Dear friends of our Sangha,
We bow down, our robed women's bodies wrapped in the banner of the arahants, remembering and taking refuge in the most profound and sublime treasures of the Buddha, the Dhamma & the Sangha ~
Warm greetings to you from the pale golden light of winter on the rolling hills of Northern California, our peaceful place of abiding, in this time of Thanks-giving.
Over this past week,
I've been reflecting on how precious it is that we have a Bhikkhuni Sangha in Theravada Buddhism here in Northern California. It seems more and more normal, comfortable, natural and easy now. But is it really still so recent, and so rare and so tenuous! California might be the only state in the United States to have such! And the only place outside of Asia either, except for Western Australia. Meanwhile, the revival of the Bhikkhuni Sangha has grown in Sri Lanka, with more than 1000 bhikkhunis and is gaining greater and great momentum in Thailand. It is amazing and wonderful to see good women having the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and live their full aspirations in the Buddha's path.
The thought comes to mind: Can you imagine what it would be like if we had a 1000 bhikkhunis in North America? ~ and in 10 years, a 1000 wise women who's lives have been transformed by the practice of this path? A 1000 senior teaching bhikkhunis, able to respond freely to all the invitations to teach, to respond to all the growing interest there is in using the Dhamma to help assuage both the mental and physical sufferings of life. To contribute wisdom, ethics and much more meditative calm, mindfulness and peacefulness into the pool informing and guiding our society... Here, with Dhammadharini, we are trying to do our little bit, our part, to offer such, and most especially the conditions to nurture this happening.
Our vassa, the fourth with our women's monastic community being together as a community here in Northern California, ended a bit more than a week ago. I have been reflecting back this week, and especially yesterday, with much gratitude and a sort of amazement at how we have come through together when we really are still so vulnerable and everything so tenuous.
Four months ago, we were gathered at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, preparing to enter the vassa together, intent on developing ourselves in the Buddha's teaching. And then life happened with a small eco-crisis which was big to those of us there, making our hermitage temporarily unlivable for the majority of us. Of course we are just one small group of many people experiencing eco-crises.
I greatly admire the courage and determination that led this group of monastic women gathered, rather than just giving up and dispersing to the corners of the earth, to hold their intent and make the resolution to stick together, if there were support for it. To keep the commitment of the vassa together.
I greatly admire the friends, who came forward with much encouragement to offer the support for the vassa together still to be possible. Those who spent many hours looking and thinking carefully of both us and you, helping to find the place for our new vihara. And those who helped us transition and begin to recover health. I admire Ayya Sobhana for her great dedication and determination to stay on the ground at Aranya Bodhi and do what needed to be done, and those who have offered the material and moral support for the work that needed to happen there. And I deeply admire all of those who offered the support -- for lodging and food especially -- during the three months of the vassa at our new vihara, who made these months possible.
The circumstances offered us an opportunity for transformation. For the physical transformation of our hermitage, from the very beginning days of enormous aged and decrepit salvaged trailers, to structures built there on the land, and built in ways that we know from our growing years of experience to be the most healthy and safe for life in a coastal redwood forest. It was my joy to see the transformation for Ayya Sobhana and for my fellow vihara dwellers during the vassa's months. I know this transformation came for each one due to her deep dedication to the Path of Practice, and her personal determination to offer support to others. This is truly admirable. It is not easy for those having left home and family to live in such dedication, personally and communally, on an ongoing basis -- it really calls for great development and transformation of the heart.
My deep "Anumodana, Sadhu!" to each one and all.
Well done, well done.
I share with you some of the photos of the highlights of the last month and the end of our vassa.
You can click on the links to see and read more:
Almsgiving Gathering led by Dominic, Lal and Maryann at our Vihara a fortnight before the end of Vassa [link]
Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering with monastics of various Buddhist traditions from around North American gathered [link]
Buddhist Global Relief walk in Sacramento [link]
The new hermitage kitchen was constructed during the vassa with much loving help and care from Jill, Jeannie and Don, together with Ayya Sobhana, and first put into use just after the end of the vassa -- just in time! -- when the first big winter rains came in [see new kitchen at Friends of the Hermitage here].
Thank you all, to everyone, each one of you, for all of your good wishes, your care, your support, and most of all for your sharing in this path of practice together -- all of us part one large community of transformation of heart.
We would like to offer our special "Anumodana" ~
~ to the Dhammadharini (support foundation) Board of Directors Shari, Ann, Shirley & Elad and all Committee Members for serving in so very many ways,
~ to "Bodhi Movers" for helping us move in and to David & Amparo, Jacqueline, Jocelyn, Holly, Ying & Hisayo, Sumedha & Talersak, Helen, Cynthia and all who helped move in, furnish the vihara and make it a comfortable place for meditation
~ to Lal for coordinating the vassa-time meal and lodging dana,
~ to Jill, Jeannie & Don and ~Ayya Sobhana~ for so much kind care with the remediation and renovation of the hermitage,
~ to Holly for her outstanding service as vassa-time steward at the vihara,
~ to Kitty, Martha and Mariah for their outstanding service as vassa-time stewards at the hermitage,
~ to all those friends who offered amisa meal dana to both vihara and hermitage during the vassa,
~ to all those who contributed to the vihara rent & utilities during the vassa,
~ to Sebastopol Community Acupuncture & Sacred Acupuncture, together with Sumedha and team, for their offering of medical care, and to Hisayo, Holly, Diane & Dominic for bringing monastic bodies to these spaces of care,
~ to Dominic, Lal, Maryann, Khun O, Khun Pipat, Phillip, Nui, Sally, Jenny, Lek and
~All~ friends who participated in the Communal Almsgiving Gathering in lieu of Kathina,
~ to Maryann & Jocelyn for important work developing volunteer coordination,
~ to Santacari Samaneri for her development of Dhammadharini's new website (forthcoming) together with so many other kinds of kindness and support,
~ to Sara, Sean, Elise, Shari, Sylvia, Holly & Hisayo for organizing and coordinating all the vassa-time Dhamma teachings,
~ to Shaila, Janet, Shirley, Bodhi Retreats and the IMSB Scholarship Fund for organizing and supporting time of deep retreat,
~ to Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni, Santacitta Bhikkhuni and Jayati Samaneri for participating in our Opening Blessing, establishment of our Sima, fortnightly sangha gatherings, Vinaya discussions and recitation of the Patimokkha, and joining in our Community Almsgiving Gathering, together with being all round good Dhamma Sisters,
~ to the most venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadawgyi (Bhaddanta Āciṇṇa) for his great goodwill and dedication in regularly offering Dhamma and meditation teaching to all of our bhikkhunis, samaneris and friendly companions during this vassa-time,
~ and to Nibbida Bhikkhuni for all her kind care with innumerable logistics, that made it all come together.
May all be well and happy in the Path
May all know this growth and transformation,
and may all join in the thanks giving and rejoicing in what was well done,
personally & together.
Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni, and all our Dhammadharini Sangha
End of Vassa 2013, Time of Thanksgiving Nov 29, 2013
Special Photo Collection of highlights from the whole vassa [link]
Most photos is this post compliments of the photography of NuiCoe.