Friday, December 16, 2011

Silent Light

This is our first post to the Aranya Bodhi blog that is not made possible by a gasoline generator. I am writing from the Sangha Hall on the electricity provided by our newly connected solar electrical system. Though the sun has yet to shine upon the completely wired array, the batteries arrived fully charged and are providing the power right now. Eric, Mike and Rody from Pure Power Solutions made a lot of progress today. Eric (top photo) installed our inverter and charge controller in the battery room. Mike installed the rails for an additional four solar panels on top of the laundry shed. This will add 450 watts more to our hermitage solar electrical system, for a peak potential of 1920 watts of electricity. The batteries are strung together in six groups of four batteries each. The generator was filled with diesel fuel, tested and connected to the inverter. Tomorrow morning as the sun comes over the hillside, the battery bank will begin its cycle of charging on the sun's power.

Rody gave us the gift of an ac outlet directly on the inverter so we could have electricity right away. The Sangha Hall and kitchen trailer now have household ac electricity by way of extension cords until our ac electrician can install the proper wiring in January. For now, our cook can can make use of a rice cooker and the microwave oven.

Because the sun will not be able to provide all the electricity year round and we are presently experiencing the shortest days of the year, the diesel generator will be keeping the batteries charged. This means that we will be using diesel fuel instead of gasoline but rather than using the generator directly, we will be using it indirectly and far less often. Rody told us that red diesel is less expensive because it has no highway tax -the generator is strictly for off road use :) so we are asking our friends to help us look in our nearby cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma for a red diesel provider.

Stack, our ac electrician is tentatively scheduled to help us on January 5th and 6th. With her help, we will have electrical outlets for each of our main buildings. So a lot has already happened to get us to this point from the very first thoughts of how to bring electricity to our remote forest wilderness. And still there is a little more left to do. A little more to plan on and wait on but for now we have silent light. There is no generator running. A little more on the horizon.

with Metta

Marajina Samaneri

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

On the Horizon

A few additions came into focus on our horizon today.

This is Rody. He's been great to work with us, designing our solar electrical system. He is familiar with micro hydro as well - that's how we met him - and is installing these components with our future in mind. Rody is beside the 7kw diesel generator which will be used to charge the batteries on our shorter wintry days.

Six strings of four 6 volt comercial batteries line the floor of the grass hut in the lower landing. The grass hut may now be called the battery hut. These commercial batteries are sealed, eliminating the need to open battery cells, or use sulphuric acid. They can last up to 15 years with proper care. The inverter and generator will work together to keep them charged and equanimous (aka equalized) to the specifications of the manufacturer.

This is Joel, at the top, and Mike, at the bottom, installing the sixth panel.

This beautiful 1470 watt array peers into the horizon from the lower landing.

Rody, Mike and Joel will be returning next week with the inverter, and will wire everything together then.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Chance to Help

Dear Friends,
Having stayed with us for seven months, our lay steward Gwyn, who had been helping us with errands, recently departed. Due to the remote nature of Aranya Bodhi we are not visited daily and nuns rely on help for certain errands. There is an ongoing and regular opportunity for help to be offered regarding driving, and filling our propane and gasoline tanks. If you can help please contact awakening

Thank you,
Nibbida, Samaneri

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meditation Retreat Time Nov 17 to 28

~ non-abiding ~

Dear Friends of the Hermitage,

The Bhikkhunis and Samaneris of our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage will be away for a Special Thanksgiving Meditation Retreat with Sayadaw U Jagara and Shaila Catherine from November 17th thru 28th.  Ven Suvijjana  has kindly remained at the hermitage as caretaker, together with our beloved land steward Jill. 

Contact if you would like to come to offer dana or visit during this time.

Come November 28th, we will once again have 3 bhikkhunis and 2 samaneris resident at the hermitage.

With loving kindness from the quiet and peaceful forest,
Hermitage Dwellers and Non-dwellers 

Friday, September 30, 2011

October Events

Dear Dhamma Friends,

As I write from the lower landing, the redwoods are drinking in a cool morning mist. Our 2011 Vassa is just about over, in time for the true seasonal rains of northern California. It has been a quiet time these three months. With the blessing of a month long time of seclusion for each monastic and lay resident, one can see how the community is maturing and progressing both collectively and individually. The first year laid much of the foundation for the current state of energy here. As we see the gifts of so many faithful supporters and the work of those who have devoted their time coming to fruition in the form of a practicing bhikkhuni sangha in the United States, a sense of awe arises. A 2600 year-old tradition preserved in the pages of the Pali Canon, having held its breath for centuries, is now breathing anew for women.

