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This year the most significant event at Harnham, as far as material achievements go, was the completion of Kusala House, our new guest accommodation. We celebrated the occasion just before Kathina, inaugurating Kusala House’s new meditation room with a blessing ceremony for the grandchildren of Myint Su and Clive, two longstanding friends and supporters of the community here. Ajahn Sumedho and several visiting monks were able to participate in the ceremony, as they were staying at Harnham to join us for the hugely successful Kathina on the next day. And so we were able to offer and enjoy a resounding many-voiced Paritta chanting as it is seldom heard at Harnham.

Of course, this has not been the first event held at Kusala House, which has already been in use for a while. Thanks to the new facilities, this year we were able to host five meditation retreats, some of them led by visiting elders from Amaravati: Ajahns Anandabodhi and Candasiri leading women’s retreats, Ajahn Jayanto a mixed retreat and finally Ajahn Sumedho himself, arriving a good week in advance of the Kathina celebrations, leading a men’s meditation retreat which was enormously appreciated by all the participants, including the community at Harnham.

So far for next year at Kusala House we have scheduled four meditation retreats and a sutta study day with Professor Peter Harvey. Some of these events are already nearly booked out. And the lending library will be fitted with technology enabling the download of all materials available on the dhammathreads.org and dhammatalks.org.uk websites.

The inauguration of the shrine room has marked a significant point in the story of Kusala House, but as much as it did not mark the beginning of its use, it also did not mark the end of the work. We are now looking into the possibility of creating further fire escapes to lift restrictions on the use of the upstairs dormitories, as well as upgrading the surface of the car park; a crumbling boundary wall needs rebuilding, a telephone system will have to be installed, a storage room is still to be furbished….

The story continues, and may it remain a story of success and achievement as it has been until now. Not only in the physical establishment of Kusala House but also in the joyful involvement of the many lay people who have helped to make it possible by offering funds and many hours of work as well as taking on responsibilities. Kusala House is now run with the help of a committee comprising members of the monastic as well as our wider lay community, including our able and efficient Retreat Organizer, Kath, and our resident Kusala House Manager, Andrew.

Another focus for our efforts to make the teachings of the Buddha available remains the use of the Internet to reach a wider audience of people interested in practising the Dhamma. Both the Dhammatalks and Dhammathreads websites continue to be popular outlets for teachings by elders of the wider community; we’ve added another website, www.aruno.org, to those managed from here. This site specifically provides for the distribution of teachings given at Harnham. Also Ajahn Munindo’s Moon Day email project initiated last year, called ‘Dhammasakaccha’, continues to grow, reaching now just under 300 subscribers (visit aruno.org to find out more).

But the heart of activity (and non-activity) at Aruna Ratanagiri and of what we can offer the wider community, naturally remains the practice of our resident community in the many ways recommended by Ajahn Chah. And so we are particularly content that we have kept our course through another year in harmony, with no one going overboard and a few new members joining the crew: Shramanera Do Gat and Anagarika Sebastian both became samaneras this year, known now as Samaneras Visuddhi and Suññato (pronounced soon-yat-toe) respectively; our new anagarika Michael might not remain on his own for long, as new candidates are already on their way to join us for the Winter Retreat; and Ajahn Puñño will have rejoined us by the time you are reading this, returning from Thailand in mid December.

So, all in all there will be at least nine of us here at Harnham looking forward to new challenges and blessings in the coming year.

Kusala shrine
Luang Por Sumedho Kusala house garden Samanera Suññato goes forth
Kusala House garden view Kusala house hillview
Katina robe sewing Luang Por Sumedho on pindapat Katina cloth offering
Top: The shrine in the newly-opened shrine room at Kusala House. The original Burmese alabaster Buddha image given to the monastery many years ago by a local council authority now sits in a traditional Burmese wooden shrine. First row: Luang Por Sumedho gives the Precepts at Harnham’s Kathina; Aruna Ratanagiri supporters gather in the garden of Kusala House; Samanera Suññato goes forth at his ordination. Second row: The Kusala House garden and exterior. Third row: Sewing the Kathina Robe; almsround on the day; and the offering of the Kathina Cloth (helped along by Dad).

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