New Dhammadharini City Center and/or Monastery ~ Welcoming Your Input

Warm greetings, dear Path friends,

I'm writing this just back from a Dhammadharini board meeting in Fairfax followed by a visit to our hermitage in all of its warmth and glorious springtime symphony of fresh greens and wildflowers.

a grass roots wish ~ our foundation

On extended visit to Bay Area Thai Buddhist monastery Wat Buddhanusorn nearly 10 years ago, local monastic and lay friends requests and encouragement led me to go ahead with founding our first Theravada bhikkhuni vihara in the Western United States at the south end of Fremont's Niles district with Wat Buddhanusorn was at the north. Dhammadharini took birth as a religious non-profit nearly 8 years ago, originally named the Dhammadharini Support Foundation. As many of you may remember, we began in a little rented condominium by the train tracks at the other side of town, and dedicated women interested in entering the monastic life and men and women interested in supporting others came and joined together, sometimes squeezed in as much as our space could allow.

the birth of a women's monastic hermitage

Four years ago we were blessed with the gift of beautiful natural space, with the use of a large piece of coastal redwood forest land for a women's monastic hermitage that has become our Aranya Bodhi. This has been an incredible boon for us, and provided further opportunity for supporting women's aspirations in the monastic life. Instead of spending thousands of dollars of donor's contributions each month on rent and utilities, we have been able to make simple meditation huts and campsites and use a yurt for gathering, and tap a natural drinking water spring and the sun direct for water and energy. This has been wonderful in this time.

the bodhi house

And, thanks to several friends' rent-free offering of their homes, and especially Liz Crisp's most kind three-year-long sharing of space in her home that became the Bodhi House -- as we were asked and invited to do -- we have also been able to maintain a full or part-time women's monastic presence in our old Vihara's area of the San Francisco East Bay, where we came to know and care for many friends in the first years.

gratitude & growth

These inspired gifts of support from friends have enabled us to do many things previously only dreamed of. Our gratitude is immeasurable, and we have so grown. We have grown in our practice, in our hearts, and -- as was so wished for -- grown in monastic community, with the numbers of women now feeling encouraged and inspired to ordain, or to voice and live their aspiration, only increasing.

a monastery

Since the year before last, we realized that we were going to be in need of a monastery. So far, in order to be able to receive new women aspirants into the monastic life, we have been cycling women through. This means that most all have not been able to stay with us long term, but have been then returned out to the world -- to other monastery and retreat locations abroad. Fortunately, the opportunities in other countries like Canada, Australia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are also growing, and we have worked to support this too -- with much gratitude to so many friends who have joined together in this merit.

But, we would like to be able to begin to allow more monastics to stay here with us. To deepen their practice here with us, and to share the benefits of their deepening of practice with us here in this area. Not only to import and export, but to really grow our Sangha here -- homegrown, and allow its benefits to sink and seep back into this area, further nurturing and supporting both us and them.

Our hermitage is a precious jewel and treasure as it is -- pristine and ruggedly natural, quiet and secluded. It is far from all disturbances of the world, and also far for friends to visit and participate but now and then in special times. And our lodging within the Bodhi House is a women's monastic sanctuary within a private home, a beautiful lodging that it is time to bless returning to being a family home.

We feel the need of a place that is a monastic sanctuary for both monastics and retreating friends, that is also open and accessible to the public, to our greater community of friends. A place where both friends and monastics who are elderly or in not strong health can easily come and abide. A place where we can have regular programs open to the public. A place where friends can join us for our daily, weekly and fortnightly chanting, meditation, Dhamma talks, and come for personal guidance and sharing in the Buddhist path. A place where the local community can come to learn about the Buddha's teaching, and where our monastics can easily accept the invitations that come to share, in hospitals, or schools or graveyards, or local hilltops and valleys. A place that is ours -- a place of women's Sangha -- a true Buddhist monastery/vihara.

In our Dhammadharini board meeting Saturday, we spoke of this.

And now, we would like to welcome your ideas and thoughts, visions and dreams. We would like to know what you think, what you would like to see, what you hope for, what you wish to have be a part of the growing blessings of our lives in or practice of the path together.

I welcome your writing back to me personally, as does Ayya Sobhana and our Dhammadharini Board of Directors.

After the joyous days of the upcoming bhikkhuni ordinations of our dear Dhamma Sisters, together with Vesak celebrations, we will be sharing time together in consideration and beginning our looking for this new place. Look out for upcoming news from Friends of Dhammadharini (our board and advisors) about gathering times to dream and vision about this together. If you have thoughts and ideas please do not wait too long to share them -- we plan to be looking for our new place before and moving after the end of this coming vassa -- within these next six months.

With much loving kindness
and thoughts of good wishes to all of us,
wishing us well in this endeavor,

Ayya Tathaaloka Theri
for our greater Dhammadharini Sangha
(here and abroad)
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