Forest SanghaNewsletterJuly 2000

Bringing the Teachings Alive; Ajahn Viradhammo
Monastic Millennium: Growing up at Chithurst; Ajahn Sucitto
Farewell; Ajahn Attapemo
Obituary: Acharya Godwin Samararatne
The Holy Life; Ajahn Sucitto

The Holy Life

There are certain principles of Dhamma-Vinaya (Teaching and Training) that are the Buddha's legacy to us and which endure, regardless of the great variety of human circumstances and the sometimes quite dramatic changes in the forms of communities and in the lives of individuals comprising them. We can recognise these principles as the means whereby the heart can remain unshaken amid such change - not shaken, even although the hoards of Mara can seem to be bent on producing some sort of a reaction. The Buddha would always emphasise the insubstantiality of 'ME' and 'MY WORLD VIEW', and the tremendous suffering that can be caused by these; therefore, in a sense, it can be helpful when the assumptions we make of a happy permanence are challenged and seen through - even although it can sometimes feel like more than we can bear. Every human life is touched by such challenges, and they don't necessarily come according to our expectations or wishes.

Some weeks ago we received news of the passing away of Godwin Samaratane, a dear friend and mentor of several Sangha members and friends. Then on 13th May, 'Ajahn Attapemo', after much heart searching, became 'Ajahn John'. Although the community and many friends were well aware of his struggle and relief at having reached a decision, the sense of grieving that we all shared as he underwent the disrobing procedure in Amaravati's Temple on that sunny morning was palpable. His contribution to the life of our community has been significant, both in terms of the personal qualities that he brought - his intregrity, kindness and willingness to come forward to help - and the major part he played in organising the Temple construction and its grand opening ceremony last year. So we wish him well as he continues on the Path, albeit with a different name, different appearance and somewhat different lifestyle.

All worldly conditions, even including the conventional form of Sangha which comprises human beings on a religious path, are subject to change.

There has also been a need to review the position of the nuns' community at Hartridge. The Holy Life demands a stepping beyond what is safe, secure; we make some provision, but there can be no guarantee that it will be enough to see us through. In this case it has become obvious that, in fact, we have stretched ourselves too thin. With several of the more experienced sisters taking sabbatical leave, there are not enough of us for the community to continue there in its present form. Currently we are considering what might be suitable alternatives for maintaining a Sangha presence at Hartridge, but in the meantime there is the experience of uncertainty, and perhaps loss - not least for the lay community that supports and is supported by the Hartridge Sangha.

Our personal reaction to all of these events may be one of agitation, sorrow or dismay: 'Why does it have to be like this?...' An enlightened response might be: 'All worldly conditions, even including the conventional form of Sangha which comprises human beings on a religious path, are subject to change - regardless of our wish, longing or need for that not to be the case. But we can rely on our own aspiration towards Truth; we can receive encouragement through the examples of enlightened disciples and of those who continue to engage wholeheartedly in the struggle towards such realisation.

Yes, it is a struggle for each of us - whether lay or ordained. The hoards of Mara are always ready to find our points of vulnerability, to undermine our efforts towards wholeness and freedom, but this needn't deter us. We can always access resources that will help us, such as compassion and wise reflection, humility, patience and forgiveness - these can transform the confusion and sorrow of our lives, bringing insight and a, sometimes surprising, sense of calm: 'Ah, this is how it is; how could it be otherwise?...' So we find the strength and courage to continue this Journey. There'll be times of ease and times of great difficulty, but we can know that it is our sincerity and the persistence with which we apply ourselves to 'following the good, avoiding what is evil and purifying the heart' (in spite of, or perhaps because of, our mistakes and our willingness to learn from them) that will bring us, sooner or later, to the Goal.

Ajahn Candasiri



Where is the good person?

The good person lies within us.

If were good then wherever we go the goodness stays with us.

People may praise us,

blame us or treat us with contempt,

but whatever they say or do,

we're still good.

Luang Por Chah