Ajahn or Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni was born into a loving family of Jewish ancestry in Burbank, California. She was first introduced to Buddhist teaching and insight meditation in 1979 in a class taught by Jack Engler at University of California Santa Cruz. From that time she consciously committed to awakening and envisioned living her life as a nun. From the onset, Ajahn Chah, Dipa Ma and His Holiness the Dalai Lama were primary inspirations to her. Her teachers also included Christopher Titmuss, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfeild, Peace Pilgrim and the work and teachings of Gandhi.




After completing a BA in Biology from UC Santa Cruz, she worked for a few years as an analytical chemist. In 1987 she went on a pilgrimage to India, Nepal and Thailand to meet and practice with Dipa Ma, his Holiness Dalia Lama, Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa; meditation masters she had heard about in 1979.


In 1989, she formally joined the Ajahn Chah lineage and the community of nuns at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery to begin training as a novice. That began the process of intensive training, study and meditation practice. After 2 years as an Anagarika, she received ordination in 1991 with Ajahn Sumedho as her preceptor. She lived at both Amaravati and Chithurst Buddhist Monasteries in England.


For several years Amma Thanasanti was involved in the leadership team and guidance of the nuns' community at Chithurst and Amaravati. Since 1996 her community and monastic responsibilities were interspersed with teaching intensive meditation retreats in the US, UK, Switzerland and Australia.


In 2000 she took Bodhisattva vows with His Holiness Dalai Lama en-route to spend extensive time in retreat in the remote bush of Australia. From that point on, her practice shifted and the place of compassion and relationship with nature became central.


In order to pursue her vision of how monastic and lay practitioners can work together in the modern world to create viable communities for practice in the United States, she took the significant step of leaving the formal affiliations of Amaravati and associated monastic communities and returned to the USA. In 2009 she founded Awakening Truth a non-profit 501 (c)3 organization whose mission is to create a Bhikkhuni training monastery and facilitate ways monastics and lay practitioners can work together to support whole life practice.


In August 2010, after being a nun for 19 years, she was ordained as a Bhikkhuni at Aranya Bodhi Forest Hermitage, in the historic first dual Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination to be conducted in North America. Ayya Tathaaloka is her preceptor.


Amma’s work spans rigorous understanding of Buddhist teachings, non-dual meditation, depth psychology, subtle body energies, and the Divine Feminine. She teaches meditation as an art and skill, integrating body, heart and mind with finesse and compassion.


Currently she is based at the Shakti Vihara hermitage in Santa Rosa California as a solitary alms mendicant nun where her time is interspersed between writing, teaching, meditating and being involved in the local community.

May Teaching events in Colorado, Virginia and New York

 The following has the details of all of May teaching and includes events in Colorado, Virgina and New York as well as contact details for joining in any of the events. Below is the flyer for Vesak: Buddha's birthday celebration in Evergreen Colorado, May 7.

 

Buddha's Birthday celebration May 7, EverGreen Colorado

AT Spring 2017 Retreats Single Flyer

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Revolution of Love

At a Precipice

We are at a precipice. A lot is changing extremely quickly. When I step back and look from a bigger perspective, take my focus out of the pounding details of everything coming at me, and all around, I see we are at an evolutionary crisis.

I have spoken to many people who are struggling with a way of responding to our current world situation. They hunger for themes of practice that are relevant and meaningful. I will share some of my personal experience and an outline of Integral Theory as way of offering concrete tools and frames of reference that can help orient and give us a clear focus at this time.

Background

The first 20 years of my spiritual path was wholeheartedly dedicated to the traditional Theravada Buddhist path. I love its clear concise instructions, tools to stabilize qualities like compassion and joy, and work with fears and resistance. In addition to providing clear guidelines for a gradual path, this path shows anyone who realizes it what is timeless, pervasive and ever-present. The more we are connected to what is timeless, the better off everyone is. This truth is accentuated with suffering, change and turmoil.

