Thursday, October 07, 2010

Kathina at Aranya Bodhi — Saturday October 30

Please mark your calendar and come for Kathina observance
at our hermitage on the Sonoma Coast of California.

Saturday, October 30

 R.S.V.P. and obtain driving directions at
For those who would like to arrive on Friday, October 29, 
there will be some space for visitors to camp out or to sleep in our Dhamma Hall yurt.

Kathina is one of the most important events in the Buddhist Calendar — a time of charity, a time for good works, a time to offer and receive blessings and forgiveness. 

For the monastic Sangha, Kathina comes after the three-month Rains Retreat (Vassa), during which time the monastics put aside their normal duties and travels and commit themselves more deeply to practice.  The Kathina ceremony marks the time when the Sangha re-engages with the world, resuming their usual travel and teaching activities. 

In the Buddha's time, the monastics' robes were muddy, wet and worn by the end of the rainy season.  Seeing this, lay supporters obtained the Buddha's permission to offer new robes and other requisites at this time. He made Kathina one of the significant ceremonies in the Buddhist calendar, an occasion for monastics and lay devotees to gather together in mutual respect and harmony.

Following the ancient procedure, our donors will offer plain white cotton to the Sangha.  The Sangha will then elect one knowledgeable Bhikkhuni who has stayed at the Hermitage for the entire Vassa, to receive the Kathina cloth.  Once they receive the cloth, the Bhikkhunis must measure, cut, sew and dye the Kathina robe — all in a single day!  The day ends with a ceremony called 'Spreading the Kathina', which refers to dismantling the robe-sewing-frame.  Now Vassa is complete and the Bhikkhunis will soon depart for their work in the world.

This will be the first Kathina celebration for the Dhammadharini community of Bhikkhunis.  It is the first time we have in residence the five bhikkhunis needed for the formal Kathina transaction.

Tentative schedule:

The day begins with overnight guests offering the Kathina Cloth and Breakfast Dana at 7:30 a.m.

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.       Arrival for day visitors
10:30 - 11:00 a.m.     Buddha Puja Chanting
11: 15 a.m.                Lunch Dana
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.        Dhamma Talks
4:00 p.m.                  Tea
Around 4:30 p.m.      "Spreading the Kathina"

For a list of requisites useful to our Hermitage, please see the sidebar on this page.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Dhammadharini's 5-Year Anniversary
& Bhikkhuni Ordination
at the Hermitage

We awoke the morning after to find the forest filled with and pervaded by joy.

It was a day of joy.

On August 29th, our Dhammadharini support foundation celebrated its five year anniversary with the full ordination of four women novices at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage.

It was a beautiful day and the culmination of years of effort by so many monastic and lay friends and supporters. It was also a new beginning for both the new bhikkhunis and for Buddhism in North America, as this was the first Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination ever to be held here performed entirely by the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha together with the Theravada Bhikkhu Sangha. Around 200 friends came to celebrate and witness the event, including eminent Dhamma teachers Ruth Denison from Dhamma Dena Desert Vipassana, Ajahns Anandabodhi and Santacitta from the Saranaloka nuns' community, and Sylvia Boorstien representing Jack Kornfield and the entire Spirit Rock community. It was wonderful to have so many dear friends in Dhamma gathered together on in the heart of our forest hermitage, and the hall and whole area was decorated and adorned by Deva Flower's friends Sumana and Apple. Amidst the chanting of "Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu," flower petals were sprinkled upon the long line of processing monastics and candidates as the gong was rung and they silently walked up the road to the ordination platform between rows of friends and family.

Those Ordained

Ven Suvijjana had her samaneri pabbaja on the mountain saddle adjacent to the Awakening Forest just over two years before (see earlier post below), and has been training with Ayya Tathaaloka at Dhammadharini Vihara, the Bodhi House and at the hermitage for the past four years. Ven Adhimutta was ordained a novice by Ayya Tathaaloka even before that in Australia at Santi Forest Monastery where she trained under the tutelage of Bhante Sujato. Ven Phalanyani has trained as a nun in Thailand with Ajahn Suphan and Ajahn Noah at Wat Ram Peong and ordained as a samaneri with Ayya Tathaaloka at our hermitage. Ven Thanasanti had been a samaneri for the very longest time, having her pabbaja with the venerable Ajahn Sumedho in England nineteen years ago.

