June 5 Garden Party and Memorial for Karen Miller (update)

We will hold a memorial for Karen Miller at our next Garden Party on Saturday, June 5. Karen sadly passed away on August 19, 2020. She had asked her husband, Bob, to have her memorial at the Hermitage with a gathering of friends and family. It was Karen’s wish to have an informal gathering of friends for her memorial, rather than a formal dressed-up ceremony – so please feel free to wear your gardening clothes.

It was through Karen’s love, devotion, and care that many remember her kind presence on these Garden Party days. Ajahn Sudanto is planning on being in attendance for the event.

Anyone is welcome to join us beginning at 10:00 am. The monks will chant a blessing and dedicate merit to Karen shortly before the meal offering at about 10:45 am.

Meal Offering: 11:00 am (please feel free to bring a dish for the potluck style meal offering)

Garden Work: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm (please also feel free to bring any extra garden tools for the day)

Tea: 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

About the Pah Bah

Thank you for being a part of the Pacific Hermitage community.  

Though the pandemic is still with us, we hope to hold the Pacific Hermitage annual Pah Bah celebration this year, scheduled for September 18 & 19.  We know that the Pah Bah, the traditional ceremony originally to offer cloth for monks’ robes, is a cherished celebration. We want to make sure that this gathering of friends for the ceremony, chanting, dhamma reflections, and the potluck meal is a safe and joyous one.

To that end, we would like to get your feedback, in particular to understand what type of event you would (and would not) feel safe and comfortable attending, given the pandemic. 

Please share your opinions by taking this brief Pah Bah survey. It should take less than 10 minutes of your time.

Thank you!  The lay community organizing team greatly appreciates your feedback.

(And please forward this email to others you think might be interested in attending the Pah Bah.)

Spring at the Hermitage

Comings & Goings

After spending four and a half months at the Hermitage, Venerable Nisabho departed on April 16. He hopes to settle in the Seattle area for the vassa/summer to explore his interest in setting up a monastery there. With appreciation for his many contributions, the sangha and community wish him well.

Venerable Jino and Venerable Dhammavaro arrived on April 4 from Abhayagiri, and will be staying until late June.

Ajahn Cunda will continue his role as the senior monk at the Hermitage until early July. At that time, after passing on his duties to Luang Por Pasanno and Ajahn Karunadhammo, he plans to return to Abhayagiri.

Luang Por Pasanno, Ajahn Karunadhammo and Anagarika Ty plan to arrive in late June to stay for the entire vassa/summer period.

Ajahn Sudanto is planning to continue his sabbatical at Abhayagiri until at least November.

How fortunate we are to have the presence of this sangha in our community!

What’s Happening at the Hermitage

Garden Parties are Back!

The first event is on Saturday, May 1, followed a month later on Saturday, June 5. We are hoping to have a third Garden Party on Saturday, July 3. Spring brings with it the need to tend the yard and the forest, with weeding and other land care activities. Join fellow community members at the Hermitage in this beautiful act of dana, for any part or all of the day’s schedule (no sign-up required).

11:00 a.m.  Potluck (arrive by 10:30 a.m. if you’re bringing food)
1:00-3:00 p.m. Yard work and projects
3:00-4:00 p.m. Tea and refreshments

We will continue to maintain safe Covid-19 protocols, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

A Return to Yoga Samadhi

Pamela Chambers, the new owner of Yoga Samadhi in White Salmon, has invited the monks back for weekly in-person Tuesday Meditations and Teachings. Both Ajahn Cunda and Luang Por Pasanno (for the summertime) agreed and the first of these will begin on Tuesday, May 11 with Ajahn Cunda, Ven. Jino, and Ven. Dhammavaro. The livestream portion of the event will begin at 6:30 p.m. via the Pacific Hermitage YouTube Channel.

Please note the planned schedule:

5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m.: A silent sitting for experienced meditators. Participants are asked to come on time and stay for the entire session.

6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Meditation, Reflection, and Q&A (the livestreamed portion).

Currently, up to 20 people may participate in-person at the Studio during these events.

Sunday Sila with Portland Friends of the Dhamma

This Summer, join Luang Por Pasanno for Sunday Silas with Portland Friends of the Dhamma. These are held on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. While he is here at the Hermitage, Luang Por Pasanno will be leading these on the third Sundays of the month: July 18, August 15, and October 17.

What’s Happening with Pah Bah This Year?

