Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1999

Refuges on the Path; Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi
Consecration; A Round-up of Monastics Reflections
A Shared Treasure; Ajahn Sucitto
Extracts from a letter home; Ajahn Candasiri
Much Ado About Nothing; Ajahn Candasiri

Extracts from a letter home
Ajahn Candasiri shares some reflections.

...After bidding farewell to 'my' VIP, I wandered back to the temple courtyard where Ven. Dr. Vijiraņana - the most senior Sri Lankan monk in this country - and about 13 other Sri Lankan theras had arrived. He was looking a little flustered so I went to greet him and took him into the temple where preparations were in progress for the all-night paritta chanting. Some of the lay people had made an octagonal pavilion - a light wood frame, covered with white paper cut in the most lovely intricate patterns; it was small, about 8 feet in diameter - and elevated on the monks' staging. Fortunately the lodgings monk was there; he took them under his wing and I continued on to the next highlight: ...talks by Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield. They are two of the best known lay teachers. I was very pleased that they had been invited to speak - both gave excellent talks. Jack had been a monk in Thailand many years ago and spoke very warmly of his friendship with Ajahn Sumedho there.
A curious juxtaposition of the 'significant' with the completely ordinary

...and then it was time for the evening chanting and meditation...

...and then the Sri Lankan event, which was really something!

...It's interesting that each of the ethnic groups that come to our monasteries has its own unmistakable character. I think for the Sri Lankans you'd say that they are thoroughly enthusiastic - exuberant even! So it was not too much of a surprise when the 14 very senior monks arrived in the Temple in a procession, preceded by 4 laymen in traditional costume with trumpets and drums led by the ex high commissioner dressed all in white - one really knew that something major was about to happen! Almost all of the monks squeezed into the octagonal paper pavilion and Dr. Vijiraņana explained what was to happen: after the first hour when the whole group would chant together, there would be a rota of monks chanting through the night until early morning, then at 5.30 they'd all gather to finish at 6.00am. After the first hour or so which was quite wonderful - a very different style to our chanting - Dr. Vijiraņana emerged from the pavilion, absolutely beaming, to announce that now there'd be an interlude of drumming, and the men in national costume reappeared for a stunning performance.
...Walking past the Temple at 4.00am on my way to the shower block, I could hear them continuing - still going strong. At 4.45 I joined them again; it was a very special time...
... o o O o o ...

...People gathered, and we waited for the arrival of the Princess Galyani. Looking around I saw many people I knew - quite a few of them former monks or nuns...also some important looking people I didn't know, and a very comfortable collection of good friends from Christian monasteries...We waited quietly and in she came: quite an ordinary, matter-of-fact looking lady in a modest outfit, surrounded by several men and lady attendants. I kind of liked her and wondered a bit what she was making of the whole thing, as she did what she was supposed to do. I was pleased when Ajahn Sumedho presented her with one of the replicas of the engraving of the reclining Buddha that we have in our chapel of rest.

There was some chanting; and then she cut the ribbon, and gravity did the rest. That was it.

The following morning, since I had nothing in particular to attend to, I helped with cleaning up - wandering around with a black plastic rubbish bag picking up bits of litter; actually there was hardly any, but it felt like a good thing to do. It helped me to appreciate in a small way the incredible behind-the-scenes effort of preparing for the event and helping it to run smoothly...
...The final thing I'd like to tell you about was the ceremony that took place the following evening, when we covered over the stone in its final resting place. We were told that we could put precious objects in there with the Luk Nimit. So all kinds of things went in: coins, bits of jewellery, scraps of paper with prayers on, stones (Ajahn Sumedho had been collecting bits of rock from all over the world for this); one lady offered an enormous crystal; a monk from the City of 10,000 Buddhas added the wrist watch belonging to the late Master Hua...

Actually, that's all that happened really; apart from covering the hole with some wood and tiles, and a bit of chanting - but the mood was magical, such a sense of lightness and joy. We wondered what archaeologists finding it in 2000 years' time would make of it all... A curious juxtaposition of the 'significant' with the completely ordinary, I wouldn't have missed it for anything!