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Anagarika Ana Sophia and PansyPindapatAnagarika Miriam on pindapat
Tort Pa Ba 1Tort Pa Ba 2Tort Pa Ba 3
Images from the Tort Pa Ba this year
at Cittaviveka Monastery
Ajahn Sucitto blessingCloth offering
As good as a best-dressed duck

Chithurst is a tiny hamlet in the parish of Trotton in the county of West Sussex. Events seem to pass it by: in a local parish magazine, one’s attention is drawn to the annual best-dressed duck competition as being this year’s noteworthy happening. Chithurst is also an ancient place. The church dates from the 11th century, the manor house from the 14th, and Joan Budd’s house at the top of the lane carries damage from the Civil War of the 17th century. Older still a fortified encampment from the Iron Age, and remains from a road built by the Romans, stand in a stretch of woodland that is owned by – a Buddhist charity, the English Sangha Trust. Near to that are the properties that compose Cittaviveka, Chithurst’s very own Buddhist monastery, which although comparatively new (the main house dates from 1862) is so apparently uneventful that it has been happily accepted into the sociocultural landscape.

From the point of view of the samanas who live there, life is eventful enough. This is a place where the business and busyness of the mind are each person’s daily news, especially during the long retreat of the winter and the solitary meditation weeks of the summer. Meditation is the main way for each individual to integrate the Dhamma into their lives; it is the basis of our tradition. And in between those periods of deep introspection, the activities are traditional too: the daily meditation periods wrap around going on almsrounds to the local towns and villages, instruction in Dhamma-vinaya, and maintaining the considerable property that the community stewards. Apart from building repairs, each year we commit to forest maintenance, the high point of which is the forest work month. The ongoing forest project is to restore what was a near eco-desert of non-native chestnut monoculture to a mixture of wood and heathland where native plants and animals can flourish. However, the chestnut also serves a crucial purpose: it is the main energy source for heating the main house and Dhamma Hall, and it looks like, if the nuns’ area converts from oil to wood heating, it will also be needed for Rocana Vihara. So in keeping with the style of the place, even our newest projects envision a return to more traditional concerns and resources.

Tort Pa Ba 4Tort Pa Ba 5Tort Pa Ba 6
Tort Pa Ba 7Tort Pa Ba 8Tort Pa Ba 9
Tort Pa Ba 11Tort Pa Ba 12Tort Pa Ba 13tort Pa Ba 14
More images from the Tort Pa Ba this year at Cittaviveka Monastery

The major resource of any monastery, and the source of its events, is the Sangha. Cittaviveka is not a large community, especially when you consider the size of the property. Currently it houses about 22 men and women. The numbers fluctuate. New people arrive, which is gladdening; but also established people leave. In April this year, Ajahn Thaniya left the community, and Ajahn Thanasanti will be leaving in the spring of next year. The good news is that Ajahn Thanasanti will be continuing to live as a nun, and she will probably continue her practice and teaching in America. On the brighter side of things, Ven Narado will have returned from his time away in New Zealand by the time that this letter gets published, and we expect Ajahn Upekkha to spend the winter retreat with us.

Also an indispensable resource for any Buddhist monastery is support from the lay community. It is steady, with most people turning up around the weekend when the Dhamma talks and ongoing meditation instructions are given. In such a non-happening area, the Trust had to make an agreement with the local council whereby we would not host retreats for the general public and also not hold more than five festivals a year. This agreement acts as a template for the monastery and the limitation it imposes was a primary reason why Amaravati, with its retreat centre, was established. So Cittaviveka is more reclusive, but certainly not exclusive: generally there are between four and eight male and female guests staying at any particular time – and the numbers swell into the hundreds for the major occasions of Kathina, Ordination and New Year.

The most popular occasions, like Kathina, are those where generosity is the keynote. And for the past few years, there’s been an almsgiving ceremony (called a Tort Pa Ba) that has attracted many more people than inhabit the rest of the parish. This is the Cloister Project, through which people from near and far have offered money to sponsor the roofing of a walkway between the Dhamma Hall and the Main House. As is also traditional, the project serves to gather people together in harmony and build up the sense of community. Next year, the Pa Ba will occur on June 14th – and if you’d like a DVD (complete with musical score) of the last event you can obtain one by sending a SAE to David Glendining, Flat 2, 3 Westbourne Villas, Hove BN3 4GQ.

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