The month of October will bring us many opportunities to welcome you to our hermitage as well as to our activities in the neighboring areas. We are sharing our calendar below and inviting your presence on many very special occasions. Share with us the joy of the blossoming efforts of years of preparation and dedication as our second Vassa at Aranya Bodhi concludes.

Presently, thanks to your loving-kindness and generosity, our food store is filled to capacity. You are most welcome to visit and offer meal dana throughout the month of October and especially on these days indicated below. View our Calender
View our Calender
12 Oct: Full Moon Uposatha - End of Three Month Vassa-time Retreat - Aranya Bodhi Pavarana (End of Vassa Monastic Community Meeting). Meal dana welcome.
13 Oct: 2 bhikkhunis go for Pavarana to Wat Buddhanusorn, Fremont
14 Oct: Visit of Ven Bhikkhuni Metteya with Alfred and Metta to Aranya Bodhi (Meal dana welcome).
15 Oct: Visit of Ven Bhikkhu Khemaratana and Ven Bhikkhu Jaganatha (Meal dana welcome)
16 Oct: Ven Bhikkhu Analayo's teaching at Spirit Rock (2-4 pm), Ordination Rehearsal at Spirit Rock (5-7 pm)."Mindfulness According to Early Buddhist Sources"  Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis stay at Spirit Rock and with nearby hosts.
17 Oct: Bhikkhuni Ordinations at Spirit Rock (9:30 am to 5 pm), Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering begins at City of the Dharma Realm in Sacramento (7:30 pm)
Oct 18: Ven Bhikkhu Analayo's teaching at Sati Center in Redwood City "Dynamics of Insight Meditation" and "Protecting Oneself and Others Through Mindfulness" Ven Ayya Medhanandi and Bhikkhuni Nimmala's visit to Aranya Bodhi
Oct 17-21: Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering, Sacramento
Oct 22-23: ABS Kathina, Sacramento
Oct 27: New Moon Uposatha Lunar Observance at Hermitage (Meal dana welcome)
Oct 29: Aranya Bodhi Hermitage Kathina (end of Vassa - awarding the Robe of Merit) Celebration

With Metta,

the Community at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage

Thursday, August 11, 2011

a river of trees ripples downward from the mountain

the forest disapears into a current of onenesses

bird voices and human voices all the same

inside and outside,

all the same

marajina samaneri

aranya bodhi hermitage

9 august 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kitchen trailer is now fully supported ... and next priorities

Pictures from informal talk after dana - July 20, 2011

Thanks to the help of many friends, our new kitchen trailer is fully paid for. A generous pledge from Ming Cassim of Australia has put us over the top.

This trailer is comfortable and convenient, clean and safe, a great match for our rustic, off-the-grid hermitage. It was purchased last April, after storms and water damage had ruined the previous trailer.

In addition to Ming, donors of the trailer include (alphabetically) Alliance for Bhikkhunis, Awakening Truth (Colorado Springs), Eunice Cerezo, Martha Craft, Pamela Kirby, Sumana Meissner, Ruth Turner, Brenda Walsh, Wat Buddhanusorn, Gwyn Waterfield, and Brian White.

Now that we have accomplished and paid for the trailer, along with new kutis and improvements for the 2011 Vassa season, we are turning our attention to other important projects. The following are our highest priorities as funding becomes available:

1. Our land donor has given the use of this magnificent forest along with a bequest of over 250 acres. Implementing her intention will require a legal subdivision, entailing a series of expensive studies and permits. We are now estimating the cost at $60,000.

2. For the past year, we have been working to develop a micro-hydro system, for eco-friendly year-around power from our creek. Electric power is essential for phone and email connection, and to protect our yurt and trailers from mildew during the winter rainy season. This crucial utility will replace the noise, pollution and expense of our gas generator, and reduce our use of propane gas. After consulting with several installers and experts, we are estimating a total cost of $15,000, with $10,000 already donated and $5,000 remaining. Our friends in the Sacramento Buddhist community came together in loving and practical ways to initate this project, and offered the first $10,000 donations.

