The Forest Sangha is
a world-wide Buddhist community
in the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn
with some of the monasteries at the end of another year
The monastic community that spent the 2006 vassa at Amaravati.
( click the image or the link to see the big and clear image )
2006 has seen, as ever, a number of comings and goings within the
still and steady vessel of Sangha life at Amaravati. Mostly this
year it seemed to be arrivals. Ven. Vinitha, already a novice for
12 years in his native Sri Lanka, joined us early in the year, taking
upasampada with Luang Por Sumedho before the vassa. Joining him
was Samanera now Bhikkhu Dhammiko, one of a steadily
growing group of Portugese practitioners taking interest in joining
the monastic community here. His compatriot Anagarika Vasco will
have taken pabbajja as a samanera in December along with Anagarika
Nicola, from Switzerland. Bruno, also from Portugal, joined Adin
from California in taking anagarika precepts in July. Ven. Dhammiko
will be going to practise at Cittaviveka during 2007, making room
for another Portugese monk, Ven. Kancano, who will join us from
Thailand. Two Dominics, both English, will have also taken ordination
by the New Year: Anagarika Dominic became Samanera Adicco in May
and the newest Dominic will take anagarika precepts in December.
This year sixteen bhikkhus, three samaneras and five anagarikas
spent the vassa at Amaravati, filling up the accommodation for male
Sangha and necessitating a waiting list for bhikkhus asking to join
us. Three bhikkhus just slipping in the door this year have included
myself, returning from an extended period in Thailand and elsewhere
to Amaravati having started here as an anagarika in 1989; Ven. Ahimsako,
a junior American monk visiting from Abhayagiri to train with us
for a year and who is also returning, in the sense that he lived
in England for 17 years before his ordination in America, much of
that time coming to Amaravati as a lay supporter; and Ven. Panyanando,
an English monk of nine vassas originally ordained in Cambodia and
who trained for eight years at Wat Pah Nanachat and other Ajahn
Chah branch monasteries in Thailand before arriving in the UK last
summer, spending the vassa at Hartridge and arriving at Amaravati
for our Kathina.
As to exits, besides Ven. Dhammikos move to Cittaviveka, Samanera
Paramito will be travelling to Thunder Bay, Canada, for a year to
train with Ajahn Punnadhammo at Arrow River Forest Hermitage (www.arrowriver.ca).
And Anagarika Gabor, having completed his years training,
will be returning to lay life in Hungary with the heartfelt blessings
of all of us, grateful for all hes given and shared.
Bhikkhu Jayanto, on behalf of the monks.
There has been a good feeling in the nuns community at Amaravati
over the past year, even with many changes. Significant people have
been away Ajahn Candasiri in Edinburgh supporting her family,
and Sister Bodhipala in Cambodia for the vassa but there
is also a tangible sense of the whole and of remaining connected.
The question of how we support the Dhamma and ourselves as women
practitioners has been very much in consciousness. On her return
from Cambodia Sister Bodhipala gave her first Dhamma talk, including
her experience of the difficult position of women in traditional
Buddhism. At Amaravati itself we are now exploring what forms of
leadership and organization may work for us as women. Thus since
July the womens community has been led cooperatively; Ajahn
Upekkha as acting senior nun serving together with both Ajahn Anandabodhi
and Ajahn Metta (who celebrates her tenth vassa this year!).
Alongside this kind of innovation we have been strengthening some
of the traditional building blocks of this life such as going on
regular pindapat (faith alms-round). This has been heartening for
all of us involved. There have also been people entering the training:
Sr Chandasara (ex Anagarika Louise) taking the Ten Precepts in May
and Anagarikas Doris, Chiara and Miriam joining us more recently.
In December two more lay women, Soledad and Ana Sophia, will take
the Anagarika precepts. We are preparing ourselves now to enter
the winter retreat and would like to express our deep gratitude
to all the lay supporters for your great generosity, helping us
to continue our spiritual journey with ease, joy and well being.
Submitted by Sister Sumedha, on behalf of the Amaravati Nuns
Buddha image in the snow at Harnham.
