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


View from the Hill

Venerable Vipassi writes a few notes from Ratanagiri Monastery, Harnham, Northumberland.

Sometimes the mist hangs for days. With barely a breeze, and no view of the sun, even the old stone cottages just down the lane are hardly visible. At such times Harnham seems quite stark - just us up here on the hill, and the sheep.

But the weather does change, bringing a variety of moods to the hill. Some mornings are clear and sharp; while sweeping leaves off the old flagstones, one cannot help but pause for the sun rising in the distance over the east coast. The weather's mood, however, is not always so noticeable, since we in fact experience everything through the mood we ourselves are in. Thus the mist can be appreciated for its calming stillness, resented for the loneliness it evokes, or simply ignored as more pressing concerns captivate our attention.

Sometimes the small shrine room in the cottage is full-to-bursting, especially on weekends when large groups come with dana.

At Harnham now the nights are drawing in, and we are working steadily to finish the floor in the Dhamma Hall by year's end. The battens have been laid, the insulation and underfloor heating pipes are being put down, and we are waiting for the oak floorboards to arrive - milled from trees in Chithurst forest blown down by the hurricanes a few years ago.

This year has seen many changes, but there is a feeling of settledness and consolidation at the moment. Following the tenth anniversary celebrations in June, many of the monks went off walking. In August we held a retreat for about 25 people, utilising the somewhat unfinished new hall, with its new Buddha rupa having just arrived from Thailand.

It is a lovely space in which to sit, holding fifty or sixty people quite comfortably without anyone feeling squashed. We look forward to having the hall in regular daily use - sometimes the small shrine room in the cottage is full-to-bursting, especially on weekends when large groups come with dana, and on family days with twenty children running around.

At a small monastery, it is so apparent just how much our lives are being supported, in what ways and by whom. The lay community here is very active in the life of the monastery and takes a considerable part in its day-to-day operation. Last April, a meeting place in the centre of Newcastle was opened above Mudita's restaurant, where the monks would visit every week or fortnight for puja and discussion on Dhamma. These meetings have gone very well. The group which has gathered around this venture - old faces and many new ones - has developed a sense of confidence and purpose, remaining largely unfazed by the news that they would lose the use of the room. Fortunately it has been possible to find an alternative and very suitable room nearby in the Lindisfarne Centre, and so the meetings will be able to continue.

Ajahn Munindo has also been encouraging people to make more use of our guest house next door to the monastery, and we have installed our tape and book libraries there. It is hoped that Buddhist groups from our own parish and from other parts of the country will feel welcome to come up here for weekends away. Next year we also hope to hold more weekend retreats, and have plans for our very own Family Summer Camp at the end of July and another lay retreat for the second week of August.