~ Pre-Vassa Awakening Forest News

Dear friends of our hermitage,

Metta-ful greetings to you from morning mists in the coastal mountain forest!  We hope this letter finds you all well, and share many thanks to all of you who have participated in and supported our hermitage in so many ways this past month.

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  full house sangha

We have a full house at the hermitage now with all bhikkhunis, samaneris and friends arrived for the Vassa.  Many thanks to all who gave them rides and supported their being able to be here!  Ven Munissara Bhikkhuni is arrived from Thailand, Ven Nibbida Bhikkhuni is back from Australia, Santacari Samaneri is back from Myanmar, and friend Holly is back from the not-so-distant land of Santa Rosa.  They join Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Sobhana, Ayya Suvijjana, Tess and Lee. We are delighted to have them all here together!  It is beautiful to have such an auspicious gathering of Sangha and friends.
  
  Pa Auk Sayadaw's return

The most venerable meditation master Pa Auk Sayadaw is also back in our area, staying at the Green Valley Forest Refuge not far from our hermitage for the Vassa for the second year this year.  Monastics and hermitage residents went to greet him and welcome him back on the full moon two weeks ago, receiving the abundant Dhamma teaching and meditation advice he offered with much happiness.  We very much appreciate all the friends of the Green Valley Forest Refuge who make it possible for him to be here.  And our great appreciation to the Sayadaw for his warm welcome and generosity.  We look forward to working with his kind and sage advice during this Vassa!

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  kitchen ~ dana prep & offering space

Full of Dhamma-guidance, we returned to prepare for our Hermitage Volunteers Work Week, getting our hermitage ready for the Vassa. A big part of this was setting up a temporary camp kitchen on the lower landing in our hermitage's Monastic Commons so that the scheduled and greatly-needed renovation of our old, kitchen trailer could be done (more on this below).  Outdoor camp kitchen is bright and open air, but crafty chipmunks need to be continually guarded!  And then the great rain came -- a first for June on this land! -- with 5 days of showers and abundant downpours.

  improvements to hermitage access roads

Thanks to the unseasonal downpour, we were able to get our hermitage access road fixed!  This was a big boon as the road is now much better.  Sadly, the work to the steep section didn't last more than 2 days with the traffic over it, but we will try to fix it up again.  The rest of the work is just great! -- so much less bumpy and car-easy.  Second boon of the rains -- way less fire danger in our forest for an extra month!  

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  4th of July volunteers week

Lots of friends and volunteers came trickling in day by day for our Volunteers Week.  Thanks most especially to Tisha who generously donated her carpentry skills together with her apprentices Ven Munissara and Ven Nibbida.  Special enormous thanks to Lee, Holly, Maryann, Jill, Jocelyn, John, Nye, Christine and Janaka for offering wonderful meals for all volunteers, to friend Holly for managing the kitchen, and to Zoe, Amanda, Linda, Terry, Maryann, Jill, JJ, Dawn and Viviane for all of their most helpful care.   The most enormous and special thanks also to Ayya Sobhana and her monastic team for coordinating it all, and to all our hermitage residents who participated in whatever projects nearly every day -- except for Independence Day, on which we all took a well-deserved rest, and spent time meditating in the forest, down at the creek, and out at the ocean.  The day ended with a leisurely sunset meditation and Dhamma Talk on the Factors of Awakening from our venerable Ayya Tathaaloka up on the saddle around the ancient granite stupa.

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  visit from Ven Ajahn Pasanno

The 5th of July brought in more visitors!  With the visit of Ajahn Pasanno, Samanera Suvaco, Anagaraka Josh and entourage, our hermitage filled up to 20!  We very much enjoyed our yearly visit from Ajahn Pasanno who joined us for the almsmeal offering and blessed us with abundance Dhamma advice and wisdom on forest monastery living.  We deeply appreciate Ajahn Pasanno's guidance and care over the years and our friendship with our Dhamma brothers at Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley. A rotation of members of our monastic community may continue to visit Abhayagiri on lunar quarters as in the previous year to continue to learn from our beautifully-practicing monastic neighbors and share in sangha together.

  visit from award-winning author Christine Toomey

Also incoming on the 5th was author Christine Toomey, who visited us for three days.  She is doing research for a book she is writing tentatively titled The Buddha's Daughters.  Christine came across from UK and came down to us from her visit to Sravasti Abbey in Washington State.  After interviews with Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Sobhana and Samaneri Santacari, Christine then made her way on south to Aloka Vihara in San Francisco where she will interview the Saranaloka bhikkhuni venerables.  

  architectural, feng-shui and Permaculture consults for our hermitage project

Just one day later, we also enjoyed a follow-up visit from retired architect and feng shui master consultant Viviane Chen.  Viviane, together with Permaculture masters Starhawk and Charles have been helping us to choose sites for our long-term plan permanent permitted hermitage building/s.  They've also been helping us understand how best to abide in healthy harmony with the natural elements in our current Commons areas.  This is especially urgently important now with regards the plan for our hermitage meal dana preparation and offering areas, which had been our kitchen trailer.

  big offering, kutis & the kitchen trailer

With a number of us rained out in tents in the big extra-seasonal pre-Independence Day rains, a very generous friend made a great offering for the construction of 3 kutis to our hermitage, together with a contribution to facilities and kitchen trailer renovations.  Very shortly thereafter, as the renovations began, we learned that our old kitchen trailer was damaged far beyond expectation, both structurally and internally, and untenable to continue on with.  This dear old well-used and decrepit trailer is scheduled to be demo'd, salvaging its frame and building up from that anew.  Meanwhile, we will do needed work in water channeling and clear back the thick forest growth a little to allow better air flow and light, to make a better environment for the newly incarnated dana space to be born into, and for the health and happiness of all of our dear human friends who will abide in this blessed space of offering. 

  new kuti

Coming near the end. We have had the wish to build and "accessible" kuti for more than a year now.  One that a not-so-highly able bodied monastic visitor or friend could stay in more easily.  Not so far from the road and car transport, with a very easy walk in.  These are rare spaces on our land!  But with the help of our whole community's suggestions, we have found a space that all agreed on.  With blessings, preparation of that area beganon Sunday, and our builder (with another job before us) will be able to come and construct it in the first two weeks of the Vassa.  This is a great relief, as there will then be one more dry space of shelter and refuge from the strength of the elements for resident monastics and/or stewards, when the great coastal rains and winds touch in upon this land once again.  

  last ~ the site for our permanent permitted dwelling

At last, a space has been found -- here on our land.  After several months of land walking and looking and consideration, in consultation with land steward Jill, Permaculture master Starhawk, feng shui master and architect Viviane and last but not least, Ajahn Pasanno, we think we may have found a happy and most beautiful and felicitous site for the permanent permitted dwelling on our hermitage land.  This is most timely, as friends have been saying (with regards the regular changing of kitchen trailers) how much it is really time for us to be thinking about this.  So this is a glad relief to have this idea now beginning, in its very early stages, to go forth.  The "permanent permitted dwelling" means a multi-purpose building:  with *real* kitchen, dining & gathering area, office, library, sewing room, laundry, etc.

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With less than two weeks now before the vassa begins, we begin to turn our hearts and minds from all the efforts in the offering and preparation of this space, to our Vassa-time abiding.

Metta from all your friends at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage,

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Yours truly,
Hermitage dwellers & friends
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