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Okay To Visit the Monastery (Was Do Not Visit the Monastery)

[Update - October 26, 2017] Abhayagiri Monastery is now open to the public. The following article has been kept for reference.


Please do not visit the monastery at this time.

If you haven’t heard the good news yet, as of Tuesday, October 17, the Abhayagiri community will be returning to the monastery property. However, the monastery is not yet open to public.

There are a number of checkpoints along the roads inside Redwood Valley and the law enforcement officials will turn away any non-residents. In addition, the area is still fairly dangerous, e.g., the air quality is poor, some areas are still smoldering, etc.

When Abhayagiri is ready to receive visitors, and the area is deemed safe, we will post an announcement on our website.

Supporting the Monastery

[UPDATE - October 22, 2017] This article originally suggested that those who wished to support the monastery could do so by sending a gift card from a nearby grocery store. The response was overwhelming and, at present, the gift cards we have received are sufficient for our needs.. The Abhayagiri community is deeply appreciative and we would like to share our gratitude for people’s generosity.

Fire Update, October 16, 2017

IMPORTANT: As October 17, 2017, Abhayagiri Monastery is not open to the public. We will post an announcement when people will be allowed to visit the monastery.

During the morning meeting today Luang Por Pasanno read out loud an email from Tan Kovilo describing a reflection given by Luang Por Liem at Wat Pah Nanachat. You can read it here:

Don’t Let Your Thoughts Get you Down by Luang Por Liem

Debbie received a message indicating that the Tomki road residents would be allowed to return to their homes, and that included the monastery. So, at around 10am, Luang Por Pasanno, Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, Ajahn Jotipālo, Sāmaṇera Tissaro and Debbie left the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to do an initial reconnaissance mission back to the monastery.

The crew came back a few hours later and reported that the monastery, with a few exceptions, was completely intact. There were still many fire personnel on the property as fires are still smoldering. However, no structures were damaged, at least none the crew could see on their initial trip.

Ajahn Jotipālo recounted one experience talking with a firefighting crew from New Mexico:

I asked the crew from New Mexico how it was fighting the fire. They had been on the property for about 5 days. They said it was the weirdest thing, like the monastery refused to burn.

They said one evening (probably the day Timothy Luke was forced to leave Mt. Tabor, when he reported seeing 200 foot tall flames on the ridge) that 10 battalions (20 to a battalion) were out on the loop trail fighting the fires coming down from the ridge. They reported that the fires got down to the loop trail but the fire wouldn’t cross the trail. They said it was like the monastery refused to burn, and none of them could explain it. They reported their hair sanding on it’s end and then the fire reversed itself and went back up the mountain. Everybody was kind of freaked-out, as they had never seen anything like this.

I asked several of the other crews about their experience and they all reported about this.

Later in the afternoon, Ajahn Jayanto came to pay a visit to the community and offer a reflection, encouraging the community to use their unique experience to deepen mindfulness and awareness.

Photos of our last full day at CTTB

In the evening, Luang Por Pasanno gave a talk this evening to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. You can watch it here:

Fire Update, October 15, 2017

Most of the community went down to Fremont today to hold the Kathina Ceremony at Wat Buddhanusorn. Hundreds of people showed up to share their support for the monastic community.

See more photos from Kathina. Also, if you have photos that you would like to share with us, please send us a message.

Just before the Kathina Ceremony started, Luang Por Pasanno shared some positive news that the major buildings on the Abhayagiri property were not damaged. In addition, during the Sunday evening’s county press conference, officials were confident that the properties along Tomki road, including the Abhayagiri property, would be reopened for residents and owners very soon.

Luang Por Pasanno will be giving a talk on Monday at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas starting at 8:15pm.

Luang Por Passano’s talk will be streamed live via gotomeeting. You can join the meeting from computer, tablet or phone by going to:

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/474278437

Fire Update, October 14, 2017

The community held puja this morning. This was the first time the community held a traditional Abhayagiri morning puja since the evacuation last Monday.

Later, during the morning meeting, Debbie shared additional information she had received from the county officials during the previous evening’s press conference. Debbie confirmed that firefighters had a significant presence throughout the Redwood Valley area including the monastery property. They had what were called “hard lines” of firefighters at various locations including the ridge on the monastery. Debbie also said that there were indications that the fire has gotten into the property, although specific details were still not available. Debbie told one of the fire chiefs that it was okay to let the cabins go if it was needed and she was told in response, “Whether it’s a million dollar house or a small cabin, they are all valuable to us.”

