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.

Venerable Nyanaviro writes on his four day walk in Teesdale.
     In mid-June three monks and one anagarika walked with Nick Scott in Teesdale for four days. The weather was cool and pleasant for walking, particularly as we were all carrying heavy packs.
     The first day out always heightens awareness of shoulders., back and feet as the body grudgingly surrenders to the imposition of a heavy rucksack. That first evening we made camp above a reservoir.
     On the second day we went over Cross Fell (nearly 3000 ft), along part of the Pennine Way, and camped quite high at Knock Fell. The climb had been exhausting, but we were rewarded with a magnificent view west towards the Lake District, and the peace that such a solitary spot offered.
     The third day's walk took us past the impressive Dufton Pike as we circled around back towards High Force. A clear, deep pool set below a waterfall irresistibly beckoned us for a private afternoon dip and provided our first chance to remove the dust of our journey.
     Nick's sensitivity to the environment increased the fullness of our experience as he pointed out many kinds of birds and flowers along the way. I remember a Ring Ousel sitting contentedly on a ridge above our path, and a fast flying Merlin swooping across the open moorland. We walked among romantically named 'cloud berries' (they only grow above 2000 ft) and tried to empathise with Nick's enthusiasm for the 'Lesser Rock Rose' (Teesdale is its sole British habitat), 'Bird's-Eye Primroses' and tiny ferns. Such observations made the present moment more interesting, a quality of attention which is helpful to develop as it gives lightness to the mind and a more joyful, yet calm participation in our human experience.

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

   Venerable Subbato offers this account of part of the tudong from Devon to Amaravati.

Our route took us across the Somerset levels, through Glastonbury and Wells, up over the Mendip Hills to Bristol, following the tow path to Bath and Bradford-on-Avon. Continuing eastwards to Avebury circle we picked up the Ridgeway, out of Wiltshire, across Oxford and Buckingham shires to Hertfordshire - where we spent the last night out in the great forest at Ashridge.
     Each day the universe conspired with Buddhist friends and other like-minded folk to feast us, and sheltered us from the elements by night.
      When we arrived at Wells we sat on the grass in front of the Cathedral and enjoyed being still after a long walk in the sun. There were a lot of tourists - a large party of students nearby started to zoom in on us with their cameras. Many clicks later, feeling a little estranged - like relics of a distant religious past - we took out our alms-bowls and placed them in front of us. We hoped to appear approachable and that this gesture might offer a means of communication. Our spectators were unmoved.
     We sat quietly for some time, then moved to the covered stone porch which serves as an entrance to the cathedral close. An inscription on the wall had caught our attention earlier and it read something like: 'Penniless Porch: The poor gathered alms here in centuries past.' Sitting with our bowls we felt vulnerable yet also quite approachable . . . but Venerable Jayamano and myself soon became uncomfortable as passers-by dropped money in our bowls. So we had to explain that we could not receive money. This worked very well, and no sooner had we begun to explain when along came an old friend who put food into our bowls.
     As we were stationary, people had time to feel us out before approaching. Many asked who and what we were, and where we were headed. In half an hour we had food in our bowls, Anagarika Tim had a handful of coins and it had been very gratifying to talk to some of the other two-legged, cloth-clad creatures that had come to enjoy the magnificent aura of the Cathedral.

  Venerable Chandapalo reports from Switzerland.

In July of this year, the resident Sangha embarked on its first Tudong experience in Switzerland. We walked for two weeks, north-wards through the Emmenral (valley of the River Emme) and the Jura mountain range, to the city of Basel.
     Less than a week before leaving, the outlook had not been very promising; we still had no tent, only a few offers of a meal or a place to stay on the way, and weather more suited to November than July. As the walk proceeded, however, everything seemed to work out - the weatherimproved, and wherever we went we were met with the abundance of Thai-style hospitality. We discovered along the way that there are Thai people living in the most out-of-the-way places in Switzerland. It was necessary to camp out in the forest on only a few nights, as we were often invited to stay in people's homes - frequently that of a Thai woman with a Swiss husband.
     Sometimes, if the apartment was rather small, we were given the main bedroom, while our hosts camped out in the living room!
     On several occasions, the Thai ambassador and/or his wife drove all the way from Bern to offer a meal at a pre-arranged location along our route in the countryside. Their son Bhaw (who is twelve years old), walked with us for two days, carrying liquid refreshments - which were much appreciated as the weather got hotter and hotter as, the walk progressed.

It was interesting to find that most of the Swiss people who offered assistance during the walk had discovered Buddhism whilst travelling in Thailand. It really turned out to be a joint Thai-Swiss Tudong. We even wondered if the insects - particularly the mosquitoes and ticks which kept us so alert while we were in the forest - had been trained in Thailand!