Suffering Not Resolving

After 20 years I became increasingly aware that some of my suffering was not resolving. I sought parallel practices and philosophical views outside of my tradition to help me understand and resolve what was not being transformed by meditation and the 8-Fold Noble Path. Integral Theory helped me personally. It also helped me make sense of the incredible confusing and heartbreaking situation I was in. When I apply Integral Theory to our current geo-political situation, it clarifies many things. When I see the context of the problem, it helps me stay focused on solutions.  

Framework of Integral Theory

Integral Theory has been evolving for a few hundred years. Ken Wilber has contributed most to its modern day iteration. Integral Theory is a developmental map that describes evolution of consciousness. It includes people and cultures. We start at the first level when we are born. In an optimum situation we mature through each stage, include each level’s needs and move past being fixated on them. In a less than ideal progression, attention stays fixated on earlier needs. The stages are as follows:

Level 1 – Is about our safety and managing physiological needs.

Level 2 – Is about satisfaction and managing self-protective needs.

Level 3 – Is about the way our will operates and managing power needs.

Level 4 – Is about connection and belonging and conformist needs.

Level 5 – Is about achievement and self-esteem and cognitive needs

Level 6 – Is about harmony and self-actualization needs

Level 7 – Is about unity and self-transcendence needs

If we look more at Level 6 we see that at this level there are many different but equally valid approaches to reality. At this stage there is a strong belief in egalitarianism and hierarchies are taboo. If there are a number of these values operating, the way to practice with it is to start noticing the tendency to judge someone who judges, or get down on schemes that rank.

The Good and the Bad

I’m part of a group of spiritual activists. In the last few weeks there have been many emails sharing information, reactions, action items as well as good news to balance the bad.  

In sharing good news, a story was told about a Muslim woman who was with her daughter standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant.  A man in line shouted that she had no place there and should leave. Frightened and agitated, clutching her daughter’s hand, she started walking towards the door. A very big burly man with tattoos got up from his table. He said that he was in the military and his job was to protect all American citizens including this woman and her beautiful child.

He offered to escort her through the line and walked up to stand next to her. With his protection she moved back into the line next to him. The woman telling the story referred to the man who shouted as a jerk and the man who stood up as the hero. The hero said to the jerk, “Are you sure you want to have dinner here tonight?” at which point the jerk left.

This woman telling the story said that her faith in humanity was rekindled.

Contradictions

We are being called to understand the way the values of this level contradict itself – how the thing it values most it doesn’t do. The performance contradiction of these values takes us into a post truth world. This is a cultural evolutionary crisis that Trump and his cabinet are a symptom of and not the cause for. Knowing this we can see that the solution out of the crisis is to evolve both individually and collectively through this stage into the next level.  Can we find the place where we value everyone having enough safety to eat dinner in peace without having to leave, even if they have values and act in ways we do not respect?

Opening to Love

Understanding the map and opening our heart to a love that is inclusive even of the things that we deem unacceptable are the two most critical components to evolving. We are being asked to accept into awareness without judgment the judgments we have of others who are judging.

No matter what level we are at we have an opportunity to evolve, to grow personally and to anchor more deeply in facets of awakening that are reliable. As we do this, the more we are able to grow up, wake up and show up for others and our fragile tender world, the more a revolution based on love is possible.

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Directions to Awakening Truth Learning Center

Awakening Truth Learning Center (ATLC) is in Valley View Apartments. The Address is 2727 Tachevah Drive, Apartment #24. Best is to drive until you see the Valley View apartment sign. Park and walk towards Yulupa until you get to the first apartment you see. 

 

 

Photo taken from sidewalk right next to Awakening Truth Learning Center. Look for the Valley View Apartment sign. Walk on the  side walk towards Yulupa, (west) Awakening Truth Learning Center is the first apartment you run into.  

Another way to find us to is to look for this 2780 number on the garage . Awakening Truth Learning Center is directly across the street.

 

This is what the outside of Awakening Truth Learning Center looks like.

