December 29, 2013
Highlights from the Saranaloka December Supporters Meeting
Greetings Friends of Saranaloka!
Here’s a quick summary of the December 8 Saranaloka supporters meeting:
Meal Dana –
The nuns continue to be well supported with meal Dana and new people continue to sign up to offer meals via the Lotsa Helping Hands website. The sisters shared that it is “heartening to be well nourished on many levels”. They continue to cut back on dairy products, such as milk and butter, in recognition of the impact dairy farming has on the environment as well as the treatment to which factory farm animals are often subjected. Thank you Marina and Maria for the bi-weekly boxes of fresh from the farm organic produce!
Nuns in Retreat –
From January 15 through March 31 the nuns will be in silent retreat. The vihara will be open for Friday evening pujas and Lunar Observance evenings (check the calendar for exact dates). Supporters are also welcome to offer meals at the vihara during the winter retreat.
Departures and Arrivals –
Mary, the current vihara steward, will be leaving shortly after the beginning of the New Years retreat. Thank you for all your wonderful service at the vihara!
Shirley Waldock, who supported the sisters 2 years ago in the winter, will again return for the winter, taking over from Mary, until Feb 20th when she will hand over to Holly Oswald until the end of the retreat. Satima (Geri Feldman) will be joining the community on April 1. Naomi, who was a steward earlier this year, will be joining the community and taking anagarika training soon after her arrival on May 1st.
Board Update –
The Rural Vihara Search Team, together with the sisters, continue to have a growing connection with the community in the Placerville area. The search for an appropriate rental actively continues. The sisters will next be visiting Placerville in early January and then again in early May. Financial donations continue to come in and the monastery fund continues to grow. Recurring monthly donations now account for 20% of all general donations to Saranaloka – this is a great support.
Upcoming Retreats –
Thank you Dongshil for all your work on the registration for the currently-in-progress 2013-2014 Angela Center New Year retreat. The nuns will be leading a monastic retreat at Spirit Rock this spring (2014) and will be leading a retreat on the east coast at IMS the following spring (2015).
Food for the Homeless –
Many new people continue to join the sisters in bringing food to the homeless in downtown San Francisco. As always, please contact Sister Jayati if you are interested to get involved.
End of Year Thanks –
Thank you Maria for your work sending out the weekly “This week at the vihara” emails!
Thank you Marina and Kirsten for your help with the finances!
Thank you Claire for all the driving this past year!
Thank you, everyone, who has offered support to the nuns and Saranaloka in 2013!
Get out your calendars; the next supporters meeting will be April 27, 2014!
Carl Rivas (Saranaloka Board Member)
October 25, 2013
Highlights from the Saranaloka October Supporters’ Meeting
Greetings Friends of Saranaloka!
Here’s a quick summary of the October 12 Saranaloka supporters meeting:
Mary King will be the vihara steward for the next few months. Welcome Mary!
We were amazed to hear that Sister Jayati and friends have handed out around 500 bags filled with sandwiches, fruit, and cookies to the homeless over the last few months. Sister Jayati bakes the bread herself. If you would like to support Sister Jayati’s efforts, please send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vihara continues to be well supported via the Dana List on the website and our community of supporters on Lotsa Helping Hands.
The Almsgiving ceremony went smoothly and joyfully. Thanks to all who helped make this event a great success!
More and more supporters are donating via regular monthly commitments, which really helps us project and manage support for the nuns.
The New Year’s retreat still has space available for you to sign up!
Ayya Santacitta shared her experience of the first annual Earth Care Week held at the vihara earlier in October. Ayya created an Eco Dhamma page on the website so that we can all raise our awareness about the current situation we face on our planet due to climate change.
Ayya Anandabodhi provided the dates and locations of many upcoming teachings, retreats, and events (all up on the web) that the nuns will be participating in over the next couple of months including a “Meet and Greet” in the Placerville area on 10/26 and an Almsgiving ceremony for the nuns of Dhammadharini on 11/02. A very full calendar!
The search for a rural vihara location continues and as part of that effort the search team and the nuns continue to establish connections with a growing number of people in the Placerville area. A big round of thank yous went out and goes out to Dennis Crean for all the amazing work he is doing in finding a rural location for the nuns!
For my part, I’m starting to put together a team of people interested in helping to move the vihara from San Francisco to the eventual rural location. There are many different opportunities available from boxing up books, to moving furniture, to coordination, etc. Please send me an email at email@example.com if you have would like to help.
