Vesak Greetings from Aloka Vihara
Warm greetings from Aloka Vihara!
We are now well into the month of Visakha - or Vesak – the time we remember and celebrate the Buddha having lived in this world and shared his teachings, which continue to benefit us to this day. It is said that the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (final passing) each happened on a Vesak full moon day. The Vesak month derives from the ancient lunar calendar system used in India at the Buddha’s time; this roughly corresponds with the western calendar month of May, though untypically this year, Vesak will be celebrated by the Thai community on the full moon of June and was celebrated by the Sri Lankan community on the full moon of May.
On May 6th, full moon, Ayya Santacitta and I took part in the full ordination of two Buddhist novice women – Samaneri Marajina and Samaneri Nibbida – of Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. The first part of the ordination was conducted quietly at dawn in the beautiful Awakening Forest Hermitage in Jenner, CA. Shortly after the first part of the ordination was complete, we all made our way to the ABS Temple in Sacramento, where a group of Sri Lankan bhikkhus welcomed us for the second part of the ordination. Three of the group had driven all the way from LA in the early hours of the morning to offer their support for the ordination of these two women! After a meal and Vesakh celebrations, the ordination was concluded and Bhikkhuni Marajina and Bhikkhuni Nibbida were fully welcomed into the Fourfold Assembly. You can see a lovely video of the event here.
At Aloka Vihara on May 27th, Ayya Santacitta and I will be offering a Vesak Day Long - all are welcome to come and spend the day with us in meditation and Dhamma discussion and to take part in a Buddha Bathing Ceremony at the vihara.
Keeping in tandem with our preceptor and her community, we will be commemorating Vesak on the full moon of June this year, which falls on Monday June 4th. On this Lunar Observance night we will have evening chanting and meditation at Aloka Vihara from 7:30pm until 12am, with Dhamma sharing and another Buddha Bathing Ceremony as part of the evening. From June 5th - 10th, we will be leading a 5 day dana retreat on the theme "Into the Depths" at Spirit Rock. There are still opportunities to register for those who would like to take part in the retreat.
Shortly after the 5 day retreat ends, Anagarika Maria - who has been away for 9 months - will be returning to Aloka Vihara again. She left for England to process her visa, with the intention of returning as soon as possible, but while there, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She has spent these past months supporting her family and spending precious time with her father. On May 15th, he died peacefully while surrounded by his family. Maria wrote that during the last days of his life he "radiated so much love that being in his presence was almost blissful". This will be a tender time for the family and we are glad that Maria will stay for another month to be with her mother and family as they adjust to the changes in their lives. We are also very glad that she will soon be joining us again; arriving just in time for some quiet retreat at Aloka Vihara when the community will be in silent retreat from June 19 - 29th.
We have all been born, we will all die, it is how we use this precious human life that really matters. If we wait for conditions to be perfect before we can practice or before we can feel happiness, we will be waiting forever. This is the opportunity we have been given. If we meet our experience with right understanding, every moment becomes another step on the path.
I would like to leave you with a poem by Wu Men (1183 - 1260) ~
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Wishing you well-being,
Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni & Santacitta Bhikkhuni