 

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Day long retreat in Sacramento: From Separation to Seamless Reality

Event Flier Amma TB Jan282017

January 28, 10 - 4:30 PM

Sacramento Dharma Center

3111 Wissemann Dr. Sacramento, CA 95826

Buddhist teachings emphasize the link between dukkha, an inner dissatisfaction that keeps us from enjoying life and the delusive view of the self that we are separate from others. During this meditation day, we will explore the story we are telling ourself that keeps alive the sense of self and instead turn towards the fullness, peace and potential that is our ever-present nature. Ending conceptual proliferation reveals a seamless reality at the heart of everything and fundamentally changes our way of being and living. The day will be informed by mindful investigation of our direct experience, and framed within teachings on emptiness, pervasive awareness and love.

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Ongoing Events at Awakening Truth Learning Center

 

Tuesday Meditation or Inquiry: We will begin with 30 minutes of silent meditation, followed by a talk, then either Inquiry on the 1&3 Tuesday or discussion on the 2&4 Tuesday. 

We are navigating a lot of challenge and change in our world right now. It is really important to return to source- what is ever present, unshakable and reliable. For this reason the next several months are going to be a deep dive into the facets of awakening.  We are going to begin with the classic book The Island; An Anthology of the Buddha's teaching on Nibbana (Unshakable freedom) by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro. PDF, e-book and request for print copy can be found here:  

What is inquiry?
Inquiry takes your ability to be with your own sensations, emotions and thoughts and brings it to the experience of listening and speaking with another. Inquiry enhances non-judgmental witness so your ability to see clearly and to integrate and transcend to greater levels of wholeness increases. It also creates deep and intimate connection as your inquiry partners are a living breathing part of your meditation experience. 

Friday morning meditation will be peer led. This means we will take it in turns to find a short reading that speaks to your expereince and invites discussion. When you lead, makes 10 copies and bring the centerpiece shrine.

Friday meditation Format: We begin with 30 minutes silence (there can be a little music to accompany the first few mintues of meditation but come early and bring your own equiptment as we don't have a sound system), then presenter reads and shares for a 2-3 minutes on what moved them to practice with what was read. They then invite disucssion with all of us. We close at 8:25 AM with a circle of light and love, bringing to mind those who need more support. Optional potluck breakfast can go until 9 AM. After a few months of meeting, the group will decide the name of the meditation group. Anyone is welcome to come late and leave early. Door will be left unlocked.

Directions: Valley View Apartments on Tachevah includes both 2727 and 2735 and is a few blocks from the Bennet Valley shopping center. Revelations Chiropractic is on the corner of Yulupa and Tachevah. To find 2727 Apt #24, look for the Valley View Apartment sign. Apartment #24 is the first apartment you see as you face Yulupa street. At night look for Christmas lights inside the windows, during the day look for Prayer flags in the window facing the Valley View Apartment sign.

Street parking only.

Teachings are given freely and you are invited to support with generosity, making it possible for others to also benefit from  these teaching which liberate.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions.

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New Year Retreat - seats still available. Sign-up today!

Forgiveness: Letting Go & Awakening a New Year’s Retreat With Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni

December 30, 2016 – January 1, 2017

 

Retreat-Flyer_New-Year-2016.pdf

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The Darkness Before the Light

Amma Thanasanti

 

Our world is in descent.

 

This summary of steps of a personal journey may help navigate the bigger picture.

 

Many life-changing events happened. I wasn’t willing. I was cornered – There was no way I could think or maneuver myself out of the situation and I didn’t see other options. With every ounce of fur, fang and resistance I could muster, I battled every inch as I stepped into the trenches to do the work. My resistance softened out of sheer exhaustion. Slowly I turned toward what I feared. I was confused and agitated. I unraveled. Descent into darkness was dismantling, disorienting, and dangerous. I didn’t know who I was, or what to plan more than a few days ahead. What was disallowed, repressed and unacceptable was unleashed. As my mind body processes were held in a frame of moral integrity and observing witness, until what is pervasive emerges. Guides support me in the process, I averted danger. Eventually, light emerges.

Cornered-

What is, is.  It won’t go away.

Resistance-

I feel how unacceptable, shocking, infuriating, terrifying and defeating this is.

