Jack in the Box

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and all the participants on the Meditation Day, 16th of March 2014, in the Sala of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. Photo by Manora Caldera.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and all the participants on the Meditation Day, 16th of March 2014, in the Sala of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. Photo by Manora Caldera.

On Sunday, 16th of March 2014, about 19 lay supporters participated in a One Day Meditation Retreat to mark Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni’s 29th ordination anniversary.

The theme of the day was “Contemplation of Feeling”. “Contemplation of feeling” is one of the four foundations of mindfulness. It is a useful tool that we can use in our life. We investigated the Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha. Until we can investigate, contemplate, hold the Dhamma close to our heart and put it into our practice, the Dhamma is only out there, a knowledge that we have acquired.

Feeling (vedana),  according to the Dhamma, is a bare basic sensation that registers as pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. It is one of the five aggregates and one of the links in the ‘Dependent Origination’, that is, ‘Contact conditions feeling, Feeling conditions craving.’ During the retreat, we practised being aware and mindful of the feeling, the pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feeling without going into the labelling, thinking and the story line.

'Jack in the Box' at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

‘Jack in the Box’ at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

The highlight of the retreat was when ‘Jack in the box’ popped up. ‘Jack’ was illustrating that the feeling pops up with contact. Due to our underlying tendencies and conditionings, the ‘Jack’ in us just pops up again and again without our invitation and permission.

There was a lovely story behind the ‘Jack in the box’ that was used at the retreat. The ‘Jack in the box’ originally belonged to Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni used to use the ‘Jack in the box’ in the weekend retreats that she conducted at Safety Bay. It was offered by one of the supporters after she heard Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni’s teacher, Ayya Khema, used to use ‘Jack in the box’ in her illustration at retreats. I felt honoured and delighted to be able to continue with the tradition at a retreat to celebrate my teacher’s ordination anniversary.

Congratulations to Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni on your ordination anniversary. May you attain Nibbana in this very life.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

 

 

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Happy New Year 2014

By Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni at the Sala of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage on 31st December 2013 after meditation.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni in the Sala of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage on 31st December 2013 after meditation.

 On the 31st of December 2013 we had a small celebration at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage to welcome the Year 2014.

We started  with an afternoon tea together. After the sun set at 7.26pm, we  toasted each other with a glass of juice and lots of good wishes to welcome the New Year.

The formal celebration was held in the Sala of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. We lit the candles and incense and chanted the ‘Homage to the Triple Gem’ and asked for forgiveness from the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. After paying homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, we chanted  the ‘Metta Sutta’ – The Buddha’s Words on Lovingkindness - continuously, to send our good wishes to each other and to all beings everywhere. During the chanting of the ‘Metta Sutta’, each one of us took turns to light a floating candle and then put it into a bowl water. The lighting of the candle signifies our aspiration to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha, to practise for liberation and freedom. The light of the candle signifies our good wishes of peace, harmony and lovingkindness to ourselves and to all beings.

During the evening celebration, we especially light the ‘Light of ‘Harmony’- the aspiration of harmony in our heart. In order to achieve this beautiful harmony we need to put in the ‘Right Effort’ to practise the various skills and crafts of the Dhamma, such as harmlessness, lovingkindness, compassion, practice of right speech, not to take what is not given and not to take drugs and alcohol that disturb our mind, and meditation. These wholesome skills and crafts of the Dhamma enable us to create the different sounds and notes that give us the beautiful ‘Harmony in our Heart’.

We continued the evening with meditation and the sharing of merits with all beings. The celebration finished at 9pm.

Happy New Year to all of you from Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

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End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony 2013

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

The beautiful shrine at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage on 26th October 2013. Photo by Zor.

The beautiful shrine at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage at the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony on 26th October 2013. Photo by Zor.

On Saturday, 26th of October 2013, about 35 people, representing the community of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, came together for a ceremony that marks the End of the annual Rains Retreat for the monastics.

The End of Rains Retreat Cloth Offering Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage on 26th October 2013. Photo by Zor

The End of Rains Retreat Cloth Offering Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage on 26th October 2013. Photo by Zor

Every year, the monastics make the determination to stay and practise and study in one place during the three months of the Rains Retreat. Normally, this is a time for most of the lay devotees to have regular contact with and teachings from the monastics. Traditionally, after the Rains Retreat, before the monastics departed and went on their journeys, Buddhist lay devotees, out of gratitude and faith, made various offerings of requisites especially robe material.

