Monthly Archives: December 2012

Help! My dog’s dying

(From correspondence with an old friend.)
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2012
Subject: Please think good thoughts…
Dear Ayye, Please think good thoughts for my 13 year old chihuahua. She’s very sick and she’s like my little girl.
My heart is breaking despite what my Buddhist reasoning tells me.
Kindest regards,Tom (name changed)

Nov 30, 2012

Dear Tom,
Blessings…! Entering this life isn’t easy, and exiting can be even harder. Much compassion to your little friend!

The main thing to hope for is a good rebirth; i.e., palliative care and lots of acceptance and love is the key. It is good to stay involved and clearly approving, not looking away due to the difficulty of seeing her in pain, for that can look like rejection which is a dog’s great fear (much worse than pain). I’ve heard that vets are leery of giving enough pain killers to dogs due to risk of human owners abusing the stuff; you may want to push for strong narcotics if she’s in pain; they are available and legal, and can bring great relief and comfort to her last days.
Metta,
Ayya Sudhamma

Sent: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Subject: Re: Please think good thoughts…

Ayye,Just a quick update. Our chihuahua with heart disease had a suspected stroke last weekend. She has been hospitalized since Sunday but should get to come tonight. We got to spend some time with her yesterday and she was very happy to see us. She hasn’t given up the fight

Your continued good thoughts are most appreciated.

Kindest Regards, Tom

Dear Tom,

Okay, I’ll hold you in my thoughts. You mentioned earlier that your heartbreak — feelings of grief & resistance to what’s happening — happens despite what your Buddhist reasoning tells you. That’s okay, don’t feel disappointed. An end result of Buddhist practices is a reduction of grief in challenging situations, but we cannot reason ourselves into that end result, nor push ourselves to it nor guilt ourselves into it. We can only nurture the causes that lead to reduction of grief.

When hit hard by the pain of a loved one’s suffering or loss, one can shift the situation into being a cause for wisdom/relief by applying one’s attention in certain ways. A good start is to 1st decide to honor the dear one by making their pain/loss meaningful (in the sense of a longterm benefit to the world): that is, make a determination to make good use of this painful situation.

Then you have a number of options of how to do that. One is how you focus your attention:

  • develop compassion for all in this world who right now have even more causes for overwhelming grief;
  • develop compassion for yourself, your little friend & all beings who go through these scenes of pain & loss lifetime after lifetime;
  • develop gratitude that things are not even worse for your chihuahua (the body can turn into a torture chamber with seemingly no end to the possibilities for worse misery, so just apply your imagination a little bit to see how bad everything could be for her right now if she weren’t so lucky);
  • develop gratitude that things are not even worse for yourself (you have a home, food, loved ones, heat/cooling, good water, stability in your life, financial ability to take care of your dog, etc.)

Another approach is to give or do charitable work in her honor.

Another is to use her situation to reflect upon the predicament of all beings that are subject to impermanence and suffering. Or to reflect upon inevitability of decline & death, and what that means in your life.

When you step back to do these things you become less lost in the situation, and thus diminish your grief a little bit, right then and there. When you reach out to others in your heart or with your hands, you take the (self-centered) momentum out of your feelings of grief. When you wisely focus your attention, your mind — in those moments — cannot stray into unwise trains of thought that would create waves of pain; you give yourself a bit of a break from them. When you deepen your understanding of the way things really are for us all (impermanent etc) you stop investing in all the little story lines that hurt so much. You walk through the stages of grief more lightly and much more quickly than you otherwise would have done.

Hence grief naturally diminishes as a result of these kinds of efforts.

Metta,
Ayya Sudhamma

Sent: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: Please think good thoughts…

Dear Ayye, Those are all excellent points. I realized that a lot of my misery was coming from the “what ifs”. What if she has another stroke, what if something happens during the day when we aren’t home, etc. So, most of my pain was a result of fantasy.

I made good use of your previous advice regarding “fear of rejection”. When we got to spend time with her yesterday I made sure I stayed in her field of vision (she lost part of her vision due to the stroke) and spoke in supportive, encouraging tones. I really think she appreciated that. I was rewarded with a kiss on the nose.

