S A N T A C I T T A R A M A B U D D H I S T M O N A S T E R Y
Twenty-five years of Santacittarama
From the front page of the Forest Sangha Newsletter, July 1997:
This year Ajahn Sucitto visited the Sangha at Santacittarama, and found himself there for the celebration of the Thai New Year.
SUNDAY April 13th: New Year's Day as celebrated throughout S.E. Asia. Moreover, as every Thai will know, such a holy day must be celebrated with a mixture of reverence and merriment. The two are certainly not polar opposites in Thailand. This is Songkran (from the Sanskrit word sankranti, meaning the shift of the sun from one zodiac sign to the other) and that gives people the opportunity to splash water everywhere reverentially, over the Buddha images and the bhikkhus and, with gales of laughter, over each other. Even in Italy, such things hold true. This year, although at Santacittarama we were spared the full bath, even there the ceremony concluded with some seventy Thai women filing past the seated Bhikkhu Sangha pouring water over our hands.
faithful laity arriving at monastery gate
Water symbolises fertility and the factor of flowing together; both of these
seem very appropriate signs for what occurs around the Sangha's presence in the
West. Of course, cross fertilisation is generally the case in terms of the
spread of the Dhamma in the West, but the Sangha stimulates a cultural as well
as an intellectual blending. You wouldn't get seventy Thai women travelling by
bus through the night from Milan and Naples to Sezze Romano to go to an
interfaith conference, but the Sangha's presence pulls Asian Buddhists into
experiencing their religion from a new angle and a few bemused Italian husbands
also get some reflection.
Ceremony in the garden
of 'holy water'
Along with the silence and the ordinariness, there is a sense of promise out of which things are growing naturally. The current monastic residence is becoming too small for the flow of the life it encases, and over the past year supporters have been looking around for new premises. Straight after the retreat, a few of us went to cast an eye over what seems to be a likely purchase a large farmhouse with 22 rooms and 5 acres of land on a hill in a rural area about 50 miles to the north east of Rome. The Italian women who took us there had no doubt: 'We must have this place!' Seven days later at the Alms Giving Ceremony that accompanied Songkran, the Thais were more than delighted that their financial offerings should be put towards such a venture. New Year, old customs; new possibilities, old aspirations: quite a mingling.
To be continued ...