We are hoping to hold a Pah Bah this year on September 18 & 19, and are currently discussing how we can have a safe and joyous event. Feedback from the community will be quite helpful as we determine what form it might take. We plan to send out a brief survey soon. Thank you in advance for sharing your opinions to help us plan this auspicious day.

Meal Offerings

With the arrival of spring, the protocols for weekend meal offerings have changed. Specifically, as of April 16, meal offerings are being held outside and are no longer limited to one household. All are welcome. Thus, if there are already one or several people signed up on the Dana Calendar for a particular day, visitors are still welcome to join the event and should not worry that they are encroaching on another person’s dana offering. We do ask that mask wearing and social distancing continue to be observed.

  • As always, please email the dana coordinator (dana@pacifichermitage.org) to sign up for the date you’d like to visit (regardless of a name already being on the calendar). This is so others planning to attend can have an idea of how large the group is and how much food to bring. That being said, everyone is welcome to attend, having signed up or not.
  • Although meal offerings may be brought to the Hermitage any day of the week, it is only on the weekends that the monks receive guests after the meal.
  • The weekend visiting hours are 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • On the weekends, if you don’t want to participate in the meal offering, but would like to visit the monks, you may do so by arriving around noon.

Connecting with the Sangha

Ajahn Cunda will continue to share Dhamma with the community via livestreams on the Pacific Hermitage YouTube Channel following the same schedule: Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Friday mornings at 7:00 a.m..  After May 4, the Tuesday livestreams will be held at Yoga Samadhi at the same time, but follow a different format (see above for more information).

On Fridays, in April, May, and June, Ajahn will share a Dhamma talk followed by a brief Q&A. As always, if you have questions you would like to hear Ajahn Cunda speak about, you can email: hermitage@abhayagiri.org.

Ajahn Cunda Reflects:
Working with Fear & Anxiety

[Edited and adapted excerpts from a Dhamma Talk by Ajahn Cunda, 4.16.21]

A question came up recently from one of the livestream listeners in regards to fear and where it fits within the kilesas (the defilements), and more specifically, the akusalamūlā, the three roots of the unwholesome: greed, hatred, and delusion. The person who asked this question wanted to know how to work with fear within the context of these three unwholesome states.

In terms of the akusalamūlā, it is commonly understood that delusion is the linchpin of the three. It is the opposite of clarity and understanding. When we have clarity we are able to recognize and understand desire, greed, craving, hatred, aversion, and anger. We can also see how we tend to respond to these unwholesome emotions in ways that keep us coming back for more. It’s delusion that keeps desire going, that keeps us in the realm of cyclical birth and death. We can say it fuels desire by hiding desire’s true nature from us.

Although fear may seem like it is mostly related to aversion, its relation to delusion is just as strong because we are not clear about what it is we are experiencing. If we think about how we experience fear, we can see that it tends to be a difficult emotion to deal with. The mind may be racing, lurching, and moving so quickly that it becomes impossible to have a steady awareness of what is actually happening or what the best response might be. We may want to fight or flee, but we aren’t always aware of other alternatives, we’ve momentarily lost our clarity.

People sometimes ask why fear is not included in the five hindrances. Although it’s closely related to worry and the restless movement of mind, it’s also closely related to aversion. When we’re afraid, there is a sense of wanting to get away from whatever it is that is threatening to us – whether it’s something that’s physically present for us, or a possibility that we’re thinking about (the dread of what if). With either of these, there can be a sense wanting to push something away.

This also plays into desire: we want to get something or experience something that is far away from that which we feel aversion towards. Aversion is never very far from desire. We can say that these two hindrances/defilements are part and parcel of each other. We seek to be associated with what we like and because of that, we simultaneously seek the disassociation from its opposite. If we are desperately wanting to be unafraid, we can be equally averse to the fear that is present for us.

Fear is also a precursor to doubt, the fifth hindrance. We can also see it operating in desire, as in: I’m afraid of not getting what I want or being associated with what I don’t want. In terms of the hindrances, fear is an in-between emotion This may be one of the reasons the Buddha did not name it as a particular hindrance; it evades particularity.

A clear example of fearing something present for us is encountering a dangerous animal in the woods or when we get the the dreaded diagnosis of a life threatening illness. But we also experience subtle fears with nagging anxieties of which we’re not quite aware or we don’t understand. There can be a sense of fear about the future or worrying about our past actions. We can believe that something is definitely going to happen; we sometimes erroneously think: “without a doubt this will inevitably be the outcome.” Or we think about what we should have done or could have done and feel a sense of regret: if only . . .

