Space and Crowded Hours
Winding down for the winter retreat, Venerable Sobhano reflects on the Amaravati community's efforts to strike a balance between outside activities and inner work.
With Ajahn Sumedho abroad for three months and many of the monks who were resident during the Vassa away, it has been a time for re-evaluation and consolidation. Despite our determination at the beginning of the year to reduce our teaching commitments, scale down the work projects and allow for more contemplative time in the daily routine, the community still found itself stretched to the limit in many areas. Events during the year contributing to an already busy schedule included the temple appeal in November, a result of two previous planning applications having been refused on grounds of a forecasted traffic increase. With the help of a respected London QC, we were able to show that the case against the temple was largely based on rumour and erroneous information, and whilst we are optimistic about the outcome, we hope that with patience and good will some of the mistrust amongst local residents will subside.
Another major effort during the year was the Faith in Awakening Conference, reported on the centre pages. The months of preparation allowed all those participating and helping to enter into a wonderfully joyful occasion. While it was an inspiration to receive praise from such a wide range of seasoned contemplatives, it has also helped to focus our attention on the need for inter-monastic dialogue within our own Sangha.
Magha Puja is traditionally such a time. Following the precedent of our Sangha gathering at Wat Pah Nanachat after Luang Por Chah's funeral last January, we will meet at Amaravati over seven days, from February 28th to March 6th. The week will also include discussions with the lay community, particularly on ways to enhance our mutually supportive relationship.
As winter draws in, we find ourselves naturally re-affirming our refuge in the Triple Gem. The Buddha reminds us of the liberated mind, awake and non-distracted; the Dhamma, the true seeing of the underlying causes of suffering in our daily life; the Sangha, an appreciation of each other - that we are here to serve and support each other rather than compete or control. Reminding ourselves of this foundation enables us to bring to light the areas in our life where we have fallen short of this vision - and how we can adapt in a way that is conducive to the spiritual health of the community as a whole.
Winter-time at Ratanagiri
Ajahn Munindo, who will be leaving for a visit to New Zealand and Thailand in April, reports on recent developments at Harnham.
After 18 months of chiselling and grinding, the solid stone stupa dedicated to our teacher, Ajahn Chah, has finally come to rest in its designated place. The emplacement was completed (after chipping away the ice from the mounting) late in the evening on Friday 19th November. The surrounding pool and garden were far from lush but the spirit of the occasion was alive and beautiful.
On the following day, the masterfully executed 2m x 3m mural depicting the Buddha conquering Mara was reverentially secured in place in the Dhamma Hall. Khun Pang's skilful use of primary colours - strictly in keeping with Thai temple iconography - is now able to cast its deep impressions upon the minds of monastic residents and visitors, for valuable use in contemplation.
On the Sunday, snowflakes fluttered down through glimpses of morning sunshine as Kathina offerers from as far afield as London and Glasgow stood and placed rice in the bowls of the monks and nuns. Later, whilst the Kathina robe was being sewn by members of the Harnham Sangha, Ven Ajahn Sumedho spoke in some detail about ways of using skilful reflection upon religious icons to invigorate and strengthen both meditation and daily life practice.
As winter approaches and snow already lies deep, community members are giving attention to the heating and draught-proofing of monastery buildings in preparation for going into retreat. In spring '94 we hope to be able to recommence our work of converting the old barns into a Dhamma Hall and additional accommodation. Starting from the 15th of April, one month has been put aside so as to concentrate our efforts on this project. During this time, any assistance from the lay community would be most welcome - particularly from people who might be keen to manage the kitchen.
For those who have been following the different phases of our legal case, we are happy to report that we're still feeling positive that the settlement which has been agreed will continue through to completion quite soon, It is the intention of the Magga Bhavaka Trustees to raise an appeal in spring, so as to seek support in paying off the loans and debts accrued during this process. If all goes well, full details will be included in the next issue of the Forest Sangha Newsletter.
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