Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

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Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby gavesako » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:57 pm

George Sharp (head of English Sangha Trust) describes his trip to Thailand to meet Ajahn Chah and invite Ajahn Sumedho to come to the West:

1976: A visit to Thailand.
http://www.everythingandnothing.co/?p=5271


1978: A second visit to Thailand.

http://www.everythingandnothing.co/?p=5444


How Amaravati came to be.

http://www.everythingandnothing.co/?p=5511


It is an interesting story which shows that many factors had to come together in order for this seemingly impossible project to be successful:

... As for me, just as before Ajahn Cha allowed me only an hour or so each day to acquaint him with the problems in England. And since my concerns were only about money and the exchange rate between Thai Baht and English pounds stood about forty to one, so every time I opened my mouth I was talking in millions.
At one point he said “We have a few thousand available here. But you come talking in millions. It seems to me you’re a man who’ve bought a new car but can’t afford any petrol. I will have to come to England for six months to raise that kind of money”
I laughed and said “How you think you’re going to do that?” to which he replied “I am going to use my magnet”.
He eluded to something I had never known before but in the ensuing years came to witness for myself: the power of one such as he to inspire and generate a wellspring of gifts way beyond anything I had ever thought possible without ever mentioning he had any need of anything at all.
Slowly, it had begun to filter into my dim awareness how heavily I was then being criticized by many people, some of high influence and importance, for buying Chithurst House at all. What I had done was widely regarded as foolishness. ...
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby purple planet » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:13 pm

As for Ajahn Sumedho, during our time there, he had endured being treated like a pariah, set apart and entirely unwelcome.


How can you explain this part about how Ajahn Sumedho was treated at maha-bua monastery ?
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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:47 pm

purple planet wrote:
As for Ajahn Sumedho, during our time there, he had endured being treated like a pariah, set apart and entirely unwelcome.


How can you explain this part about how Ajahn Sumedho was treated at maha-bua monastery ?


According to the article it seems to have been due to the friction between the two main sects of Thai Buddhism, the Dhammayut and the Mahanikaya.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby purple planet » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:48 am

Yes i understood that - what i meant to ask is - how can you explain this move it sounds very un-buddhist thing to do
im not a monk and even i would not do a thing like that
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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby gavesako » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:54 am

Ajahn Maha Boowa (died 2 years ago and received a royal funeral in Thailand) was known for his rough and outspoken character. He certainly was not "diplomatic" and did not mince his words. And yet, due to his personal integrity in practice and uncompromising discipline he was very respected by the monks as well as laypeople who turned to him for advice. Once he shouted harshly at a monk who was doing something wrong, and then clarified it: "I am not shouting at you, I am shouting at your defilements!" :)

Usually in Dhammayut forest monasteries, the Mahanikaya visiting monks will not be allowed to join Patimokkha recitation and in the stricter ones will also be given their food separately, because they are regarded as not "real" monks (this goes back to the original Dhammayut reform idea that most monks in Thailand were not properly ordained and do not keep the Vinaya rules). With monks from Ajahn Chah tradition, it was always kind of awkward because they keep the Vinaya just as strictly as the Dhammayut monks (or even stricter these days).

Here is more detail on the situation in England and the missionary efforts at that time:


Venerable Paññavaddho had been the Senior Incumbent of the Vihara between 1957 and 1962, having succeeded the founder of the Trust, Venerable Kapilavaddho. After an incumbency of five years, Venerable Paññavaddho had felt an interest in deepening his practice by living in the traditional forest environment of meditating bhikkhus, and had gone to Thailand to live under the guidance of Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa. Ajahn Maha Boowa, like Ajahn Chah, stressed the importance of meditation, Vinaya and simplicity of life-style, and he also had a very fine forest monastery in North-East Thailand.

The English Sangha Trust, the stewards and owners of the Vihara, had been established in 1956 with the express aim of providing a suitable residence for bhikkhus in England. By 1972, this aim had not been achieved, and it was time to consider why. In some people's minds, in fact, it now seemed an impossibility.

