Forest SanghaNewsletterApril 2000
Beyond Worldly Aims and Values; Ajahn Candasiri
Monastic Millennium: Wat Pah Nanachat; Ajahn Vipassi
Thanks for the Sharing; Ajahn Sucitto


Thanks for the Sharing

Putting together a Newsletter is not a recommended feature of a meditation retreat: having expended effort and time in deconstructing the activities and programs of the mind, I note a reluctance, even a wariness about firing them up again. It even feels vaguely criminal, like a betrayal of the Cause. Memories come back of many retreats of yesteryear, where people would be sternly enjoined to keep the Noble Silence, and refrain from reading - and during which I would catch sight of miscreants slyly sidling off to the library during walking meditation periods, or hear furtive whispered conversations going on in the woodshed. The sense of guilt on one hand, and moral superiority on the other, was always far more de-stabilising than the amount of disturbance that such events ever created externally. Eventually, it became clear that this scenario was part of the practice. It certainly caused me to reflect on the Dhamma of a shared context. In this context a quality of heart that begins with tolerance (and is still a little patronising) and matures with kindness ( he's not harming anyone, may he be well) can sharpen with some inquiry: 'Who is this "me" that stands back and says how things should be?' So, over time, the heart begins to take responsibility for its direct experience - which, of course, is the 'cause', the true aim of meditation. In meditation, it becomes clear that 'I' arise at the shared face of an interdependent experience. But 'I' would rather hold, reject or file perceptions away than share. So sharing itself is a major practice. It deepens and informs life. It doesn't mean that I have to agree with everything everyone else is doing, or expose every inner mood to public scrutiny. It means that without trying to evoke any particular response or attitude, acknowledging that, 'I' arises as a momentary response within a shared context. And if there's a denial of that, or an attempt to fake a response, then all that stuff thickens and solidifies into an 'I am' that has long passed its sell-by date. The simple line of the teaching is to be aware of the response, check any accompanying impulse and see it as an object, rather than let it ride out as a subject. The 'I am' softens, and the complexities fuse into a dispassionate awareness that determines action (or inaction).
A heart of sharing and letting go has been behind the whole process from the start; one appreciates it in others,

In that light, it even seems that the point of community practice is to bring up the self-views and disengage the compulsion to act on them, to believe in them, or to despise them. And of course, they can occur and be unchecked in apparent solitude. So with writing this, the silence has to share the space with the feeling, the thinking, and an 'I' function, and not get cranky and obnoxious about all that. Marvellously, this reluctant realisation eases up the sphere of the mind, and when the mind is at ease, less unwholesome thoughts come up. In fact one begins to enjoy the ease and without effort, stop thinking altogether...

But wait... I suppose what I meant to say when I started this was: 'Thanks for everything!' Although I have experienced much deep reluctance in being part of anything, still the sharing has always been there. The alms keep flowing in, the teaching flows out and the effects of the practice flow both ways. A heart of sharing and letting go has been behind the whole process from the start; one appreciates it in others, one finds that's one's actions are going that way (whatever the personal image of inadequacy may say) and eventually one trusts that above all. But if I had to be guided by an idea of sharing, there would always be the doubt: 'Well, what do I have, what do they want, it's probably not worth while...' Real human presence (even just being with myself) reminds me that: 'Sharing is already happening, "I" am the result of that, now why don't I let something good happen through me? Why don't I get out of the way of a clear response?'

So a new year, and the 'beginning again' of a Winter's retreat allows for that simple and happy acknowledge-ment of Sangha and community. It's good to see a fellow ('sister'?) journal appearing, in Britain at least, called 'Community' and put together by a team of lay people. This is great. As 'Community' successively fattens and embellishes itself, this monastic offering grows leaner and more modest - as becomes a samana. Yet we may arrive, not at the imagined conclusion of dying out altogether, but at something more grateful: a quarterly acknowledgement that the Dhamma has been well-expounded by the Blessed One. Indeed it is good, indeed may we be glad!

Ajahn Sucitto



Luang Por Chah's Birthday
June 17th. This day will be dedicated to Ven Ajahn Chah with a reading, a talk and a circumambulation around the Bodhinyana Stupa.




Leaf Poem

The green
miracle, feeding

The bark with light
from the darling buds

The sap descending
to the veins of root

Through you we give
the name of rowan

Maple, we give
& we are given

O sacred

O incredible
leaf, the wings

Of the seed
returning simply

By the turning
of the ordinary world

Samanera Issaramuni