Already some time ago the first mountain flowers thrust their heads through the dwindling snow cover; most of the migratory birds have also returned – at the bird feeder tits, nuthatches, Alpine accentors and squirrels (!) are now getting company from finches, redstarts, and wagtails. Since mid-March two badgers also started turning up at night to pick up whatever food the birds drop on the ground, as well as the extra treats that began to appear, added for them by invisible hands. It is getting more colourful again!
Our retreat has been very pleasant and harmonious and we would like to thank you all for the extraordinary generosity with which you have supported us again during these yearly three months of contemplative retreat. We had a very conscientiously committed support team in the monastery and also received a steady stream of food donations and other gifts throughout the winter.
No Vesak celebration this year
We had hoped to “sit out” the nasty second Covid wave with the retreat and now – as announced in our program – swarm out and invite in, as per the usual generous spring mode, visiting meditation groups and reopening the monastery. But now it looks like that won’t happen for a while. Since the number of infections is rising again and the second wave seems to almost seamlessly turn into a third wave, we too are forced to continue to adhere to the existing restrictions. So, instead of spring mode, we’re back in canceling mode: Our Vesak celebration planned for the beginning of May will unfortunately again not take place this year. The courses planned for April and early May have also already been canceled.
If you would like to visit the monastery in the Vesak month of May to speak to the monks and/or, for example, offer food, we ask you to choose any day that is convenient for you and to book your visit. Also, please only come in small groups and let us know in advance how big your group is going to be. In this way, we try to avoid more than the prescribed maximum of 15 people turning up at the monastery at the same time. If the number of 15 visitors is exceeded, we will have to send some of the visitors away temporarily – for example to take a walk in the beautiful surroundings – to receive them later. Please also note that all restrictions from the previous year will remain in effect until further notice. The monastery remains closed to day visitors and we only receive them on our terrace in front of the house.
We hope that we will be able to hold the later events announced in our program as the year unfolds, at least with a reduced number of participants. If you have already booked for an event, we will of course inform you accordingly by email. Otherwise, you can always read the latest status of our plans on our web calendar or the list of events. It is also possible that some of the events will take place online instead of here at the monastery.
The live streams of our Saturday evening lectures, which we started last November, were very well received, not only because of the Covid-related inaccessibility of the monastery but also because many of you anyway live too far away from us to visit the monastery often. It became clear to us that regular live streams are a welcome opportunity for many of you to not only maintain contact with the teachings of the Buddha but also with the monastery. And so we have decided to keep them going this year as well, most likely beyond the hopefully near end of the Covid restrictions. For April we have set up live streams for every Saturday; starting in May we will probably continue at about a fortnightly rhythm. They will start at 7.30 p.m. Announcements and information about the access data can be found on our web calendar on the home page. Audio recordings of some of our Saturday evening talks as well as recent retreats can be found on the Dhamma audio page. On the German Dhamma text page, in a month or so you should be able to find epub files of Ajahn Chah’s collected teachings. These result from a translation project overseen by Ajahn Khemasiri over the last three years. Thanks to generous donations from Thailand these should soon also become available in print at the monastery.
There is not much else to report about our winter retreat. It was pleasantly uneventful. Our biggest unforeseen adventure was probably our weekly evacuation due to avalanche warnings. As some of you may know, our monastery is in a danger zone. In the 1960s, a second building that belonged to our house, then known as the Hotel Regina, was completely destroyed by an avalanche. Those responsible in our Commune in Kandersteg are very aware of this and so during the heavy snow- and rainfalls at the end of January, they took us to the Sunneblick chalet of the International Scout Center here in Kandersteg, at the Commune’s expense. As in the past, this winter too, it was just a precautionary measure. To endanger the monastery, it would take an ‘avalanche of the century’ such as has not happened here since the event in the 1960s. Well, the Chalet Sunneblick was not as comfortable as our monastery, but we coped with the change quite well. The chalet has a kitchen and the municipal employees even helped us with a van to transport plenty of kitchen supplies from the monastery – and back again, as our supporters found us with lunch and food donations even at Chalet Sunneblick! Once again an opportunity for us to feel gratitude for the generosity with which we are looked after from all sides – on the part of our friends, the Commune in Kandersteg and our winter retreat team, some of which have shown great organizational talent!
Spring is often a time of change at the monastery. So it is, despite Covid, this year as well, even though most of them are not imminent. The majority of us will probably limit our radius of action to the monastery and our beautiful Kandertal for a few more months. Bhante Sukhacitto and Tan Balado will move on in June, Bhante to the Sinhalese Vihara of the Venerable Anuruddha in Lenzburg and Tan Balado back to Amaravati, his home monastery in Great Britain. Very soon, however, we are expecting additional staff: Anagarika Lionel is due to arrive these days from our sister monastery Santacittarama near Rome and stay with us for a few months. Possibly until he can travel to Thailand, where he was accepted as anagarika by the community of Wat Pah Nanachat, without yet being able to accept the invitation, due to the pandemic. Lionel is Swiss, so he has no problems entering this country, but will first have to sit out his quarantine in the monastery before he can become active for us. We look forward to having him here and have already prepared an independent quarantine room for him.
And we also look forward to seeing you again, even though for the time being we can only receive you on our terrace or perhaps on the screen for one of our live streams. Last not least, one of the monks here once encouraged me to try to weave some useful Dhamma reflections into each blog. So: try to be patient, try to be kind, trust in awareness, and listen to Luang Por Sumedho! This way we “protect ourselves and others” 🙂
With all good wishes from our community,