The weeks seem to have flown by since the end of our snowy winter retreat, and it is hard for me to believe it’s now the first day of June. Much has happened.
The property has been purchased
It is with tremendous gratitude and a sincere anumodanā (appreciation for goodness done) that I can recount that due to the amazing generosity of many people wanting to support this happening – those here in New England and North America, and in Thailand, and particularly in the U.K. and in Malaysia – we were able to purchase the property for Temple Forest Monastery at the very end of March. (There is a mortgage: for more details see the Jeta Grove website.) We intend that this monastery will be a place for the cultivation and realization of the Dhamma for generations to come, for the benefit and welfare of all beings. May the blessings of all the many actions and gifts by everyone that have led us to this milestone be for their benefit and the benefit of all.
Visit of Luang Por Liem
From June 26–July 2 we will be fortunate to host a visit from two of the most beloved senior monks of the Ajahn Chah community from Thailand: Ven. Ajahn Liem Thitadhammo – or simply “Luang Por Liem” – and Ven. Ajahn Jundee (“Luang Por Jundee”). Ajahn Liem is the abbot of Ajahn Chah’s monastery in Thailand (Wat Pah Pong), and was the monk whom Ajahn Chah chose to succeed him 35 years ago; he is a humble, wise and greatly respected central elder of our monastic community. Ajahn Jundee is likewise highly respected and was a monk with Ajahn Chah having grown up in the same village as the monastery; he is now the abbot of Wat Pah Amperwan. The two Luang Pors have been invited to visit some of the North American monasteries in our community – of which Temple is now one – and we thought we’d take the opportunity to mark the establishment of this new monastery with a ceremony and open gathering where Luang Por Liem can lead the blessings and offer a Dhamma Talk.
Opening Day celebration: Sunday, June 28 – everyone welcome
The Opening Day will take place on Sunday June 28, from about 10 a.m. till around 3 p.m. and will be similar in format to the Pa Bah ceremony we had at the monastery back in October. The schedule is flexible as we continue to work things out but will begin with an introduction and a traditional alms-round where those who wish will have an opportunity to offer rice into the monks’ bowls, and then share a meal made up of whatever food offerings are brought by the people who come (Buddhists have been eating pot-luck for 2,500 years). After the meal, at around 12.30 or 1 p.m., we will invite Luang Por Liem to offer us a Dhamma Talk which will be translated by an English-speaking monk. At some point either before or after the talk the gathered monks will do some traditional chanting for the auspicious occasion, and we currently plan for a foundation stone to be dedicated (anyone who wishes to contribute towards the carving of such a stone, feel free to contact us).
For that weekend we will welcome quite a few visiting monks and guests. The senior monks’ party will include Luang Por Viradhammo from Tisarana Monastery near Ottawa, as well as two other monks, Ajahn Sehksan and Ajahn Thaniyo, and two laymen traveling with the party from Thailand. Our own Ajahn Anando along with Tan Ruciro, a two-vassa English monk, plan to visit from Amaravati and stay for a month, and Ajahn Khemavaro, abbot of Wat Buddha Dhamma in Australia, will pass through from the 22–26th. The Thai ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Pisan Manawapat, and his family also plan to come to pay respects to the senior monks and to see the monastery and be part of the occasion.
The resident community
In addition to visiting monks the resident community will soon include several new faces. In April we were joined by Tan Pamutto, a monk of five years from Abhayagiri Monastery who has also spent time training at Tisarana. It’s been great to have him here, as along with myself and Anagarika Zack we are the only Sangha members resident at the moment. For about a month we were joined by Tan Varadhammo, or Jake, a visiting monk from Forest Dhamma Monastery in Virginia originally from Massachusetts, who had been considering a return to the lay life and who took that step a couple weeks ago – he was a pleasant and supportive presence at the monastery and we all wish him well in his new life. For the past month Tan Saddhammo has been helping to care for his parents in Portland, Oregon and he will be staying at the Pacific Hermitage until he returns to rejoin us at TFM on June 17.
June 17 is also the long-awaited day that Ajahn Caganando – who was with me in Boston when we first came to Temple in 2013 – will rejoin the community here; it will be wonderful to have him back with us. On June 11 we expect a monk of two vassas originally from the Midwest to arrive from Wat Pah Nanachat, and on the 25th another American monk will arrive from Buddha Bodhivana Monastery in Melbourne Australia: Tan Jivako, who is from Amesbury, Massachusetts.
Anagarika Zack, who is from Westford, Mass. and who has been with us since we moved in last July, is approaching one year in the community, and he has asked to go forth as a samanera, the next stage of novitiate training and one which involves him giving up money and donning two of the three robes of a monk. His Going Forth (“Pabbajja”) ceremony will be finalized soon, but looks set to take place on the afternoon or evening of June 27 – everyone is welcome to attend and wish him well as he moves further along the path to becoming a monk.
A mix of cultures
As has been the case in monasteries around the world and throughout Buddhist history, this fledgling monastery acts as a meeting place for people of different walks of life and different backgrounds. Many Americans are interested in learning from Buddhist teaching and practice; and many people born into Buddhist cultures, in Thailand or other Asian countries, are interested in deepening their relationship to their own religion, especially in a place where Buddhist monasteries are few and far between.
So on any given day, at the 11 a.m. meal or one of the Evening Pujas, or at the 1–3 p.m. Sunday meditation workshops, there will often be a mix of various people and traditions, the Western and the Asian, the local and the far-afield. Of course, distinctions are not necessary – everyone is a human being who experiences happiness and suffering and can experience peace in the same way, and these are the focuses of the Buddhist Path for any who wish to interact with it in whatever way. Along with the many Thai people who have been coming to the monastery since we arrived in Temple last year, there are increasing numbers of interested people – from locals in Temple, Wilton, and Milford, to those from Keene, Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and areas in Massachusetts from Boston to Northampton.
Getting to the monastery
This has meant that there are now people in various areas interested in coming to the monastery who may not have the means to do so; therefore, in the face of the lack of any public transportation, there are discussions amongst lay people for setting up ride share boards or something similar. One such effort has begun in Boston, and there is a Google Group one supporter has set up and manages at the following link (note that the monastery is not involved in this and assumes no responsibility for it): https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/tfm-rides
Opportunities to practice and to get involved
Please do join us for any of the daily routine at the monastery, the regular practice opportunities as well as the work periods and, of course, meals. As we move into more of the property and take the reins of care, there are many things we can use a helping hand with, from mowing lawns to driving to maintenance and repairs. Contact us if you’re interested in helping out.
With gratitude and metta,