New Moon Newsletter: December 2021
Today, Saturday 4th, is the New Moon day for the month of December 2021. The next Uposatha Day will be the Full Moon and falls on Sunday 19th December.
On behalf of the community here at Harnham I wish to express gratitude for the many offerings of concern and support over the past few days. Having heard about the damage wrecked by the recent storm that passed through Northumberland many of our friends and supporters were worried. As it happened, we were without electricity for about five and a half days, but other than that we were not too seriously affected. Sadly there was considerable damage to Bolam Lake Park, however our own lake and woodland lost only one tree. Thanks to a petrol-fuelled generator most the food in the freezers and fridges was saved. The enforced simplification provided a useful opportunity to reflect on the struggles that so many human beings suffer and the extraordinary degree of convenience we take for granted.
A few days before the storm Tan Jotisaro Bhikkhu (see photo) returned to Harnham having spent the Rains Retreat at Amaravati. He received his upasampada there on Sunday 21st November. On Sunday evening 28th November Ben (see photo) took the eight precepts of an anagarika here (by candle light in the Reception Room where there is a wood-burning stove).
The talk I gave on that occasion is titled Protected and Strengthened . It was an attempt to highlight the importance the Buddha placed on the qualities of Hiri and Ottappa. Hiri refers to a wholesome sense of shame and Ottappa means a sense of fear of being judged for our wrong-doings. For many of us these are tricky topics to contemplate as they readily trigger self-hatred and self-condemnation. Obviously this is not what the Buddha was aiming at. He referred to these two psychological phenomena as Lokapala, or protectors of the world. And here we should be thinking of both our inner and outer worlds. When these qualities are absent our worlds fall into chaos. If they are well-developed they serve to protect us from disintegration.
In a few weeks the year 2021 will end and 2022 will begin. Regrettably it appears still too risky to open the monastery for general public use. We are taking a limited number of guests. And we do plan to hold our usual midnight Forgiveness and Renewal ceremony. This year the plan is for it to be live-streamed and an announcement confirming this (or otherwise) will be issued shortly. Likewise the traditional taking of the Five Precepts and recitation of the Parittas at 3pm on the 1st January will (hopefully) be live-streamed.
With good wishes,