3. We now have 5 kutis. These are simple shelters for long term meditators. Joyfully, there are now more than 5 women who would like to be here for the coming winter. These are monastic women still in their training years, monastic life aspirants, and dedicated meditation practitioners. If there is support to do so, we would build one or two more kutis for the coming winter, including one accessible kuti for disabled or elder visitors. The cost for a heated kuti is around $8,000. An accessible kuti might be around $10,000.

4. We have already received generous support for the monastic requisites during this 2011 Vassa retreat. Sumana Meissner, Udana Ratnabharathi, Brenda Walsh, an anonymous donor and other friends have contributed for food; the Alliance for Bhikkhunis, an anonymous donor and other friends are helping with bhikkhuni medical premiums. This past June, the Dhammadharini Board of Directors estimated about $12,000 in un-funded general expenses for the following five months … including everything from gas and utilities to potential uncovered medical expenses for our 5 bhikkhunis and 2 samaneris during the Vassa.

We have heard that the financial situation in the world is very unsettled. It is an incredible blessing that our Dhammadharini Sangha and women's monastic hermitage has been able to continue and to grow. Faced with the theme of uncertainty, so affirmed in the Buddha's teaching, we aim to sustain the type of community where women can practice well, perfect their virtue, and realize the fruits of the Buddha's path. We are confident that when the time is ripe, our practical aims will also come to fruition.

With metta and appreciation,

Friends of the Hermitage
Hermitage Stewardship Committee

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Big Painting Work Day

Thank you all who participated in the Aranya Bodhi work weekend on June 18 and 19. Fourteen friends and residents took part, and in a single weekend we completed the most difficult half of our kuti painting for this year.

We had fun, and enough time for lunch, Dhamma discussions and tea. Our youngest helper, Venus was especially delightful. At 3 years old, she has clearly mastered the concept of painting.

There is a second mini-work weekend planned for this weekend, June 25-26. The schedule each day:

8:30 ~ Morning devotions
9:00 to 11:00 ~ Visitors arrive, setting up, preparing dana
11:00 to 12:30 ~ Dhamma reflection and lunch
12:30 to 5:00 ~ Painting
5:30 ~ Tea
6:30 ~ Evening devotions

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Springtime at the Hermitage

wild douglas irises on the saddle

As the forest gradually dries out and warms up, among a profusion of wildflowers, there is a harmonious and well-practicing community of monastic women, not overburdened with projects, not putting very much burden on our friends, engaged with meditation and study, and working steadily to prepare for our 2011 Vassatime retreat.

Four women are now living on the land: Ayya Sobhana and Samaneri Marajina stayed throughout the rainy winter, and Anagarika Gwyn recently joined our community. Upasika Jackie has done great service as Financial Steward. She arrived first of April and will be departing end of May.

For the 2011 Vassatime Retreat, we expect Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Sobhana, Ven. Adhimutta, Ven. Suvijjana, Ven. Phalanyani, Sr. Marajina, Sr. Nibbida, Anagarika Gwyn, and several lay residents. Ajahn Bhikkhuni Thanasanti may be regularly visiting although not resident; and Ajahn Srs. Anandabodhi and Santacitta will be regularly visiting from their residence at Aloka Vihara.

There is room for one more lay woman who is comfortable with tenting and wishes to stay for a month or more, starting any time from June 1.

Kitchen trailer delivered and installed:

Our new used kitchen trailer has been delivered, leveled, and connected to propane, so there is a beautiful, functional kitchen. It is a great comfort to the cooks and all of our residents to have such a clean, tidy and nice looking space.

***Over the past few weeks, all the foodstuffs and kitchen gear were lovingly cleaned and reorganized into the new space. The mouse-proof pantry shed is moved to a more convenient location, with more shelving installed.

***Brian W. will build a deep cabinet and laminate counter, converting a the trailers living room into expanded work-space.

