Autumn at the Hermitage

‘Many hands, light work’ at the ‘Woodchuckers’ Ball

The Woodchuckers’ Ball

The ‘Woodchuckers’ Ball’ was a joyous and successful gathering the last weekend of September. This annual tradition is to ensure availability of wood to fuel the Hermitage wood stove for the winter. Over the two days, more than 24 (socially-distanced) members of the community moved and stacked enough wood for at least the next three years! Anumodana!

Grateful for…

After more than a week of off-the-chart hazardous air quality at the Hermitage due to wildfire smoke, the air quality returned to a healthy range. Ajahn is grateful for the concern of community members reaching out to make sure the monks were safe and well.

During morning coffee time, Ajahn encouraged us to see how long we could remember to be grateful for fresh air.

Comings & Goings

On October 3rd, Ajahn Karunadhammo and Tan Rakkhito returned to Abhayagiri after spending the summer at the Hermitage. Ajahn Cunda arrives from Abhayagiri on October 23rd, and will remain through June 2021. He will serve as the senior monk at the Hermitage for part of the time that Ajahn Sudanto is on sabbatical.

As previously noted, Ajahn Sudanto will be on sabbatical beginning in early December. He will spend December through March at Abhayagiri, and then return to the Hermitage for the balance of his sabbatical (of undetermined length, but least one year).

Venerable Nisabho arrives at the Hermitage on November 29th for the winter.

Progress on Ajahn’s New Kuti

There has been great progress on moving forward with the new kuti. Ajahn has selected a contractor, and will be submitting the building permit application. Construction is expected to begin in the spring, and be complete by summer. Mudita!


Buddhist Alms

Ajahn Sudanto resumed walking alms rounds the first week of October, on weekdays only for now.


Our Connected Dhamma Community

Our Pacific Hermitage YouTube community was absolutely joyous for the return of our daily Morning Coffee Time time in September, after a Mondays-only August.
Yet we know all things are impermanent, and with Ajahn resuming weekday alms rounds, daily Morning Coffee Time ends this week. He may offer something on weekends, stay tuned.

There is such profound gratitude for the immeasurable generosity of Ajahn Sudanto’s teaching and presence with the community during these pandemic times. There are not sufficient words, so we’ll just say sadhu and anumodana.

Ajahn Reflects On: Bearing With

[Excerpted from Morning Coffee Time with Ajahn Sudanto, 9.17.20]

The Buddha gives a lot of emphasis to the value of patient endurance, and as Ajahn Amaro pointed out very adeptly one time, “bitter endurance is not patient endurance.” The perfection of being patient and enduring something is to bear with that which is unwished for, unwanted, painful, or unpleasant – absent any tanha or unskillfulness.

So, what might replace tanha and a desire for some different experience – and all the thoughts and emotions that come with that – could be something like equanimity. Or even just some sort of radical acceptance of the way it is. We do have the capacity just to bear with. If we have the skillfulness to pare things back to really attending fully to the present moment, it’s amazing what human beings can bear with. All kinds of unpleasantness, pain, difficulty is something that we can we can hold in consciousness if we recollect this teaching of the second arrow, and are very heedful not to create extra suffering.

And the engine of creating extra suffering is this rejection of the conditions that we’re presented with. It functions somewhat on how we’ve been living and practicing. If we don’t have a habit of dwelling with a heart full of acceptance, absent of greed, hatred, and delusion – like the delusion that it should be otherwise, or that we deserve some other experience, or the delusion that it doesn’t belong – it would be very easy to have an experience that this [e.g. smoke] doesn’t belong. These things definitely belong, this is part of what it means to live in the human realm.

But even more importantly about that, really, is coming back to this question again: is this worth suffering over? Are you going to allow yourself to suffer over something which is painful, unwished for, uncomfortable? Or are you going to rise to the challenge to bear with? And to keep the mind in an equanimous state, and a patient state, grounded in the present, heedful, not to be emoting and spinning stories and a commentary that would feed the tendency to drift toward some form of desire (tanha) for things to be otherwise.

