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Ajahn Pasanno visits Ruth Denison

During the first week of September, Luang Por Pasanno and other members of the Abhayagiri community made a trip down to Southern California to visit Ruth Denison. Debbie Stamp, Amy Zhu, and Samanera Khantiko accompanied Luang Por Pasanno to Dhamma Dena in Joshua Tree, CA. (For more information about Ruth Denison and an upcoming documentary on her life and teachings, please visit www.dhammadena.com.)Ruth Denison has been a long-time supporter of the monastic sangha in the United States and has been involved with Abhayagiri since the monastery opened. Over the years she has continually shown her support for the community and has contributed to the building and maintenance of the monastery, especially with construction of several of the women’s dwellings.

Ruth Denison’s broader influence can be seen in many areas of Buddhism in the United States. She was a pioneer in bringing Insight Meditation (in the Burmese U Ba Khin tradition) westward. She taught and helped to establish many retreat centers, both in Europe and the United States. Ruth Denison also began teaching a women’s retreat that became an annual event, providing a great opportunity for women to practice meditation and develop community.

Over the many decades of Ruth Denison’s teaching career, and in parallel to her unique style and innovative teaching approach, she has emphasized “the Dharma” as the essence of what has been passed along from teacher to student since the time of the Buddha. For her, it does not seem to matter whether this unfolds as the continuance of the traditional monastic sangha in the west, or in creative methods and new venues for sharing the teachings. Ruth Denison’s unbiased approach to upholding the Dharma is a great treasure to those who encounter her.

When we arrived at her home in early September, we spent some time in the afternoon visiting with Ruth. Now, in her early 90’s, she is experiencing periods of poor health, but during our visit she showed great energy and enthusiasm for talking about the Dharma. She made a strong point of insisting that practitioners should not settle for any common form of happiness, but should rather persist until they find the highest happiness possible in the Buddhist teachings. Luang Por Pasanno provided encouragement and admiration for Ruth’s practice and then offered paritta (“protective”) chanting for Ruth’s continued well-being.

It was not easy to leave Dhamma Dena that afternoon as many there knew it might be the last time they were together face-to-face. We left feeling inspired by the vitality of Ruth and her strong devotion to the Dharma, and also by the strength and enduring care of those looking after her. Ruth Denison’s impact on the Abhayagiri community will always be appreciated, and it was well worth the effort to visit with her again and share in her wisdom.

Winter Retreat 2015

Beginning January 1st and continuing until March 31st, Abhayagiri will be in winter retreat. This annual time of quietude, gratefully supported by a team of lay supporters, gives Abhayagiri residents an opportunity to set aside work projects and concentrate on more formal aspects of meditation and the study of Dhamma. Short days, wet weather, and the silence of winter make this a natural time to be looking inward.

During these three months there will be no overnight guests accepted. (For overnight visits after the retreat please contact the monastery after April 1st, 2015.) This, however, does not mean that the monastery is closed to day visitors; day visits are still possible. As per usual, people are still welcome to attend the chanting, meditation, and Dhamma talks on Saturday nights and the evenings of the Lunar Observance Days. People wishing to visit the monastery to participate in the meal offering or bring offerings of requisites at meal time are also welcome.

For those interested in listening to, or downloading Dhamma talks from the monastery website, we plan on posting new talks regularly throughout the retreat.

Audio from 2014 Monastic Retreat Now Available

Various members of the extended Abhayagiri Community have come together to make the audio from the 2014 Thanksgiving Monastic Retreat available online. The 29 talks given by Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Karunadhammo, Ajahn Ñaniko, and Debbie Stamp at the 2014 Thanksgiving Monastic Retreat in Santa Rosa, California from November 21 to November 30 are available for online browsing (opens in new tab) and can be requested on CD. Furthermore, the individual questions from the Question & Answer sessions have been indexed and can be listened to individually. A 586 MB zip file can also be downloaded from the audio section of this website.

Forest Sangha News

The annual Forest Sangha Newsletter published by Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England is now available online.

Three file sizes are available this year, to help those with slower internet connections:

For a high resolution PDF (50 mb), please use this link: amaravati.org/pdf/FSN_94_highres.pdf

A medium resolution PDF (14 mb) is available at this link: amaravati.org/pdf/FSN_94_mediumres.pdf

A low resolution PDF (4.5 mb) is available at this link: amaravati.org/pdf/FSN_94_lowres.pdf

The newsletter contains many noteworthy articles including several in honor of Luang Por Sumedho’s 80th birthday and an article by Ajahn Sucitto marking his recent transition from being abbot of Chithurst Monastery in England. Copied below is the article concerning the recent news at Abhayagiri.

