Another end of the year is upon us. People do comment on how the years fly by and I am no exception. The other day someone asked me how old the son of one of our supporters was. I replied ‘maybe five or six’. Soon after I saw his mother and she informed me that he is nine!
The sangha emerged from the Vassa period and the Kathina season began. The Cittaviveka Kathina this year was sponsored and organized by Gaye and friends, and was a joyful occasion. Even the rain abated and the sun emerged for the rice pindapata. Abbots and representatives from the European branch monasteries attended this year, as following the Kathina we held two days of meetings of the senior monks and nuns. Following this we were blessed with having Luang Por Sumedho staying with us for a week. We were pleased to see Luang Por in good health and consequently able to offer teachings on most of the days he was here. However, being 84 years old, he could not guarantee any future visits though, of course, we would be delighted if he were able to.
If you have visited the monastery recently you must have noticed that the area around the house and Dhamma Hall has been paved. This was offered by a generous donor who wished to make the area around the house free from the various potholes and the puddles and mud that accumulate around the house after heavy rain. The same donor has also offered to pave the driveway from the entrance into the car park next year.
The bowl washing area for the monks is nearing completion. To save costs we have cast three large sinks in the workshop. In April the old ablution building will be dismantled in preparation for the new Vihara building, scheduled to be started in May and hopefully finished by the end of the year.
A new access track in the southern field is also being made in December. This will allow larger vehicles to deliver building materials for the Vihara project as well as facilitating parking in the southern field on celebration days. This will grass over with time and not be so noticeable.
The monastery forest manager, Ed, has also been working hard on the Forest Management Plan for the next ten years, which he has now completed and is awaiting approval.
There will be the usual comings and goings before the Winter Retreat. Ajahn Ahimsako, Ven. Phasuko and Samanera Samvaro came to join us in November, and Ajahn Sucitto, Ajahn Gavesako, Ajahn Cunda, Ven. Akiñcano and Samanera Jalito will come in December. Ajahn Dhammarakkho, Ven. Pemasilo and Samanera Atthadassi will be spending the winter elsewhere. Ajahn Cittapala continues to be in residence and will be joined by Sister Kittiñāni and two Anagarikas for the Winter Retreat.
Our hard working monastery Treasurer, Dr. Graham Winyard, has recently retired from that position. He is now in his 70’s and says his memory cannot hold information as well as it used to. We are grateful for his nine years of support as treasurer, and I am sure we will be seeing him at the monastery in a different capacity. We are pleased that Chris Santos has taken on the Treasurer role, and it is advantageous that he has recently moved to live on Chithurst Lane.
Next June we will be celebrating 40 years since the sangha took up residence here in June 1979. Ven. Luang Por Chah was with Luang Por Sumedho and the sangha when they moved in. We plan to incorporate a photo exhibition with the annual Thod Pah Pa on June 23rd. George Sharp, who was Chairman of the English Sangha Trust at the time, and very instrumental in acquiring Chithurst House, has written a book of the history of Chithurst Monastery. He will be 85 next year, and we hope he will be in good health to join us for the day and give out copies of his book. The following weekend, on June 29th, we will have an Open Day and invite neighbours and local people to experience Cittaviveka.
I commented at the beginning of this newsletter about how time seems to pass by so quickly these days. One of the ten subjects for frequent recollection for monastics is ‘The days and nights are relentlessly passing how well am I spending my time?’ The Buddha teaches us that birth as a human being is a fortunate one and not easy to come by, especially if we are in contact with wise teachings and have the supportive conditions to live skilfully, and opportunities to practise generosity and mind cultivation. Though some people may favour the idea of a heavenly birth – where everything is pleasant – it may not be conducive to developing the wisdom that takes us beyond birth and death, because according to the Buddha, the heavenly birth is not a permanent condition. What goes up may come down with a bang! However, the human birth, with its mixture of pleasant and unpleasant experiences, is more conducive to the development of that wisdom that prompts us to contemplate more deeply the way to end the suffering. As was recently commented to me, ‘Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.’
May 2019 be a year of awakening to the better option.