There were numerous views and opinions on this matter, but the chairman was drawn to consider the nature of the environment and the life-style of the bhikkhus. Several of the incumbents had been gifted Dhamma teachers, but none of them had experience of the traditional bhikkhu life, with its training conventions and mendicant relationship with the laity. So Mr. Sharp had begun corresponding with Venerable Paññavaddho, who had taken up that very life-style and obviously found it preferable to the 'progressive' atmosphere of Western Buddhism. In 1974, this correspondence had resulted in an invitation from the Trust to Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa and Venerable Paññavaddho to visit Hampstead. Their presence was so inspiring that there was some hope that Venerable Paññaavaddho might remain in England, accompanied by other forest bhikkhus.

After Ajahn Sumedho's visit in 1976, Mr. Sharp went out to North-East Thailand himself to visit the forest monasteries and make a further request to the two meditation teachers to send forest bhikkhus to England. Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa, perhaps because he had visited the Hampstead Vihara – and seen all the difficulties that lay ahead in a country where people were ignorant of the bhikkhus' discipline and the relationship between Sangha and laity – was rather doubtful of the idea. The Vihara, a town house opposite a pub on a main road in North London, didn't seem suited for forest monks. Ajahn Chah, however, decided to visit in 1977, and when he came he brought Ajahn Sumedho with him.

Perhaps it was just another of Ajahn Chah's tests to make his disciples 'let go', but as a result of the visit, he left Ajahn Sumedho at Hampstead with three other of his Western disciples, to stay until more suitable forest premises became available. The daily life was conducted in a manner that was based on the monastic routine of the forest monastery, with morning and evening chanting, a daily alms round [pindapada] and instruction to lay visitors to the Vihara.

It was not an easy time for the bhikkhus – apart from culture shock and the sudden cramping of their environment, there was a lot of confusion as to the role of the Vihara, and how the tradition was to be altered, if at all, to fit English conditions. Perhaps in this country it was not appropriate to live in forests at all. In this atmosphere of doubt, it was only the bhikkhus' training in endurance and obedience to the discipline and the structure of the Sangha that preserved a degree of harmony.

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Ajahn ... viveka.htm
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby gavesako » Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:06 am

And here are some more reflections by Ajahn Sumedho on the separation into sects:

Another aspect to reflect on is the two sects of Dhammayut and
Mahanikay. If we go to a Dhammayut forest temple thinking
we’re very strict and pure (not touching money, practising like
good kammatthana forest monks), they look at us suspiciously,
once they find out we’re Mahanikay. They put us at the end of
the line and treat us like we’re not really proper monks
sometimes. In such situation we might see sakkaya-ditthi (personality view)
arising: “How dare they!” kind of self-views. To me it seems
much better to watch that than to make much of it and be
carried away by indignation, because we’re treated in a way we
think we shouldn’t be treated. When we’re practising Dhamma
we’re taking life as it is. We’re not trying to make everything
fair and just – straighten out the world and make everything as
it should be. We’re willing to use life’s unfairness and each
experience for practising Dhamma: To recognize the way
things are. If we feel angry for being looked down on and
regarded as something inferior, not as good, but we think we
are quite as good or even better, then that’s an opportunity to
see sakkaya-ditthi. We investigate and learn to use life’s
experiences wisely.

