Forest Sangha Newsletter
October 1997

Wings of the Eagle; Ajahn Jayasaro
Living in Faith; tudong - faith & vulnerability.
Universal Loving Kindness; Ajahn Sumedho, 1996.
Beyond Belief; Ajahn Candasiri
Mindfulness & Clear Comprehension, Ajahn Sucitto
Peace on Earth; Ajahn Candasiri
Signs of Change:



New Zealand
Ajahn Subbato arrived in early July. Some will remember him from the very early days here. He helped with the building of the first structures on the property and the exploration of the surrounding bush. He has spoken of crawling through thickets following pig trails, and climbing trees to get and idea of the lay of the land. He has agreed to come here to be the abbot for a year or two while Ajahn Vajiro is away from the monastery. With his arrival and the return of Venerable Sugato from visiting his parents in the USA, the Sangha entered this year's Rains Retreat with a compliment of four monks. Wayne, Chris and Craig arrived to fill the gap left by Cameron's departure. Each came with a one year commitment to the monastery and in August a ceremony was held to confer anagarika status on all three. A number of lay supporters and friends attended, adding a sense of importance to this preliminary step into the brahmacariya. Having a community of seven homeless ones makes the running of the monastery less demanding, thereby giving everyone more time and energy for all-important practice. During the month's 'closed' retreat, the monks were able to walk on almsround in Stokes Valley, where several householders had offered dana on prearranged days. Pindapata is an important part of the monastic tradition and the Sangha is grateful to have the opportunity to experience this aspect of monastic life, so common in Buddhist countries but so rare in the West. Ajahn Vajiro will be leaving in early November for a well earned year's sabbatical, during which he intends to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places and to visit Sri Lanka, Thailand and Europe. Shortly before he leaves we will be welcoming Ven. Prof. Dhammavihari, who will be arriving in Wellington of 24th October; we hope that he will kindly offer a Dhamma talk in Sinhala as well as some talks in English. The monks look forward to discussing Dhamma with him.

An extract from an article by Ven. Santidhammo in Bodhinyanarama's Newsletter:
... My personal preference has always been for a greener cooler forest and I like nothing better than to extend my dawn walking meditation into a circumambulation of the monastery. The circular pathway leads deep into the overgrown recesses of our little 'sub-valley', with a small extension at the end of the the main valley (Stokes Valley proper). Twin streams merge under palm fronds, ferns, creepers, tree ferns, shrubs and trees which unite to almost block out the sunlight on many sections of the path. The combined water of both streams and many springs unite to gurgle past the sala where the circular pathway terminates. There are meditation seats at strategic spots with either closed forest views or spectacular outlooks over the monastery buildings far below, glimpses of suburbia beyond and distant ranges-upon-ranges framing the horizon to the north. To the rear of the seated viewer, through the dense undergrowth that covers the higher slopes, lies the ridge which forms the natural boundary to the monastery, sheltering it from the southerly winds. From the summit one has views of Wellington harbour, the central cityscape and, on a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the South Island. Sounds of suburbia barely penetrate the inner reaches of the monastery: so much beauty, lushness and solitude put one in a joyful mood conducive to meditational calm. Proceeding mindfully along the leaf-strewn path, coloured golden brown by autumnal offerings from a delightful glade of southern beech trees, the fallen leaves give cause for reflection on impermanence. The upper layers of gold and rustic colours grade into ever deeper shade of brown feeding the rich brown humus; a return to mother earth, to provide nutrients for the whole cycle to repeat itself yet again. 'Earth', foremost of the four mahabhuta, the four great becomings; for earth, water, fire and air ceaselessly combine in an ever changing multiplicity of forms.
Spring saw another major transition at Dhammapala. Upon Ajahn Tiradhammo's return from Canada, Ven. Dhammavaro set off to visit family and friends in Germany, and eventually returned to a remote hermitage in Thailand for the Rainy Season Retreat. In early June, Ven. Su˝˝ato bid farewell to many friends of Dhammapala and, after a short visit in England, returned to Canada as a lay person. In May we had another special visit from Chao Khun Pa˝˝ananda who, even at his advanced age, still has the energy to make another trip through Europe. At the end of May, Dhammapala hosted several hundreds of people for the celebration of Wesakha Puja, together with a combined alms offering from the Thai Embassy in Bern, the Thai Mission to the UN in Geneva and the Thai Mission to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. We were gratefully assisted by two monks from Wat Sringarindravararam, and the many participants generously offered an abundance of provisions and financial donations.
     A quiet June ended with a flurry of visiting Sangha, including Ajahn Tuwee from Northeast Thailand, Phra Kru Paisan for North Thailand and Ajahn Pyrote from Bangkok. We also had a surprise visit from Sister Sanghamitta on a short visit from her new home in Thailand to see her mother in Basel.
     Ven. Ottama returned from Czech Republic in time to accompany us to the Ordination Ceremony in England, and then took up residence at Dhammapala for the coming months. Shortly after our return from England we received a visit from a group of Thai supporters who were inspired to travel from Vienna and Bangkok to make offerings at Dhammapala. In early August we received another surprise visit, this time from Ven. Khemasiri. He was finding his time in Asia very rewarding and had planned to stay there. However, upon receiving news that his father was gravely ill, he returned for some weeks to support his family during his father's operation, and found time to spend a week with us at Dhammapala. With his father now quite well, he has returned to Asia to spend some months on retreat in Burma.
     Over the summer quite a few guests resided at Dhammapala and were very co-operative in helping out with the daily activities and our few work projects. Our September retreats, exceptionally well-attended this year, provided a more focused and calm environment to allow the Sangha time for individual retreat. October will be a more active time again with visits from Ajahn
     Munindo and Ajahn Chandapalo and also Ven. Dhammiko from the Italian Vihara, especially invited to participate in our annual Kathina/Alms offering on 19th October. Shortly after this, Ajahn Tiradhammo will be travelling to England. He is also planning to visit Thailand and Burma in November to meet with Sangha members in Asia. The year draws to a close with the traditional New Year's Retreat and then the Sangha will be able to enjoy their own retreat in January/February. Following the retreat we begin the new year's regular programme of activities, hopefully with somewhat more calm and clarity. This may seem like a small thing in our big world, however, it seems that more and more people are beginning to appreciate the difference it can make in their lives.
Devon: Ajahn Siripa˝˝a
Everything seems -- to us at least -- to be going very smoothly. We have been warmly welcomed by many people, both in person and through encouraging cards and letters. We all enjoy the smallness and simplicity of our new situation, although we have needed to think much about striking the right balance between structure/formality and freedom. We are also gradually feeling our way into finding rhythms and forms which work for a community of women. It will be an ongoing learning process, no doubt.
     Much of our energy and attention so far has gone towards sifting through the various accumulations of the past residents, spring cleaning, and re-organising to suit our needs. We have greatly appreciated the regular help from several long-time supporters in taking care of the grounds, the various temperamental machines, and in other odd jobs. It's impossible for us to cover all the maintenance work to be done really, so it's a good teaching...trying to do what we can without getting obsessed or losing the balance. Above all, remembering the priorities of the ordained life: to nurture ourselves and each other spiritually, so as to bring about something of true worth to offer.