by Ven Canda
The last month has been the most momentous time in eight years for Anukampa. Of course this was not really out of the blue, but the sudden and beautiful ripening of many intentions, so much hard work, and all your trust and support across the years.
If you are regularly in touch with us, you will know that I found a promising property whilst Ajahn Brahm and I were travelling back to Oxford from his family visit to Liverpool. I called for a viewing there and then, in the hope we could visit it together…
We both liked it a lot ~ for the location, seclusion and space ~ and since then we have engaged the support of the wider community. Dhamma friends locally and internationally pulled together to offer loans so that we can seize this rare opportunity. The energy and love has been heart-warming in a way that deepens faith. Since then we also welcomed three brilliant new trustees, two of whom, Manori and Elena, have been engaging with me late into the night to get solicitors, contracts, trustee approval etc. in place, so that we are in a position to make an offer.
We made our offer last week, whilst I was teaching a 6-day Loving-kindness (metta) retreat in Devon. The agent came back to us immediately to announce that our offer was one among four! He gave us another 36 hours to put in our “best and final, non-regrettable” offer. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to extend metta to nerves and the hard world of business! We couldn’t stretch much further and I thought we had lost it. Meanwhile, the retreatants continued pouring out metta and I felt held and embraced by the Dhamma. We called on the devas, the goodness of our intentions and the Ariya Sangha for support and “improved” our offer on Friday 8th December.
On Saturday 9th December I returned back to Oxford from the retreat, to an email. Our offer was accepted, subject to a meeting with the owners, surveys and contracts! I knew it was meant to be, by the peaceful joy that came over me. If everything goes smoothly from here, we aim to exchange contracts at the end of January.🤞
It feels slightly surreal and far more powerful than anything that could be willed into existence by a single person or even a group – thousands of millions of intentions coming to fruition. This is BIG STUFF that clearly must happen for the spread of Dhamma and the rooting of the Bhikkhuni Sangha here in the UK! 🙏
The monastery property is in a hamlet called Boars’ Hill, which is a preservation trust area just five miles from Oxford. Being close to Oxford means we can build on the existing relationships we have with students, supporters and monastic friends, and also have the appropriate seclusion for a “forest bhikkhuni” lifestyle. With over an acre of land bordering woods the monastery will provide a quiet sanctuary for our guests. Most pleasingly (for me!), there is a hut and a shed that could be turned into bhikkhunis’ kutis. The main house has five bedrooms, a large kitchen with dining for lay guests, a large dana sala (alms-receiving hall) for the monastics to receive alms and meet visitors, and a separate drawing room to serve as a quiet meditation hall. With two double garages and pre-existing planning permission, there is plenty of room to expand as our community grows. I will not be able to share photos until the monastery property legally belongs to Anukampa, but below are some photos of the land from above and nearby views from the hill.
So, how am I? The body is tired but the heart is inspired, in a state of awed disbelief. The gratitude in my heart is overflowing and the only way to express this is to “Open The Door Of Our Monastery!” (to coin Ajahn Brahm’s favourite metta phrase) ~ if everything goes smoothly, we hope to move at the end of March and welcome visitors from April onwards.
Your help is still needed us to make our vision of an inclusive, welcoming Buddhist community come true!
Ajahn Brahm’s visit this year was exceptional in many ways and most notably for an unexpected property find! On the long train ride back from visiting his extended family north of Liverpool, inspiration struck and we discovered an affordable prospective monastery property online.
Two days later, Ajahn, Ven Canda and volunteer Shel, went to view it and thought the layout and location ideal for a Forest Monastery – secluded yet accessible, with potential to expand. The prospective monastery is on Boars’ Hill just 5 miles from Oxford station. This location would enable us to stay near our main hub of support – and our friends, the Oxford Buddha Vihara monks – bringing the four-fold assembly to Oxford.
We and our loyal supporters have been running high on inspiration due your heart-warming response so far, in the form of donations, loan offers and messages of support. You have shown us that when intentions are aligned to Dhamma, they have power to spread the Buddha’s teachings and build safe, beloved communities. You have shown us how dedicated to practice you are. You have shown us that as a Buddhist community, we are ready to develop a monastery that will benefit us all – and so we celebrate and rejoice!
