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A Birthday Gift for Abhayagiri

On June 16, 2013, a large assembly gathered high up on the Abhayagiri mountainside for a ceremony that happens about once a year at the monastery – the addition of one more fully ordained monk into the monastic Sangha. However, this year the ordination area was noticeably improved. As the laity watched Samanera Sudhīro become Sudhīro Bhikkhu, they sat comfortably on a newly leveled area recently covered with 20 cubic yards of Mendocino Arbor Mulch. Furthermore, the monks seated on the platform were protected from the fierce Mendocino sun by four new cantilever umbrellas, each 11 feet in diameter. Other noticeable improvements included rebuilt landings around the wooden deck as well as a smooth circumambulation path replete with lighting.

Where did all these improvements come from? The answer involves birthdays, Buddhist traditions, and a group of laypeople organized by local supporter Dennis Crean. With his 50th birthday approaching, Dennis considered how he might include the monastery in commemorating the big 5-0. Dennis had been drawing closer to the Ajahn Chah lineage ever since attending his first monastic retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in 1995 and then the 1996 Thanksgiving Retreat with Ajahn Amaro. He began visiting the newly opened Abhayagiri Monastery soon thereafter, and by 2002 he had moved into a house within walking distance of the monastery in order to participate more fully in the life of the monastery.

Over those years, Dennis has seen various Thai people come to the monastery to make offerings as a way to celebrate their birthdays. Inspired by this tradition, he felt drawn to make a special offering for his own big birthday this year. Being a publishing professional, he first thought he’d like to edit and print a Dhamma book. Thanks to his wife Heidi’s advice, he came to his senses after realizing how much work that would be. Instead, the two of them – this year being Heidi’s big 4-0 – decided to sponsor some sort of a building project at the monastery. After consulting with abbot of Abhayagiri, Luang Por Pasanno, Dennis opted to provide the supervision and financial support for improvements to the ordination platform area.

His mind always busy concocting plans, Dennis decided to invite everyone with a big birthday this year to join the effort, and the “Born on a 3” (i.e., 1963, 1973, 1983, etc.) project was born. At the suggestion of Abhayagiri’s abbot, Luang Por Pasanno, Dennis proposed to the group that they provide the supervision and financial support for improvements to the ordination platform area. The project picked up steam as more and more people decided to celebrate their birthdays as part of the group. Eventually, nearly 20 people raised over $8,000.00 to cover all the costs of the improvements to the ordination platform area. In addition to chipping in funds, a handful of group members and others pitched in with their own labor to spread out the mulch and do the final cleanup in anticipation of the upcoming ordination ceremony.

“Born on a 3” participants’ birth years span 90 years – from 1923 to 2013 and nearly every decade in between, the youngest being the newborn Leo Ananda Bernstein. Contributors to the project include an interesting cross-section of the greater Abhayagiri community. For instance, the Thai-born Janejira Sutanonpaiboon (1973) and Nook Fitzpatrick (1983) were already familiar with this Buddhist birthday tradition, while others born and raised in the U.S. joined as enthusiastic newcomers. However, no matter their age or country of origin, a common thread for all involved has been the wish to celebrate their birthdays by giving back to the monastery. As Casey Kho (1973) notes, “Instead of thinking too much about whether to get involved, I followed my heart. I felt like a kid again. I can’t recall the last time I got so excited about having my own birthday party!”

As a grand finale, the group will gather at the monastery on August 31 to celebrate their birthdays together and to formally offer the meal and their gift to Abhayagiri. All are welcome to attend; festivities begin with the 11 a.m. meal offering, followed by a dedication ceremony afterwards. As the project winds down, Dennis hopes that it might inspire others to come up with their own ideas (maybe a “Born on a 4” group in 2014?) for ways to support to the Abhayagiri community.

(Author Thitapañño Bhikkhu was born in 1983 and recently celebrated his big 3-0.)

Tudong Progress (June 28)

Our two monks on tudong (‘wandering’) are making their way North up the coast towards the Pacific Hermitage. Here are their latest messages:

(June 16) “We followed the Coast Trail (CT) from Klamath to Enders Beach and camped. Walked 3 miles on beach into Crescent City. The CT is an excellent alternative to 101, goes all the way up Oregon Coast.”

(June 17) “We are currently staying on Reservation land, South bank of the Smith River. The Native Americans here are impressed with our life and what we are doing, and are keen to look after us.”

(June 18) “We walked a gruelling 14 miles from Smith River to Brookings, OR. Got to Brookings just before midday and attempted to stand for almsfood at a gas station… the manager came out and asked us to leave. It was starting to rain. We gave up hope of getting food, then Tonya, who has a connection with Shasta Abbey, spotted us on the road, took us to a restaurant and quickly got us a meal.

She then introduced us to her friends at a local Reiki / Taroh reading shop, and they put us up for the night in a large apartment above the shop. Out of the rain.

Tudong is amazing, and absolutely everything is uncertain.”

