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

A Shared Treasure
Ajahn Sucitto comments on the laying of the Foundation Stone for the new Dhamma Hall at Cittaviveka...

The Millennium?... or just a rare and classically gorgeous English Summer, when the celestial beings who frequent Cittaviveka were out to do their utmost to impress the visitors? Surely this could not be the Dhamma-ending Age? The weekend that saw the foundation stone for the monastery's new Dhamma Hall ceremonially laid had the feeling of a culmination and a completion, even though it ought to have felt more like a raw beginning.
... the impression of a huge and still-resplendent Dhamma-mandala, beautiful in its diversity, but calming in its unity of purpose and commitment.

It was partly because the event of July 11th occurred as the last of a series of inter-related events that linked together origins and associated growths of the Theravada dispensation in the West, in which contemplatives - robed, disrobed and as yet unrobed - as well as well-wishers from other Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions gathered to share views, memories and aspirations. By the time that a few of us had talked and shared with the Western lay teachers at Gaia House during the Vipassana Teachers' Conference, moved through the many facets of Amaravati's Temple Opening, received and attended to the deputation of Elders from Thailand, exchanged insights and state-of-play news with samanas from associated monasteries in Australia and America, I for one was becoming a little light-headed. The input was rich. Whether it was sitting by a bonfire listening to Ruth Denison reminisce over thirty years of Dhamma-practice in America, or resonating with the all-night Paritta chanting (punctuated by staccato drum-rolls) of the Sri Lankan Mahatheras in Amaravati's temple, or sitting as part of a group conversation with one of the many distinguished visitors on the lawn at Chithurst, I was left with the impression of a huge and still-resplendent Dhamma-mandala, beautiful in its diversity, but calming in its unity of purpose and commitment.
It was also because the occasion at Cittaviveka had its momentum, though rolling along in a slightly haphazard way: the commemorative stone was driven down from Northumberland overnight by the sculptors, Ken and Jenny Grant -- arriving just a few hours before the ceremony with Ken still anxiously attending to polishing final details. The stone was set in place early in the afternoon by means of a makeshift crane that Ven. Kusalo had devised for constructing the new Amaravati stu­pa, with the builder and the architect nervously looking on as 82 year-old Tan Chao Khun Dhammapariyattimuni, Ajahn Liam from Wat Pah Pong and Ajahn Sumedho wielded trowels and cement.

For the lay community around Chithurst it was a wonderful moment, a blessing for the materialising possibility of having a Hall in which to gather for meditation. Just the other side of the garden wall, swallows swooped exuberantly over the newly-created pond: seemingly erratic but actually unerring, living symbols of how Dhamma-processes proceed. To predict when and how the Hall would get finished would signify a loss of faith.
Eventually everyone dispersed leaving e-mail addresses, books...and memories: hours spent discussing filial piety with Dharma Master Heng Sure, emptiness with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, or samadhi with Ajahn Be-ak, or listening to Ajahn Jayasaro's readings from Ajahn Chah's (as yet unpublished) biography. Perhaps one of the fondest is of the sight of the Thai Ajahns standing out by the sima on a golden evening, standing in silence among the cooing of wood-pigeons and the hopping rabbits, standing and slowly looking this way and that, drinking it all in. There is a joy in seeing others looking at something with which one has become familiar and seeing it anew as a treasure enriched by the sharing.