New Santipada site

Hi all bloggists. Just to let you know, I haven’t been checking the blog for the past week or so, so if your comments haven’t appeared, don’t worry, I’ll get around to it soon.

I’ve been putting together a new version of our decrepit old Santipada site. Like most of Santi’s web presence this was built on googlepages, which served us well for a few years, but which is now falling apart. Since I started this blog, I’ve learnt a little about WordPress, and, with substantial assistance, have learnt to do a few simple websites. We’ve rebuilt the Santi FM website on WordPress, as well as the Australian Sangha Association. The latest is Santipada, the Santi FM ‘in-house’ publishing arm, currently at http://santifm.org/santipada/ (but soon to be redirected to santipada.org).

I’ve had a number of ideas for how a good reading site should be built, and I’m glad to say I’ve been able to implement just about all of them.The aim of the site is to present writing in the best possible way on the web. To accom­plish this I have started with a text-oriented WordPress theme, The Erudite, and modified it to further enhance it as a writer’s platform. The appearance has been tweaked, and the font size increased. I’ve paid detailed attention to typographic niceties, like ‘hanging quotes’, proper verse layout, tables, footnotes, semantic markup, and so on. For seamless display of diacrit­icals in Indic terms, Gentium Basic is used throughout, delivered using @font-face by kernest​.com.

The theme has been de-bloggified, removing comments, dates, and so on: I’m after a lasting repos­itory of quality writing, not a changing diary. If you want to discuss stuff, use this blog.

There are a few exper­i­ments: notice that hovering the cursor will highlight the text, changing the dark grey text into black; this is because some readers find even dark grey difficult to read. In addition, this can serve as an attention focuser. On single posts, the same action will display automatic paragraph numbers to the side. This is because I am conscious that any writing these days will be published in a variety of media, and for reference sake texts should be marked according to paragraphs, which are a genuine textual entity, not pages, which are merely an artifact of the technology the text is presented in.

Posts will be made available in several formats: as well as the basic html for web viewing, they are, or will be, in pdf (for downloading and printing) and Scribd (for, well, whatever people use Scribd for…). More formats coming…

The content is, for the most part, my old essays taken from the earlier santipada, with a few additions. In time I will adapt my books in a similar way. I intend to use that site as a repository of quality writing, so from time to time I may take the most lasting of my blog posts, polish them up, and include them.

For now, a treat for all you blog readers. The first post on the new site is a new piece of imaginative writing, now published for the first time: ‘Dreams of Bhaddā’. I hope you like it….

And let me know what you think of the new site…

The Moral Life of Babies

Here’s a fascinating article in the New York Times, which describes research that examine the extent of a babies’ innate moral sensibility.

It seems that even very young infants are instinctively able to tell ‘good’ from ‘bad’, a fact which is difficult to explain from a biological point of view. The traditional perspective has it that children are acculturated to learn morality as they grow.

Some researchers have been tempted to ascribe this innate moral sense to “the voice of God within our souls.” From a Buddhist point of view, of course, we would prefer to think in terms of rebirth.

Regardless of the reason why, the practical outcome of this is that people are, before culture, primed with at least the basics of a moral sensibility. This falls short of a truly mature ethics, as babies, for example, are still not impartial in the sense required by higher ethical discernment. (But then, who is?)

This reminds me of the Socratic belief that we have all learned everything in countless past lives, and so what we call ‘learning’ is in fact merely ‘remembering’. If children have an innate sense of morality, then it would seem that the most useful form of education would be that which ‘draws out’ (to use the literal meaning of ‘educate’) knowledge that is already innate.

This issue has recently become the focus of intense debate in Sydney, with the recent proposal to trial teaching ethics in schools to children who choose not to go to ‘scripture’ classes. The basic method of the ethics class is to present the children with a bunch of ethical dilemmas, and discuss them.

The Sydney Anglicans, as always foremost in reaction, have come out strongly against this, insisting that they be involved in the process, while the Catholics have been more muted.

(For those of you not familiar with the Sydney religious scene, the local Anglican church is one of the extreme conservative wings of the international Anglican communion, and is separate from the rest of Australia’s Anglicans, who are generally quite progressive.)

Jensen & co. seem to be outraged that secular ethics should be taught in Australian Government schools – teaching secular ethics in a secular institution! What will they think of next.

Underlying this is the basic question of moral authority. The Western philosophical tradition, starting with Socrates, sees ones own inner voice as the prime source of truth, while the Church sees morality as descending from on high, and mediated by itself.