Aruna Ratanagiri (Harnham)
With our 25th anniversary celebrations over, our small community
here on the hill recently hunkered down out of the wind for a week
of silence. It has been a busy autumn. And with the turning of the
clocks and the arrival of dark afternoons and moonlit mornings,
it was a chance to turn inward and gather our energies for two more
active months before the start of the Winter Retreat. Traditionally,
we have many friends visiting our monastery in the time leading
up to Christmas and New Year. Some of them this year will be able
to stay in the new Retreat House which now has various finished
rooms ready to serve as very agreeable guest accommodation. The
Winter Retreat this time round is going to be for a small
bunch that are left on the hill, as Ajahn Munindo, Hiriko Bhikkhu
and our caretaker Richard all head east. Together, theyll
visit Wat Pah Pong for the commemoration of the 15th anniversary
of Ajahn Chahs passing away. Afterwards, Hiriko Bhikkhu remains
in Thailand at Wat Marp Jun for several months of traditional practice
under the watchful eye of Ajahn Anan, whilst Ajahn Munindo and Richard
head to New Zealand. Back in Britain, Samanera Nyanamoli will spend
the Winter Retreat at Chithurst, leaving Ajahn Sawaeng, Ajahn Abhinando,
Anagarika Radek and kitchen manager Jim to hold fort in Northumberland.
Then in March, the monastery will close down for a month to allow
for the installation of our new sewage system. That means the two
Ajahns will leave for Santacittarama and Dhammapala respectively,
that Jim temporarily skedaddles and that Radek our sturdy
Pole will be left to bathe out of a modest bucket. All being
well, as the days lengthen in April and everyone returns, the process
of ablutions will be less stressful and we will have a fully-functioning
retreat house to which all are welcome.
At Cittaviveka, life goes on much as usual, though with an increased
community of monks and nuns, and both Ajahn Sucitto and Ajahn Karuniko
in residence after long spells away. The biggest change has been
the acquisition of Hammerwood Cottage, which has been renamed Rocana
Vihara and is being used to increase the accommodation for nuns
and female anagarikas. Julia Wilkinson, a long-term supporter and
trustee of the English Sangha Trust who has been involved with the
purchase of the cottage, reports on the current situation on behalf
of the Trust:
Rocana Vihara Update
It is more than nine months now since the nuns moved into the Rocana
Vihara on the third of January this year. This house, previously
named Hammer Cottage, is adjacent to the smaller, existing nuns
cottage, Aloka, and the Hammer Wood so provides a very appropriate
home for the nuns. Already, significant movement and changes have
been taking place.
Firstly there has been an increase in Sangha numbers, with nine
to ten nuns and female anagarikas now living in both the new four-
bedroom cottage and the kutis. This has meant that Aloka has been
able to provide more accommodation for female lay guests. Indeed,
there has been a steady stream (at times a flood) of visitors and
the nuns community are pleased to be able to offer a more
suitable place for old and new friends to stay.
The nuns are greatly benefiting in other ways from having these
improved facilities with better space for living and practice. The
Rocana Vihara now provides a hub around which the nuns can organize
their lives within the larger Chithurst community. Though receiving
their main meal at Chithurst House, they are not, as before, having
to be constantly moving up and down the hill between the two locations.
The monks continue to be extremely supportive of the project, offering
much help, and the nuns continue to be involved in the day to day
affairs of Chithurst.
The purchase of the Rocana Vihara also means that all the land on
both sides of the valley leading up to the lake and the forest is
now in the ownership of the English Sangha Trust. The new cottage
comes with more than two acres of garden and woodland, so that the
whole area is available for quiet contemplation. In particular this
enhances the environment around Aloka and also around the south-west
corner of the lake.
When the cottage was surveyed prior to purchase it was pointed out
that fairly urgent repairs were needed to part of the north-facing
roof and the supporting timbers. This is currently being undertaken
by contractors and completion of the tiling is awaited. There are
some other less significant repairs required but otherwise the cottage
is warm, dry and in good order.