***There is only one last glitch to solve in order for the trailer's hot water and second refrigerator to work without blowing electric fuses. When that is done, we will have two refrigerators, hot water, hot shower, electric lights, and forced air heat ... all from a combination of propane and electricity. We are seeking a volunteer or inexpensive worker to make a house-call fix on the trailer's electric system. This should be someone familiar with DC electricity such as automotive or RV electric.

*** Over $3,000 in donations have been received, and another $3,000 pledged. This leaves $3,500 still needed to repay the cost of this trailer. Funds were "loaned" by the Dhammadharini Board, from assets that are Board-designated for other purposes.

Progress on Micro-hydro project:

Brian Fullner has done a physical survey of our creek, mapping the latitude, longitude and altitude of several waypoints. He is working on a report for the micro-hydro project. This information is key to getting a realistic expert bid for the project.

Road Work:

We have had gravel laid on several of the muddiest and most eroded parts of our road, and widened an area near the green bridge where a small landslide made it difficult to maneuver the trailers in and out. In addition, the extremely rocky and steep ascent from the green bridge up to the saddle was rocked and graded last fall. It's now in excellent condition. There is still a need for more road work. The construction work at the Hermitage during the rainy months has contributed to wear and tear on the entire road, from Jill's front gate up to the green bridge. If funds are donated we think it proper to take care of a few more rough or muddy patches.

Kutis and Laundry Shed:

Thanks to many generous donors of the 2010 Vassatime retreat, we were able to to put up three new kutis and a laundry shed. The quality, speed and honesty of our contractor Rubisel Ventura have made it possible to accomplish a great deal with a small budget. Now that the weather is dry, we are staining decks, varnishing inside floors, and feel confident that the painting can be done before Vassa (See below about work days). Skilled help needed: a volunteer carpenter to install click panel type flooring in two kutis; and a plumber to set up two utility tubs and a shower.

Meal Dana:

mindfulness at work
Considering the cost of gas and difficulty in driving to our Hermitage, Sr. Marajina and lay visitors have cheerfully prepared our meals from grocery dana and the Hermitage stores. During the winter, the Ratnabharathi and Senanayake families and Dominic Mc. provided meals. More recently June N. has been helping with local grocery shopping. She has been visiting regularly to look over what is needed. Also, we have received a carton of fresh-picked organic veggies from a the Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma. Farmer Michael Collins has been generous, flexible and cooperative to meet our needs. This subscription is now used up. If anyone is interested in helping with the food requisite, but unable to bring dana in person, they may assist with June's project or with the organic farm subscription.


Jackie M. is working on a procedures handbook for the Hermitage Financial Steward, so that shopping and money matters will be consistently and properly handled. Jackie was instrumental in shopping for our kitchen trailer and many other logistical matters. Also, kudos to Martha C. who has willingly filled in on several occasions as our temporary Financial Steward. After Jackie departs at the end of May, Anagarika Gwyn Waterfield will be our Financial Steward.

Work Weekend, June 18 and 19:

We would like to organize a work weekend for kuti painting on June 18 and 19. Rain-dates June 25 and 26 Volunteers could come for day visits on Saturday OR Sunday. The primary task is painting Kutis. We already have the tools and supplies on hand, so the organizational work is simple: Just getting the word out to our friends and communities, including some of the area sanghas; and organizing the pot-luck meal. If some of the volunteers want to stay overnight, we suggest they sleep in the yurt or camp out on the lower landing. If you can participate or help us publicize this work weekend with your local sangha, please contact awakeningforest [at]

wild azalea
The weather recently has been extremely pleasant, with abundant wild flowers, a walkable creek, and blue skies for days on end. if you would like to visit for a personal retreat or to help with chores, you are welcome. We try to keep Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as very quiet days for seclusion and meditation. Thursday through Sunday, we focus on projects.

With metta and appreciation for your help and good wishes,
Aranya Bodhi Sangha

Friday, April 22, 2011

2011 Vassatime Retreat

We are delighted to announce the 2011 Vassatime retreat at Aranya Bodhi, from July 15 to October 12. Retreatants may arrive up to one month in advance and stay afterwards until October 17th.

This Vassatime retreat will be a time for individual practice in a wilderness environment. Our intention is to support a settled, quiet community where each woman will have the space to develop and sustain her own practice leading to liberation. Our local supporters would find a monastic sangha largely in seclusion, with the duty of teaching and speaking with lay supporters carried by more experienced Bhikkhunis.