My biggest challenge is to separate my selfish clinging from the true compassion that I feel for her situation. I tell myself that a lot these days but it harder to put in practice in reality. The two mingle quite easily and turn into a potent force.

I also like your idea of doing something in B.s honor. My becoming vegetarian was my contribution to leading a harmless life and it has kept me true to the cause. I will have to ponder this one a while.

Thanks again for your most excellent advice! Kindest Regards, Tom

Dear Tom,
Yeah, “what if’s” worry is very painful. Good that you see it so clearly. Re compassion versus selfish clinging: “The two mingle quite easily and turn into a potent force.” Yes. (Excellent way to express it.) Their combination can shift into a potent aversive force, or a potent beautiful healing force, depending on how you hold them.

The kiss on the nose reward — wow. Glad to hear that my advice was well taken and so effective for her comfort. Real comfort in the way needed them most. Today I read something online about the practice of tying dogs up outside being painful for them even if they have water & shelter etc. since as pack animals they perceive the separation as a punishment.

Metta,
Ayya S.

Dear Ayye,

I am sad to report that G. [wife] and I had to make the decision to put B. down this early Thursday morning. Her little body was shutting down and had starting rejecting every medication the vets tried to give her. Her doctor told us Wednesday night that he as very worried about her condition. He was concerned that without the meds she would have an additional stroke and said at best she had two weeks left.

We took her home and hoped she could rest peacefully, but she was miserable for most of the night. She was so tired but she couldn’t sleep because her breath was so rapid and shallow. We stayed up all night with her and did our best to comfort her. We told her repeatedly how much we loved her and appreciated what she given to us over the past 13 years. By morning we realized that neither wanted her to have to struggle that way for the next two weeks. We wanted her to have a peaceful exit.

Her doctor concurred that our decision was the compassionate one. I was allowed to hold her in my arms while the medication was administered. I spoke in soothing tones and told her over and over how much she was loved. G. was able to look her in the eyes during the procedure and reassure her as well.

She passed away so peacefully. Her breathing smoothed and she very gently drifted off to sleep. I held her for several minutes after.

We are having her cremated with one of her favorite toys. We plan to spread her ashes in one her favorite spots in the mountains.

I feel so empty but I know that will pass with time. I am trying not to get mired in the grief but boy is it tough. B. was such a bright light in the world.

In the meantime we are concentrating on showering our other dog, Andre, with all the love we can give him and comforting one another.

Thanks again for your counsel and kindness. It means a lot to both G. and me.

Kindest Regards, Tom

*     .     *     .     *     .     *     .     *     .     *     .    *     .     *    .    *     .     *

Dear Readers,

With this last email Tom raised the perplexing topic of compassionate killing. These situations and decisions are not easy. I’m glad that Tom and his wife feel comfortable with the way in which their dear friend passed away. Tom’s account makes an appealing case for euthanizing a suffering pet.

Yet I generally do not encourage euthanasia, for intentional killing, even in kindness, has consequences, usually bringing unwanted karma and deepening wrong views that propel a person into continued pain in future. The wish to reduce the beloved one’s suffering may be generous, compassionate, and in some cases heroic, but nonetheless misplaced, based on a not-fully-informed view of the situation.

Pet owners often fail to see that their own discomfort, craving, ill will or fear may motivate the decision — not really the ultimate good of the other being. If you haven’t first made yourself quiet, soft and sensitive, taken time to pause and listen inside, then the decision is premature. How the memory sits later in a sensitive person’s intuition helps indicate whether the decision was truly altruistic. I would guess that most cases of euthanasia were premature decisions, made too quickly without first becoming emotionally balanced and deeply sensitive to the pet’s own wish. If the pet owner did proceed with such caution, patience and sensitivity, then perhaps it was for the best.

On a Buddhist discussion forum one pet owner, “harlan”, related her experience that after she put down her ill cat, her other cat cringed whenever Harlan tried to pet him, though he remained friendly to visitors; but later, when that cat had become mortally ill and suffering, he accepted Harlan’s touch willingly, and purred as Harlan gave him the shot. http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/5511/buddhism-and-euthanizing-your-pet

Some additional Buddhist voices:

If you are reading this blog post because you are in pain, I wish you comfort and love, sending you waves of compassionate understanding. Remember that whatever happens, all pain will pass. May you and your friend receive every blessing, and may you both step forward with gratitude, gladness and confidence.