With regard to the finances, the EST is extremely grateful to the
very generous donors who have contributed so far. Many people have
asked how this is going, so here is a breakdown of the main costs,
payments and contributions to date:
Purchase price of cottage and land (plus necessary repairs): £785,000
Deposit paid by EST: £100,000
Repairs funded by donations: £10,000
Loan from Triodos bank: £675,000
Fund balance (further donations less mortgage repayments)
at 30.9.06: £191,000
It can be seen from this that it will be possible to pay off a significant
part of the loan, in the order of £150,000 to £175,000,
by the end of the year. This would then reduce the loan capital
outstanding at the year end to around £500,000.
The trustees have been very encouraged by the level of support so
far. We are delighted that the cottage has immediately made such
a big difference to the Sangha, both in the significant increase
in the number of women able to practise in this situation and also
the improved accommodation and environment. Benefits extend to the
whole Chithurst Sangha.
There is still quite a way to go to pay off the loan so we very
much hope that the excellent support for this project will continue.
Many grateful thanks to all of you who have helped in whatever way,
or will do so in the future.
The Nuns are planning another Open Day (to be announced in the next
newsletter) when all are welcome to visit.
Sumedho and Anagarika Jonathan, now Ajahn Jutindharo, at Harnham
20 yrs. ago
In this piece from the Hartridge newsletter, Ajahn Suriyo writes
of the transition happening there:
After three and a half years in residence I have decided to step
down as abbot of Hartridge and spend a year or two on personal retreat.
It has been a privilege to participate in the renewal and ongoing
evolution of Hartridge, and even more than the quiet Blackdown Hills
I will miss the sincere and generous lay-supporters who keep this
monastery going. At the last Elders Council meeting in October
we discussed the next step for Hartridge. To our delight Ajahn Jutindharo,
who was once an anagarika here and has spent the last twelve years
at Amaravati Monastery, has expressed an interest in coming to Hartridge
as the next senior monk. It will take him a few months to extricate
himself from his responsibilities at Amaravati, and in the meantime
Ven. Dhiravamso, who has been in residence for the Vassa, will act
as caretaker. Ven. Dhammarakkho from Chithurst Monastery will join
him for the winter retreat. Ven. Panyanando, also here this past
vassa, has taken up residence at Amaravati. May Hartridge continue
to flourish and act as a beacon of peace in a turbulent world.
Artists drawing of the proposed temple at
Nine years ago Santacittarama relocated to its present setting in
the Sabina hills north of Rome, an attractive property with several
buildings and 25 acres of woodland and meadow at the end of a gravel
road. Ajahn Chandapalo (British), Ajahn Jutindharo (Thai) and Ven.
Mahapanyo (Italian) are long-term residents, giving the monastery
stability and continuity and covering the most useful languages.
Other monks have come and gone over the years; at present there
is Ajahn Uttamo, of Taiwanese nationality and nearly 20 years experience
of monastic life in Thailand, and another Thai monk called Ajahn
Suvaco. Samanera Brahmano, an Italian novice, has gone to Chithurst
for the winter retreat and we expect him back in the spring. One
indicator of how well-established Santacittarama has become is the
fact that we've had no anagarika since June and it's hardly been
noticed. There always seem to be enough willing lay guests helping
out, taking initiative and able to get on with whatever needs to
People come from all over Italy and beyond to spend a few days or
more joining in the daily routine. Since April we've been able to
offer more comfortable accommodation for women, having completed
a project to convert an old outbuilding, and next year plan to improve
and expand the male guest quarters. The main limitation here, however,
is the lack of a large meeting hall and plans are beginning to take
shape for a temple building. It seems that the local council is
well-disposed and we are about to set forth on the procedure that
we hope will result in obtaining the necessary permits. Italian
bureaucracy can be quite an adventure! The lie of the land lends
itself to a square structure of two levels. It will have a pyramid-shaped
roof, somewhat similar to Amaravati's temple, with a large meeting
hall upstairs of around 200 square metres floor space, and a lower
level with reception room, library, bathrooms, storage and an apartment
for visiting monks. A detailed plan is still being worked on. In
the meantime we'll continue to make do with the small shrine room
and, for larger gatherings, a big tent that is barely withstanding
the ravages of time, but when the weather is fine affords a pleasant
space for ceremonies, meditation days and large danas.
