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,