The time has long passed when secular institutions looked to Christianity for its values. Our children need to learn ethics, not from any self-appointed ‘authority’, but by learning to listen to their own voice of conscience, to dialogue with others, to accept different points of view, and to found ethics on a shared humanity, not adherence to any religious dogma.

Ajahn Brahm’s response to ‘The Time Has Come’

A little while ago i posted the new article called ‘The Time Has Come’, by several former siladharas. As always, articles on bhikkhuni ordination evoke the most comments and response on this blog. We were delighted to have a post by Ajahn Brahm, which, as one of our commenters mentioned, was in danger of being buried beneath the weight of the comment thread. So i’ve lifted that comment and re-posted it here.

The discussion on these matters can get a little intense, so if I could ask you to read the ‘About‘ page, which has guidelines for posting, before making comments.

“What would it look like to relocate the ‘problem’ of bhikkhuni ordination and gender equity within Buddhism to where it really belongs? … with those who fear women’s full participation”

Having read the comments in this thread with interest, as I am inextricably involved, I think they have drifted away from the main thrust of the Buddhadharma magazine article as expressed in the quote above. That is, for too long Ajahn Sujato, myself and the participating Bhikkhunis, have been asked to justify our actions in facilitating the Perth Bhikkhuni ordinations.

Now it is the time for those Western monks, and Thai monks who either live in the West or regularly travel there, to either show their support for Bhikkhuni ordination in the West,or justify their opposition to it.

Ajahn Sumedho is leaving Amaravati at the end of this year, so is the Thai monk Ven Pannyasaro who, I was told, drafted the notorious Five Points. Ajahn Amaro, currently at Abhayagiri Monastery in California, is to take over leadership of the Amaravati group. It seems appropriate that he makes his position on Bhikkhuni ordination clear, in plain English not in Amaravati-speak, to the supporters of his future monastery. Other influential monks such as Ajahn Vajiro of Amaravati, Ajahn Nyanadhammo in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno of Abhayagiri, the Thai monk Ajahn Preecha in Italy, Ajahn Tiradhammo in New Zealand, the Thai monk Ajahn Anan who visits the West regularly, they should also be pressed by their lay supporters to publicly explain their position, not as a group but as individuals. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, they should have no fear in articulating their position in public clearly and independently. I ask this because I understand that straightforward honesty, not deafening silence, is necessary for moving forward on this painful issue.

Unfortunately, I do not have the power to compel these good monks to explain whatever position they hold on Bhikkhuni ordination, or to question them on why they refused my genuine offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. But you, the lay people who feed these monks and provide the funds that support their other needs, do have that power. Maybe it is the time to exercise that power.

It is now the time, as a result of The Buddhadharma magazine’s article, for them to personally explain themselves to the Buddhist world.

With Mega Metta, Ajahn Brahm.

Ajahn Brahm & the UN Vesak

A few days ago I made an update on bhikkhuni issues, in which I noted in passing that Ajahn Brahm had been excluded from this year’s UN Vesak celebrations in Bangkok, presumably due to the bhikkhuni ordinations last October. Ajahn Brahm has attended the event for the past several years, and this year he already had a paper accepted for presentation.

I will repeat the story here, as it is significant enough so that it should not be buried away underneath another post.

Obviously, I was quite disturbed when I heard this news. It has been discussed among the Australian Sangha Association and the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, and it was widely felt that this kind of exclusion was unjust, and in particular did not live up to the ideals of fairness and equality which the UN stands for. As we can see in the comments responding to the original post, many others shared these feelings.

I waited before blogging on this, as our original communication, dated 27 January, indicated that an official notification from the UN Vesak organizers was imminent. It is now over three months later, and with the actual conference just around the corner (23-25 May), Ajahn Brahm has still not received any official notification.

Our original, and so far only, communication regarding this has been an email from one of the people involved in organizing the conference. This stated that Ajahn Brahm was voted not to be invited, because of the bhikkhuni controversy; that it was said to be a Sangha issue; that the members of the committee would write a formal letter to Ajahn Brahm; and that Goh Seng Chai, [a Malaysian representative on the committee) was behind the prohibition.

When I mentioned this event in my blog, there were a number of strong criticisms of this prohibition. Understandably, Goh Seng Chai himself was concerned about this, and was kind enough to post directly the following comment. You will see from the comment that GSC more or less confirms the original details, with the exception of his own role in the decision.

