January 15, 2018
Winter Retreat Message from Aloka Vihara Nuns
Dear Friends ~
We are delighted to be going into our three month Winter Retreat today, beginning with a period of group practice together, followed by individual solo retreats in the yurts and more open practice for those not yet in solitude. Noble Silence will support our practice during these three months, but there will be also regular occasions to discuss Dhamma together.
We welcome Julian back to support the Winter Retreat again this year and Gwen, who previously lived and worked at BCBS, will also be with us through the whole retreat. Carol, who has been with us for several months already, and Heather will be staying through the end of January. Visitors are welcome to join us for evening pujas on Lunar Observance days, and to offer meal dana throughout the retreat, please click here for more info.
Our New Year’s Retreat was held this year at the Applegate Jesuit Retreat Center of the Sierra, near Auburn. This new-to-us venue served our purposes well and we are planning to use it for the next New Year’s Retreat. The grounds are very beautiful and uplifting and the hall is comfortable and well suited to our needs. A difference is that rooms have to be shared, this adds a little additional edge of renunciation for the yogis, but people took it in their stride.
Many of you ask about Ayya Jayati, she is currently in Thailand, where she will spend four months practicing in monasteries and studying with different teachers. She is well and is taking this opportunity to deepen her practice before returning to the UK at the end of May.
On a different note, we are glad that the Saranaloka Foundation has been able to change to a bank that is more in alignment with our ethical values. The New Resource Bank is a B Corporation, specializing in renewable & alternative energy, green building & green products. With our resolve to be part of moving towards the end of the fossil fuel era and saner ways of living, this is a very uplifting and heartening development. Thank you to our Finance Subcommittee, chaired by Satima, for doing the research and transition work!
We share blessings of our Winter Retreat with you all and wish you very well!
With metta ~
Ayya Santacitta & Ayya Anandabodhi
Click here for Daylongs and Retreats with the Aloka Vihara nuns from April onwards.
November 12, 2017
Monastery & Community News from Ayya Anandabodhi
Warm greetings from Aloka Vihara and a little news on our monastery and the community.
With the remodel complete the vihara is feeling all the more like a monastery, now, with each of us having a private room, and the bathroom facilities being more suitable for our use. It was a big project and took the best part of six months to complete but has been so worth it.
We were fortunate to have two wonderful local contractors, Eric and Louis (see photo above) working on the project. Their skillful and careful work and their consideration for our monastic way of life were a blessing and made the daily sound of power tools so much easier to bear.
Last year, the Almsgiving ceremony raised funds for the remodel. At this year’s Kathina ceremony, we were happy to be able to show the transformation that took place through everyone’s generosity. This year Kathina was sponsored by Julie DeHart and Susan Ford. Donations that came in from many people across the country are dedicated for the Four Requisites of accommodation, medicine, food and of course cloth; the basic requisites for a samana (renunciant monastic). With this support, we will continue to deepen our practice and understanding and are grateful to all who took part in this offering in any way. If we do our work well, perhaps you will see some transformation in each of us next year.
Our community has gone through some changes this year with Ayya Jayati leaving in June due to visa issues. She will need to be out of the country for a full year before applying for a new visa and is taking the opportunity to spend time with family and spend part of each month in retreat or with monastic communities in the UK. She is doing well, meeting the situation as a means to further her practice.
In July we were delighted to give Shannon the Anagarika Precepts. She has been a steady, kind and mindful presence in the community, bringing her unique qualities and helping out in several key areas to keep the monastery running well.
In August people came together from all over the country to confer and witness Ayya Ahimsa take full Bhikkhuni Ordination. Having so many bhikkhunis come from far and wide was a wonderful experience. Bhikkhus came from as far as LA to support the ordination. One of the most senior bhikkhus who had been ordained for over 40 years thanked us for dedicating our life energy to bringing back the Bhikkhuni Order and for supporting the Dhamma in this way. Ayya Ahimsa brings her many gifts and her experience in both family and community life along with her deep love of the suttas and of the practice. The weekly Sutta Contemplation she holds at the vihara on Thursday evenings is a rich part of our monastic routine.
In October Venerable Konin Cardenas, who ordained into Soto Zen 10 years ago and holds the title of Osho (independent Dhamma teacher), joined us with an interest to explore community life in this setting. She brings a bright and clear presence, deep Dhamma practice and some useful skills. We are all enjoying this exploration together.
