Hi Rob, how could I forget the name of Bhante Guttasila. He was such a pleasure to stay with and talk to, clearly the product of many long nights of metta bhavana haha. Yes, re: Na Uyana these were the very points he raised, he felt I would have much greater freedom to do my own thing than at Meetirigala where Bhante Dhammajiva likes to meet with you weekly (sometimes even bi-weekly) and discuss your progress and instructions.Rob1980 wrote:The New Zealand monk was Bhante Guttasila, a great monk who ordained in the Dhammayut sect in Thailand, I think he has over 40 vassas. He visited Na Uyana quite a few times whilst I was there and I had some very insightful Dhamma discussions with him, a real privilege. I also met Ven. Nyanadipa who is another great monk who lives in Sri Lanka. There were a lot of senior western monks living in Sri Lanka whilst I was there and more seemed to be moving from Thailand to Sri Lanka to find more seclusion. Having senior monks, especially westerners, to talk to was extremely useful in my practice.
I don't know what the format was at Nissarana Vanaya but at Na Uyana during my four years there I probably saw the meditation teacher, on average, once every 2 months. One is given a lot of freedom there, so one needs to be self-motivated and have self-discipline, and to keep that going on a day to day basis can be difficult. So having a teacher can be useful, even if it is just for motivation and energy. The good thing about Na Uyana is that they teach Samatha, and it is not until one has very strong concentration that they will look to put you on the Pa Auk course or the vipassana that Pa Auk Sayadaw teaches. So I wouldn't worry about being around monks with a mahavihara bent. I expect you have read a lot of Ven. Nyanavira's work by the sounds of things.
I think that Sri Lanka is the most ideal place these days for monks looking for a balance between mediation and living as a forest monk. In Thailand the emphasis seems to be more on living and maintaining the discipline as a forest monk whereas in Burma the emphasis is on meditation and monasteries can seem like monastic meditation centers. Sri Lanka strikes a good balance if one finds a suitable place to ordain. I also think that Sinhalese culture is more amenable to westerners than Thai culture, but that is probably due to the influences left by the colonial powers.
I never went to Luggala, I never had enough stability in my practice to maintain such an extended period of seclusion. Solitude is not for the faint-hearted!
If you are in New Zealand there are some Ajahn Chah monasteries which look very tranquil places, Ajahn Chandako's place and another one near Wellington. Have you been to any of these?
Some would really benefit from the much closer relationship with the teacher and the smaller environment ala Meetirigala, while some I think would benefit from the vastness of Na Uyana.
I think it was Bhante Guttasila who told me that Na Uyana would be ok for someone who follows Ven. Nyanavira's framework. He was a contemporary of Ven. Bodhesako in the days of the Island Hermitage so it was cool hearing some personal accounts of someone I hold in such high regard. While Pa Auk is taught at Na Uyana, it was made clear that if I didn't want to follow that framework that would be OK.
I totally agree about Sri Lanka being the prime rib of countries in which a recluse can lead the holy life, you sum up my thoughts nicely there.
Regarding NZ, Ajahn Chandiko's place in Auckland is a work-monastery as it is in it's infancy and there is much that needs to be done. There is very little time for meditation and it's not the place for ordination. Bodhinyanarama in Wellington on the other hand has been around for 30+ years, it's well established and I have spent about 3 months there over the last 5 years it provides a lot of space for temporary daily seclusion, although there is a lot of proximity to lay people who's practice is not always on very solid foundations, which in my experience did lead to some back sliding at times in myself by bad-association. However for one who does not seek out friendships of such nature it wouldn't be a problem. I would love to go and stay there now as the chief editor of the Path Press - Ven. Nyanasuci is living there. Bodhinyanarama would be my spot of choice at the moment but that may change in the 4 or so years it will take to be free enough to finally make the move.
Regarding Laggala and seclusion, you're right - It's not for the faint hearted, and perhaps my judgement is clouded by the fact that I try and meditate in a suburban environment with cars going by and a house mate who is always walking by opening doors shutting them sitting down next to me and clicking away on a laptop, all of which has helped equanimity, but it has led to a strong desire to be a free of such impediments too when the opportunity arises. Even in Meetirigala you had the noises of the forest - Monkeys were particularly noisy at times with their calls and booms, but no monkeys to be found in Laggala. I think while I was going through a very difficult time in Sri Lanka - My disillusionment with Mahavihara practices - The same practices that I had clung to so religiously- Coupled with my lack of being able to meditate effectively because I was so upset with being 'stuck' in a place where I couldn't practice as I wished, I looked towards the lay life as a solution to my problems and thus the justifications began. What's different now is that I have come to see the lay life as the antithesis of Dhamma, and I have discovered what true refuge is like, I defer to the Buddha in all things (as long as I'm mindful) and it is only being close to the Dhamma that makes me happy and easeful, so for me - I think Laggala in the warm dry forests of northern Sri Lanka would be perfect for me once I've graduated to Majjhima-bhikkhu status.
Good talking to you Rob