Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1990

Dhamma: Naturally Delightful, Additive-free; Ajahn Amaro
Living Vinaya; Ajahn Sucitto
Question Time; Ajahn Sumedho
On The Path; A Tudong Special: varied experiences


On The Path    page:  1   2 

Several groups of monks and one group of nuns had the opportunity to go wandering 'on tudong' this summer. Although the experience is generally a pleasant one, going tudong also implies a degree of insecurity. It allows the movement of faith - the stepping into the unknown, relinquishing hope or expectation. One of the greatest blessings of the Holy Life is that it forces one to encounter situations where the only choice is to let go in faith. And then this letting go seems to give space for the wonderful to arise. The following reflections are accounts by different monks and nuns of their tudong experience.

Sister Viveka was among the nuns who walked west from the Devon Vihara ...
A poem by Sister Thanissara, inspired by nuns' two-week walk in Devon.
Ven. Kovido walked with Ven. Attapemo from Amaravati to Chithurst.
Venerable Nyanaviro writes on his four day walk in Teesdale.
Venerable Subbato offers this part account of the Devon to Amaravati tudong.
Venerable Chandapalo reports from Switzerland.

Sister Viveka was among the nuns who walked westwards from the Devon Vihara ...
    Our tudong in devon was auspicious from the very first evening when we were blessed by the Devon Vihara, and offered vihara-made candles in bundles of incense and flowers to carry with us. As we arrived at the vihara, a double rainbow was spanning the valley, its incredible colours drawn out of nowhere.
     The walk was full of such wonders - rainbows, and exquisitely sweet honeysuckle scents drifting from the hedgerows, the wildflowers dazzling in their beauty and the intricate wildness of the roadside foliage; the streams rolling and tumbling - sometimes seen through rainy days. One becomes more aware of the elements: water, which takes on the characteristics of whatever it contacts; and earth - how one clings to feeling solid and so dislikes feeling tired and shaky as if about to collapse, until you let go into the motion, the movement of the body; and the radiance of a quiet mind which starts to accept all experiences equally - open to the generosity and exhaustion alike, allowing the universe to unroll as it will.
     Although we walked through lonely and deserted places - across moors dotted with barrows, over Tors on Dartmoor - yet there was often the sense that many beings were walking with us. And each day we were met by Devon supporters, always with beaming, welcoming smiles and hospitality. It was a great opportunity to open to a sense of faith in the benevolence of the universe towards those who renounce.
     It was my experience to be very aware of one's vulnerability as an alms-mendicant - having only what you could carry with you. Long walks planned and no control over food or shelter. So one has to surrender to the body, to walk, to walking, and trust that what you need will appear at the suitable moment.

There is such a joyful willingness in the lay community to support the life of renunciation.

In the end, food, shelter and medicines were abundant. Cath, who organised the support for the walk, said that everything came together almost on its own - although I would not underestimate the effort which she put forth to encourage that result.

Together with the sense of being profoundly grateful for the care and generosity of our friends - many of whom had not met before - there was also the startling relief in realising that we were welcomed as Sangha. There is such a joyful willingness in the lay community to support the life of renunciation. No matter who you are and how good or bad you think you are, the aspiration and commitment to live under the Vinaya is respected and supported. This Buddha-Dhamma is powerful stuff.

  A poem by Sister Thanissara, inspired by nuns' two-week walk in Devon.

Tudong in Devon
Between hello and goodbye
that echo in lost valleys,
we meet in dreams.
From the mountain peak we try to see
so that we may know from whence we look.
On waking this day, and in the silence
I remember a dream
of that old and beautiful land
which they call Devon.

Red earth
green hedged fields
and heath lands that roll with the hills.
Cows and sheep grazing
small farms
with dogs barking and howling into the night.
Beautiful stones underfoot
each holding some mysterious essence.
Mud tracks and cow pats,
wild flowers, dotted like stars
proclaiming their simple state of being.
Woods and forests
whispering through the leaves
stories of travellers and old history.

