Monday, January 17, 2011

Are We Surviving?

In the Cakkavatti-Sihanada Sutta (D26), the Buddha recounts a mythical future time, when the whole world goes mad with depravity and war. There will be "sword-intervals" when beings mistake one another for wild beasts, and kill each other. During one such time, a few beings will think of hiding in the remote forest. Protected by raging rivers and rugged mountains, they survive on wild roots and fruits. Only after the war do they emerge from their hiding places and rejoice together of one accord, saying, "Good beings, I see that you are alive!" They now see the terrible results of society's addiction to evil, and resolve to do good, starting with reverence for life. Thus their beauty and life span increase, and the virtuous way of life becomes more complete and refined, finally culminating in the arising of Metteyya Buddha.

This is how it has been for us here at the Aranya Bodhi. Away from the racket and stress of our modern times, the hearts grow tender. Our daily news show is to watch the afternoon fog roll up the creek valley, from the ocean.

The internal war, the uprising of our own kilesas, gradually dissolves. We are learning how to take care of our own practice for liberation, and also how to care for each other, with just enough space and enough sharing, enough structure and enough freedom.

Several people have asked how we are surviving at Aranya Bodhi, in the cold and rain. Friends, we are surviving and thriving. We have time to walk in the forest and meditate well swaddled in blankets. When it really rains, all the better for meditation.

We have undertaken several projects to make our Hermitage more comfortable. The Samana Kuti is complete except for its paint and wood stove. This kuti sits high on the mountain where the forest is more open and lighter. It overlooks an exceptionally broad old logging road, a grand avenue in the middle of nowhere. Anagarika Marajina has finally given up her tent in its deeply shaded and quiet place, to take up kuti living.

On our main landings, we have installed two propane heaters, in our Dhamma-Sala-Yurt, and the Sangha trailer. In the yurt with its high ceiling and large space, the heater cuts the chill just enough to be comfortable. We are using this space when company comes visiting.

The Sangha trailer is now truly cozy, a real refuge when the bones need to be warm. We are confident that books are safe from mildew, and have brought in the Dhamma library that Bhante Gunaratana donated last year. The internet, computers and lights are running on a gas generator. So the Sangha Trailer is now our study hall, classroom, internet cafe, small shrine room, and sick-bay all in one.

One of the challenges this past Vassa was laundry. It is traditional for monastics to wash their robes by hand, but with the afternoon sun going behind our mountain and the evening fog rolling in, the cloth just did not dry. When California's rainy season arrived early, we gave up on the laundry line, and started a regular run to the laundromat, an hour's drive away. It has been a priority to create a really warm, dry laundry room, and now here it is, on the sunniest corner of the lower landing. We'll start out with a new double-utility sink, inside clotheslines, and a wood stove. Later, when we have full electricity, an efficient washer. I imagine this room to be a place for washing, dyeing, head-shaving and conversation.

Two more kutis are being built this winter. The Mangala kuti is nearly finished, thanks to a generous donation from Kemanthie Nandasena. The Ratana kuti will go up next. All of our kutis and buildings have been built by an excellent local builder. They will all need their inside and outside paint and furnishings, when the weather dries out in spring.

Finally, a very rough and steep patch of road, which caused several flat tires last year, has been beautifully gravelled and smoothed out.

There is more to do [see projects on the sidebar]. Your interest and support are greatly appreciated, indeed indispensable for the remaining projects to go from dreams to realities.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lay Steward Sought for Aranya Bodhi

Aranya Bodhi - the Awakening Forest Hermitage is seeking a lay Steward. Aranya Bodhi, a natural forest wilderness on the Sonoma Coast, offers a rare situation for a lay woman during this present auspicious re-energizing of the bhikkhuni sangha. Our new steward may be a monastic life aspirant or a sincere Dhamma practitioner willing to live by the eight monastic precepts. We offer the opportunity to live within a Theravadin forest bhikkhuni community, in your own empty hut, surrounded by roots, cliffs, leafy canopies and creeks.

This February 19th, our present steward, Anagarika Marajina will receive her going forth into monastic life. Following the forest style monastic code, our monastic women do not personally use money and do not drive. The lay steward will be primarily responsible for hermitage errands involving the use of money and driving. Additional responsibilities will depend on her talents and interests. While we would love for our new steward to stay for a long time, we can appreciate shorter term stays of at least one month.

Aranya Bodhi is a new bhikkhuni hermitage supporting two to three monastic women during the winter months and up to ten lay and monastic women during the three months of Vassa, from July to October. We are entirely off grid, with communication being provided by Internet. There is no phone on the hermitage. Accomodations are rustic and the climate year round is cool within the forest.

To learn more, please visit our blog at; and email