Closing out the meeting people shared how they were feeling about the nuns relocating from the immediate area to a rural area farther away. There was a whole range of feelings from understandable sadness to excitement and happiness around the prospect of further growth in the ongoing re-establishment of the Bhikkhuni sangha.
With a heart of joy!
Carl Rivas (Saranaloka Board Member)
September 6, 2013
Warm greetings, as we draw towards the Fall we enter into the second month of Vassa, traditionally known as the “Rains Retreat”. This is typically a time for more in depth study of the Vinaya (training rules for monastics) and for deepening the commitment to monastic practice. In support of this, it was very much appreciated by all of us to have the opportunity to spend a few days on silent retreat together from the 12-17th August, both as a means of honoring the space we share at Aloka Vihara as well as our shared intention for awakening.
In August Ayya Anandabodhi and Sister Jayati attended the Spirit Rock Family Retreat. This was a very joyous occasion, with over 50 kids in attendance and their families. It was the first year that there were nuns as part of the leadership team! An important and exciting development. It was very uplifting to be able to share the Dhamma with children and adults in this way and a clear reminder of the practical application of the teachings in daily life.
From July through August we made some trips to look for an area which feels suitable and supportive for the purpose of establishing a rural monastery. Thanks to the excellent organizational skills of Dennis Crean, the trips were a great success and we were warmly welcomed in Sonoma, Napa and the Sierra foothills (many thanks also to Claire Trepanier who did a good portion of the driving!). The place which we have now decided to focus our search on is El Dorado County, especially around the town of Placerville. We are excited at the prospect of taking this next step, which is to find a rental rural property in that area. See our “Vision for a Training Monastery” for more details. During one of the trips to the Sierra foothills Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta gave well-attended teachings in Auburn, Placerville and Sacramento. The teachings in Sacramento included a daylong at the SIM group. Being only an hour by bus or car from the Placerville area, this would potentially become a regular teaching venue for the sisters.
We also visited two prisons in Folsom and offered teachings and meditation guidance. One was a men’s prison and the other was a newly opened prison for women. It feels so important to be able to reach out to those who are seeking to find ways to rebuild their lives based on ethical precepts, with the support of meditation. It is very touching to discover how some find that their time in prison can be an opportunity to look more deeply into the way they are living and start to see the possibility of making positive changes. Ayya Santacitta and Ayya Anandabodhi gave a water-blessing throughout the dormitories in the women’s prison, a heartfelt gesture which was welcomed and appreciated.
Sister Jayati attended the Mt.Tam womens’ retreat from 16-21st August, having been generously offered a full sponsorship by the organizers. This was a silent retreat, camping in the redwoods of Mt.Tam, which was celebrating its 20th year anniversary this year. She greatly appreciated this time to practice in nature and the inspiring beauty of the forest.
Two weeks ago we all enjoyed spending a weekend together with Wren, Dennis, Amanda and Carl – the current Saranaloka Board members, at Dennis’ house in Ukiah. This was an opportunity to discuss upcoming plans and to have some more spacious time to be together, interweaving times of business, with times of practice and some lovely hikes. On August 30st we attended a benefit daylong at Spirit Rock lead by Thannisara and Kittisaro of Dharmagiri. All proceeds of the event have been offered to Saranaloka to support the development of a rural training monastery for nuns. We are humbled by this act of generosity and kalyanamitta (noble friendship). The teachings were full of wisdom, clarity and compassion, qualities cultivated through many years of dedicated Dhamma practice.
A big thank also goes to Dharmaseed for hosting all of our Dhamma talks (including those given at Aloka Vihara and by guest teachers) on their website. For those of you who are iPhone users, there is now also a free Aloka Vihara podcast of our Dhamma talks, available through the iTunes store. Much gratitude to Emily Carpenter for setting this up for us, just before she goes into extended retreat!
Thanks to the initiative of our local community, an Almsgiving Ceremony for Aloka Vihara will take place again this year at the Mindfulness Care Center in San Francisco. All are welcome to join. The event coincides with the 3rd International Bhikkhuni Day, a special day for acknowledging the role of the Bhikkhuni Sangha in preserving and upholding the Dhamma over more than 2,500 years.