And as one gathers the mind into awareness of the body, and the breath, and the present moment, and pares things back to the way it is, and learns to abide in that, not only do you find a refuge from generating and feeding the extra added suffering of responding to what your experience is presenting you with, you find that we’re quite resourceful in being able to bear with whatever life presents us with. And over time that creates a lessening of anxiety, and a kind of fearlessness that whatever life throws at us, we can probably take it. And we can probably receive it in a way that doesn’t generate any excess dukkha or doesn’t stimulate us to create harm to oneself and to others.

It’s That Time of Year: Join Us For a Wood Stacking Party

As in years past, we’ll prepare for the upcoming winter by readying the wood needed to fuel the wood stove.  This year, the wood is already split, we’ll just be moving and stacking it. This is a wonderful opportunity to offer generosity by working together with the monks in joyful community!

The Details:

  • Dates: Saturday, September 26th & Sunday, September 27th
  • Time: 12:00 – 2:00 pm both days

Note: These are separate events from the meal offerings. If you are thinking of joining earlier for the meal, please contact the meal dana coordinators as usual, dana@pacifichermitage.org.

Typically, 8-12 people join us for these events.  We will maintain Covid-19 safety requirements, including social distancing and the wearing of masks at all times.  We are mindful of the health and well-being of all, please do not attend if you have any symptoms, or have had any risky exposure in the past two weeks.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to gather at the Hermitage while the weather is still good. It’s also a chance to see Ajahn Karunadhamo and Tan Rakkhito before they return to Abhayagiri on October 3rd.

Anumodana!

Change Abounds

This summer has brought the return of (socially-distanced, scheduled) meal offerings, allowing members of the community to share time and talk of dhamma with the monks. It is the intention of the Hermitage to remain as open and welcoming as possible, and to make room for more friends of the Hermitage to visit within the Covid-19 restrictions. Hence:

  • In addition to Saturdays and Sundays, some Thursdays may now be available for meal offering visits, all continuing with current protocols, including schedule through the dana coordinators.
  • If you want to visit and see a name already on the meal calendar for a specific day of interest, please contact dana@pacifichermitage.org. Some of these scheduled visits may have less than the maximum 5 people allowed under state guidance.  So it could be possible for you to visit that day, the meal dana coordinators will let you know.

Our Connected Sangha

Our connected sangha continues to thrive, with dhamma friends from near and far joining Morning Coffee Time and Puja to grow in the dhamma.  In fact, for 114 consecutive days, Ajahn Sudanto generously shared the teachings, offered reflections, included us in puja, and answered our questions every day – guiding us all to skillfully incline our minds, and grow faith and confidence in the dhamma.

And so when Ajahn announced that he would temporarily pause most YouTube livestream events for August except Monday Morning Coffee Time, we wished him beneficial rest, and gratefully said sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.

Morning Coffee Time will resume daily at 8:00 a.m. on weekdays the first week of September.

“There are these two acts of generosity. What two? Generosity with material things and generosity with the teaching. These are the two acts of generosity. The better of these two acts of generosity is generosity with the teaching.”

AN 2.143

This Fall Brings A Sabbatical

In December, Ajahn Sudanto will be embarking on a sabbatical.  The exact length of time is as yet undetermined, but expected to be at least one year.  For some part of that time, Ajahn Cunda from Abhayagiri will be visiting the Hermitage. More details will follow in later updates.  We wish Ajahn Sudanto a deeply beneficial and fruitful retreat.

An Auspicious Occasion

As previously noted, this July was the 10-year anniversary of the Pacific Hermitage. As a way to mark this occasion, we will be putting together a celebratory card to give the Hermitage. Would you like to share any words of appreciation, or something about what the Hermitage has meant to you in your life and practice? You can add your greetings to the card by sending your thoughts via email to amsiebenborn@gmail.com by October 2, 2020.