The  monastic robe is regarded as the banner signifying the lineage of the Buddha. This is the robe that you can see the monks and nuns wearing now. This is a lineage of 2500 years of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis dating from the time of the Buddha. This is why the offering of robe material is an auspicious offering.

There are two types of ceremony after the end of the Rains Retreat. Kathina is a ceremony that is carried out when more than four bhikkhus or bhikkhunis have spent the Rains Retreat in one place. The End of the Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony is conducted when there are fewer than four bhikkhus or bhikkhunis who have successfully completed the three months of the Rains Retreat.  Two bhikkhunis, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni ,completed their Rains Retreat at Patacara Bhikkhuni  Hermitage. Therefore, the ceremony celebrated at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage was the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony.

Peggy Chan offering the robe material to the bhikkhunis at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage during the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony 2013. Photo by Havindra.

Peggy Chan offering the robe material to the bhikkhunis at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage during the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony 2013. Photo by Havindra.

This year Peggy Chan offered the End of the Rains Cloth to the bhikkhunis of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. We appreciate and treasure the offering of the robe material as this signifies the faith, confidence and devotion of the donor to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. 

The Buddha mentioned in the Numerical Discourses that there are five gifts given by a good person: they give a gift out of faith, they give a gift respectfully, they give a gift at the right time, they give a gift with a generous heart, they give a gift without putting down others. The results of the gift come back to the person by way of great wealth, happiness, beauty, health, respect and support at the right time.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni tying the Paritta string at the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. Photo by Zor.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni tying the Paritta string at the End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. Photo by Zor.

May all of you here, all beings here, supporting the monastics, and enabling the lineage of the Buddha to continue to flourish, have good health, happiness and strength, may you continue to practise for the attainment of Nibbana.

 

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Confidence of a Spiritual Warrior

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

This reflection was shared on 11th October 2013 at Dhammaloka Centre of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambudhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambudhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambudhassa
Buddham, Dhammam, Sangham Namasami.

Good evening everyone. I am Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni. I am a resident bhikkhuni at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

Tonight, I would like to explore the topic of CONFIDENCE.

 I especially would like to investigate ‘CONFIDENCE’ from the aspect of a spiritual warrior practising on the path, the Eightfold Path.

This confidence is a feeling of security, a rock-solid inner conviction that we will be up to whatever may come in life. It leads to peace and ease, liberation and freedom.

Keeping the precepts, especially practising harmlessness and lovingkindness, practising mindfulness and meditation, and being honest and truthful, kind and gentle to ourselves, are very important in the cultivation of Confidence as a spiritual warrior.

To develop and cultivate this Confidence that can eventually lead us to our goal of liberation and freedom, we need to have confidence in the teacher, the Buddha, who can show us the way. We also need to be open to the fact that we have the ability to follow the instructions, to learn, to experiment and to train to gain the skills that we need to achieve the goal of liberation and freedom from suffering. This ability is like what the Buddha mentioned in the Lovingkindness Sutta, the quality of Sakko, able.

This is like learning how to swim. I remember when I started to learn swimming in school. Initially, I was frightened of the water. I was very frightened of even letting go of the side of the pool. The fear helped to protect me from danger, from being hurt, a great survival skill. But, the fear also stopped me from letting go of the side of the pool, to be able to swim. Whenever the teacher came to me and asked me to demonstrate the skill of treading water in the deep pool, I could only tread water for  probably one to two seconds and then quickly held on to the side of the pool again. This went on for a few weeks. Over the few weeks, I found out that no one actually drowned in the class. My teacher always put out a stick to rescue whoever was in trouble. She seemed capable of saving us from danger. Then, one day, when my turn came again to demonstrate the skill of treading water in the deep pool, I managed to gather enough courage to kick hard, away from the side of the pool and to start treading water. After a few seconds, it seemed like a long time to me, I started to lose control and went under the water. I started to panic. Then, I saw this stick come towards me and I managed to grab the stick that took me to safety-the side of the pool-again. I must admit, the stick only came after I had swallowed a few mouthfuls of water!