Dear Ajahn Sujato,

I am writing to you with due respect to you as member of the sangha. Your accusation of me opposing to the invitation for Ajahn Brahm to attend the UN Vesak is very disturbing. Your accusation is untrue. How and where did you get this untrue Message. I have a video recording of the meeting discussing the issue. In this video, there were different opinions on the issue. What I said in the meeting was that since it is the issue of the sangha and it is for the sangha to discuss. The decision made was that of the EXCO and no one person can make a decision. If I were to object, I was just one person’s view.

Venerable, please get your fact right before nyou publicly accused me for what I have not done. It is not fair, as member of the Sangha, you should check the facts first before making any accusation.

If you want to see the Minutes and the Video, I can share with you.

I hereby demand a public apoly to me.

Sadhu to you. Sukhi Hotu

To which I made the following reply:

Dear Goh Seng Chai,

Thanks so much for commenting. There’s no need at all to demand an apology: if I’ve said anything that’s offensive or incorrect, then may you please forgive me.

You will understand that I hear many things, and choose quite carefully what will be posted here. Those items that are mere rumor or hearsay I exclude, and i will only post thing if I have heard them directly from a reliable source. Of course, even the most reliable sources can be mistaken, and any offense caused is very unfortunate. When inaccuracies are brought to my attention, I retract them immediately – as I have already retracted my mention of your opposing Ajahn Brahm at the UN Vesak.

Nevertheless, in taking up your positions of responsibility in powerful Buddhist institutions, you must be open to public scrutiny and criticism. If that criticism is mistaken, then fair enough, it should be countered and retracted. But we must not let ourselves get in a situation where criticism is wrong in and of itself. And, of course, this is why I encourage an open and questioning forum, where I myself have been criticized many times.

So once again I thank for responding and stating your position. This is how dialogue should be carried out.

We should remember, however, that this leaves unresolved the main problem, which is the exclusion of Ajahn Brahm because he supported performing bhikkhuni ordination.

I will comment further on this, but if you could allow me just a little time to consult before I say anything else.

I’ve had time now to reflect and consult with Ajahn Brahm and others, and I’d like to respond further to Goh Seng Chai’s kind gesture in opening communication.

If it is not too much trouble, Mr. Goh Seng Chai, I’d like to ask the following of you.

  1. Thanks you for your offer of sending the video and minutes of the meeting. I’d be delighted if you could do so, and obviously Ajahn Brahm and others involved would like to see them. If it is possible to post these here, that would be terrific. If not, then if you could email them to santioffice [at] gmail [dot] com.
  2. For those who don’t wish to go through all the materials, would you briefly state why Ajahn Brahm was excluded?
  3. For our information, exactly which committee made this decision?
  4. We are curious as to why Ajahn Brahm has had no formal notification of his prohibition. Why is this?
  5. Myself, as well as several commenters on this blog, have expressed that we would like to formally protest Ajahn Brahm’s exclusion. It’s not easy for us to find our where to send our communications. Could you let us know, firstly, who is the head of the relevant committee and how do we contact them; and secondly, who does the committee, or the UN Vesak generally, answer to in the UN itself, and how do we contact them?

Finally, I would just like to repeat that, as I understand it, there is no question of the UN Vesak organizers generally being opposed to bhikkhuni ordinations, as the participation of nuns has been encouraged at this meeting. This is a wonderful thing, and I congratulate you, Goh Seng Chai, and other organizers on your contribution towards such a healthy development in international Buddhism.

Freedom & Responsibility

My father used to quote Rousseau to me:

Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains…

The western Enlightenment idea of freedom is essentially freedom from social constructs. We are shaped, twisted, distorted from our true potential by the deadening, if not positively malign, forces of ‘society’. As the world becomes ever more compartmentalized, regulated, and bureaucratic, our ability to maintain an intrinsic freedom dwindles, little by little, until before we know it we have lost our vitality.

This essentially romantic view of our dismal modern predicament has been repeated endlessly throughout modern art, from Joyce’s Mr Duffy, who ‘lived a short distance from his body’, to Eleanor Rigby as she ‘Waits at the window/Wearing the face/That she keeps in a jar by the door…’. For us, the Hero is the One who breaks out of this predicament and realizes the fullness of her humanity.

But while western culture has excelled in expressing, in endlessly creative ways, the grimness of modernity, it has been far less successful in depicting what it is that the Hero actually does. Once they are ‘free’, where do they go? How do they live?