Exhaustion-

At some point, I get worn out. When I get curious about the way that I experience my resistance, it begins to change.

Turning towards fears-

Underneath my resistance are my fears. I turn toward them, see them and name them. As courage builds, I feel them.

Confusion-

When I start to let go, assumptions, frame-works and belief systems fall away. In this place where I can’t locate myself, what opens up?

Agitation-

When I feel a large space without characteristics of identity, and there isn’t anything holding the fall, descent is frightening. I need to regularly soothe my anxiety to keep from meltdown.

Unraveling-

In this big space, what happens to “me”? What is asking for acceptance?

Danger-

There is so much that is at risk, the magnitude is overwhelming. Where do I engage to bring more safety? I prioritize needs and make sure that self-care is on the list. I do what is most compelling. Direct action helps dispel anxiety.

Unleashing what is disallowed-

I look at my contribution. Where am I interested in my own comfort at the expense of others or the Earth? When am I unable to fathom another’s perspective and go into judgment or dismissal? When do I condone racism, misogyny or religious profiling? What support do I need to make different choices? Where have I internalized these things in myself? What supports me releasing these patterns?

Moral Integrity-

Regularly affirming the intention to do no harm, and to support what is beneficial to all beings gives me a rudder when everything familiar is falling apart.

All Pervasive Love and Awareness-

I balance keeping my body healthy with letting go completely. I let go of thoughts, feelings, sensations and relax attention into what is groundless. I let go of trying. I rest.  Body and mind drop away. What remains is vast, luminous and pervasive. The mind extends beyond all reaches, limitations.  Love, awareness, energy pervade everything and everyone. Who and what I am becomes a thin veil,  conecting what is pouring in, to what is pouring out. There is no separation.  

Guides-

These are my mentors, therapists, friends, rocks, animals, trees, practices and qualities of mind that remind me to stop resisting, to be present and meet what is arising. They hold me as I let go. They help me get up in the morning when I feel bruised to the bone and devestated and do what needs to be done. They support me to access seamless reality and remove obstacles that occlude it.

Emergent Light –

Death has been a gateway, an opportunity for new life. When I meet my own darkness,  dare the world to end in me, I live with less fear. I’m motivated to return to what is vast, timeless, and ever present. In the middle of THAT accumulations release and clarity emerges. There is reciprocity between people, culture, the physical world and “me." Darkness is within the light and light emerges from the descent into darkness. My heart is full. I'm ready to do what is needed include meet my own human fraility in the journey of bringing relative and pervasive kindness and truths into the world.

The devil whispered in my ear, “You will not be able to survive the storm.”

I whispered back, “I am the storm.” 

                                                                                Author Unknown

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Natural Balance: The Art of Transforming Suffering

 

Natural Balance

Photo curtesy of  Aura Glaser, Ph.D.            www.auraglaser.com

By Amma Thanasanti

With the world events, I have been looking for ways to respond. This morning was our Ovada, a time when Bhikkhuni’s from around the country gather on a conference call to listen to an elder monk’s reflections. Venerable Punnadhammo’s talk was based on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation and commentary, Transcendental Dependent Arising: A Translation and Exposition of the Upanisa Sutta. When I listened to his talk and felt coolness and clarity emerge, it gave me ideas of what to share with you.

One of the characteristics of existence is dukkha. Dukkha refers to the unsatisfactory nature of things which are imperfect, change and do not give us lasting happiness. The first response to dukkha is to deny its existence. Eventually, reality starts pearing through the cracks. We feel more pain in our body, get distracted, seek sense pleasures, get preoccupied with work, planning or facebook to keep our focus away from unpleasant reality. When that no longer works, we sink into despair. The problems can seem insurmountable.

Understanding dukkha and the cause of dukkha takes clear thinking – an assessment of where we are at and how we got there. The teachings tells us that suffering is cyclical- the more we suffer, the more we tend to grasp for solutions. I see that my grasping for frameworks and solutions is increasing my anxiety. However, suffering can also catalyze another movement, the longing to move out of suffering. This first step out of suffering is supported by faith, the faith that there is a way out. What, in the world can we have faith in, when is so much is unreliable, when our grasping for solutions is tied up with suffering? There are many different words for this from many different traditions. Buddha used the unborn, unbecome and uncreated to point to what is beyond suffering. I have been calling this pervasive awareness and pervasive love.