Our finances team once again would like to thank you for all your generous loan offers, including that of the BSWA. Our Treasurer Manori will be getting in touch with you again soon with more updates. We are now inviting donations of any amount to bridge the critical difference between loans and costs, so we can put in a successful offer (there are two other parties putting an offer in too)! For options on how to donate, please visit https://anukampaproject.org/donate/
Ajahn Brahm’s visit this year was exceptional in many ways and most notably for an unexpected property find! On the long train ride back from visiting his extended family and “scouser” (i.e. Liverpudlian) roots, inspiration struck and we discovered an affordable property online. Two days later, before the Bristol talk, Ajahn, Shel, and I went to view it. The layout and location ideal for a Forest Monastery – secluded yet accessible with potential to expand. The property is on Boars’ Hill just 5 miles from Oxford station. This location would enable us to stay close to our main hub of volunteers and supporters – and our friends, the Oxford Buddha Vihara monks!
Since then and during our last weekend retreat ending 19th November, an overwhelming amount of support has been pouring in from so many of you. Our local and international communities have mobilised to help put us in a position to make a cash offer using personal loans, (just until these can be repaid when we sell our Vihara). We will have more information on whether we can proceed with an offer very soon.
At this point, we can only accept a limited number of loans due to the time frame and paperwork involved. We are therefore encouraging contributions of any amount so that we can move forward at this critical juncture. We have been searching for a property like this for years and know how rare a find this is – a peaceful yet central place to fulfil our mission of growing a Bhikkhuni Sangha here in the UK and develop a welcoming and inclusive spiritual community around that, which you can be a part of!
The monastics and their loyal supporters have been running high on inspiration due your heart-warming response so far. You have shown us the power that Dhamma-aligned intentions have in spreading the Buddha’s teachings and how dedicated to practice you are. You have shown us that as a community, we are ready for a monastery that will benefit us all – and for that I celebrate and rejoice!
What You Can Do Next
If you would like to make a one-off donation, by bank transfer, PayPal, card, or to make a regular monthly donation, please visit https://anukampaproject.org/donate
For those of you who have so kindly offered loans, thank you! Manori will be in touch soon to update you on the next steps, or you are welcome to write to email@example.com if you have any questions.
When I first started my journey along the Buddhist Path, I was intimidated by monastics. They looked too grand and holy silently lined up in their orange robes on the early morning streets of Vientiane, Laos, where I live and work, or solemnly chanting unintelligible Pali blessings while sitting stone-faced at funeral ceremonies. I dared to get close enough only to drop a handful of sticky rice into their alms bowls, but not to make eye contact, much less start up a conversation about the Dhamma. I steered clear of these bald-headed figures as best as I could even after I started going to monasteries to practice and serve, afraid that I would say or do something improper, or otherwise disrespect them by accident. I rationalized that there was no need for me to associate with monastics anyway. I had my books of suttas and my daily meditation practice. Besides, in this modern day and age I could just pull up a talk by Ajahn Brahm on YouTube and watch from a safe distance. Surely I could do without direct interaction with monastics so long as I had the word of the Buddha and the internet.
Yet as anyone who has been fortunate enough to spend time around fellow practitioners has probably already discovered, there are a lot more layers to the Dhamma that come out when it is a living, breathing essence flowing through the lifeblood of a community of monastics and laypeople that is far more vibrant and nuanced than when it is exclusively absorbed from the pages of a book. If I had not started to figure this out for myself, I probably never would have ended up here at the Anukampa Vihara for the tail end of Ajahn Brahmali’s recent UK teaching tour in the first place. And if I had not realized the beauty of this treasured living Dhamma ahead of time, I certainly would have felt it when I arrived at the vihara in Oxford, at which time I was immediately swept up into the flood of peace, generosity, and metta that this community of Dhamma friends had been building up long before my arrival in the UK. The people I met who had joined Ajahn Brahmali’s retreat emanated auras of gentleness and tranquility, greeting me with the bright eyes and warm smiles of those who have been able to touch something deeper and kinder in themselves than any of us are typically able to reach on our own in our usual busy lives.
As I travelled with Ajahn Brahmali and the Anukampa community during the last week of talks, I experienced the same kinds of feelings for myself. From the first talk I attended at the Oxford Buddha Vihara to the day retreat hosted by London Insight Meditation at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre, and even back to the small community at the Anukampa Vihara itself, I found myself constantly surrounded by other people sincerely striving to reduce their own suffering and that of all other beings through thoughts, speech, and actions steeped in what is wholesome–moral sila, peaceful samadhi, and sharp wisdom.