For the most part the answers are so mundane that they are scarcely less depressing than the initial situation: marry the one you want; leave a dead-end job and go to the country; give charity; or else, simply become a creative individual. This last option, beloved of the Romantics, is peculiarly attractive in the west, but, as someone who has lived the dream, it seems to me that as a vehicle for true liberation, artistic creativity is decidedly overrated. Its prominence in western thought, it seems to me, is little more than a self-justification by those who write the books…

It is not that these things are bad, it’s just that they are not deep enough. They answer certain human needs affecting certain aspects of who we are, but they are woefully inadequate to address the roots of our true humanity.

Perhaps the problem lies in mistaken assumptions. Are we really ‘Born Free’? A baby, lying there in its cot – is that freedom? A baby has very little freedom, mainly because he has so little capacity. He cannot choose, cannot act beyond a very limited sphere. We put our babies in bonds – restricting them in their cribs, or holding them close to our bodies – not to stifle them, but to protect them, to keep them alive. The norms of culture have evolved, not through a nefarious conspiracy of ‘old lady judges’ who ‘push fake morals’, but because culture keeps people alive. It feeds them, clothes them, and most important of all, conditions them with the social, ethical and linguistic conventions that prevent us from killing each other. I was forcefully reminded of this a few days ago by this passage from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, speaking of the Fayu people of New Guinea.

To us, a few dozen people constitute a small, ordinary gathering, but to the Fayu it was a rare, frightening event. Murderers suddenly found themselves face-to-face with their victim’s relatives. For example, one Fayu man spotted the man who had killed his father. The son raised his ax and rushed at the murderer but was wrestled to the ground by friends; then the murderer came at the prostrate son with an ax and was also wrestled down. Both men were held, screaming in rage, until they seemed sufficiently exhausted to be released. Other men periodically shouted insults at each other, shook with anger and frustration, and pounded the ground with their axes. That tension continued for the several days of the gathering…
The Fayu consist of about 400 hunter-gatherers, divided into four clans and wandering over a few hundred square miles. According to their own account, they had formerly numbered about 2,000, but their population had been greatly reduced as a result of Fayu killing Fayu. They lacked political and social mechanisms, which we take for granted, to achieve peaceful resolution of serious disputes.

We are all Fayu, but for the benefits of culture. Of course, it is not the case that our ‘advanced’ culture has solved these things better than ‘primitives': within both ‘primitive’ and ‘advanced’ societies we can equally find examples of the civilizing effects of culture, or of the violence and depravity that results when culture fails.

By nurturing, sustaining, and educating us, our societies have brought us to a level where we can ask the deepest questions. Perhaps we are wrong to criticize our culture for not providing the answers. Perhaps the answers lie beyond anything society can deliver.

Society, at its best, can enable us to live in reasonable safety, with enough food to eat, shelter, friends and family, health and education. It can give us freedom of speech and action, but it is up to us to choose what to do with this freedom. If we allow ourselves to be led by the manipulations of advertising and consumer culture, whose fault is that? Yes, there is a powerful conditioning, but there are plenty of people who just ignore the whole schmozzle. And good riddance. Notice that here I am not talking about the problems of society, about what happens when things go wrong, but about what society can achieve, and which it does achieve in some cases.

It seems to me that the Buddhist approach to freedom is virtually the inverse of the widespread liberal conception of freedom. Rather than the assumption that ‘we are born free’, Buddhism teaches us that freedom is something we have to earn. We have to actively work to deconstruct the effect of the trivializing and same-making of culture. We have to continually question, to be unsatisfied with the shallow answers to life’s problems that are on sale in the marketplace.

Buddhism supplies a more systematic and coherent account of freedom than Western culture. We are imprisoned by the negative and afflictive forces of our own minds, and have to work gradually to overcome these. Each step on the Buddhist path is consciously and freely chosen. There is no ‘Thou shalt’, instead we say, ‘I undertake the training…’. And at each step we are freed – not just aimlessly freed from whatever, but freed from those specific things that cause suffering for ourselves and others. each of the precepts is an exercise in freedom. Contentment, restraint, mindfulness, moderation – each of these essential Buddhist trainings frees us from the inessential. Deeper freedom comes from the release of the mind from the five hindrances in the jhanas, which the Buddha illustrated by similes such as a man released from prison, or a person who is cured after a long illness. Our deepest, most subtle bondage is the illusion that ‘I am’, and so final freedom comes from the elimination of any residual notion of a ‘self’.