The Ordaining Sangha

Venerable elder bhikkhunis Ayya Gunasari and Ayya Satima traveled from the Mahapajapati Women's Monastery in the Mohave Desert and from the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara, and Ven Madika came from the Great Determination Hermitage in Ohio to fulfill the quorum for the ordaining Bhikkhuni Sangha. Ayya Sudhamma and Ayya Sobhana, both of whom trained at the Bhavana Society with Bhante G (and thus have excellent Pali-language pronounciation) served as the Kammavacacarinis or Chanting Acaryas for the ordination. Ayya Tathaaloka Theri, having surpassed 12 vassas since her own bhikkhuni ordination, was appointed by the Bhikkhuni Sangha as the Pavattini or Preceptor for the ordination of her students.

One by one, all four women were ordained on one side by the Bhikkhuni Sangha, while friends and family members bore witness together sitting outside our sima ordination platform.

After being ordained by the Bhikkhuni Sangha, the four one-sided bhikkhunis then went over to the assembled Bhikkhu Sangha for the confirmation of their ordination which completes the bhikkhuni upasampada.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, founding abbot of the Bhavana Society and legendary Dhamma teacher, was the senior bhikkhu present and served as the Ovadaka Acarya, which means that he had the honor of giving the new bhikkhunis their very first Dhamma teaching directly after their ordination. The abbots of American Buddhist Seminary Temple in Sacramento and Buddhi Vihara in Santa Clara together served as the bhikkhu Kammavacacaryas or Masters of the Chanting. Venerable Ajahn Pasanno, abbot of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Bhante Pannasara, Bhante Punnananda, Ajahn Yatiko, Bhante Wimalaratana and Ven Varanyano Bhikkhu more than filled the quorum for the Bhikkhu Sangha completing the ordination.

Bhante G gave a beautiful Dhamma talk on the special meaning of a buddha being born in the world, and on his own dedication to women's ordination in his 60 plus years of monastic life. He spoke of how glad he was that two of his students, venerable Ayyas Sudhamma and Sobhana had served as Acaryas for such an important and historical occasion.

Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi had recorded Dhamma words of Anumodana on video to be shared with everyone as well in his absence that was not able to be uploaded, but fortunately all the bhikkhunis were able to hear it from him live via Skype.

After the ordination, friends had prepared many trays to offer Sanghadana to the entire Ubhato Sangha - the word the Buddha used for the highest blessing of the complete Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha together. Sylvia Boorstien offered a beautiful large standing Kwan Yin image from the Spirit Rock community together with a yurt heating system, and Kerstin Hall of Padmasambhava Peace Institute offered a Tibetan prayer wheel that turns powered by solar panels! These were wonderful gifts for an off the grid women's monastic hermitage.

And after the Sanghadana, the entire Sangha, including bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, siladharas and anagarikas -- and most importantly new bhikkhunis -- all chanted traditional Pali verses of blessing together led by Bhante G.

It was a beautiful and joyful day, with so much mudita so strongly pervasive at time that it seemed the air was alive and fragranced by this quality. One friend reported feeling tsunamis of joy. Other friends mentioned that it felt like a deep healing, the turning of a bend, and coming out into the clear and wide open way of the Buddha's.

And joy filled the forest and resounded through it, from the tops of the mountain trees, deep into the silent redwood fairy rings, and down to the flowing waters of the creek, out to the ocean.

Sukho buddhānaṃ uppādo
sukhā saddhammadesanā;
Sukhā saṇghassa sāmaggi
sammaggānaṃ tapo sukho.

~ * * * ~

Happy is the birth of Buddhas,
happy is the teaching of the sublime Dhamma;
Happy is the unity of the Sangha,
Happy is the discipline of the united ones.

-- The Buddha
Dhammapada, Buddhavagga 16

As quoted by Bhante G in his keynote Dhamma Talk upon concluding the ordinations

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sangha Entering First Vassa at Aranya Bodhi

Warm Dhamma greetings from our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, in Vassa.

Pictured are Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni (center), Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni (right front), Adhimutta Samaneri (mid-rt), Phalanyani Samaneri (fore-rt), Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni (left front), Suvijjana Samaneri (mid-left) and Anagarika Marajina (fore-left) in the hermitage's Dhamma-sala yurt. Full photo album is here.

For all those who worked so hard to prepare this beautiful space, it was an aspiration come true when, quietly this past Monday morning, in our yurt Dhamma-sala surrounded by mist-shrouded redwoods, 7 women dedicated to monastic life entered into the traditional Buddhist vassa retreat period.