(June 21) “Yesterday we walked north from Gold Beach, OR. We parted ways with Kidd and Amy, some of our newest friends, then it was long walk and we only stopped to camp after 9pm, just off the side of 101. This morning we got up and walked again, knowing we probably would not get to Port Orford in time for almsround. We were hoping someone would stop and give us a ride, but no one did, so day 21 of the walk has the distinction of being the first day we have gone without food.

After a midday sit down at Humbug Mountain campground, we trudged on. About 3 miles before Port Orford a man stopped and gave us a ride to a small forest resort in Port Orford. Now, once again, we are extremely well looked after.”

(June 24) “By way of some uncanny timing and circumstaces, Tan Thitabho and I are staying at my uncle’s house in Langlois, OR, out of the rain. It has been great to reconnect with my dad’s brother and his wife, and also to have a full day of much needed rest and recovery.”

(June 28) “We walked from Coos Bay towards a small town called Lakeside. Got picked up by two very kind locals, Carl and River, who took us to a nearby campground and paid for the campsite.

The ranger lady at the campground offered us firewood in the evening, then breakfast the next morning. We continued walking to Winchester Bay, where a local bought some sandwiches and fruit for us. Met and talked to more good people. Then we walked past Reedsport and got spotted by Tan Saddhammo and his parents, driving north on 101… How unexpected! They took us to Florence and got us a room at the Best Western there.”

Upāsika Day and Ordination

Upcoming Events at Abhayagiri:

Saturday, June 15 - Upāsika Day: “Devotion and Ritual: A Monastic’s Life.”

An exploration of various ceremonies and activities specific to the monastics’ way of life and how they apply in lay life.

The day will include topics such as a monk’s confession of offenses and the Patimokkha (the fortnightly recitation of the monks’ 227 precepts) and how it informs the monks’ daily life; and “Korwat”: various duties and protocols of the monastery that inform our practices of mindfulness, service, hospitality, and generosity.

The ceremony of Asking for Forgiveness will be discussed in relation to the teachings on Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

There will be audio-visual aids and demonstration of some of the ways monastics care for their requisites.

Schedule:

10:30 am Precepts,

11:00 am Meal offering,

1:00 - 4:30 pm Teachings and Discussion

4:30 pm Informal Tea

All are welcome.

Sunday, June 16 - Ordination Ceremony of Samanera Sudhīro.

All are welcome to attend the formal ceremony in which the novice Sudhīro will enter the monastic Sangha. The ceremony will take place at the recently improved ordination platform area. The ceremony will begin at 4:00 pm at the platform. Please arrive early as vehicles will begin taking people up the hill at 3:30 pm.

Tudong Monks Spotted in northern California

At mid-day on June 1, 2013 , Ajahn Ñāniko and Tan Thitābho set off on foot from Abhayagiri to walk north to the Pacific Hermitage in White Salmon, Washington. They are engaged in a traditional walking pilgrimage, commonly known as a tudong. On Sat., June 8, Doug Sherman caught up with them in Eureka, CA and provided a few photos of them as the go along in their journey. The photos are available in the photo gallery below.

Four days later the monastery received a brief message from Ajahn Ñāniko along with two more photos. Ajahn Ñāniko said, “We continue to have one amazing experience after another. At this point we are humbled by the support and generosity we have received from others.” As of the afternoon of June 12, the two travelers were in Trinidad, CA. They might end up getting a ride to Redwood National Park, south of Klamath and then continue walking from there.

Photos of Ajahn Ñāniko and Tan Thitābho in northern California

Ajahn Candasiri Visiting Abhayagiri

Ajahn Canadasiri, a senior nun of the Ajahn Chah Thai Forest Tradition, will be visiting Abhayagiri from June 5th until June 9th. Furthermore, she has been invited to offer the evening Dhamma talk on Saturday, June 8th.

Ajahn Candasiri was born in Scotland in 1947 and was brought up as a Christian. After university, she trained and worked as an occupational therapist, mainly in the field of mental illness. In 1977, an interest in meditation led her to meet Ajahn Sumedho, shortly after his arrival from Thailand. Inspired by his teachings and example, she began her monastic training at Chithurst as one of the first four Anagārikā.

Within the monastic community she has been actively involved in the evolution of the Nuns’ vinaya training. She has guided many meditation retreats for lay people, and particularly enjoys teaching young people and participating in Christian/Buddhist dialogue. Ajahn Candasiri currently resides at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.

Ajahn Sucitto to Visit Abhayagiri

Ajahn Sucitto, the abbot of Chithurst Buddhist Monasteryin England, will be visiting Abhayagiri from May 22nd to May 30th. It is planned to have him offer teachings the evening of Vesakha Puja, May 24th, and on the following Saturday evening, May 25th.

Below is a brief biography of Ajahn Sucitto from his recent book Parami : Ways to Cross Life’s Floods

“Born in London in 1949, Ajahn Sucitto entered monastic life in Thailand in 1975. He subsequently took bhikkhu ordination there in 1976, but returned to Britain in 1978 to train under Ven. Ajahn Sumedho in the lineage of the Thai forest master, Ven. Ajahn Chah.

In 1979, Ajahn Sucitto was part of the group that established Cittaviveka, Chithurst Forest Monastery, in West Sussex. He has lived there for the greater part of his monastic life, but travels on teaching engagements throughout the world.”