The morning meeting continued and people discussed the activities for the day, including holding a puja and Dhamma talk in the evening as well as preparing for Sunday’s Kathina. Students at the nearby Sudhana Center invited a few Abhayagiri monks for a meal offering. Ajahn Siripañño agreed to give another Dhamma talk to university students at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Luang Por Pasanno offered a reflection to the community and then the monastics chanted for Sondra and Dee who had lost their homes in the Redwood Valley fires. You can listen to the audio recording of the reflection and the chanting here:

https://www.abhayagiri.org/new/talks/6707-wise-reflections-for-evacuees

People had the meal at 11am. People gathered to help with the cleaning at 2pm. Tea time was at 5pm. We were settling into a schedule again.

After tea, the community caravaned to the Sudhana Center which is about a 15 minute drive in Ukiah. From there, we listened to the official press conference for the Redwood Complex fire streaming over the Internet. The officials were confident that, if the conditions remained good throughout the night, they would be able to contain much of the fire and allow most people back into their homes and properties relatively soon. That said, it doesn’t appear that the Abhayagiri property is going to be included in the “soon” list, and additional details were not forthcoming.

See more photos from the trip to the Sudhana Center.

People were happy to hear that one guest, who was with the community throughout evacuation, was able to retrieve her car that was left behind when the group evacuated north along Tomki Road.

After the press conference, we gathered for evening puja in the meditation hall inside the Sudhana Center. Luang Por gave a Dhamma talk on using the three refuges as a constistant reflection throughout our lives. We came back afterwards to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to retire for the evening.

The day felt surprisingly normal.

Kathina - Important New Information and Help Needed

We have important new information for people coming to Kathina at Wat Buddhanusorn this coming Sunday, October 15.

  1. Please carpool as parking at Wat Buddhanusorn is limited.
  2. Even better, leave your car at home and take BART to the Union City station. There will be vehicles coming every 15 minutes (or so) to shuttle you and your friends/family to Wat Buddhanusorn.
  3. If anyone has a van or large vehicle to help transport people to and from BART, please show up at Wat Buddhanasorn by 8:30 am.
  4. We need volunteers to show up at Wat Buddhanasorn by 8:30 am to help with set-up. There is no need to contact us—just show up.
  5. The Kathina ceremony will start at 12:30 pm, not 1:00 pm as previously mentioned.

Abhayagiri Kathina: October 15, 2017 (Moved to Wat Buddhanusorn)

The Kathina Ceremony will begin at 12:30pm (as opposed to 1pm as previously stated.)

We would also like to confirm that we will be holding Kathina this Sunday, October 15, but the location of the Kathina has been changed.

Abhayagiri’s Kathina will be held on Sunday, October 15 at Wat Buddhanusorn:

36054 Niles Blvd.
Fremont, CA
94536


Each year since the time of the Buddha, at the end of the three-month Rains Retreat, the lay community around every Buddhist monastery has gathered to celebrate the completion of the retreat and to offer to the monastic community gifts of cloth and supplies that will be useful for the coming year. The cloth is then cut, sewn and dyed by the monks to make a robe on that day to offer to one of the Saṅgha. This 2,500-year-old tradition is still carried on here in the West in the Theravadan monasteries. It is initiated by a lay supporter or a group of supporters who request to organize the preparation and formal offerings. It is both a significant and joyful occasion that, over time, has become emblematic of the richness of the relationship that exists between the lay people and the monastics. This relationship is characterized by deep bonds of friendship and commitment to mutual support. All year round, the monastery functions solely on offerings from the lay community.

Ajahn Jayanto plans to visit for this year’s Kathina. He will also be giving a public talk at Stanford at 5:30 pm on October 17.

Please plan on carpooling if possible. Parking is limited.

Please be here well in advance of the 11 am meal offering.

Sunday, October 15

  • 11 a.m. Meal Offering People are welcome to bring a dish to share.
  • 12:30 p.m. Kathina Ceremony Refuges, Precepts and Dhamma Talk.

Anyone who wishes to make offering for Kathina can consult the Kathina Dana List.

Fire Update, October 13, 2017

On Friday, the community spent the day being of service. Some helped cook and clean in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Several of the senior monks offered teachings to the university and boys high school students. Others went over to the Sudhana Center in Ukiah (an affiliated center of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas) to help clean and move furniture.

Luang Por Pasanno, after hearing about the efforts during the day, gave an impromptu Dhamma talk during evening tea. He stressed the importance of continuing to practice in all situations and explained how forest monks have traditionally used cleaning and care of one’s requisites as a way of cultivating mindfulness and skillful attention.