From the texts as well as from modern examples, it is clear that there is a distinct notion of what this state of freedom is like. An arahant lives, eats, sleeps, laughs, and talks much like the rest of us. But they are untrammeled by illusion, by sadness, or anger. their life is said to be one of simplicity, contentment, mindfulness, and joy. And for the most part, they choose to do two things with their lives. Left to their own devices, they are simply happy and content. They live, and just that much. When the chance arises, they will work hard help others realize the same contentment. But they are not desperate or pushy: they respond to genuine needs, and otherwise remain silent.

Such an ideal of freedom may seem elusive and distant, but I believe it is possible. It’s a magnificent vision. But it should come with a warning. Such an ideal of personal and spiritual liberation does not displace or marginalize the importance of social freedoms. India in the Buddha’s day was a place of great freedom. People were free to live, to work, to wander across the countryside, to follow their beliefs and religious practices. Of course there were problems: caste, gender, slavery, wealth, and other socially constructed institutions restricted individual choice, like in any society. But the Buddhist culture arose in conflict with these social constructions. Indeed, Buddhism could never have appeared in a society that did not tolerate freedom of thought, speech, and religious practice.

Buddhist ethics should argue against caste boundaries, against discrimination, against inequality. And Buddhist praxis succeeded despite these things, not because of them. Nowhere did the Buddha argue that restrictions, submission to the cultural forms, were in themselves liberating. On the contrary, in texts such as the Sāmaññaphala Sutta, freedom from slavery is one of the prerequisites for undertaking committed Dhamma practice.

Similarly, for women, ordaining as bhikkhunis meant freedom from the socially mandated submission that was required of women. Virtually every Brahmanical law-book states at a woman can never be free. In her youth, she is subject to her father; in adult life to her husband; and in old age, to her sons. The inspired verse of bhikkhuni Muttā exalts that she is free of the three crooked things: the mortar, the pestle, and her crooked husband! Life gone forth was experienced by the nuns as freedom from the stifling restrictions of home life. Freedom from social constriction is a pre-requisite to spiritual freedom.

The many rules and restrictions undertaken by Buddhist monastics are themselves another step towards freedom. The crucial thing is that they are consciously chosen by mature adults. They are not imposed from outside as a means of control. If you don’t want to keep the rules, don’t ordain. If you do want to keep them, you can ordain, and enter into a community of responsible adults, for whom freedom is a gift to be used wisely and responsibly.

As monastics we have many freedoms: freedom from cooking, from shopping, from eating after noon. Freedom from the commitment, attachment, sacrifice, and pain of an intimate relationship. It’s easy to abuse these freedoms. That’s why training and communal support are such an essential part of our life.

Because that is the ultimate burden of freedom. With great freedom comes great responsibility. If we are granted the power of choice, and if we use that choice to suppress others, we have betrayed their trust and shown we are not worthy of responsibility.

In the end, perhaps this is why most of us choose lives of quiet desperation; why we find it so persuasive when the rich and powerful, whether politicians or spiritual leaders, explain to us the virtues of poverty and submission. It’s easier to let someone else make the tough choices. We can pretend to be impotent. Pretend we are less than fully human. Collude in our own inadequacy.

Or we can make a choice.

The Time Has Come

Here’s a very important new article on bhikkhuni ordination, called The Time Has Come. To which I cannot help but add: a fact’s a fact.

It’s by three ex-nuns, Thanissara, Jitindriya, and Elizabeth Day (Cintamani), and will be appearing in The Buddhadharma in a few days. The article spells out clearly and straightforwardly the issues that have arisen since the Perth ordinations. It deals with the ordinations, Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion, the responses of the siladharas, the five points, and the nature of institutionalized sexism. As well as the main article, there are substantial contributions by Janet Gyatso, on the historical heritage of the garudhammas, and Llundup Damcho (Diana Finnegan) on the situation in the Tibetan Sangha.

The authors ask:

What would it look like to relocate the ‘problem’ of bhikkhuni ordination and gender equity within Buddhism to where it really belongs? … with those who fear women’s full participation.

The time really is here. How long must we be ‘patient’? It takes an hour, tops, to perform a bhikkhuni ordination that would satisfy every Vinaya requirement. But we’ll be waiting for Maitreya Buddha if we want to satisfy the requirements of the ‘Walters’, the hyper-conservative monks who oppose bhikkhuni ordination on principle.

