It has been a huge privilege to host Ajahn Brahmali in England and he left us all on a wholesome high! The remarkable tour was pretty packed yet Ajahn was on top form, delivering intellectually lucid, spiritually rousing teachings directly based on the suttas. He brought us nearer to the Buddha as our principle Teacher, by carefully drawing out the meaning, implication and practical application of many subtle nuances one could easily miss, as though spreading wide an intricately woven embroidered cloth to examine its beauty more closely. Of particular poignancy for me (Ven Candā) was having two distinct parts of my life brought together by retreating in my home county of Derbyshire and having lunch offered to me and Ajahn by my parents- at my childhood home!
One of the beautiful aspects of mental cultivation that really stood out on “The Gradual Training To Lasting Joy” retreat, was the often neglected teaching on wise reflection, as part of right effort to undermine the hindrances. For instance, a powerful means to overcome anger or resentment is to deliberately focus on a person’s good qualities, rather than dwell on aspects of behaviour that irritate, just as one would move aside algae from a pond, to uncover pure water for quenching one’s thirst, beneath (AN 5: 162). Repeatedly reflecting in this way builds a storehouse of positive perceptions, which are then at hand to counter those perceptions giving rise to anger, before it obscures the mind. Additionally, by reminding ourselves of our conditioned, changeable nature, we begin to understand there is nothing essential or inherent in a person to be angry with and harbouring hate only hampers our spiritual development. Practicing such right effort- off the cushion- helps remove the coarser obstacles to meditation, so that by the time we sit down our heart is relatively calm. With proper preparation, the job that remains is to simply allow the breath to enter and gladden the mind.
The last evening Q&A session of this glorious retreat turned into an outpouring of gratitude. It was deeply satisfying to learn how much benefit people gained from delving into the suttas in a meditative context and many expressed a renewed commitment to taking them forward into all aspects of daily life.
“Finding True Freedom” was an exceptional talk to end the tour. One participant later wrote, “I would not have missed it for the world. Right from the get-go my feeling was that it was like sitting in an incredible field of love.” On that last evening back in London, I felt particularly moved on noticing how many spiritual companions associated with Anukampa were present- especially as I knew no one less than three years ago! When asked for an update on our progress at the end, I said THIS GATHERING- implying all the spiritual friendship, goodness and dedication among us- IS the monastery (so far). The bricks and mortar will simply build on that.
Ajahn Brahmali greatly enjoyed teaching and travelling in England and gave some feedback of his own:
“Bhikkhunīs are on the march in the UK! After a busy but inspiring teaching tour – with four days in London and a full week in the Peak District – I have seen first-hand the momentum that is building around Ajahn Brahm’s and Ven. Candā’s vision of establishing a bhikkhunī monastery in England. Ven. Candā’s impressive leadership skills and long experience as a monastic became evident as I worked closely with her. The heartfelt support from a large and diverse Buddhist community is equally remarkable. It is a vision for the long-term, but there is every reason to believe this will become an exceptional resource for women who value the Buddhist monastic life.”
Ajahn Brahmali discusses true freedom: portrait by Winnie Chang
Words fall short of expressing the depth of gratitude I’m sure many of us feel towards Ajahn Brahmali, for joyfully imparting his vast knowledge and understanding of the Buddha’s teachings and supporting Anukampa’s aim. Special thanks also to Bodhinyana Singapore who intend to sponsor hire expenses to boost our fundraising efforts; Sheffield Insight Meditation for loaning cushions and mats; Brentwood Buddhist Society for creating beautiful quote books that were distributed at the events; Cristo and Rudite for video/audio recordings respectively; Matteo and Winne for photography; and all other volunteers who helped make this tour such a resounding success!
We aim to get the entire set of retreat recordings with you by next week, but the first recordings are already available on our Youtube Channel.
On May 12th 2018 we had our first Anukampa Volunteers meeting at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, which was both productive and supportive. Each of us spoke about how we came to be involved in this project aimed at planting the Bhikkhuni Sangha on UK soil, our motivation, and the role of spiritual friendship and service on the Path. The room felt pervaded by love and camaraderie and, with most of our work happening remotely, online, we all thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each other better in the flesh. No technical tool, however advanced, can beat the beauty of live interaction! Thank you everyone for being there to share.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the bhikkhuni sangha took a much greater step, growing a little larger, with the ordination (upasampada) of dear Dhamma Sister, now Ven Bhikkhuni Cittananda, who I had the honour of spending last year’s rains (vassa) retreat with in Perth. Her humility, dedication, warmth, and sweet kindness, along with her deep and sincere practice informed by love of the suttas will enrich the bhikkhuni sangha. Much rejoicing joy (mudita) with her and all those who stand to benefit! Congratulations too, to Konin Melissa Cardenas who took her samaneri (novice) ordination, making her a new resident sangha at the wonderful Aloka Vihara.
One day this will be happening on UK soil! It all starts with the small but careful steps we are taking now.
We are thrilled to announce Ajahn Brahm’s next UK visit in our newsletter here, along with more on Anukampa’s activities and Ajahn Brahmali’s events this summer.
Registration for Ajahn Brahm’s first 8-day Residential Retreat in England is open for bookings right now, (and if he is as popular as Ajahn Brahmali it will likely be sold out within a week!)