This is the first year, in North American history, that our Theravada Buddhist women's monastic community has gathered together to observe the vassatime retreat together. It is a beginning; a beginning that is the culmination of many years of dedicated effort and slow nurturing of the causes and conditions for women's *Sangha* to come together.

Our first week of retreat together has been one of intense yogi work, lovingly collectively laboring to prepare and arrange the public and monastic commons areas, tent and kuti sites and trails for our full 3-months retreat time together - the completion of the past 2 years and 2 months of efforts by so many dear Dhamma friends. This month of August will be spent here in our Awakening Forest in monastic community life training, and preparatory training for ordination for the 3 samaneris who will be being fully ordained as bhikkhunis at the end of the month. The remain two thirds of the vassa retreat is dedicated to deep, quiet meditation retreat time, in seclusion and together, in the heart of the practice here in this great forest land.

Our thanks to all dear friends whose dedicated efforts, in kindness and generosity, have made and are making this retreat possible. We hope that this time will bring profound benefit to not only our own hearts and lives, but to our society as a whole, to our world, and all living beings.

Abiding pervading all quarters of the all encompassing world, with a heart of loving kindness, compassion, joy and great peacefulness,

The Sangha at Aranya Bodhi

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Now We Are Four

This post is a follow up to "Now We Are Three" from last month.

On July 18th, after weeks of very much intense hard physical labor preparing the hermitage --raising the yurt, building outhouses, putting together a solar system, building kutis -- early one mistly morning, the four of us wrapped our robes over both shoulders, and set of to our neighboring bhikkhu monastery in Redwood Valley, Abhayagiri.

July 18th was Ajahn Amaro's last day at Abhayagiri, where he has been founding co-abbot for more than the past decade. The following day he was to return to Amaravati, the monastery where he had trained for many years before, to become the abbot there. We went went to ask his forgiveness, according to the Thai tradition. We were warmly and beautifully welcomed by the monastic Sangha there, despite our late arrival due to road blockage by a bike-a-thon along the way. Ajahn Amaro gave an inspiring talk to all on forgiveness, and the meaning of "Abhay" which in Thai means forgiveness and in the Pali language -- fearlessness. This was especially meaniningful for Ayya Tathaaloka and for all of us. We deeply appreciated the visit with both Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno, together with our venerable monk brothers in the Holy Life.

But really, we were not four -- we were five -- as we went together with Anagarika Marajina, the newest member of our monastic community. So, really, it should be: "Now We Are Five" -- soon to be more.

Peace and Loving Kindness to All

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Yurt Is Up

Full slideshow here

by Sara Sacksteder  - June 23, 2010

Shortly after the summer solstice of 2010, an excellent, skillful crew assembled the large yurt at our hermitage. Many thanks to Kemanthi, who gathered her friends for a pizza party fundraiser to buy and offer a 27 foot diameter, well insulated yurt. For now, this will be our main indoor space for Dhamma talks, meals, and meditation. It can seat up to 30 people comfortably for meditation and up to 50 for a talk.

It is impossible to state how important Jill has been. She has been stewarding the land and spearheading and doing so much of the development work. On this day she had arranged to have Tina, Charles and Michael available to provide the expertise and the wonderful good cheer necessary to put up the yurt. Tina and Charles found a way to be available to answer questions and give guidance all day long. They also kept us right on track until the last nail was in place. Michael found answers to problems repeatedly throughout the day. He spent a lot of the day hoisting things up to be placed on the central ring of the Yurt and then helping with the placement of the yurt ceiling beams, ceiling liner, ceiling insulation,and the roof.

Dominic and Brian were invaluable. Dominic spent much of his day at least 12 feet above the ground with Michael supporting and inserting beams into the central ring of the yurt, placing insulation and installing the roof. Brian found a way to be in the right spot to help with his height and strength all day long (on one occasion he was in the wrong spot, I clipped him on the head with a beam as I swung around). I saw him help with placing the ceiling beams, the side walls, the side wall insulation, and the external walls of the yurt.

Jurasri provided transportation for Sister Suvijjana on the way up and for Ayya Tathaaloka and Sister Suvijjana at the end of the day. She gave us wonderful food in large quantity. She helped with every stage of the raising of the yurt. She also donated much needed plates and silverware to the hermitage. Jill Zwicky arrived just in time to infuse some fresh energy and effort. I saw her doing whatever was needed and spent the most time with her as she was helping to install the insulation between the inner wall and outside wall of the yurt. Sister Suvijjana arrived on Tuesday. Ayya Tathaaloka arrived on Monday evening with Sister Adhimutta.

