[slideshow]Last month, we were blessed with a very special visit by Bhante Gunaratana, one of the most highly revered elders of the Theravada Bhikkhu Sangha in the world. He was accompanied by Bhantes Jinananda and Yasassi as well as about 20 devoted Dhamma friends.
‘Bhante G’, as he is affectionately known, joined us for the alms-giving meal and led us in a power walk around the forest at a pace that challenged even the younger members of the crowd following behind him. He also blessed us with a beautiful Dhamma talk, A Question of Birth and Death. Enjoy the photos of our memorable day with ‘Bhante G’.
What a pioneer year it has been. Guided by the Buddha’s teachings, Ajahn Chah and all our other great Dhamma teachers, and the principles of ‘sati‘ and ‘saraniya‘ – wise attention and goodwill towards others – we worked hard, meditated, conducted retreats and Dhamma programs, and participated in a bhikkhuni ordination ceremony.
We were also fortunate to welcome many wonderful visitors to the Hermitage: Ajahns Viradhammo and Kusalo, Ajahns Karunadhammo, Anando and Venerable Pavaro, and Bhantes Muditha, Rahula, Khemaratana and Jivananda, as well as so many devoted friends who came to meditate with us, share a meal, work in the garden, or stay a few days to help as stewards.
This year has also been momentous in terms of the growth of our spiritual community. On October 17, Ayya Nimmala was one of three women ordained as a bhikkhuni in a moving ceremony at Spirit Rock, California. A dual Sangha of Theravada bhikkhus and bhikkhunis led the formal proceedings in the presence of several hundred well-wishers. You can see a slideshow of this historic occasion.
Changes have also come to the Hermitage with the completion of many welcome renovations, especially a new roof on our main building and the disappearance of our ancient ‘falling-down’ barn. When you drive through the main gate, however, what stands out most is our newly refurbished garage/workshop – now a safe dry space for tools, car and other needed equipment.
In addition to these improvements, thanks to the kindness and generosity of so many, we are planning the construction of a temple and nuns’ common building at Sati Saraniya Hermitage in 2012. For now, from January through March, we put aside all plans and projects to turn our minds to the core work of building parami – pure qualities of the heart – inwardly through our meditation practice by tuning our minds to the stunning silence of the snows aided by our two resident stewards as well as our wider community of supporters.
Reflecting not only on the cycles of nature but on the fluctuations in our minds and in the world around us, we continue to share the goodness of our practice with all beings. May it bring blessings for those near and far. May we all realize radiant joy and peace within our own hearts.
According to our monastic code of discipline, we have four basic requisites: robes, almsfood, lodging, and medicines. Lodging means a roof for one night. Fortunately, we have monasteries in the west where samanas, both men and women renunciates, can live and train their minds to awaken.
To live with the attitude that we are here for only one night is a useful reflection for letting go attachment and staying in the present moment. It helps that we have no ownership over the buildings which we occupy at Sati Saraniya. They do not belong to us individually but we act as custodians, maintaining them for future generations of nuns who come to live this life devoted to Dhamma.
Some tasks, like repairing the roof, are far beyond our capabilities. We were grateful to have a professional crew do the job for us.
When it comes to internal ‘roof repair’, there is no one else we can rely on to shelter us from the storms of life. We have to do the work ourselves every step of the way by learning how to develop a mind that it is not patched or thatched but sturdy, steadfast, and weatherproof in all conditions.
When we grow in mindfulness and wisdom, skilfully and patiently cleansing, repairing, and caring for the mind, then we are bound to find the heart’s true refuge and a sure way to inner peace.
On August 1, 2009, we took up residence in rural Lanark County near the town of Perth. During these first two years, many friends from near and far have helped us change the face of our 140 years old log house and its surroundings into a nuns’ monastery.
We marked the beginning of our third year with the planting of good seeds in our Gratitude Garden to bring forth beauty and blessings from the earth – and in our lives. We reflect on these early days and all that we have weathered and witnessed – storms, drought, even a rare earthquake; the auspicious joy of a first samaneri ordination; and all the many hands of kindness coming together to help us in the work and to share Dhamma with us.
Foremost in our consciousness are the goals of the holy life. Like the newly-planted trees and flowers at Sati Saraniya, may we grow swiftly on this noble path of wisdom and compassion.