Update on the Saranaloka Nuns’ Community
From the Board of Directors of the Saranaloka Foundation
Life at Aloka Vihara: One Day at a Time...
May 16, 2012
Dear Friends of Saranaloka and the Aloka Vihara,
We had a wonderful day on Saturday – the vihara was cleaned and the yard weeded by a small industrious group of people, and it now sparkles. Even the windows got done! This is a twice-a-year event, so please join in next time if you have cleaning and gardening energy. Also, the beautifully repaired benches look really well in the garden and are safe and functional!
The cleaning was followed by a meal offering and a Supporters’ Meeting, which was attended by even more friends. Following are the highlights.
There are some food dana opportunities: We’ve trained people so well to not bring too much food, so now the pantry and freezer are a bit in need of a boost. If you are bringing a meal, having some extra to freeze is helpful, as we are doing more cooking these days. People volunteered to bring milk and almond milk on a regular basis, so these are not needed, and they receive a vegetable box twice a month. The following are items that the vihara goes through quickly, store well, and are always appreciated:
- Unsweetened soy milk - West Soy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk does not have sugar, and there may be other brands as well, but please check!
- Muesli with no added sugar (found at Whole Foods in bulk section)
- Dried fruit with no sugar
- Roibos tea
- Recycled toilet paper (100% recycled content means this is tree-free!
- Note – we have lots of paper towels, so don’t need any more!
The New Year's Retreat next year will be one week long and will be held at the Insight Retreat Center in Scott’s Valley (near Santa Cruz), cosponsored by the Insight Meditation Center (Gil Fronsdal’s Group). Dec 26 – Jan 1.
Doing a one-week retreat this year rather than two is necessitated by Ayya Santacitta’s plans to go to the Sakyadhita Conference for Women in Buddhism in India in early January. Ayya Santacitta and I will be presenting at this conference on the journey to the bhikkhuni ordination and on the vision for our future monastery. This is really exciting, as the conference will be attended by laywomen and nuns from around the world and should create some interesting conversation on transforming how women are perceived in the monastic traditions.
In preparation for the conference, and also for other uses as well, we are creating a video on Saranaloka, which will complement and provide context on the wonderful video we have of the ordination.
A study group coordinated by Marina Kocherovsky will meet at the vihara with one or two of the Sisters on the following dates: June 3, July 15 and Aug 5. If you are interested in participating, there is an e-list forming for that discussion, study materials, etc. You can join by emailing: AlokaVihara-DhammaStudyfirstname.lastname@example.org
The need for a vacuum has been filled by many donors and the universe! The vihara now has two good vacuums!
Mark your calendar for our Alms Giving Day, being organized for Sept. 8 by a committee of lay supporters. If you would like to be part of the committee, please contact Dennis Crean at email@example.com. This is a traditional ceremony in which the lay community offers support to the monastery – such as material goods (keep an eye out for the wish list) as well as financial support. The ceremony honors the symbiotic relationship between the lay community and the monastic community – the lay community symbolically offers the four requisites to the Sisters and experiences the refuge and learning that is associated with the monastic vihara.
The next beach cleanup day has been moved to Saturday, June 2. It was decided to skip next weekend, as competing with Bay to Breakers seemed like too big of an obstacle to manage around, even though they will undoubtedly leave behind trash! Other dates for clean ups are July 1, Aug. 19, Sept. 23 (before the Annual Supporters’ Meeting) and Nov. 18.
The supporters’ group had a helpful dialogue about what it takes to create and support a monastery. The board was asked to provide supporters with more details on the level and types of expenses and financial information (Brief summary: $5000/month covers the four requisites; donations are running slightly below that amount in 2012 and we are utilizing our financial “cushion” to cover the difference; we don’t budget for food, flowers or candles as these are traditionally offered). We also discussed the concept and cultivation of generosity and the ways in which we all respond – what is a pure intention in this regard? What feels right to us?
A post-meeting reflection from me: how do we protect this wholesome Paramita (generosity) from being infused or diminished by American culture and attitudes about money? There are places where our culture can positively affect how Buddhism is established here – such as creating equal respect for women monastics – and also places where we want Buddhist practice to provide different perspectives for our culture and guidance towards wholesomeness, such as allowing the Paramitas to arise in our practice. This was a touching discussion, as people really care about and want to see the vihara thrive, yet we all want to maintain our commitment to not associating the teachings with money.
I think the discussion allowed our own personal biases to rise up and be mirrored and discussed, and the end result was a lovely visual perspective shared by Dennis of seeing the support for the monastery as similar to doing Alms Rounds. Standing on a street with an empty bowl shows oneself as being open to having food offered and provides enough information (no food yet and dependent on food being offered) while also not explicitly asking for something and always being willing to go without. This image will help direct the board in right action on how to keep moving forward on our quest for finding the resources to establish a rural monastery and to maintain integrity towards our practice and intentions.
All in all an open and supportive meeting, which opens my heart and reaffirms why we are making the effort to sustain this community. If you are interested in being involved in this level of discussion, please plan to come to the next meeting – Sept. 23.
Wishing everyone a lovely summer as the heat descends upon us in its irregular patterns!