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~A Good Goodbye to Ruth & Celebration of Dhamma

Tathālokā Therī

Dear friends, I'm back up from the desert, back to our vihara and the green Sonoma hills, but changed forever.

The desert is always an incredible environment. It was spring, air so fresh--like air is meant to be--and fragrant like honey, with fields of golden, white and purple wildflowers emerging out of rocks and sand.

And in the night sky, beneath the dark Spring Equinox Super Moon, the deeply-bright and twinkling night stars also lay scattered like fields across the sky, in the great stark land spread out from Mahapajapati Monastery. This is where i stayed for a few days before the last day of Ruth's funeral/memorial/celebration of life in Dhamma. The last phrase seems the most perfect. It was a celebration of life in Dhamma, and still is - as the stars unfold in their dance across the sky, so too the unfolding of our Universe, and of the Path within us. So many of Ruth's students and peers were Dhamma teachers, so many deep practitioners. As Ajahn Pasanno said, ~"she was so many things to so many people; she had a special knack and way with that." There was her life as a Dhamma friend, as a teacher, as a woman for women, and as a great supporter of the Theravada monastic Sangha, and of the revival of the bhikkhunis. She was (and is) all of these things and more. Even as now, the energy and love with which we held her in our hearts, is still just that. And the body made of elements drawn from all the world, is also still just that, returned amidst the world, in which it is infinitely transforming. Breath to the air, dust to dust, water to water, heat dispersed, as the fire, cooling... I truly admire the wonderful way in which Ruth choose for her death, her going out. And the truly gorgeous and glorious way in which all of her students and friends and teachers gathered in Dhamma. To die like this, to me, seems more a cause of rejoicing even than how we rejoice for being born in the world. Noble, bright and beautiful -- showing the way it can be in the Dhamma. Our hearts so need such vision, such culture. Now i will share with you some images. The first is a triptych.

This was prepared by our dear friend Darlene. I wish that all homes would have such a tri-photo display in them to contemplate from the time we are very young, through each stage of our lives. Not only photos of when we are babies, or teenagers, or get married - but the completion of the whole cycle.

Ruth wished for open casket, for all of us to be able to see and know, and contemplate the truthfulness of nature. There were four hours for Maranasati--"Mindfulness of Death" contemplation in the morning {videos here}.

What was her dear old body had become very cool and hard.

Ajahn Pasanno came down from Abhayagiri with Ajahn Karunadhammo and brought some beautiful orchids from friend Apple to place in her coffin. The abbot of the local Thai desert-forest monastery, Wat Santi, also came, as did Bhante Piyananda, the Nayaka Thera leading elder of the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in the Western United States - a great honor.

And then we chanted the Matika together... a traditional "Matrix of the Dhamma" chant about the coming together for the conditions of life, suffering, insight, and freedom - liberation.

Later, in the afternoon, there was a period of beautiful remembrances, full of love, gratitude and appreciation {all here}. I shared these for both myself, our Dhammadharini community, and a message from the Aloka Vihara sisters who were in the midst of deep retreat. It was a celebration of Dhamma.

Interviews were given to the local Hi-Desert Star newspaper, which came out with a nice article: "Meditation teacher remembered for her work, influence."

Finally, it was time to go...for all to be "laid to rest," and a good many of us followed the white hearse to the crematorium, where we chanted and stood quietly or spoke together, or sat to wait and meditate, while the great green box rattled and hummed, up to 1700 degrees, for 5 hours. This is the nature of this life, and of these bodies. Just as with all conditioned things... all in their time. It has its brilliance, and love. But, as Ruth said, "Do not stop there." {from the Maha Assapura Sutta} And, as the Blessed One, the Buddha, so kindly pointed out to us:

"There is the Unconditioned."

"Because of this, there is that." "This Dhamma that i have realized is deep, profound..." "There is the Unborn, the Undying."

With that, i stop writing, with great love and so much appreciation, to all, & for the brilliance of this Path Amen ~ Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. - ❧ - March 25, 2015


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