Greetings from winterly Wat Buddha Dhamma, 10 Mile Hollow, Wisemans Ferry, NSW 2775, Australia; www.wbd.org.au
Here in the southern hemisphere we are experiencing Winter, which is also the time of the traditional Buddhist 'Rainy Season'. Fortunately, at Wat Buddha Dhamma winter is not too extreme, with most mornings around 3 – 5C and sunny afternoons in the upper teens. Ironically, it is also the dry season.
This year we may only have a small Sangha due to some health issues and a serious delay in receiving a requested visa.
I have been reminded that it has been nearly 6 months since my last Blog update. I will not claim it as an excuse, but part of the reason was that not much has happened in the last 6 months – 'nothing to write home about', as the saying goes. The other part of my delay is that, for the early half of that time, I have been quite preoccupied with applying the finishing touches to my book. Now, with the final comments from my diligent proofreaders, Theresa and Grant, the enduring patience of Sharon for layout and Melinda for production of the ebook, it is now ready for reading. Copies can be downloaded from the monastery website: www.wbd.org.au/news/book
In March, we were once again 'flooded in' with both the ferry down and the northern route along the river under water for ten days. Ari, one of our long term lay women, was eager to leave for a flight to Sri Lanka. The only option, other than walk 10 km over the hills, was to hire a helicopter for an airlift out. This was doubly helpful as it allowed some fresh vegetables to be flown in and Yuliana as a replacement cook to join us in our maroonment! Shortly after, several of us were obliged to have a picnic lunch in the park next to the ferry dock and had to clear debris off the picnic tables before eating. Various forms of debris, including an old mattress, clothing and driftwood indicated that the area was about two meters under water at some point. We are happy to live nearly 100 meters above the river level!
And … just as I am uploading this blog, we are once again ‘flooded in’. No big problems for us. The weekend retreat has had to be cancelled, some of the tracks are more washed out and the low lying bridge to the old garden has once again washed away – this time 100 meters downstream. One of our guests is marooned here while another guest, who hiked in from Wisemans Ferry five days ago, decided to hike our over the hills to Mangrove Mountain – 4 ½ hours in the rain!
With the lifting of the Covid restrictions it is now possible to travel. I thus stirred myself from inertia and three of us took a road trip to Victoria. The main reason was to attend the Grand Opening of the Dhamma Sala at Vimokharama Monastery in the Dandenong ranges, east of Melbourne. This project has been in progress for the last eight years and Ajahn Hasapanyo and his disciples have done a superb job of re-establishing the site as an ongoing monastery after the original house was burned down.
Our trip to Victoria also allowed us to visit Ajahn Sudhammo at the new monastery, Nigrodarama, just north of Melbourne. Unfortunately, he was not able to extend his visa before it expired and has now returned to Thailand to re-apply for a return whenever it is granted. Ajahn Bom, another monk from Ajahn Dtun's monastery in Thailand, is keeping the place warm over the southern winter.
On the return journey we followed the coastal route which involved an overnight stop at a camp ground where we were able to view the sunrise over the Tasman Sea. Australia is such a huge country – continent actually – that it really requires many days to appreciate the natural beauty and diversity of the landscape. It takes more than a few hours to absorb the effects of majestic rocky headlands pounded by the crashing surf or the endless expanse of pristine, sun-drenched beaches.
Ajahn Khemavaro has made good use of the opportunity to travel with visits to Thailand, Indonesia and USA, as well as several trips to various Buddha in the Bush properties. After a rereat in Brisbane, much interest was expressed in establishing a local Vietnamese Theravada monastery. With much enthusiasm and energy a 360 acre property was located one hour west of Brisbane and the down payment was quickly raised. Dhammachakkha Forest Monastery will be the first Vietnamese Theravada monastery in Australia, although still in the early stages of development.
One of the teachings of Ajahn Chah which I have been reflecting upon recently was triggered off by a discussion I had with one of our recent guests. This is the teaching that Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness or suffering) is our teacher. The more I contemplate this simple teaching the more profound it becomes. If I had only heard this teaching when I was young it would have saved me so much (unneccessary) suffering!
Most of us, unfortunately, waste so much time and energy denying, avoiding or trying to escape from suffering. If we could just transform this energy into studying suffering we would not only save a lot of wasted effort, but learn some valuable lessons in the process.
Of course, Ajahn Chah was giving this teaching within the context of the Buddha's teaching on the Four Noble Truths. These truths tell us that suffering is a fundamental reality of life and this experience has a definite cause which can be brought to an end through a detailed practice of spiritual development.
I think the main reason why most people do not try to study suffering is that they do not know that there is a path of practice to transcend suffering – the Eightfold Path. Without a way out, suffering seems like a very unpleasant deadend. And, while not exactly easy, by studying suffering we can gradually learn to free ourselves from this self-created condition.
The tools are now within our hands.
Wishing you all good health, well-being and the peace of Liberation.
Australia Rock -- can you see the outline of Australia?