Communal training will be focused around the formal transactions which define the Bhikkhuni sangha: ordination (upasampada), entering the vassa, confession (apatti desana), teachings from respected venerable bhikkhus (ovada), recitation of the monastic code (patimokkha), invitation (pavarana), and for those who can stay on in October, the robes ceremony (kaṭhina). In the past, we have seen how Ayya Tathaaloka's approach to Vinaya is both accountable and compassionate, bringing out the full meaning of the early Vinaya texts without necessarily subscribing to later customs and commentarial traditions.

In addition to Ayya Tathaaloka and Ayya Sobhana, all four of the bhikkhunis who ordained at Aranya Bodhi in August 2010 will be returning this year for further training. That is, Ajahn Thanasanti, Ven. Adhimutta, Ven. Suvijjana, and Ven. Phalanyani. We will have two samanerīs (novices), one or two anagarikās (postulants) and several monastic life aspirants.

Dhamma and meditation instruction will be determined based on the needs of participants.

There is still space for a few lay residents during the Vassa, who enjoy camping in tents and can stay for a month or longer. They would have special duties assisting the community with chores involving money, driving and cooking. Our aim is to have enough lay residents to keep the chores light and allow time for personal practice.

There are many opportunities to support this Vassatime retreat, by helping with buildings, trails, and painting in the weeks before July 15, offering local transportation, meal dana, or other requisites both before and during the retreat. If you wish to participate or support, please contact the Aranya Bodhi Prioress,Ven. Sobhana Bhikkhuni (bhikkhunisobhana [at] gmail [dot] com).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hermitage Trailer Update & Invitation from Friends of the Hermitage

Wind, rain, leaks, mold, and mildew won.
The old kitchen trailer succumbed.
 A new used trailer has been found.

Through the diligent work of many friends, the hermitage now has a new used trailer, complete with all the kitchen fixtures, shower, and a separate bedroom for a resident or guest. Thank you all for that!

The new trailer will allow indoor cooking and shower facilities for the four monastic women and the lay steward now living on the land.  In summer, especially during the Vassa retreat from July to October, up to 12 women will use the new trailer along with an outside camp-kitchen and shower tents.

Out of the $9,500 cost of acquiring and installing this trailer, the Alliance for Bhikkhunis offered $2,000 and would like to invite Dhammadharini donors to join in this offering. Awakening Truth (Ajahn Thanasanti Bhikkhuni's support organization in Colorado) has kindly pledged another $3,000. Thank you to all these friends.

$4,500 in donations are needed
to pay the costs that remain.

The Dhammadharini Board of Directors offered to loan these funds to the hermitage (from Dhammadharini funds designated for other purposes), as the kitchen trailer had become an environmental health hazard. With 5-7 women in retreat at the hermitage, it had to be replaced urgently.

Invitation to Participate

Friends of the Hermitage group invites the participation of all supportive friends who would like to join us.   If you wish to donate, see ... Be sure to indicate the purpose of your gift, and kindly drop a note to so that we can announce when the goal is met.  We will happily reply to any questions about this project and how you can participate.

Sara Sacksteder
on behalf of
Friends of the Hermitage

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Family Retreat at Aranya Bodhi

We all enjoyed Becca's week-long visit with two young daughters. It's a wonderful exercise to make the Dhamma and Discipline ... what we understand and how we behave ... meaningful for kids. By helping both ourselves and the youngsters, we make the Buddha's path beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful at the end. Here is Becca's blog post.

She should have also mentioned helping with Hermitage chores, taking trash to the dump, and picking up propane and gas. Thank you, Becca.


