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December 2007

 

News in brief

This year seems to have been especially busy, with lots of coming and going and teaching visits to various parts of Italy - Barletta, Malcesine, Milan, Padua, Piacenza, Rieti, Sardinia and Verona - and to Slovenia. Guests have been coming from all over Europe and beyond; at present there are several young men, Italian as well as Spanish and Slovenian, here on a long-term basis. One or two of them may soon begin a formal monastic training. After spending a year with us, Ajahn Uttamo left for Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, while we were joined by a Thai monk, Ajahn Jantee from Wat Pah Pong, and a Czech monk, Tan Nyanadassano from Amaravati. Ajahn Suvaco and Tan Mahapanyo went to spend the vassa in England, at Aruna Ratanagiri and Hartridge respectively, and have since returned, while Tan Hiriko left for Ratanagiri after spending the summer months here.

The recent Kathina ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of our arrival in the Sabina hills, and was the biggest event we've so far hosted, with a minimum estimate of 500 people. We were very fortunate to have as special guests Luang Por Sumedho and Ajahn Jayasaro, who came especially all the way from Thailand, accompanied by a contingent of about 20 lay people. A fund-raising concert had been held in Bangkok, with the participation of well-known musicians and singers, the proceeds being donated towards Santacittarama's temple project. A very substantial sum was raised at the concert, and supplemented at the Kathina ceremony, for which we express our anumodana. Our appreciation also goes to the many who helped with the preparations and organization, with a special mention of Khun Samonsri (Simona) who over several weeks dedicated much time and energy to beautifying the monastery gardens.

The Festive Period

As the end of the year approaches we are preparing for the usual influx of guests over the holiday season, and for our quiet retreat time which follows. Although the guest lodgings are already fully booked for the Christmas and New Year holiday period, and so overnight accommodation not available, the monastery will remain open for day visits. One is welcome to come for the meal at 11 a.m. - possibly bringing a contribution - and for a silent meditation at 4 p.m. (which will be part of the daily routine from Dec 26th until Jan 6th), followed by tea at 5 and evening chanting and meditation at 7:30 perhaps with a reading until 9 p.m. The small meditation room attached to Kusala, the male guest house, is always open for those looking for a quiet place to meditate at other times of the day.

A message from Tan Mahapanyo

I have just returned to Santacittarama after spending several months at the English monastery of Hartridge (www.hartridgemonastery.org), and I take this occasion to send warm greetings.

It was an interesting and rewarding experience but, as often happens, what I found there turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined. Not even the Devon weather was as expected. I had thought that it would be gray and rainy, but instead a warm sun gave life to intense colours. I had imagined myself alone in a small room, in a melancholy mood that calms the heart, but instead it was nourished by joy shared with others. I was intending to study the funeral chants, but happened to meet a cheerful man who reminded me of a ditty forgotten for more than 20 years. Instead of contemplating the sky I painted the skirting board. Despite having always been skeptical about ghosts, I found myself looking up at the stair landing above, kindly whispering to a sad spirit that didn't come: "I'm sorry, it was inevitable. I'm sorry, but one has to die", so that it would be able to let go. In the journey towards Dartmoor I expected a forest, but found a heath instead, and to understand its sentimental fascination I needed to visit the house of the "Hounds of the Baskervilles", passing through the black and white of the deductive reasoning of a Sherlock Holmes film.

I could continue, to speak of of the faces of timid children throwing stones at the waves of an impetuous sea, in an attempt to keep it in check. Of the bitter rose petals on white rice. And then the illuminated steel tower, that dominates the Blackdown Hills, followed by the world seen from a rubbish tip... I could go on but, in reality, what I did in England was what I try to do every day: to stay as close as possible to the Dhamma. Inhale and exhale, to better understand the illusions I've just created and built upon. And to be free.

I should express thanks to many people for this rewarding time, beginning with Ajahn Chandapalo and Ajahn Jutindharo, abbot of Hartridge, that have offered me this opportunity, followed by a long list including kind strangers that helped me with my baggage: Thank you!

In Italian on the web

Two talks have been uploaded to the "insegnamenti" page, one by Ajahn Viradhammo entitled "Accettazione e responsabilitÓ" and one by Sister Ajahn Medhanandi entitled "La gioia nascosta nel dolore".

 

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