Kind regards,

Ayya Sudhamma

Have a question about Buddhism, ethics or life in general? Write to DearAyye [~at~] gmail [~dot~] com. 

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11 September 2012 Originally posted on Santi Forest Monastery’s website.

(See photos, below!)

30th September: Sunday Open-House & “International Bhikkhuni Day” at Santi

~ We welcome you to visit the monastery for a Sunday open-house and “International Bhikkhuni Day” all day on 30th September! ~

9:30 AM “History of Bhikkhunis”
(Ayya Dhammananda)
10:15 AM “The Women Who Inspired Us”
(Circle discussion)
11:00 AM Lunch Dana & clean-up
1:00 PM Walk to the cave
1:15 PM Guided Meditation
1:30 PM Sitting / Walking Meditation
2:30 PM Short break, followed by Dhamma talk
3:30 PM End
6:00 PM Tea time

In our Theravada tradition, the sight of bhikkhunis is something relatively new, though the Order of Bhikkhunis can traced back to the Buddha’s time 2600 years ago in India. The tradition of Bhikkhuni Sangha lasted for more than 1000 years in India & Sri Lanka before dying out in war conditions.  Meanwhile, having gained the lineage from Sri Lanka, the bhikkhunis of China, Korea and Vietnam continued the lineage and practice up to this day.
The last decades of the 20th century witnessed a great revival of the Bhikkhuni Order in  Sri Lanka.  Theravada bhikkhunis made inroads in additional countries where the Buddha Dhamma has a foothold…
Santi’s new Samaneri Tapasi of Thailand (3 Sept 2012). 

…including Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Buddhism’s home country of India, and the West: Canada, the United States, Germany, and of course Australia.

Australian Sayalay Santacari’s recent head-shaving preparing to go forth as a novice….

New Samaneri Santacari of Australia (Aranya Bodhi, USA) 2nd Sept 2012

To support and celebrate this global revival, last year the Alliance for Bhikkhunis (AfB) chose the full moon of September to celebrate an annual International Bhikkhuni Day.

Arahant Sanghamitta Theri arrives in Jaffna Port of Sri Lanka bringing the cutting of the Bodhi Tree; image from Kelaniya temple mural, Sri Lanka.

  • This year the AfB asks participants to specially highlight the contributions of Sanghamitta Theri who brought the female order from India to Sri Lanka around 300 BC. See their brochure for this occasion.
  • Why the September full moon? It was under the September full moon that the great Pajapati Gotami – the Buddha’s aunt & foster mother – received ordination, marking the start of the Buddha’s new order of female renunciates or bhikkhunis.
We heartily invite all friends and supporters of Santi Forest Monastery to join our International Bhikkhuni Day on Sunday 30th of September, and learn with us about bhikkhunis and other inspiring female spiritual leaders of the past and present time.
In the morning we will hear each others’ stories of inspiring female teachers in our lives; in the afternoon there will be a guided meditation session in the Big cave – thus speaking together and in silence, laity & nuns will foster our spiritual friendship.
It is especially auspicious this year as Santi goes through its biggest change, with the monastery coming under the care of Bhikkhuni Sangha. You may like to follow AfB’s suggestion of seeking pledges from friends & family towards the hours you spend in meditation or learning about bhikkhunis, perhaps using their suggestions at this site.

We recall the Buddha’s ringing declaration of his intention: “I shall not come to my final passing away, Mara, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by the appropriate conduct, and having learned the Master’s word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.”  DN 16

Together, we can make the Buddha’s intention a living tradition every where in the world.       Ven. Gunasari of Burma/USA; Ven. Sudhamma of USA; Ven. Tenzin Palmo of UK; Ven. Tathaaloka of USA; Ven. Dhammananda of Thailand. 2007, Hamburg.
  
(Photo: Bhikkhuni sisters from Burma, USA, England, and Thailand; photo credit Ms Sopapon Kurz, at the Dalai Lama’s 2007 Hamburg conference on nuns ordination.)
More at this link on International Bhikkhuni Day: talks by bhikkhunis and other free materials to download for the day, including an article about her ordination by Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni.  (Last year’s materials are still available here.)