And on a related note…
In honor of the anniversary, a friend of the Hermitage, Ladawan, has generously made and donated 400 masks commemorating the occasion. If you would like one mailed to you, please contact Ladawan directly at nuchkong922@gmail.com. She would be happy to send you (offered freely except the shipping cost, $5, with any leftover going to the Hermitage). Thank you so much Ladawan!

Did You Miss…

These morning coffee time conversations?

Sense of Completeness
Dwelling Free
What am I Doing?


Ajahn Reflects On: Incrementalism

[Excerpted from Morning Coffee Time with Ajahn Sudanto, 8.7.20]

I’m a strong believer in incrementalism for many reasons. One, it honors this truth of conditionality which the Buddha points to, which is a far superior way to relate to your world and your experience and your being. Far superior to personality view, I would say. So rather than you being a good person or bad person, you exercise goodness, you refrain from unskillfulness, you resolve the pull to act in unskilled ways. You build the conditions for those things to exist, it’s not necessarily who you are, it’s how you respond, and the energy you put forth and the investments you make into developing goodness and practicing skillfulness in your life.

I think also part of the value in incrementalism is we can oftentimes be paralyzed by big challenges. They can paralyze us, they can provoke doubt, and the truth of it is, you don’t really know what you’re capable of if you could put sustained and relatively constant forward momentum into developing certain conditions. A fair amount of the limitations that you imagine that you’re living underneath are just unexamined aspects of self and personality.

And I think there can be a tendency sometimes to be stuck in wishing and wanting and a kind of longing for a once-and-for-all fix. Sometimes I think of this as kind of a lottery mentality. We’re waiting for that one word, that one book, that new technique, that blazing insight. That transcendental experience in our meditation and our contemplations – the silver bullet. I think there’s a tendency in us to want to a once-and-for-all fix, maybe because we don’t have sufficient faith in ourself and the efficacy of just putting forth effort and building good conditions. Maybe because we’re a little impatient. Maybe because we’re a little lazy to commit to doing the work. There might be many reasons. So that silver bullet lottery mentality, that kind of longing for somehow life just to magically just transform – through some hack, through some tweak, through discovering treasure buried in the words of another book – I think I think we need to be sensitive to that, if not abandon that altogether.

…See if you can develop the strength of character and the humility to be willing to do the work. Sort out for yourself how it is that suffering arises and suffering ceases and in your mind in your heart in your life with the conditions that you are living with in some non-abstract way. And of course, in the here and now. It’s really a bit of a stretch to think about ending suffering forevermore, all you’re really charged with is dealing with the present moment. And that bite-sized task is both more manageable, and in some beautiful way, more humble than our grandiose dreams of being happy forevermore.

Think of wisdom as a dynamic, not as a trophy or attainment, but as a dynamic skill to know and respond to the challenge of being, the challenge of consciousness, the challenge of life.

Ajahn Sudanto

What’s Happening at the Hermitage

Things have shifted a bit at the Hermitage in the past few weeks. Weekend meal offerings have resumed on a scheduled, limited basis, and the monks are enjoying being able to spend some (socially-distanced) time with members of the community. Suzy and Casey have begun their roles as meal dana coordinators, if you have any questions you can reach out to dana@pacifichermitage.org. And Ajahn Karunadhammo and Tan Rakkhito arrived safely to the Hermitage.

Right Now, It’s Like This: The Pah Bah

The community has always cherished this annual time of coming together to support and honor the Hermitage. Alas, for the safety of all in these uncertain times of the pandemic, the Pah Bah will not be held this year. With sadness at the loss of this meaningful occasion, the thought of Ajahn Sumedho’s instruction, right now It’s Like This arose. Yes, it is.

