Much has arisen and passed away since our last newsletter, with much coming, going and standing still. Ultimately nothing moved, but there has certainly been a noticeable illusory perception of activity. At the beginning of December we were visited by Ajahn Amaro, co-abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery in California. On sunday 6th December, Ajahn and the Resident Sangha of Vimutti were invited to join the Dalai Lama on stage during the recent teachings in Auckland.
Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Chandako then travelled to attend a worldwide meeting of abbots from monasteries in the Thai forest tradition. The gathering of elders took place over a four day period at Wat Pah Nanachat, the International Forest Monastery founded by Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho. Ajahn Sumedho and others remarked on how impressed they were with the harmony, strength and dedication of the attending Sangha. In one of the minor issues discussed, Vimutti Buddhist Monastery was unanimously accepted as a full branch monastery of the Ajahn Chah tradition.
Later in December many of these abbots then travelled to Bodhinyanarama, the Ajahn Chah branch monastery near Wellington, to help commemorate the first 25 years of its existence. It was an opportunity for many old friends to gather, listen to talks by senior monks and reflect on all the wonderful causes and effects that have brought the monastery into existence and continue to sustain it as a tranquil refuge. The events were all well organised by the abbot, Ajahn Tiradhammo.
Ajahns Chandako and Jotipalo then returned to Vimutti and were soon joined by Ajahn Vajiro and Ajahn Sucitto, abbot of Cittaviveka, the main training monastery for the Forest Tradition in Europe. On New Year’s Eve we had a full program at the Auckland Vihara for bringing in 2010 with wisdom, meditation and peace. Both visiting Ajahns gave talks, and the evening peaked with the Sangha chanting the Dhammacakka stutta, the first Dhamma talk of the Buddha, through the midnight hour. Through such small but heartfelt gestures, we try to add a bit of clarity and compassion to a sometimes drunk and harsh world.
The following day Luang Por (Venerable Father) Sumedho arrived for a five day visit, including a residential meditation retreat held at Vimutti. It was the first such retreat ever held here, and over 50 people attended. Camping in tents in the grass fields or sleeping in the sala, the retreatants exhibited a wonderful feeling of enthusiasm. Combined with the people already staying at the monastery, there were over 60 people resident during that time. The new yurt meditation hall was just big enough to hold everyone comfortably. We were still able to manage showers for all the people, and Khun Nacha, Nuan and Benita did an excellent job as the main organisers for the meals. Luang Por Sumedho’s teachings made a deep positive impression on us all. Ajahn Sucitto added some brilliant mediation instruction, and Ajahn Chandapalo, abbot of the Italian Monastery, led everyone in a guided mediation on loving-kindness. The whole purpose of all the years of planning, the endless meetings, the tribulations of building and the copious sweat was just so that something like this could happen on this land. (The CD of the retreat teachings will be available soon for free distribution.)
Luang Por Sumedho’s retreat culminated with a land blessing ceremony on the site where it is planned to build a 7 metre tall stupa. We were joined by over 20 monks and nuns of various traditions from the Auckland region: Burmese, Tibetan, Thai, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Japanese and European. A marking stone was buried and sealed directly underneath the spot where the stupa is planned. The Sanghas from the different traditions then each added their own auspicious rituals. In a short talk, Luang Por Sumedho emphasised that skillful use of ceremonies can make them deeply significant, imparting a wholesome power that assists people on the path to liberation. As the protection and blessing (paritta) chants flowed forth and the wind picked up, it was a dramatic moment. Stupas developed as a way to house bone relics of enlightened masters and other sacred items and texts. Ajahn Chandako has already collected many such relics to be placed in the stupa. It is our aspiration that the stupa be a beautiful reminder for people to practice the path to Vimutti. View photos of the Stupa Land Blessing.
Luang Por Sumedho, Ajahn Panyasaro and Ajahn Jotipalo have now left for Malaysia, but soon more visiting luminaries will arrive at Vimutti. Ajahn Jutindharo, abbot of Hartridge Monastery in England, and Ajahn Khemasiri, abbot of Dhammapala Monastery in Switzerland, will join us for a visit. On January 14, Ajahn Chandako will travel to Malaysia to Join Luang Por Sumedho for a large event to commemorate the life of Luang Por Chah. For more information please see www.ajahnchahrd.com.
At the moment a dozen large fluttering Dhammacakka flags remain to mark the stupa site. Their sight brings up a warm memory of a wonderful day and portends well for the future. In the present, things have suddenly become very quiet and calm in the monastery…and that too is appreciated.