December 2014

Newsletter December 2014


On the Kathina Celebration day Ajahn Sucitto passed on the abbot’s duties to myself having held them for 22 years. We are most grateful and appreciative for all his wisdom and hard work for steering things (sometimes through stormy seas), and developing what is now a well set-up forest monastery for the training and practice of monks and nuns. May the fruits of his exemplary efforts be a source of joy for him as he embarks on a new phase of life in Dhamma. Ajahn Sucitto will be having some quiet time overseas next year, but we hope to see him spending time at Cittaviveka in the spring and summer of 2016.


As for the new abbot the transition has been a smooth one as I am blessed with a friendly and supportive group of monastics and laypeople. One of the blessings of Sangha life is that your companions are not competing with you for the top position. In fact monastics are generally not keen to be abbots preferring more the simplicity of life and also, as is recited in one of our chants, we are ‘no longer living according to worldly aims and values’. Hence we live together in the spirit of cooperation rather than competition which nurtures the quality of friendship and mutual support as opposed to being jealous competitors looking for opportunities to trip each other up or put each other down. Maybe it is part of my Rochdale (where I was born) kamma that I am part of a Cooperative! For those who may not know the Co-op was started in Rochdale and even now as you drive into Rochdale from the motorway there is a big sign across the road saying ’Welcome to Rochdale, the Birthplace of Cooperation’.


At this time of change it may be a suitable time to reflect on the meaning of the third Refuge in Sangha. As the Lord Buddha was reaching the end of his life Ven. Ananda asked who would be the Buddha’s Dhamma-heir. The Buddha’s response was to let the Dhamma and Vinaya, the Teachings and Discipline, be the Sangha’s guides. One may deduce from this that the Buddha did not wish the Sangha to depend on the authority of an individual monk or nun, but to be mutually supportive with Dhamma-Vinaya as guide and authority. On another occasion Ven. Ananda approached the Buddha and was very sad to announce the Ven. Sariputta had passed away. The Buddha responded: ‘A great branch has fallen from the tree.’ Though the branches and foliage on the tree come and go, the tree still remains. In the same way, individual monks and nuns will come and go but the Sangha still remains. This is why the Sangha Refuge can be more reliable than taking refuge in a particular teacher though understandably some teachers we relate to more than others. Hence when we determine the Refuges and Precepts we recite ‘Sangham saranam gacchami – I go for Refuge to the Sangha.’


On December 21st Samanera Araññabho and Samanera Phasuko will be taking Upasampada at Amaravati and will then be known as Bhikkhu Akiñcano and Bhikkhu Phasuko. On January 3rd Jason, who has been resident here for the last few months, will take on the Anagarika training. Hence on the male side there will be 11 bhikkhus and 2 Anagarikas in residence over the winter period. Ajahn Metta will be in residence at Rocana Vihara. We have a healthy support team for the winter retreat on both the male and female sides with some having expressed interest in the Anagarika training.


We will be having the usual New Year’s Eve midnight vigil and Precept Ceremony on January 1st and begin the winter retreat on January 5th with a week of group meditation practice. Though the Sangha will be more in silence at this time, people are most welcome to join in the meal offerings at 10.30 am and the group meditation sessions. The Saturday night talks will continue, there will be a guided meditation on the first Sunday of the month, but no Sangha member hosting Sunday teatime. A cooking rota will be posted on the noticeboard at the back of the Dhamma Hall should you wish to sign up to help with the meal preparation.


So please do take the opportunity to use the Dhamma Hall for quiet meditation or walk around the grounds and forest. And should life get a little heated or hectic under the ‘Xmas Tree’ we hope you may find coolness and ease under the shade of the ‘Sangha Tree’.

Yours in Dhamma, Ajahn Kāruniko



Ajahn Mettā writes:


Rocanā Vihāra and the female community at Cittaviveka are doing well. I have been living at Cittaviveka for about two and a half years. During that time I have come to appreciate this place very much, with all the wonderful resources that Rocanā Vihāra can offer the sīladharā sangha as a whole. Of course, right now the nuns are not able to make full use of all those resources. The community of sīladharā is still rather small and, with sisters at both Amaravati and Milntuim in Scotland, there have been times this year when I was the only resident sīladharā at Cittaviveka. Fortunately, for most of the time I have been accompanied by an anagārikā. We had Ajahn Cittapālā staying with us on retreat for the whole three months of this Rains Retreat, using one of the kutis in our forest. Anagārikās Anna, Crystal and Varadā also each spent a month here during the Rains, staying at Rocanā Vihāra or in the forest. Anagārikā Crystal is staying here again until the end of December; Anagārikā Anna has returned to Amaravati. Two laywomen are also living here as part of our community: Ulrike who is spending the whole year here, and Caraline who joined us in July and will stay until after the Winter Retreat.


I am hoping that conditions will soon allow more nuns to live here with me on a long-term basis. I am also pleased that during the coming year Aj. Cittapālā will join us here at Rocanā Vihāra from June to mid-November. Our accommodation consists of Rocanā Cottage and Aloka Cottage (which is used as guest accommodation) as well as several kutis in the forest. The kutis are used mainly by sīladharās/nuns or anagārikās who are either resident here or visiting for meetings or retreats. It is a joy to be able to offer such an opportunity to the sisters of our other monasteries.


The lay community associated with Cittaviveka has consistently been extremely generous in its support of the nuns’ community here. This is very much appreciated. Some come to offer dāna at the vihāra, usually once or twice a week. We also offer an evening Dhamma reflection and/or a guided meditation each week at the Aloka Shrine Room, and a Dhamma contemplation about twice a month on Saturday afternoons. These events are all well-attended by local friends, and also by the many guests who come to stay here for a few days or longer periods. This is very encouraging.


Of course, none of this would be possible without the generous support of the monks’ community and the constant encouragement of Ajahn Sucitto and Ajahn Kāruniko, whose unfailing commitment to making the nuns’ presence here at Cittaviveka possible is greatly appreciated.