Santi’s Ayya Pasada Bhikkhuni of Hong Kong (far right if you click photo) & friends enter Vassa in USA (Aranya Bodhi, Aug 2012). 

Alliance for Bhikkhunis is a group of earnest lay supporters based in California who took upon themselves the task of supporting Theravadan bhikkhunis around the world; Ayya Sudhamma and other senior bhikkhunis such as Ayya Tathaaloka know them well and vouch for their sincerity.  Alliance for Bhikkhunis supporters have one special request to make of you for this occasion:

“Please send us stories about the
remarkable women who have and
continue to inspire you. These will
be compiled in our digital Library.
Also consider becoming an AfB
volunteer.”
Link
Our new nun!
8 September 2012  Originally posted on Facebook
We held a going-forth ordination here at Santi last week. Our new Spiritual Director, Ajahn Brahm, was visiting from Perth and witnessed the ordination.Ordaining Sangha Sept 2012 Samaneri Tapassi
The former white-robed MaeChee Faa became Samaneri Tapasi. Her tears during her ordination affected us greatly. Our new nun looks beautiful in the gold robes.
See photos:
Below are a couple of announcements that I made on Santi Forest Monastery’s website, before & after the ceremony:

Dear Venerables, friends and supporters,

We are very happy to let you know that there will be a Samaneri ordination for Mea chee Faa (Sureeporn) at Santi forest monastery on the afternoon of the September 3rd, 2012. Ms. Sureeporn was ordained as a Mea Chee (8-precepts-nun)  on 30 April, 2010 in Wat Rampoeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand, with  Achahn Suphan as her preceptor. Her Samaneri Ordination (novice training with 10 precepts) is approved by her former preceptor.

The ceremony will take place in Big Cave, at 1:00 pm of 3rd September 2012. All are welcome to Santi to celebrate with us in this joyous occasion.

This entry was posted August 20, 2012  

Update

The ordination, which was witnessed by Santi’s new Spiritual Director Ajahn Brahm, was a sweet and deeply moving event.  We feel gladdened and blessed by our lovely new samaneri.

See photos posted in a new Santi album: https://picasaweb.google.com/santifm1.0/SamaneriOrdinationAtSanti2012

Oriah’s poem

Oriah’s poem
February 5, 2012  Originally posted on Facebook. (Also in Personal Updates.)
The poem I came across while packing to leave the USA:

“It doesn’t interest me/ to know where you live/ or how much money you have./ I want to know if you can get up/ after the night of grief and despair/ weary and bruised to the bone/ and do what needs to be done/ to feed the children…”

My favorite line from a poem carried around with me since the mid-1990’s — while packing I came across my ragged copy… and searched online to share it with you:

“The Invitation” by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah from her book, THE INVITATION (c)1999. Published by HarperONE, San Francisco. All rights reserved. Presented with permission of the author (permission granted by email 4th Feb 2012 and again for this blog 25th December 2012). www.oriah.org

Oriah Mountain Dreamer | Home
Link

Distorted Perception

9 December 2012 Originally posted on Facebook

 

 This short Youtube film (6 mins.) beautifully illustrates the “perversion of perception” (sanna vipallasa) described by the Buddha, here worsened by addiction. (“Leaves of Grass” by Ankit Bakshi of India.) Watch to the end. It is disturbing, but so is the reality.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR1oe-brmjM&feature=plcp (“Leaves of Grass” by Ankit Bakshi)

On sanna vipallasa Ven. Piyadassi Thera wrote,”It is important to note that perceptions often deceive us. Then they become known as illusion or perversity of perceptions. (sanna-vipallasa…) A simile will illustrate the point. A farmer after sowing a field, will set up a scare-crow to protect the seed and for a time the birds will mistake it for a man and will not settle. That is an illusion of perception. Similarly sense and mental objects deceive our mind by producing a false impression. The Buddha, therefore, compares perception to a mirage.

“When a particular perception, perverted or hot, occurs frequently, it grows stronger and grips our mind. Then it becomes difficult to get rid of that perception, and the result is well explained in this verse of the Suttanipata.