Kataññutā is gratitude, literally knowing what was done.
Our gratitude to Martha Craft for serving as interim Steward to the Hermitage, from the day of Sr. Marajina's ordination up to Jackie Miller's arrival this week. Martha withstood the rough conditions, cheerfully dealt with propane tanks, gas cans, and hardware needs; chauffered the monastics to and from Fremont and SFO, and braved severe weather on the freeway. Best of all, she took a lively and joyful interest in our Pali and Dhamma studies.
She wrote, "This has been an amazing happy adventure for me. Makes me smile."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

my ego wants to kill me

drawn out
where breath meets breathing
penciled in gold leaf by
the engraver's fine stroke
this door that wasn't here before
deadbolt lock
and a
key of moss

nothing is here, only breathing


my ego wants to kill me
smash me through the door into the fire
scalp me, trade me
for trinkets on the craving aisle
here it was for love
there it was for power
a trillion times for love
a trillion times for power
sorted now like duff on the forest floor


there is only breathing, nothing more

braiding water breathing
sifting air breathing
beating heart breathing
earth-touching sole breathing

marajina samaneri
24 march 2011
aranya bodhi hermitage, california usa

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

at my teacher's feet

monochrome daylight

beach thunder on the horizon

watermarked skies

at my teacher's feet again

unseen, her sigh is internal

how much, she may be thinking, more will i forgive you...

outside greening comes and goes with the wind of a two-week rain

the moon wanes, vultures plane across the canyon

how much more, she may be thinking, will i give you...

at my teacher's feet

the winter wren, the field mouse, the novice

the roots of trees, the forest, an empty hut

ten fetters, seven factors, five powers, Four Truths

converge in three syllables:


marajina samaneri

23 march 2011

aranya bodhi hermitage, california, usa

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Today's Puzzler

Can you guess how the raccoon has been breaking into our brand new temporary kitchen pantry?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seeking a New Kitchen

For better or worse, the kitchen is the heart of a monastery. We all thrive when its atmosphere is simple, patient, and considerate; never vain, chaotic, or opinionated.

Physically, many monastic kitchens are more functional, than pretty. At my training center in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, families would cook all night in a simple pavilion with a deeply sooted fireplace and wiremesh all around for the monkeys. At the aramaya in Bamunugedara, novices crouched on the floor, skilfully holding the knife by the toes and pushing the veggies down against the sharp blade. Even at the nicer bhikkhuni dwellings it was a shock to walk from the dignified, spacious public rooms back to narrow grey kitchens.

Our kitchen trailer at Aranya Bodhi was "rustic." In the whirlwind of work before our 2010 Vassa retreat, we had the chance to pick up several free trailers, and our volunteers devoted many hours to fixing them up. This is what folks do here on the Sonoma Coast for an inexpensive structure that can be set down quickly.

Two of the three trailers we obtained in 2010 have been fine for their purpose. Our Sangha trailer is bright, clean and warm inside. Our tools trailer is dry, white and big enough to keep the many things in order. Even our two plastic sheds have lived up to their promise, staying dry and mouseproof; while a 10 x 10 Kelty tent has been good enough to keep some extra supplies dry.

But the kitchen trailer was always a problem, never mouseproof and never weatherproof. We tried various repairs, replaced part of the interior ceiling, and had the roof tarred and resealed. We painted and scrubbed inside and tackled the ubiquitous mold from several angles. The leaking roof never stopped and before the heavy rain started, the entire trailer was tarped, leaving it dark inside but safe from additional water seepage. We gave metta to mice.

Winter offered another unique learning experience: the northern redwood rainforest. For weeks, every morning was a new adventure in cleaning. One day, the pedal sewing machine was full of white mildew; then our Pali Canon; on another morning, every piece of bamboo in the entire hermitage sprouted long hairy white mold; the walls and ceiling of the Samana Kuti molded before it could be painted. Blue green mold came back weekly in the new kitchen china cabinet. These were the weeks of constant cleaning and extra effort to install heaters to protect the library, yurt and kutis.

The kitchen has been Sr. Marajina's domain this winter. Besides cooking and serving, she has been most vigilant about cleanliness. Through her efforts, we've had safe, nourishing, comforting food, in an atmosphere of genteel poverty, the look of really old spaces that are thoroughly and constantly scrubbed.

Recently, we have realized the mold problem in that trailer is more serious than surface cleaning can care for. The ceiling has developed black mold which has made the place unsuitable for use. We have abandoned the kitchen trailer and have set up a temporary kitchen in the lower landing in the building which was destined to be the laundry room.

Prolonged exposure to mold causes allergic reactions and health complications. Sr. Marajina had been feeling nauseaus each day after working in the kitchen for a couple of hours. She has experienced headaches, chest tightness, shortness of breath and irritable mental formations. Because of her preference for working alone, others were spared the brunt of it, but Ayya Sobhana also had shortness of breath and difficulty with speaking and chanting.