Listen carefully.
Green foliage bursting with life
and shadows falling at twilight,
following streams and rivers
that trickle and course their way to the sea
which seen in the distance
beckons and calls.
Walking near, the smell
--salt, seaweed,
seagulls that glide so naturally.
Its might and infinity washing away
the limited
as each wave breaks.
pouring rain and biting wind
majesty and power radiates
stirring the depths.
A primitive note struck and a long-forgotten call
that haunts.
Stone circles
tumuli, tors
ancient dwellings and lost folklore.
Maybe we lived here years ago.
just so
just as it is.
Nature, ordinary, extraordinary
and beautiful to behold.
In the depths of the dream a mirror is held
a kaleidoscope of people
reflecting facets of one's own mind.
Where's the separation?
So diferent
so similar.
Each in their shy beauty veiling the light
with visions and despair
confusion and insights
the human plight.
How strange
to be nobody
to be everybody
- tell me - do you know who we are
as we dance, move and weave
our way through space and time?
nothing really happens
no fixed views or rights and wrongs
just looking
and sensing the heart beat of every living being
- their life's song.
green capital of the West.
Curiosity like a trapped bird
being drawn down many corridors
to where?
It's hard to know what freedom really is
In a world of shadows that people call reality.
In the silent empty night
dark alone
awareness shines bright for a moment
shifting the shadows and dispelling the dreams.
The heart fully appreciates
the triple jewel
as one who had travelled far would appreciate the long lost love
of a friend.
Perhaps that too is just a dream
a dream ....

  Ven. Kovido writes on his walk with Ven. Attapemo from Amaravati to Chithurst.

The actual sensations of walking became the background flow of the stream that kept re-emerging during the walk: the feeling of the pack which seemed to get heavier during the day; the interplay of the heat and the cold - finding out that it is preferable to walk in gentle rain rather than hot sunshine; and the effect that a small change in gradient could make to walking. Then the coolness of the trees and the immense relief of taking off the pack and having a break in the late afternoon. How quickly we cooled down when we stopped walking!
     Late in the afternoon, or early in the evening we would approach a village where we planned to spend the night. It is strange how different it is to walk somewhere rather than to drive. Driving, basically, is going from A to B. You may see a few things whizzing by, but the general experience is: leave A, drive, arrive at B. On the other hand, walking is a very gentle, gradual way to approach a village. As one walks in, consciously or sub-consciously one absorbs the surroundings: the type of terrain - woodlands or fields, buildings and footpaths, the farm animals, the type of architecture. Then, feeling something of the history - the age of the place, the church, the duckpond, the village green, the house names. And then, there you are at somebody's house and somehow you are part of the surroundings - not really an intruder. Quietly, gently, walking in.
     The door opens and the scene changes and for a while one enters into a different world, like water in a stream coming to a pool, slowing down and curling around for a while. And one undergoes that ritual of getting to know somebody. Having walked helps, because at the end of a day one is tired and thirsty and dirty. So if somebody gives you a cup of tea and a chair to sit down on you are immediately grateful and responsive. Being made helpless by our rules (and also by what we could carry), one cannot get these things for oneself, so a gap is created and during our walk it was generously and regularly filled to the full.
     Getting to know somebody and being allowed to come into their space for a while is to get a glimpse of a non-monastic world. What are the values, the ideas which make people do what they do? What do they actually do? And the idea of one's work - not so much the bread-winning stuff although not necessarily separated from that - but the work which is the purpose and the fulfillment of a life, its relationship to the society and environment that one lives in. How does this equate with life as a Buddhist monk? Surprisingly, we found that people who may regularly visit the monastery really know very little about the monks and think we (Ven. Attapemo and myself!) are quite formidable or intimidating. And so, partly through the etiquette and the rules about what we can and can't do as monks, and also through the exchange of ideas and thoughts, we would get a glimpse into each others' worlds.
     And in the midst of all this we take tea and refreshments, a bath, a rest and breakfast and then off we go again. And after about a hundred yards of leaving comes up that feeling of "Oh yes. Remember. This is what it's all about.' That familiar feeling of the weight of the pack on one's back., and the legs stretching out like being back with an old friend. Back walking again, leaving that other world behind, and leaving gently with no traces left behind. And so we'd go on walking, flowing down the stream - stopping for a while, entering another world - and then walking on again.