I’ve got some difficult news for you all, I’m afraid. After much soul-searching I’ve decided to resign as abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, effective from the start of the coming rains retreat (3 August).
The decision is entirely a personal one. When I returned to Australia prior to setting up Santi in 2003, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I did know I wanted to find a way to live as Sangha in Australia that would be relevant and allow me to express a contemporary Buddhist voice. Santi was the place I could do that, and I was full of ideas and enthusiasm as to what we could do here. All these years later, many of those things have been done wonderfully, while there is still much to be improved.
What has changed is my inspiration. I simply don’t want to do it any more. I don’t want to run a community or to look after a large property. Now, my heart leaps forward at the thought of having nothing and making no plans.
I have made arrangements to spend the rains retreat with my father in Coffs Harbor. After that I have no plan, and will just see where life takes me. I like Sydney, and I like most of the things I am doing here, so there is every chance that I will stay in the area.
Ever since I’ve been a monk, my basic motivation has been the same: to discover the essence of the Buddha’s teaching, and find a way to manifest that as best as possible here & now. That quest remains the same. I just don’t want to be an abbot, that’s all.
I will also be resigning from all my other committees, teaching responsibilities and the like. In time, I may take some or all of these back again, but for now it is time for me to step back and clear the plate.
Obviously this will mean a radical change for everyone involved in Santi. We have many supporters and friends. It’s worth remembering how much good will and support there is for what we are doing here, both locally and internationally.
I would love Santi to remain as a residence for bhikkhunis. It has always been my intention that the building work we have done here will, in the long term, be for the bhikkhunis. I have been open to the idea that there may be a continuing presence of monks here, but this has been very much secondary.
Santi has a number of bhikkhunis at the moment, and has already been in discussions about encouraging a strong bhikkhuni presence here on an ongoing basis.
One point I would make is, we should not look for a replacement for me. I have done my thing, and whoever comes next will have a different set of strengths. The important thing is not that someone will do my job, but that someone, or some group, will find a way of living here as bhikkhunis that is fruitful.
Everything is very much open at the moment, and clearly there will be a need for discussions and decisions in the coming months.
I’d like to take this chance to acknowledge all your support and encouragement. Without you this monastery could not exist. Not a day goes by when I don’t think with gratitude and astonishment at all that has been freely given to enable us to surivive. With all my heart, I thank you.
I ask that you continue to support Santi. It’s is an amazing place, and it deserves someone who is completely dedicated to making it work as a place of contemplation and Dhamma. It’s a place for Sangha, not for any one individual. This will be a time of uncertainty, and it will not be easy for anyone. But I am convinced that this is the best course for the long term.
If I have done anything to offend or cause you any suffering, by what I had said here or at any other time, please forgive me. It has been a blessing and a privilege to serve at Santi, and I will always treasure this as one of the most amazing times of my life.
(I should note for those of you who read my blog that this has nothing to do with my recent prolonged absence from blogspace. Several people have asked whether I’m okay, and yes, there’s nothing wrong. Actually, we’ve been having an intensive study period here at Santi, and with that and my other teaching engagements, I’ve been teaching more than I ever have been. This takes up a lot of time, but more important, at the end of the day, I welcome the silence and don’t have a lot of words left inside…. I do hope to catch up sometime soon.
Yours in the Dhamma always