Newsletter

August 2014

 

Newsletter August 2014

It has been a season of sangha gatherings: the International Elders’ Meeting took place in May attracting monks and nuns from all over the world to meet, catch up and exchange ideas. It was also the first time that some of the junior members had had a chance to meet and hear Luang Por Sumedho. And that’s quite astonishing, considering how central he has been to our sangha in the West.  However, in Buddhism, good things come in threes, and in the last week of July, we all had a chance to share time with him by attending his eightieth birthday celebrations in a four-day meditative setting at Amaravati.  After this, he will come to the UK once more, to attend the Kathina at Amaravati on November 2nd and there are even rumours that he will come here for a visit.

 

The community at Cittaviveka entered the Rains on July 12th as a sangha in which, for a change, elders were the largest group. With seven theras, two theris and two monks of eight and nine Rains there is a wealth of experience to head the community of twenty people.  It is good to note that another nun, Ajahn Cittapala, has moved in to Rocana and also that women are asking for the anagārikā training, we expect to have one or two of them here. For me this entire mix has a good feel, of new aspirants and seasoned practitioners, as this will be my last Rains here as abbot and it’s good to sense that the eager newcomers are balanced by the steadiness of mature samanas. It’s also good news that Ajahn Karuniko has accepted taking on the role of abbot, as he has so much experience and is held in great trust by us all. Naturally the job-description of abbot has changed since 1992 when I took over – in fact in those days there was no job-description other than ‘run the monastery and teach everyone.’  However, things have moved on since Ajahn Anando or Ajahn Munindo and Ajahn Vajiro worked things out with Mike Holmes in the office after breakfast; the monastery has developed a lot more things to manage. So translating the expectations that the abbot know and be everything to one and all into something more reasonable is an ongoing process. I liken the abbot’s role to the shaft of an umbrella. Every umbrella needs a central shaft, but it needs the struts that connect to it to hold the fabric in shape. And the struts only work if they operate in unity.  Consultation and collaboration are therefore an absolute necessity. Fortunately, the monastery is fortunate in having senior samanas who can work together, as well as a number of lay committees that can manage the monastery’s worldly affairs. These committees are themselves overseen by the Cittaviveka Advisory Group, which is a sub-committee of the English Sangha Trust. So this weave of management bodies forms a good holding pattern to manage the monastery’s needs.

 

But there’s also a need to stay attuned to what the monastery is about. As Cittaviveka conveys the rare qualities of tranquillity, beauty and being open to all, it is attractive. People are therefore eager to make use of it, and sometimes want to extend its use. ‘This would be a great place for an interfaith seminar.’ ‘I could post you on YouTube.’ ‘Can I camp out in the forest/start a teaching program?’ All good stuff, no doubt, but good stuff requires management, community consent, logistical preparation, attention, time and energy. And often ‘the abbot’ is the person that people want to see in order to make it happen.  But with school groups, babies and weddings, forums and all the unseen  arrangements and co-ordinations with other monasteries – there is and has to be a limit. Our main focus here then has to be that of training samanas and of guiding each other towards awakening.

 

For myself, transmisson of the abbot’s role has been something I have borne in mind ever since I arrived. I saw abbotship as a function that I wanted to understand, use wisely and grow through. Since 1995 I have been proposing to Abbots’ meetings various ways of tailoring the role and electing new ones. Back in 2006, after the Dhamma Hall was completed, I recognized that there were still a few more things to create in order to feel that I had fulfilled what might have been expected of me when Luang Por Sumedho asked me to be abbot here. These were: the creation of a suitable sima for indoor formal acts of Sangha, an appropriate channel of presentation via a website, a settled situation between the monks and nuns in the monastery, and a manual that lays down the training standards in the monastery. This last one is what I am working on now, and so sometime after the Rains I expect to have finished my abbot’s work here and ask permission to lay aside those duties. I plan to be here until early December, but after that leave Cittaviveka, at least for a year, in order to allow the new leadership of the community to establish its authority. I have no long-term plans, only the intention to practise Dhamma. Nevertheless, other than my duties as abbot, I have worked a lot with publications and teaching, and I expect to be able to continue that work for a few more years. But this work isn’t necessarily something that an abbot can do, nor can it just be handed on.

 

About the silliest thing that one can expect is that someone else be like me (and vice versa). In fact I would say that if Ajahn Karuniko was like me, it’s unlikely that we would have been able to live together for over twenty years. Nevertheless, the community will be offering Dhamma-teachings and guided meditations as part of its response to the situation we live in, and there are no big changes planned in the routines. There are also other projects that other and fresher minds can take on: the issue of care of ageing samanas and nursing facilities is one, as is the creation of a proper monks’ utilities building for washing bowls, sewing and community meetings. No doubt there will be more.

 

Meanwhile, in the more immediate focus, we are incorporating regular alms-rounds to Midhurst, Petersfield and Chichester as part of our practice, so look out for us on Mondays and Fridays. We will also be just sitting here almost every morning and evening in the timeless space of the Dhamma Hall, and if you feel like extending your meditation practice, then feel free to participate in the Saturday night meditation vigil until midnight. Our next big event is the Kathina on October 26th to be followed by the Forest Work Month. The main event here is stewarding the mind. Which is as it should be, because events with all their colour and details pass. As this is always the case, we must surely reflect that it’s only the timeless that doesn’t change. And to encourage entering and taking Refuge in that is what Cittaviveka is always about.

Ajahn Sucitto

 

News From Rocana Vihara

For this Vassa our routine has a slight change with the late sittings on Saturdays. Therefore the times for Dhamma contemplations will change. We will have only one in August (16th) and one in September (13th). All are welcome to join in with this, starting at Rocana Cottage at 4:30pm.

For the last two years, the nuns’ community gratefully received meal offerings on Thursdays. We would like to change this routine from this Vassa onwards to provide more flexibility to supporters (individuals or groups) who wish to offer the meal dana to the nuns. Therefore from the 29th of July the nuns will be available to receive the meal dana on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays at Rocana. For those of you who are new to this, after the meal is offered and received by the nuns, you may join in with the meal. Afterwards the nuns will be available for sharing on Dhamma. If you are interested to offer dana to the nuns on one of those days, please write us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us on 01730812125. You also can sign up on the notice board at Rocana Vihara or on the list in the entrance of Aloka shrine room.

 

Thefts at the Monastery

We are very sorry to report that over the last few months a series of thefts have taken place from the donation boxes in the Dhamma Hall and main house.  We increased our security as soon as the Sangha and stewards suspected that this was happening, and succeeded in catching the individual responsible, through the vigilance of the anagarikas.  Sadly, the person turned out to be someone who comes regularly to the monastery.  That person has expressed remorse to the Sangha and is paying the monastery back.  

 

We have of course reported the matter to the Sussex police, and to the English Sangha Trust and Charity Commission, and will be looking at all our security procedures in the light of this unfortunate experience.