Newsletter – Summer 2022
Dear Friends of Cittaviveka, warm greetings,
This summer’s newsletter is being published somewhat later than normal. However, that has given us the opportunity to share how things are going as we pass the midway point of the annual Vassa or Rains Retreat. In other words, we have more to include!
It’s a large community this Vassa, with twenty-one monastics on the male side and two female monastics. With a full house of overnight guests, we’re approximately thirty-five residents on any given day. We’re delighted to be welcoming back regular overnight guests after two years' absence. Both residents and guests benefit from the contact made with people that share an interest in the Dhamma and wholesome living.
Just before the Vassa began, the male community welcomed nine new members; Ajahn Kāruṇadhammo and Venerable Jotimanto from Abhayagiri in the USA, Venerables Thee and Sudhammo from Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand, Venerable Jayadhammo and Anagārika Aurelien from Amaravati in Hertfordshire, Venerable Anejo from Lokuttara Vihāra in Norway, Sāmaṇera Viriyo from Sumedharama in Portugal and Sāmaṇera Nibbuto from Aruna Ratanagiri in Northumberland. They have all blended seamlessly and harmoniously with the resident community.
The only way an influx like this was possible is because several residents have chosen to either spend the Vassa elsewhere or make a long-term change. Luang Por Sucitto is spending the Vassa at Sunyata Buddhist Centre in County Clare, Ireland. Ajahn Gavesako is currently at Sumedharama in Portugal, along with Sāmanera Katuññuto, and Anagārika Rajiv is at Lokuttara Vihāra in Norway. Anagārika Thomas recently decided to set aside the anagārika training to explore other living situations in which to continue his spiritual practice. Dan Robinson, our trusty Caretaker, has recently departed after nearly three years of service in that voluntary role. We wish to express our gratitude to him, and wish him well for his onward journey. Former anagārika Alex, who left us in May, is set to return to Cittaviveka at the start of September to take up the live-in Caretaker role.
The spring and early summer months saw three large events here at the monastery. On Sunday 17 April, a Songkran festival was held, organized by the lay community. This day marks the New Year in South-East Asia. On Sunday 15 May, Cittaviveka held its Vesak Festival, commemorating the birth, full awakening and final passing away of the Buddha. Lastly, on Sunday 26 June, the lay community organized an International Tort Pha Pa or almsgiving ceremony. All three of the gatherings were very well attended, with a joyous atmosphere on each day.
The only large upcoming event is Cittaviveka’s Kathina Ceremony, scheduled to take place on Sunday 30 October. On 1 and 2 November, several of our community Elders will gather here for our biannual round of meetings. These meetings haven’t been held in person since Autumn 2019, before the pandemic. So, we look forward to meeting in person. Zoom has been incredibly helpful for staying connected, but often it’s the informal contact between meetings that makes the difference, going for walks or having a cup of tea together.
Other outstanding events
On Tuesday 3 May, Cittaviveka was delighted to receive Luang Por Sumedho for a day visit. Arriving early in the day, he was extremely generous with his time and energy, culminating in an afternoon Q&A session in the Dhamma Hall, open to both residents and members of the broader community. The audio file of that Q&A can be found at https://teachings.cittaviveka.org/qa-with-ajahn-sumedho/
After nearly three years of limitations due to the pandemic, Ajahn Amaro made his first visit here, attending the English Sangha Trust (our trustees) meeting on Saturday 23 July. Most of the trustees were able to attend, and it was very joyful to meet again in person.
The passing of good friends
On Monday 18 July, good friend and supporter of our communities Khun Ying Noy Thomson peacefully passed away at her home in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Having previously lived in England for many years, she was a close and dear friend for several decades, and her generosity extended to many of our monasteries around the world. On Wednesday 24 August, Khun Ying Noy’s family and friends gathered at Cittaviveka for an almsgiving and ash scattering ceremony in her memory. Eleven members of the Amaravati monastic community were in attendance, including Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Sundarā, who both offered reflections on Khun Ying Noy’s life.
On Saturday 6 August, George Sharp passed away peacefully at his home in north London, aged 89. From 1972 to 1995 he served as Chairman of The English Sangha Trust, and since then had remained a close friend and supporter of our sangha. In late 1976, he initiated the invitation to Ajahn Chah to come to England and establish the first monastery in the West in the tradition of the Forest Sangha. George’s family plan to bring his body to Amaravati on Wednesday 7 September, with the funeral service scheduled to take place the following day at 1pm in the Amaravati Temple. After George’s cremation, his ashes will be kept until November when Luang Por Sumedho returns from North America, at which time a tree planting and ash scattering ceremony will take place at Cittaviveka Monastery on Friday 18 November (time TBA).
Rocana Vihara and Aloka Cottage
Due to limited human resources at Rocana and Aloka, the facilities provided for the nuns' and resident women's community, these two properties will remain closed to public access until further notice. We appreciate that this may be disappointing to people who wish to visit there, and ask for your understanding and patience.Please note that the main monastery site is fully open every day from early in the morning until late in the evening.
Cittaviveka is supported by a number of committees of both lay people and members of the monastic community. Two significant changes we wish to note are that Nick Stacey, longstanding Chair of the Cittaviveka Advisory Group, and Sebastian Anstruther, Chair of both the Forest Committee and the Hammer Pond Group, have both recently stepped down from these positions. It is with deep gratitude for their years of service that we wish both of them well.
No newsletter is complete without expressing our gratitude for the amazing support we receive from the broader community. Whether it is in the form of a material offering or people’s peaceful presence and interest in goodness, we are so well supported. Thank you!
With very good wishes,
Abbot — Chithurst Buddhist Monastery