Wednesday, October 22, 2008

reopening the way

The Feeling and Real Vision
of the Way Reopening

With the blessings and encouragement of our experienced venerable monastic Elders (see the post directly below this one), on October 22nd, after 25 years, the old logging access road and its double landings were reopened and cleared.

This is the first real step in developing the very basic infrastructure for our monastic hermitage here on this land.

Having been well cleared, the road and landings will need to set now through the Northern California winter rainy season, and in the late spring / early summer 2009, a little rock will be put down. Then, under the sun, the road will bake. After baking, it should serve as a good, strong access road to the common areas of our hermitage for years to come.

Funding for the clearing of the road and landings was provided by donations from the small women's monastery/retreat "dream" trust established in 2004/5.

Our gratitude and appreciation to Ayya Tathaaloka's late Grandpa Gil for his establishment of the dream trust, as well as the friends of Wat Buddhanusorn and founding Dhammadharini Board members for their contributions.

walking in the newly cleared access road

the newly cleared upper landing

The old road continues off of the newly-cleared landings leading through the forest, past many lovely nooks and crannies for meditation, perhaps the places of future platforms, tent sites and kutis. Walking on, one comes to the pathway down the mountainside and to the creek.

Friday, July 11, 2008

the blessings of our kalyanamittas

Visit of Bhante Gunaratana and Ajahn Pasanno to the Hermitage Site

On July 10, 2008 we welcomed elder master Bhante H Gunaratana Sangha Nayaka Thera (Bhante G), the venerable Ajahn Pasanno Bhikkhu, Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, Samaneri Sister Suvijjana and the Dhammadharini Board of Directors to the land to see what was then still known as the proposed hermitage site.

We all felt greatly honored, delighted and blessed by their visit, as both Bhante G and Ajahn Pasanno have probably the most extensive experience with Buddhist forest monasteries and hermitages both in North America and in their original context in Asia as just about anyone alive.

Bhante G is the founding Abbot of the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and Ajahn Pasanno previous Abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat (the International Forest Monastery in North-eastern Thailand) and current Co-Abbot of Abhayagiri Forest Monastery in nearby Mendicino County. Both have been respected as teachers/mentors/advisors by Ayya Tathaaloka and her Dhammadharini Board members for many years.

After Jill's gracious offering of the late morning almsmeal to all of the visiting monastics, we set out to take a good look at the land. We passed first through the area that is used for the vipassana meditation and women's mindfulness in nature camps, then across the creek, up the steep hill to the saddle between the mountains and across the ridge on Dhammagiri to the old logging access road. We then came down the road to the first and the second of the two old logging landings and then, passing many beautiful secluded potential platform or kuti sites, hiked the trail down the mountainslope to what friends have begun calling the "bhikkhuni beach" .

All along the walk both Bhante G and Ajahn Pasanno shared invaluable reflections, insights and advice from their many years experience.

We learned much about trailers, propane, "off the grid", solar and wind, satellite phones, yurts, kutis and platforms, and especially about the Pelton Wheel micro-hydro technology, which, with such a strong year-round water flow and steep slope could provide any and all electrical needs for the hermitage.

All in all the two Mahatheras seemed to think that it was an excellent site with fine potential and left us with their blessings. An excellent visit.

A few of the photos taken follow here:

Bhante G on the porch at land steward Jill Rayna's cabin

on the bridge crossing the creek.

walking in down the old logging road from the ridge of Dhammagiri

coming to the first of the old logging landings (now cleared) recommended as the central community area for the hermitage

the second, lower landing (now also cleared)

coming into the forest and onto the trail leading from the second, lower landing through many beautiful, secluded camping or khuti sites down to the creek

hearing from the Master at "bhikkhuni beach," the monastic hermitage's landing on the creek

Saturday, June 21, 2008

the first woman's "going forth" on the land

The Samaneri Pabbaja (going forth into the noviciate)
of Anagarika Carol Porter -- now Samaneri Suvijjana

[clipped from an announcement mailed to friends on June 04, 2008:]

A Historic Happening for Buddhism in North America

Dear friends,

Soon an important event in the unfolding history of Buddhism in Northern California and the Western United States will be taking place.

The Buddha spoke often of his longterm commitment to having an Ubhato Sangha--a monastic community of two harmonious halves--female as well as male, bhikkhunis and bhikkhus, as other Buddhas of antiquity had also had in the past. He often spoke of his commitment to well establish, before his entry into final Peace, what he called the Fourfold Assembly, and regularly praised those of all four assemblies as amongst his great disciples. The four assemblies: those of the bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, upasakas and upasikas he often compared to the pillars of his house, the wheels of the vehicle of his Sasana, each balancing and uplifting one another in harmony.

This was the Buddha's vision and dedication.

It takes at least 4 bhikkhunis or 4 bhikkhus gathered together to make a Sangha.
On the 21st of June, in the afternoon at 1:30 pm, an ordination will happen, the novice (samaneri) ordination of Anagarika Suvijjana, to which you are welcome.

This ordination marks another historic event. For the past years, in the absence of Theravadan bhikkhunis to ordain women into the Sangha, Theravadan bhikkhus and bhikkhunis of other traditions have served to fill that gap, as they are allowed and called to do so by Vinaya. Now, for the first time, with the presence of Theravadan Bhikkhuni Sangha here, we will ourselves ordain and welcome a woman into the novice training in our Sangha.

