Once again I am writing from Tisarana Monastery in Canada. This time to many of you it may not come as a surprise, since you would have already suspected that my hope of being back in Kandersteg on April 21st was too optimistic. Of course: my flight was canceled.
We are now aiming for the middle of May. We will see…
Due to the continuing uncertainty and the extension of the measures decided by the Government, Dhammapala as well will remain closed until at least mid-May. As already mentioned in the last message, this unfortunately also means that we had to cancel our Vesakh celebration in Hinterkappelen. I think that might probably be just one of the many disappointments that the spread of Covid-19 is causing you these days. The ongoing restrictions certainly offer us many good opportunities to practice qualities such as patience and equanimity, but also compassion, mutual respect and generosity, as well as to reflect upon the Dhamma and to realise what is really important to us, what is most important. This is often easier said than done. As an encouragement we would like to share a couple of videos with you, in which Luang Por Sumedho, himself in self-isolation too, in Wat Ratanawan in Thailand, shares his reflections on the subject.
You can find the short reflection by Luang Por here, and a 30 minute Q&A session called “Limited Mobility, Limitless Consciousness” here (Centre top). You might also find the following podcast with Ajahn Khemasiri interesting, which was posted recently by Ajahn Dhammasiha, the abbot of Dhammagiri Hermitage near Brisbane, which is also associated to the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition.
I myself can hardly complain about my extended Covid-19 exile here in Canada. Tisarana Monastery, like Dhammapala, while continuing to be closed to visitors, is nevertheless being very generously cared for by its supporters, and I am enjoing a fairly quiet, balanced time. Most of my tasks can be done from here via email or video conference. Even the Elders Council Meeting, our bi-annual coming together of our inter-monastic advisory body, which was due to take place in Amaravati in April, was held via video conference. Outside of my flexible working hours, in addition to the very pleasant company of the local monastic community, I also have a very quiet hut I can retreat to right at the edge of very extensive forests.
So, unexpectedly, I can now observe the slow advance of the Canadian spring, which only very hesitatingly allows the deciduous trees and shrubs here their annual greening. At night we sometimes still have sub-zero temperatures. The fauna by contrast has become all the more lively. Apart from deer, otters, raccoons, chipmunks and the numerous and noisy birds, finally, a few days ago, even a young black bear visited me at my hut! He did not stay long, may not have taken me at all and hurriedly trundled in another direction.
The insects meanwhile, which in this area, once they become active, are a true menace, are still discreetly holding back. And when it finally gets warmer again and on land the influx of insects becomes very annoying, the nearby lakes offer themselves for canoe trips! You can view some new photos of the surroundings here at the top of the page – especially trees again. One could say a bit pointedly: where there are no trees here, it must be a lake!
In spite of all those unexpected treats though, I do hope that my return will work out in the middle of May and that I will then still have the opportunity to meet our monastic winter visitors before they move on.
Our community in Kandersteg is still living together in the same constellation as during the Winter Retreat. Gradually things are becoming a bit more active and some projects are being realised. As part of the refurbishment of the sala, we have now finished the new flooring; the old carpet was re-used for one of the monks’ rooms. Tan Viranando is renovating and upgrading the workshop. Also, some plumbing, electrical repairs and the annual fire alarm revision will now have to be tackled. Outside, the benches have been overhauled and garden work and balcony plants are being prepared.
With all of it we continue to have on-site support from some long-term guests who have extended their stay. And we are all very grateful for the many gifts that many of you have brought or sent to the monastery.
We hope that you all continue to be safe and that we will soon be able to see you at the monastery again.
With all good wishes,