Ayya Santacitta has been a steady presence in the monastery, keeping things on track, developing the website and supporting guests to settle into the routine. Her many invisible acts of generosity in taking care of Aloka Vihara help to make it shine.
I’m looking forward to being more of a steady presence in the monastery over the next while. Teaching, preparing for the ordination and visiting my family in the UK have all taken me out of the monastery a fair bit this year. Finding the balance is a tricky thing!
Becky, who has been part of our community for over a year, bringing her strength, brightness and love of Dhamma along with her efficiency in the role of Vihara Steward, has now moved on to take better care of her health. Becky came to stay as a guest, having met us at Spirit Rock and sat retreat with us, and ended up becoming our Vihara Steward for a year. It was a blessing to have her with us and we are sorry to see her go. She is as grateful to have been with us as we are to have had her presence in the community.
Many of you will have heard that fires swept through the Angela Center in Santa Rosa, where we usually hold our New Year’s Retreat. Some buildings have been destroyed, while others appear to be untouched. There won’t be any retreats happening there for some time. By a small miracle, the Applegate Jesuit Retreat Center near Auburn had a vacancy over New Year, so we have been able to shift the New Year Retreat to that location. Registration is open now.
In this ever-changing world, may we remember to use our time to develop our hearts and deepen our understanding, so we can make good use of this opportunity to see clearly and help others along the way.
With much metta,
PS: Volunteer Insurance Professional Wanted
Saranaloka Foundation is currently reviewing its insurance policies. We are looking for a lay supporter with a background in the insurance field to provide volunteer advice to our board of directors. Our current policies cover auto, property, fire, board liability, and more. Do you or someone you know have professional insurance experience and an interest in serving as a volunteer resource person to Saranaloka and Aloka Vihara? If so, please contact board member Dennis Crean at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
July 24, 2017
An Update from the Saranaloka Board, July 2017
Once a year or so, a Saranaloka Foundation board member has the opportunity to offer a few reflections about what’s been happening from a lay person’s perspective. Put simply, it’s been A LOT!
At our recent board meeting, we marveled—together with Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta—at how far we have come in living out the mission of Saranaloka Foundation. Please join us in taking a moment to acknowledge the fruits of our shared effort to create a vibrant forest monastery for Theravada nuns to train and practice. Each and every one of us has played a role in making it happen.
I’d like to highlight a few particulars from the past six months or so . . .
Perhaps foremost in the minds of us board members as financial stewards has been all the construction work and the funding it requires. Thanks to your past generosity, we got underway this year with our biggest improvement project yet—the remodeling of the second story. Walls have been going up (and others coming down), with a constant hum of activity around the vihara. Everyone is excited at the prospect of two additional nuns’ rooms (and related improvements) in support of the growing community.
Much less exciting is the “bad” news we received during the planning and permitting process for the remodeling project. County building officials informed us that the house would require unanticipated inspections and repairs. Turns out that additions to the house made by the previous owner were not built to code, and engineers were called in to calculate which structural improvements would have to be made. In the end, the board made the decision to draw down our reserve fund to the tune of nearly $40,000 for this “retrofit” work.
This brings up the topic of finances. Our treasurer, Sue Boeger, reports that our balance sheet looks great, with solid assets and only $56,000 remaining on our original $250,000 mortgage. Operating expenses during the first half of 2017 were on target with our budget, but donations (income) were down from 2016. We were reminded that donations have always been unpredictable from year to year, sometimes up, sometimes down. What remains constant is the generosity of our supporters and the fact that we always seem to have enough. We are confident—despite any momentary nerves—that this won’t change. We trust that our reserves will fill up once again and that Saranaloka will continue to flourish thanks to the goodness inspired in us by the nuns, their practice and teaching, and the Dhamma itself.
I’d also like to share with you a few changes to the board. In May, Wren Withers stepped down after seven years of dedicated service as our longest-serving board member ever, including time as both secretary (twice!) and president. “Inspiring” is the word that comes to mind when I think about Wren’s many gifts to Saranaloka. Joining the board is Leslie Reed, who had already made an impression on the vihara community for her big-hearted meal offerings, car rides, and trusted service as a “local” supporter (living in nearby Diamond Springs).
