First Visit to the Land
September 18, 2007
Northern California Coast
When asked how she would like to spend her last birthday before 40, Ven Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni's mention of the land that we'd been invited to retreat at brought us up the coast from our home base at Dhammadharini Vihara that day.
After our first hearing of it at DhammaDena Desert Vipassana, Ayya Tathaaloka had a sort of mental image of the land. Driving in that first day, after miles of astoundingly beautiful coastline, driving in the dirt road and climbing upwards, she was curious to see if it actually looked anything like it. It did. Meeting our host at her lovely home for lunch, we heard some of the older and more recent history of the land and how she came to be there. And then we set out on foot into it.
Such an amazing place. Peaceful, quiet, beautiful. Fairy rings of redwood forest and THE CREEK, the site of so many meditations, the teacher of so many things of the body and the heart.
Our host had lived on the land for 25 years by then as its loving steward. She shared her hope and aspiration that it would never be logged again and that it remain as a refuge, as it had been, for women's spiritual practice.
It was then that she told us again that she would like to welcome all of us, all female monastics and friends, into the nurturing support of the forest, mountains and creek for our meditation, for our calm, tranquility and insight in the reclusive forest practice.
This was the welcome announcement sent to Dhamma Sisters the following day:
My dear Venerable Bhikkhuni Sisters and Dhamma friends,
Warm greetings, with every good blessing. I hope this note finds you well, happy and at ease.
Yesterday, my birthday, we visited an Insight meditation teacher friend living up the coast from San Francisco.
She had invited us to visit the 200 acres of incredibly beautiful mountains and forest several months ago.
The use of the land has been offered for short term or extended retreats for the women of our developing Bhikkhuni Sangha in North America, as well as for our associated samaneris (female novices), anagarikas (8 precept nuns, and postulants/aspirants-in-training), and dedicated upasika (laywomen) practitioner friends.
Of course, approval for retreat time may be on an individual basis.
There are a variety of rustic lodgings: cabins, campers and tent camp sites. Miles of trails, redwoods and madrones, creek and waterfalls, a great high meadow overlooking the ocean... great quiet and wind in the trees. It is for women only, very private and very, very safe with series of locked gates, so i think it may easily be made possible as a Vinaya-appropriate place for bhikkhunis to have relatively solitary, secluded time for practice in the wilderness, unburdened with duties, living simply.
The owner is thinking about the possible building of a few more monastic kutis and a sala/meeting hall/uposatha hall up in the meadow that it may transition into being a women's forest monastery. Just an idea. It has been a place of women's spiritual practice now for the past 20 years. It is her hope and vision and dedication that, if possible, it might remain so for indefinate future time. I have offered my collaboration with her in this.
Thus, on her behalf, i would like to invite all of you to come and spend some retreat time there this coming year or whenever you feel the call to. For bhikkhunis, the land use is completely offered and a kapiya or companion may retreat together or nearby for offering support. For those other than fully-ordained monastics there are no rent or fees, everything is dana, whatever you feel inspired to contribute - one must simply take care of one's own needs and care for the natural space, fellow humans and living beings harmoniously, with honor and respect.
Or come and visit, meet the owner and see the place. Get to know the place and see if it seems suitable. I am happy to go visit together with you. Very welcome.
in love and kindness and great appreciation for the Path,
Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni in Dhamma