SIGNS OF CHANGE
|Santacittarama moves to PoggioNativo|
Santacittarama's move to a new site has come at anopportune time: Ven. Abhinando arrived from Cittaviveka in December, we havetwo anagarikas; and a Japanese bhikkhu, Ven. Aki Pannavuddho, will bearriving from Thailand in spring to bring our resident community up to eight.The main house is quite comfortable, the central heating is rather ancient -but at least it works. The small house can accommodate seven or eight guestsat a pinch. We have some lovely spots for kutis (we have brought two up fromSezze), and we are thinking of buying a second-hand caravan to increase ouraccommodation.
The monastery land is delightful and we are stillexploring it. At one end of the property there is a group of three caves, twoof which are high enough to stand up in and perhaps 8-10 metres deep. Adiscreet path then runs along the stream through the predominantly oakwoodland about half a kilometre to the ruin near the other end of theproperty. There is a hidden ruin among the trees which was said to have beena staging post for changing horses when the old 'salt road' (via Salaria)passed nearby. They probably kept the horses below and the people stayedupstairs. It is a very attractive and secluded spot with trees growing in,through, and out of the stone walls. We think it would make a very nice'meditation garden', with the sun filtering through in the winter, and thetrees providing a pleasant shade in the summer.
It is possible to continue walking beyond ourproperty until reaching the road that leads to the small town of PoggioNativo, or to a derelict cemetery, where one can easily peer into ill-kepttombs to see human skeletons. What more could a forest monastery ask for -trees, caves, and a nearby abandoned cemetery! We are still in Italy however,and the lack of concern for the environment manifests itself in the pollutedstream and the piles of festering rubbish dumped in any convenient place. Weare gradually trying to clean up the area. The neighbours seem very friendly.Our closest neighbour is a farmer who very kindly towed our truck out of themud when it got stuck the first time that we came. Since then he has been tovisit several times, bringing offerings of his own produce - a four kilosheep's cheese, eggs, honey, vegetables and olive oil. He really seems tohave taken to us!
Signs of Change in Canada
The resident bhikkhu is Ven. Punnadhammo, aCanadian, who began studying the Dhamma in 1979 under Kema Ananda. KemaAnanda was a student of Ven. Ananda Bodhi (later Namgyal Rinpoche); he hadhimself been ordained as a samanera (novice) but opted to disrobe andpractise as a layman after one year in robes. He founded the Centre in 1975and was the first teacher there. Kema was an expert in the Burmese Insightmethod of Mahasi Sayadaw and passed these teachings on to Ven. Punnadhammowho did a one-year solitary retreat as a layman at Arrow River in 1988-89.After this he went to Thailand and was ordained in Thailand in the foresttradition of Ajahn Chah in 1990. Between 1990 and 1995 he was based at WatPah Nanachat.
In 1995 Kema Ananda contracted lung cancer andanticipating his imminent death he asked Ven. Punnadhammo to return to Canadaand to assume management of the Centre. Ven. Punnadhammo returned with theblessing of his seniors in the Order in November of that year and was able tospend some time with his beloved teacher before his death.
The Centre is now a monastery but it is ourintention to continue the fine tradition established by Kema Ananda. We stilloffer the opportunity for serious students to pursue the practice of Dhammain a quiet forest setting. We are ideally set-up for long-term retreats andwelcome serious enquiries. From the beginning of the Arrow River Center, KemaAnanda emphasised the principle of not charging for the Dhamma and, althoughthis policy has sometimes been difficult to maintain in the face of thefinancial reality, we have always adhered to it as guaranteeing the purity ofthe teaching. We will continue to honour this principle in the future and theArrow River Center will operate with what is freely given.
For the foreseeable future we will try to havetwo or three monks and two or three lay people staying here most of the time.More can stay in the summer months if they are willing to 'rough it'.Eventually we hope to build additional kutis as resources become availablethrough donations. We currently require the ongoing presence of at least onelay person to act as monastery steward. This can be a rewarding experiencefor the right person.
Box2 RR7, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7C 5V5;
• Birken Forest Monastery,
B.C. VOX 1WO, Canada;