North America 45
North America 45 picture monastery Kuti
While I was waiting for the pick up I got chatting to a high school girl who's parents were doctors. She explained the the local Uni had quite a low qualification entry, and she would like to go to Vancouver where the standards would be higher. So I had met a serious young lady, who kindly called the monastery to confirm I was waiting.
The car accommodated a folding bike easily, and the charming driver, who has been living at the monastery for four years, had a very interesting history of how she found the Dharma.
The journey of over 40k confirmed my decision to return last night, as we are 4,000 feet and down a track, the most remote monastery imaginable. It's called Sitavana " cool forest" but its the most sumptuously simple Japanese style accommodation I've ever come across.
It's not a training place but it is used by the supporters for private and group retreats.
Ajahn Sona is the Abbot, an ex classical musician, who ordained in 1989 and spent further training in the Forest linage of Ajahn Chah. So it's looks as if I've struck the right note again! Restrain yourself Golding, keep your puns to the Blog.
Tea is at 5 pm and us five lay people had a thorough chat on Dhamma practice until 630 to get ready for meditation at 7pm
After, I wandered around the grounds where there are several Kuties scattered in the forest, one has a raised walking path. I also was introduced to their tame-ish marmot and chipmunks abounded, though you would expect that. Practitioners come from all over the world to meditate in this Canadian wonderland. The abbot is very keen on Green solutions and all the electricity comes from solar panels and the heating from wood.
Slept very well in the simple raised bed, a bit like a Japanese organic flower must feel, followed by a simple meditation, a simple stroll to the swamp, which is simply inundated with unsympathetic mosquitoes. Breakfast is healthy and the great Canadian Muffin is in attendance.
In the excellent Birken Forest Monastery First Years booklet the Abbot points out that the only teaching that is really necessarily, is by example. He also stresses the importance of maintaining the Buddha's code of discipline. What he does make clear is by adhering to the rules, that is what makes the practice into a religion, not something I'm good at.( not only am I not a religious Jew, but I fail to be a religious Buddhist! )
The name Birken refers to the Birch trees that are everywhere, the same that as samplings I spend most of my South Downs volunteering days pulling up!
Most of the Firs are quite young so I guess this area, also a National Park had been logged not that long ago.
The present building complex is a manifestation from an earlier much simpler Sangha closer to Vancouver. Reading through much of the early history that is written by the Abbots mother who seemed to be the primary lay mover for this astonishing venture. The present and I guess last manifestation is Birken III and long may it rest. Ps this properties previous incarnation, had been a marijuana farm.
Having visited many of the Ajahn Chah Forest Monasteries around the world one has to marvel at the people that helped establish them. My own efforts at Chithurst seem very insignificant.
This place is totally different from any other of the Forest Monasteries, remote, with no visible lay support as the effort to get here almost dictates that you will stay a while. Not feasible to carry out an alms round or have the daily food offerings that everywhere else gets. So it is a kind of miracle that it continues to exist purely on donations.
I'm reading a piece from Stephen Batchelor about Buddhism in the Soviet Union before Stalin and at a ' Congress of Soviet Buddhist' some were claiming that Lenin was influenced by the spirit of the Buddha, who was the true founder of Communism.
The Marxist literary critic Walter Benjamin, who happened to staying at the hotel recalled ' that many doors in the corridors were left ajar, which didn't seem accidental, as he found out that in these rooms lived members of a sect that had sworn never to occupy closed rooms' a touch of Pythoness Paranoia don't you think?
This afternoon I had a double dose of the Abbots considerable wisdom. He spent three years as a hermit before he ordained and this place lends itself to long periods of solitude.
Before tea I had a personal audience and we explored my current thing 'competitiveness' though he spent much of the time explaining the merits of the hermit life. And at tea a new arrival, who had been a monk in Sri Lanka explored his journey.
So I'll retire to silence and leave you to the world until tomorrow. PLG Tony