It seems like only the other day when we celebrated Asalha Puja and began this year’s three month-long Rains Retreat, yet last Saturday marked the half-way point. In his Dhamma talk to the resident community on Saturday evening Luangpor reminded us of this fact and urged us to use the remaining time as best we can. He also spoke of the importance of perseverance and of keeping our meditation practice fresh – essential when we’re doing the same, simple exercise over and over again. Last month was Luangpor’s 70th birthday, an occasion that was marked by an impressive gathering of about thirty monks, as you can see in the photo above. And two weeks ago we celebrated another birthday: our pagoda turned twenty-six. It took 8 days to build and was finished on 8/8/88.
As there are five of us resident here at the moment we have the luxury of being able to take it in turns to be on private retreat, with Anagarika Tobias ensconced in his kuti this week. Luangpor has also been giving short teachings after most morning sittings, concentrating particularly on the monastic discipline, as well as encouraging us to keep a simple and direct approach to meditation practice. The other day he reminded us that during his time at Wat Pah Pong, Ajahn Chah, knowing how attached to reading his Western monks were, made them promise to not read any books for at least a year. ‘The only book worth reading,’ he once famously said, ‘is this one.’ and he pointed to his heart. After all, most books on Buddhism tell us more about the author than the Dhamma, and so if we aren’t careful, instead of letting go of our views and opinions we only add to them.
In his Dhamma talk last Wednesday evening Ajahn Manapo focused on what it means to go for refuge to the Triple Gem, contrasting the secure Refuges of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha to the various pleasures, diversions and distractions that most people seek refuge in but which ultimately leave them unsatisfied and vulnerable to more suffering. Next Tuesday evening Ajahn Manapo will be off to visit the Banbury Buddhist Group to kick off their Autumn/Winter term.
Coming to more mundane matters, we have just finished giving the woodwork at Bhavana Dhamma a much-needed lick of paint. Ajahn Manapo and Cormac scaled the heights to attend to the fascia and barge boards, with Dasith lending a hand to complete the garage’s woodwork on Saturday. Mae Chii Bhaddha – formerly Chanyaa – has proven to be a natural with the lawnmower and, with Maureen’s guidance, is keeping the Bhavana Dhamma gardens nice and tidy. Sarah and Sue from the Banbury Group popped by last week to lend their time and expertise in attempting to tame the flower beds.
We are also pleased to announce that we have just taken delivery of thirty maroon buckwheat meditation cushions, which we will begin to use once a satisfactory means of storing them has been devised (not just in a pile on the floor!). We have been in need of new cushions for a long time now and because of a number of very generous donations as part of our renovation appeal we have at last managed to get some. Thank you to everybody who contributed!
As far as the major projects on our renovations list goes, Andy the Builder is in the process of installing the new water system, which will include fitting a 200 litre pressure vessel into a large hole behind the shrine room. Better water pressure will be very welcome, particularly on our busy festival days when the toilet cisterns struggle to fill up in time. Peter Arch – a long-term friend of the Hermitage – very kindly trimmed our formidably large leylandii hedge last week, so thank you, Peter. Mark and Anne, BDF Treasurer and Ajahn Manapo’s mum respectively, are currently organising a car boot sale to help raise funds for the renovation appeal.
At the moment, while Luangpor conducts his usual prison visits, those of us not on retreat are busy preparing Buddha images, posters, books, incense holders and so on in preparation for this Saturday’s Angulimala Workshop.