Being situated near the capital city means that often we find ourselves
representing Buddhists at the national level. One such recent event
was the Remembrance Day service at Rome's Commonwealth War Cemetery.
In the past we've been involved in interfaith gatherings in the
Italian parliament, at St. Peters in Rome, as well as in Rieti and
Assisi. We also have a good connection with several embassies, especially
the Thai embassy that has always been very supportive and where
we are regularly invited.
One of the most rewarding aspects of living in Italy is the warmth
and sincere interest of the local people. Just a few miles down
the valley lies the ancient abbey of Farfa, where part of the film
"Name of the Rose" was shot, home to a small community
of Benedictine monks, one of whom has become a dear friend. Don
Santo, a Sicilian, is a regular and much appreciated visitor, sometimes
coming to join us for tea and a chat or for an hour of meditation
during retreat time. It is also encouraging to see the number of
young people coming to join in, motivated to investigate the teachings
of the Buddha and to apply themselves to meditation practice. Among
the lay people there's a good balance between the Asians
mostly Thai and Sri Lankan and Italians, and a wholesome
atmosphere of appreciation and collaboration between them.
The monastery website (www.santacittarama.org)
is regularly updated and now has a gallery of photos.
View out of a Dhammapala window in winter.
Ajahn Khemasiri, who took up the reins at Dhammapala after Ajahn
Tiradhammo moved to Bodhinyanarama in New Zealand last year, invites
anyone interested to write to them in Switzerland (address on the Monasteries page under Contacts in the sidebar) and they will be happy to post you a copy of the English
language version of their newsletter which will include news from
this past year.
stupa at Bodhinyanarama.
Bodhinyanarama (New Zealand)
Ajahn Dhammanando writes from Wellington:
Last year we were joined by Ajahn Ariyasilo who has generously contributed
both to teaching here and at the various groups, and to helping
with a number of maintenance projects. In February, Venerable Varapanyo
took Upasampada here in a ceremony officiated over by Ajahn Brahmavamso,
the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth, Australia. In April
Venerable Dhammadaso, who was originally trained in New Zealand,
returned to Bodhinyanarama from Abhayagiri Monastery in California,
where he has been resident for the last four years. This Vassa saw
six monks in residence here: Ajahn Tiradhammo, Ajahn Ariyasilo,
Bhante Jinalankara, Ajahn Sucinno, Ven. Dhammadaso and Ven. Varapanyo
plus Anagarika Dan. Venerable Dhammanando spent the Rains Retreat
as monk in residence at the Buddhist Society of Victoria in Melbourne,
later returning here in October. Sister Medhanandi is currently
on pilgrimage in Asia.
In addition to the teaching some of our bhikkhus have offered in
Australia, this year our monastic community has continued reconnecting
with meditation groups around New Zealand. There are regular visits
to Palmerston North and New Plymouth, coupled with occasional visits
to Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson, Napier and, of course, within
Wellington itself. Bhante Jinalankara has taught retreats in Otaki
and Dunedin. The monastery teaching programme has been expanded
so that each month we not only offer an 'Introduction to Meditation'
evening, as well as a Saturday afternoon meditation workshop, but
also regular weekly meetings, sutta classes and Bhante Jinalankara's
retreats in Sinhalese. In October, Ajahn Tiradhammo taught the first
weekend retreat in English and we intend to offer more next year.
There will also be a New Year's retreat taught by Ajahn Tiradhammo.
Many physical improvements to buildings have been undertaken, including
the Upper House plus rear patio and the Triplex (guest residence),
and there are further plans in the pipeline. Eventually we hope
to have a new kitchen area. This autumn Ajahn Sucinno and Ven. Dhammadaso
each disrobed; ex Dhammadaso has now returned as Peter Fernando,
to live in the community as a resident upasaka, while Ajahn Sucinno
has returned to the lay life. We wish them both well for the future.
Nyaniko Bhikkhu writes on behalf of the Sangha at Abhayagiri:
In June 2005 I left Abhayagiri for a year-long stay in Thailand.