Lending a hand to CTTB


After evening tea, most of the community watched the Mendocino County Mendocino Sheriff and Fire meeting regarding the Redwood Complex fire streamed over the Internet.

The news from the meeting was cautious but hopeful. The burn area is currently 34,000 acres and only 20% contained. Most of that burn area still contains trees and tree roots that are still burning. That said, the past 36 hours provided very good weather conditions for the fire personel and a lot of work was accomplished throughout the affected area. Officials also reported that the number of firefighters went from 700 to 2,100 people during the last couple days. There was also a report of a 40% chance of rain next week around Wednesday.

There was only a little specific information regarding the monastery property as reported by the officials. Following the report, the community discussed the situation and people generally agreed that Abhayagiri’s major buildings are most likely still intact, although everything is still speculation. Significant fire control lines were reported to be in place in the area west of the monastery, as well as additional control lines in the “back” of the monastery (what we assume to be the north-eastern area) as well the area stretching into Potter Valley. The monastery’s Internet service provider also informed us that the the radio transmitter on the ridge and a radio at the Bhikkhu Commons was still in operation, which implies that at least these buildings have not been affected by the fire.


A couple news stories regarding the recent fires came to our attention that we thought to share with the wider community:


A lay man who has been with and assisting the community since the evacuation has been generously taking photographs during our stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Here is another collection of photographs that he posted recently:

Settling in at CTTB

Redwood Complex Fire - Timeline of Events - Monday through Thursday

Ajahn Jotipālo has kindly offered the following journal of events chronicling Abhayagiri’s experience with the Redwood Complex fire.

Monday, October 9th

According to Cal Fire, a major wildfire started in Redwood Valley late on Sunday night. Fortunately, at 2AM, a community member woke up and noticed that the southern sky was pulsating red. He quickly started alerting other community members. As people left their cabins, flames were coming up over the ridge to the south. These were the initial fires that burned through the East Road–West Road junction area in Redwood Valley, about 2 miles south of the monastery.

The Abhayagiri community gathered at the main cloister area down the hill and organized an evacuation. A neighbor informed us that Tomki Road heading south was blocked due to flames and downed power lines, so the community decided to evacuate by driving north to Willits using a dirt road. Along the way, several cars had to be abandoned due to rough road conditions. Generous neighbors in trucks allowed the stranded community members to board their vehicles and be safely ferried to Willits.

The community gathered at the Willits City Hall which was made available for fire evacuees before moving to a Red Cross shelter at Willits High School. Everyone was impressed with the volunteers’ quick response and kindness. They provided meals and supplies and even opened a separate building for the monks to use.

We met with many evacuees from the area including neighbors whose property was devastated by the fires. Father Damian from Holy Transfiguration Monastery (next door to Abhayagiri) later told us that, by noon on Monday, they were able to drive south on Tomki Road. He said the properties starting about two miles south of the monastery were completely devastated. He also said he couldn’t tell where he was at many points as the landscape had changed so drastically.

At the time, the town of Willits was without phone and Internet service making communication very difficult. Eventually, a monk traveled to Laytonville, 23 miles north of Willits, where he was able to get internet service. He was able to reach Luang Por Pasanno who was in New Hampshire at the time. Luang Por, who had been reading the news and receiving information from people all over the world, had much better information about the fire than the stranded community.

With little communication with the outside world and thick layers of smoke descending on Willits, the group decided to spend the night in Fort Bragg. Mettika from the Three Jewels Meditation Center in Fort Bragg had generously offered to house the twenty-six evacuees for the evening.

Tuesday, October 10th

On Tuesday morning, the group still had almost no information about whether or not fires had affected the property. They knew, however, that the fire was zero percent contained and continued to affect large swaths of Redwood Valley and Potter Valley.

The group decided to accept the invitation from Dharma Master Heng Lyu to stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) in Ukiah. The community arrived at CTTB mid-afternoon, were warmly welcomed by Venerable Jin Chuan, and provided with rooms and amenities.

That evening, Father Damian reported that their community was safe and was staying in Ukiah. He also reported that a neighbor informed him that as of 5PM on Tuesday that Abhayagiri was not on fire but that fires could be seen behind the ridge line of the property.

Wednesday, October 11th

The next day the group rested.

Debbie and Beth attended a news briefing with county officials and reported back to the community.

Officials said the fires started because the humidity levels had been the lowest they have ever seen for this time of year. On Wednesday, the wind changed directions and were blowing from the ocean. This also meant the winds were blowing away from the monastery. The strong and gusty winds provide a dangerous environment, but the humidity in the air helped. It was still a dangerous situation, but not the highest alert level. Because conditions at the fire can be affected by many factors, so was difficult to know how all the factors affected the fire closest to the monastery.