To end my own remarks, I’m thankful for the privilege of having served as Saranaloka’s president for two years. It has been a period of big changes and growth, and I’ve enjoyed my front-row seat. I will continue on the board for one more year under the leadership of Julie Dehart as our new president. Julie brings great wisdom and love for the sisters and the vihara as well as a deep devotion to serving the Theravada Forest Tradition. I know she will have your support as she steps up in her new role.
And next, here are a few words from Julie . . .
It is with great honor and respect that I begin my role as president of Saranaloka Foundation. I step forward following in the footsteps of dedicated and hard-working lay supporters who have led the foundation to this manifestation with wisdom and grace.
Since the founding of Saranaloka in 2005, the board has maintained its focus on the mission of supporting the nuns and Aloka Vihara as a welcoming place for female aspirants to explore monastic life and to be accessible for visits by lay guests of all genders.
It is clearly visible that so much of the original mission is being accomplished. As just one example, the remodeling of the nuns’ living quarters will soon provide more room for the growing community, including newest members Sister Ahimsa and Anagarika Shannon, as well as space to host visiting nuns and new aspirants.
Your generosity has allowed this vision to be realized—even through challenges like the unexpected retrofitting costs mentioned above by Dennis. And your generosity will allow Aloka Vihara to continue to flourish in whatever the next steps may be.
May gratitude be ever present for the unfolding of Aloka Vihara, and its promise first envisioned more that 10 years ago. May we all support the gift of the Dhamma that it provides.
With a Joyful Heart,
May 7, 2017
Dear Friends in Dhamma,
It is now just over two weeks since we came to the end of our annual Winter retreat. It is such an amazing blessing to have this opportunity to immerse more deeply into the practice, keeping silence, taking time to be in the forest, contemplating the teachings and allowing things to soften and open on many levels. As the months go by and there is less distraction from the raw, direct experience, it feels like the beauty of the surrounding nature becomes increasingly radiant. This has been particularly evident this year when the abundant rainfall has revealed a lush green canopy and many little wild flowers have also been sharing their delight in blossoming.
We would like to express our GREAT appreciation, for the efforts made to take care of things and enable a peaceful abiding for all the resident community. The wonderful crew of dedicated practitioners supporting our retreat this year included: Shannon, Julian, Kate, Samvaree, Amy, Kanthie, Carole and Ashley. Shannon was here for the whole three months keeping an overview on many details necessary to maintain daily needs…Thanks so much!
Ayya Santacitta went away to Nepal for the month of March to attend part of the annual group practice cycle at Shechen Monastery. This was a very inspiring trip for her, as she now has a well-established connection with that practice lineage, which supports her ongoing work here at Aloka Vihara.
Ayya Anandabodhi ‘got a surprise’ when Venerable Analayo asked if she would stand in as a supporting teacher for the Satipatthana Retreat he was leading at Spirit Rock last April. Prior to this news, Ayya was booked to be there as a retreatant, so it was quite a shift to now be a guiding teacher! Naturally she rose to the occasion beautifully and was grateful for the opportunity to engage on a new level with this presentation of the Satipatthana Sutta, which has been so beneficial in her own practice and teaching.
We are delighted to announce that on August 26th of this year Sister Ahimsa will take full Bhikkhuni Ordination at ‘Buddhi Vihara’ in Santa Clara . This brings great joy for all the community ~ more info.
For myself the winter retreat this year was a time of deep renewal and a strengthening of my commitment to this path, for that I am truly grateful. It was nonetheless a bit of a shock to receive the news that it will not be possible at this time (under the current administration) to extend my religious workers visa and I will have to leave the U.S. by the end of June. I have to leave for at least one year and it is unknown at this point whether re-entry will be possible.
At times such as these it becomes so evident how important it is to live the teachings and often reflect on the truth of impermanence. Nothing is for sure. I keep an open heart to this experience and the opportunity it offers for opening to change and letting go of preferences. I am so thankful to have been a part of the development of this beloved community and to all of you who have offered such incredible generosity and care in supporting the growth of our nuns Sangha. It feels like an amazing blessing to have lived here for these years. Although there have been challenges to meet along the way, kindness and compassion have always been a touchstone to bring forth the fortitude needed to keep going.
In essence it is beautiful to witness the multiplicity of ways in which a monastery brings benefit to the world.
Wishing you the highest blessings ~
With much metta,