Hi again

Long time no see. My apologies to all readers if they feel like they have been stranded. Or really, not “feel like”, actually been stranded.

There is no very good reason for my absence, except that I have been focussing on other things. Specifically, I have been finishing a major project for SuttaCentral: a digital edition of I.B. Horner’s translation of the Pali Vinaya. As work on that continued, I really, really, wanted to get it done, and done well, and for that I have let other aspects of my digital life slip (unread emails: 325 and counting…)

Anyway, that is done now. Yesterday I finally got it together and sent it around to our team. So I am turning attention to a variety of other things that I have put on the backburner, including this blog. I will be playing around with new themes, in both form and content.

There is, of course, more to it than that. Part of the issue has been that I have been struggling with expression: I am not sure how to say what I think is most meaningful to say. I haven’t solved this, but I am willing to start trying.

For all those who have left comments, thanks, I will try to get around to answering them in the next little while, your patience is appreciated!

An update on my life

Dear friends,

After my vassa with my dad, I was till (quite deliberately) at a loose end. With no plan in mind, I went to Sydney where, after a couple of days, a voice from the gods (a metaphor voice, if you’re wondering) spoke to me and said, “Go to Bodhinyana!” So I did, and here I am.

It’s lovely to be back and staying with the monks here again. The bush is thin and scrappy, just how it should be; and the kangaroos are, if possible, brassier than ever.

I’m enjoying my between-time, and the monks here are pretty together, so there’s not much for me to do. I’ve been helping out with a little teaching here and there, and spending a lot of time in my kuti practicing. To satisfy my scholarly bent, I’ve been working with the Suttacentral team on an updated version of our Sutta correspondence site. You’ll see the shiny new version soon.

I have started thinking about next year, and I’d like to get back to Sydney regularly. I’m thinking, maybe spend 10 days a month in Sydney giving teachings and so on, and the remainder of the month here. We’ll see.

I’m also looking to get back to some more regular blogging, so hopefully you’ll see a few more articles coming up.

Away on retreat for a while…

For all my dear fellow bloggists, I’ll have to take leave of you for 10 days or so, while I’m teaching a retreat here at Jhana Grove, WA. If I don’t get around to answering all questions or responding to all comments that deserve a response, I hope you’ll forgive me. If you really want me to respond, best ask again when I’m back.

Just a reminder, when you leave comments, WordPress decides automatically what gets included and what doesn’t, and like all automated systems it sometimes makes mistakes. I will get around to check all submitted comments sooner or later, but meanwhile follow the sagely advice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide. One tip: if your post includes several links, it is more likely to be held back (because spam often includes links).

A stay at Santi… and a bad foot…

For all those interested in the inside scoop on a stay at a contemporary forest monastery, have a look at this. Sometime commenter on this blog Dean Crabb has made an extensive writeup of his recent visit. Complete with videos and photos – and a black snake. Very cool.

On a less happy note, another of our commenters, Lisa Karuna, has injured her foot while visiting relatives in Perth, and had to cancel her visit to Santi. She went through Sydney airport in a wheelchair… It reminds me strangely of an occasion I ended up pushing a bhikkhuni in a wheelchair through Sydney airport… Anyway, let’s dedicate our merit for Lisa and a swift recovery!

The Last Post (for a while…)

And what a ride it’s been!

I started this blog less than 9 months ago, soon after the WA bhikkhuni ordination. It filled a need that I had felt, for a way of communicating that was more direct and contemporary. And it seems to have filled a need for others, too: 226 000 views, and nearly 6000 comments.

Through this, I’ve been able to connect and share in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. I’m a writer: I guess I always have been one at heart. The blog format offers what is, for me, a great combo of directness and substance. I can say things of meaning, and include serious analysis, but there’s always room for some lightness of heart, too.

But the truly astonishing thing has been you lot. My goodness, what a lot of words! True to its origins, the most vital and stimulating topics have consistently been those on bhikkhuni ordination. This, for me, is a sign; a sign that we have tapped into a deep shared need. So much has been deeply heart-felt. I’ve been surprised, moved, delighted – and yes, more than occasionally annoyed – to find what is in your hearts expressed here so well.

I have this feeling, this image in my mind, like Odysseus on his journey home. After ten years at war, it took another ten years to cross the few hundred miles of ocean back to Ithaca and his beloved. He lost everything: his ships, his men, his treasure; and was adrift on the wide ocean, clinging to a bit of driftwood in a mighty storm. He is cast upon the beach, and makes his way, finally, to his home. Only to find that his halls are overrun with usurpers. That moment, which he had yearned for for so long, turned out to be his greatest challenge.

This is how I feel about my life with the WPP tradition. I was lost, and they gave me a home, gave me a direction. In the world so messed up and confusing, they recognized my pain, and offered a way out. My life owes so much to them that I can never express it. And yet – and yet! – there is still this. It is as if I have been gradually waking up these past ten years or so, coming out of a self-induced dream.

I cannot blame anyone else for my own dreams. But the reality is so much colder, so much harder, that I do not wonder why so many of us prefer not to wake up.

We dream of a truth, of something untouched and pure. In our hearts we long for a safe harbor, for certainty and protection. And we yearn for this so deeply that we give up our all. We hand our hearts over in trust. It is so rare, so precious! So few of us even have the chance to dream, still fewer to realize our dreams. We give up all and move on; and we imagine that our chosen ones feel for us what we feel for them. That our dreaming and their dreaming is one and the same. And we forget, we pass over, the many little details that should be teaching us that the ocean is not just soft breezes and caressing waves, but also has treacherous reefs and sharp teeth.

Nothing can be undone; the choices we have made, we must live with. We are in that most human of dilemmas, hearts undone and confused, just wanting something so simple: the truth that frees.

That truth is not outside. It does not lie with any tradition. Those in whom we seek a refuge, the ‘masters’ of the spirit; they too are human, all too human. Can we be brave enough to admit this to ourselves? To acknowledge that the sacred Dhamma is under the custodianship of a Sangha made of human beings, like ourselves, full of pain and heartbreak?

Then is another choice. To give up, submit to the waves; let the waters close over our heads.

Or to learn to swim. To kick. To struggle. And most important of all: to hold out a helping hand. To forgive, and to love, with a love that knows the folly and the blindness. To recognize that we are the masters; that we hold the Dhamma pure and pristine in our own hearts; that, if we stay true that little guiding star, we need not seek refuge, but can offer it.

I give my great thanks to all my friends on this blog, especially those with the courage to disagree with me. You are all my teachers. I’m going away for a while now. We’re entering our three month vassa retreat, and I won’t be attending to this blog in this time. The comments will stay open, and I hope the discussion continues. The vassa ends October 23 – almost exactly a year after the bhikkhuni ordination. I’ll be back then.

Until then, don’t forget. Stay true.

Australia

I was on a Qantas flight from Perth back to Sydney yesterday morning, after the wonderful bhikkhuni ordination at Bodhinyana. A woman sitting in a seat behind me said to the flight steward: ‘Excuse me, sir.’

He turned and said: ‘Did you just call me “sir”?’

A little surprised, she said: ‘Uhh, yes…’

He paused a moment, then smiled and said: ‘Would you mind doing it again?’

I love Australia.