As I write this, a strong sun is shining on Kandersteg and the glaciers have been pretty bare since the end of June. It didn’t take long for last winter’s snow to give way to spring warmth at record temperatures. In the village the last construction works on the landslide-protections against rockfall and debris flow from the “Spitzer Stein” that is expected in the next few years is in full swing. https://www.gemeindekandersteg.ch/ The consequences of global warming are certainly very noticeable here in the Alps: clear, drastic and expensive!
Luckily for us, the monastery is on the other side of the valley, which is not part of the danger zone. The atmosphere at Dhammapala stayed rather quiet also in other respects throughout springtime. Except for the courses, which, as always, were fully booked, we have had an unusually small number of overnight guests. Maybe, we think, after the long period of corona restrictions, our friends had a preference for more exuberant travel destinations. But that’s over now: from mid-July to October our guest accommodation is practically fully booked.
Visitors and travel
Spring to early summer is our traditional travel time as well; and since we were finally able to use it again without restrictions, we had many visitors: In May, Ajahn Kongrit, Tan Tejasaro, Bhante Sukhacitto and Tan Khemadassi were our guests for the Vesakha celebration. Ajahn Kongrit then was also available for a practice weekend for Thai-speaking friends of the monastery. Some of you may remember Tan Khemadassi as Anagarika Thomas from Austria, who spent several months with us a few years ago. He stopped by this time after visiting his parents in Austria and then traveled back to Amaravati with Ajahn Kongrit. We were very happy to see him here again.
A short time later, Ajahn Khantiko, a German monk from Thailand, joined us for a week. Ajahn Khantiko lives most of the time in a small hermitage in northern Thailand. And at the end of May his namesake, Sister Khantika, a samaneri (novice) from Australia with Swiss roots, came for a day visit. Khantika had come to Europe for a few weeks, among other things to visit her relatives in Lucerne.
In June, Ajahn Jayasaro traveled to the Vatican as part of an official delegation of Thai Buddhists, where he attended an audience with the Pope https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/. On the way there he stopped by for a weekend at Dhammapala Monastery. Ajahn Jayasaro, originally from England, was one of the last monks personally accepted into the Sangha by Ajahn Chah and for five years served as abbot of our main monastery in Thailand, Wat Pah Nanachat. Since then he has lived mostly alone in his hermitage in Pakchong, but remains a well-respected representative of the Ajahn Chah tradition and a very popular Dhamma teacher. Unfortunately, his time with us was only long enough for two short excursions in the vicinity of the monastery and a visit to the Thai Embassy, which was attended by many invited guests, and of course for many stimulating Dhamma discussions.
Unexpectedly, an old acquaintance was also able to take part in these discussions: Ajahn Bodhinando, since his last longer stay with us, has been living in Muttodaya monastery in Upper Franconia for about two years now. He took a visit to the Haus der Besinnung in eastern Switzerland as an opportunity to visit us again and was lucky enough to meet Ajahn Jayasaro and accompany him with Ajahn Kancano to the Thai Embassy (see photos).
In July Ajahn Chandapalo, abbot of Santacittarama, our monastery near Rome, as last autumn, came for a week, during which once again we had a very enjoyable time together.
And also we ourselves, namely Ajahn Khemasiri and Ajahn Abhinando, took the opportunity for a few journeys, be it to lead courses, to visit friends and relatives, or for a time of self-retreat, as Ajahn Khemasiri recently did at Santaloka, Santacittarama’s mountain hermitage near Monte Rosa. It is a great privilege for us to be able to use such a beautiful retreat place, donated and maintained by generous friends from the area and we are very grateful to Ajahn Chandapalo and his community for making it available to us when the opportunity arises.
Not only Ajahn Chandapalo, but also other monks and novices of the Santacittarama community have been visiting regularly over the last few years, for short stays, to support events, or also for longer periods of time. Maintaining these neighborly relationships is very important to us. So I hope to finally be able to return the favor this autumn with a visit to our “Italian neighbours’” kathina.
In May we already had a good opportunity to cultivate neighborly relations, this time in the opposite direction, to the north: On May 1st, the first upasampada (acceptance into the sangha) of the Thai forest tradition in Germany took place at Muttodaya Monastery. Wat Muttodaya does not belong to the group of our monasteries founded by Luang Por Sumedho or his disciples, but as a monastery officially associated with Wat Pah Pong (our main monastery in Thailand, founded by Ajahn Chah), it is related to us. Ajahn Cattamalo, Muttodaya’s abbot had his upasampada in Thailand in the Ajahn Chah tradition many years ago. Leading the ceremony, Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Monastery in England, welcomed Tan Yodako as a new bhikkhu into the Sangha and it was a great pleasure for us to participate in the ceremony and to spend a week with Ajahn Amaro and our colleagues from Muttodaya. It was my first visit to both Muttodaya and the surrounding Franconian Forest, and Ajahn Khemasiri had not been there for more than ten years. There, in addition to Ajahn Bodhinando, we also met Ashin Ottama again, who used to live at Dhammapala for many years and has now been living at Muttodaya for quite some time.
Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Ajahn Ariyo. He flew back to England on July 8, where, at his current home, Hartridge Monastery in Devon, a building project awaits his organizational and building skills. Once again, we were very pleased with his affable presence and are very grateful for the support in numerous work projects to which he contributed with a lot of energy. We hope that he will visit us again soon, even though this has unfortunately become much more complicated since Brexit.
On the other hand we were also able to welcome a new community member in Anagarika Enzo, who arrived from Italy on the same day that Ajahn Ariyo left. Very practical: he could immediately take over the responsibility for our recycling from Ajahn Ariyo. Enzo brings more than a year of experience as anagarika at Santacittarama and will now primarily be responsible for the kitchen. He wants to stay with us at least until the end of October. So our community will consist of Ajahn Khemasiri, Ajahn Abhinando, Ajahn Kancano and Anagarika Enzo for the next few months. In autumn, Tan Mahabodhi, also from Santacittarama, would like to join us for half a year.
Projects & outlook
So far this year we were quite restrained on work projects. Building insurance did impose some changes on fire safety. The most obvious you will notice as soon as you enter the monastery: the stairwell, including the entrance area, must now be almost empty, as it has become the main escape route. Therefore, the cloakroom has disappeared from the entrance area and is now in the back exit, at the end of the corridor. The monks’ dressing room has moved to the boiler room behind the kitchen. We also renewed the floor of our larder; a small project that will hardly attract much attention, although it has been a lot of work for those involved (especially Ajahn Ariyo and our good friend Erich Leu). In the remaining months of this year we want to repaint the walls of the entrance areas and, if possible, upgrade the furniture in our office.
The first courses of this year, just like the Vesakha celebration, could finally take place again without corona restrictions. Unfortunately, the number of infections is now rising sharply, so this will be less likely for the rest of the year. For now though, we try to take a variant of the famous Middle Way: access to the monastery remains unrestricted, even for day visitors; we have only retained the mask requirement. This also applies to overnight guests during the first three days of their stay. We hope that this will not prevent you from visiting us over the summer and making use of what the monastery has to offer. You can find news about our corona measures at any time on our website.
With kind regards,