Forest Sangha Newsletter April 1997

Boundary of Freedom; Ajahn Sucitto
Cultivating Discernment; Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo
These Brown Robes: These Shaven Heads; Sister Thaniya
Young People on Retreat; Various Impressions

A Question of Balance; Ajahn Candasiri
Signs of Change:


These Brown Robes: These Shaven Heads
On 15th December last year three women requested the Going Forth, pabbajja, from Luang Por Sumedho and were admitted into the Order of Siladhara. Sister Thaniya offers some reflections on this significant event, which took place in the new temple.

The wind stirs and carries the ring of bells into this wood and brick structure resting so deep in Earth. Warm floor below, cool air falling from the windowed pinnacle above, and space; tangible, quivering. Space sanctified. Where the human aspiration to awaken and its physical embodiment can meet. A place to contemplate where the world ends. In which to go forth in faith.

Today, within the boundary of eight great oak pillars, three women bowed and, with the bowls and robes they had been offered by lay friends, went forth from the home life into homelessness. They requested the Ten Precepts and to join the Order of Siladhara, undertaking that training offered here within Luang Por Chah's tradition - making a public commitment to spiritual practice, to morality, to renunciation; this movement to awakening which is the way of Sangha, a sacred jewel.
A precious sign in this world; of sickness, aging and death - there is a path to the transcendence of it.

As they moved through the examination procedure they were held in a field of well-wishing. Theirs and the chanting acarinis' dedication and hours of attention yeilding fruit in the smooth, graceful flow of it all. The examination with all the Siladhara community gathered - one for each pillar - made the sense of, 'Going Forth in Faith' sharp. With the nuns' community small, it has to be about something larger than the conventions our minds normally take refuge in. And, though small in number, the extent of the support surrounding it could be felt in the temple with so many having gathered to be part of this.
German, English, Russian, they remind us that the Path transcends culture and gender. That in the place of devotion to the Triple Gem we meet, lending courage and support to each other.   follow the deepest longing of the heart: and that Luang Por Sumedho, with the Sangha, gives this rare privilege to go forth in this Dhamma and Discipline.
We can reflect on what it takes to 'Go Forth'; that it is to leave home, family (who often don't understand), culture, for some, language and       For those of us in robes this was a chance to recollect our aspiration, brighten it, and be gladdened for ourselves and for our newly emerging sisters.
"Venerable Sir,
I beg for the Going Forth.
To overcome all suffering,
and for the purpose of realising Nibbana.
Having taken these robes
let the Venerable Sir
give me the Going Forth, out of compassion."
Their changing of robes from white to brown was the point of casting off the old and coming into the new - with the awe such moments hold. Their return into the temple seemed palpable, even sitting with ones back to them and eyes closed. A precious sign in this world of sickness, aging and death - there is a path to the transcendence of it. Metta, Uttama, Thitamedha: new names add power to the metamorphosis. Today they seemed as angels, and amongst the idyll of flowers and smiles it is easy to forget that spiritual life is hard, though joyous, work. The Buddha said, "Patient endurance is the supreme practice". And they've each shown great capacity for it. This Path asks everything; "ripening in complete relinquishment". Having been anagarikas in the community they have some idea what that tastes like, what spiritual practice takes in terms of self surrender. Yet they choose it. And we gladly welcome them.
I have seen the miseries of pleasure
I have seen the security involved in renouncing them:
so now I will go
I will go into the struggle
This is to my mind delight
This is where my mind finds bliss
Sutta Nipata (424) Pabbajja Sutta