On the day of the ordination, we expect the presence of 5 bhikkhunis, 1 or 2 siladhara sisters, and one samaneri = 7 or 8 monastics:

* Ven Bhikkhuni Sudarshana Theri, Chief Incumbent of Samadhi Buddhist Meditation, Florida
* Ven Bhikkhuni Ayya Tathaaloka Theri, Abbess, Dhammadharini Vihara, Northern California
* Ven Bhikkhuni Sudinna, Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, W Virginia
* Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni, Abbess, Carolina Buddhist Vihara, S Carolina
* Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni, Bhavana Society, W Virginia
* Siladhara Sister Ajahn Chandasiri, Amaravati, England
* Siladhara Sister Ajahn Anandabodhi, Amaravati, England

Our great appreciation to all supporting lay retreatants and supportive friends for making this event possible.


May you be well, happy and peaceful,

Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni

photos of Samaneri Suvijjana's ordination day from friend Darlene ~

Anagarika Carol Porter with younger brother David and elder sister Eileen before her "going forth"

lunch dana

foot washing before ascending the ordination platform

exhortation being given the novice candidate with the examination of the prepared robes

returning with the two bhikkhuni instructors carrying offering tray ready to request the novice precepts

requesting and avowing herself to the novice training

the new novice, Samaneri Sister Suvijjana with her son Matthew. Congratulations!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

our first retreat together on the land

The first gathering of our Theravadin Bhikkhuni Sangha in Northern California happened at the San Francisco International Airport on June 11th, 2008. On June 14th we travelled up to the Sonoma Coast for our retreat.

Photos from the first Bhikkhuni Sangha Wilderness Camp Retreat

Jill and Ayya Sudhamma walking the land

Ayya Tathaaloka's tent/campsite (on top of the knoll in the center of the saddle, other bhikkhunis campsites are just a little farther down over the knoll)

Ayya Sudhamma mindfully walking through the forest, over the cave, and down to the creek

Learning creek walking

wild white azaleas above the creek

pindapata, almsmeal and Anumodana Dhammakatha at a friend's cabin, our "village"

Peaceful afternoon abiding (if you look very carefully you can see Ayya Sudinna meditating next to the middle of the lower right tree trunk :)

Late afternoon light on the saddle


more photos are posted on flickr here:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

a gathering of clouds

a "gathering of clouds" is an ancient expression for the coming together of the Sangha which holds the Dhamma Rain, a rain, a moisture to nourish all good roots and their fruits, and, to end all thirst.

Welcoming the Theravadin Bhikkhuni Sangha to the land

With the proposal of a women's monastic community on the land, Ayya Tathaaloka suggested the idea of welcoming Theravadan bhikkhunis and samaneris from around North America to retreat there, to see if they felt to practice there and whether it seemed a good place to establish a permanent women's monastic hermitage.

This idea was met with warm enthusiasm.

At the first gathering of the Theravadan Bhikkhuni Sangha in North America at the Carolina Buddhist Vihara in November 2007, the bhikkhunis had called for a follow up gathering, perhaps somewhere on the West Coast.

Several bhikkhunis had also mentioned their interest and support for Anagarika Carol Porter's novice ordination or samaneri pabbaja then tentatively scheduled for sometime in the first half of the year 2008.

Additionally, upasika friends had expressed the wish to be able to participate in the meritorious deed of being able to offer Sanghadana to the Bhikkhuni Sangha on the North American West Coast for the first time.

Thus, for these four good reasons, with Jill's blessings and the support of the Dhammadharini Support Foundation, the follow plan was hatched and invitation sent:

North American
Bhikkhuni Sangha Theravada:
Wilderness Retreat on the Sonoma Coast
June 15-21, 2008

Dear friends on the Path ~

Warm greetings to you all. We are planning Anagarika Suvijjana (Carol Porter)'s samaneri ordination in June. A good number of the bhikkhunis in North America who know her have expressed their interest in coming together for that.

We've also thought about having a special Bhikkhuni Sangha camp retreat on the land that has been offered here... laying the sima stones up in the meadow...reciting Patimokkha....ordaining Suvijjana there.... having a chance to spend some good time out in nature meditating, walking, talking and communing together. it would be a very nice, relaxing, peaceful and beautiful North American follow up on the International Bhikkhuni Parisadh upcoming in Maharashtra, India in February and the Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi Forest Monastery in March, as well as on our last year's first gathering for Bhikkhuni Patimokkha recitation on the east coast at the Carolina Buddhist Vihara.

i can think of no better way to bless the space that has been offered us in Northern California for forest retreat. Friends tell me that the spring wildflowers are at their peak in the high meadow called 'the Saddle' between the peaks where we plan to lay the sima stones then. i think this would be very good for our hearts, as for the lovely present and developing future of our women's monastic community.

the June full moon is the 18th. we have scheduled the retreat from the 15th to the 21st~ with an option to stay and camp longer for who would like a limited number of spaces are available for lay women who would like to camp on the land during this time to offer support and for their own retreat. Everyone is welcome for Suvijjana's novice ordination on the 21st.


Please let me know if you think you may join us there then.

in the great love of the Path,

Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, Theri

The proposed monastic hermitage site is located on more than 200 acres of mountain forest, meadows and waterfalls directly on the Northern California Coast north of San Francisco. It is 1 and 1/2 hours drive north-west of Dhammadharini Vihara.

RSVP to Ayya Tathaaloka by email or telephone: USA (510) 791-2331.

Here is the basic calendar schedule:

(June 6-15: Monastic Retreat at Spirit Rock with Ajahn Sumedho)
June 11: begin Bhikkhuni Sangha arrival
June 13: visit Ajahn Sumedho at Spirit Rock
June 14: to the land
June 15: being Bhikkhuni Sangha camping retreat
June 17: establish sima at the high meadow (the saddle)
June 18: Patimokkha recitation
June 21: Samaneri pabbaja for Anagarika Suvijjana
June 22: day to honor bhikkhuni Sangha at Dharmapala Institute, Milpitas
June 23: arrival day for Western Buddhist Monastic Conference at Shasta Abbey
June 27: end day of WBMC
June 28: return to Dhammadharini Vihara