The county officials showed a rough map indicating the active fire lines and the areas where the fire fighting crews were trying to prevent the fire from entering. The monastery property was in the middle of one of the fire fighting zones. Later, a monastery supporter informed the group that they had heard that fire fighting crews were on the monastery property.

The officials also stressed that the maps available on the Internet showing fire lines and hot spots are not reliable, and that only people on the ground can know for sure what is happening. County officials reported that of the ten big fires that were being tackled by firefighters, the cluster of fires affecting the monastery was the third in priority. They reported further that California is well organized and has been able to bring in other fire fighting resources from other states.

At 6pm, Luang Por Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo arrived at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The entire community was together again.

Thursday, October 12

We have been settling in at CTTB and greatly appreciating all of the hospitality here.

As of Thursday afternoon, officials reported that the Redwood Complex fire has spread to 32,000 acres and was only 5% contained. Officials also reported that 1,000 people were evacuated Wednesday night from Potter Valley which is just to the east of Redwood Valley. In total, there have been 8 fatalities and 8,000 people displaced because of the fire.

We heard from various sources that fire crews are using Abhayagiri’s parking lots as a staging area. This is both good and bad news for the property. It’s good news in that that the cloister area is being protected and safe enough for them to keep their equipment at the site. But it’s bad news in that the fires are very close.

The extended weather forecast for the weekend also indicated stronger winds. The fires started and spread on Sunday and Monday because of strong winds, and those conditions are expected to return Friday night and continue through Saturday.

There was still no definite information about the monastery property or when we would be allowed to return.

While the news of the monastery property continued to be volatile and uncertain, the community was in good spirits and people have been deeply touched by the generosity and kindness from both friends and strangers.

Supporting the Monastery In Response to the Redwood Valley Fire

Many of you have asked how you can help the monastery and laypeople who have been affected by the wildfires. Your expressions of generosity and spirit of community are the sorts of blessings that naturally arise during such a crisis.

Since the fires are still burning—both near the monastery and the homes of lay supporters—it is still too soon to know what sort of help will be needed. For now, the monastery residents are safe and being well cared for at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, as are lay friends who were also forced to evacuate their homes.

But soon, once the fires are out and the smoke has cleared, it will become clearer as to what is needed. At that time, we will post more information here about how you can help, both the monastery community and those lay supporters who may be in need.

Until then, we are grateful for your practice.

For those who wish to support our many neighbors who already lost their homes along Tomki Road and throughout the Redwood Valley area, the local Community Foundation of Mendocino County provides a means to do so at http://www.communityfound.org/.

Fire Update, October 12, 2017

As many people are aware, Redwood Valley and nearby Potter Valley are experiencing a large wildfire also known as the “the Redwood Complex Fire.” The fire started late Sunday night on October 8, 2017. As of Thursday afternoon, the fire has spread to an area of over 30,000 acres and only 5% of has been contained.

The monastery residents became aware of the fire around 2am Monday morning. The fire was visible to residents just over the neighboring ridge and the community organized an evacuation shortly thereafter. The community, along with many people in the neighborhood, were able to safely make their way to a shelter in Willits later in the morning. From there, the community spent the night at the Three Jewels Meditation Center in Fort Bragg. Communication during this time was either non-existent or spotty as most communication lines and cell phones were non-operational.

When the fire broke out, Luang Por Pasanno was away attending the Kathina at Temple Forest Monastery in New Hampshire. He became aware of the fire only after people started messaging him after hearing reports about the fire in the news. Dharma Master Heng Lyu later communicated with Luang Por Pasanno and extended an invitation to the evacuted Abhayagiri community to stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah. The community accepted the offer and made their way to City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Tuesday afternoon where they are now as of Thursday afternoon.

Photos of the community leaving Abhayagiri.

Current reports from fire authorities suggest that the main monastery buildings are okay but conditions are highly volatile and the situation can change very quickly. According to the officials, there will be low relative humidity and high wind speeds over the next couple days.

Officials are not allowing anybody back into the area, including the monastery, at this time.

We also would like to echo what fire officials have told us: satellite maps often do not reflect what is actually going on the ground. We realize there are many sources of information that provide detailed accounts of fire or damage coverage, including those from official sources like CalFire, but they often can lead to misapprehensions and misunderstandings.

We are asking that people not travel to Ukiah or visit us at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at this time. The area is heavily impacted as many people are without homes due to the fire evacuations.

Photos from the first couple days at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.