Forest Sangha Newsletter April 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

A Guided Tour of Lay Practice
Ajahn Santacitto and Barbara Jackson have been working together at Amaravati on an Exhibition: "Lay People's Practice". For those who have not visited it yet, here is a brief tour...

Anyone visiting the exhibition on lay people's practice with a view to casually browsing or merely to being entertained, might not get much further than the entrance. Opening the door to the spacious Dhamma Hall one immediately encounters giant brushstroke letters reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy and framed in gold:

The way of Buddha in Daily Life:
Living Your Vision For A Better World

"Pleasant enough," one might think, "but what are they getting at?" A step further and the introductory statement in large bold type already seems to be asking us to make a decision.

Just curious? Looking for information? or, Looking for something deeper?

Those who are undaunted and decide to go on will find waiting for them a wealth of homespun wisdom, generously shared through the compelling accounts of everyday experience. These are people who have taken up the challenge of bringing into their daily lives the timeless teachings of the Eightfold Path as embodied in the ancient Theravadin Tradition -while remaining fully involved in the cross-currents of ourcomplex modern society.

"Provided the laity remain responsive and sensitive to the Sangha, and the Sangha maintain their high standards, all should be well."

Standing reading the introductory board, ones's peripheral vision may have already caught glimpses of Bodhi leaves dangling from overhead branches, and being drawn to turn around, one finds onself face to face with the Lord Buddha at the moment of enlightenment. As an example of many origins; Buddhist works of at this exceptional pairing symbolically connects ancient traditions to modern form and predominates ina gallery of over fifty 8-by-4-foot display boards. The painting of Lord Buddha brightly shines as the centrepiece of a full wall display, presenting both personal experience of practising alone, and an abundance of the Buddhas teachings which point to a clearer understanding of this. LONELINESS is portrayed visually as a leaf battered by the Eight Worldly Winds of gain/loss, fame/disrepute, happiness/sorrow, praise/blame. From here the Eightfold Path raises one up to the Bodhisattva's position of true ALONENESS. Beseiged by the armies Of Mara, both traditional and modern, one finds the Refuge that is impenetrable in the All-One-ness of the Tree of Bodhi.

"You want to find Peace? When you are with others you just want to be alone. When you are alone, you miss your friends. But peace doesn't arise through being alone, Or through being with, others. True Peace arises from Right Understanding" (Ajahn Chah)

Directly ahead, beneath the rays of a rainbow, is the second of Family Life where one is warmed by the candid offerings of parents writing on practising with children.

"The most important thing in dealing with children is honesty and example by parents and adults"

Then three beautifully creative paintings focus our awareness on the theme of Giving. One of these paintings presents the theme of mutual offering between monastic and lay communities, with lay, people's views on the development and benefits Of mutual dependency as the Sangha flourishes in the West.

"Provided the laity remain responsive and sensitive to the Sangha, and the Sangha maintain their high standards, all should be well."

The Precepts Board seems to share people's secrets on how they do succeed with working with the Five Precepts while Living in Society-and how they don't. The "do's" encourage and suggest a fresh approach while the "don'ts" reminds us of the familiar sound of our common predicament.

"I adore gossip and tend to exaggerate when telling stories. I know I Must be more mindful"

"The Five Precepts are in my experience vital as a guide. Forget them and sorrow and suffering follow inevitably. Keep them and one is able to be more open, joyful, efficient and on the ball."

Ahead we find favourite books and suttas as well as individual quotations and suggestions as to how these Helpful Resources may be wisely used.

"It can be a problem that the teachings get stuck in the head rather than the heart. One doesn't need to read about suffering to know suffering."

Sculpture, painting, poetry and song form a corner on Buddhist Culture.

Bronze Buddha! Seated peacefully in your Temple of the Trees What words can paint the beauty of the carpeting of these Who surround your loving With the rainbow of the leaves.

Next to that are valuable practical tips on how Formal Practice can reach out into our daily life situation.

"I cannot separate the day-to-day life from the practice. Everything I think and do is the practice - mind you, it is not always skilful - especially the thoughts - but there's awareness and the effort"

Having reached the larger-than-life Thai Buddha image, benignly overseeing this vast array of lay practice, one encounters warmly encouraging perceptions of ancient Buddhist Devotion and Ceremonies as they are being practised today. Is this perhaps a place where East and West can truly meet?

"There is a beautiful energy contained .in rituals that touches something very deep in our hearts.... I think in the West, many are rediscovering the value of rituals which connect us with a deeper reality."

"Ven. Sumedho blessed my youngest child on request at home in the presence of a few friends....

Tremendous - wish there was more opportunity to have domestic milestones gathered into the tradition and practice"

Across the aisle is a pictorial forum of the experience which has helped some Buddhist groups work well.

"Being with like-minded people who do not judge you and do not expect anything from you, yet encourage you to continue on your path"

And last but not least, in a final burst of energy, is the suitably flamboyant presentation of the Family Camp experience with all the little ones well protected by a hovering Tibetan dragon.

"To be within a contemplative atmosphere and to, be among other people with similar ideas on child rearing"

There has been much to take in and much to take away, and just before stepping out of the door, the large "STOP" on the introductory board may again draw our attention, perhaps now finding ourselves more vibrantly resonating with its final paragraph:

" Basically we are all in the same predicament. in recognizing this, we may come upon life's challenge and the opportunity left us by the Buddha -to follow the Eightfold Path. To pick up this challenge and bring the path into our lives is our open ticket to freedom and Truth"