New Moon Update: July 2021
Today, Friday 9th, is the New Moon day for the month of July 2021. The next Uposatha Day will be the Full Moon which falls on Saturday 24th July. This will be followed on Sunday 25th July with the beginning of our annual Rains Retreat (vassa).
Last month, Monday 21st June, was the fortieth anniversary of the formal beginning of Harnham Buddhist Monastery. That day happened to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of my being received into the bhikkhu sangha (upasampada) with Ajahn Chah as my Preceptor. It is easy to feel fortunate when I reflect back over the years. It is inspiring to think about the beautiful and daring spirit of the original trustees who were bold enough to initiate this project, and the sincere commitment of all those who have helped build and maintain the fabric of this monastery. Even once the semi-derelict buildings had been made liveable, it took a considerable amount of effort to keep the resident community fed and healthy. That energy and organization was always forthcoming. It is heart-warming to see how in the midst of all the changes that the wider society has been going through, this small traditional Theravada Buddhist monastery has not only survived, it has thrived. For all of this I am deeply grateful.
In an email that I recently received from Luang Por Sumedho he commented, 'Looking back 40 years, it doesn’t seem that long ago. I’m very happy to give my blessings and express my gratitude to you, the trustees and supporters of Harnham.'
On June 17th we marked the hundred and third anniversary of the birth of our teacher, Luang Por Chah. I took the opportunity to offer a talk called Beautiful Emanations which considered the emphasis Luang Por Chah placed on spiritual practice in the context of community. Sometimes the company of others feels supportive. At other times it feels irritating. Such is life. The teachings we have received encourage us to learn to carefully inhibit the compulsive judging mind and see where, when and how we make things worse by blaming others for our suffering. If we don't like the way someone behaves and that disliking leads on to ill-will, where is the true source of suffering? Is it the behaviour of the other person? Is it the disliking? Or is it the ill-will that we added to the mix? With well-trained attention we can look into these questions for ourselves. The teacher might tell us that it is the clinging to dislike that gives rise to the ill-will and that is where we can find the cause of the problem, however such information alone might not be enough to stop us from generating ill-will. With careful restraint and wise reflection, hopefully we will begin to see the part that we play in creating difficulties. It is this seeing for ourselves that leads to the letting go that Luang Por Chah taught so much about. And it is this letting go that leads to harmonious well-being, inwards and outwards.
As was mentioned in last month's update, after about twenty years some of the wood work surrounding the pond and shrine in the Memorial Garden has deteriorated. Fortunately much of the work of replacing it can be done by Tan Mahesako and Tan Sucinno. Also the front porch to Number Two Cottage was in serious need of repair (see photo above). A significant portion of the structure had become unstable and required attention. Likewise, three of the benches down by the lake have either collapsed or are about to. Twice now I have been sitting outside talking with someone whilst part of the bench they were on collapsed.
Thankfully the sangha here on the hill is more healthy than the rotting woodwork. At last Ajahn Punnyo has been able to return to Harnham after having been away for almost sixteen months. Tan Atthadassi arrived safely from Amaravati to spend the Rains Retreat here. Tan Samacitto is due to arrive shortly from Wat Nanachat. We expect his stay to be considerably longer.
Talking about Rains Retreat and dates, Tan Adicco has been exercising his coding skills and created a smartphone app version of our annual forestsangha calendar. It is not a full-on dynamic app with all the bells and whistles some users might enjoy, however it does provide easy access to moon days, Dhamma quotes and a catalogue of beautiful photos. If you try it and have difficulty, please do let us know. Or of you try it and appreciate it, you are also welcome to let us know. Similar such apps might be developed if they are found to be useful.
The next Lake Workday is scheduled for Sunday 25th July. Because we are still limiting the number of people who can be here at one time, please either telephone Tan Mahesako on 07943 699 228, or email him at email@example.com if you wish to join us. And note that there might be a last-minute cancellation if it turns out to be rainy on that day, as it did last time.
Luang Por Munindo