It seemed that each new space I stepped into was awash in good intentions and the positive energy of all the people who inhabited them, allowing me to share in the peace, joy, and energy of a community that had come together to rejoice in the teachings of the very monastics who had once so intimidated me. The monastics were the core of the community, and the community pulled me to the very doorstep of the Dhamma. After years of practice during which I had mostly sat striving alone, holding onto some distant awareness of the breath through a raging sea of agitated thoughts, this community of practitioners proved to me what teachers like Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Brahmali, and Venerable Canda had been saying all along. The practice is not an act of willpower, but a natural unfolding of mind that occurs when we incline ourselves in the right direction. Surrounded by so many people well-inclined towards kindness and letting go, my mind naturally followed suit. I finally felt like I was getting a taste of the true flavour of the Dhamma–not the spicy burn of forced effort, but the soft, sweet flavour of the natural underlying joy that all of us find when we put everything down and make space for it. It is one thing to read about such a thing and another thing entirely to be immersed in it at the centre of a crowd of spiritual friends, laypeople and monastics alike.
To watch the monastic life lived sincerely is to see echoes of the Buddha himself. It is true that many things have changed since the Buddha’s time. Now instead of walking barefooted down dusty paths, our retinue of monastics and lay supporters waited on a platform for our delayed train to Bristol, checking for updates on our smartphones while Ajahn Brahmali sat on a bench translating Pali texts on his laptop. Yet the heart of the monastic lifestyle remains the same. To travel and share the Dhamma lies at the core of monasticism, and for me, being able to witness this process in action was a priceless gift. Just as the Buddha and his supporters did more than 2500 years ago, still we were traveling from town to town, wherever there were people willing to lend an ear to the profound Dhamma and practice with good will and sincerity. I could tell that in spite of the whistles and bells of modern communication and transportation that I was witnessing Buddhism in its truest, oldest sense. It is thanks to the compassion and hard work of monastics like Ajahn Brahmali, Venerable Canda, and Venerable Upekkha that even after thousands of years, we still have the opportunity to witness this noble way of life in person to this day.
After a week of Dhamma talks, traveling, dana meals given and received, and quiet tea time with the monastics, I got to see not only the Dhamma as a logically sound philosophy or even as a strictly causal path that ultimately leads to cessation, but as something that was very much present and very much alive. Just as all living things, I also saw how the Dhamma was growing wider and deeper, putting its roots down in new territory. It is an amazing and wonderful thing to see the strong foothold this practice holds here in the UK, on a piece of land so far in time and geography from the land where the Buddha first taught, but where his teachings are just as valid and precious as ever. It was a special treasure for me to witness a room full of people discussing the integral importance of the bhikkhuni ordination as part of this tradition, a simultaneous return to the roots the Buddha himself laid down for women practitioners as well as an integral part of the new growth that is possible in the practice and in the community when all people have the opportunity to undertake the practice in its full scope.
At his last talk, Ajahn Brahmali voiced his wish that the audience might see the monastics as cute and cuddly (cuddly from a distance, he specified). It was an image of monastics that would have been almost impossible for me to even a year or two ago, and yet, I can say that during my past week with the dual Sangha of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, I have finally felt that (distant) cuddliness. The warmth, metta, and goodwill I experienced in the presence of beings so dedicated to the Path the Buddha laid out was undeniable. Indeed, this is another echo of the Buddha, reminding me that while monastics may look intimidating, through them one can find a reflection of the true compassion of the Buddha, passed down through the Dhamma and Sangha to reach us in a very close and personal way even to this day. To show us the way to this compassionate path and help the Dhamma come alive to each of us is the gift that the Sangha gives. This is why the Triple Gem is necessarily triple and not double. By looking into the gem of the Sangha, we can see the reflection of the Buddha looking back at us through the generations of his students, the bhikkhunis and bhikkhus who continue to offer us teachings to this day. It is here in this gem that we can get a glimpse of the very compassion that motivated the Buddha himself to teach the Dhamma that continues to bring us all together, leading us closer to each other, closer to ourselves, and closer to the Truths that the Buddha unearthed.
We have decided to broaden the reach of our upcoming week-long residential deep dive into breath meditation retreat with Ajahn Brahmali by livestreaming the morning and evening session on the Anukampa YouTube channel here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNIW229Hx4MOF_ahakA67EA.
The livestream will begin from Day Two through to Day Seven (14th May to 19th May) as follows:
09:00 – 10:00 Morning talk
20:15 – 21:30 Anonymous Q&A from “the box”
The final day’s morning session will close the retreat on 20th May:
09:00 – 10:30 Closing talk and loving kindness meditation
All recordings will also be made available on the Anukampa YouTube channel following the conclusion of the tour.