The first movement out of suffering requires that we engage with a quality that can not be conceptualized, cannot be supported by reason or the intellect. Reason has to be balanced with faith – something other than reason – to get out of suffering.

When our mind is supported by faith, when we have an inkling that there is something other than the suffering of our conditioned existence, we experience joy. This is why chanting, devotional practices, contact with wise beings or places that support access to pervasive love and awareness can be helpful. Most times when I’m in nature, I experience joy.

With joy as a supporting condition, we experience rapture. The body and mind feel deeply well. The body tingles and feels a lot of pleasure. When we experience rapture, we then can feel the deep well being of happiness.

If we were walking through a desert and we met someone who said that over the ridge was an oasis – that first inkling of relief would be joy. When we get to the oasis, plunge into the cool water, drink our fill and satiate our hunger with fresh fruit, that is the experience of happiness – an abiding sense of contentment that comes from our needs being met.

When we feel happy, our minds become still. We stop looking for happiness, because we are resting in happiness. This supports the mind getting more focused and able to see things as they actually are. Seeing things as they actually are is a critical part of awakening. Weary from suffering, the arahant seeks complete liberation. Seeing clearly uproots greed, anger and confusion that are the sources of suffering. This is a sublime achievement.

The Bodhisattva path, however, feels the pull of suffering in the world and seeks to engage, not out of ignorance but out of compassion. Awareness is pervasive. It permeates everyone and everything, without exception. Who I am is not fundamentally separate from you, your suffering, or the world around me. Pervasive awareness and pervasive love are not two separate things but different aspects of the same thing. From this perspective, it doesn’t make sense to sit quietly in bliss, when the world and people I care about are burning around me. But from the wellspring of pervasive love and awareness, there is great resource from which to respond. It sustains this endless journey, because in its embrace, the weight of problems lighten.

Here is another place balance is needed. My access to pervasive love and awareness is interspersed with feelings of confusion, overwhelm, concern, and anxiety. Human warmth – my connection to relative love and compassion are also needed. Peers, the wisdom that emerges from community also support me finding ways to meet what is arising with care and compassion without contributing further to the overarching problems of grasping, aversion, or ignorance. These also help me respond to what is arising in the present moment without superimposing some idea of how I should be or what I should be experiencing. Sometimes here too, the balance of pervasive love and relative love are not found through withdrawal into silent contemplation but through engagement.

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Alms Mendicancy

It is understandable in a culture where there is a compelling standard of self-reliance and independence to mistrust the aims behind alms mendicancy — living on the generosity of others. As this is central, I thought to explain some of the premises upon which it was established.

In the Theravada Buddhist Forest tradition, a contemplative’s sole aim is to awaken. This means to understand how suffering is created and to create the conditions whereby suffering and stress ends. In dedicating one’s life to this goal, one is then in a position to share that understanding with others who are interested. Alms mendicancy supports that aim.

It is universally true that there is suffering and stress in our lives and our world and that everyone wants to be happy. When one examines the myriad ways individuals suffer and experience stress, in many instances it becomes clear that the cause of suffering isn’t how things are but how one is relating to how things are. Secondly, when one looks further, it is the desire for things to be a certain way or to get rid of certain things that perpetuates stress. When one realizes the role that desire plays with suffering, understanding one’s relationship with it is central if one’s goal is awakening. Through alms mendicancy, a monastic is repeatedly placed in a position to consider the nature of desire and one’s relationship to it. In other words, it forces one to practice and, paradoxically, brings a degree of freedom that is rare.

Secondly, in establishing alms mendicancy as the sole means by which this particular order of contemplatives may obtain their livelihood, one does away with the need for a central organizing committee to oversee the integrity, commitment and way of valuing what is being offered. If the local community doesn’t feel the monastics are living with integrity, if they feel that the way that they live and the effect of drawing near to them has no value, people simply do not support them.

