Forest Sangha Newsletter January 1992

Committed to Freedom; Ajahn Thanavaro
Crossing the Green Divide; Sister Candasiri
One Day of Practice; Venerable Varado
The Life of a Forest Monk: Pt II; Luang Por Jun
Greetings from Switzerland; Venerable Jayamano
Responding to the Sick and Dying; Barry Durrant
A Light in Confinement; prison letters

Editorial; Aj. Sucitto
Down Lay-life Way; B. Jackson
Caring for the Earth; Aj. Sucitto
View from the Hill; Ven. Vipassi


Dhamma Greetings from Switzerland

It has been six months since the welcome move to our new monastic residence in Kandersteg. It is a small and beautiful village at 1200 metres altitude, surrounded by the impressive features of snowcapped mountains, which rise these days into a cloudless sky. Venerable Jayamano shares some of his impressions.

During the summer and winter, thousands of tourists from all over the world are attracted to venture along these mountain tracks to look at the still, turquoise lakes and waterfalls which are fed by the melting glaciers. For over ten thousand years, torrential streams have patiently carved their courses, cutting deep gorges through the rocks. The old glaciers have left their imprint of immense power upon countless layers of rock; crushed into shape, they were later revealed by the retreating of the ice.

A long belt of pine forest stretches along the valley to the 'Unterland', and during spring and summer many wild flowers decorate the alpine meadows. With the picturesque traditional architecture of wooden log houses built upon sturdy natural stone walls, it makes quite a mesmerising visual feast. On the gable ends of the chalet roofs one can often see proverbs born from mountain life. All the typical smells of rural life are present, joined by the symphony of cow bells ringing throughout the valley.

We were asked to sign an agreement at the local community hall that we would immediately evacuate the house on notification of impending doom.

The monastery, fortunately, is situated on the side of the village that is not frequented by tourists. There is only one neighbouring house, about 70 metres away. Although there is hardly any more land to the monastery property than can be used to park a dozen or so cars, the house is surrounded by fields in front and woodland at the back. This provides plenty of space for people to find walking meditation paths.

The house itself is a former hotel and typical chalet. Built in 1905, it provides 22 rooms on three stories. On the ground floor are a large hall (our present shrine room) and a very well-equipped industrial kitchen, larder and laundry. Below is a big basement - which could well turn into a swimming pool during the spring thaw if the pump should ever fail.

We are in the process of transforming four bedrooms on the attic floor into a shrine room, and there are various small renovation projects which include double glazing all the windows - so we will be kept busy for a few years to come.

One minor 'Buddhist extra' to the house is that it stands in avalanche danger zone I. In 1968 there was an avalanche in which a partially connected restaurant and a separate neighbouring building were swept away by the tremendous pressure of air it created. Records show it to be the third of its kind in several hundred years in this area, so the chances that it might happen again soon are not too likely. Nonetheless, we were asked to sign an agreement at the local community hall that we would immediately evacuate the house on notification of impending doom.

It is encouraging to see how much interest and support has come forth from Thais and Westerners alike - both in helping financially (there is a big bank loan to pay off), and in lending a hand on the work projects. The monthly meditation weekends and longer retreats are well attended.

Venerable Javano, who joined us at the start of Vassa, and Venerable Mahesi, who came recently, bring the community of bhikkhus here up to four. So we are, for the moment, technically a Sangha which can gather for recitations of the Patimokkha training rules each fortnight. Vladam from Yugoslavia and Roget from Switzerland are anagarikas, the first to take the precepts here. It is a conducive environment for monastic training: support with regard to requisites is more than sufficient, and the relationship with locals is friendly and open.

to that distant

posters to raise consciousness
well designed but nonetheless
crystal balls to look away
beyond the present of this day
and sounds to lift your chakras high
what's wrong with your own sea and sky
and now you seem to think you need
the cut of corn within some field
when all you need to do is be
still upon
the silent sea
and there do only need to stay
within the rhythm of its sway
and only do you need to see
that all arisen will
cease to be
and only do you need to ask
who is it in this looking glass
and all you need
is who you are
to take you to
that distant star
and so that distant
distant star
is here where you
Jacqueline Fitch

Having recovered from the initial dropped jaw of wonderment at the sneer scale and magnificence of the alpine setting, the rumble of falling rocks, the fiery sunsets which bathe the snow-capped peaks in pink light, and the deep blues of the winter sky, one settles down to the rhythm of monastic routine. The qualities of patience and clear reflection on Dhamma become the basis of fulfilment, over and above the enchantment of sensory experience.