‘Who is free from sense perceptions
In him no more bonds exist;
Who by Insight freedom gains
All delusions cease in him;
But who clings to dense perceptions
And to view-points wrong and false
He lives wrangling in this world.'”
– Piyadassi Thera The Buddha’s Ancient Path, Ch 7

See also Vipasalla Sutta (“Perversions” or “Distortions of the Mind”)http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.049.than.html

Quote of Ven. Piyadassi: http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Piyadassi_Thera_The_Buddhas_Ancient_Path.htm#CHAPTER  August 18 2014 update: The previous link is broken, hopefully only temporarily. Here is another source:  www.venerabilisopus.org/en/library/pdf/100/150_buddha-s-ancient-path.pdf (see chapter 7 p. 68.)


 

Dec 2012 In-flight action

In-flight action

3 December 2012 Originally posted on Facebook.

On my hands and knees on the floor of the airplane yesterday, searching for an old lady’s missing hearing aid during the flight from Sydney to Atlanta, it occurred to me that this may not be the most dignified posture for a nun.

I had seen the old lady from the seat in front of me as she tottered back & forth up and down the aisle with a flashlight. I asked a few times what was wrong, but she didn’t answer at first — she couldn’t hear me. The lady spoke with a thick eastern European accent, wearing a vintage plaid tweed woolen coat.

Do you know what hearing aids cost? Thousands, especially for the new tiny hidden-in-the ear type that she described. And it takes a long time to get an appointment to get a new one made, and can take many visits to get the thing adjusted just right.hearing aid with quarter

Therefore my dignity wasn’t as important to me as finding that hearing aid. But how does one find a tiny black object in a shadowy jet cabin? The lady wasn’t even sure where or when she had lost it.

At one point, a couple of flight attendants did a cursory search around the lady’s seat; I wasn’t impressed. “Needle in a haystack” one said with a shrug. They left suggesting that the seat from her previous flight should be searched. My own flashlight turned up all kinds of small objects, bits of plastic, broken pieces of earbud headphones, and once I required the passenger at the window of her row to grope deep under his seat for what my flashlight had indicated would surely be the missing device but turned out to be a hardened raisin. The old lady said that she gives up. Yet I just couldn’t do that.

After we landed in Los Angeles, as countless passengers from behind us streamed past, I insisted that the lady move from her seat while she waited for the airport wheelchair, and I got into a real down & dirty search among the dust and crumbs in all the crevices of her seat and on the floor. And lo and behold, a little peanut-sized shiny black object with a tiny white antenna on one end caught the light of my flashlight in a crevice of the floor near the right side of her seat. What a rush. “I found it!”

The old lady was equal parts astonishment and gratitude. Later, when she was wheeled past me as I stood in line at US Customs, she paused to thank me and said that she hasn’t words with which to express her thanks. I said just send some prayers for me.

Oh I’ll remember this one for a long time. (This thumbnail photo shows the type of hearing aid.)

Something else from that flight felt really good. At breakfast time an hour or so before landing in Los Angeles on Sunday morning (9 am LA time), I puzzled over which of the free breakfast options to request. I couldn’t decide; they all sounded equally good yet also mildly repulsive at that time, which my body perceived to be 2 am (Sydney time).

So I asked the stewardess to give me whatever was the LEAST popular breakfast option, so that another passenger would be more likely to get whatever he or she wants. She exclaimed “That is so nice of you!” The strength of her surprise and appreciation enveloped me. Then she answered that thus far in our cabin the fewest people wanted the pancakes, “even though they smell so good.” After she pointed it out, I realized that indeed a delicious smell of pancakes was wafting through the cabin — and the aroma then gave me enough appetite to be able to eat at all. In fact the pancakes and accompanying items were delicious, the best airline food I’ve ever had. I received the meal reverently, delighted to gain true dana on an airplane. Aside from a snack on the next flight and some chocolate I didn’t eat again until today, but felt no hunger. That happy little meal sustained me well on my journey.

Oh, by the way, thank you all who asked: Yes I did make it home safely from Australia. My mother & I had a sweet reunion on my arrival last night. I’m sorry to have been away during her 85th birthday celebration, but Mom seems the same as when I left back in February, and I’m so glad I took the chance and went to Australia. It’s a great country with admirable people who influenced me in positive ways. I’m especially grateful to the people associated with Santi Forest Monastery. Keep an eye on Santi; I expect that community to grow beautifully under Ayya Phalanyani’s guidance.

