Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1991

Working with Love; Three reflections
The Life of a Forest Monk; Luang Por Jun
Visiting the City of 10,000 Buddhas; Ven Vipassi
Amaravati's Child; Sandy Chubb
UK Buddhist Education: a Dhammic Perspective
Samatha Meditation; Aj Brahmavamso
California Dreaming; Ven Amaro


California Dreaming

Venerable Amaro, fresh back from his four-month, almost non-stop teaching stint in California, offers a scout's report on the terrain ahead.

I had felt quite positive about the level of interest and support which was shown during my extended visit last summer. However, these last four months that were spent on the West Coast served to dispel any lingering doubts I might have had that the time was not yet ripe for the foundation of a monastery there.

Despite little advertising, there were between forty and sixty people coming along to the evening talks and meditation week-ends that were given around the San Francisco Bay area - roughly double last year's numbers. Furthermore, this interest was not founded merely on the basis of this being 'a new thing', but seemed to come from a deep respect for the place of renunciation, integrity and tradition in spiritual life.

To have so many people respond with such respect and gladness brings a bright glow to the heart.

In many ways, this visit was simply an expanded version of what we did last year. It had a slightly different emphasis, however, in that the centrepiece of the trip was a two-week retreat held on the premises of The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Ven. Sumedho, together with Sisters Thanissara and Abhassara, came from England to lead this, and a third of the sixty retreatants were members of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas community - including the abbot, Ven. Heng Chi. The retreat was followed by a three-day conference entitled 'Sila and the Modern Age', which, in turn, was followed by the ordination ceremonies of a large number of men and women as bhikshus and bhikshunis. Another five bhikkhus came from our monasteries in Europe to participate in these events.
During these months, many friendships with Buddhist and other spiritual groups were deepened, and it gave me great delight to have the honour of performing such an ambassadorial role with them. Naturally one feels very positive towards the lifestyle and ethic one has chosen to live by; however, to have so many people respond with such respect and gladness brings a bright glow to the heart. The presence of our community and its values were received by a great variety of people all along the West Coast with an enthusiasm befitting some fabulous elixir. It is not certain how many invitations we will be able to respond to in the future, but there have requests for us to teach on a regular basis at: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Green Gulch Zen Center, meditation groups in Vancouver, B.C., Seattle and Portland, Vipassana groups associated with Spirit Rock Meditation Centre, The Esalen Institute and Thai monasteries in San Francisco, Freemont and Los Angeles.

In order to assist the foundation of a monastery in this area, a small committee of lay people has been formed, called 'Sanghapala'. For the last couple of years they have sponsored the visits made by members of this community to teach on the West Coast, and it was they who organised and managed the retreat at The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Their task in hand now is the search for a place in San Francisco which will be suitable to be set up as a vihara. As has been the case in other countries where this community has planted roots, we expect to begin by establishing a small centre in the city. Later it is hoped that a monastery will be developed in the countryside - to offer a more quiet environment to those who wish to live as monastics, as well as for those who wish to experience life in a spiritual community more temporarily.

this hovering

in this hovering of emptiness
without surface
thought is wandering
timelessly through
a mysterious ocean
in this hovering of emptiness
thought is the visit of a stranger

and leaving
being born
and ceasing

Jacqueline Fitch
Since it is scheduled for me to lead a retreat at Amaravati over Easter 1992, 1 expect to depart for the USA shortly thereafter. It is the nature of all things to be unpredictable; however, "If the Good Lawd is willin' 'n' the creek don't rise" a monastery should be opening in San Francisco around May 1st next year. We will keep you informed of developments.