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News of the past year

Since the last report from Abhayagiri in the Forest Sangha Newsletter we have enjoyed a long, nearly endless summer and are now experiencing the slow yet clear shift into autumn and winter. The oak trees are changing colours, the days are short, but as these words are written in mid November we are still having very warm weather and clear blue skies.

Just prior to the Vassa we were glad to have had the opportunity to have Bhante Gunaratana here for a one-week stay, his third visit here. He generously offered three Dhamma talks, one of them at the pabbajja (novice ordination) of Anagarika Nic, who took on the samanera training and the Pali name Thitapañño. And that same evening Ian Hillard formally requested the anagarika training of the Eight Precepts.

Early in the Vassa Abhayagiri saw two more young men go forth as anagarikas; Louis Gegenhuber and Carl Braun. This brought the total number of samanas here to sixteen: eleven bhikkhus, two samaneras and three anagarikas. With lay resident Debbie Stamp this was the largest resident community we’ve ever had.

Towards the end of August the monastery hosted the annual Spirit Rock Teen Weekend. This is a two-night, three-day camping weekend for teens who participate in the full monastic schedule. It’s always a joy for us to be able to share our lives with these young people who are sincerely interested in the Buddha-Dhamma.

After Vassa ended the Kathina ceremony held at Abhayagiri was a joyous day attended by about 250 people from as far away as Thailand and the East Coast of the US. A week after that Samanera Kaccana formally requested the upasampada, or bhikkhu ordination, and only four days later, on 30 October, Samaneras Subharo, Dhammavaro and Suvaco – three novices from Sitavana (Birken Forest Monastery in Canada) had their upasampada. Ajahn Pasanno was the upajjhaya, or preceptor, for both of these ordination ceremonies. Sitavana’s abbot, Ajahn Sona, attended the October 30th ceremony, and Ven. Pavaro, the ‘second monk’ at Sitavana, spent the month of November with us – his first time at Abhayagiri. Abhayagiri residents have been delighted in having more contact with our closest Forest Sangha branch monastery (a mere 1010 miles north). Late October also saw another change in the Sangha here when Ven. Sampajano left for Thailand to spend his fourth year as a bhikkhu at Wat Pah Nanachat and associated monasteries.

At present we are finishing off work projects as we wind down in preparation for the Winter Retreat. The two new kutis being built this year are nearly completed. One is a larger kuti, with a bathroom, which is suitable for visiting elders, and the other is of a more standard size.

  Elder's kuti
An elders’ kuti at Abhayagiri

Ajahn Yatiko is overseeing a project designing and installing a hydroelectric system here on the land, tapping into the volume of water that runs down these steep hills and turning it into power. Once functional this should help with, among many things, heating the kutis in the upper areas of the forest.

Lastly, Abhayagiri has recently witnessed the deaths of two members of the lay community here. On Monday, 10 November, close friend and neighbour J. died after a year-long period of treatment for cancer. Almost anyone who has visited Abhayagiri since the summer of 2002 would have met J. He lived on the mountainside across the road from the monastery and generously dedicated his time to coming here and helping us with the upkeep and development of the monastery. During the past few years J. derived great pleasure from creating and tending a vegetable garden up at our friend Dennis Crean’s house. J. would use the food compost from the monastery to feed and nourish the garden, and then bring back copious amounts of vegetables to feed and nourish the Abhayagiri community. And on Tuesday, 18 November, Kondañña (Barry Kapke) died from colon cancer. He was one of the early monastery supporters here in California and was instrumental in creating both the Upasika Program and the original Abhayagiri website. He was also, in 1991, the creator of one of the first Dhamma websites, originally called DharmaNet International. Kondañña was one of the Abhayagiri lay ministers, having completed the CALM Program (Community of Abhayagiri Lay Ministers) training. We wish to express our appreciation for both of these members of our community. They will be greatly missed.

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