Sister Adhimutta will be staying on the land from now until at least the end of the Vassa. Marcia arrived on the land last week and is also going to stay and help with the many hermitage projects that we would like to complete before the Vassa actually begins. All worked all day to complete the yurt.

Warm welcome and thanks for all the efforts of the newest arrivals and best wishes for a wonderful time leading up to and during the Vassa. We started the work day, paused at lunch and ended the day with chanting led by Ayya Tathaaloka.

The hermitage is on the way. None of this could have happened without your help. We continue to need your contributions for the development of the hermitage. Thank you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting Ready for Full Operation

 Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Sobhana and Beebe at the site of a future kuti

The Aranya Bodhi: Awakening Forest Hermitage is on the way to becoming a comfortable setting for monastic women and dedicated lay aspirants to practice for liberation… (Read more...)

The yurt platform ... soon to be our main Dhamma Hall

Monday, June 07, 2010

Now We Are Three

Warm greetings, dear friends of our sangha,
I am very glad to share the news with you that the Venerable Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni has accepted my invitation to become a full time resident of our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, special Monastic Advisor to our Dhammadharini board, and full time co-leading participant in our hermitage project.
In past years, Ayya Sobhana has visited our Dhammadharini Vihara on numerous occassions, as well as our Bodhi House and hermitage land. We have travelled together to Germany at HH the Dalai Lama's invitation and to Australia on two occassions. She participated in our first bhikkhuni camping retreat together as well as coming this previous winter for a month long retreat on the land together with our Samaneri Suvijjana. She knows the land well and has a great love and respect for it. Her advice was invaluable at our recent Easter weekend Visioning Retreat which she participated in, as well as subsequently with our Dhammadharini board meetings.
Ayya Sobhana has been a student of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana ("Bhante G") since 1989, served on the Board of Directors of the Bhavana Society during the 1990s, and took novice ordination at the Bhavana Society in 2003; her full ordination was at Dambulla, Sri Lanka, in 2006. Bhante G has now given Ayya Sobhana formal independence — meaning that she is competent to independently practice and to serve the Dhamma.
During her eight years of residency at Bhavana Society, Ayya Sobhana worked closely with Bhante G as an assistant; provided continuity for the ever-changing community of female residents and guests; learned Dhamma and teaching skills under Bhante G's tutelage; learned Vinaya rules and protocols and became adept at their modern applications; learned Pali language; counseled and taught lay residents and retreatants; consulted with the Board of Directors; learned to lead traditional rituals of Theravada Buddhists; managed logistics of dozens of retreats led by senior monks, and began leading retreats herself at Bhavana. As her skills have become known, she has been increasingly invited to teach at outside venues including Philadelphia, Annapolis, Hot Springs NC, Washington DC and Calgary. She also revised the Pali-English chanting book, Bhavana Vandana: Devotions for Meditation; managed the Bhavana Society's library; and served as Kammavacacarini (Advocate) in the October 22, 2010, bhikkhuni ordinations in Perth, Australia.
We are blessed by her many skills and talents that she brings with her, and hope that our hermitage will be a most excellent place for the practice in nature that she has found so conducive, together with her heart to share such space and opportunity with fellow monastic-minded women of similar heart and intent.
Bhante Gunaratana's Support
Graciously, Ayya Sobhana's mentor Bhante G has fully blessed and encouraged Ven Sobhana's participation in our Aranya Bodhi Awakening Forest Hermitage project.
We are very appreciative of Bhante G's unstinting outreach to women over many years. He has now announced his support for bhikkhunis to establish their own independent centers, recommending this above our practicing in the shadow of the bhikkhu communities. The Bhavana Society will donate a starter library of Dhamma books to the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. Bhante G has pledged his ongoing support: to participate in women's full ordination when invited to do so; to visit our hermitage to teach or lead retreats; to continue as an Senior Advisor to the North American Bhikkhuni Association; and to invite qualified monastic women to lead public retreats at the Bhavana Society. Finally, by sending Ayya Sobhana to Aranya Bodhi Hermitage (at some inconvenience to the Bhavana Society), Bhante G is helping in a most practical, tangible and wise fashion. Thank you, Bhante G!
With a heart full of metta and great gladness, gratitude and appreciation,
Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni
for our Dhammadharini Sangha