More about the project’s history
Ajahn Chah in Massachusetts
The connection between Ajahn Chah’s monastic community and New England began over thirty years ago with visits by Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Chah himself, and subsequently many of the community’s monks and nuns.
On a trip to visit his parents in 1976 – his first return to the West after ten years as a monk under the guidance of Ajahn Chah – Ajahn Sumedho stopped in Massachusetts to visit Jack Kornfield, who had also spent some time as a monk with Ajahn Chah, and see the new meditation center he had helped set up called the Insight Meditation Society (IMS). In the wake of the communist take-overs in Laos and Cambodia – very near to Ajahn Chah’s monastery in Ubon, Thailand – and with a strong communist resistance at the time in Thailand itself, Ajahn Sumedho was keeping an eye out for potential interest in a forest monastery in a Western country where the young Sangha of Western monks he was responsible for at Wat Pah Nanachat (the ‘International Forest Monastery’ near Ajahn Chah) could potentially be relocated if needed. In the event, Ajahn Sumedho continued back to Thailand, stopping in London for what would be a consequential stay at the premises of the English Sangha Trust – resulting in the invitation for Ajahn Sumedho’s move to the UK.
In 1979, when Ajahn Chah came to visit Ajahn Sumedho for the second time in England, he also came to America, where IMS had invited Ajahn Chah to teach a retreat at their premises in Barre, MA. From the time of this retreat, Ajahn Sumedho, and subsequently other monks and nuns from his monasteries including Ajahns Sucitto, Amaro, Sundara, and Candasiri, have been coming to teach at IMS and associated centers in Massachusetts almost every year.
A long-standing invitation
In around 1998 a group of interested New Englanders invited Ajahn Sumedho’s Sangha to consider establishing a branch monastery in the area. Having seen Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery take shape as the result of a similar invitation made by supporters in California about a decade earlier, the group, which was largely based in the Boston area, adopted the name Buddhaparisa, and made a formal invitation to the monastic community in Europe to support the establishment of a new monastery in the Northeast. Although the Sangha’s response, while supportive in principle, was one of hesitation to start any new monasteries at that time as the monastic community was spread quite thin, Buddhaparisa undertook to support the visits of monks and nuns from the Ajahn Chah community whenever they were in the area.
Over the years as monks and nuns from the Ajahn Chah Sangha have visited Boston, Buddhaparisa has duly made arrangements for supporting their stay. This has included building a small hut (kuti) for Ajahn Sucitto to stay in for a month-long self-retreat, as well as hosting and driving the many nuns and monks who have visited on their way to and from leading retreats at IMS.
In 2009 Ajahn Jayanto, who is from Boston, expressed a willingness to be involved in exploring the prospects for a monastery in Massachusetts or the New England area. The idea was proposed that, without funds and absent the donation of a property suitable for a forest monastery, a first step could be taken in the same way that Ajahn Amaro began in San Francisco when beginning the monastery in California which eventually became Abhayagiri. That is, he and one or two monks could begin spending temporary periods in Massachusetts as a way of gauging interest and support for the idea.
It wasn’t until 2011 that circumstances came together to enable specific plans to be made, mainly in the form of a donation intended to make possible such a visit, i.e. to cover renting a place for the monks to stay and the many travel and other expenses inevitably involved. This first donation called for a tax-exempt non-profit organization to be created to act as a ‘steward’ for the monastic community, to manage the financial aspects of the project in the way required by the monastic discipline (the Vinaya) – which proscribes the Sangha from having direct control over money. This was accomplished by the end of that year with the creation of Jeta Grove Foundation, for which Ajahn Jayanto invited long-time friends of the Sangha Eric McCord, Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, and Gregory Scharf to fill the directors roles necessary for incorporation as a non-profit in Massachusetts.
While things were now in place for a visit to be planned, the following year, 2012, was a year Ajahn Jayanto was slated to spend mostly on retreat in Thailand. Therefore it was in 2013 that Ajahn Jayanto and Tan Caganando spent the three-month Vassa in Boston, in a rented accommodation in Allston (the temporarily-named ‘Boston Vihara’), from July through the end of October.
During that period, the monks went on the traditional alms-round every day in Allston and Cambridge, and received more than enough offerings to sufficiently feed them and the eight-precept postulant staying with them (Anagarika Jeff Miller and then Anagarika John Nishinaga).
At this time the monks were introduced to a property in Temple, N.H. owned by Bruce and Barbara Kantner, long-time Buddhist practitioners who were looking to sell it to an educational or spiritual community of some kind – such as a Buddhist monastery – and who subsequently worked with the monks and Jeta Grove to make it possible to for this to become the site for the monastery.
On July 1, 2014 Ajahn Jayanto moved on to the property along with Zack Roberts, a young man from Westford, MA who became the monastery’s first postulant. They were quickly followed by Ajahn Anando, a senior English monk from Amaravati who helps Ajahn Jayanto lead the Temple community, and Tan Saddhammo, an American monk from Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand. Ajahn Caganando returned in June 2015; and other monks have continued to visit and join the community since then.
On March 25, 2015 owing to many generous donations Jeta Grove was able to close the purchase on the property, thus making Temple Forest Monastery an enduring reality.