From then on, I had confidence with my ability to follow the instructions and perform the activity accordingly. I started to have confidence and trust towards the teacher and the fear of water disappeared. I let go of holding onto the side of the pool and followed whatever instructions the teacher gave me and I learned to swim. I even became a lifesaver later!

I am sure most of you have some similar experiences with learning how to swim, or how to ride a bike, or how to use the computer etc.

The cultivation of the Confidence on the Spiritual warrior path is similar to leaning how to swim. We have the intention to cultivate and practise in a way that brings us happiness and peace and leads us to liberation and freedom. We come to a Buddhist centre like Dhammaloka to listen to the Dhamma, the teachings, and to share in other people’s experiences.

In my case, I started to explore Buddhism in the late 1980’s. I do not come from a Buddhist background. Both my parents are atheists. My brother and sister are Christian. I formally declared myself as a Buddhist when I took the three refuges in a Mahayana temple in Taiwan in 1992 during a Buddhist pilgrimage. I went on pilgrimage upon the invitation of my friend and her mother after my graduation and training in pharmacy. Initially, I was reluctant to take the three refuges because I was not sure at that time, that I could sincerely take refuge in the Sangha. The lay teacher who was with me gave me a very good simile and advice. She said that practising as a Buddhist is like planting a tree. You need water, sunlight and fertiliser, like the three refuges. If you only provide water and sun light and do not provide the fertiliser, because you are not sure the tree requires fertiliser, then the tree would not be able to grow. You do need to have the confidence and trust initially, to try it out, to experiment in the use of these three ingredients for the tree of liberation and freedom to grow in the heart. However, we also need to have the confidence and trust that if, the experiment does not work out, we have the wisdom and courage to let the experiment go and continue our search. At that time, I was inspired by the pilgrimage and I took the three refuges.

My journey in the cultivation of confidence on the Spiritual warrior path, the Eightfold path, started some 21 years ago. Now, I am sitting here sharing with you about my journey.  It has been an amazing journey!

I learned about meditation soon after I took the refuges at a Buddhist Centre in Singapore, as I was working there at that time. I also attended a few of the one day meditation retreats at the centre. My first weekend meditation retreat was at Safety Bay in 1999 taught by Ajahn Vayama. I tried to practise very hard at the retreat. After the retreat, I went to my normal aerobic class the next day. I was only beginning to attend the classes. I was quite unco-ordinated. Normally, when everyone lifted their right hand, I was the only one with my left hand up. When everyone moved to the left side of the room, I would be the one who moved to the right. It was funny and yet embarrassing. The aerobic class that I went to after the retreat was the first time I could follow the instructions and moved in the same direction with everyone in the class! At that time, I realised that this meditation must be good to train my concentration and clarity of mind! My Confidence in the practice started to grow!

There was another incident that showed me that the practice of the Eightfold path is beneficial to my life. One Sunday evening, I was held up in the pharmacy while I was on duty as a pharmacist with another pharmacist assistant. After the hold up, I had to call the police, contact the pharmacy owner and be interviewed by the police, so I went home late that night. Unfortunately, my family was away on holiday and I was home alone. I was aware that I was stressed by the incident. I did not know what to do as it was late and I did not want to disturb or alarm my family or friends. I made a very good decision that night. I sat down, crossed my legs, closed my eyes and meditated before I went to bed. I slept through the night and went back to the pharmacy to work the next morning. When I reflected later, the one thing that I did that made the difference was meditation. It helped me to deal with the stress of the hold-up. I still needed to work with some of the other side effects of the stress caused by the hold-up, such as I jumped when someone ran towards me quickly, and I did not go for my regular morning walks for a few weeks, because of fear of meeting the robbers as I lived very close to the pharmacy. The confidence in the practice of the Eightfold path grew deeper after that.

 I went on my first pilgrimage to India in 2001 with Ajahn Vayama and a few other Sangha. I met Ajahn Vayama personally for the first time during this pilgrimage. During the journey we had a packed lunch on the bus. After dana, the tour leader kindly organised to give away the left-over dana to the villagers. Ajahn Vayama took some of her left-over lunch and went down from the bus when we had a stopover. I was curious and volunteered to be the chaperone and followed Ajahn Vayama. I saw that Ajahn Vayama went to the dogs on the street and put down the left-over food for them. I was standing there feeling in awe of Ajahn‘s gesture of kindness and metta. Most of all, I was touched by her connectedness to the beings, to all beings. She was not frightened, but friendly even to the dogs in India. There is not enough food for all the people in India that we met, let alone much consideration for the dogs. And the dogs are not cute “pixie-mop” types of dogs. This connectedness and openness of the heart left a very strong impression on me.

