This year we commemorated the Fortieth Anniversary of the monastery with the annual Thod Pa Pah (Alms Giving Celebration). For the occasion, photos taken over the last forty years were on display; also the documentary ‘ The Buddha Comes to Sussex’, (made in the monastery’s first summer in 1979) was shown. Unfortunately, the founding abbot, Luang Por Sumedho – who will be 85 this month – was unable to attend. He did however send his best wishes in the form of a video message, which was also played on the celebration day. Although Luang Por Sumedho couldn’t attend, we were pleased that Luang Por Viradhammo and Luang Por Sucitto, two of the monks that took up residence with him in June 1979, were able to be here. Luang Por Viradhammo had even travelled from Tisarana Monastery near Ottawa for this occasion. Many members of the monastic community came from Amaravati for the occasion, Ajahn Vajiro and Ajahn Vimalo from the pre-Cittaviveka era travelled here from afar, and it was also good to see several ex-monastics in attendance. George Sharp, who bought the House on behalf of the English Sangha Trust, made a special effort to be here and to present a book as an account of those early days. As a final blessing we had good weather for the day and several hundred people filled the monastery with their generous hearts.
To further mark the fortieth year, we decided to have an Open Day and invite local people to see Cittaviveka, and thereby gain some insight into the life of the resident sangha. This occasion was advertised in a few of the local newspapers, and an estimated 200 people came to visit. As a couple were leaving I heard one say to the other ‘Are you converted then?’ (!) Actually we were not trying to convert people – but there are some, whether Buddhist or not, who are interested in places that offer a peaceful environment that is supportive of quiet reflection. As a consequence of this day, several people expressed interest in joining our meditation sessions. I feel gladness at the thought that their coming here may help them live in a way that is skilful and wise and can benefit the society.
This Vassa there will be thirteen bhikkhus, two siladharā , two samaneras and one anagārika and anagārikā in residence. Luang Por Sucitto will be in residence, as will Sister Ajahn Cittapala at Rocana. We will begin the Vassa on the evening of the 17th July with a week of group meditation practice. After that, and throughout the Vassa, our training discipline, the Vinaya, will be taught; also, sangha members will be having a few weeks of personal retreat.
As for ‘external’ work: the construction of the new Vihara (the monks’ utility building and common room) began in early May. We hope it will be finished by around February next year. Meanwhile, in late July, the driveway into the monastery is going to be block-paved – so for a few weeks, we will provide an alternative approach to a parking area. I’d also like to mention that our neighbours have asked if our visitors can drive slowly on the lane – it’s a quiet area – and please, out of respect for the horses in the fields beside the road, don’t sound your horn! Driving slowly and with attention is Dhamma practice.
The Hammer Pond Group (HPG) has been created to organise the repair of the dam and the dredging of the Hammer Pond as it tends to silt up over the years. We hope this work may happen next year.
After fifteen years as a bhikkhu, Ajahn Narado has decided to return to lay life. It is not a sudden decision but something he has been considering seriously for over a year. He plans to stay on at the monastery as a layman for a couple of months to adjust to his new status. We are delighted that he wishes to find some suitable accommodation and work nearby and continue to support Cittaviveka – it remains his spiritual home and is very dear to him.
This November will see the end of the five-year tenure that I offered to serve as abbot when I took on the role. With this in mind, last April the Sangha Elders, with the support of the Cittaviveka Sangha, invited Ajahn Ahimsako to be the new abbot. Ajahn Ahimsako has been resident at Cittaviveka since last November with the knowledge that he may be asked to take on the role, and he has accepted the invitation. Hence he will take on the abbot duties in November. It’s a noble gesture. Personally I feel he has the required skills and maturity to take on the abbotship. Meanwhile, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for the kindness and friendship that was shown towards me during my tenure – I feel confident that this will also be the case for Ajahn Ahimsako.
I plan to spend a year away at some of our other branch monasteries, but my intention is to return in November 2020 to offer support to Ajahn Ahimsako.
So life goes on with its relentless changes: some we like some we don't, some we accept, some we resist. But however we feel about it, change is inevitable. The wise adapt rather than suffer. And maybe there are more skilful ways to reflect on changing situations, for example to meet the sadness we may feel at Ajahn Narado disrobing. Many years ago when I was in Thailand I was feeling a bit sad on hearing of another good monk leaving the Sangha. I happened to be visiting an elderly Thai Luang Por at the time and mentioned this. The Luang Por smiled at me and said ‘The world needs good laypeople too.’
Wishing You Blessings in Dhamma