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


A Light in Confinement

Recently, a devoted lay meditator who has been a friend and supporter in Thailand became involved in someone else's unskillful kamma. As a result, she finds herself serving a prison sentence in Australia. Despite difficult and oppressive conditions, she remains undaunted in her commitment to practise the teachings of the Buddha in her daily life. She writes this letter from her prison cell.

It is my 10th day in mahamoha naraka - hell of big delusion. I did not have a jury trial but I had to plead guilty. That's what the barrister and lawyer suggested. I'd have to be here many more years if I pleaded not guilty. My letters could prove my innocence but why didn't the lawyer want to get them back? Sometimes I wonder whether they'd been sincere and truthful to me.

I keep the same precepts as you in heart. I think I'd work towards a renunciant's life even after my release. I've suffered so much, I don't want to go back to more suffering but walk on the Dhamma path to end suffering.

It's very difficult to be here, not physically but mentally. The minds here are so confused and muddled. A lot of jealousy, pettiness and anger. Their self-images and mirrors reflect a distorted picture. Hard to understand their speech; it has very little truth in it. They can't relate to goodness and wholesomeness. To be good is a big bad joke, I guess. Their minds refuse to grow up but they keep denying their own stuff and resisting any goodness that might arise. It's so bizarre and pitiful. How I long to be with the good monks and nuns again. Compared to the monastery with its peaceful vibrations, this is real hell. I don't have to go to hell to realise what hell is like.

When the heart and mind is soft, it's easy to have loving-kindness and compassion for the suffering beings in this jail.

About one and a half hours ago I was moved from my cell to a protection cell. Relief! That means that I don't have to be with those deluded minds - I can meditate as much as I want here. No duties and no smoke from their cigarettes. Dhamma is strange, isn't it? I'd been pretty sick the last few days - very stressed-out from fear because they used some violence on me. The officers here are very understanding and the Dhamma always protects those who protect it, right?? I know there are many devas protecting me. Pray for me so I could see my Dhamma teachers again soon. I've an inkling that the golden land of the Buddha's teachings could perhaps receive me as a nun for a few years.
You know, I've so much samvega - urgency to practise. I just want to meditate and meditate. You know the merits that you all transferred to me will see me through all this anicca- dukkham - impermanence and suffering - that I am experiencing. I know Dhamma will help me. I pray for only Dhamma protection and that comes from having a pure mind and heart that is mindful and full of metta- karuna. When the heart and mind is soft, it's easy to have loving-kindness and compassion for the suffering beings in this jail. They are so deluded and so angry. They are caught in a vicious cycle - do bad, be bad and change for the worse. They have very low self-images and hate themselves but they can't see it. You see how they sink deeper and deeper. Once wrong, how difficult to be straight - the mind is so tricky. It can have so much self-deception and hypocrisy.

I don't despise or dislike them. I know they are suffering so much deep down - but I can't help them as I am afraid. Trying to be helpful has given me so much trouble. I can only have compassionate thoughts for them. There's so much suffering in this world - I really don't want to waste my life doing trivial and petty things but to meditate and cultivate a really pure mind and heart and to be released from all sufferings.

Please let go of all. Meditate a lot. Hope you all don't mind transferring some merits over so I could get mokkha (liberation) soon and be united with my venerable teachers and wise ones again. I keep 10 precepts but I have lots of hair; that's also O.K. - the whole cosmos is empty - just have a light heart and mind and be empty. That which is hollow is useful. I write you something from Stonehouse, a Chinese Zen monk who lived a few hundred years ago:

Look for what's real and it's gone,
Wipe out illusions and they increase.
But bhikkhus have a place that's serene.
The moon in the sky shines on
the waves.

Becoming Buddha is easy
But ending illusions is hard.
So many frosted moonlit nights
I've sat and felt the cold before dawn.

Stripped of reason my mind is blank.
Emptied of being my nature is bare.
At night my windows often breathe
The moon and stream come right to
the door.

All the photos, cards, leaves, feathers that you all so kindly sent, and the Buddha-rupa in this cell B28, are ittharammana [lovely objectsl for those who come to this room. For in future, they might have the opportunity to come into the Buddha Sasana too. However, please do not send me anything any more - I only need one thing, which no one can give me - SATI - mindfulness. Anything external is still dukkha, ultimately. Only sati is sought now.
Be happy and peaceful. Lots of gratitude to you all.

Anyone wishing to write letters of support or encouragement, please contact Venerable Samvaro or Sister Medhanandi at Amaravati.