I later went to the monastery to study and train with Ajahn Vayama. I had no hesitation to take Ajahn Vayama as my teacher.

One of the ways to strengthen our confidence in the practice of a spiritual warrior on the Eightfold path is to keep the precepts. We need some guidelines and boundaries in our mental, verbal and bodily expression for our well-being and happiness. For example, harmlessness.  I remembered when I first went to the monastery to be a trainee, an anagarikaa. Ajahn Vayama took the anagarikaas for a walk around the monastery so that we could familiarise ourselves with the environment, especially the bush. Ajahn Vayama was very familiar with the land of the monastery. We were walking along the firebreak next to the horse stud, Barabadeen, and I was enchanted by the beauty and freshness of the bush. Suddenly, I heard Ajahn Vayama say: “Stop!” I stopped and looked puzzled. She asked me whether I knew what I was just about to step on. I lived in the cities and in the suburbs all my life. I knew nothing about the bush!  I only managed to say: “No”. Then Ajahn asked me to look closely. I saw a few black ants crawling out of the mound in the middle of the firebreak.  I realised it was an ant mound, the ant house. The realisation brought up this softness and tenderness to my heart. This bush and space does not belong only to me, to us. We share the space and land with countless beings. It allowed me to be in touch with the feeling of harmlessness and connectedness with other beings, whether they are human beings or something that I am frightened of, the biting ants! All beings, regardless of their religion, regardless of their cultural background, whether they are biting ants or spiders that we fear, or cute kangaroos and echidnas that we like, have the wish to live in safety and happiness and, like me, fear being hurt and harmed. It was a very good lesson that I learned that day. From then on, harmlessness is no longer an ideal outside. It became a quality that I hold tenderly in the heart. That is the confidence that I have, confidence in the precepts, confidence in harmlessness.

I found monastic training to be an excellent ground for the cultivation of confidence in the spiritual warrior path. I remembered when we were working on drains and banks in the monastery, to minimise water erosion. Ajahn Vayama is a very good leader and abbot. Whenever we worked, she was always there to work with us. She always worked very hard.  The work period was not just work. Ajahn Vayama always reminded us it was a great opportunity to make good merit. For me, it was also a great opportunity to learn, especially to learn Dhamma from the teacher. In this instance, whenever we picked up any rocks to be used for our drains or embankments, Ajahn always advised us to ask permission from the rock before we moved it away from its spot. We were also encouraged to check whether there were any beings living underneath the rock. If there were, we were encouraged to return the rock to where it belonged, so that we did not intentionally destroy or disturb their dwellings. These trainings are great to build harmlessness in our heart, and trigger this gentleness and lovingkindness. When I reflect on the training now, it also trained our mindfulness, paying attention to what we are doing when we are doing it. We also practise mindfulness and awareness by not just trying to finish the job as quickly as possible but to do it with our whole heart and be fully present. The training also taught me deeply about ‘not to take what is not given’, even the land, the rocks, the beautiful wildflowers that we wish to keep in our kutis or bring home. To me, that is the building of confidence, the confidence on the spiritual warrior path.

I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to practise and train under the guidance of very competent teachers, especially in monastic life. I take my training seriously and sincerely. I entered the monastic life in 2002 and ordained as a ten precept nun in 2004. Later in 2009, I received my full ordination as a bhikkhuni. It was six years after I entered monastic training before my first visit to my family in Malaysia in 2008. I thought I needed to have a firm foundation in monastic training and have the confidence of a nun, before I met up with my family members. Most of my family members are not Buddhist.

During my first visit to Malaysia and my only visit so far, my brother offered to take me and the family to a Japanese restaurant to have a family dinner. He said he could arrange and organise a private room, so that no one would see me eating in the afternoon and no one would know that I am eating in the afternoon. I laughed and said to him: ‘The earth knows, the universe knows, you know and most importantly, I know.’ We can trick and cheat the whole world around us, but we know, deep inside us, our heart knows what we are doing. This inner knowing, integrity, and clarity are important in the cultivation of the Confidence of a spiritual warrior. This integrity and honesty also gives us peace and ease and respect for ourselves. I found for myself that this is important if I want to take the teaching and practice all the way to the attainment of Nibbana.

