Warm greetings from Temple. It’s been an active summer at the monastery, with new community members and the assumption of responsibility for the whole property, and as we get closer to this year’s Pa Bah gathering this week it is high time for an update.
2015 Alms-giving Ceremony – Sunday, Oct. 4
First off, this year’s Pa Bah Offering Ceremony will be held this coming Sunday, October 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Similar to the event last year the day will serve both as an almsgiving occasion for those who wish to support the new monastery with requisites and donations, as well as a sort of festival day to simply gather and share a meal, witness or take part in a traditional offering ceremony and listen to a Dhamma Talk. The talk will be offered by Luang Por Viradhammo, the abbot of Tisarana Monastery, who will be visiting along with Ajahn Sudanto, abbot of Pacific Hermitage. It’s a good time to meet the monks and other supporters, and see the monastery. Do come along for any part of the day – everyone is very welcome.
Opening of Jetavana, Temple Forest Monastery
From June 26 until July 2 the Sangha at Temple was very fortunate to host a visit by Luang Por Liem, the abbot of Luang Por (Ajahn) Chah’s monastery in Thailand, as well as Luang Por Jundee, another respected senior Thai abbot. They were accompanied by Ajahn Sehk and Ajahn Thaniyo, a Thai and Australian monk respectively, the latter serving as a consummate translator from Thai to English of the teachings offered by the Thai ajahns during their visit. (The Dhamma Talks they offered can be heard or downloaded here >) We were also happy to have with us Ajahn Anando who returned to Temple for a month and Tan Ruciro, another English monk from Amaravati.
As the property had been purchased just a few months earlier, Luang Por Liem agreed to preside over an opening weekend which included a novice ordination on June 27 and an opening ceremony on June 28 to inaugurate and bless the new monastery. We were honored to have the Thai ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Pisan Manawapat, and his family come for the occasion. While Luang Por led the thirteen monks present in chanting traditional Paritta blessings, the Ambassador, along with the president of the Jeta Grove board of directors and the former property owners, represented the lay donors in unveiling the ‘Jetavana Stone’ – an ancient granite boulder left by ice age glaciers in the monastery’s large field where for the occasion of its official opening a local artist had carved the name of the monastery and the Buddhist and Western calendar years alongside a Dhammacakka: a Dhamma Wheel symbol which was one of the earliest representations of the teaching of the Buddha.
In addition to the name of the monastery we most often use – Temple Forest Monastery – the monastery has a Pali name: Jetavana. Jetavana (“Jeta Grove”) was the monastery where the Buddha spent more Rains Retreats than any other during his lifetime, and gave many of the teachings recorded in the Pali Canon. It was a beautiful forested park purchased at great expense by the wealthy lay disciple Anathapindika in order to donate it to the Sangha as a place where the Buddha’s disciples could practice in a suitable setting for generations to come. Historically, when Buddhism has become established in new countries there have often been monasteries named after the original Jetavana.
Despite weather which was cool, blustery, and wet to say the least (as rain is considered auspicious in Buddhist countries we took it as a sign that someone was very happy about the event!) the day was attended by many supporters and visitors, pretty much filling up the large tent high up on the field. All in all a thoroughly joy-filled occasion. Some pictures from the opening ceremony and the weekend’s events can be viewed here >
When the three-month Vassa (Rains Retreat) began at the end of July, the Thai and English monks had departed as had Tan Pamutto, who had set off on foot having decided to further explore the life of a wandering monk during this phase of his training. (He has since written to let us know he is spending the Vassa in a garden shed somewhere in the Quabbin woods, and is being well looked after.) The Sangha here at Temple is currently five monks (bhikkhus) and a novice (samanera): Ajahn Jayanto, Ajahn Caganando, Tan Jivako, Tan Saddhammo, Tan Nyanassaro, and Samanera Sunyo. Another young man is in line to join us as a postulant (anagarika) within the next couple of weeks.
Activity & Volunteering
Having inherited a to-do list typically long for an old property of this size as well as needing to begin adapting it for monastic purposes, the Sangha and guests and volunteers have been busy making various repairs and getting to grips with caring for the grounds and buildings. We’re very grateful for all the help so many people have generously offered this summer.
If you would like to join in by contributing in one way or another by helping with grounds or maintenance work – or in some other way – you are most welcome. Please just send us an email either through the contact page or to the following email address:
Winter Retreat Support
Speaking of opportunities to help, we are beginning to look ahead to the monastic community’s annual three-month Winter Retreat which will take place from the beginning of January through the end of March. This will be a period of silent retreat for the monks, with no short term overnight guests as well as no Sunday meditation workshops between January 1 and April 1. These three months of the year have come to serve an important function in our Western branch monasteries, with the traditional three-month Rains Retreat taking place in summer and fall which in western climates is often the best time to be active and working. Therefore the winter months of January, February, and March have become a time for the Sangha to put many activities down and have an extended period reserved for formal meditation practice.
During the Winter Retreat the meal offering will be the same as ever: anyone is welcome to come to the monastery on any day to offer (and share in) food to the Sangha. And while we won’t be accepting overnight visitors in the usual way, it would be helpful to have two or three laypeople stay at the monastery in order to support the monastic community’s retreat. Ideally these people will have stayed at the monastery before, and be able to stay for the full three months (or at minimum for one of the months). They would join in most of the group practice periods and there will likely be much unstructured solitary time to use to further one’s practice. Therefore they should be experienced in staying in a silent retreat atmosphere and comfortable with solitude. If you are interested in supporting the Sangha in this way by helping with meal preparation, shoveling, cleaning, etc. from January 1–April 1, do send us an email.
Protecting the Land
A significant event that’s taken place this summer has been the unexpected decision of our next door neighbor to sell his property. This 10-plus acre property abuts the field right over the Sangha living area (Jessen and Cliff houses) and cuts along the overlooking ridge where we plan eventually to have elders and other kutis. We always knew the monastery would need to try to protect it from development if at all possible – by purchasing that 6–7 acres of the ridge ideally – but had hoped our neighbor would hold on to it for some years so the board wouldn’t have to think about it yet. However, when a FOR SALE sign popped up after initial discussions between him and monastery friends and it went suddenly onto the market, one supporter stepped forward and in order to help the monastery by preventing it going to an unknown party – purchased the property! That person needs to sell at least some of it now for financial reasons; therefore, there is currently an opportunity to protect our land by purchasing the area in question for the monastery.
Practice at the Monastery
Finally, just a reminder and encouragement to feel welcome to come to Temple Forest Monastery, the morning work and around the midday meal being the best times to engage with the community, as well especially as the Sunday Meditation Workshops from 1–3 p.m. every Sunday. The 7 p.m. evening pujas (Tues.–Sat.) are a good time to come and quietly meditate and chant with the Sangha as well, and normally there is a Dhamma Talk offered after the weekly moon-night puja.
With all good wishes in Dhamma,