This time the news from Dhammapala come, perhaps a bit surprisingly, from Tisarana, our sister monastery in Canada, where, surrounded by the corona virus, I may stay on for a while yet. Some of you will remember: thanks to the generosity of Ajahn Kāñcano, who agreed to lead our monastic community for the time of our annual winter retreat, I was able to take a three-month break at the monastery of Ajahn Viradhammo and his community in Ontario. The photos of less familiar landscapes that accompany this blog entry are from there.
I really enjoyed the quiet time in the midst of a very warm-hearted and generous community; I have my own hut here, as well as a comfortable room with its own bathroom, in the house, and plenty of time for meditation, reading and also long hikes in the surrounding, very extensive forests – during winter on my own, with snowshoes, through the woods and over the frozen lakes and marshes, an more recently in hiking boots and accompanied by some of my colleagues, along signposted forest paths. A quiet time de luxe, so to speak, and on top of that I had also allowed myself the annually luxury of completely disconnecting from the world of news for two months. It worked very well. Only once in a while I picked up a remark about that corona virus, which had now also appeared here and there outside of China.
Oh well. No sooner had I reluctantly settled in front of my news screen again, the new corona reality caught up with me. My return travel plans, which were to take me through the United States for a two-week visit to Ajahn Jayanto at Jetavana Monastery in New Hampshire and then the Elders Council Meeting in Amaravati in Great Britain, had to be cancelled, and the Elders Council Meeting to be redesigned as a video conference. My return to Dhammapala is now planned for April 21st, with a flight from Montreal via Frankfurt. Meanwhile, I have the privilege to continue to enjoy the hospitality of our community here in Canada. I am very grateful for that.
Since the last weeks of the retreat, I have of course been in regular contact with the community in Kandersteg, by email and video conference with my right and left hand there: Ajahn Kāñcano and our secretary Doris, who assure me that in the monastery, as far as the circumstances allow, everything is in good order. The Dhammapala community had a quiet and harmonious winter retreat, albeit disappointingly low in snow. Of course, “self-isolation” could have little effect on a retreat as it takes place every winter in our monastery. Only, as you may have followed on our website, the measures of isolation had to be gradually tightened up in accordance with the general recommendations and regulations.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for the generosity with which you are considering our situation in the monastery. Many friends keep contacting us to inquire about how we’re all doing and what we might need. A lot of essential food items and many other gifts are being sent to us or left on the table in front of the main entrance, so that the community really doesn’t lack anything.
We also feel very fortunate and grateful for the remarkable winter retreat team, which has been extremely supportive throughout the whole of the winter. Some of its members, because of the present circumstances, have now extended their stay until the end of April.
Impermanence – The (ever-)changing future
Some of the monks who spent the winter here and were planning to leave soon after, will probably stay a little longer. Tan Viranando for example has to postpone his walk to Portugal. Ajahn Khemasiri, who actually wanted to return to Dhammapala on April 6th, will remain at Amaravati in England for the time being, probably until mid May. And also Anagarika Alex, who wanted to join us from our monastery in Chithurst at the beginning of April, must postpone his planned stay with us.
Luckily, in April, we hadn’t planned any events in the monastery, so only Ajahn Khemasiri’s retreat in Provence had to be cancelled. Also, in view of the present official guidelines, we regrettably see ourselves forced to cancel many of our friends’ and supporters’ planned visits and overnight stays. Fortunately, as mentioned, some members of the winter retreat team will stay on and help with the kitchen and other chores, so that the functioning of the monastery remains secured.
May is a different story. The much-anticipated visits by our senior monks Luang Por Sucitto, Ajahn Jayasaro and Ajahn Kongrit all had to be cancelled. Also the Thai retreat at the beginning of May won’t be able to take place. Perhaps we will be able to find another date for it, later in the year. And most sadly, as we are only a month away from it, we also have to cancel this year’s Vesak celebration in Hinterkappelen. We hope that you will all find an appropriate way to celebrate the triple commemoration of the Buddha (birth, awakening and extinction) privately.
If you would like to know what things would be especially helpful for our community these days, perhaps things that you would otherwise have planned to offer for the Wesak, you can find a Dana list here. You can find Dhamma teachings, audio and text on our website or on forestsangha.org. You might also be interested to read Ajahn Sucitto’s piece on the “karuna virus” which Ajahn Khemasiri has translated for his latest blog entry . (You find the original English version at the bottom of the blog).
Otherwise our secretary Doris Eckstein is still available for all inquiries about the monastery by mail or phone .
We will update you on these pages about developments in the monastery and inform you on the eventual resumption of our program.
With good wishes to all of you,