I put in a lot of effort in keeping the precepts and in following the training of a spiritual warrior, especially the monastic training. The effort gave me great strength and awareness and freedom from remorse and inner conflict. The effort also trained me in confidence, the confidence of a spiritual warrior, the confidence of a nun, a bhikkhuni.

Recently, I had a few discussions with my friends from other Buddhist traditions especially on some of the precepts that I hold, such as: ‘Not handling money’, ‘Not driving’ and ‘Not eating after 12 noon’. I told my friends that keeping these precepts does not mean I am better or I am right. I voluntarily and willingly ordained as a bhikkhuni in a tradition that keeps the precepts in this particular way. I am trained by my teachers in this regard. The lay supporters expect me to keep the precepts in this way. I am confident that the training can lead me to liberation and freedom. I respect my friends who are trained and practise in another way that leads them to liberation and freedom. I am comfortable and at ease with that.

In the monastery, when I was training as a nun, during every Rains Retreat, -except for senior nuns over ten rains,- we were required to write no letters, make no phone calls and to have minimum social contact. This gave us the maximum opportunity to restrain our senses and to concentrate on meditation practice. Ajahn Vayama also suggested to us to undertake a special practice every rains retreat. This is a practice that I still undertake today. She would suggest practices such as metta meditation for the rains retreat, learning some specific chanting, or giving up eating our favourite food or sweets to train in restraining our senses and to challenge our habitual patterns. We would discuss our practices with Ajahn Vayama during our regular interviews, about twice a month. One year, I chose sitter’s practice. I read about the practice in Venerable Tenzin Palmo’s book, ‘Cave in the Snow’, and a Buddhist Text called Visudhimagga. Sitter’s practice is one of the Dhutanga, or ascetic practices. It basically means not lying down, in order to cultivate wakefulness and to challenge laziness. These practices are not compulsory, but are done for a specific length of time or purpose. At that time, I was young, bold and stubborn and I needed to cultivate wakefulness. In my mind, if others could do it, I could do it too! When I went to a regular interview with Ajahn Vayama and told her of my plan, she was silent. She was very skilful in dealing with a young, strong-headed and enthusiastic student. She seemed to know that it was not useful to discourage me but asked me the reasons why I wanted to do sitter’s practice.  I told her I was experimenting to see what the Dhutanga practices would add to my understanding of the path for me and whether it would deepen my meditation practice. She suggested I make a determination not to discuss the practice with others except the teacher. This is a way to make sure that I wanted to do the practice to challenge my habitual patterns but not to show off to anyone else! I spent three months of the rains retreat not lying down and fell asleep in some weird and uncomfortable sitting postures. And, no, I did not get enlightened, and I had much suffering and had a bad back as result! I learned that strong-will does not get me very far in meditation! I also learned from my teacher, that practice and cultivation is for the confidence in our heart, for our own happiness, peace and liberation. We do not practise to show that we are better or special.  

There is a difference between the confidence of a spiritual warrior and confidence in the secular world. In the secular world, we build confidence from the approval from outside, from other people, from material gains, from getting the highest paid job. For example, in order to be a number one tennis player, you need to win tournament upon tournament. The confidence of a spiritual warrior does not build on “ego”, “me”, or “I am better”, and it does not depend on wearing badges of success and seeking validation from others. It definitely does not depend on whether your AFL football club win the grand final. This Confidence of the spiritual warrior is free from being disturbed by the eight worldly winds of praise and blame, gain and loss, honour and dishonour, happiness and misery. The confidence of a spiritual warrior is not shaken by worldly circumstance. It is one of the highest blessings, as it says in the Maha Mangala Sutta.

From the experience of the practice, I found that even though I have plenty of determination, I also needed much gentleness and kindness to myself and in my practice. After that sitter’s practice, Ajahn Vayama suggested I spent three months practising metta as my main object of meditation during the following rains retreat.

 I found gentleness and kindness to ourselves are very important qualities to practise in the cultivation of the confidence of a spiritual warrior. Do you remember how you talked to yourself during the meditation earlier? Did you say to yourself: “I can’t do this!”, “I am hopeless”, “Stop thinking!” or “Shut up”? Or did you just gently bring your awareness back to your meditation object, when you started thinking. Being aware and mindful of how we talk to ourselves in the quiet moments, allows us to be aware of our state of mind at that moment, whether, sad, angry, or at peace and at ease.  

