Forest SanghaNewsletterApril 1991

In Doubt We Trust; Ajahn Munindo
On Messiahs and Other Matters; Ajahn Sumedho
Why Did I Become a Nun?; Sister Sundara
Pilgrimage in India; Aj. Sucitto & Sr. Thanissara
Another Part of the World; Ajahn Anando
The Golden State: A. Amaro


Doing What We Can

The words and images in this newsletter are offered as reflections on the Way beyond suffering. This Way is not some kind of bypass, but a challenge to acknowledge and face up to suffering - one's own and that of all beings in existence.

There was a perfect opportunity for us to take up this challenge during our two-month winter retreat, which began during the last agonising weeks of negotiations attempting to avert a war in the Gulf, and which ended on the full moon of Magha Puja, the day that the cease-fire was formally announced.

Day by day during the retreat, Luang Por Sumedho presented us with the latest developments. 'Right now they're bombing Baghdad', one evening at the end of puja, brought a sickening, leaden feeling to the pit of the stomach.

Are our lives so filled up with alluring and beguiling 'refuges', towards which our habitual responses catapult us?
The many hours of meditation - and minimal opportunities for distraction meant that the mind was particularly receptive. One observed fear, anger, despair and an overwhelming sense of helplessness - and compassion for all those whose lives would be shattered by the events of those weeks.

But the reflection, 'This is the way it is', brought the mind to a standstill - and we were reminded constantly of what we, as human beings, can do to ameliorate conditions in the world, to make a contribution towards peace. Being at peace within ourselves . . . although it's not especially grand - in fact it's incredibly simple - for most of us, most of the time, it turns out to be incredibly difficult!

The theme of Refuge offers some valuable help. Buddhist teachings provide us with three perfect Refuges, which are there to be turned to at any time; day time, night time, wherever, whoever you are ... Do we really turn to them? Or are our lives so filled up with alluring and beguiling 'refuges', towards which our habitual responses catapult us, that before we know it we are flailing about in yet another quicksand?

So we listened to the violence and confusion going on in the Gulf, and turned in, too, to the violence and confusion in our own minds ... not that much difference, when we really look. Can we make peace with it? Can we really take refuge in knowing: 'This is the way it is'? Can we refrain- just even for one instant - from responding to it all with denial, or further hatred and violence? That's all we have to do - but we need all the help we can get to do it!

May what is contained in the pages of this newsletter provide a measure of encouragement and inspiration towards the realisation of that Way beyond suffering.

Sister Candasiri