Lastly, when there are people who live with a high level of honesty, harmlessness, and restraint and experience compassion, joy and peace independent of outside circumstances, many are in a position to benefit from drawing near. Alms mendicancy highlights the completely interdependent relationship between the monastics and the people supporting them, ensuring that the benefits spread throughout the community.

Following the Buddha’s own teaching, and in the spirit of free inquiry, it isn’t what others say that is important, but what you know yourself to be true. With that I would like to warmly welcome and invite all to come and see for yourselves what the effect is of being around monastics living as alms mendicants. It is important to know that in monasteries where I have lived only a percentage of the people visiting are Buddhists. People are welcome as they are and there is no encouragement for them to adopt a different faith. What we offer, we offer freely. From the perspective of understanding what it means to stop suffering and live with peace, joy and contentment, there is no price that can reflect what is priceless. When people feel the benefit, their natural inclination is to support.

Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni

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The Thai Forest Tradition

Excerpted with their permission from Abhayagiri Website (www.abhayagiri.org)


The Thai Forest tradition is one branch of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Theravada Buddhism, also known as the Southern School of Buddhism, is present throughout Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. The Theravada tradition is grounded in the discourses recorded in the Pali Canon, the oldest Buddhist scriptures. Theravada literally means the Way of the Elders, and is named so because of its strict adherence to the original teachings and rules of monastic discipline expounded by the Buddha.

The Theravada Buddhist tradition within Thailand is composed of many different strands and types of monasteries. Most villages and towns in Thailand have at least one monastery, which might serve as a place for ceremony, prayer, cultural activity, education and medicine. Thai monasteries differ widely and express a range of functions and approaches to monastic life. Some monasteries focus on chanting and ceremonies; some on study and intellectual pursuits; some on healing and blessings; some on practice and meditation; some cater to local superstition and magic. In city monasteries, monks are often encouraged to focus on study and administrative duties, with a little meditation on the side. In addition to varying in their approach to monastic life, different monasteries also vary widely in terms of how strictly they uphold the Buddhist code of monastic discipline, called the Vinaya.

The Thai Forest tradition is the branch of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand that most strictly holds the original monastic rules of discipline laid down by the Buddha. The Forest tradition also most strongly emphasizes meditative practice and the realization of enlightenment as the focus of monastic life. Forest monasteries are primarily oriented around practicing the Buddha’s path of contemplative insight, including living a life of discipline, renunciation, and meditation in order to fully realize the inner truth and peace taught by the Buddha. Living a life of austerity allows forest monastics to simplify and refine the mind. This refinement allows them to clearly and directly explore the fundamental causes of suffering within their heart and to inwardly cultivate the path leading toward freedom from suffering and supreme happiness. Living frugally, with few possessions fosters for forest monastics the joy of an unburdened life and assists them in subduing greed, pride, and other taints in their minds.

Forest monastics live in daily interaction with and dependence upon the lay community. While laypeople provide the material supports for their renunciant life, such as almsfood and cloth for robes, the monks provide the laity with teachings and spiritual inspiration. Forest monks follow an extensive 227 rules of conduct. They are required to be celibate, to eat only between dawn and noon, and not to handle money. They also commonly engage in a practice known as “tudong” in which they wander on foot through the countryside either on pilgrimage or in search of solitary retreat places in nature. During such wanderings, monks sleep wherever is available and eat only what is offered by laypeople along the way.

Historical Significance of Forest Monasticism

The Forest tradition began in the time of the Buddha and has waxed and waned throughout Buddhist history. Actually, the Forest tradition in one sense even predates the Buddha, as it was a common practice of spiritual seekers in ancient India to leave the life of town and village and wander in the wilderness and mountains. The Buddha himself joined this tradition at age twenty-nine, giving up his life as a prince in order to seek the way beyond birth, aging, sickness, and death.

