Forest Sangha Newsletter April 1993

Luang Por Chah's Funeral; Ajahn Sucitto
Reflections on Luang Por Chah's Funeral; Sangha
The Lotus Falls Silent; Sister Candasiri
The Still Point of Change; Amaravati Community


The Still Point of Change

The past year at Amaravati has witnessed many comings and goings. From the outside, it may appear that there has been little change. The following piece, however, provides a glimpse into the actual effect of these changes on the life of the community and the practical ways in which we have adapted to new circumstances.

Change is all around us - it is the way of nature and we can appreciate this fact when we can be honestly present with life - whether we like it or not! We even honour it as in the cremation ceremony of Luang Por Chah, and the burial of Sister Uppalamuni.

In the last year and a half, both at Amaravati and its fellow monasteries, we have seen a continual parting of good friends: Ajahns Anando and Kittisaro, Venerables Javano and Anigho, Sisters Thanissara and Cintamani and David Babski - to mention but a few. Words hardly do justice to emotions, which range from respect and gratitude to anger and sadness. Change is something we feel. Practically, change implies putting down the old and picking up the new, but, for the reflective mind, change is venerated as a characteristic of Universal Truth.

The heart of the practice, then, remains constant ... living with awareness, skilfully guided by the precepts, honouring the legacy of the timeless wisdom that Ajahn Chah exemplified in his own life.

There have been other movements at Amaravati that have stimulated the community to completely readdress its underlying needs. Ajahn Sucitto went to replace Ajahn Anando as Abbot of Chithurst, Ajahn Amaro continues with his annual teaching tours of America and Sister Jotaka will soon be leaving for an extended stay overseas. Although this has left us feeling stretched, it has made us realise the need to listen to one another - as altering structures alone is not a solution.

It has been a time of consolidation. We have changed our name to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery instead of "Centre". Implicit in this change is a greater attention to refining our individual and group practice within the guidelines of the Vinaya. Paying attention to the detail of the daily monastic routine: the eating of almsfood, washing the bowl, working in the garden or simply walking across the courtyard - take us to that still point within change.

And it has been a time of renewal. Every aspect of the monastery has been scrutinised. Previously established systems that worked well will continue, such as outside teaching engagements to already established groups. But some changes are happening. We hope to encourage retreatants to take a greater role in the maintenance of the Retreat Centre which would allow the Sangha to concentrate on making improvements to their own lodgings. The offices have been completely restructured, and the production of some of our leaflets and smaller publications is now being shared with Cittaviveka.

We have also looked at the daily schedule of chores, alms round and work to see whether they can better reflect the rhythms of Amaravati. Invitations for traditional pindabahts on a twice weekly basis have been made from local supporters living in Berkhamstead. Many of the resident Sangha will have the opportunity to go on Tudong during the summer months. As we are able, the ongoing refurbishments to the site will be scaled down to maintenance and gardening work. Community work days will be introduced on a bi-monthly basis, alternating with group meditation afternoons.

Actually, in truth there isn't
anything to human beings.
Whatever we may be it's only
in the realm of appearances.
If we take away the Apparent
and see the Transcendent,
we see that there isn't
anything there.
There are simply the universal
characteristics - birth in the
beginning, change in the middle
and cessation in the end.
This is all there is.
If we see that all things are
like this, then no problems
If we understand this we will
have contentment and peace

        Luang Por Chah

The heart of the practice, then, remains constant ... living with awareness, skilfully guided by the precepts, honouring the legacy of the timeless wisdom that Ajahn Chah exemplified in his own life. Our real work continues in bringing the Dhamma to each moment. Meanwhile, more people are coming forth to commit themselves to the Holy Life, the schoolgroups trickle in again for their annual visits, the newsletter goes to press, planning the family camp is underway, weekly meditation classes begin and the breath continues to go in and out.