Greetings from India, land of the Buddha!
I am privileged to spend the New Year holiday here where, on behalf of Dhammadharini, I will attend the Sakyadhita International Buddhist Women's Conference in Vaishali. Right now, I am in sunny Jaipur, the Pink City. Perhaps some of you may remember the movie "The Exotic Marigold Hotel" that was filmed here. Soon I will be reunited with Venerable Adhimutta and Venerable Munissara in Vaishali for the conference.
In reflecting on this past year, I am amazed at how many changes have taken place and how far we have come, both in terms of physical growth and in terms of growth of the heart and development of our community. First, and foremost, in matters of the heart, the relationship between the lay supporters and monastic sangha has deepened and new connections with other sanghas have proliferated. The monastic sangha has continued to strengthen relationships with other Bhikkhuni Sanghas, including Patimokkha recitations with the bhikkhunis of Aloka Vihara and Karuna Vihara, participation in bhikkuni ordinations at Dhammasara Monastery in Australia, and Dharma Vijaya in Los Angeles, and the Samaneri ordination of Sr. Jayati at Aloka Vihara as well as the Samaneri Pabbaja of Sr. Santacari at our Aranya Bodhi. Ayya Tathaaloka gave Dhamma teachings in New Zealand, conducted a Vinaya Research Retreat in Raurimu in the NZ North Island, and participated with Ven Adhimutta and Alison Hoffman in founding the New Zealand Bhikkhuni Sangha Trust.
Dhammadharini hosted vassa for six bhikkhunis, two of them theris with over ten years' seniority, with two monastics from abroad and four from USA. Both Ayya Tathaaloka and Ayya Sobhana offered Dhamma talks to the Kalyanamitta group, at Wat Buddhanusorn and the Peace Peace Pagoda in Fremont, Dharma Punx and San Jose Vipassana in the South Bay, Compassion Meditation Center in Hayward, and to the Santa Rosa Dedicated Practitioners Path group. Ayya Sudinna and Ayya Suvijjana also both offered Dhamma Talks at Aloka Vihara in San Francisco. Ayya Sobhana conducted a series of weekend daylong retreats at the American Buddhist Seminary's Temple in Sacramento, and a weeklong retreat at the Southern Dharma Center. Ayya Tathaaloka taught at the weeklong Dedicated Practitioners retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Both Ayya Sobhana and Ayya Tathaaloka also offered multiple Dhamma talks and Vinaya teachings at Dhammasara Monastery in Australia as well as at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. Our new Board member, Elad Levinson and his partner, Mary Ann have instigated a Kalyanmitta group in Petaluma, and are looking forward to Dhamma talks in the coming year from both Ayya Tathaaloka and Ayya Sobhana.
This is the first year that the Hermitage has come close to becoming fully habitable for the monastics, with the help of our resident monastics and stewards, and the marvelous new volunteer committee, headed by the incomparable Lulu Cook. Wiring for the hermitage's AC electrical system was completed late this year. The kitchen trailer was renovated, with new freezer and refrigerator, cabinets and counters, and a dinette convertible to a guest bedroom. Practically the lap of luxury!--(at least compared to camping under a tree). Several projects that were started and are still in progress include: setting up an eco-friendly system to purify the spring water, construction of a small toolshed and workshop, and installing a propane fireplace in our Dhamma & Dana Sala.
Two long-term members of our Board of Directors retired either late last year or early this year. I would like to express the utmost gratitude to Sara Sacksteder and Brenda Walsh, for their dedicated service. Sara had been a devoted supporter in organizing volunteers and maintaining our insurance. Brenda, one of the original founders, former President, and one of our legal advisors, contributed in many ways over her five years of service, but most especially secured our legal status as a church and nonprofit organization The Board of Directors has been blessed with the addition of three new members, Ann Valiant, Secretary; Lulu Cook, Vice President; and Elad Levinson, Director of Outreach. These new members bring dynamic new energy, diverse experience, and talent to our organization. Ann has completely renovated and streamlined our financial structure by introducing Quickbooks Online. This structure has truly made possible our financial survival. Elad facilitated several "visioning" sessions with the Board to bring us together in the formation of goals for longterm development.
The Board would like to express special gratitude to our benefactor for working with us to consult an attorney about the initial steps to legalize the eventual transfer of her gift of land, as well as to the kind donor who offered the initial legal consultation. Finally, Lulu has been inspirational in inaugurating a volunteer committee and organizing service days at Aranya Bodhi. Which brings me to offering anumodana to our wonderful lay community volunteers.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Lal for his indefatigable organization of meals for our monastics, and to all the friends and family who participated in offering almsmeals for the whole monastic community week by week during the vassa and since. Also, much gratitude to Samaneri Santacari for her service as hermitage kitchen manager over the vassa, as well as to friends Sherene, Holly and Healah for their dedicated months of service in hermitage stewardship. In addition, I would like to thank Ven. Suvijjana, Ven. Pasada, Sr. Santacari, Bea Chia and all the "Bodhi Movers Team" for their extra-ordinary support during our move from Bodhi House. Julie Cook has made tremendous strides in revamping our website, a project that will continue in the new year. Another new and continuing development has been the initiation of a long wished for local group of Sonoma County volunteers. Thank you, Jocelyn Mackin and Marla Skibbins and welcome to the Dhammadharini community!
Finally, with the help of a match grant from an anonymous donor, we have begun efforts to establish a proposed town monastery. Many thanks to Ven. Hanhtri Sakya, who has offered our bhikkhunis temporary lodging at the Peace Pagoda she founded in Fremont for the Kathina Season -- the period of the match grant.
This is just the beginning of the many accomplishments that have taken place. All in all, it's been an extraordinary year.
My sincerest gratitude for all of your contributions. I hope you will continue to partake in the wonderful opportunities for service and supporting and sharing with one another in Dhamma with Dhammadharini in the coming year. My best wishes to you and your families for happiness and prosperity in the new year.
Blessings to all,
Shari Gent, President