Category Archives: Personal Updates

Mostly autobiographical posts. Early posts through Dec 2012 originally appeared on my Facebook account (@Ven. Sudhamma)

Loyal Readers,

My updates trailed off in February 2013, sorry!  Some updates and reflections can be found on Facebook under “Ven. Sudhamma” (www.facebook.com/ayyasudhamma.)

Here are some highlights from the missing months:

February: Realizing that Vien Quang Monastery, a friendly and beautiful Vietnamese temple in Clover, SC, had no internet presence, I created a Facebook page for them,  www.facebook.com/CloverBuddhist. (First I had to learn how to do it.) These good monks and nuns give a heart-warming welcome to all beings. Each day they compassionately  chant & ring an enormous bell half an hour

Vien Quang

Vien Quang Monastery, Clover, SC

at daybreak and again at nightfall in hopes of briefly alleviating the pain of hell-beings, and they are even more kind towards human beings.

My friends and I went to the battered womens' shelter of Charlotte to bring a great lunch. (April 2013)

We brought lunch to battered women’s shelter (April)

March: I gave some teachings here and there, and spent some days visiting Vien Quang Monastery and another temple. At this time I created the Bodhi Calendar of insight meditation sitting groups and related Buddhist activities in Charlotte.

April: Hiked a beautiful local mountain with a great

Rev. Martha at Crowder's Mtn. (April 2013)

At Crowder’s Mtn. (April)

friend, Rev. Martha; did some teachings and some good deeds;

Water-pouring ceremony to honor the deceased loved one.

Leading a water-pouring ceremony

and attended an especially useful week-long meditation retreat at Southern Dharma Center led by Sayalay Susila (photo below).

Sayalay Susila and I after retreat at Southern Dharma Center (April 2013)

Ven. Susila led retreat (April)

May:  Vesak full moon celebrations (Buddha’s birthday). Visited nuns’ communities in northern California for more than a month:

In Aranya Bodhi Hermitage’s thick woods, near Jenner CA, we held a weeklong camping conference of bhikkhunis that we called “Bhikkhuni Camp”. (Right click any photo for a better image in a new window.)

Bhikkhuni Camp (June)

Bhikkhuni Camp (June)

Some of us once visited the nearby beach, where our leader Ayya Tathaaloka walked in the bitterly cold waves to strengthen her balance (doctor’s orders). Ayya t at beach with Ayya Munissara 6-21-2013  (This photo shows her afterwards shivering and getting covered by warm sand.)  Also I visited a couple of centers run by solitary bhikkhunis, giving a Vesak talk at one. And I got to sit a 10 day retreat with an unusually large company of Theravada bhikkhunis and novices, generously hosted without charge by Spirit Rock Meditation Center (photos from Ajahn Sucitto’s retreat with a dozen nuns).

0617131652-00

The woods at Aranya Bodhi.

June: Upon my return to Charlotte from California, on the way home from the airport, some friends offered me the amazing opportunity to start a new little Vihara (a suburban house/temple/monastery) in a rental house right here in my hometown. Their motivation?  To keep me here instead of moving into the Vietnamese temple in Clover, SC, where the monks and nuns had kindly offered to give me a place to

The new place

The new place: Charlotte Buddhist Vihara

me a place to live. (I was staying at my mother’s home.) The Vihara house would be within walking distance of my family home, so I’d still be able to assist Mom as needed.  I hesitated for several days, aware of the great commitment involved in organizing a community, before making the decision and happily forging ahead.

July: In mid-July, just before Vassa began, I moved into the new Charlotte Buddhist Vihara, already well-furnished by the efforts of many kind and generous donors.

August-now: It’s all about the new Vihara.

You can follow the progress of the new center and our support community on Facebook and on our website: CharlotteBuddhistVihara.org.

Vihara's open house

Vihara’s open house

My efforts to lead a new community, along with ordinary daily duties of nuns’ life, have taken nearly my entire attention these past six months since some friends made the proposal in June.Sprint phone 009

Great elder Master Hòa Thượng of Vietnam honored us with a visit

Visit of a great elder

Board Meeting

Board Meeting

IMAG0341

Our sutta study group

However, near the end of October ,      I did take a “vacation”, a 10 day trip to California for the Western Buddhist Monastic Conference (WBMG).

Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering -City of Dharma Realm, Sacramento (Oct 2013) The WBMG is an annual warm friendly gathering of English-speaking ordained Buddhists of all traditions which meets in harmony, focused not on sectarian differences but on what we, as dedicated followers of the Buddha, have in common. Read about the gathering here. or view photos of the gathering and our related hunger walk fundraiser for Buddhist Global Relief.

(While in California I also visited Ayya Tathaaloka’s community’s pleasant and spacious new Vihara in Santa Rosa which opened just weeks after our Vihara.)

A dear friend of many years, Ayya Suvijjana Bhikkhuni, joined me at Charlotte Buddhist Vihara for a 3-month visit August-November. I don’t think I could have managed without her.

Ayya Suvijjana, daily life at the Vihara

Ayya Suvijjana, daily life at the Vihara

In mid-November she returned to her community in California, to Dhammadharini, as she had promised them.Ayya Suvijjana and Ayya Sudhamma at Reedy Creek Park (Nov 2013) I miss her sweet companionship.