The Buddha was born in the forest, enlightened in the forest, taught in the forest, and passed away in the forest. Many of his greatest disciples, such as Venerable Añña Kondañña and Venerable Maha Kassapa, were strict forest dwellers who maintained an austere renunciant lifestyle. The Buddha allowed determined forest-dwelling monks, such as these two, to cultivate thirteen special practices, called dhutanga practices, which limited their robes, food, and dwelling places. These special renunciation practices, along with the practice of dwelling in nature provided the fundamental backdrop for Forest monasticism throughout Theravada Buddhist history.

The Buddha’s disciples who chose to undertake these dhutanga practices and live austerely in the forest did so for many reasons: because dwelling in the wilderness with its ruggedness and danger, such as tigers and snakes, provided an excellent arena for spiritual training and overcoming fear; because the wilderness with its simplicity, quietude, and natural beauty provided a place for pleasant, peaceful abiding and joyful meditative concentration; and because living in the forest allowed these monks to compassionately set an example for future generations.

The practices of these early forest dwellers epitomized the Buddha’s teachings and exemplified his path to liberation. Since the Buddha’s time, the discipline of the monastic order as a whole and the vitality and integrity of the Buddha’s teachings have experienced cycles of growth and decline, of deterioration and revival. Throughout these cycles, the original ethos of the Buddha’s teachings has been preserved and revitalized through the example of these early forest-dwelling disciples and through the efforts of later monastics who followed in their footsteps seeking to live lives focused on meditation practice, simplicity, and renunciation.

The way of practice, the teachings, and the codes of monastic conduct which the Buddha expounded 2500 years ago, run deeply against the grain of worldly concerns such as material success, acquisition, wealth, power, fame, pleasure, and status. The presence of a monastic order can be a great boon to a society by providing a source of wisdom, peace, and clarity that transcends these worldly concerns. Alternatively, however, worldly concerns can enter into and distort monastic life. Historically, one way this has happened is when monks and nuns focused on meditation become accomplished in their practice, and then become well-known teachers, drawing to their monasteries many visitors bearing gifts and offerings. The very success and reputation of these teachers draws wealth, power, and fame into the monastery. Without constant heedfulness, the ways of the world might then enter into the monastic order, generating corrupt and obese monastic institutions. In such times, the practice of Forest monasticism by wise and charismatic teachers concerned with spiritual living, discipline, and meditation, rather than institutional rank and official responsibility, plays a crucial role in revitalizing the original ethos of the Buddha’s teachings.

Origins of the Contemporary Thai Forest Tradition

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Buddhism in Thailand had generally become corrupted with lax monastic discipline, teachings straying from the original texts, little emphasis on meditation, and a widespread belief that spiritual accomplishments were no longer possible. In the midst of this waning tradition, determined Buddhist practitioners returned again to the basics of forest living, moral discipline, and meditation in search of the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. The spiritual determination and accomplishments of these forest practitioners led to the emergence of the contemporary Forest tradition in northeastern Thailand. The northeast is one of the most remote and poor areas in Thailand, notable both for its harsh land and it’s remarkably good-humored people; and now for its wise meditation masters.

The emergence of the contemporary Forest tradition is associated largely with Ajahn Mun and his teacher, Ajahn Sao. Both were the sons of peasant farmers in the northeast of Thailand. Ajahn Mun was born in the 1870s in Ubon province near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. He trained under the forest monk Ajahn Sao, vigorously practicing meditation, and then turned to a life of ascetic wandering and meditation practice in the wilderness. Ajahn Mun became a great teacher and exemplar of high standards of conduct. Almost all of the accomplished and revered meditation masters of twentieth century Thailand were either his direct disciples or influenced by him. One of these great meditation masters following in his example was Ajahn Chah.

Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah was born into a large, comfortable family in a rural village of northeast Thailand. In early youth, he ordained as a novice and on reaching the age of twenty took full ordination as a monk. He studied Buddhist teachings and scriptures, but yearning for meditation guidance and dissatisfied with the slack standard of discipline at his monastery, he took on the life of a wandering monk. As a wandering monk, he lived austerely in forests, caves, and cremation ground and sought out the guidance of local meditation teachers, including Ajahn Mun.

