Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tranquil Progress

Meritorious work 
Another meritorious work 

To all friends of Aranya Bodhi Hermitage,

During the past few weeks, our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage has been blessed with the brief visits of several women who are exploring how to go deeper into the full practice of Dhamma, whether through bhikkhuni training or as upasikas, close friends of the monastic community.  We have felt inspired and uplifted by Wink, Joan, Maheshi, Kitty, Nancy, Geri, and Teresa.  Each one is glad to be here in the forest, appreciative of our Dhamma teaching, content to follow the daily rhythms of silence and courteous conversation, manual work and the internal work of meditation, accomplishment and doing nothing at all.

And at the very same time, Ayya Tathaaloka and the Dhammadharini Board of Directors, assisted by our Vassatime resident Sayalay Santacari, have been looking for Dhammadharini's next in-town monastery, envisioned as the place where we can more easily be in contact with our local lay friends, and provide a suitable dwelling for those bhikkhunis who are not physically well to spend the whole year in a primitive camp-style abode.  

The in-town monastery and the forest hermitage will then complement each other. Actually, the existence of a strong in-town monastery makes it possible for the hermitage to fulfill its role.  In town, there may be the chance to serve and assist the frail or elderly monastics. In the forest, the chance to be alone among the elements. In town, the chance to offer teaching and ministry for many people and families. In the forest, the chance to teach one or two students at a time. In town, the chance for close, loving supervision of novices and new bhikkhunis.  In the forest, the space for those who can practice on their own. In town, the chance to network with the world on high-speed internet. In the forest, the chance for a more ancient life-style.  

What a gift it is, and what an accomplishment that Dhammadharini is able to pursue this important new project  without losing the momentum of our community life.  We particularly appreciate that Ayya Tathaaloka and Sy. Santacari are subjecting themselves to many hours of computer work, driving around the Bay Area, and talking to many people, while we at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage have the pleasant chores of constructing a toolshed with our own hands, re-tapping the spring and building a natural filtration system.  

Recently the number of women coming to us as well qualified monastic life aspirants has increased from a trickle to a steady stream. Ayya Tathaaloka and our sangha have been considering, how can Dhammadharini welcome this next generation. What is best for sustainable growth of our sangha? 
  • Job one is to develop a mature monastic sangha, with numbers of well trained and well practicing bhikkhunis who see eye-to-eye on the way to practice our Dhamma and Discipline.  This work takes time, but it is well underway.  
  • Then we need the ongoing sustained relationship with our lay community. For various reasons, during the past two years while the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage was getting established, Dhammadharini has had less presence than before in Fremont and East Bay Area.  There was not the constant 24-7 availability to our lay supporters, as had been developing in the previous years. When we get into our new in-town center, this lack will be corrected.
  • And finally, there is a need for a proportionate match between our practical needs and the available support. As it is now, a few large gifts have made it possible for Dhammadharini to carry on, with its town center at Bodhi House and forest hermitage at Aranya Bodhi.  The construction of a simple infrastructure for the Hermitage and medical insurance for a growing sangha have been the major items, as our community grew from 2 to an average of 6 residents. To the extent that enough support is forthcoming, both for the purchase of the new center and for our ongoing expenses, we can open more opportunities for those women at our gate who wish to go forth as bhikkhunis.

Then, when well-practicing monastic women and lay practioners are in constant contact, the inspiration is mutual.  We all benefit.  We fulfill the Buddha's plan for his Dhamma and Discipline to thrive for a long time.

With Metta, 
Ayya Sobhana