Forest Sangha Newsletter July 1995

A Temple Arises; Ajahn Amaro
Conducting the Orchestra of Form; George Sharp
Renunciation & Devotion: Stalk & Fragrance; Ajahn Munindo
Growing the Dhamma Tree; Lay Supporter
Supporting the Project; Krishna Padayachi
Sutta Class: Morality, Transformation & Liberation; Ajahn Sucitto
In Memory of Luang Por Jun: Pt. 1; Sister Sanghamitta
The temple: A space for Right Ritual; Ajahn Sucitto

Signs of Change:


Growing the Dhamma Tree

One of our long-standing lay supporters describes what motivated her efforts to support the Sangha at Amaravati, and the hopes for the future, symbolised by the construction of a new temple.

"What is it that we Thais can give to England?" I used to ask myself often. Something good and lasting. Something that will keep growing and be a source of goodness and blessings. Having lived in England for a number of years, I felt tremendous gratitude towards the country and its people. I knew that my long stay was soon to come to an end and I wanted to do something before my departure. Then one day as I was looking at Tower Bridge, the answer came: "The teaching of the Buddha, the Sangha."

Back in 1979, there had already been a number of Thai and Sinhalese monks in England for some years, but the Western Sangha was just beginning its first experiment in attempting to settle in the country. When the Thai people heard that a small group of Western monks headed by Luang Por Chah was in London, we could hardly believe it. Would the monks be supported? Who would give them alms food? Who would provide medicines when they are sick? Would English people understand or know that monks cannot ask for things unless they are offered?

It has been an inspiration to see Westerners take to the Buddha's teaching, to see their sincerity and dedication to the practice, to see their love and respect for their teachers.

I watched the transformation of Chithurst from a derelict building to a monastery. As the house was being repaired, the Sangha around Ajahn Sumedho started growing. Their practice inspired confidence, and soon requests to open new places came. First was Harnham, then Devon, then Amaravati opened. This was really a new step in the development of the Sangha. Up to that moment we had seen the transformation of small English houses into Wats (our Thai word for monastery). But Amaravati was different. The growing Sangha needed space for its present and future needs, and a large place was required.

I went to see the Amaravati property with a good friend before it was bought. I liked its spaciousness although it did not look like a Wat, and the buildings looked flimsy and cold for the English winter. Also the place had no chapel or special prayer building that could be converted into a Temple. But . . . one thing at a time. First, the buildings had to be made adequate for living in, then the mortgage had to be repaid, then we will think of the temple.

I returned to Thailand before the official opening of Amaravati in 1985. We raised funds, made videos, printed books for free distribution and sent people on alms-giving ceremonies to present the donations that had been collected.

I followed the developments of the Sangha closely. When I heard Ajahn Sumedho talk of the need for a temple I thought, "Yes. The time was right." Amaravati needed a silent place where the Sangha and lay people could go, at any time, to meditate, be quiet or listen to Dhamma. By supporting the project from Thailand we are helping the Buddhasasana to grow in the West, helping the Buddha's words to become reality.

For many Thais it has been an inspiration to see Westerners take to the Buddha's teaching, to see their sincerity and dedication to the practice, to see their love and respect for their teachers, Luang Por Chah and Ajahn Sumedho.

The Sangha in the West is more than a seed now. It has grown into a young tree with tender branches. We want to help it become a full grown tree with many branches and thick foliage where creatures can come for food and shelter.

In the meantime our efforts to keep raising funds to build the temple continue. May the Temple become a lasting symbol of reverence to the Triple Gem and support those who dedicate their lives to practise the Buddha's way.