Newsletter

July 2015

Dear Friends in Dhamma,

How pleasant it is to be able to witness spring and summer here at the monastery. Lush green leaves and flowering plants in abundance and thanks to our hard-working neighbours, Eugene and Rob, who come to work here most days and organize the work in the grounds, they are looking beautifully kept and people comment on this. Of course they are just two of the many people whose offerings—both material and physical—pervade the monastery and have brought into being a peaceful and beautiful environment that supports both monastics and lay people in the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path. There are few such places of refuge from this ever increasingly busy and sometimes confusing life and though being an abbot has made my life a bit busier I can reflect on the privilege I have in being part of something that is bringing 'light' into the 'darkness' that we are witnessing in this day and age. However, the Buddha would encourage us not to despair at the unskilful things in the world but to do what we can to promote that which is skilful both in ourselves and others. In one commentary on the theme of compassion it is said that compassion succeeds when it lessens cruelty and suffering but fails when it leads to one despairing.

We have been very pleased to receive visits from various elder bhikkhus over the last 2 months who have also offered Dhamma reflections. In May Luang Por Kampong, the secretary of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha, came for a few days and Ajahn Amaro joined us for our Vesak celebration. In June Luang Por Munindo came down from Aruna Ratanagiri for a few days and Ajahn Kalyano came from Buddha-Bodhivana monastery in Melbourne for a couple of days. We were also very pleased to have a day-visit from Ven. Gunaratana, known to many as 'Bhante G', who came for the day. At the age of 87 Bhante G did not seem at all put out after spending an hour answering questions followed by a 2-hour walk in the forest which involved going up a few inclines.

Regrettably, the nuns’ community is unable to sustain a continual presence at Rocana Vihara for the immediate future. However, a senior nun and anagarikaa will be spending a week at Rocana every 4 to 6 weeks to offer Dhamma talks and will be available to meet with people. The dates of these visits as follows:

Dates of Nuns' visits

17 to 24 July

21 to 27 August

27 September to 1st October

6 to 15 November

18 to 27 December 

  

During these dates there will be a Tuesday evening Dhamma talk and Thursday meal dana at Rocana Vihara.

Lay women will still be able to stay as guests at Aloka Cottage observing the eight precepts and following the Monastery routine.

In late July the community will enter the 3 months of the Vassa when we determine to stay in residence, only going away from the monastery for 6 nights or less if required. It is a good time for us to focus on the study of our Vinaya discipline and have some time for individual solitary retreats. There will probably be 8 bhikkhus, 2 samaneras and 3 anagarikas in residence. Ven. Joshin, who was ordained in a Japanese Buddhist tradition, will also be with us for most of the Vassa. We will begin the Vassa with a week of group meditation in the Dhamma Hall beginning August 1st and people are most welcome to join us in sitting and walking meditation. We will also be having midnight meditation vigils on Saturday evenings during the Vassa which you are most welcome to join.

We are hoping this year to convert the Mandalamala building behind the Dhamma Hall into a nursing kuti. As the resident sangha get older one never knows when such a facility may be needed. One also considers that younger sangha members are not exempt from ailments requiring support. When not needed for nursing it can be used as a pleasant accommodation for visiting Elder monks and resident sangha.

If you have any questions or concerns about things happening at the monastery, please come and speak to me or one of the other senior monks. We are usually available to meet with people after the meal, except on Mondays. One can phone beforehand or just ask on the day.

I have had a few communications with Ajahn Sucitto who is enjoying his retirement from abbot's duties and spending time in the antipodes. He has written a few words for everyone which are included in this newsletter below.

May I wish you blessings in Dhamma over the summer and autumn months. I have had the good fortune to have been associated with virtuous and wise people for many years and value from experience the Buddha's advice that association with the wise is one of the greatest blessings. We are subject to various unwholesome influences on our journey through life and hence the importance of association with those who support us in staying on the path of peace and kindness.

With Metta

Ajahn Karuniko.

 

 

"Greetings and best wishes from Ajahn Sucitto.

As monasteries all over the world are entering Vassa, I thought to write a few words before I settle into mine. Snow is just appearing on the hills at the edge of the horizon, and things are quietening down in Bodhinyanarama, New Zealand, with a programme of group and individual retreats and Vinaya instructions. Same as the rest of our monastic world.

New Zealand has made much of the Tolkein dramatisations; various figures from the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit feature on postage stamps, in public places and even on Air New Zealand’s flight-safety video. And something of that slow, rustic and even mystic atmosphere pervades the country. The road to the monastery services a trickle of suburbia (quite modest, almost all dwellings are single-story wood), climbs a little way up the valley, forks and then gives up. One fork reaches the monastery gate, the other just gives up. Our fork receives two or three cars per day of people offering food. There are three monks excluding myself, and two or three guests spread over the sixty-something acres of steep-sided valley. Paths rise through giant tree-ferns. Everywhere you go, you climb or descend: you generally meet people panting. True to Middle-Earth, Ajahn Kusalo inclines to rustic standards, and looks at electricity as an unpleasant necessity. Still, lay volunteers and resident sangha keep the monastery ticking, and one has all one needs.   

I have been offered a lot of space. Obviously meditation absorbs and enhances that. Otherwise, I’ve been revising my Patimokkha recitation and helping out in the monastery with a few minor writing projects and the occasional Dhamma-talk.  That and keeping up with correspondence seems to be enough for now. Overall this seems like a good time to review intention: what I do, why and the sense of inner compulsion or (projected) outer obligation. In a way there’s nothing to do, but life goes on.  What is the response that frees the mind from clinging to stillness or to activity? ‘Anatta’ is the word; it comes easily. Practice is another and deeper thing.

So, best wishes for the Vassa. I’ll be spending the three months in the hills of New South Wales, Australia. Then back here before visiting Thailand at the beginning of 2016. See you in April!"