SIGNS OF CHANGE
| Kathina and Thot Pah
Pah Dates: |
Construction work on the Temple project is now under way. After several weeks of expecting the contractors to start "any day now", we knew they had arrived in earnest when the quiet of the morning gruel-time was interrupted by a monster excavator driving into the courtyard. It was not long before the machine was busy. From that day in late July, with the help of the dry weather, work progressed well. In mid-August we held a ceremony to create a sima-boundary , and by early September the foundations were complete.
The clay soils required that the foundations be quite deep, but this has had an added bonus in that in digging the trenches the contractors have unearthed quite a few examples of the local exotic rock, Hertfordshire Pudding Stone, which is often used to ornamental effect in gardens. These may be used in the eventual landscaping around the Temple.
Already the brick and block walls are beginning to emerge out of the earth. Over the next few months the shell of the building will take shape. It was expected that by the end of September all of the invisible works below ground would be finished with the installation of various pipes and cables for water, electricity and the like. December is scheduled as the time for the structural oak frame to be assembled on site. Until then, at the carpenters workshop in Wiltshire, each timber is being crafted, with many of the details hand-chiseled.
Before the frame is brought to Amaravati for final construction the carpenters will assemble it in their yard to ensure that it all fits together accurately, then dismantle it and load it, carefully marked and ordered, onto lorries for the journey here. Meanwhile, on the site, the brick walls will be inching upwards ready to support the roof. If all goes well, by the end of the year the roof timbers will all be in place, the spire will have been lowered into position, and the roof will be ready for tiling early in the new year. With the building then protected from the weather, work can continue inside during the rest of the winter.
Obviously the construction work impinges on daily life at Amaravati, but it has been noticeable how easily the community and visitors have adapted and responded in a positive way to the changes and inconveniences. Many retreatants have commented how little of an intrusion any noise has been. Looking at the ugly mess (the building site could not be described otherwise at the moment) with the knowledge that this will soon be a meditation hall manages to transform the perception into something joyful - how happy we have been to watch the excavator at work; how delighted when the first concrete blocks emerged from the ground!
Support for the Project
Before work began there had already been considerable interest in the project - enough to encourage us to start with confidence. And in September, to inform more of our friends of what is happening, we wrote to many of you describing the project and how it can be supported. If you did not receive this and would like to, please write to the EST Secretary at Amaravati. As this issue of the Newsletter goes to press we are still hopeful that the first phase of the project can be completed by next summer, and if funds permit it will be possible to continue with work on more of the cloister.
New Plans for Santacittarama:
Anyone who has been to Santacittarama will be aware of its limitations as a meditation monastery of the forest tradition. Until the present time, however, it has served us well enough and people have continued to support it. With the ground floor converted into a meditation hall and accommodation facilities, the limit of possible expansion has been reached, and yet with the recent growth of interest it is already somewhat inadequate. There is too little space to comfortably house more than the three resident monks or those wishing to become anagarikas. Women guests have endured, with little complaint, rented accommodation on a rather busy and noisy road with a very steep climb to the vihara. Without the immediate prospect of any alternative we have learned to live quite happily in this situation, and being relatively free of work projects we have been able to put more time and energy into formal meditation practice. A welcome opportunity! However it has been apparent for some time that the present Santacittarama has reached its full potential, and that eventually we would have to start thinking in terms of looking for a somewhat larger and more secluded property.
Until recently this prospect seemed to be remote enough to not be worthy of much thought because there were too many obstacles – lack of charity status, the unsaleability of the house and a general shortage of funds. The first two factors are nearing resolution and the financial status of the Association has become much more healthy during the last two years.
A group of dedicated Thai supporters have, after consultation with the Sangha, initiated a project which aims to raise sufficient funds to establish a 'Santacittarama Forest Monastery'. By November of this year they hope to be in a position to purchase a suitable plot of land on which a monastery can be built as further funds become available. There will be a special Kathina ceremony in October or November of next year – 1996. In the meantime, this year's Kathina will be on the 19th of November, providing an opportunity for supporters in Italy to meet the Sangha and to find out more about the project; participation in which is not limited to Thais but is open to all nationalities. Once completed, 'Santacittarama Forest Monastery' will serve the general Buddhist community, regardless of country of origin.