News from Abhayagiri

Abhayagiri Monastery had the good fortune to host Luang Por Sumedho for ten days in July. Though we encouraged him to spend as much time as he wanted in the secluded Elder’s Cabin, Luang Por was remarkably generous with his time. Most days he spent over an hour after the meal chatting with monastics and lay guests about the ‘path to the Deathless’ and how happy he is to have trained with Luang Por Chah. On 13 July he gave a public talk at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), the large Chinese Mahayana monastery nearby, describing his early days of practice and how Master Hua, the founder of CTTB, had offered half the land that became Abhayagiri Monastery shortly before his death in 1995. In his introduction Rev. Heng Sure recalled Master Hua’s description of the land: ‘We have a piece of mountainside. It’s pretty rugged. It’s suitable only for monks.’ In the nearly twenty years since Master Hua’s gift, Abhayagiri Monastery has indeed become a suitable environment for monastic training. A total of twenty monks have ordained and trained with Luang Por Pasanno since the founding of Abhayagiri. Sixteen of these monks are still in robes, and four of them have over ten years as a monk. This year Tan Suhajjo took bhikkhu ordination, Sāmaneras Khantiko and Gambhīro ordained as novices, and Anagārikas Doug and John took on the white robes. Abhayagiri monks typically spend their third year after ordination training in a monastery abroad, and this year Tan Khemako is dwelling at Tisarana Monastery near Ottawa and Tan Pesalo is spending the year at various monasteries in Thailand.

Reception Hall Construction

Although the community of residents and visitors has increased in size, we are still functioning with the original Dhamma Hall (a converted garage) and main building/kitchen (originally a small bungalow). While we have done our best to make use of these buildings, the monastery has outgrown them, and we have begun construction of a new Reception Hall as a replacement. The main floor of the new structure consists of a meditation hall, a commercial-grade kitchen and outdoor wooden veranda to accommodate overflow crowds. The lower floor contains a small shrine room, library, day room for visiting elders, laundry room, showers for male lay guests, food storage space and childcare facilities. The Reception Hall is the last building we plan to construct in the lower cloister area, and has been carefully designed to make the best possible use of the limited flat land available. We are fortunate to be employing the same team of architects, project manager, general contractor, and heavy equipment operators who built the Cloister Offices (2006) and the Bhikkhu Commons (2010). The project will be completed in four phases whose timing depends on available funding. Hillside excavation and construction of a concrete retaining wall began in July 2013, and Phase I of the construction was completed with the pouring of the foundation and concrete floors in November. Phase II of the project will consist of finishing the exterior walls, roof, windows and doors, so that the structure is weatherproof. However, by late 2013 our financial stewards did not have enough funds to start Phase II, so construction was mostly on hold during 2014. Generous donors have now provided enough funds and Phase II will commence in March 2015. We plan to finish the interior of the building in Phase III and landscape the cloister area in Phase IV.

Pacific Hermitage

The Pacific Hermitage, Abhayagiri’s first branch monastery, established in south-west Washington in 2010, continues to flourish. The Hermitage maintains the practice of a daily alms-round into the nearby town of White Salmon, and four days a week the monks rely solely on the alms received in that manner for their daily nourishment. The Hermitage is unique in that it consists of only three bhikkhus, with no resident novices or stewards. The town of White Salmon has been very generous and hospitable and has offered plenty of support. Ajahn Sudanto, the senior monk of the Pacific Hermitage, is currently taking a one-year sabbatical to focus on formal practice. He plans to return in April 2015. In other news from this region, Portland Friends of the Dhamma, the Pacific Northwest lay group associated with Abhayagiri Monastery, recently acquired its own centre in the heart of Portland, Oregon. The grand opening weekend in June 2014 was attended by more than a dozen monks from our tradition, including Luang Por Sumedho, Luang Por Pasanno, Luang Por Vīradhammo, Ajahn Preecha and Ajahn Sona. Luang Por Sumedho offered a day-long retreat as part of the weekend of festivities and ceremonies, which were attended by a large number of people. It was an inspiring gathering, offering an auspicious start to this new centre.

