Ayya Santussika settles into Vassa at Jhana Grove Retreat Centre near Perth, Australia
You can imagine Ayya Santussika held in that fine community, for three months of solitary practice, where the four-fold sangha is thriving. She will walk to Bodhinyana every day for alms, have the opportunity for interviews with Ajahn Brahm, and come for dhamma talks with the Bodhinyana community. May this sacred time be blissful and propel her on her path towards enlightenment!
Alms round, Community Work Day, and continuing programs
In the northern and western hemisphere, the weather patterns are quite different than they are in India or in a place like Australia, were it is indeed winter/spring during the vassa months.
At the forest monasteries in the west/north, the late summer-early fall months are usually a much more active time at monasteries, given the generally good weather. It's much easier to get work projects done this time of year, so monastics often take advantage of that. To keep the tradition alive, they spend time studying the vinaya together, and often take turns being on solitary retreat. They save their longer retreat period for when it actually is cold and wet outside where they live.
So, while Ayya Santussika is relaxing into meditation and going deep inside, it'll be a different story for Ayya Cittananda and Anagarika Sarana back at the hermitage and meditation center.
At the time of the Buddha, spiritual seekers walked with their bowls to collect alms food in order to sustain their bodies. This ancient practice continues to this day in Southeast Asia. For many people, it is inspiring simply to see monastics walking in silence with their bowls; and they find the experience of offering food into the alms bowls inspiring and uplifting. Following this tradition, Ayya Cittananda and Anagarika Sarana are returning to this practice in Sunnyvale for the vassa. They plan to walk from the meditation center (after the Saturday morning program) to the Sunnyvale Farmers Market. Anyone is welcome to find them anywhere along the route (see map above), including at the Farmers Market.
After receiving whatever alms are offered, they plan to eat at Murphy Park before returning to the meditation center. You may join them their and spend some time with them after they finish their meal. It might be good to bring what you need for sitting on the grass at the park, if you wish.
Community Work Day - Sunday, August 13 (9:30am to 3pm)
You might think that since it's already August, the hermitage would be in great shape for fire-safety. But after last winter's storms, there is still a lot to be done in order to secure the kutis and other buildings after so many trees and dead wood came down. We'll need to do as much as we can in order to hire a tree service company to come chip the massive amounts of trees and branches. The nuns would really appreciate any help you could provide in gathering up branches and daisy-chaining them into a pile together. Many hands make light work, and the work is pretty fun when you're at the hermitage, enjoying the sounds of the creek (and the little fish!) and the cool, crisp autumn-ish air.
Another fun project would be putting together the decking squares below the main cabin at the hermitage. The supplies are there, but not much progress was made since Holly came to visit and gave it a great start. If there are enough friends on hand, both projects might happen simultaneously, especially for those who are into putting usable, life-sized puzzles together.
All skill levels are welcome, and a potluck lunch/meal offering is always a good time when you're with like-minded spiritual friends. It takes a community to maintain monastery, and the mutual support between the monastics and lay friends is invaluable, inspiring us all to go deeper into our practice. Hope to see you engaging with the KBV sangha at the hermitage!
And if you can't make it on Sunday, August 13, maybe you'd like to come help out at the hermitage some other time? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to come out and enjoy working in nature, and maybe afterwards take a dip in the creek with the friendly steelhead trout fry currently residing there.
Continuing Programs at KBV
The Wednesday night Sutta Study program and the Saturday morning program will continue in Ayya Santussika's absence, led by Ayya Cittananda. It will be Sutta Study as usual, beginning with chanting and meditation before studying together. But Saturday mornings will be a little different. In preparation for the upcoming trip to Thailand, Ayya Cittananda plans to read and discuss excerpts from the book Stillness Flowing: the Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah by Ajahn Jayasaro.
A joyful almsgiving (kathina), celebrating gifts given and received
It was easy to make a sweet space for the Almsgiving, even in this house in town, because of the creative and warm-hearted efforts and good vibes of the lay community. Many thanks to all who participated, donated, and helped with setup and cleanup. A special thanks to Kalen for Sponsoring and to Neeta for coming the day before to help get the meditation center ready for the big day.
The Almsgiving sponsor offered this year's robe cloth, and spoke inspiring a feeling of generosity and happiness in giving from many who support KBV. Ajahn Pasanno, Ayya Anandabodhi, and Ajahns Kovilo and Nisabho all sent videos to play for the day, offering words of Dhamma and support for the KBV community.
Progress on the Upekkha Kuti (Elder's kuti)
The contractor has finally finished! Anumodana to all who provided the support for this sweet building. We know it will be a great refuge for Ayya Santussika and any visiting elders who come to stay at KBV. It's wonderful to now have an easily accessible, relatively secluded, and comfortable space for them to rest, meditate and contemplate in. The little creek by it is still running a bit, adding to the peaceful ambiance.
Reflections from the Spirit Rock Family Retreat
One of the parents asked how to teach their young children about the idea of anatta, not-self, while they're trying to support their development and self esteem as they grow up. We often hear that one has to have a healthy sense of self in order to let go of it, that there needs to be a certain level of mental stability and wellness in order to work with this tenet in practice and in contemplation.
While this is certainly true and very important, I think (and hope) that more can be done with young, bright, sponge-like minds that are ready to soak up the Dhamma out of curiosity and enthusiasm. We can guide them to contemplate the aggregates as not me or mine. When they get hurt while playing or just in life, we patch them up, comfort them, and talk with them about how the body is always changing, feelings come and go, the way we view things change, as do our ideas and thoughts. Pointing out impermanence frequently in daily life can also help plant that seed of truth in their minds, and it easily ties in with not-self. And, speaking as a then-stubbornly-agnostic child of a mother who would every once in a long while sneak in a refer to the three characteristics, it's good not to underestimate the benefits of this kind of effort (even if it looks like they're not paying attention or if they're rolling their eyes!)
With much metta,