Ajahn Dtun to Visit Abhayagiri

Ajahn Dtun, a prominent meditation teacher within the Thai Forest Tradition, is expected to arrive at Abhayagiri late on the evening of Saturday, May 4th and depart on Friday, May 10th. Ajahn Dtun will be present at the Samanera Ordination of Anagarika Evan on Sunday, May 5th. The exact time of the ordination is slated to be determined the day of the ordination or the day before. Ajahn Dtun will also be invited to offer Dhamma reflections on the Lunar Observance Day Thursday, May 9th. Although we are filled to capacity for overnight guests at this time, as usual, all are welcome to come to Abhayagiri as day visitors. Below is a brief biography of Ajahn Dtun.

A Short Biography of Venerable Ajahn Dtun excerpted from This is the Path a collection of teachings by Ajahn Dtun.

Venerable Ajahn Dtun (Thiracitto) was born in the province of Ayutthaya, Thailand, in 1955. At the age of six his family moved to Bangkok and he remained living there until June 1978.From a young age he was a boy whose heart naturally inclined towards having a foundation in moral discipline. By the time he was a teenager and on into his university years there would be many small incidents that would fashion his life and gradually steer him away from the ways of the world towards wishing to live the Holy Life.

After graduating in March 1978 with a Bachelors degree in Economics, he was accepted into a Masters Degree course in Town Planning at the University of Colorado, USA. However, in the period that he was preparing himself to travel abroad many small insights would amalgamate in force and change his way of thinking from wishing to take his studies as far as he could and then lead a family life, to thinking that after graduating he would remain single and work with the aim of financially assisting his father until the time was right for him to ordain as a monk. One evening he happened to pick up a Dhamma book belonging to his father which opened, by chance, at the last words of the Buddha: ‘Now take heed, monks, I caution you thus: Decline and disappearance is the nature of all conditions. Therefore strive on ceaselessly, discerning and alert!’ Reading over this a second and then a third time, the words resonated deeply within his heart causing him to feel that the time had now come to ordain, knowing this was the only thing that would bring any true benefit to him. He resolutely decided that within two months he would ordain as a monk and that his ordaining would be for life.

In June 1978, he travelled to the north eastern province of Ubon Ratchathani to ordain with the Venerable Ajahn Chah at Wat Nong Pah Pong. Resolute by nature and determined in his practice he was to meet with steady progress regardless of whether he was living with Ajahn Chah or away at any of Wat Nong Pah Pong’s branch monasteries. In 1981, he returned to central Thailand to spend the Rains Retreat at Wat Fah Krahm (near Bangkok) together with Venerable Ajahn Piak and Venerable Ajahn Anan. The three remained living and practicing together at Wat Fah Krahm until late 1984. At this time Venerable Ajahn Anan and Venerable Ajahn Dtun were invited to take up residence on a small piece of forest in the province of Rayong in Eastern Thailand. Seeing the land was unsuitable for long term residence, Ajahn Dtun chose another piece of land that was made available to them - a forested mountain that would later become the present day Wat Marp Jan.After spending five years assisting Venerable Ajahn Anan in the establishing of Wat Marp Jan, he decided it was time to seek out a period of solitude so as to intensify his practice, knowing this to be necessary if he were to finally bring the practice of Dhamma to its completion. He was invited to practice on an eighty -acre piece of dense forest in the province of Chonburi and remained in comparative isolation for two years until 1992 when he eventually decided to accept the offering of land for the establishing of a monastery - Wat Boonyawad. Presently, the monastery spreads over 160 acres of land, all kindly given by the faith and generosity of Mr and Mrs. Boon and Seeam Jenjirawatana and family.Since allowing monks to come and live with him in 1993, the Venerable Ajahn has developed a growing reputation as a prominent teacher within the Thai Forest Tradition, attracting between forty to fifty monks to come and live, and practice, under his guidance.

New Reception Hall Building

This year Abhayagiri is planning the construction of a new Reception Hall building that will include a Dhamma Hall, large kitchen and food storage room, library, laundry, bathroom, children’s room, meeting room, storage and more. This building is the largest construction project Abhayagiri has taken on to date, and has been in planning for many years.

Abhayagiri is currently functioning with the original Dhamma Hall and main building/kitchen which were present when the monastery was first established in 1996, and have had various additions and remodels made to support the continual growth of the monastery. The Dhamma Hall was converted from a garage, and the main building, where the kitchen, library, and some guest amenities reside, was originally a small bungalow house.

As the community at Abhayagiri has grown, we have done our best to make use of these buildings, and they have served well, but the monastery is now in a position where it has outgrown these buildings. The Dhamma Hall is crowded with visitors on a weekly basis, and for special events and festival days it is unable to accommodate the large numbers of people. The monastery has also outgrown the kitchen and food storage facilities. It is difficult for more than a few people to work in the kitchen with enough space to prepare the meals, and the food storage is crowded and difficult to organize. These are some of the reasons for the construction of the new building, and we expect it to provide many benefits on into the future.

We are hoping to begin construction later this year depending on the completion and approval of plans, as well as funds available.

Click here to download a PDF with images and more information