Just before she left, our end-of-Vassa (Kathina type) celebration was led by the

Bhante Kondanna, Ayya Suvijjana and Ayya Sudhamma at Charlotte Buddhist Vihara (Nov 2013)

Bhante Kondanna leads celebration, gives teachingsBhante Kondanna teaching children

founder of the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara, the delightful Bhante Kondanna, with a good turnout.

The newest thing: We are initiating meditation groups at the Vihara through Meetup.com, the website that organizes people to meet to engage in hobbies or activities. See our Meetup page: www.meetup.com/Meditate-with-Monk-Buddhism-in-Charlotte. In the week since our page was announced on Meetup an astonishing fifty-two people have signed up for future meditations at the Charlotte Buddhist Vihara.

So this brings you up to date. My apologies to those whose comments have languished awaiting a response since I last used my password here. At least I have mostly maintained updates for the Bodhi Calendar which you can find embedded on this site, Some of Kathina visitors (Nov 2013) therefore to that extent my blog has remained alive.

Some new writings are in the works so this blog will soon again be a place to find Dhamma teachings and monastic life updates.

I hope this holiday season finds you filled with peace and joy — as always!

May you be well, happy and peaceful!

May you be well, happy and peaceful!

Metta,

Ayya Sudhamma

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Feb 2013 Updates

Updates on my life that I originally posted on Facebook in February 2013.

Yesterday Feb  27, 2013
We had 9 families represented at the teaching on Buddhist Basics that I gave in a new friend’s home in Charlotte last Saturday. (19 people total.) We had a great time!
A few kindly brought gifts* for the local battered women’s shelter. (By supporting women in crisis we can help save lives and prevent tremendous suffering for them, their children, and everyone affected by family violence.) Yesterday a friend drove me & gifts to the shelter, and we got a tour of their great new facility. Very nice! Last month they transitioned from cramped housing & offices (crammed into 5000 sq feet) into this spacious 45,000 sq foot attractive state-of-the-art safe facility. It’s awesome. The staffers all have huge smiles.
Many areas of the facility are named after the local businesses and civic groups that sponsored the furnishings, with little plaques by the doors. It feels good to see so much caring and involvement by the community. Volunteer groups, mostly churches, have fixed up most of the bedrooms (family suites), making them cozy and welcoming. They still need people to do total makeovers of about 9 more rooms. Interested, anyone?
* 4 big bags of sugar, about 30 cans of soup, a new DVD player & half a dozen DVD movies.
Charlotte Domestic Violence Shelter | Safe Alliance
Charlotte Domestic Violence ShelterServicesSafe Alliance proudly announces the opening of the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter in winter 2012-13. The new shelter is the realization of a dream and a source of hope for those in need of sanctuary from abusive situations. The new Safe A…
  • Sat Feb 23rd I’m giving a teaching in Charlotte on “Buddhist Basics” (at a residence in Myers Park neighborhood). If you wish to attend, contact me for details. The teaching will focus on teenagers but adults will also enjoy. 10:30 am – 2 pm (Potluck lunch.)

To spread Buddhist principles of harmlessness & goodness, and support cultural traditions of Vietnamese people in the USA.

39 like this
UPDATE: February 14 at 7:28pm · 1
Ven. Sudhamma Thank you for Liking the Page. You enabled it to obtain a new, shorter URL address, “www.facebook.com/CloverBuddhist“.
  • Soooo… how’s the weather, dear Friends up north? We had the windows open here this afternoon. I raked leaves, no need for a sweater. Some early bright yellow jonquils (daffodils) are blooming in the yard; I wouldn’t mind a little more of winter before the hot season (i.e., most of the year) hits. Ah, life in the South! (USA)

Posted by Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni 28 Feb 2013.

Link

Personal updates from some of my Facebook posts in January 2013.

January 27

  • Made a quick trip to Greenville SC, for just a few days, to attend a ceremony, and stayed with Ven. Sudinna at the Carolina Buddhist Vihara; got back late last night. Today, in Charlotte, I led a daylong meditation retreat at a yoga studio, with about 20 meditators attending. We had a great day.

January 16

  • Finishing up a couple of weeks teaching Dhamma in a tiny town in Vermont. My mid-winter visit has been received enthusiastically. Snow is falling outside the windows; beautiful. A neighbor took me show-shoeing earlier today. The local Baptist pastor, whose church helped sponsor my visit, brought my lunch. It [the town] looks something like this painting. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/east-orange-vermont-charlotte-blanchard.html
  • Spending a couple of weeks giving teachings in a snow-covered beautiful village in Vermont (USA). The people welcome me graciously with great interest. I’m so happy! I’m staying warm, but the winter air has been chilly; temperature was only 1 degree F (-17.2 C) early this morning! Neighbors here keep telling me about the unusual low of -15 F (-26 C) that occurred the night before I arrived. Brrrrr!  http://www.clarkegalleries.com/hibbard/images/hibbard_newenglandwinterlandscape_large.jpg

Posted by Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni 28 Feb 2013

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

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.