The aim of meditation is not just to stop thinking, and become peaceful and calm and happy. When the meditation becomes peaceful and calm we enjoy it. When the meditation is full of restlessness and agitation, we practise gentleness and kindness towards it! Meditation can give us this opportunity to cultivate the confidence of being kind and gentle to ourselves in whatever happens in meditation itself, as well as in our life off the cushion. This cultivation can bring us the confidence to face whatever arises in our life, even if we are not feeling peaceful and joyful because of what we are facing.

I love the formal entry into the rains ceremony for the monastic. The ceremony starts with a forgiveness ceremony, and then taking dependence on the teacher, who is Ayya Vayama in my case. We then take turns to make the determination in front of the Buddha of the main shrine, to stay and practise in the Hermitage for the coming three months. When I bowed down, I reflected that the same ceremony and determination had been made during the Buddha’s time all the way until today for over 2500 years.  This includes all the countless monks and nuns in the lineage of the Buddha. I felt very inspired and connected with the lineage of the Buddha; the feeling of being honoured to be walking the same path as all well-practised Sangha. It gave me the confidence, strength and courage to continue with the practice to see for myself the footprint of the Buddha.

Death is certain for all of us, none of us can escape death. But the time of death is uncertain. The cultivation of the confidence of a spiritual warrior not only leads us to happiness, peace and ease here and now. It also leads us to liberation and freedom. This is a simile by Buddha: A tree has been slanting, sloping and inclining towards the east. If the tree was cut down at its root, the tree would fall in whatever direction it was slanting, sloping and inclining. If we cultivate the confidence of a spiritual warrior that leads us to happiness, peace and ease in our life, we will slant, slope and incline towards happiness, peace and ease, here and now, and at the time of our death. Especially, if we continue to cultivate the path, it can lead us to firm confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

My Confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha continued to grow from the day I first took the three refuges. I am willing to push myself away from the side of the pool to tread water in the deeper pool. Whether the heart is peaceful and calm or full of agitation and restlessness, I continue to tread the water, following the instructions of the Buddha. Sometimes, I do a good job but sometimes it is difficult and it is a mess. But, I continue the cultivation on the spiritual warrior path.

This is my 10th rains since I went forth in this hall as a nun. I have shared with you whatever confidence I have been cultivating on the spiritual warrior path, the Eightfold path. I wish you to continue to cultivate the confidence of the spiritual warrior. May the sharing of this reflection tonight be of benefit to us all and may the merit of sharing of tonight’s teaching help us in the practice for liberation and freedom,  for Nibbana. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

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A sad note

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

After I emerged from my four-day solitary retreat in October, just before the Pavarana Day, I received the news that one of the monastic sisters had put down her robes. The monastic sister disrobed after twenty one years of wearing the robes. She disrobed due to her own sickness and her family, who had been looking after her, also having ill-health.

I was very sad to hear the news, especially as the monastic sister is a very well-loved meditation teacher. I was especially touched by her predicament because I am a full-time carer for Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni who is sick and disabled, and because I am also arranging care for my 97-year-old Grandmother. I understand and see with my own eyes how vulnerable we are when we are old, sick and disabled.

I fully respect the decision that was made by the monastic sister and wish her well on her path. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni has been reminding me not to papanca about the circumstances of the monastic sister who has just disrobed. However, I could not help but ask questions regarding the situation of the sick and disabled monastic sisters in the West. Even the well-loved and well-known monastic sisters have to face the predicament of struggling for care and support, let alone the rest of the less well-known  monastic sisters.  You might say, well, it is life, it is dukkha, anicca and anatta; that is suffering, impermanence and non-self. But, I am feeling sad and heavy-hearted with the situation I am observing and experiencing. The society that we live in worships growth; economic growth is paramount. We shut our door to old age, sickness and death.

