Forest SanghaNewsletterOctober 2002

Suffering Should Be Welcomed; Luang Por Sumedho
Reading the Heart; Upasika Kee Nanayon
Mudita: Shared Enjoyment; Ajahn Sucitto
Reflections; Ajahn Pannasaro
Mt. Kailash; Luang Por Sumedho
Nourishing our Hearts; Sister Thaniya


Nourishing our Hearts

'...then Ananda, attention should be directed to some inspiring object of thought, and delight springs up. When there is delight rapture arises. When rapture is experienced the body calms down. With the body calmed down, joy arises. Being joyful, the mind becomes concentrated....' (Samyutta 47, Satipatthana Vagga, 10.)

'Thus, following after a good person, when complete, completes listening to true Dhamma; listening to true Dhamma completes faith; faith completes thorough work of mind; and that mindfulness and self-possession; that control of the sense faculties; that the three right ways of practice; that the arising of mindfulness; and that the seven factors of enlightenment; while they, when complete, complete release by knowledge.' (Anguttara X, Ch Vii, i. Text v 115.)

This movement of ours to free the heart from all that hinders is described in different ways. In the negative sense there is the outlining of those things to be guarded against or uprooted; in the positive sense there is a whole matrix of skilful factors to be cultivated and dwelt within - and to be let go of with wisdom. Fundamental among skilful factors that bring furtherance are the heart qualities of the brahmavihara (metta/loving kindness, karuna/compassion, mudita/empathetic joy and upekkha/equanimity). These are based in a sense of relatedness that gladdens and leads us forward; we are connected to others and so the quality of that connection is an important factor in the ripening of our hearts.
Allowing our heart to attune to the goodness of those who support our cultivation, providing spiritual food and shelter, is a valuable way to gladden and collect our minds.
Living as an alms mendicant, being completely dependent on others' goodness, brings this into focus. When we step into uncertainty regarding something as basic as food, the power both of relinquishing control and of trusting in a greater human field than ourselves leaves a great space for miracles. The constant miracle of having enough to eat reveals the extent of human kindness and generosity; and the gladness (mudita) that arises when we attune to the goodness of those around us can be more nourishing than the food itself. Connecting to such experiences of benevolence can heal the sense of poverty or lack we may carry, which can so limit the essential experience of well being. It challenges the expectation that there won't be enough - a sense fundamental to competitive materialistic society, that can taint all levels of our experience.

We, therefore, need to train our minds to attune to what is wholesome and nourishing, to attend to that around us which can steady and brighten. Much of where we are asked to point our attention is at what is not 'right' - in the news, in the discrimination needed to be fixing and improving things. This can become a habit of mind that we then extend to how we perceive and relate to others, making us unable to receive what they are offering. So we need to deliberately notice what is lovely, the skilful qualities the people around us are embodying, how we are supported and looked after, acts of kindness.... When we sense the goodness around us we no longer need to disconnect or disappear - we realise that 'this is a good place to be.' And gratitude arises.

It is also helpful to recollect references that are larger, more fundamental, than those of personality or events (which can be awful), to let our hearts resonate with 'Buddha', 'Teacher' or 'Pilgrim', and let these feed and satisfy the mind. Allowing the heart to attune to the goodness of those who support our cultivation, providing spiritual food and shelter, is a valuable way to gladden and collect our minds, to clear away unwholesome qualities. This may be the Lord Buddha himself, or someone we have been drawn to listen to, have come into relationship with, and feel we have benefited from. Within these communities Luang Por Sumedho has been one such 'good person' to follow after, a field of merit that has provided Dhamma nourishment, either directly or indirectly. Also, after his decades of supporting our communities, we can simply rejoice in the fact that he was able, despite the difficulties, to make the pilgrimage around Mt. Kailash, something he has aspired to for a long time.

What is it like to let our hearts resonate with someone else's goodness and happiness? Can we feel that our 'hearts naturally gravitate towards the light and good' and let that appreciation strengthen us? Then we do have the ability to 'know the world', welcoming whatever arises; we are attuned to a heart quality that establishes a skilful relationship with all of our experience. Awareness is able to let go of the boundaries it would otherwise set up. We can rest in the sphere of the brahmavihara and resonate with the loveliness of awareness itself, freed from lack or defensiveness.

Sister Thaniya



Phra Dhammapariyattimuni
'Phra Dhammapariyattimuni passed away on the 19th of July 2002. He was the Upajjhaya (Preceptor) of Ajahn Sumedho. He was the head monk of Nongkhai Province, Thailand when Ajahn Sumedho received the Pabbajja (Samanera ordination) in July of 1964. He gave the higher ordination (Upasampada) to Ajahn Sumedho in 1967. He, later, resigned his position in Nong Khai in order to become the Abbot of Wat Dhatu Panom province.

He was 84 years old when he died.'



The Island

There's a mountain that stands for everything.
There's a valley that empties everything.
There's a sky that blesses everything.
There's a soil that gives back everything.

Little want pores over the maps and charts;
then runs around the hopeful world;
then ransacks the jewelled cosmos....
The abyss sucks it whimpering back.

So then, where could attention surrender...?
But there's the near side of nowhere-
intimate, dangerous, untrodden.
The abundant.

Yours. Mine. Everything's.