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:


The Remains

At about the time that you're reading this, the cremation of Luang Por Chah's body will be drawing people from all corners of the world to meet in what used to be an unused forest in the poor province of Ubon Ratchathani, N.E. Thailand. Then, after the funeral, the senior bhikkhus amongst Luang Por's Western disciples will have a retreat-cum-discussion session together for ten days; as Ajahn Pasanno remarked, it may be the last time for a long while that there can be such an occasion for a meeting of East and West. For such an opportunity, as for so many things, we are indebted to Venerable Ajahn Chah.

To remember and to honour a living example of the teaching is an important act: to recall not only the teacher's words, but that all teachings occur within the context of a human life. It is a commonplace statement that the teaching goes beyond words, yet the words are our guidelines, and have a beguiling clarity and certainty to them. Beguiling, because in the company of the Buddha's faithful disciples disagreements on the finer details and interpretations have always occurred. What exactly is mindfulness? One person's sati is another one's fussiness. What 'letting go' means here is sloppiness there. What is the right level of calm needed for insight - rapturous and ethereal, or one degree cooler than frenzy? How about responsibility and activity - a hindrance to cultivation or the development of skilful means and compassion? Or does it differ from person to person? In situations like this, it is good to have some examples of the way Luang Por did it. Someone who lives out the Dhamma certainly adds another dimension to the words.

When with upright intent we take the opportunity to listen - agree or disagree, understand or not - we find out a little more about our own unconscious leanings.
But Luang Por Chah is a memory now. There will come a time when those who remember him will be few, and even then, one set of 'Luang Por said this' and 'Luang Por did that' will conflict with another anecdote in which Luang Por said and did something quite different. As the Master himself remarked: if you see a drunk on the road continually falling into a ditch on the right, you urge them to lean to the left; but one tumbling into the ditch on the left, you would encourage to steer to the right. Even more to the point, what do you know about your own leanings?

What remains is the Sangha, where the teaching occurs in a living context. The transmission of the Dhamma was originally (and for a long time) oral - a lot is conveyed through the tone and timbre of the voice, a gesture of the hand, a look in the eye, that a purely verbal framework (particularly Newsletters) cannot carry. Compared with that context, the stark branches of words bear meagre fruit. The fertile tree is the convention and the spirit of Sangha, the savaka - the hearkeners: a living situation for seeing and hearing oneself in the context of people who are as intent on Dhamma as oneself. With such a hearkening, the spiritual environment becomes far richer and more responsive than that of one's own perceptions, thoughts and convictions. When with upright intent we take the opportunity to listen - agree or disagree, understand or not - we find out a little more about our own unconscious leanings.

After the cremation, the remains of Luang Por's body will be kept in a specially built stupa at Wat Nong Pah Pong. Let us hope that the living remains will continue to manifest in a way that is as worthy of inspiration and aspiration.

Ajahn Sucitto



Tipi Poem

Rain drops
fire warms,
Letting the mind,
mind itself.

Sister Thanasanti



Open day at Amaravati
The Amaravati community held an Open Day on the 14th and the 15th of November, to provide an occasion for local people to learn more about our activities.
     An exhibition about our origins, lifestyle and practice was prepared and invitations extended. Many of those who came had been aware of us for some time, but until now had not come to the monastery. Throughout an afternoon of conversation and Dhamma exchanges, we plied visitors with hot spiced apple juice and Anagarika Phillip's home-made cake.
     The overwhelming impression over the two days was extremely encouraging and we hope that in future years this will become a regular event.

Ajahn Sumedho Honoured
It was recently announced that Venerable Ajahn Sumedho is amongst those who will be honoured with the ecclesiastical title of Tan Chao Khun by King Bhumipol of Thailand on the occasion of His Majesty's birthday, December 5th. Such a title is generally bestowed to exemplary bhikkhus who will help with the administration of the Sangha, or (as in the case of Venerable Ajahn Chah) as an official recognition of their services to Buddhism. Venerable Ajahn Sumedho is, we believe, the first Westerner to receive such recognition, and he will go to Thailand to receive the honour from King Bhumipol in person.