Latest Steps Toward Britain’s First Bhikkhuni Monastery!
By Venerable Canda Bhikkhuni, June 2021
The coronavirus pandemic has widened our eyes to the fragility and uncertainty of existence. Being subject to birth, old age, sickness, and death also means being vulnerable to the disappointment and even despair of having all our plans shattered, re-made, and then shattered again. This obvious lack of control can be scary and confronting, yet if we learn to surrender to each moment with an open heart, we may find new opportunities in disguise! “Ajahn Corona” (as Ajahn Brahm dubbed it), presented tough challenges, yet also brought unexpected blessings for Anukampa’s monastery project.
My initial concern was that prolonged lockdown, and the consequent absence of guests would bring progress to a standstill. I had to get creative in finding new ways to serve and build community. Over a year later I am delighted to say that we have not lost momentum but have made considerable steps to further both our charitable aims!
Aim 1: to promote the teachings and practices of Early Buddhism, leading to full Awakening.
Moving our teachings online brought wider international exposure to Anukampa yet more intimacy to our community. It humbles me that during tremendous physical and emotional turmoil, people had the courage to turn inward toward suffering. I received letters describing the teachings and community, as a lifeline ~ offering hope, comfort, wisdom and even joy ~ throughout times of overwhelm, loneliness and grief. I have been inspired to see people renew their commitment to and deepen their meditation practice, and as result my own confidence in Dhamma has increased. Sometimes, when our backs are against the metaphorical wall, we discover where our true refuge lies.
Aim 2: to establish the first “Forest Monastery” in England where women can train towards full bhikkhuni ordination.
Now, there are three main areas we need to focus on, to grow deeper roots:
1. Project management/ admin help
2. Monastery caretakers and local support
1. Project management/ admin help: Another wonderful result of our online teachings has been the emergence of new volunteers and project management help. Yvonne generously offered her mentoring as a gift, and we hired part-time professional admin help to lessen my load and free me up to eventually take on monastic aspirants. We welcome any donations towards our monthly admin costs. We would also love to hear from you if you would like to join our growing volunteer team: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Monastery caretakers and local support: Building a monastic Sangha depends on having committed lay residents with an established Dhamma practice interested to live in community and support the Sangha’s daily needs. Such people are rare gems; however, there may be local support in Stroud. Stroud is a small town in the Cotswolds and one of our short-listed areas for a future “Forest Monastery,” so this is extremely exciting news! We recently formed a property search committee tasked with finding accommodation in the vicinity, with a view to move in November after the annual monastic “rains’ retreat” (vasssa). We will initially be looking at rental properties, so we can further assess the suitability of the area, but do not rule out purchasing if the right place appears.
3. Finances: The combined generosity of international supporters throughout the pandemic enabled us to meet the rental costs of our temporary Vihara (Bhikkhuni Residence) in Oxford and even build on our savings. This suggests that the outgoings of a permanent monastery may be within reach! Our trustees estimate that we are two-thirds of the way to affording a suitable place. As an independent charity with no financial backing from any other Buddhist organisation this is all thanks to people, perhaps like you, who come to our events and contribute in any way you can. We feel extremely encouraged by your support as it shows you benefit from our offerings and believe in our aims.
How Can I Be Involved?
Anukampa now need to build on their savings and would love to hear from you if you have ideas for any fund-raising initiatives (write to email@example.com). The charity continues to welcome regular standing orders and donations of any amount and every contribution is deeply appreciated. Ven Canda is currently on retreat, but please visit www.anukampaproject.org/events for Anukampa’s summer schedule with guest bhikkhunis Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Cittananda, as well as peer led Dhamma events. In December, Ajahn Brahm and Ven Canda are teaching a 7-day online retreat to help further Anukampa’s aims that you are welcome to join if your time-zone allows!