Aranya Bodhi Hermitage needs a new kitchen trailer soon. It should have a leak proof roof and be mold-free. A used travel trailer in good condition, no larger than 8' by 30' to fit up our narrow driveway would be quite suitable. We are hoping for complete inside plumbing, a toilet, shower, lavatory, kitchen sink, and small clothes washer; a propane stove and heater. The standard propane appliances will be just right; in the summer they are supplemented by our outside cooking and washing pavilion.

Aranya Bodhi does not presently have the funding to purchase this trailer, having used our budget for three kutis and the laundry room.

If you can find a donated trailer, or would like to help in any way, the time is now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Sky Full of Dippers

Sky Full of Dippers: the Anagarika's Tale
by Marajina, Anagarika ~ Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, CA., USA
February 13, 2011

At night, from my bed on the floor of Samana Kuti, I look up at the starry sky over the canyon. It peaks through oak and redwood limbs passing panoramically through three large windows. The divide between inside and outside disappears, the walls disappear, the roof disappears… and the floor, as if suspended in the trees, finely, finely gives to the giving of the wind. I dwell in the divinity of the northern Sonoma coastline, resident steward at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage and the luckiest puggala on the planet.

A Theravadin bhikkhuni forest hermitage is a rare find in the world. I still marvel at how conditions coalesced to bring someone across the country to this precious situation so scarcely encountered. In this forest, cavernous grandmotherly stumps anchor their retinue of young redwoods to precipitous constantly shifting cliffs. Hillsides harbor the seasonal water color of wild orchids and native grasses... and landslides fell hillsides. Trees born in the mineral rock of the last tectonic upheaval cover millenia of stories as they pass to the soil their own earthen tales. Many voices, one samsara.

This February 19th, eight months after arriving on Ayya Tathaaloka's invitation to help Aranya Bodhi Hermitage on its first Vassa, I will go forth as a samaneri here. Eight months ago there were no kutis here. There were no outhouses, no showers, no meditation hall, no library, no laundry facilities, no electricity or phone. These were hardly missed in a benevolent forest of waterfalls and winding emerald trails. Ayya Sobhana, Venerable Adhimutta and I passed thirty degree nights with just a hot water bottle for warmth, remaining as residents after the area's coldest summer in fifty years to its wettest December in local memory while a hermitage slowly came to creation through the kindness and generosity of many faithful who believed a hermitage for bhikkhunis could be created here.

Here it is.

Arms around the area and around the world embrace Ayya Tathaaloka's long range vision of a Theravadin bhikkhuni forest hermitage. Arms around the area and around the world uphold, Ayya Sobhana's daily prioress task list. The support which houses, feeds, clothes and cares for this fledgling monastic community is utterly moving and inspiring.

When I look up at night, I am reminded of our friends who believe in the way of the bhikkhuni. I see a sky full of dippers filled with the promise of the savaka's path, showering down on us with faith and love, supporting the aspiration of our daughters, sisters and mothers by supporting the Buddha Sasana as the Blessed One left it for us. It is truly marvelous and wonderful. This Dhamma and Discipline is an amazing, amazing thing. Its continuity is enabled from the hearts and hands of the loveliest people in the world, into the heart of the bhikkhuni sangha. Those who share in Ayya Tathaaloka's and Ayya Sobhana's vision of a true fourfold sangha are unafraid of the commitment this unparalleled work in the world entails.

Marajina Anagarika at Samaneri Pabbaja w/ Ācarinī Ayya Sobhana 
Being witness to this, being here with this, sharing in this has been the greatest blessing of this puggala's life … and this is only the beginning. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Are We Surviving?

In the Cakkavatti-Sihanada Sutta (D26), the Buddha recounts a mythical future time, when the whole world goes mad with depravity and war. There will be "sword-intervals" when beings mistake one another for wild beasts, and kill each other. During one such time, a few beings will think of hiding in the remote forest. Protected by raging rivers and rugged mountains, they survive on wild roots and fruits. Only after the war do they emerge from their hiding places and rejoice together of one accord, saying, "Good beings, I see that you are alive!" They now see the terrible results of society's addiction to evil, and resolve to do good, starting with reverence for life. Thus their beauty and life span increase, and the virtuous way of life becomes more complete and refined, finally culminating in the arising of Metteyya Buddha.

