and calls forth rejuvenating effort to meet the challenge. A quadruple rainbow heralded our departure and our initiation into the tudonga life was immediate. From our very first step it poured with rain, and we smiled wet and happy smiles as we strode along, exhilarated by the exertion itself, the movement, the utter simplicity ...

Rhythmic footsteps became our good friends, along with the seemingly omnipresent pack. Its weight, pressure, , and burden was reassuringly familiar amidst the constant change of wandering. It staged with me wherever we went, encouraging me to develop energy and patient endurance: and it gathered together our requisites into a very small space, helping us to see clearly how simple (or complicated) our bodily needs were.

I thought it would be good for us to be available for mocking, ignoring, or offering, as the case might be.

Physically we still needed a place to rest our bodies for a night. Not wanting to take anything not given, we would put our tents down somewhere only with permission. Though often surrounded by vast tracts of lovely, spacious, empty, and alluring countryside, we remembered: "This belongs to somebody." People get annoyed when others take things for granted and use property improperly. So often as the afternoon began to fade we would look for someone to ask:

"We are Buddhist monks walking on pilgrimage to our monastery in West Sussex. Do you know where we might be able to get permission to camp for one night?"

...In this way, drawn together by need and a kind heart, we met many wonderful beings who invited us into their space. Our bodies were offered abundant fresh air, shelter, and nourishment; our hearts found encouragement, gratitude and trust, and our minds were given many things to reflect upon. Those who welcomed us seemed to receive in the giving. Everyone glows.

Once we approached the village of Mockbegger. We all wondered, will we be mocked. I thought it would be good for us to be available for mocking, ignoring, or offering, as the case might be. As it was late afternoon and we had no place to stay, I approached a house in order to speak with someone. Just as I opened the squeaky gate a man appeared out of nowhere, on cue, and he mocked me in a rather condescending tone as if he had caught me red-handed. "And what can I do for you, young man?"

I answered honestly, and contemplated that praise is not a true refuge. To hear tones of blame sounding Dhamma truth is indeed liberating. Mockbegger is giving us some good practice, we thought. The local vicar, who was newly ordained, seemed rather shocked to see us, and said it was against the law to camp. He directed us a few miles away to a public campsite. This is not the kind of news you like to hear at the end of a long day when you are tired.

Next door was a beautiful farm, Mockbegger Farm. We walked by, looked in wistfully, and went on. We'll take what has been given, I thought. The vicar has offered us his advice - not necessarily what we wanted - and we are capable of walking another mile or so with equanimity. Just as we were walking away I heard a cough. Turning around I saw a woman with a dog. I spoke to her amidst a barrage of unwelcoming barks.

She warmly invited us to Mockbegger Farm and we were offered a place to camp. She said: "I feel you've been sent. I'd like to talk to you about your philosophy and way of life, but I suppose you'll be having dinner now:' "No," I said, "we don't eat dinner" "I can see that. You all do look very thin. Surely you must be allowed something..."

Later that night, as it was raining, Christine welcomed us into the stable, and having been refreshed by her abundant offerings of tea and cheese, we sat on the straw-covered floor and talked and delighted in Dhamma with our kind host.

As I went to sleep in the tent that night I realised that we are the Mockbeggers. Outwardly we are poor and in need. We have no shelter, no money, no food, no way to continue our bodily existence alone. In consciously living this apparently ailing and impoverished life, we allow the kindness of others to blossom, we allow our own trust and serenity to develop. Inside we are Mockbeggers indeed, for we carry the precious gems of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in our hearts.