The opposition has gone back underground now, where it has festered for the past decades. Senior Ajahns in England opine that the gender issue cloud will simply pass in time. Keep the conversation under wraps and gender equity will be just like a bad dream. (I have previously mentioned that in Amaravati, this and other websites that support bhikkhunis were blocked; apparently this is no longer the case.)

But the opposition is no less active for being hidden. In Thailand, the Western monk Ajahn Nyanadhammo has done his best to persuade Bhante Gunaratana to reverse his long standing support for bhikkhunis.

Ajahn Brahm has been excluded from this year’s UN Vesak because of the ordinations, after having had a presentation already accepted. A group of bhikkhunis, on the other hand, will attend the occasion, being encouraged to do so by a number of senior Thai monks.

The opposition will not appear in public, and will at all costs avoid a debate. Those who oppose bhikkhunis, with a few refreshing exceptions, will not even admit the plain fact that they are in opposition. Silence is their friend.

On the other hand, we supporters of bhikkhunis are happy to say what we say in public, to participate in an open dialogue. Today I’m on my way to the ABC studios in Sydney, where we’ll do an interview for John Cleary’s Sunday night radio program; the interview is on the upcoming Buddhist Film Festival, where bhikkhuni ordination is a major theme.

We’ve got to keep talking, to keep the dialogue alive, keep the issue in people’s minds.

Change is with us already.

Mitra Conference &c

The past week has been one of our most active ever.

Start with Friday: Vens Thubten Chodren, Hui Feng, and Yeshe Chodron joined us for the talk at Well-Aware-Ness. All was good, a discussion and Q&A. Most of the interest was for Ven Thubten and her activities. She’s a warm and humble nun, whose presence was very special.

For the weekend, a series of talks. I attended Ven Tenzin Palmo, Ajahn Brahm, Gregory Kramer, Bhikkhuni Dhammananda… As well as a lot of time catching up with people I seem to only see at these conferences… The talks were of uniformly high quality. One of the things that strikes me about hearing such experienced teachers is that the longer they have been practicing, the humbler they are about what they know and have realized.

I led a few sessions, including three short sessions for the Expo that was run concurrent with the conference. For those of you who weren’t there, this year, in addition to the conference, the BCNSW organized ongoing, free, half-hour sessions in the same building on the ground floor below the conference. These were meant to attract passers by, or those who didn’t want to commit for the entire conference. It was an experiment, and one that worked extremely well.

Although bhikkhuni issues were not the theme of the conference, it was never far from our minds, with so many powerful bhikkhunis present with us. When the October 2009 bhikkhuni ordinations were mentioned, they got a spontaneous round of applause. When I was sitting there, I felt really sad for the monks who have gone to such lengths to oppose bhikkhuni ordination. It must be very isolating, knowing how deeply offensive your actions are to the people who would love to look up and respect you.

During the conference, we found time for some meetings: one with several ASA members to work on the upcoming ASA conference; and another with several members of the FABC to discuss various issues.

After the conference, we supported a few events. Ajahn Brahm had agreed to give a talk for the Indonesian Buddhist Society on the Sunday evening. On the monday, we had a dana with Ajahn Brahm at Well-Aware-Ness, mainly organized by John Barter and his students.

Monday evening we went for Ajahn Brahm’s talk at Roselea Community Center. This was the outstanding event of the weekend. We had wanted to put on a free public talk for Ajahn Brahm, and since we didn’t have much time or resources, we thought to do it very simply. We looked for community halls of about 2-300 people, but the only place we could get was the Roselea Hall, which fits 700. So we went ahead anyway, and there was a great groundswell of interest, mainly from the Sri Lankan community, who use the Roselea hall for regular events such as the Aloka food fair. With only a little advertising and promotion, people just came together, set everything up, and made it into a great event. In the end, the hall was packed tight, with well over 900 people present. It was an extraordinary testament to the strength of the Buddhist community, as well as the wisdom of letting people just get on with it.

Following Roselea, we came back to Santi with Ajahn Brahm, arriving about 1.00am. The next day we had some discussions with Ajahn Brahm, and an afternoon class with Ven Hui Feng, who taught about the development of the Mahayana tradition. early Wednesday morning, we sent Ajahn Brahm and Ven Jaganatha to Perth, and Ven Hui Feng returned to Hong Kong.

Then we had a rest…