Dec 2012 Year-end report

Year In Review 2012 Report for Santi Forest Monastery (Nov 2012)

1 December 2012 Posted in Facebook

About to catch the plane out of Sydney back to the USA. This has been the most amazing 9 1/2 months . . . Gratitude and blessings to all who so kindly took care of me and made my stay such a special time for me. Below is my report on the past year at Santi Forest Monastery published as part of their Annual General Meeting booklet. If you just want the gist, read only the last two paragraphs and the first paragraph. Metta, Ayya Sudhamma

 .Santi Forest Monastery Annual Report 2011-12 – email version (scroll to page 6)

END OF YEAR REPORT

What Bhante Sujato accomplished during the past near decade at Santi was extraordinary, bringing people together in the most unexpected ways to do wonderful things. Bhante Sujato’s interfaith work is legendary; Chandra credits him with having inspired in the Sydney region a great revival of Buddhist devotion and activities among many people, particularly from Vietnam and Sri Lanka. And he brought together people of diverse backgrounds to form a support network that built up Santi into a lovely, well-apportioned monastery – which he had intended to hand over someday to the impoverished Bhikkhuni Sangha, to help raise them up. It is an extraordinary gift to womankind from a man of an extraordinary heart.

Last year Bhante Sujato reported to the AGM that things have gotten easier at Santi, writing,“As a young community, there’s the freshness and excitement of building new things, seeing what works in our situation. Now most of the urgent building work is done, and the monastery year has settled into its rhythm.” This remained true during the first part of 2012, as the rhythm he had established over the past nine years continued without large upheavals or big projects.

JANUARY-APRIL 2012
Year 2012 opened on a high note at Santi with the New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day successful Jhanathon meditation marathon; participants finished bleary-eyed but victorious, much merit having been made and funds having been raised to support Santi Forest Monastery. Two weeks later saw the head-shaving and anagarika going-forth of beloved Santi resident Ruwinie, nervously giving up her lovely long black hair to put on the white robes.

From January-April the monastery kept a relaxed schedule with few activities required other than the morning work period, Tuesday Sutta class, Wednesday night Dhamma talk by Bhante Sujato in the Big Cave, and Saturday night meditation. Each weekend, Bhante went to out to teach the Friday night program at the Well Awareness Centre in Sydney and Saturday programs which rotated among three venues: Paramatta (Gloria Jean’s cafe), North Sydney (Girl Guides Centre), and at the Canberra Temple, all primarily attended by Sri Lankan devotees; residents occasionally attended these teachings with him (except Nandiya who followed a year-long “vow” of abstaining from going into Sydney). Bhante also taught a monthly meditation class at Bowral Thai Restaurant which most residents attended with him. Residents enjoyed a couple of community-oriented outings, going to the beach and spending a day together exploring the historic town of Berrima.

In February Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni arrived from the USA for a nine-month visit, having given up her position at a temple in SC to learn from Bhante Sujato and live amongst this community. During Bhante Sujato’s frequent absences from Santi, Ayya Sudhamma guided the community, taught most of the classes, and gave teachings to visitors. Also in February, longterm resident Ayya Mahacitta Samaneri announced her plan to disrobe and soon left Santi, to the great disappointment for many, as she seemed indispensable. Ruwinie took over office management in her place.

In early March, Bhante Sujato and Ayya Sudhamma flew to Perth to help facilitate the higher ordination of Santi’s own Ayya Pasada Samaneri (of Hong Kong), now Ayya Pasada Bhikkhuni. She ordained together with a young Thai nun, Ayya Munissara; both new bhikkhunis later visited Santi for a few months (May-July), bringing their calm manners and sincere focus on meditation, but also grilling Bhante Sujato almost daily with questions about how to live the holy life. (Ayya Pasada spent Vassa with her preceptor Ayya Tathaaloka in California, and has now joined the nuns of Dhammasara in Perth.)

Soon after the ordination was Bhante Sujato’s eagerly-awaited 5th March debate on Secular Buddhism with Stephen Batchelor in Sydney, with all proceeds going to the Buddhist Library Cambodia Project and The Bodhicitta Foundation. (Bhante won; or so his supporters say!) The replacement vehicle for the Delica van broke down en route to the debate. The Delica’s absence, gone for many months to get adjustments to its operating system, would continue to be a source of frustration for Bhante Sujato, the van never materializing again until his departure.

