Forest Sangha Newsletter January 2003

Sati-sampajanna: The Brightest Kamma; Ajahn Sucitto
Silent Attentiveness & the Mirror-like Mind; Ajahn Vimalo
A few words on Dhamma from Down Under; Ajahn Kalyano
Cycles of time: Renewal; Ajahn Thaniya


A few words on Dhamma from Down Under
From teachings given by Ajahn Kalyano at Bodhivana Monastery, East Warburton, Australia.

Like the water in the oceans, the compassion of the Buddha flows steadily around the world and continues to attract and provide spiritual sustenance for people in many different places. Having only visited Australia once before, accepting an invitation to come and live and practise near Melbourne on a permanent basis was a bit of a leap in the dark. That leap was made easier through years of training in Thailand where one gets used to moving between different monasteries, and even moving between different dwelling places within the same monastery, on a regular basis. As an alms-mendicant in the forest tradition one learns to be a bit flexible.

The leap was also made easier by the quality and sincerity of the lay support to be found in Australia. Before inviting myself and Venerable Anando over from Thailand, the group of people who made the invitation first went to considerable trouble and expense to find a piece of secluded forest suitable for monastics to live and practise the Dhamma in. Not only is there much uninhabited forest available in Australia, but also a growing interest in the study and practice of the Buddhist teachings amongst those living here, both locals and Asian-born. Now we have arrived in Melbourne, many people have continued to make sacrifices to support the material needs of our growing Sangha here. Reflecting on this is a continual source of nourishment for our spiritual search.
Working with a meditation object has to be the primary activity for a monk or nun following the Buddhist path. Our minds have been so caught up in other things for so long.

Practising in Australia is, as you might expect, essentially the same as anywhere else. Climate and culture may change from country to country, but the Dhamma is still the same. We have to make the effort to investigate the truth of our existence, to find out how to purify our minds and hearts, wherever we are. Those habits and tendencies of mind that pull us into greed, anger and delusion are still there wherever we go. We can also learn from the good aspects of Australian culture, just as we can from Thai or any other culture.

Just like people elsewhere, the Aussies must continuously expend their energy to earn a living, provide themselves with shelter, clothes, food to eat and so on. Even the wallabies and wombats have to search for food and avoid danger, no different from the animals in other parts of the world. This is the struggle involved in sentient existence. For those who have had a vision of the unsatisfactory nature of existence, the Buddha's words offer one way out.

Following the Buddha's path to peace through the development of calm and insight can be a challenge in a country where his teachings have not long been heard or practised. But there is also much joy to be found helping in some small way to make these precious teachings more available here. The reserves of goodness already existing in the hearts of Australians provide a fertile ground for the Buddha's compassion to connect with. The quiet forest and the pure mountain air perfumed with the oil from millions of gum leaves, also provide a suitable backdrop for our work of kammatthana.
Working with a meditation object has to be the primary activity for a monk or nun following the Buddhist path. Our minds have been so caught up in other things for so long. For one who seeks the truth, there is no alternative other than to keep practising with a meditation object, bringing the mind's attention back to the present moment over and over again. When we are on the path, there must be persistent effort to establish and re-establish mindfulness. Even if the mind runs away a thousand times, we must chase after it a thousand times and try not to weary of the task too quickly.

We must also train our minds to investigate what lies behind the hindrances. As a support to our practice of mindfulness, we can use and develop our wisdom to adjust our behaviour and ways of thinking so that we turn away from the thoughts and actions that bring ourselves and other people harm.

If we can keep putting our minds beyond the hindrances on a regular basis they will finally have the chance to rest properly. The restful state produced through the practice of continuous mindfulness on an object is the fruit of samatha bhavana and this provides the mind and heart with the energy needed for vipassana bhavana. Perhaps the most natural progression from samatha to vipassana bhavana is through the contemplation of the breath or else on the thirty-two parts of the body. The five meditation objects given to us when we enter the Sangha are: kesa, loma, nakha, danta, taco or hair of the head, hair of the body, nails teeth and skin. The Buddha encouraged us to look inwards at our own bodies as both a source of calm and insight.
The Buddha teaches that only after thorough investigation of the impermanent, unsatisfactory and ownerless nature of our bodies, will our wisdom faculty be sharp enough to look out at the rest of the sensual realm and not be deluded by it. At first in our meditation we cannot even fully believe our own thoughts, views and opinions about the world because they are still conditioned by ignorance. In the beginning of our practice we have to depend on the Buddha, our teachers and sometimes our own untrained intuition about the truth. Only after some time will that intuition strengthen to become panna, or true wisdom.

The more our minds incline towards the calm of samatha bhavana and become familiar with the practice of body contemplation, the deeper the sense of peace we can experience. The Buddha encouraged us to move towards and sustain this pure awareness of physical and mental phenomena. It is this that can truly liberate our hearts and minds. The more our hearts are matured by insight, the less conflicts will arise in them and little by little we can bring some true peace to the world.

The purpose of our practice here in Australia is to develop the peace and happiness that comes through the mental development of calm and insight. This peace is what gives meaning to our efforts in building this monastery here in Victoria. The fruits of a cool heart and a peaceful mind are what give true meaning to our human existence and are the goals of our spiritual path.