For many people including myself, experiencing fear can be quite uncomfortable. We can squirm and feel as if we want to run away and avoid it at all costs. A sense of dread can arise and we may think: “I can’t do anything to get out of this situation, I’m completely done for.” This is, at times, the story line behind fear.

In the Bhayabherava Sutta [Fear and Dread, MN.4], the Buddha talks about fear arising due to our moral compass being askew. There’s a sense that we’ve done something wrong in the past and we’re concerned about this. This is how the hindrance of restlessness and worry plays out.

In the same sutta, the Buddha talks about our fear of losing our lives. Thus, one of the main underpinnings of fear, if not the root cause of fear, is the weight of our own impending death, not to mention the death of those whom we love. We might not recognize this fear of death because it’s not so evident day to day. We can pretend it away, as if it’s off in some distant unknowable future. However, it’s actually right here and now; our experience of death and dying is how we relate to it in the present moment.  

When we’re working with fear, I think one of the important things is to consistently use the tools we’ve been taught to use by the Buddha. Primarily, we want to be able to recognize fear as fear, to see it clearly and feel it clearly. When there is a more subtle fear – unlike encountering a wild tiger or being close to death with an illness – when it’s more of a worry about the future, or a subtle concern about something we’ve done in the past – then there’s a presence of mind we can have that allows us to clearly see through it.

In the Fear and Dread Sutta, the Buddha asks himself: “Why do I dwell always expecting fear and dread? What if I subdue that fear and dread while keeping the same posture that I am in when it comes upon me?” This is the technique he suggests: he stays in the same posture, he doesn’t distract himself with doing another activity, and he focuses on subduing his own that fear – he does not allow it to overwhelm him. When it comes to subduing fear, we need to understand it for what it is. We ask ourselves: “What is it I experience when I feel fear?” It really comes down to a sense of being willing to feel whatever it is that we’re feeling. That statement may seem incredibly obvious to those who have been practicing for a while, but it’s not necessarily obvious in terms of what we do, and how we behave when we feel fear or any other unwholesome emotion.

If we look at and face this fear coming up for ourselves, we can try to recognize how it arises from our unique conditioning. What is our personal story of fear? What is it that we’re afraid of? What do we worry about? I find these questions quite useful, rather than thinking of fear as something that is amorphous or having nothing to do with my specific patterns of mind. Each of us has our go-to fears, our go-to anxieties. For example, it could be that we have a fear of social interactions, and we may not feel comfortable in groups. There can be a tendency to make sure that we’re in good standing with everyone we’re with (which can be an exhausting phenomenon). If we find there’s contention between ourselves and another, then this fear can arise. We can be worried about how we’ve appeared or we can worry that we’ve done something wrong; wronged somebody else. We can palpably feel this experience of “wrongness” and it can rob us of our stability and mindfulness.

This is where our formal practice can lend a hand. When we make the time to sit, stand, walk or even lie down and allow fear and worry to arise and cease in our awareness, we see clearly: “Oh, I keep going towards that particular story, the one with my relatives or friends, or whatever.” We have an opportunity to see how we’re creating scenarios of what we wish for or dread, and how our worries and fears play out. This leads us to choices; “Do I really want to follow that thread again? How many times have I been down this track?” So we can make the choice to let go of this fear and dread and no longer be defined by our personal stories. This allows us to see the not-self characteristic more clearly. We might realize: ‘oh this is just the creation of me’. When we learn to let go of these sankhara or mental formations, then fear becomes much less potent. If we don’t have our personal stories – if we’re not taking everything as me and mine, who I should be and how I should be – then it’s possible to be less afraid because we don’t take things so personally. We have the capacity to recognize that our fear based stories are simply false narratives. They are coming from a misconception and a misattribution of self. After all; who is afraid and what is there to be afraid of?

Winter Retreat Time

Happenings Around the Hermitage

Ajahn Kovilo departed the Hermitage last week to return to his undergraduate studies at the Dharma Realm Buddhist University in Ukiah, California. Our community enjoyed his visit and wishes him well in his studies. Ajahn Cunda and Venerable Nisabho continue to be on their winter retreat, walking almsround on weekdays and receiving alms at the Hermitage on the weekends. Ajahn Sudanto will return to the Hermitage from Abhayagiri Monastery around March 1 to continue his sabbatical.

