The Vision of Awakening Truth Updated October 2011
In this world, finding refuge and being part of community are more and more essential. After 30 years of knowing both lay practice and monastic life, with their respective capacities and limitations, there is a renewed appreciation for the benefits and pitfalls of both.
The Buddha first envisioned monastics and lay communities supporting each other. I believe that a return to the Buddha’s vision is needed, as well as adapting that vision to bring the beauty of this ancient and powerful tradition into the modern world. A healthy Sangha is like an old growth forest that contains tremendous diversity. Everything has a place; the inter-relationships are widely beneficial not only for members of the Sangha but for the world. In this model, everyone joins together, independent of their precept level or commitment to practice, in order to support each other as a community in their aspiration to awaken.
The enactment of this vision can happen in stages. Initially, a spiritual “think tank” is necessary. The Elders (senior monastics, post monastics, senior Dhamma teachers and lay meditation practioners of at least 20 years practice) are committed to the Buddha’s essential teachings of non-harm, liberation and codes of conduct. They are also committed to creating a governance model that recognizes the importance of gender equality, the sharing of spiritual authority by the monastic and lay elders, and responding to feedback from the wider community.
At the fruition stage of this vision, a large piece of land would accommodate people at various precept levels. In the long term, the full time monastic residents would divide their time between training younger nuns, teaching the larger community, and deepening their own practice. The lay Dhamma teachers in the community would also offer talks, classes and support the practice of all community members. We would also have group retreats, to provide teaching for individuals on specific themes and practices for those who want to deepen their mediation. For those who want to come for solitary practice, we would like to offer isolated cabins. The vision includes a co-housing community for families who are interested in living this way without relinquishing their family life and a graduated care facility for seniors to support them as they age and became less independent.
Ajahn Thanasanti Bhikkhuni was initially inspired in 1979 by the teachings of the Buddha to practice meditation. In 1989 she joined Amaravati Buddhist Monastery within the Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho Forest Tradition as a postulant. After more than 20 years of training in this Theravadan Forest Tradition, she left formal affiliation with Amaravati and associated monasteries, to devote her life to the realization of this vision. In 2010 she was part of the first dual Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination in North America with Ayya Tathaaloka as her preceptor.
The envisioned community will be based on:
- Tenacity and joy for practice
- Fearless dedication to the fidelity of essential teachings
- Open hearted compassion that sees through conditioning of cultures, systems and emotional patterns to address suffering wherever it is present
- Clear articulation of the Dhamma
- Sharing the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion as a vehicle for liberation
This vision includes:
- Creating training places for Bhikkhunis and monastic life aspirants
- Developing a community of like-minded people committed to Awakening
- Practicing and sharing the teachings of the Buddha embodying both essential meaning and relevance to contemporary society
- Modeling for the wider community a lifestyle of ethics, compassion and renunciation appropriate to the level of commitment one undertakes
- Investigating ways that essential Buddhist principles can take form in modern society
- Committing to live with ecological awareness and respect for nature
What has emerged since July 2009 is the need for a group of elders to hold this vision and a group of dedicated lay people to collaborate in enacting it. In support of this, Ajahn Thanasanti will teach lay practioners, visit nuns’ communities and write, until conditions ripen to allow the full emergence of this vision.