Newsletter

Winter Newsletter 2016-7

Dear Friends,

Another end of the year is upon us. Looking back on the year, I think for all of us there were pleasant experiences, unpleasant and neutral ones. Could we expect any more from a world that is ultimately governed by impermanence? Doing good things in line with the Dhamma can be challenging—and at times not very pleasant—but this does not mean they are not worth doing. It is by moving in this direction that we can give a strength to the mind and heart that can yield a deeper quality of well-being.

The Vassa summer period is usually a time of stability in the Community. This is why we take time to go through the Vinaya discipline laid down by the Buddha, as well as having personal retreats. We were pleased to have Ven. Ajahn Sucitto back with us for the Vassa who was very generous in offering Dhamma talks and teaching the Vinaya. He will spend the winter in the USA and Canada and we look forward to his return in the spring. We were also pleased to have Ajahn Cittapāla and different anagarikās supporting her staying during the Vassa. We would have liked her to stay on but she is much needed to support the nuns' community at Amaravati at present.

Following the Vassa we had the Kathina Ceremony which was very well attended and people made generous offerings. Ajahn Nārado and Venerable Phāsuko then left to spend a year supporting our branch monastery in New Zealand. This month Venerable Moneyyo is leaving to spend an indefinite period in Thailand. May their practice of Dhamma continue to blossom. Ven. Akiñcano returned after spending Vassa at Amaravati and Sāmaṇera Dhīrabodhi from Aruna Ratanagiri has come to join us for the winter months. We will be a little less in number over the winter months but still enough Sangha in residence to look after the different aspects of looking after Cittaviveka. 

In November the Buddha statue in the house shrine room was gilded thanks to the efforts of Ajahn Cittakorn, Ajahn Kongrit, Mrs Goy Anstruther and friends. They did a beautiful job.

The monastery has now acquired the new “Shepherds Hut” kuti and at present we are drawing up plans to upgrade the makeshift monk's utility building with the intention to submit a planning application in the spring of 2017.

We will be having our usual New Year's Eve midnight vigil followed by the Precepts and Resolution Ceremony on New Year's Day. Please do come and join in this opportunity to end and begin the new year on a peaceful note with the opportunity to bring our skillful aspirations to mind.

We will begin our 3-month winter retreat on January 6th with a week of group meditation morning and afternoon. Though the sangha will be more in silence during this period, people are most welcome to join in the meal offerings at 10.30am and the group meditation sessions. The Saturday night talks will continue, there will be some meditation guidance on the first Sunday of the month, but no sangha members hosting Sunday teatimes. A cooking rota will be posted on the notice board in the foyer of the Dhamma Hall for those who may wish to offer some help with the morning food preparation.

May I wish you well-being for the festive season and may keeping our Refuge in the Triple Gem in mind guide us across the sometimes turbulent seas of Saṃsāra towards the peace of Nibbāna.

 

With Mettā,

Ajahn Karuniko

 

 

 

Message from Ajahn Sucitto

 

Greetings and best wishes to all around and involved with Cittaviveka! I’m currently teaching in the USA, broadening my perspectives on human life, and most crucially, the universal stuff of dukkha, its origin, ceasing and the Path to that ceasing. The longer I live, the more I have to acknowledge that human life isn’t really that good – or at least that one can always wish it to be better. Here issues around that have been highlighted by the recent elections, in which a mixture of discontent and aspirations for the future of the nation promoted one individual who is expected to make things better. What ‘better’ is, how that would be possible and who could bring that about roused heated debate and divided opinion. Eventually, as with the recent Brexit referendum, a vague direction forward (or backward - depending on your views) is getting charted; some people will gain, some will lose, there are left wings and right wings (and centre-right etc., etc) – but the divisions seem unresolvable. The ‘United’ of the USA or the UK (or the European Union for that matter) is more of an administrative convention than a human reality – inevitably so, because despite overarching legislation, policies and infrastructure, the conditions for unity haven’t been supported. People tend to focus on and make much of their individual positions. And although globalization and trans-national agreements have brought some benefit, the modern state’s economic structure is based on competition and making a profit. That supports the accumulation of wealth by a few. Hence there is a lack of sharing of resources; hence inequality, and resentment.

Why the Sangha has survived longer than any political entity is because it is based on sharing and interdependence. Sharing becomes possible because there is trust, non-manipulation, modest use of resources and concern for fellow humans. It’s remarkable really, when one considers how violent and greedy people can get, that a system of sharing and mutual respect can keep going – despite the flaws and blind spots of individuals. And the standards of ethical clarity and low pressure living in a monastery seem so matter-of-fact that one tends to barely notice it. It can be easier to notice the aspects that aren’t as one would wish them to be: not enough going on, no interesting courses – or the hiccup that occurs through having a lightweight administration. There’s plenty that Cittaviveka isn’t. One reason I teach elsewhere is because Cittaviveka is what it is, a quiet residence and sanctuary that welcomes guests, not a retreat centre. But it presents the basic structure for enlightened living: freedom from fear and need, direction towards inner balance and understanding, companionship to encourage one on the way out of suffering. For me it is a place to enjoy as a manifestation of that simple basis. I hope it is a refuge and a place for replenishment for the common sense of humans, the compassion for others and the concern for truth that are the real high spots of our existence.

I had a pleasant Vassa at Cittaviveka this year; I didn’t have so much to do, and it was a pleasure to be able to support Ajahn Karuniko after his many years of supporting me. It is also enriching to meet with many long-term lay friends and companions on the Path. The monastery now provides me with the opportunity to not be at the centre of things, and to handle the ‘Ajahn Sucitto experience’ rightly – as suffering, cessation or Path, dependent on how one holds it. As with all of us, if one holds identity as a form that seeks a position or an advantage, suffering is inevitable; if one uses it as an occasion for responsibility and offering, it’s part of the way out of suffering. A theme for an election? Maybe …

 

Meanwhile, I wish one and all the occasion to put the Triple Gem to good use – and hope to see you in the spring!