FOREST SANGHA
newsletter
Juanuary             2008                             2551                      Number     82
The Forest Sangha is a worldwide Buddhist monastic
community in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah


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Monasteries 2007

Checking-in with some of the monasteries at the end of another year

The Abhayagiri buddhist monastic community with Bhikkhu Bodhi (centre)

The Abhayagiri monastic community with Bhikkhu Bodhi (centre)

 

Abhayagiri (USA)

 

Abhayagiri enjoyed a spacious and joyous year blessed with many distinguished visitors and ample opportunity for cultivation. Over the three-month winter retreat, Ajahn Amaro read out the entire English language collection of Luang Por Chah’s teachings, ending with selected readings of Ajahn Sumedho. This set the tone for the year to come.

We celebrated six ordinations in the Abhayagiri community this year. In April and July, respectively, Tan Thitabho and Tan Kassapo received upasampada, becoming the newest bhikkhus. Anagarika Lee Mintz went forth to become Samanera Cunda in April, while Anagarika Whit Meyers followed along in October to become Samanera Kaccana. In June the community welcomed Anagarika Nic Grueff and in July Anagarika Michael Bodman to the white-robed training.

In April, Ajahn Pasanno returned from his fifteen-month sabbatical in Thailand, stopping off to visit branch monasteries in New Zealand and Australia along the way. The community is delighted to have him back. Tan Caganando, an American monk who was at Wat Pah Nanachat, also joined us at Abhayagiri in April. Tan Ahimsako returned from Great Britain in June, after residing at Amaravati for his third year as a bhikkhu. Lay resident Jackie Miller also returned to manage Casa Serena, the women’s guest house, after having spent the winter in England. Tan Khemaratana, an American monk from the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, joined us for the vassa.

Just before the start of the Rains Retreat, Tan Jotipalo travelled to the Midwest to meet up with Father William Skudlarek, a Benedictine monk from St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota. The two monks undertook an interfaith walking pilgrimage up the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, covering about 85 miles in eight days along the Paul Bunyan Bike Trail. The walkers received positive press and enthusiastic support from the locals.

The community began the vassa with a two-week period of group practice and then took two-week solitary retreats in turn. This year’s Vinaya classes were led by Tan Jotipalo, who taught the rules by incorporating scenarios that called for everyone’s interaction. As a gesture of gratitude, this year’s Kathina robe was offered to him.

Ajahn Sudanto and Tan Karunadhammo, at the invitation of Portland Friends of the Dhamma, observed the vassa in a beautiful and remote setting near Mosier, Oregon, close to the Columbia River Gorge. Tenting on friends’ land, they were very generously maintained by lay supporters in Oregon. This summer marks the completion of the tenth vassa for (now) Ajahn Karunadhammo – the first completely ‘home-grown’ Abhayagiri monk to reach ten Rains.

It is also with great appreciation that we mark the completion of the tenth vassa at Abhayagiri of our longest lay resident and Sangha protector, Debbie Stamp. An original member and still on the board of the Sanghapala Foundation (19 years!), and supreme multi-tasking dynamo; she still manages to connect with residents and guests alike with warmth, kindness, and good humour.

The end of the vassa brought a number of changes to the community. Tan Jotipalo departed for Arrow River Forest Hermitage in Thunder Bay, Canada, for an extended period. At the time of this writing, Tan Ñaniko, having just finished his fifth Rains, is away in India until the end of the year. Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karunadhammo are preparing for a visit to Thailand. From there, Ajahn Pasanno will lead a group on pilgrimage in India, before returning to Abhayagiri on Boxing Day.

ajahn amaro

Ajahn Amaro, Joseph Kappell (ex Aj. Pabhakaro), Ajahn Pasanno

Abhayagiri received many distinguished visitors this year. In April, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi paid a visit and kindly extended his stay to deliver the address at the ordinations of Tan Thitabho and Samanera Cunda. Ajahn Dton, the vice-abbot of Ajahn Tui’s monastery in Nong Khai, Thailand, visited briefly. Ajahn Sucitto came to stay with us for a week at the end of May while on a teaching tour of North America. He delivered the full moon desana (Dhamma talk) on Vesakha Puja.

Ajahn Dick Silaratano came to visit in June. A senior Western disciple of Luang Da Maha Boowa, Ajahn Dick has lived in Thailand for the past 30 years and he shared reflections of his living and training with Tan Ajahn Maha Boowa over that time. Joseph Kappell (ex-Ajahn Pabhakaro) also visited in June. We enjoyed hearing stories about the ‘early days’ with Luang Por Chah.

In June we were truly blessed to receive Ajahn Plien Paññapatipo, a highly revered Thai forest ajahn, for a two-week stay. During his visit, Luang Por Plien tirelessly offered Dhamma teachings every evening, lasting into the late hours of the night and sometimes the wee hours of the morning. Ajahn Pasanno provided the translation, which required awesome focus and endurance. Tan Moshe, a Thai monk from Wat Pah Nanachat, served as Luang Por’s attendant during his travels in America. Ajahn Piyasilo, on his way back to Chiang Rai after spending a year at Cittaviveka Monastery, visited us during the time of Luang Por Plien’s visit, as did Maechee Mon, who was ordained with Ajahn Sona at Birken Monastery in British Columbia.

Reverend Master Seikai of Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple (a branch of Shasta Abbey) joined us for a two-week stay in August. In September, we were fortunate to receive Ajahn Thanissaro, the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego County, for a six-day visit.

Ajahn Sundara paid us a brief visit on her way to Cloud Mountain Meditation Center in Washington, where she spent the vassa this year. Ruth Denison also visited briefly in October. Ruth, an early Dhamma pioneer in the U.S., has been a supporter and friend of Abhayagiri for many years. At the time of this writing (November, 2007), Ajahn Metta and Sister Jotipanya, accompanied by Anagarika Santussika, are scheduled to arrive from England for a visit of several weeks. Ajahn Metta will be co-leading the annual Thanksgiving Retreat along with Ajahn Amaro.

In addition to the teachings offered by our many guests, the Abhayagiri monastic community had a full schedule of teachings and events. These included the ongoing Upasika program, which brings together lay practitioners who have made a long-term commitment to spiritual practice; monthly talks in Berkeley and Ukiah; and the annual Spirit Rock Teen Weekend. The sixth annual Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage rolled up the driveway in September, with about 90 riders pedalling 140 miles over two days from Spirit Rock.

Ever responding to the call for Dhamma teachings, Ajahn Amaro travelled far and wide (as well as near) conducting teachings for groups in Michigan, at the Insight Meditation Society and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts (along with Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia and Ajahn Punnadhammo), at the Sati Center in Redwood City (with Joe Bobrow Roshi), at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon, at the annual Family Retreat at Spirit Rock, and for students in Wisconsin.

For something a little different, six members of the Sangha attended a four-day ‘welding workshop’, hosted by expert welder/artist Richard Yaski in nearby Little River. In addition to morning meditation, the midday meal and a Dhamma talk one evening, the group learned and practised the welder’s art throughout the day.

The community built a beautiful new shrine house to shelter the golden Buddha statue that presides over the cloister compound. Final touches were put on a new ‘day-use meditation platform’ for women, sponsored by Ruth Denison, providing a secluded space for sitting and walking meditation.

As the blaze of summer fades from the mind and dark clouds shape-shift overhead with increasing frequency, we go about the routine of samanas – living simply and in harmony with the inside and outside conditions, as they are.

 

amaravati

The Abhayagiri community, visitors and Luang Por Plien (centre)

( click the image or the link to see the big image)

 

 


 


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