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N e w s   M a r c h   2 0 0 4

Dear Friends in the Dhamma,


the full moon day of March 5th marks one of the three main Buddhist festivals called Magha Puja, which commemorates the spontaneous assembly of 1,250 enlightened monks in the presence of the Buddha.  At this gathering, the Buddha conferred the title of 'Chief Disciples' on Venerables Sariputta and Moggallana.  Magha Puja therefore celebrates Sangha, an act of harmony, a gathering together; it was also then that the Buddha outlined the Ovada Patimokkha, the basis for the monastic training rules, which had yet to be layed down in detail.


Here is a (liberal) translation of the Ovada Patimokkha:


Patient endurance

is the ultimate asceticism.

Profound liberation,

say the Buddhas,

is the supreme goal.

A renunciate should not

oppress anyone.


Cease to do evil,

cultivate that which is good;

purify the heart.

This is the Way

of the Awakened Ones.


Not insulting, not harming,

cultivating restraint

with respect for the training,

modesty in eating and contentment

with one's dwelling place,

devotion to mindful intent:

this is the teaching of the Buddha.


I found myself feeling very moved and uplifted by the powerful presence of Sangha during my recent visit to Thailand, particularly during Ajahn Chah's 12th anniversary gathering.  At Wat Nong Pah Pong, his main monastery in Ubon province, large numbers of monks and laypeople had been arriving for several days, during which there was a programme of chanting, meditation and Dhamma talks.  By the final day - which concluded with a grand procession around the memorial stupa - there were an estimated 1,000 monks and novices and 10,000 white-robed lay devotees in an atmosphere of serene devotion.  It's a worthy tribute to Ajahn Chah's wisdom and compassion - and the emphasis he gave to Sangha - that the community of his disciples continues to grow in such strength and harmony such a long time after his decease.


Another important event, and wonderful manifestation of devotion and generosity, was the Buddha-casting ceremony.  The style of the new Buddha image to be offered to Santacittarama is based on the beautiful and famous 'Teaching Buddha' of Sarnath (see photo below).  The original is now housed at the museum of the 'Deer Park at Isipatana' at Sarnath in NE India, the actual site of the First Discourse (Dhammacakkasutta) which the image represents, with its Dhamma wheel, deer and first five disciples shown before the throne.  It comes from the 'golden age' of Buddhist art, the Gupta period of around the 5th century, and is made of reddish sandstone.  The version being made for Santacittarama will be of bronze and stand about 2 metres high.  The finishing work will take several months so we are not expecting it to arrive until later this year.



In the meantime our winter retreat continues very peacefully and harmoniously.  This is a very precious time for us and we are much appreciating the support that is being offered, particularly by those who have been braving the wintry conditions to come and bring us life-sustaining food!  The resident community presently consists of 5 bhikkhus (Ajahns Chandapalo, Jutindharo, Khantiko, Sawaeng and Tan Savako), one novice (Samanera Mahapanyo), one nun (Maechee Amara), a new anagarika (Francesco) and a candidate called Dino.  Later on in March myself and Ajahn Khantiko will be going to Amaravati monastery in the UK for a meeting of senior monks, and a programme of activities begins shortly after our return.  Please note that the retreat does not finish until the end of March.

This year we are very fortunate to be having Ajahn Sumedho coming to teach a retreat over the Easter weekend among the spectacular surroundings of Abruzzo's National Park.  For details please see the programme below.  The retreat is being organized as usual by the 'A.Me.Co', and they would appreciate some help for preparing the retreat house on April 9th, beginning in the morning, and with help in transporting people from the nearest railway station at Cassino.  Also, if anybody is passing in the vicinity of Santacittarama on the way to the retreat, and could help transporting people and things, this would be very helpful.


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