Welcome to the New Sanghata Board Members

The Sanghata Board members serve as stewards helping the community provide the requisites for the monks at the Hermitage. Two new members joined the board in 2020, Jay Harrington and Jessica Swanson. Jay lives in Seattle, and has been visiting the Hermitage since 2010. He will serve as the Treasurer. Jessica is a longtime supporter of Portland Friends of Dhamma. During her role as a board member there she helped make the Pacific Hermitage a reality, and served as the first dana coordinator. Welcome to the board Jay and Jessica!

With the new members, the board is now comprised of Scott Benge, Anna Siebenborn, Jay Harrington, and Jessica Swanson. Many thanks to Dave Forslund, Carol Melkonian, Krissy Martin and Debie Garner for their past service on the board.

Just a Reminder

The new meal offering protocols, are in effect through April 2, if you are planning a meal offering, please review the procedures here. If you have any questions, please reach out to the dana coordinator, Chevy at dana@pacifichermitage.org.

Connecting with the Sangha

Have you joined the Hermitage Conversations yet? On December 15, the Venerables began offering twice-weekly livestreamed conversations, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., and Fridays at 7:00 a.m. The conversations bring together discussions of suttas with answers to your practice and Dhamma questions. From January 22 until April 9 the venue will change slightly on Friday mornings with Venerable Nisabho offering Dhamma Talks followed by a Q and A.

Did You Miss…

These Conversations?

Harmony Part 1
Mindfulness of the Body

The Venerables Discuss:
The Worldly Winds & Wanting to Be Liked

[Selected excerpts from Hermitage Conversations with Ajahn Cunda, Ajahn Kovilo, and Tan Nisabho, 12.29.20 ]

The way the Buddha talks about wanting to be liked is in terms of the Worldly Winds, seeking praise and avoiding blame. These are worldly qualities – the Buddha didn’t say go and seek as much praise as you can and make sure everybody likes you. We need to be careful with this tendency to seek praise because we’re yearning for something that’s external and very conditional.

The Buddha talks about four pairs of Worldly Winds: pain and pleasure, fame and disrepute, gain and loss, praise and blame. In terms of wind being used as a metaphor, the Buddha would sometimes refer to a well practiced person like a strong, firm rock that is not blown around by the wind. Someone who’s not practicing doesn’t have a firm basis in wholesomeness or inner integrity and they can get blown away like a weak tree that doesn’t have deep roots.

It’s interesting that praise and blame and fame and disrepute are listed separately. It’s significant that the Buddha dedicated two pairs of these winds to qualities that seem quite similar to each other. I think he did this because they are such powerful motivators. We can look at pleasure and pain and gain and loss as more important qualities, but for many of us, praise and blame accesses a deep primal urge to be accepted, and it’s not any less than the others pairs.

I remember once when I was in a small monastery in Thailand, I felt very lonely and full of blame for about a year. And I found that practicing metta was one of the few things that really helped me. There is a natural tendency to think that approval is what is needed to alleviate a blame worthy feeling, but I found what really alleviates it is giving love, even to oneself. It might seem like a hole that needs to be filled from outside of ourselves, but when practicing metta we can alleviate feelings of loneliness [and blame] by giving to ourselves and others.

[In the Ajahn Chah tradition] there’s a real encouragement to help others. It is something that is quite beautiful and a cornerstone of the tradition. For example, monks will often take the position of being an upatak which in pali literally means “to stand close by.” In the Thai Forest tradition, this comes in the form of serving one’s elders, or preceptor, or others who have been in the robes awhile. But we can also think of this with serving our parents or friends. It is about being very attentive, circumspect and heartfelt while caring for another person.

When we are upataking, we may receive a lot of praise. And in some cases, rather than thinking we can automatically transcend praise and blame, we can, instead, incline our minds to receive praise by the wise for praiseworthy things. One of the reasons the Buddha places such a strong emphasis on good friendship is because this is what good friends do; they praise and encourage us in the right ways. So there is a wholesome way to receive praise without trying to seek it out.

Once I asked Luang Por Pasanno how he was able to deal with making unpopular decisions. I was specifically asking about how he dealt with being disliked or blamed by people who weren’t able to get their way due to a decision he had made. He answered: “That’s easy; I just think of all the suffering that is involved [when I make myself the subject of another person’s blame or anger] and I ask myself: ‘why would I want to be associated with that dukkha?’ And then I see clearly that I wouldn’t want to be, so I drop it.” It’s quite unpleasant to be worried about other people liking us or not getting enough praise. So that’s another way to think about it: the dukkha associated with wanting people to like us.

