Forest Sangha Newsletter
January 1993

Living with Dying; Ajahn Munindo
Questions & Answers with Luang Por Chah: II
Dhamma Notes from Thailand; Ajahn Santacitto
A Buddhist Kingdom; Aj Pasanno & Jayasaro
Ten Rains; Sister Candasiri
First Rains; Ven. Sunnato
Wildlife in Hammer Woods; Mike Holmes

Signs of Change:



Interreligious Understanding and Co-operation
1993 is the centenary anniversary of the World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago 1893. It was the first time in modern history that nine of the major World Faiths had met on an equal footing, in America's, as yet embryonic, pluralistic society. Among the representatives of the Asian faiths were such figures as Swami Vivekananda and Anagarika Dhammapala.
     The conference resulted in various declarations towards a vision of a society where the World Faiths could find a common cause in the service of humanity. Since then, there has been an imperceptible but persistent movement, from within all the faiths, towards a more open-minded dialogue. From the World Congress of Faiths in 1936, to the interfaith pilgrimage to Assisi in 1986, there are now many well-established links between the World Faiths.
     More particularly, those of us who awakened to the spiritual life via an Eastern tradition, have often come to appreciate and understand the richness of the tradition that we left. So far from encouraging a kind of bland uniformity, the blending of cultures and faiths in modern society has amplified the power of each ancient form to enlighten and transform the individual from within. By appreciating and encouraging those things that are good within another's faith, the worth of our own chosen path becomes self-evident.
     In particular, The Year of World Faiths is seeking to address the current predicament of the planet and the concern for the future. Secular groups, involved in ecological, planetary and humanitarian concerns, are beginning to recognise that the ancient religious traditions contain a vast storehouse of wisdom and practical advice that may be able to offer solutions to a world satiated with failed schemes to improve or annihilate problems and invent our way out of suffering.
     The Year begins with a simultaneous launch at centres around the world. The British launch will be from Global Co-operation House on January 27th. This will be a full day of activities followed by workshops and multi-faith celebrations.
     Throughout the year, different faiths will continue to hold a wide variety of events. In September, we will be hosting a conference here at Amaravati with a panel of distinguished speakers from monastic and spiritual communities of the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian faiths. The theme for the day will be the contribution that contemplative groups can offer to a world in crisis, entitled, 'Pathways for Mankind'.
     Anyone who would like details about The Year of Interreligious Understanding and Co-operation should write to the:
Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Global Co-operation House, 65 Pound Lane, London NW10 2HH.
We will publish the details of our own event closer to the date.

Amaravati Family Camp
21 - 28 August 1993
This year, with the increased commitments within the Sangha, we will unfortunately only be able to hold one seven-day family camp. To date, we have the minimum number of lay people to coordinate the camp: this includes housekeeping, bookings and activities. If there are experienced parents who would like to volunteer to assist in these activities, we invite you to attend the next planning meeting which will take place in April. Please contact Keith at the address below if you think you can help.
Bookings open on January 3rd ... close early April. If the camp is over-subscribed, we will try to give priority to newcomers or those who missed out last year. For bookings please write to: Keith Errey, 67 Stratford St., Oxford OX4 1SP. 0865 726582
Can you help?
If you would like to help with teaching or running an activity or workshop (either Dhamma-oriented or general crafts, etc.), please contact: Jane Wheeler: 52 Tylney Rd., London E7. Tel: 081 586 0841
Or ... come and enjoy the Family Camp kitchen. Confident cooks and general helpers are needed to form a team. You should be free of other commitments to the camp. Older children or parents with older children may also be suitable. Please contact:
Sally Ash, Woodthorpe, Manor Crescent, Seer Green, Beaconsfield, Bucks HP9 2QX. Tel: 0494-671043.
For those interested in helping in either of the above ways, or as part of the lay coordinating team, there will be a meeting at Amaravati: Sunday, 4th April 1993, 1 pm. For details of organised activities for children over this weekend, see following page.

Amaravati Monastic Retreat
Jan - Feb. Help Needed
This year at Amaravati, since many of the senior monks will be away, we will continue with the ordinary monastic routine but with a greater emphasis on personal meditation practice in the afternoons.
     In previous years, up to twenty lay people have spent the two month retreat here with us, acting in a supporting role so that the monks and nuns could take the opportunity to concentrate more on formal practice.
     We would like to invite anyone who would like to come for a minimum of two weeks to help with the daily cooking, cleaning and general administration. In particular, the nuns would be grateful for additional help in caring for our elderly ones.
     In the past, we have been able to distribute these responsibilities between Sangha members and lay supporters so that there is time for meditation practice in everyone's daily schedule, with Dhamma teachings and reflections at times when everyone is present. Chithurst and the other branch Viharas will be beginning their formal retreats in January and would also welcome help during this time. If you do have time during January and February and would like to support the community through your presence and willingness to assist in some of the general day to day work, your help would be most welcome and heartfully appreciated.
     For further information please contact the Guest Monk or Guest Nun, c/o The Office Amaravati, Chithurst, Devon or Harnham.
     Please Note: Ajahn Ariyesako will be senior incumbent during the time that Ajahn Santacitto is in Thailand.

Ajahn Chah's Cremation
The ceremonies surrounding the funeral of The Venerable Ajahn Chah will run for ten days (Jan 10 - 20th) with the actual cremation taking place on the 16th of January. Throughout this time there will be morning and evening chanting each day, together with the meditation periods at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m; also Dhamma talks will be given at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. About 1,000 monks from the different branches of Wat Pah Pong, along with an estimated 2,000 laypeople will be present for this period.
     On the cremation day itself, some 200,000 people are expected, including many highly respected elder monks, the King of Thailand, and possibly other members of the Royal Family. It will be the King who ceremonially ignites the pyre. Much of the monastic community's energy over the past few months has gone into the construction of the Chedi, a 30 metre high Stupa, which will be both a cremation pyre and a permanent memorial.
     As a gesture of communal spirit in devotion to Ajahn Chah's shrine, monks from all the different branches have come and spent six-day shifts helping with the building work before returning to their respective monasteries. The Chedi will be the centre of events, since at the start of the ceremonies, Ajahn Chah's coffin will be taken there from the Assembly Hall so that people can pay their final respects and make offerings of flowers and incense. Much other work has been done in preparing for this time: the area inside the monastery has been levelled to give more space for people to sit or sleep; improvements to the water and electrical systems have also been made, extra kitchens and toilets have been constructed and a sound system installed.
     During this time, free-food kitchens will have been set up by groups of supporters and in order to discourage commercialisation of the event - nothing will be for sale. Books of teachings by Ajahn Chah - printed especially for the occasion - will also be available as a free offering.