I remember I spent a vassa at Wat Khao Chalahk. The Vinaya
there is very strict and the monks are quite obsessed about it. I
thought: “I’m from Wat Pah Pong. We have good Vinaya,”
and so I announced myself. They said: “Oh yes, the Wat Pah
Pong Vinaya is not so good. Ours is much better.” So I got
intimidated. Their Vinaya is better than ours. I want to keep
the best Vinaya and I got really interested. Then I went to a
small island where one of these monks was living as a kind of
hermit. I stayed with him for a while and then left. Later he
told the other monks that I didn’t have a very good
understanding of Vinaya. When I heard that I was really
angry. I was ready to go right back to that island and punch
him in the nose. I thought my Vinaya was really good and then
he said it wasn’t. That’s an insult to me. But that’s also
sakkaya-ditthi. Is that a skilful use of Vinaya? This kind of
comparing: “My Vinaya is better than yours. How dare you
accuse me of not keeping good Vinaya?” It’s not because
Vinaya is the problem – the danger lies with sakkaya-ditthi,
silabbata-paramasa and vicikiccha. I talk about my own
experiences, so others don’t have to be ashamed about having
foolish thoughts and attachments – as long as we are willing to
learn from them and see them clearly, rather than to suppress or
believe them.

http://www.watpahnanachat.org/books/Aj% ... oyless.pdf
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in England

Postby purple planet » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:32 pm

thanks
Please send merit to my dog named Mika who has passed away - thanks in advance
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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in Eng

Postby gavesako » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:02 am

On 1st August, Luang Por Sumedho and George Sharp will meet to reminiscence about the past 30 years since the founding of Amaravati monastery. It was exactly 30 years ago, on 1st August 1984 that the site was purchased by the English Sangha Trust for the establishment of a second Forest Sangha monastery in the UK. This auspicious meeting will take place at 2 pm in the Amaravati Sala. All are welcome to attend.

http://www.amaravati.org/news/article/o ... _will_meet

Some recent Dhamma talks by LP Sumedho at Amaravati:

http://www.amaravati.org/teachings/audi ... ation/1963
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Story of A. Cha & A.Sumedho starting monasteries in Eng

Postby appicchato » Fri Aug 01, 2014 10:08 am

Slightly off-topic, but more or less in the same vein...as a Caucasian monk living in Thailand, residing in a temple, it is a day to day struggle to contend with Thai monks (most, but not all)...citing details would serve no purpose so will forego any, other than to say that it is/can be a daily effort not to let it rip...as mentioned in an earlier thread (in reference to Thais, but by extension possibly many other nationalities as well)...they're, firstly, human, secondly, Thai, and thirdly, monks...in that order...it's not difficult to see where things can go south without too much effort...familiarity really and truly can/does breed contempt...and while on the topic, this Dhammayut vs. Mahanakai dichotomy (picture the Buddha's thoughts on this) is, succinctly put, a crock...even though I'm pushing seventy I think every day about making the move to be truly homeless, a wanderer in the full sense of the term...hopefully I can muster the gumption before long to make this move before it becomes (completely) physically not doable...

So, why this little diatribe at this point in time?...it seems (from this angle) that, particularly in the West, Buddhism appears to be taking on the trappings of other major 'religions'...to it's detriment...six months in white, no one over forty (got your insurance?..., a year as a samanera, five years under a teacher, multiple sects, cultural intrigue (try, as a Caucasian, staying in a Thai, Cambodian, Lao temple in the West...it ain't gonna happen)...even as far as a Western temple (a few years ago I found myself visiting Thanissaro Bhikkhu at Wat Metta in California (not an easy place to find, nor get to)...a great distance from any other Theravada temple, only to be told it was not possible to lay my head down for the night (just one), inside, nor outside (acres of open land))...why?...because I was ordained in a 'sect' other than his...

Not to be misconstrued, I'm the happiest, most content, I've ever been in life, as a monk (and I love Thailand and her people (forty years, and counting))...and have no other intent than to continue in the robes...I guess part of my reasoning writing is to encourage those contemplating this life to visit the East, and see how it is here, where one can ordain within days of requesting ordination, with no obligation to liquidate your life, spend five years under someone's thumb, to experience the gratitude and generosity of the lay sangha...to be (for the most part) independent...a world of difference...

All of this is off the top of my head, and I'm happy to stand corrected for any inaccuracies pointed out...reading the original OP set me off...

Wishing all well, and progress on your paths...
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