Forest SanghaNewsletterApril 1994

The Resolution of Conflict; Ajahn Jagaro
Child's Play; Ven Sunnato
Images of Sri Lanka; Sister Siripanya
Luang Por Chah's Relics; Ajahn Attapemo
Nourishing the Roots; Aj's Sucitto & Ajahn Amaro
Turning the Wheel in the West; Ajahn Amaro
Alone Together; Ajahn Sucitto


Alone Together

Magha Puja, generally occurring on the full moon of February, is an occasion for gathering. Around that time we have the yearly Sangha meeting in commemoration of the day when 1250 arahants spontaneously came together to see the Buddha in the Bamboo Grove at Rajgir. There he gave this diverse group a synopsis of the teaching that would be universally and timelessly relevant: 'To refrain from all unwholesomeness, to rise up to whatever is wholesome, and to purify the mind: this is the teaching of the Buddhas.' This is the rightly called the Ovada Patimokkha - "the exhortation on what links us together." The process of purifying the mind can make one feel very alone against powerful forces, so an opportunity to re-establish links with other samanas and lay disciples is indeed welcome. Accordingly, monks, nuns and lay disciples from all our viharas in Europe spent the week after the Magha Puja at Amaravati discussing smaller and greater aspects of our principles and practice.

When the principles that we hold in common form a collection of interrelating images and archetypes, we can rightly call this a myth. Myths are not just interesting stories; they represent a truth about values. Myth has the power to carry principles into a culture - as Christianity has done with it's images of self-sacrifice, love and faith - and thereby create both a source of reflection for the individual and a common ground of values for the society. The modern world is so out of touch with lasting values that 'myth' nowadays usually means something that isn't true(!). The only images that are held in that personally-transcending way are of sports heroes and rock stars: images that, at best, represent principles of egocentric glory. We are sorely in need of a renewal of the religious myth that connects us to something benevolent and wise.

There are times when all we can hold onto are symbols that go beyond words.
In some parts of Asia, Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha still shine brightly in people's minds, but in the West the Triple Gem is barely established as a meaningful archetype. Although people may hold the values of wisdom, truth and skilful practice dear, they can feel ill at ease with the images of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha; this may be the case, despite being committed to the values that they represent. It may be a collective mistrust derived from the use of religious symbols to establish conformity at the expense of intelligence; as a result, Buddhism here attracts inquiring minds rather than devoted hearts. Unfortunately, inquiry alone doesn't have the quality to link people together.

However, sometimes it is when you are on your own that such images can be personally contacted and enriched by the practice. For a Buddhist this is the way it should be; after all, the ground of the practice is that 'aloneness' of the mind that the Buddha praised as viveka. This aloneness is often established in physical solitude (kayaviveka), but more meaningfully becomes the withdrawal of the mind from defilement (cittaviveka), and may reach the realisation of freedom from the mind's self-forming tendencies (upadhiviveka). In this sequence, we see the way of correct cultivation - first to dispel the hindrances and then to understand and relinquish the self-forming tendencies. For both of these cultivations, religious images that represent the practice can be supportive. The details of techniques and skilful means vary between individuals, and, if attached to as 'the only way', can become sources of egotism and contention. There are times when all we can hold onto are symbols that go beyond words. And this can be the case in our daily lives, especially in relationship to others.

Harmony - internal as well as in the social sense - only arises with a valid myth, and it seems that for Western Buddhists at least, that comes about most readily through the 'aloneness' of meditation. Here we encounter Buddha - the peaceful knowing that is based on wholesomeness; Dhamma - the law of change and ownerlessness which all moods and events follow; and Sangha - the human endeavour that establishes its own resolve, because it brings results.

Perhaps the easiest image to relate to externally for people wary of larger-than-life images of a supreme (male) being and reticent about any kind of spiritual law other than 'find out for yourself' is that of the Sangha. Here is the myth of community, of mutual acceptance and welcome that the monastics try to live up to. Even if they offered no other teaching or practice, monasteries and Sangha occasions are worth attending just to re-establish that image in the heart. When those values can be established internally - the myth comes alive. If people can relate to Sangha in the way of living myth, our scattered Buddhist community - twos and threes here and there in places as 'un-Buddhist' as Prestatyn or Palermo - can gather around these images wherever. In terms of outward appearance, Sangha gatherings are few and far between in an average year; however, if we lift up the Triple Gem in our own lives, the occasion for inner harmony and purpose is right here.

Ajahn Sucitto




The soft sound
of Spring rain
surrounds me.

with joyful abandon
to the Mother.

To be like spring rain.




Sangha Movements
Some Sangha members will be missing from the U.K. for greater and shorter periods of time this year:
Ajahn Vajiro has left Cittaviveka in order to take up residency as the Senior Incumbent of Bodhinyanarama Monastery, New Zealand. Ajahn Munindo (February to April) and Ajahn Santacltto (April to July) are acting as 'caretaker' abbots at Wat Pah Nanachat while Ajahn Pasanno has a break Venerable Kovido is on pilgrimage in India for six months or so from January. Venerable Sobhano is undertaking a sponsored walk from Mount Athos to Romania, via the troubled regions of Macedonia and Serbia in the first half of the year, and Venerable Mahesi will be on Tudong in Italy until the Vassa. Meanwhile Ajahn Viradhammo will be returning to the U.K. after ten years in New Zealand. He has been invited to take up residence at Amaravati.

Bodhinyana Cetiya
The stupa that is being erected at Cittaviveka in memory of Luang Pot Chah will be dedicated on 17th June, Luang Por's birthday. Between Wesak and 17th June the community at Chithurst will be undertaking a daily meditation and puja by the stupa as part of the dedication. All are welcome to join.

Bhikkhu Ordination
This year's bhikkhu ordination will take place at Cittaviveka monastery on Saturday, 16th July. This year we are also celebrating Luang Par Sumedho's birthday at Cittaviveka on this day, to enable the Sangha to gather before the Vassa begins. He will have reached the milestone of sixty years