This is how it has been for us here at the Aranya Bodhi. Away from the racket and stress of our modern times, the hearts grow tender. Our daily news show is to watch the afternoon fog roll up the creek valley, from the ocean.

The internal war, the uprising of our own kilesas, gradually dissolves. We are learning how to take care of our own practice for liberation, and also how to care for each other, with just enough space and enough sharing, enough structure and enough freedom.

Several people have asked how we are surviving at Aranya Bodhi, in the cold and rain. Friends, we are surviving and thriving. We have time to walk in the forest and meditate well swaddled in blankets. When it really rains, all the better for meditation.

We have undertaken several projects to make our Hermitage more comfortable. The Samana Kuti is complete except for its paint and wood stove. This kuti sits high on the mountain where the forest is more open and lighter. It overlooks an exceptionally broad old logging road, a grand avenue in the middle of nowhere. Anagarika Marajina has finally given up her tent in its deeply shaded and quiet place, to take up kuti living.

On our main landings, we have installed two propane heaters, in our Dhamma-Sala-Yurt, and the Sangha trailer. In the yurt with its high ceiling and large space, the heater cuts the chill just enough to be comfortable. We are using this space when company comes visiting.

The Sangha trailer is now truly cozy, a real refuge when the bones need to be warm. We are confident that books are safe from mildew, and have brought in the Dhamma library that Bhante Gunaratana donated last year. The internet, computers and lights are running on a gas generator. So the Sangha Trailer is now our study hall, classroom, internet cafe, small shrine room, and sick-bay all in one.

One of the challenges this past Vassa was laundry. It is traditional for monastics to wash their robes by hand, but with the afternoon sun going behind our mountain and the evening fog rolling in, the cloth just did not dry. When California's rainy season arrived early, we gave up on the laundry line, and started a regular run to the laundromat, an hour's drive away. It has been a priority to create a really warm, dry laundry room, and now here it is, on the sunniest corner of the lower landing. We'll start out with a new double-utility sink, inside clotheslines, and a wood stove. Later, when we have full electricity, an efficient washer. I imagine this room to be a place for washing, dyeing, head-shaving and conversation.

Two more kutis are being built this winter. The Mangala kuti is nearly finished, thanks to a generous donation from Kemanthie Nandasena. The Ratana kuti will go up next. All of our kutis and buildings have been built by an excellent local builder. They will all need their inside and outside paint and furnishings, when the weather dries out in spring.

Finally, a very rough and steep patch of road, which caused several flat tires last year, has been beautifully gravelled and smoothed out.

There is more to do [see projects on the sidebar]. Your interest and support are greatly appreciated, indeed indispensable for the remaining projects to go from dreams to realities.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lay Steward Sought for Aranya Bodhi

Aranya Bodhi - the Awakening Forest Hermitage is seeking a lay Steward. Aranya Bodhi, a natural forest wilderness on the Sonoma Coast, offers a rare situation for a lay woman during this present auspicious re-energizing of the bhikkhuni sangha. Our new steward may be a monastic life aspirant or a sincere Dhamma practitioner willing to live by the eight monastic precepts. We offer the opportunity to live within a Theravadin forest bhikkhuni community, in your own empty hut, surrounded by roots, cliffs, leafy canopies and creeks.

This February 19th, our present steward, Anagarika Marajina will receive her going forth into monastic life. Following the forest style monastic code, our monastic women do not personally use money and do not drive. The lay steward will be primarily responsible for hermitage errands involving the use of money and driving. Additional responsibilities will depend on her talents and interests. While we would love for our new steward to stay for a long time, we can appreciate shorter term stays of at least one month.

Aranya Bodhi is a new bhikkhuni hermitage supporting two to three monastic women during the winter months and up to ten lay and monastic women during the three months of Vassa, from July to October. We are entirely off grid, with communication being provided by Internet. There is no phone on the hermitage. Accomodations are rustic and the climate year round is cool within the forest.

To learn more, please visit our blog at; and email