Greetings from amidst the tall standing tree ferns and pohutukawa trees of New Zealand
beneath the full moon we share,
magha puja ~ sangha day
It is Sangha Day on the Thai Buddhist calendar, making me think of you who are our greater sangha. This day celebrates a great sort of Sangha homecoming in Buddhism, the return of the first 1250 arahant "Dhamma messengers" who took the news of the Buddha's awakening and of his first teachings and spread them far and wide abroad, only to then come back together again under this full moon and listen to the Buddha giving his quintessential teaching on the heart of transformative Buddhist ethics known as the Ovada Patimokkha.
I too have been occupied with the Sangha far and wide, and via the web come back together with you today.
first bhikkhuni ordination at Dhammasara Monastery
The full ordinations of venerable friends Munissara Bhikkhuni from Thailand and Pasada Bhikkhuni from Hong Kong went beautifully. Their ordinations took place at Dhammasara Monastery on the morning of March 1st, with the Bhikkhuni Sangha, the first bhikkhuni ordinations ever to be held on the grounds of this Western Australian women's monastery.
Bhikkhuni Ordination with the Bhikkhuni Sangha at Dhammasara
Ven Pasada has her preliminary examination with the Acariyas
(see Bo-tree sapling out right window)
The root sapling of the Anuradhapura Bo-tree graced the event standing over and behind the candidates as it was finally released from quaranteen and welcomed to the monastery just a few days before.
Our entire Bhikkhuni Sangha then accompanied new bhikkhunis, Ven Munissara and Ven Pasada, to Bodhinyana the men's monastery that afternoon, where their ordination was recognized and affirmed by the Bhikkhu Sangha and they gained full rights and responsibilities with our greater Ubhato Sangha -- the Dual Monastic Sangha of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis founded by the Buddha.
confirmation of the bhikkhunis' ordination with the Bodhinyana Bhikkhu Sangha
Holding the ordinations in this way, as exemplified in Vinaya, was lovely in a different way than the past three ordinations in which our entire Fourfold Assembly was gathered the whole time. The time of ordination with the Bhikkhuni Sangha seemed more intimate, close and private, as was so with the Bhikkhu Sangha, although we bhikkhuni and laymen and laywomen friends were looking on with much metta and mudita from a distance. Still, there was this strong feeling of personal closeness of being embraced by each sangha individually.
Hopefully we will have the chance to see both Ven Pasada and Ven Munissara in our part of Northern California soon as they enter fully into their training as new bhikkhunis.
visiting Sanghamittarama and the Buddhist Society of Victoria
A few days after the ordinations Ayya Sobhana and i flew on invitation to Melbourne, Australia to visit Sanghamittarama (founded by Ayya Sucinta) and the Buddhist Society of Victoria. I gave a talk at the BSV (soon to be made available) and then spent the afternoon with Ayya Upekkha, Bhante Jaganatha and women aspirants who aspire to go forth into the monastic life. Bhante Jag has proposed the BSV's founding of a Dual Sangha (Ubhato Sangha) Monastery outside Melbourne, and at their Council Meeting that day, the BSV approved going ahead with this project with 99% greater community support. Welcome to contact Bhante Jag or the BSV if you'd like to know more about the concept.
arrival in Kiwiland
From Melbourne i then flew to Aukland, New Zealand, a first time to visit this beautiful country in living memory. I was welcomed at the airport by the familiar faces of Adhimutta Bhikkhuni and her mum, Heather, who i had the pleasure to meet in 2010 at our hermitage when she came to Aranya Bodhi for her daughter's bhikkhuni ordination.
visits to Vimutti, Mahamudra and Dharma Gaia
Together with them in the past few days I've had the chance to visit American monk Ajahn Chandako at Vimutti, the monastery which he founded here in New Zealand. It was my first time to visit this monastery, although i heard lots about it during our Bhikkhuni Training Retreat which Ajahn Chandako led a few years back at our hermitage. It was my first time to see him again since then. The monastery now has thousands more trees, new ponds, and a most magnificent new reliquary stupa is rising at its summit. It is a beautiful place, and it was nice to meet and speak again after all this time in forgiveness, loving kindness and the heart of the samana. Ajahn Chandako very kindly invited Ven Adhi and I to join the upcoming retreat with Thai forest master Loung Por Piak, which i would have been delighted to do if the plans for the upcoming Vinaya writing retreat and its support were not already lovingly in place.
From there we wandered on north through the Coromandel mountain and ocean tracks to the Mahamudra Retreat Center to visit old friend Ven Choknyi, a nun in Tibetan tradition together with Kiwi nun Ven Nangsel. We were very warmly welcomed, greeted under starry skies moonlit mountains and their great stupa. It seems like the New Zealand mountains are just filling up with Buddhist stupas!! ~ such a beautiful thing. Apparently even non-Buddhist neighbors often like to stop by, even at night, to walk around the stupa and sit contemplative in the chamber beneath it. The stupa is out in the open by the road, so it is easy for people to do this.
From there, we travelled back down south through the extraordinarily beautiful mountian roads until reaching Dharma Gaia, another retreat center founded by another Kiwi Buddhist nun friend, Ven Pho Nghiem (aka Sr Shalom) in the tradition of Vietnamese master Thich Naht Hahn and the Community of Mindful Living. Having admired the beauty of the untouched trees and ferns of the native bush from the road, i was delighted to be immersed in the tremendous pure and simple beauty of Dharma Gaia. Beautiful simple wood meditation hall, office/kitchen/dining room building, 3 little wood kutis, and a simple bath/toilet block nestled, in deeply sensed harmony and love with nature within the jungle-like wild at the loop end of a paradise-like path.
full moon over Coromandel
The full moon day today then is a day of rest, sabbath, before continuing on south again to Raurimu. I have no link to share with you there yet, as i know of no Buddhist center there, nor any planned visits :-). Rather, a small place outside of the very tiny village of Raurimu may become a temporary Bhikkhuni Vihara for the very first time. And it is there that i plan to pause for the next 21 days for rest, meditation, and some long-requested writing for our community on Bhikkhuni Vinaya (our women's monastic discipline). This is specially organized by Ven Adhimutta and Alison Hoffman, kind- and bright-minded as they are. Please do contact Alison if you would also like to be of support.
For now, the retreat time calls, with heart of loving kindness and gratitude for the beauty of the land, and beauty of the hearts of the people here. What a lovely way to live -- in the teaching of the Buddhas,
For, as the Buddha is said to have advised under the Magha full moon two thousand six hundred years ago:
Ceasing evil, Cultivating goodness & purifying the heart: this is the teaching of all of the Buddhas
-- the Buddha, Ovada Patimokkha