We are delighted to be offering teachings at the Buddhist Bike Pilgrimage through the last weekend of September in support of the cyclists who participate in this challenging yearly pilgrimage. (We will not be riding bikes 😉
The next breakfast offering for the homeless will be on September 15th. This continues to be a very uplifting experience for all who have the opportunity to participate. Last time we were able to give away 120 bags of food, each containing sandwiches made with freshly baked bread and other items, as well as a hot drink, all offered specifically for the homeless breakfasts. Other folks came along from the SFI and IMC sanghas, with more offerings to contribute. It is such a profound teaching to look into the eyes of a fellow human in a single moment of kindness and witness the love that connects us beyond all the trappings of “being a person”. If you would like to participate in this monthly event, please contact <sisterjayati1974(at)gmail.com>.
We will be dedicating the first week of October to focus on the serious effects of climate change and how to meet what is happening – both internally and how we can make a difference in the ways we live. Earth Care Week is a response to a request for teachings and leadership on climate change, signed by over 2,000 members of people around the world – see our program for Earth Care Week. This Fall, Buddhist Global Relief will organize 11 ‘Walks to Feed the Hungry’ around the US. We will be joining walks in San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento this year. Have a look here for an event in your area and how you can get involved.
Registration is now open for our annual New Year Retreat which will be held at the Angela Center in Santa Rosa. We are fortunate to once again have Dongshil Kim serving as retreat coordinator, and Kathy Cheney as retreat manager. Their hard work, skill and kindness are greatly appreciated.
Wishing each and every one of you profound peace and blessings in the midst of the complexities of our daily lives – remembering that ‘Everything Is Teaching Us’, if we take a moment to stop and reflect…..
With much metta to you all,
Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Anandabodhi & Sr Jayati
August 10, 2013
Greetings Friends of Saranaloka,
Here’s news from the July 20 Saranaloka Supporters meeting.
The meeting started with a few minutes of sitting followed by introductions and welcomes all around for the new vihara steward, Naomi, and much appreciation expressed for Emily, the departing vihara steward.
Next up there was sharing around the search for a rural location for the vihara. The nuns together with Claire and Wren had recently looked at the Sonora area. Although a bit remote, everyone was happily surprised by the beauty of the area and the warm welcome from local Buddhist and meditation practitioners. The nuns would next be visiting the Sacramento and Sierra Foothills area together with Dennis and Amanda.
The nuns will be observing a silent retreat 8/12 – 8/17 at Aloka Vihara. There will be no evening pujas held at that time but the vihara will remain open for meal offerings.
There are still opportunities to sign up to offer a meal. Either sign up on Lotsa Helping Hands or contact the vihara steward at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be an Almsgiving ceremony September 21 (this is also International Bhikkhuni Day). A committee has been formed and there will be emails sent out with further information.
Thanissara and Kittisaro will offer a day long at Spirit Rock on August 31 as a benefit for the nuns.
Aloka Vihara is now part of a Dhamma climate group, which is a follow up to a recent meeting of insight meditation teachers exploring the intersection of Dhamma practice and climate change awareness.
The board is currently focused on the search for a rural location for the vihara with Dennis Crean leading the effort. Donations have been going up: Saranaloka has $136K in the bank as of the end of June compared to $102K at the same time last year. The newly composed board will be getting together for a 2-day retreat in August to share time together.
Sister Jayati shared her experiences offering food for the homeless in San Francisco. Please contact Sister Jayati at email@example.com to find out what might be needed.
The vihara has received a beautiful bench from Mo in memory of our lovely supporter Rajyo. The bench is on the vihara porch.
The next supporters meeting will be held on Saturday October 12 from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.
July 4, 2013
Greetings from the New Saranaloka President
Greetings and metta to you from Wren, the new Saranaloka Foundation President. If you live in the Bay Area you may know me from Supporter’s meetings, vihara visits, or retreat events. If you are one of the many world-wide supporters, you may wonder who is this person? I often wonder myself! Over the last months as I’ve transitioned from the role of Board Secretary to President, many have asked me what it’s felt like and how I’m doing. In this newsletter I’ll cover these areas and talk about why I’m continuously inspired by the Aloka Vihara Sisters and Saranaloka.
So how did I get here? I asked to be on the Board! Some years ago as a member of Phillip Moffitt’s Marin (California) Sangha I attended a “Back to Basics” class held at Brenda Walsh’s home. At that time Brenda was the Saranaloka Board Secretary as well as a member of the Marin Sangha. Brenda also often hosted visiting monastics. It was my good fortune to meet both a visiting monk one evening and a visiting nun on another. I found it a special experience to be in the presence of monastics, and that feeling continues to today. Brenda let me know about Saranaloka and suggested if I were interested that I check it out. I did, becoming a supporter at the time that the Ajahns (senior nuns) were coming from the Chithurst and Amaravati monasteries in England for teaching visits. Previously in my spiritual life I’d been on the Finance and other committees as well as the board of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin (County) (UUCM). I picked up lots of experience and know how at UUCM, and wanted to put it to use helping the Sisters and Saranaloka. I offered to join the Board, was vetted, and after a time asked to join. I’ve been serving on the Board since 2010, and was elected Secretary upon joining. So I have a deep understanding of a period of Saranaloka’s history and workings, and a learned understanding of much of the rest.
