Forest Sangha Newsletter January 2001

Touching the Meaning; Ajahn Sucitto
Working with Pain; Sister Thanasanti
View from the Hill; Ajahn Munindo
House Builder; Ajahn Candasiri

View from the Hill
An update on activity at Aruna Ratanagiri by Ajahn Munindo

Fifteen years ago, when Ajahn Thiradhammo was leading the community at Harnham, a group called The Sanghamitta Committee -- Friends of the Sangha -- was formed. Comprising a number of the resident monks, trustees and other lay friends, it was planned that this group would oversee the physical development of this outpost of Theravadan Buddhist monasticism. Back then there was little clarity regarding into what size or shape a Forest Sangha in Britain might develop. Although resources were limited the spirit of community was strong; it was wisely recognised that only through a co-operative effort could their visions be manifested.

As things unfolded there was much to oversee. Since then, despite many ups and downs (or maybe because of them) this community has continued its growth -- somewhat like a weather-beaten rowan tree that grows amongst the rocks on a mountain crag -- almost unnoticed but definitely there in its own way. Members of the committee have changed but the spirit remains. The buildings, as well as the residents, have changed -- now changed to the point where we can say that the main site is complete. The main site comprises the owned and rented properties known as No. 2 Harnham Hall Cottages, the Dhamma Hall, monastic accommodation and a separate abbot’s cottage and memorial garden. All are so well established that they almost look as though they have always been there. It feels good.
... it is like calling an acorn ambitious
because it feels inclined to become an oak tree.

As many will have heard, these days attention has turned to the property down the hill, known as No. 5 Harnham Hall Cottages. Now it is the turn for what used to be a 200-year-old barn to be transformed into the monastery kitchen, dining hall, office and guest accommodation. Currently, our kitchen and dining hall are part of premises that are only rented, and the guest accommodation is wherever we can find unused space.
Some have commented on the ambitiousness of the project, but to me that is like calling an acorn ambitious because it feels inclined to become an oak tree. This development -- as with what has gone before -- is inspired by what we feel is happening, and by 'going with it.' Already we can see the shape of a new annex which will serve as independent, wheel-chair accessible, guest accommodation, and (if the snow ever stops falling) by Vesak the main roof will be on the barn and most of the exterior stone work completed.
Resources dictate that the first phase of building will be complete by the end of April, with something like twenty percent of the project in place. The Sanghamitta Committee is looking forward to co-ordinating groups of volunteers to carry on the momentum of the project, as and when the funds and skills are available. The hope is that given this ongoing co-operative interest, one day soon there'll be a fully functioning Retreat House on the hill.