In April we held the Bush Regeneration Day, guided by lay supporter Dana; it nearly was rained out, yet the volunteers’ efforts brought a lot of improvement to the land and raised much enthusiasm. Bhante Sujato taught his popular annual Easter weekend Metta retreat (6-9 April) at the nearby Quest For Life centre; several Santi residents joined the retreat, commuting each day.

MAY-JULY 2012
From May-July, as in recent past years, Bhante Sujato held a period of intensive study at Santi in addition to regular morning work. The ambitious schedule was nearly overwhelming; in retrospect perhaps Bhante planned this to be his last teaching period at Santi. We had regular classes on Suttas, Vinaya (code of discipline), Philosophy, Pali language, Jataka story-telling, and Novice training, along with the weekly Dhamma talk and required meditation. Bhante Sujato also added a weekly Pali class at the Buddhist Library to his outside teaching commitments.

Our group did a road trip to Melbourne on 22-24th May for the All Sangha Association (ASA) conference held at Quang Minh Temple. (Traveling together were Bhante Sujato, Bhante Santi, Ayya Sudhamma, Ayya Munissara, Ayya Patacara, and Alex; the Santi nuns stayed at Sanghamittarama, the males at BSV.) At the conference Bhante Sujato stepped down from his position in the ASA, over the objections of his many colleagues in the various Buddhist traditions, as he had helped found the group in 2005 and remained one of the leaders. Ayya Patacara accepted a responsible position on the ASA Committee.

Bhante Sujato’s unexpected announcement in mid-May that he would depart before Vassa threw the community of Santi residents and supporters into a state of shock, followed by the initial stages of grief: disbelief, bargaining, anger, depression, each moving at their own pace towards acceptance. Some said later they had noticed his growing unease, but no one had expected him to leave. Bhante assured us that no one was at fault, he just didn’t want to be Abbot anymore. Perhaps Santi’s settled routine no longer satisfied him. Also, he perceived it to be the right time to turn the monastery over to the nuns. His final days at Santi were a blur of visitors receiving last teachings and wishing him well, group labors following his directions to complete numerous small tasks around the monastery, and heroic efforts to finish editing all of his books.

Several residents departed from Santi soon after Bhante’s announcement, some with coincidental timing such as Alex, Ayya Tempa (Tiben-robed nun), Ruwinie (who returned to lay life), Ayya Pasada and Ayya Munissara, and some leaving due to Bhante’s departure, including Nandiya and Martin. On Bhante Sujato’s invitation Ayya Dhammananda arrived in mid-June to kindly help with the transition. Those left behind at Santi and newly arrived residents struggled to master the complexities of this monastery, with numerous legacy systems and unusual arrangements, such as the IT system which requires multiple passwords and a knowledge of several programs, the multifaceted water systems (rainwater tanks, gray water, and septic) and the solar/electric/gas heating system. It would take a thick manual to convey all the instructions necessary for running Santi! Fortunately for us, Chandra, who knows all things Santi and can make all things work, returned from months of travel just prior to Bhante’s departure, and compassionately agreed to stay on.

At that juncture, just before Bhante Sujato’s departure, the Santi Change Committee formed, composed of several members of the Committee, along with Ayya Sudhamma and professional change-consultant Renee Neely who kindly volunteered her skills. The Change Committee’s goals were to help the nuns make a smooth transition of leadership, and to convey information to supporters in ways that gain their confidence and maintain their loyalty and support. The Change Committee created or inspired several soothing, beautiful postings on the website, including Comings & Goings, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS), and Changes at Santi – A Powerpoint Presentation. However, the skills gained from Renee’s expert advice continues to inform all the online outreach made by Santi nuns.

THE VASSA (2nd August – 30th October 2012)
We needed more nuns to form a team to govern Santi during Vassa. We were very lucky that the nuns obtained Ayya Phalanyani’s agreement to join Santi in time; the world’s numbers of English-speaking Theravada bhikkhunis remain so small that they cannot easily be quickly brought where needed, and Ayya Phalyani would bring much-needed skills. We began the Vassa with four nuns: Ayya Sudhamma, Ayya Dhammananda, Ayya Phalanyani and Ayya Patacara Samaneri. They were soon joined by Ayya Phalanyani’s white-robed student (Mae Chee Faa), who received novice ordination during the Vassa.