How am I doing? Busy and learning every day. As Saranaloka evolves, so do I. I get to meet and work with wonderful women and men who are also engaged in Saranaloka’s vision and dream. Because I take inspiration and guidance from nature, Saranaloka’s next step of moving to a small rural property (we’ll see if it’ll be a rental or purchase) has me cooking. The Sisters have been clear that the training monastery will be on land spacious enough for quiet, reflection, kutis for individual practice, room for residents and visitors, and perhaps most importantly, the teachings that nature brings. Ajahn Chah reflected, “…we will see that the birth of a tree and our birth are no different. This body of ours is born and exists, dependent on conditions, on elements of the earth, water, wind, and fire. Every part of the body changes according to its nature. It’s no different from the tree. Hair, nails, teeth and skin; all change. If we know the things of nature, then we will know ourselves”. 1
My fellow Board members are also great sources of wisdom and inspiration. We work together to carry out Saranaloka’s mission using Dhamma principles to guide our decisions and interactions. Each handles multiple tasks; here are examples: Dennis Crean energetically heads the Rural Vihara Search Team, Amanda Kimball enthusiastically handles myriad varied Board Secretary tasks, and Carl Rivas continues to be pivotal to the stunning Saranaloka website infrastructure and design makeover and upkeep. We work as an interactive team using a consensus-based model to discuss current and future foundation logistics. In the coming months Dennis, Amanda, and Carl will each pen a newsletter, so you will get to learn more about them too.
Each time I visit the vihara or spend time with the monastics I go away a better person. There is something special that happens – a mysterious gift- being in their presence. If you haven’t made it to the vihara, a puja, or a retreat day, give yourself a gift and do so.
You may find this hard to believe, but one of my favorite parts of being President is checking the Saranaloka email account. I do so with happy anticipation because I’m often touched by YOUR messages and actions. I’m the first person to read a note from a woman somewhere on the planet asking “I want to become a nun. What do I do? Can I come and train with you?” Sometimes I cry when reading these simple requests. (Check out the new “Monastic Training” page, where the Sisters have answered these questions.) I am touched by donations large and small from around the world, some of which include a note such as “With metta”. The fact that a person in Asia or Europe takes the time and care to support nuns half a planet away is uplifting and humbling. Sometimes the emails are funny. Recently the Sisters were sent a thank note for a Dhamma talk. The writer jokingly added something like, “I look forward to the day when you have the headaches of running a monastery!” Me too!
What inspires and motivates me? Creating opportunities. Opportunities for women who have a dream and few places in the world to realize it. Opportunities for nuns to offer training to other women who want to be nuns. Opportunities to learn about the Dhamma from nuns living close to nature. Opportunities to create a spiritual refuge where lay women and men can support female monastics and get Dhamma practice support. These dreams keep me motivated as I plunk away at the mundane and necessary Board tasks.
What supports me? You do. Yes, you who are reading this. Your actions and caring inspire me! Knowing that you are watching, caring, and sending heartfelt good wishes to the Sisters and the organization buoys me. You who have done so much to support this experiment and evolution by offering kind messages in person, by email, or via Saranaloka’s Facebook and the Yahoo groups. You who have maintained the running of the lovely monastery and Saranaloka: offered a ride, a meal, gardening, banking, cleaning, financial support, and errand running. You who come to pujas, ask about or help with the rural property search. You who donate time and expertise. You who are visiting monastics and vihara stewards. Jill Boone, the former President and my Board are there for me. The Sisters support me. All this good will and help circles back to help me and us support the Sisters and Saranaloka. Our engaged participation in building pillars of the Fourfold Sangha has palpable energy and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what we build…
1 From the essay “Trees” in A Tree in a Forest: A Collection of Ajahn Chah’s Similes.
April 20, 2013 – New Energy for Saranaloka
Dear Friends and Supporters of Saranaloka and the Aloka Vihara,
After about 10 years of leading our efforts to bring the Sisters to the U.S. and starting a monastery for women here, I am passing the torch to Wren Withers, the new president of Saranaloka. Wren has been a stable and thoughtful presence during the major changes that Saranaloka went through over the last few years and has proven to be a careful and inclusive manager. She will be a good facilitator for the changes to come and a good guardian for the vihara! She has successfully taken over the reins as we have transitioned the tasks of the presidency from me to her over the last few months. I will be stepping off the board on Saturday.
