Forest Sangha Newsletter
January 1998

The Path to Peace; Ajahn Chah
A slice of life; Kathryn Guta
Remembering our Goal; An interview with Ajahn Pasanno
Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension; Ajahn Sucitto
Four Fold Assembly; Ajahn Sucitto
Signs of Change:
Trust News:


The Sangha and its Trusts

The Sangha in Britain is supported by a number of trust bodies that act as the stewards of donations offered to the Sangha. The role of the steward is prescribed by the Vinaya to be one of a go-between, someone who acts on behalf of a donor to ensure the provision of designated requisites. When many donor and many samanas are involved, matters can become quite complex, so the function of steward, which is carried out through the voluntary and unpaid service of a few lay people, is an aspect of the life of the Sangha that is essential and perhaps rarely-acknowledged. Representatives of the various trusts give brief reports of their respective activities:
Amaravati: English Sangha Trust
The English Sangha Trust is responsible for Amaravati Buddhist Monastery and Cittaviveka, having established these places after selling its London premises in 1979. The Trust meets formally between six and eight times per year to discuss the supervision of ongoing projects and the current and long-term requirements of the monasteries. The meetings include Sangha and lay representatives from Amaravati and Cittaviveka, and have recently opened up to include a range of interested parties in order to access a wider range of input. The Trust operates according to consensus, and reports of its meetings are given to the Council of Sangha Elders.
The requirement to make Amaravati into a suitable site for Sangha and lay residence and public occasions has been a primary concern for the Trust over the last decade. This year has seen the completion of the Temple building and part of the cloisters as a result of many generous donations, including a large proportion from well-wishers in Thailand. There is a possibility of completing the cloisters before the formal Opening of the Temple in July 1999, if further funds are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Amaravati is on year two of a five-year maintenance programme, the purpose of which is to fit the rather rudimentary wooden buildings with adequate plumbing, heating and fire protection. Half of the flimsy roofing - which has a tendency to fly off in gales - has been replaced with sturdier simulated tiling.
There are separate accounts for the Amaravati Monastery and Retreat Centre, and also Publications. 'Amaravati Publications' such as the Newsletter, leaflets and material for children are sponsored by the Trust out of general funds; other publications, principally Dhamma books, are sponsored when a donation is specifically given for that purpose.
Cittaviveka: English Sangha Trust
Cittaviveka shares with Amaravati the benefits of the charitable status enjoyed by the English Sangha Trust. Significant elements of the monastery estate are Chithurst House - the main centre for the general public; Aloka - the nuns' cottage; and Hammer Wood, where ten retreat kutis are situated. On the administrative and financial levels Cittaviveka stands semi-detached from Amaravati. It has its own administrative committees - for the Forest, for Finance, for Events and for general works. The Cittaviveka Advisory Group, composed of longer term lay supporters, meet regularly and are available to advise the Abbot as necessary. Cittaviveka has its own bank accounts, which are maintained and administered from the monastery. Donations may be sent directly to Cittaviveka, payable either to 'Chithurst Buddhist Monastery' or 'English Sangha Trust'.
Although generous sponsorship for recent new buildings and vehicles has emerged from the wider Buddhist movement and a modest income is received from covenants and other regular donations, the majority of the funds required to maintain the community arise from spontaneous offerings from local supporters. Without a fixed or guaranteed income, budgeting is a matter of informed guesswork. As the estate is developed, the maintenance commitment increases accordingly. Mainly on this account, expenses have moved ahead of donations in recent months. This deficit may take months to balance out, and the community are currently examining ways of restricting or deferring expenditure. Apart from ongoing maintenance work in the two main dwellings and the Hammer Wood, there are several major repairs which will require undertaking in the near future. These include the installation of an upgraded sewage system, the replacement of the rotting conservatory and the dredging of Hammer Pond, which is silting up. There is a vision and plan to provide the monastery with a suitable Dhamma Hall for their large gatherings. The site of this would be the old Coach House. However, given the substantial financial requirements of such a venture, there are no plans to proceed with this project as yet.
Hartridge: The Devon Vihara Trust
Hartridge Buddhist Monastery has been reborn with a new name, but the body which looks after financial and other worldly matters for the Sangha continues to be called the Devon Vihara Trust. There are generally present four trustees, and meetings are held at the monastery with Ajahn Siripañña, and usually another senior nun, about every six weeks. Our income is derived from donations in the form of standing orders and covenants and occasional single large donations intended for specific projects. Regular income just about covers routine expenditure and new developments therefore have to wait for a generous donor to appear.
Thanks to a large offering by an exceptionally kind supporter, we will shortly be installing a much-needed central heating system to replace highly inefficient arrangements. Other offerings will enable us to remodel the area around the present kitchen/reception room as a first step towards the redevelopment of the ground floor of the house to bring it more in line with the needs of the Sangha. Other projects which are awaiting donors are a major upgrading of the sewerage system (but nobody seems keen to have their name on the septic tank!) and work to remedy the damp in the shrine room. The Devon Vihara Trust is in good heart and is pleased to report steady progress.
Ratanagiri: Magga Bhavaka
The Magga Bhavaka Trust was constituted in 1984 to provide stewardship for Harnham Monastery. The Board of Trustees comprises up to eight lay people. Trust meetings are always attended by a senior member of the resident Sangha, and all decisions are subject to the approval of the Sangha. The Trust works by consensus, and throughout its history all decisions at Trust meetings have been unanimous. Currently there are seven trustees, drawn from the wide geographic area served by the monastery ¹ two from Scotland, two from N.W. England, and two from the local area. The Trust is supported by a monastery committee, comprising three local lay supporters and two members of the resident Sangha, which deals with the day-to-day administration.
The general running costs of the monastery are, overall, well matched with donations given for that purpose, to the Trust's General Fund -- which every year shows neither a significant surplus nor deficit. In addition to general running costs, over recent years the Trust has had to meet considerable expenditure, about £65,000, in connection with a legal dispute (which is now effectively over). During that difficult time the Trust was very well supported, and with some help from the English Sangha Trust, has been able to meet that expenditure. On the immediate horizon is the prospect of being able to purchase some of the property adjoining the monastery, which we expect to come up for sale within the next year. Support so far has been sufficiently encouraging that we are confident of being able to obtain a bank loan for the purpose of purchasing enough of the property to provide relief from the current very cramped conditions at the monastery. Such property will also provide a secure basis for the monastery's long-term future.