As a spiritual warrior travelling on the Eightfold path, I sincerely invite all of us not to look away, but to contemplate deeply the imminence of old age, sickness and death. This is a story that I heard from a teacher: A man was sick and fell into the drain at the side of a busy road. A vipassana practitioner walked past the man in the drain and mindfully seeing, seeing and seeing the man, continued mindfully walking on his path. A few minutes later, a metta practitioner walked past the man in the drain and wishing the man be well and happy, and may he be at peace and at ease, continued her journey with lovingkindness in her heart. Later, a group of good Samaritans walked past the man in the drain. They stopped and helped the man out of the drain and took him to the hospital. I love this story and it is a great story for all of us to contemplate.

I am sharing a note of sadness and planting a seed, hoping the care and support for old, sick and disabled monastics will gradually flourish. I understand the limitations of  each one of us. I encourage myself to stay in the present moment and contribute whatever I can, to the care and support of Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and to my 97-year-old Grandmother.

To the Dhamma sister, Ariya Nani, I wish you well with lots of metta. May you continue to practise on the Eightfold path for the attainment of Nibbana.

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Rains Retreat 2013

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni during Forgiveness Ceremony on Pavarana Day, 19th October 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage during the Forgiveness Ceremony on Pavarana Day, 19th October 2013.

On Pavarana Day, 19th October 2013, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni completed her 29th Rains Retreat since she went forth  in Sri Lanka, and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni completed her 10th Rains Retreat since she went forth in Perth.

The beautiful tray of flowers, candles and incense for the Forgiveness Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, 19th October 2013.

The beautiful tray of flowers, candle and incense for the Forgiveness Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, 19th October 2013.

The Pavarana Ceremony starts with a Forgiveness Ceremony, and is followed by the Invitation, when the bhikkhunis at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, out of compassion for each other, correct whatever is seen, heard or suspected to have been incorrect in their practice during the Rains. Later that day, the bhikkhunis from Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, represented by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni, had to request the Invitation from the bhikkhu sangha to complete the Pavarana Ceremony.

We were very grateful for all your support during the three months of the Rains Retreat. We especially appreciated your support for our first in-house meditation retreat for the residents; Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and Jacky. Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni was also very fortunate to be able to have a four-day solitary meditation retreat each month during the Rains Retreat. Thanks to Jacky for taking on the responsibility of caring for Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and offering the dana during that time.

May we share the merit of our practice with all of you and may you always have the support that you need on the Eightfold Path, for the attainment of Nibbana.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!

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Vesak Meditation Retreat 2013

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

The Vesak moon as seen from Patacara BHikkhuni Hermitage on 24th of May 2013.

The Vesak moon as seen from Patacara BHikkhuni Hermitage on 24th of May 2013.

Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage celebrated Vesak – the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha, this year with a two day non-residential meditation retreat on Friday, 24th of May and Saturday, 25th of May.

The Volunteers hung up Vesak lanterns,lights and flags in the evening of 22nd May at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

The Volunteers hung up Vesak lanterns,lights and flags in the evening of 22nd May at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

On Wednesday, two days before the Vesak 2013, four of our regular lay supporters came to hang up Vesak lanterns, lights and Buddhist flags to celebrate the most important occasion of the Buddhist calendar. As all of us had some experience last year with Vesak celebration, the preparation went smoothly and harmoniously. We managed to finish the preparation by 8.00pm.

Vesak day this year fell on Friday, 24th of May. It was a beautiful sunny day. There were about eighteen people participating in the Vesak Meditation Retreat this year. We paid our highest respect to the Lord Buddha by keeping the precepts, practising meditation and contemplating the Dhamma. As in the ‘Mahaparinibbana Sutta’ in the Digha Nikaya:

‘the Lord said:’ Ananda, these sal-trees have burst forth into an abundance of untimely blossoms, which fell upon the Tathagata’s body, sprinkling it and covering it in homage….. Divine music and song sound from the sky in homage to the Tathagatha.  Never before has the Tathagata been so honoured, revered, esteemed, worshipped and adored. And yet,  Ananda, whatever monk, nun, male or female lay-follower dwells practising the Dhamma properly, and perfectly fulfils the Dhamma-way, he or she honours the Tathagata, reveres and esteems him and pays him the supreme homage. Therefore, Ananda, ” We will dwell practising the Dhamma properly and perfectly fulfil the Dhamma-way”— this must be your watchword.’  