And we can appreciate the chance to connect with the Hermitage every day, online. Admittedly, one probably couldn’t have imagined when Ajahn Sudanto’s YouTube endeavor first began that being connected online could truly feel like a sangha. That it could be possible to have dialogue and ask real questions about the practice and the teachings in our lives. That we could hear dhamma reflections, speak of topics from impermanence to the weather and actually connect, online. And yes, right now it’s like this, too.

Kalynamitta is a tremendous source of nurturing our faith…We know the importance of being a kalynamitta to our friends. With the restrictions we’re under, there’s extra efforts to try to be available and nurture those relationships, and nurture the faith.

Ajahn Sudanto

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.

Our Connected Sangha

In addition to Morning Coffee Time, Ajahn Sudanto, now with Tan Rakkhito are still sharing with us the morning and evening chanting and meditation online. If you missed attending Ajhan’s chanting seminar a while back that provided some instruction, you an still view the recording. And you an always join and meditate while listening to the chanting.

New Jhana Series: On Sunday, June 28, a series of talks on the cultivation of the jhanas began. Each Sunday for six weeks, a talk is released on Ajahn Sona’s YouTube channel at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time. Then on Mondays, Ajahn Sudanto discusses that teaching during Coffee Time at 8:00 a.m.

Did You Miss…

Morning Coffee Time

Did You Miss
These morning coffee time conversations on these themes?
Listening
The Pressure of Discontent
The Wandering Mind is Unsatisfactory

An Auspicious Occasion

This July is the 10-year anniversary of the Pacific Hermitage. We are so grateful to have the Hermitage in our community and to be a part of this sangha.

As a way to mark this occasion, we will be putting together a celebratory card/booklet to give to the Hermitage in gratitude. Would you like to share any words of appreciation, or something about what the Hermitage has meant to you in your life and practice? You can add you good wishes to the card by sending your thoughts via email to amsiebenborn@gmail.com.

Image: Pacific Hermitage
Ajahn Sudanto at the Entrance to thePacific Hermitage

Ajahn Reflects On: Faith

[Excerpted from Morning Coffee Time with Ajahn Sudanto, 6.23.20]

I think of faith and conviction as really one of the foundational spiritual faculties. Growing up, faith was something I thought more along the lines of either you have it or you don’t. This is the problem with personality view, it thinks of things through identity – as ‘I was born with it, or I wasn’t. But these things exist because of causes and conditions. Think of [faith] as a spiritual faculty, and one that needs to be nurtured, cared for, and strengthened into maturity.

If motivation and energy towards our spiritual life and practice is flagging, this is oftentimes one of the best things to reflect back on: what’s going on with the faculty of faith and confidence that I have in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha? I mean that in the most profound sense, not just faith in the historical Buddha, the Dhamma teachings, and the sangha, but what those qualities are really speaking to – faith in the potential for us to awaken.  If you think of it as a faculty that needs to be nurtured, then it’s like anything, there are various practices and commitments that one needs to make to cultivate that.

Fundamental to [faith] is association with the wise – good friends, kalynamitta. We spend time, we draw near, we exchange ideas, we share our practice, we see their examples. This goes a long way toward feeding and caring for our faith. And we can practice doing that for other people through spiritual community, through sangha. When we talk about the gradual training or the gradual path, this is one of the places that the Buddha starts when he talks about the gradual training. I can’t say enough about that.

We need to have an array of practices, and we need to reflect on, be mindful of, and recollect the faculty of faith, and where we are with it. And to be sure we set our life up in a way that we have good friends, good teachers, and that we’re spending our time in ways that deepen and nurture that faith and confidence.

Think about faith as a spiritual faculty – it is a very important one – and reflect from time to time, what is it that I’m doing, what is it that I’ve committed to help protect, nurture, develop, and deepen it?