As a community, we have been through many exciting, challenging, rewarding and insightful times over the last decade and I feel honored to have helped this effort. It was especially wonderful to travel with Ayya Santacitta to the Sakyadhita Conference for Buddhist Women in India this past January where we presented the Saranaloka film and talked with nuns from around the world on the challenges we all share. I discovered that we are not unique in the movement–there are many efforts to bring a more equal status for nuns–but we do offer a unique situation and perspective. For one, the strong alliance and partnership between our lay community and our monastic community is not common in other places. Another was our typical Californian way of developing community and communal living through direct and open communication, which promote healthy living situations.
On a personal level, steering this ship has been an incredible opportunity for deep practice and learning. I am profoundly appreciative that I had an opportunity to be involved. Together we all have created something very special and I do not waver in my personal support of this project or of our awesome Sisters!
I am stepping down because it is time for change. My life has shifted –my first grandchild was born last week, a celebration of life that brings me such joy! And my work life has become challenging and demanding of my energy as I work on integrating sustainability into our jails.
Saranaloka will benefit from Wren’s even and useful administrative management skills and the fresh energy of the new board, while I can take a break to enjoy my new grandmother status, finish up my work at work and focus on my personal practice. I will enjoy coming to the vihara to simply attend Puja!
The next step for Saranaloka is to move from the city to a rural location, ideally to be able to purchase (or accept a gift of) land with one or more buildings and acreage. But the search committee is also looking for an appropriate place to rent. Please join me in supporting this next step by making a donation to the monastery fund or by sharing the Saranaloka video with potential donors and explaining the historical significance of what we have been doing for women! It will take all of us to move our monastery to being situated to accept women for training.
Wishing everyone in our extended community well! May you all realize your highest potential and serenity and be happy, healthy and content.
With much love and gratitude,
April 12, 2013
Greetings from Aloka Vihara.
Hope this finds you well,
There is something wonderful about having retreat in the same place that for much of the year can feel full and busy. Monasteries, as I have known them, tend to be fully engaging with much to do for part of the year, and then, when we carve out the time and put it all down, they become a quiet holding space, allowing us to settle more deeply into the practice. If we can keep the right balance, each aspect supports the other, and we can develop the practice in all areas of our lives.
After what felt like a full year, followed by a visit to see family and friends in the UK (inspired by my mother’s 80th birthday!) I was very glad to drop into the already silent and peaceful space at Aloka vihara, where Ayya Dhammadhira and Sr Jayati had already been in retreat for one month from mid-January. Ayya Dhammadhira left shortly after my arrival to return to Mahapajapati Monastery, where she normally resides, leaving Sr Jayati, Holly Oswald and me to continue in retreat. It has been a nourishing time; a chance to study more deeply and to practice in silence and relative solitude. The constant crashing of the ocean waves never cease their teaching on impermanence, and the beach offered its long sands to keep us healthy in body and mind.
We were touched by the offerings of meals, requisites and financial support that came in through the retreat. Now it feels we are really being supported as a monastery, both when we are out teaching and while we are quietly receiving the teachings ourselves.
During the time we were in retreat, Ayya Santacitta was in Asia; at the Sakyadhita conference in India, and then on to Thailand, followed by a month of semi-retreat in Nepal. She arrived back two weeks before our retreat here ended, happy and well resourced from her travels.
On April 8th we heard that Ayya Santacitta’s father, Josef Bayer, passed away peacefully in his sleep, with his loving wife at his bedside. He had recently celebrated his 84th birthday, which brought together four generations of his family. Having been ill for some time, he was ready in himself to move on, and was blessed with a very peaceful death. Ayya Santacitta will be returning to Austria for three weeks on April 13th. She is well, and expresses her gratitude for all the kind wishes people have sent and for those who are chanting or praying for her father as he embarks on this mysterious journey.
While writing this letter, we received news from Jill Boone that she has just become a grandmother! Her daughter Cristie gave birth to a healthy baby boy on April 10th.
We would like to thank all of you who have supported our retreat in any way and and look forward to seeing how things will evolve over this year. On the last day of our retreat, this beautiful rainbow appeared, to our delight!
With much metta from,
Ayya Anandabodhi and all at Aloka Vihara