April 20, 2020
Spring Greetings from Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery
Dear Friends in the Dhamma,
Warm greetings from us all at Aloka Vihara as we emerge from retreat into a changed world!
We deeply hope that this finds you well, and that whatever the conditions may be for you right now, your practice supports you. We are all well here. The vihara remains closed to guests until further notice, so as to support the health and well being of all. We will be offering some online teachings though – please see below.
Thanks to the kindness and support of many people offering dana, mostly from afar, our winter retreat was peaceful and fruitful. We all emerge with gratitude and a sense of awe at the unfolding. A big “Anumodana!” to all who have supported this time in any way. A special thank you to Julie, Leslie & Russ and Carol & David, who turned up at our doorstep with groceries during the shelter in place mandate, and to our dear friends Michael & Lisa at Five Strings Farm, who have been bringing a big box of organic veggies and flowers from their garden every Saturday morning and leaving it on the doorstep. These gifts have nourished our bodies and hearts.
Sheltering here in such a beautiful place, and having access to the forest and creek is a gift in itself. Now, as spring comes, tiny wild flowers are blossoming everywhere and the oaks are wearing crowns of green. The deer come and graze every day in the meadow, and are often outside our shrine room window as we chant and meditate in the mornings and evenings. Of course, the poison oak is also burgeoning, and it is tick season again. This is samsara after all.
Ayya Ahimsa was away getting her visa extended and visiting family in Canada when the shelter in place mandate happened. She was successful in renewing her visa, but will be staying with her family for the next month or so, until it looks safer to travel. Ayya Niyyanika continues to be with us as a visiting nun. She has been a wonderful addition to the community over these months, bringing her unique blend of scholarly knowledge, deep interest in integrating the practice, and a very kind heart.
The full moon of May brings Vesak – the celebration of the Buddha and all he brought to this world. We will be having a small ceremony here to celebrate this day. On May 21st, Janice, who has been living with us for some time now, will take the Anagarika precepts – taking up the training for one year. We will not be open to the public during May, so these will be small ceremonies at the vihara with the resident community.
The construction of a new kuti (meditation hut) in the forest is about to begin, thanks to Robert Hohn, who is driving up from his own isolated place in the foothills further south, to do the main bulk of the work while keeping quarantine status here at the vihara. We are all taking great care to keep from contracting or spreading the virus. We hope that you are too!
Through COVID -19, nature is giving us a teaching, bringing us face to face with our own mortality, with uncertainty, and reminding us of our place in the greater scheme of things. It is amazing to see the whole world being ground to a halt. This is an invitation to wake up, to let the edge of uncertainty sharpen our awareness. It’s a time to let go of old quarrels and grudges, within ourselves and with others, and connect with awareness and love. In every moment we are cultivating something. Be aware of what you are cultivating in your life. Make a garden of your heart and mind. Pull up the weeds. Plant the seeds of love and awakening and nurture them.
We look forward to seeing you on one of the online teachings.
Sending metta from us all and sharing blessings of our retreat with you,
Ayya Anandabodhi, Ayya Santacitta & Ven Dhammadipa
~ Today before evening puja at the vihara ~
January 15, 2020
Winter Retreat Message from Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery
Warm greetings from the beautiful forest of Aloka Vihara ~ we hope this finds you well.
As you read this we will be entering our three month winter retreat here at the vihara. Things are well set up, with our support team here, and the grounds and buildings in good shape for the winter. Heather, Janice and Linda will be supporting the whole length of the retreat, and Shannon and Erica will each be supporting for one and a half months. Ayya Niyyanika, who is visiting as a guest for 4 months from Dhammadharini Monastery near Santa Rosa, will also be with us for the Winter Retreat.
Ven Dhammadipa, Shannon, Linda, Janice, Heather, Ayya Niyyanika
Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Ahimsa, Ayya Anandabodhi
Looking back over the past year, there have been a few milestones for us. Both Ayya Santacitta and Ayya Anandabodhi are now U.S. citizens, Ayya Ahimsa is in the process of applying for permanent residency, and the property of Aloka Vihara has now been fully paid for! Aloka Vihara Publications has printed its first book. The forest is being managed for fuel reduction and we are staking out the location for our first well insulated kuti (meditation hut) to be built later in the year.
With all those things in place, we are ready to drop into our precious 3 month winter retreat. This is an opportunity to deepen and hone our meditation practice, with winter being the perfect time to put it all down and go inwards. The work we do in silence is what nourishes our practice and teachings for the rest of the year. Gradually, we are learning to let go.
Although you may not all have the chance or inclination to go into longer retreat, we recommend in these challenging times to make space each day for your practice. Generating a heart and mind of metta (benevolence) can be a great support in countering our tendencies to fall into fear or ill will. Bringing sati (awareness) to whatever we are doing/ feeling/ thinking gives us space to reflect, and the agency to gradually transform our old habits of mind. Reflecting on anicca (the inevitability of change) both in small things and in the vaster cycles of the universe, brings understanding and letting go.
‘If you let go a little, you have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you have complete peace.’
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. The retreat will be held in Noble Silence from January 15 through April 15, but if you are coming to offer dana, one of the support team will be here to welcome you.
We will write to you again with our tri-weekly newsletters, starting on April 20.
Sharing blessings of our retreat with you and wishing you peace and well being ~ with metta,
The community of Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery
January 14, 2019
Winter Retreat Message from Aloka Vihara
Dear Friends in Dhamma,
Warm greetings; we hope you had a smooth transition into 2019! We taught our annual New Year’s Retreat at Applegate Jesuit Retreat Center again this year and we are very happy with the venue and the kindness and helpfulness of the staff there. Ven Dhammadipa was part of our teaching team for the first time, giving the sangha a chance to get to know her and listen to her sharing the Dhamma. We enjoyed working together and are very pleased with the positive and encouraging feedback we received from the yogis.
On New Year’s Eve we shared a statement and blessings in memory of Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died in ICE custody at the southern border on December 8. This was read in three languages: in Spanish by Ven Dhammadipa, who is of Latin heritage, in Portuguese by Anagarika Carol, who grew up in Brazil, and in English by Ayya Ahimsa from Canada. You can read the whole text here and find a resource list.
This time 10 years ago, we had just recently arrived at Aloka Vihara in San Francisco for a two-month trial period, to see whether it might be viable to establish a nuns’ vihara in California. At the end of December of that same year, we returned to put down roots in California and now we have a budding forest monastery in the beautiful setting of the Sierra Foothills. On October 27, 2019, we will be celebrating Aloka Vihara’s 10th Anniversary at our Kathina Ceremony ~ we welcome you to come and be part of it.
We are delighted to be entering our three-month Winter Retreat tomorrow with the great support of Shannon, Linda, Matty and Maria.
They will take care of the cooking and much of the daily running of the monastery during this special time when we can put down our duties and deepen our practice.
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.
During the last nine days of the retreat the nuns will head down to Spirit Rock, where Ayya Anandabodhi will be co-teaching on Anapanasati with Ven Analayo, Shaila Catherine and Dawn Scott. We will return to the Vihara for the formal ending of the Winter Retreat on April 15 ~ our next newsletter will come to you on April 19.
Sharing blessings of our Winter Retreat with you all ~
Ayya Santacitta & Ayya Anandabodhi & Aloka Vihara Nuns’ Community