Ajahn Sudanto

Speaking of Suttas

Ajahn shared the teaching on The Discourse about Bahia [Udana 1.10], which you can find here. https://suttacentral.net/ud1.10/en/anandajoti

A Successful Virtual Retreat

The first-ever Birken Forest Monastery and Pacific Hermitage virtual retreat was an overwhelming success. Hundreds of retreatants joined us – from South Africa to Azerbaijan, from Canada to White Salmon, WA. There was great appreciation for Ajahn Sona and Ajahn Sudanto for their generosity in bringing this to us, and gratitude for the strong sense of sangha.

There was a wide range of positive feedback on many fronts. In terms of the flow, it was quite beneficial to have coffee time in the morning to discuss the prior evening’s dhamma talk. Many appreciated the flexibility of being able to do the retreat at home. And a benefit particular to the online format was that it was helpful to integrate the teachings real time. Overall, we were connected, inspired, and enriched.

“I’m really big on the value of commitments. If you did the retreat and derived some benefit from it, it’s good to not just go back to your normal life without making some sort of commitment to yourself.”

Ajahn Sudanto

Our Connected Sangha

Our sangha continues to flourish online. Morning coffee at 8:00 a.m. with Ajahn Sudanto has fast become a cherished daily ritual for many in the community, near and far, a precious silver lining out of the challenging causes that precipitated it. Add to that the twice daily chanting and meditation live streams – deep bows of gratitude for the compassionate support for our sangha!

What’s Happening at the Hermitage

We are excited to welcome Ajahn Karunadhammo and Tan Rankkhito to the Hermitage for the summer, arriving on June 8th. That same week, Ajahn Sek and Tan Khantiko will be returning to Abhayagiri. We have enjoyed their stay with us.

Welcome Our New Meal Dana Coordinators

Welcome to our new meal dana coordinators, Suzy and Casey! They take the reins from Joseph and Kalyani on June 7th. We are grateful for the generous efforts of Joseph and Kalyani supporting the monks in a time of great change.

Meal offering procedures continue to evolve as conditions change, so please make sure to check the website for updates, and contact dana@pacifichermitage.org with any questions.

Ajahn’s Reflects On: The Hindrances

[Excerpted from Morning Coffee with Ajahn Sudanto]

The Buddha talks about the hindrances as the nutriment for and the cause of ignorance and craving, as obstacles for everything that we desire. These five things are obstructing us, weighing us down from easy access to joy, happiness, peace, serenity, lucidity, clarity of mind.

Why is it that we can’t see anicca, anatta, and dukkha? These habits of sense desire, ill will, lethargy, restlessness, and doubt are operating. Not always at full volume…but midling, mild, and subtle forms of these are constantly being rehearsed. These are habits of consciousness, they are emotional habits that we have, and we need to become a student of them.

One way to inspire ourself is to come back to this question and ask: Why is it I’m not enlightened? Why is it I suffer? Why is it that joy doesn’t just arise more frequently in my mind? The Buddha’s answer is because these other dynamics [hindrances] aren’t well understood. We’re not mindful enough of them. We don’t recognize the full cost of what it is they are doing to our consciousness. And we haven’t learned how it is they arise, how they’re maintained, and how they can cease. We would do well to internalize a practice of recollecting that, of checking in on that.

As Ajahn Sona says, awareness is not enough. It’s a particular kind of awareness that we’re after in the Buddha’s path of practice.

Speaking of Suttas

If you missed Ajahn Sudanto sharing these teachings during coffee time, good news, you can watch the recordings on YouTube. And even if you didn’t miss them, they are available to revisit and reinforce our learning 🙂


AN 10.51 Your Own Mind
SN 46.55 With Sangarava

Stay Tuned for more information
With the Covid-19 situation, our plans for the Pah Bah are undetermined.

Join the Pacific Hermitage on YouTube daily
5:30 a.m. Morning Chanting & Meditation
8:00 a.m. Morning Coffee with Ajahn Sudanto
6:00 p.m. Evening Chanting & Meditation
(currently chanting the 3 cardinal suttas in Pali, one each evening)

The work of contemplation is to listen more deeply, more clearly, more carefully, to go beyond what we already know.

Ajahn Sudanto