In spite of the uncertainty of life, sometimes things go according to plan. So it happened with the Sangha visitors we announced in our last blog entry. They all arrived and enjoyed their time at Dhammapala, just as we enjoyed their presence. And we had even more visitors than announced. Shortly after the big ceremony for the temple opening in Santacittarama, our Italian sister monastery, Ajahn Preechar, Ajahn Chandapalo’s right hand there, came for a short visit with his guests Luang Por Damrong and Ajahn Sawang from Thailand. And shortly afterwards, on his visit, Ajahn Chandapalo himself was accompanied not only by Tan Ice, but also by Tan Knight, making it four visitors plus two from Italy.
When Ajahn Kongrit came for our Vesak ceremony, he brought with him purpose-made flames for the Buddha images in our reception rooms. These are traditional symbols of wisdom and enlightenment appearing at the top of the heads of Thai style Buddha rupas. Ajahn Kongrit gilded them himself, with gold leave sponsored by several generous lay supporters. Afterwards we installed them in a small, beautiful ceremony with Ajahn Amaro, who’s visit overlapped with Ajahn Kongrit’s stay (see pictures above).
Tan Ice is now spending the vassa with us and will stay until after kathina. Tan Manuñño has also joined our community, as announced, for a long-term residency; and Robert has become Anagarika Robert in mid-April. So for this year’s vassa we have a community of five monks and one anagarika. As a reminder: the vassa is our traditional ‘rainy season retreat’, whereby the rainy season refers to the Southeast Asian monsoon season, not to the Swiss summer. The last picture in our picture gallery shows the traditional offering tray given by the community to the most senior monk, in this case Ajahn Khemasiri, during the ceremony with which we beginn the retreat period.
For us, the retreat is only a retreat insofar as our travel options are restricted by various rules during this time. In fact, in our European monasteries, summer is a rather busy time with many guests. Only in September will we take two weeks to live a little more withdrawn. Above all, by adhering to our formal Vassa rules, we stay in tune with tradition, and that includes the kathina celebration, which traditionally takes place after the end of the ‘rainy season retreat’, this year on November 19th in the community hall here in Kandersteg.
At this celebration, our friends and supporters gather to share a meal and provide requisites to support the community for the coming winter. At the heart of the kathina celebration is the donation of kathina cloth – usually donated by a main sponsor – from which the monks, who spent the vassa together, have to sew a robe for one of them by the next morning. This is celebrating the spirit of cooperation. Visitors to the event will also have the opportunity to renew their five precepts of ethical practice and listen to a Dhamma talk.
Since by far the majority of visitors to this festival are Thai, this talk will be given in Thai, this year either by Ajahn Preechar from Italy or Ajahn Dew from Thailand. We will publish more detailed information about this year’s celebration later on our homepage and also here in the news section.
The new format of introductory weekends have been well received and are almost fully booked for this year. The introductory weekends are specially tailored for those who are newly interested in Dhammapala Monastery and our tradition and want to see if they would like to support and use the monastery as a spiritual resource in the future. Generally we ask all those who would like to stay with us for the first time and have no experience with our tradition or similar facilities to first take part in one of these introductory weekends. During the weekends we try to impart introductory knowledge about Buddhism, meditation, the Thai forest tradition and Dhammapala Monastery, whereby all practical questions about a stay at the monastery are also discussed. Some places for the weekends in September and October are still available.
Also the already experienced guests among you shouldn’t hesitate too long if you would like to come for a stay this year. Both the two longer courses in September and December, the insight dialogue with Bhante Sukhacitto in December, as well as accommodation between the courses are already nearly fully booked.
Apart from the courses and looking after our guests, we intend to spend this summer and autumn rather quietly. No construction or renovation projects are planned for this year. Instead, Ajahn Khemasiri and Ajahn Abhinando will be leading some courses abroad, in Italy, France and Spain (see calendar and ‹Events› for details). In autumn we also want to resume the Zoom transmissions of Dhamma talks on two Saturdays a month. These will be announced in the calendar and by email to those who have already subscribed.
After vassa, when Tan Ice will return to Italy, Ajahn Viranando from Germany is intending to take his place. Many of you already know him from his longer stay in 2019/20. At the end of the year, Ajahn Viranando is coming back from Asia and would like to live with us at Dhammapala on a long-term basis. We are already looking forward to his friendly manner and enthusiastic energy.
With all good wishes,