New Reception Hall Construction Photos

A new series of photos of the current status of the new reception hall have been posted. Check out the new photo gallery detailing how the foundation stands for Winter at: http://www.abhayagiri.org/gallery/6079091430836696833

Born On a Four Rebuilds Outdoor Buddha Area

During Ajahn Sumedho’s stay, Rik Center was at the monastery contemplating how to support the monastery with an anniversary birthday project. A number of friends of Abhayagiri who were “born on a four” (born in 1954, 1964, 1974, etc.) were interested to continue the success of the previous year’s project. Despite the enthusiasm of the “born on a four” crew, nobody knew what a suitable project would be.

Then one day, while taking with Dennis Crean in the cloister area, Rik looked up the hill to the outdoor Buddha rupa area. He reflected on how rarely he goes up there and recognizing there were steps from the driveway that went up and lead to nowhere. Standing below the hill no one could tell or even see the other trail that goes around from the side. Plus, even if one was able to finally find their way up to the Buddha there was nowhere to sit. Rik recognized in himself there was a lonely and desolate feeling of separation from the beautiful Buddha that was so close and yet so far.

He saw the possibility of steps that would continue on from the first steps leading up from the driveway. Rik imagined benches that would make it easier to sit by the Buddha and look out over the monastery grounds. He was imagining not just the view of the current cloister area, but also the view of the future reception hall and outdoor deck. He further considered that some landscaping and plants would brighten up the area on the hill and having some colorful flowers on a sconce hanging from the poles on the Buddha’s shelter would raise our eyes and mind up towards the Buddha. After sharing these thoughts with Dennis and conferring with Ajahn Pasanno, the project was a go!

After a bit more organizational work, some online shopping, and some help from “Cody” our neighbor and heavy equipment operator, the transformation began. The “born on the four’s” provided the primary funding and put all the pieces into place to create our new Buddha rupa hill area. Those from the group who were available came together at the end of September to finish up the project. On Sunday, September 28th the “born on the four’s” put the benches together, raked the stones and celebrated their birthdays with a meal at the monastery including a lovely Red Velvet birthday cake.

The following day, under the guidance of Betsy Blessing and Rik who had been out shopping all morning at the local nurseries, new foliage and one hundred flower bulbs were planted into the ground with the help of the monastic community. In addition, funding from the Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrims supported two new outdoor benches. Led by the Born on the Four Group and with help of many hands, the new Buddha Rupa area was ready in time for the 2014 Kathina Festival. The space is a welcome addition to the cloister and it continues to be available for use by all visitors.

Many blessings to the generosity of our Sangha and how we all turn the wheel of awakening together.

For a photo gallery illustrating the transformation, click on the link below.

Born On a Four Photo Gallery

The participants in the Born On a Four Project are:

Rik Center

Paul Catasus

Catherine Direen

Edward Lewis

Mary (Sakula) Reinard

Apple Shutintorn

Hisayo Suzuki

Anagarika JohnBetsy BlessingBuddhist Bicycle Pilgrims

Change of Mealtime to 10:45 am

Due to the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time on November 2nd, the Abhayagiri mealtime will be 10:45 am from November 2nd onward.

Kathina 2014 Photo Gallery

On October 12th, approximately 200 members of the extended Abhayagiri Community assembled for the annual Kathina celebration. The Abhayagiri Sangha wishes to express appreciation for the harmony, cooperation and generosity of those in attendance, as well as the ongoing support of the lay community, who contribute in many different ways, allowing the Abhayagiri community to continue to practice and grow.

Below is a link to a photo gallery from the 2014 Kathina :

Kathina 2014 Photo Gallery

Anumodana.

Buddhist Bicycle Bridge

This September the Abhyagiri community completed its newest and longest bridge. The bridge, which spans a gully on the Blackrock trail, was designed and built by the resident Abhayagiri Community. The funding for the bridge was provided through a donation by the 2013 Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrims.

Click on the below link for photos of the bridge:

Photos of Bridge

For more information on the Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage see the website https://ssl.dharmawheels.org/

Merit and the Awakening Mind: a talk given at the First International Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony

Luang Por Pasanno offered this Dhamma talk on the subject of “Merit and the Awakening Mind” on Friday October 10, 2014 at the first international Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony held in the United States sponsored by the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International (LBDFI).

A youtube video of his talk is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g7Y0IpKz2g&feature=youtu.be