The participants practising walking meditation during Vesak Meditation Retreat 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

The participants practising walking meditation during Vesak Meditation Retreat 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

As Vesak is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of  the Buddha,  this year we investigated the themes of Old Age, Sickness and Death. We chanted the ‘Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection’ from the Anguttara Nikaya Sutta 57, during the retreat, and also used the themes as our contemplation during meditation sessions. 

FIVE SUBJECTS FOR FREQUENT RECOLLECTION
Jara-dhammomhi jaram anatito
I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond ageing.

Byadhi-dhammomhi byadhim anatito
I am of the nature to sicken, I have not gone beyond sickness.

Marana-dhammomhi maranam anatito
I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond dying.

Sabbehi me piyehi manapehi nanabhavo vinabhavo
All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.

Kammassakomhi kammadayado kammayoni kammabandhu kammapatisarano. Yam kammam karissami kalynam va papakam va tassa dayado bhavissami.
I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma, abide supported by my kamma. Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and the participants on Vesak day, 24th of May 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and the participants on Vesak day, 24th of May 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

At the end of the day of practice on Vesak day, we  had a small ceremony to pay respect to the Bodhi Tree, the tree the Buddha sat under when He attained enlightenment. The ceremony reminded us that the goal of our practice is for liberation and freedom, Nibbana.

Subha, the cat, contemplating Old Age, Sickness and Death during Vesak Meditation Retreat 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

Subha the cat,  during the Vesak Meditation Retreat 2013 at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

On the second day of the Vesak Meditation Retreat, we continued with our investigation on Old Age, Sickness and Death. We especially looked into what the Dhamma said about Old Age, Sickness and Death. We also practised sitting and walking meditation.

This is one of my favourite suttas on Old age, Sickness and Death from the Sutta Nipata:

The Salla Sutta – The Dart
A recollection on death
1 Life is unpredictable and uncertain in this world. Life here is difficult, short and bound up with suffering.
2 A being, once born, is going to die, and there is no way out of this. When old age arrives, or some other cause, then there is death. This is the way it is with living beings.
3 When fruits become ripe, they may fall in the early morning. In just the same way a being, once born, may die at any moment.
4 Just as the clay pots made by the potter tend to end up being shattered, so is it with the life of mortals.
5 Both the young and the old, whether they are foolish or wise, are going to be trapped by death. All beings move towards death.
6 They are overcome by death. They go to the other world. And then not even a father can save his son, or a family their relatives.
7 Look: while relatives are watching, tearful and groaning, men are carried off one by one, like cattle being led to the slaughter.
8 So death and ageing are endemic to the world. Therefore the wise do not grieve seeing the nature of the world.
9 You cannot know his path as to where he has come from, or where he is going to. So it makes no sense to grieve for him.
10The man who grieves gains nothing. He is doing no more than a foolish man who is trying to hurt himself. If a wise man does it, it is the same for him.
11 Peace of mind cannot come from weeping and wailing. On the contrary, it will lead to more suffering and greater pain.
12 The mourner will become pale and thin. He is doing violence to himself, and still he cannot keep the dead alive; his mourning is pointless.
13 The man who cannot leave his sorrow behind him only travels further into pain. His mourning makes him a slave to sorrow.
14 Look at beings who are facing death, who are living out the results of their previous deeds; people are terrified when they see that they are trapped by death.
15 What people expect to happen is always different from what actually happens. From this comes great disappointment; this is the way the world works.
16 A man may live for a hundred years, or even more, but in the end he is separated from his relatives, and he too leaves life in this world
17 So we can listen and learn from the noble man as he gives up his grief. When he sees that someone has passed away and lived out their life, he says ‘he will not be seen by me again.’
18 When a house is burning, the fire is put out by water. In the same way the wise man, skilful, learned and self-reliant, extinguishes sorrow as soon as it arises in him. It is like the wind blowing away a tuft of cotton.
19 The person who is searching for his own happiness should pull out the dart that he has stuck in himself, the arrow-head of grieving, of desiring, of despair.
20 The man who has taken out the dart, who has no clinging, who has obtained peace of mind, passed beyond all grief, this man, free from grief, is still.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni and the participants on Saturday, 25th of May 2013, the Vesak Meditation Retreat at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni, together with Jacky and the participants on Saturday, 25th of May 2013, the Vesak Meditation Retreat at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.

May all of us continue to practise to pull out the dart in our heart, for freedom and liberation, for Nibbana.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.

 

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