We are beginning to look for land in the area immediately around Sezze as we are well established here and have a very good relationship with the local people; we also wish to honour the original intention of being accessible from both Rome and Naples. Already there is one possibility being looked into – a nine hectare (22 acres) plot of land, a bit less than half forested, with a modern bungalow, and a dilapidated building reputed to be a former friary! Before a decision is made, however, many aspects need to be carefully considered, and this is likely to be a slow process.
We will keep you informed of any further developments.
| A tribute to George Sharp: |
Mr George Sharp has retired from his long-standing chairmanship of the English Sangha Trust. He first assumed this responsibility in 1972, at a time when the Trust was losing its purpose and direction - and George, almost by an absence of mind, found himself the only one left who was willing to hold it to its original purpose - that of encouraging and supporting a traditional bhikkhu Sangha in Britain.
I first met him in 1976, when I happened to find myself in London on the way back to Thailand. He invited me to use the facilities of the Hampstead Vihara. I was impressed by his sincerity and his quite unusual understanding of the values, aims and purpose of the Bhikkhu life and training. So, when he invited me to stay on in England I felt that it was well worth considering. But first, I insisted that he visit my teacher, Ajahn Chah, in Thailand. It was important to discuss it with him and if Ajahn Chah approved, then I would be willing to come and live in England.
Before the year of 1976 was out, George turned up at Wat Nong Pah Pong – and it was decided that Ajahn Chah and myself would go to the UK in May 1977.
During the past 19 years, George has been a loyal friend, supporter and practitioner of the Dhamma. He has helped us in so many ways - through his advice and skills - and especially with steady and unwavering confidence and respect for the monastic Sangha.
On behalf of the Sangha at Amaravati and its branch monasteries, I wish to express our enormous gratitude and appreciation for all that George Sharp has done, for us and for the establishing of this traditional form in Britain. Even though he has retired from his formal position, we hope that we will always remain good friends and fellow practitioners of the liberating and profound teachings of the Lord Buddha.
| Ajahn Jagaro: |
It is with much regret and sadness that we inform friends and supporters that Venerable Ajahn Jagaro disrobed in early September of this year.
Ajahn Jagaro was ordained in Thailand, aged 24, by Venerable Phra Khru Nanasirivatana, at Wat Pleng Vipassana, in 1972. He moved to Wat Pah Pong to train under Ajahn Chah in 1973 and in due course became the senior incumbent of Wat Pah Nanachat. At the invitation of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia he went to Perth in 1982 and lived for a couple of years in the city and then moved onto the property at Serpentine to develop Bodhinyana Forest Monastery. Under his guidance both the monastery and the Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre in Perth have flourished, a tribute to both his compassionate and generous nature and to the strength and wisdom of his teachings.
After 23 years in the robe his decision to put aside the bhikkhu training would not have been an easy one; feelings of being torn between a sense of duty and responsibility to others and the wish to do what has been felt necessary for his own physical, mental and emotional well-being. The transition from being Ajahn Jagaro, the monk, to John Cianiosi, the lay man, will be one that requires time and patience, and during this time it is important that our underlying feelings of metta and karuna are those that prevail. Spiritual friendship is not dependent on outward appearance or status, rather it comes more from our common refuge in the Triple Gem and shared love of Dhamma. The individual has to find the way which allows them to serve others while attending to their own physical , emotional and spiritual well-being.
The Sangha wishes to express its personal appreciation of Ajahn Jagaro's company over the past years and its gratitude for his extensive and sustained efforts in the furtherance and support of the Dhamma.
This year's summer camp has been and gone in both a blaze of sunshine and of glory. The lay organisational team has been well honed over the years and everything ran very smoothly. There was a variety of activities: from dhamma classes and puja, to mask-making and mobiles, and an enthusiastically presented 'dhamma-drama' called 'The Singing Chickens.'
Achieving a balance of 'spiritual' and 'worldly' energies is difficult; a challenge found not only in the camp environment but in all family situations. The opportunity to experiment with this in the supportive atmosphere of Amaravati is one of the great blessings of this annual event.