On the day of my departure, large earth-moving machines were breaking
ground on what was to become the monasterys new cloister buildings.
These include an office building with three rooms, public restrooms,
and a disabled guest room. When I returned in June 2006, the buildings
were completed. Just before returning from Thailand I spoke with
Tan Karunadhammo on the phone and he let me know that "Theres
plenty of work for you to take part in here when you get back. Were
building four new kutis, a solar system
." A few days
after returning to America, in addition to the new cloister buildings,
there were two newly framed Elders cabins and two kutis made
to a smaller standard size of 10 x 14. The community
was also preparing to set sixty solar panels on top of the Dhamma
Hall and main house. The solar project was also to have a second
phase with 18 more panels up in the forest. Most of the building
work this year has focused on these projects. The solar system in
the forest will provide electricity for all of the new kutis, and
the future Dhamma Hall and monks utility building.
January of 2006 saw record rains and mudslides. The most damage
occurred at the womens guest house, where the hillside and
garden collapsed. So, the hillside was reconstructed and covered
in large rocks. Near the end of 2006 when the rainy season came
again, the exposed sections of hillside were covered with coconut
husk cloth and erosion-control grass.
In April, Bhante Rahula paid us a one-week visit and taught four-stage
yogic breathing for bringing up energy. Sister Ajahn Candasiri visited
from Amaravati for one week in May, accompanied by Sister Cittapala.
Ajahn Pasanno has been on retreat in Thailand this year, leaving
Ajahn Amaro as the solitary abbot. Also this year Abhayagiri turned
ten years old. Ajahn Chandako and Ajahn Visuddhi joined us for the
tenth anniversary celebration in June. On June 4th an open house
was held and the lay stewards formally offered the keys to the new
cloister buildings to the Sangha. A slide show presentation was
given, showing the monasterys transformations over the past
ten years. In late June, Tan Ahimsako went to England to spend his
third year as a bhikkhu at Amaravati, and possibly spend some time
at the other English branch monasteries.
Also in late June Ajahn Prateep returned to Thailand to attend to
his mother who was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Due to a viral
infection during the operations she died, and Ajahn is now staying
in Thailand for at least one year so that his religious visa can
be renewed. Several highly respected Ajahns including Ajahn Dtun,
Ajahn Anan, and Ajahn Jayasaro, plus about thirty bhikkhus attended
the funeral for Ajahn Prateeps mother. We are uncertain as
to when Ajahn Prateep will return to Abhayagiri.
Tan Dhirapannyo came to live at Abhayagiri from July until late
November. He was our Vinaya teacher during the vassa, and we greatly
appreciated the depth of his learning and the detail with which
he covered the training rules. Tan Dhirapannyo has now returned
to his native Thailand, to live at an Ajahn Chah branch monastery
Bhante Gunaratana visited in early November. Bhantes presence
and mastery as a Dhamma teacher was deeply refreshing. Bhante gave
a talk on merit one Saturday night at the monastery, which began
as follows: "All of the devatas have left the United States,
so we must invite them back." We hope to invite Bhante
Gunaratana back many times in the future.
Sister Ajahn Thaniya paid us a visit in November for one week before
helping Ajahn Amaro lead the annual thanksgiving retreat.
Tan Dhammadaso moved to the New Zealand monastery, Bodhinyanarama,
in April 2006. His health has steadily degenerated over the past
five years, and he felt that it was extremely difficult to continue
living as a bhikkhu given his extreme physical circumstances. Tan
Dhammadaso returned to the lay life after the Kathina ceremony this
year. Tan Satimanto and Tan Phasuko have also returned to the lay
Lee Mintz took anagarika ordination in April. Samanera Sampajano
and Anagarika Minh Anh became Bhikkhu Sampajano and Samanera Kassapo
in July. Whit Myers took anagarika ordination in October. The current
resident community at the end of 2006 consists of Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn
Sudanto, Tan Karunadhammo, Tan Jotipalo, Tan Nyaniko, Tan Sampajano,
Samanera Tithabho, Samanera Kassapo, Anagarika Lee Mintz, Anagarika
Whit Myers and Debbie Stamp.
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