Hence five nuns from five countries stayed together at Santi during Vassa. Bhikkhunis Ayya Sudhira and Ayya Yeshe often visited on the moon days, enabling Santi bhikkhunis to recite Patimokkha. Bhante Santitthito kindly visited on full moon days to teach the community. Lay residents Chandra and Jeannette remained in residence, and a number of additional friends came for portions of the Vassa, including Goon Tat Ong, Gia Hieu & Tam Ngan, Alex, Ruwinie, Satya, and Maria Lopez. A total of ten nationalities thus were represented: Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Australia, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, Brazil, Italy, and Sinagpore.

The Vassa retreat began with daunting circumstances and much uncertainty among a nervous, somewhat leaderless group of residents from diverse backgrounds trying to pull together after Bhante Sujato’s departure. Awareness of the high stakes involved and the Buddhist world’s attention upon us only increased the stress. Shared goals and values, including respect for Vinaya, helped keep us together. So did the Committee members’ active involvement (thank you!), particularly Paddy’s presence as liason; and also Chandra’s steady hand, Helen’s assistance, and encouragement from visitors who came to offer dana and receive teachings.

During the Vassa the bhikkhunis, on a rotating basis, divided amongst themselves the weight of authority and opportunities for secluded meditation. (Meanwhile Samaneri Patacara served as office manager and attended to guests, and built a bike shed as a hobby; and Samaneri Taapassii began to learn English.) The bhikkhunis’ rotation of duties allowed Ayya Phalanyani’s leadership potential to become apparent, not hidden by the usual hierarchical allocation of authority to more senior nuns.

The Vassa brought periods of great effort in meditation, with good results, yet we also enjoyed daily light-hearted interactions that established friendships among residents. A couple of highlights during this time were the going-forth of Ayya Taapassii as a samaneri on 1st September; and the 17th September annual Bhikkhuni Day, led by Ayya Dhammananda.

Our new Spiritual Director Ajahn Brahm stayed in touch with the bhikkhunis from a distance. Motivated by compassion, he visited Santi 2- 4th September to counsel the Santi nuns on meditation and discuss the future of Santi, although traveling broke a pledge to his Sangha. (We owe a debt of gratitude to his monks for allowing him come.) During his brief visit, Ajahn Brahm witnessed the going-forth of Samaneri Taapassii, counseled each resident, discussed issues in depth with the bhikkhunis, and imparted much needed wisdom. Like the Santi residents, Ajahn Brahm also began to recognize the leadership abilities of Ayya Phalanyani. His subsequent decision to place her into the position of Abbot does not come as a surprise to anyone who resided at Santi during the Vassa, for she proved herself worthy.

POST-VASSA (November-end 2012)
The end of the Vassa finds the community at Santi again in a time of youthful freshness and excitement due to the wide open possibilities – no longer set in the rhythm established during the past decade, but finding our way anew, sifting through the old forms to see what will be kept and what will be improved. Ayya Sudhamma returns home to the USA as planned, expressing gratitude for the special care and healing that she received while at Santi, and Ayya
Dhammananda also departs before the end of the year. They leave Ayya
Phalanyani and Samaneris Patacara and Taapassii as the nuns in residence, with more nuns and laywomen who seek ordination scheduled to visit, perhaps to stay. Lay supporters Upasaka Chandra and Jeanette also remain in residence, and many devotees and friends from near and far continue to visit and support the monastery.

With Ayya Phalanyani established as Santi’s new Abbot the initial transition is complete, though it should take many more months before we can say that Santi has stabilized into its new identity. At the time of this writing the little Bodhi tree near the front door, looking sadly barren and leafless for the past several months, has burst into an abundance of bright green foliage. The stupa at Santi also has a beautiful new visage thanks to Ayya Patacara’s recent artistic efforts. The fresh appearance of these most powerfully sacred objects can be taken as symbols of this new time of growth and change. Santi is now well on its path to achieve even greater service as a harmonious community for monastics to develop in the Dhamma and for lay supporters to find goodness and peace of heart.