Forest SanghaNewsletterApril 1989

Serenity, an Open Heart; Chithurst Anniversary
The Four Brahma Viharas; Venerable Munindo
Hammer Wood Progress; Aj, Sucitto & Mike Holmes
Question Time; Venerable Kittisaro
Thrift; Ajahn Sucitto
A Guided Tour of Lay Practice
Inside Freedom

We undertook a thrift campaign at amaravati in the latter half of 1989 to substantially reduce overheads; it stimulated some ideas that were later taken up by other monasteries. Reduction in the use of electricity was the main target, this involved abandoning the use of electric kettles, washing clothes by hand and - elderly or sick people excluded - rationing the use of electric fires. Ajahn Sumedho encouraged us not to make an ascetic practice out of it, but to use Wisdom, and to frequent heated communal rooms. The sala's wood-fired heating system was to produce the communitys hot water and keep everyone warm, and we completed a major work project on insulating the men's from Chithurst. In fact residences with some help from bhikkhus we even had the energy left over to install a gas-fired boiler in the old people's quarters, thanks to some good hearts and late nights.

There's a real willingness to allow our lives to be moulded in terms of rhythm and form by a sensitivity to resources. And there's an enthusiasm to investigate new possibilities: we are currently thinking of collecting rain water for washing purposes. As these resources eventually come down to what the earth is capable of providing us with, we hope that others may pick up on our approach and share some of their ideas with us; it's an area that should concern us all. Oh - and we strongly recommend community consciousness as a means of generating energy, inner warmth and good ideas.

I've got to be mindful, and cheerful too! Sound familiar'! Welcome to samsara.
After the great Magha Puja gathering of over fifty samanas at Amaravati the resource of people is thinning dramatically. By the time that you read this our winter guest, Ajahn Jagaro, will be on his way back to bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, and Ajahn Sumedho will probably be in New Zealand after visiting California. After New Zealand he will, go to Australia and Thailand, so we don't expect to see him until June. With Ajahn Santacitto at the Devon Vihara, and Ajahn Kittisaro "on retreat" at Amaravati for the year, that leaves Ajahn Amaro and myself (feeling slightly orphaned) overseeing things at the Centre. Monks and nuns are going off to branch monasteries in Devon and Switzerland, and some to help with the preparations for Chithurst's open Day on June 25th. Then two of the anagarikas will be going to Chithurst in May to prepare for their bhikkhu ordination on July 9th - which all in all leaves us spread thinner than the butter on a cafeteria sandwich.

So the mind can go into its panic - because there's the Lay People's Exhibition to prepare - and there's the work on the bhikkhu vihara unfinished, and the lay women's guest quarters could use some refurbishmant and there are the gardens, and the lawns to mow ... and we're getting so many books in the library that we need some more space and more shelves ... then there's the work for the Festival for Religion and the Environment - books, displays, paintings ... and there are retreats, meditation classics, workshops, parties of schoolchildren, people wanting advice.... and if all, that wasn't enough - I've got to be mindful, and cheerful too! Sound familiar'! Welcome to samsara. Where it begins is in the mind: and that's the only place it's ever going to end. What's the point of practising Dhamma except to know and experience that? So at times when there's so much to do, we have to remember to do very little.

Do just a little at a time and let go a lot: that's the way out of samsara,and being open to the world makes it very easy: it really is too painful to indulge in proliferations, panic, anxiety and self-criticism. So we'll just live to be very sparing with what our minds create,and that's a campaign well worth contemplating!

Ajahn Sucitto