Forest SanghaNewsletter
April 1998

Self-naughting; Aj Sumedho
Discernment v's Self-Deception; Upasika Kee Nanayon
Meditation Class; Aj Sucitto
Dhammma Refugee ; Ajahn Viradhammo
Pilgrim's Way: the Place of the Buddha; Ajahn Candasiri

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!

Abhayagiri BuddhistMonastery
    The most memorable event of last summer at Abhayagiriwas certainly the full moon day celebrations of July. First of all, duringthe afternoon, the programme of training for the Upasika community waslaunched. It was a small beginning, with an initial twelve people making thecommitment, but with many other friends and supporters looking on. During theevening, after the Upasika Precept ceremony, we held two Eight Preceptordinations and then the Ten Novice Precepts were given by Ajahn Pasanno whohas been given the authority to confer bhikkhu ordination by the Thai Sangha,to the then Anagarika Tom. Tom now bears the name Samanera Karunadhammo, andwe expect to give him bhikkhu ordination at Wesak this year.
    As the senior monks and nuns in Britain have feltit unsuitable for women to undertake training in a situation where there areno resident nuns, we have decided to create the opportunity for women to takeon a temporary ordination, for stays of up to three or four months here. Sofar three women have taken up this option, with two of them subsequentlygoing to join the nuns in England.
    As there were only three bhikkhus residing atAbhayagiri for the Rains we did not have the full-scale Kathina ceremony,holding an Alms-giving Ceremony instead. It was a joyous occasion, spreadover two days - the Saturday being our third 'Upasika Day' and the Sunday theAlmsgiving itself. About 75 people- including Ven. Sona from British Columbiaand Ven. Punnadhammo from Thunder Bay - gathered for the event, which was thelargest we have held here so far.
    Owing to a large number of generous donationsfrom Thailand, in the Spring of this year we were able to pay off the entireloan which was taken out for the purchase of this property. This has enabledus to pursue the development of the land (250 acres of rugged forest)according to our current needs and work capacity. We now have five kutis andtwo geodesic dome tents for residents; also the sizeable garage has beenconverted into a Dhamma Hall until we can go ahead with a larger building.Otherwise as far as the improvements to the site have been concerned, lastyear was a fairly quiet one. We are still preparing all the paperwork,drawings and studies necessary for our 'Change of Use' application, and wehave undertaken not to put up any new buildings until the 'Use Permit' isthrough.
    The major item to be resolved was the question ofour water supply. The well that we use at the moment only produces one thirdto one-half a gallon a minute in the dry season: thus, with a population of10-12 people, we had been regularly running out. During August things got sodire that we had to do an emergency installation of a 2,500 gallon holdingtank, just to stop the water from dying on us during the washing up and whentaking showers. We have now drilled a new well in the interior of the forestand it looks as though it will answer our problems for the forseeable future.We have also been investigating the re-institution of a pipeline from aspring to which we have the water rights (half a mile away).
    In a way it has been something of a blessing tobe holding off on any major construction for now: this situation has affordedus the opportunity to finish off a lot of things which didn't quite getcompleted last year - such as decking and proper steps for the kutis -- aswell as giving us the time to install good, level walking paths at all of thedwelling sites. It has also helpfully given us a considerable length of timeto consider the most suitable ways of developing the land. More to the pointit means that we have been able to have long retreats both during the Vassaand the winter, without ongoing projects to oversee.

Signs of Change in Canada
    In the past couple of years, there have beendevelopments in Canada regarding forest bhikkhus of Ajahn Chah’s lineage.

  • Arrow River Community Centre is located in Northern Ontario, fifty milessouthwest of Thunder Bay. We have 92 acres of land in a beautiful mixedforest. There are presently five all-weather dwelling places on the propertyas well as a meditation-hall and kitchen, and a well-equipped workshop.
        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.
  • • Arrow River Community Center
       Box2 RR7, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7C 5V5;
       Telephone 807-933-4434.
       email: [email protected]
  • Birken Forest Monastery is situated in 18 acres of land in BritishColumbia, a few miles north-east of Princeton. It was opened in October oflast year with two resident samanas -- Venerable Sona and SamaneraThitapuñño, the latter receiving novice ordination from Ajahn Pasanno on theopening day. Birken is a hermitage with some accommodation for lay guests, alibrary, weekly Dhamma talks and discussions and a strong commitment toformal meditation practice. Venerable Sona extends the invitation to drop innext time you’re in B.C.

  • • Birken Forest Monastery,
       General Delivery,
       B.C. VOX 1WO, Canada;
       phone/fax 250-295-3263.