Moving Toward Winter

Comings & Goings

The season brings with it new monastic visitors to the Hermitage. Ajahn Cunda arrived from Abhayagiri in late October, 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. Ajahn Cunda took Bhikkhu ordination in 2008, and in addition to Abhayagiri, has practiced at monasteries in Canada, Australia, England, and Italy.

Ajahn Kovilo just arrived at the Hermitage to stay through mid-January, and Ven. Nisabho, who arrived late November, will spend the winter here. (Learn a little more about all of them here.) The community is grateful to have the opportunity to draw near to the monks, and wishes a very big welcome to all!

Ajahn Sudanto began his sabbatical on December 6th, and will spend December through February at Abhayagiri. He returns to the Hermitage in March for the balance of his sabbatical, which is open-ended but will be for a minimum of one year. With much gratitude, we wish Ajahn a deeply beneficial and fruitful retreat.

Changes with Meal Dana

It’s that time again to shift the meal dana coordinator responsibilities. Chevy, a long-time member of the community, is now managing that role – thank you Chevy! And much gratitude and appreciation to Suzy and Casey for their support while in that role.

With the arrival of winter and the continuing pandemic, the procedures for weekend meal dana visits are changing. The monks have given considerable thought to how weekend donors can comfortably and safely visit, and have developed new guidelines. They adhere to Washington’s Covid-19 safety protocols, and will be in effect December 18 – April 2. The below highlights a few changes, but if you are planning a meal offering, please review all procedures here. If you have any questions, please reach out to Chevy at dana@pacifichermitage.org.

  • There will still be the opportunity to visit with the monks outside after the meal, however, only with one household, up to 5 people. Multiple households may still offer a meal, but they wouldn’t be able to visit with the monks afterward.
  • The shrine room will be aired out and sterilized in advance so that those offering meal dana may eat there (the monks will eat elsewhere).
  • As the winter retreat is an important time for seclusion and silent study and meditation for the monks, they will finish meal offering visits by 1:00 p.m.

It is the hope that these protocols will allow for safe visits that protect the well being of all. The monks are grateful for your support.

Connecting with the Sangha

“And hearing the dhamma frequently taught, these are the highest blessings” is what came to mind upon hearing the joyful news that the monks will soon begin sharing the dhamma on livestreams. During the winter, the monks at the Hermitage will be offering twice-weekly livestreamed conversations, “Hermitage Conversations.” These will fall on every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and every Friday at 7:00 a.m. These sessions will likely last 30 to 45 minutes, and will be in a similar format as Ajahn Sudanto’s coffee time with the YouTube comment section open during the session. The first of these will commence on Tuesday, December 15, and the link for the session is here.

Deep bows of gratitude for the monks’ generosity.

An Upcoming Online Retreat with Ajahn Sona

Serenity, Friendliness & Warmth, an Online Metta Retreat with Ajahn Sona will occur from December 22 – January 1. Registration is now open, you can find out all the details here.

Note that while there are Teatime Q&A sessions offered, Ajahn Sudanto is on sabbatical and will not be participating in this retreat .

Did You Miss…

These morning coffee time conversations?

Inviting Admonition & Feedback

Ajahn Reflects On: Gratitude

[Excerpted from Morning Coffee Time with Ajahn Sudanto, 9.21.20 ]

Favorable conditions are not secure, and not a true refuge for us. There’s a way of being happy and delighted that just keeps us stitched in to taking refuge in worldly conditions – happiness and pain, blessings coming and going, praise and blame, the worldly winds.

One of the ways to step out of that is to cultivate the heart of gratitude for what one has.  We don’t want to not appreciate pleasure and the goodness that exists in our life, the blessings that exist in our life.  But we do want to learn how to appropriately receive pleasure and the blessings of life without exercising the habit of making that the focus and the refuge. Without practicing our sense of well-being being dependent upon conditions which are always ephemeral, always imbued with the characteristic of unsatisfactoriness, and ever beyond our control – not self, not me, not mine…

Gratitude helps support the habit of joy, and joy goes a long way to helping feed and nurture the heart that rests in awareness in the present moment. And the movement towards tranquility, lucidity, serenity, and clear seeing. There are many ways to walk that path, but gratitude is a wonderful launching off point to move down that path towards tranquility lucidity and serenity.