In 1954 after many years of travel and practice, he was invited to settle in a dense forest near his birth village. Over time, a large monastery called Wat Pah Pong formed around Ajahn Chah, as monks, nuns, and laypeople came to hear his teachings and train with him. Ajahn Chah’s teachings and community contained elements commonly held throughout the Forest tradition, such as focusing on discipline, moral conduct, meditation, and inner experience, rather than scholarly knowledge. At the same time that these elements were held in common throughout the Forest tradition, every Forest tradition monastery and every Forest teacher also has their own flavor. Ajahn Chah added in his teachings an emphasis on community living and right view as essential aspects of the path to liberation.

Ajahn Chah was remarkable for his integrity, humor, and humanness; for his sense of surrender to spiritual practice and the present moment; and for his ability to connect with people from many backgrounds in a spontaneous, straightforward, and joyous manner. He taught in a simple, yet profound style and emphasized practice in everyday life. As disciples gathered around Ajahn Chah, branch monasteries in his lineage also began to be established. New branch monasteries have continued to be established even after his death in 1992. At present there are more than two hundred Forest branch monasteries in Ajahn Chah’s lineage spread throughout Thailand and the West. Environmental conditions may cause the details of life amongst these many monasteries to vary somewhat; but in all of them, simplicity, heedfulness, and the strict adherence to monastic discipline support and encourage residents to live a pure life focused on the continuous cultivation of virtue, meditation, and wisdom.

The Forest Tradition Goes West

Ajahn Chah’s style of teaching and personality had a unique ability to reach people of other nationalities. Many foreigners came to learn from, train under, and ordain with Ajahn Chah. The first of these was the American-born monk, Ajahn Sumedho. In 1975, a group of Ajahn Chah’s foreign disciples were asked by villagers not far from Ajahn Chah’s monastery to start a new branch monastery. Ajahn Chah agreed, and established Wat Pa Nanachat (International Forest Monastery) near the village of Bung Wai as a monastic training center for internationals. Since that time, Wat Pa Nanachat has become a respected Forest monastery and has opened up additional monastic retreat centers, including some in remote forest and mountain locations. Throughout the main monastery and these additional centers, Wat Pa Nanachat currently includes under its umbrella over fifty monks representing twenty-three nationalities.

In 1976 the English Sangha Trust invited Ajahn Sumedho to establish a Theravada monastery in London. Along with a small group of monks, Ajahn Sumedho heeded the request and established the first branch monastery in Ajahn Chah’s lineage outside of Thailand. Since that time, a number of Ajahn Chah branch monasteries have been created throughout England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the United States.

This development has included the establishment of a community of nuns (siladhara). The first residence specifically for nuns was set up in 1980 close to the Chithurst Monastery and the second in 1984 as part of the Amaravati community.

These monasteries, under the guidance of many of Ajahn Chah’s senior Western disciples, are allowing the example of Forest monasticism to spread westward. They are allowing the direct and simple practice of the Buddha’s original teachings, as it has been preserved in the Forest tradition for 2500 years, to accompany Buddhism as it more generally transfuses throughout and adapts to the Western world.

These monasteries are initiated only at the request of the lay community and are supported entirely by the lay community’s generosity. They provide centers for monastic training, as well as, teaching and practice for the lay community.

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Neuroplasticity and Overcoming Physical Disabilities

This is about neuroplasticity and overcoming physical disabilities. It is awesome!
 
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Adya and love

Self Love

Adya and love

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I Will Not Whisper

I want to talk to you
I will not whisper.
You can live in that silver of darkness forever
and tell yourself lies.
You can blame yourself.
You can blame others.
You can blame God and beyond.
And still that love you are will wait
until you can tell yourself
the lie of denial no more.
And at that very moment
you will see
just how silent Love's embrace can be.
And in that silence
the truth will ring clear.
Love demands everything:
all of your illusions
excuses and fears.
I want to speak to you about Love.
I want to talk to you about
what you will not allow
yourself to be.
I want to talk to you
I will not whisper.

- Adyashanti

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My House

Loved this video!

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=7320

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Welcome to Awakening Truth!

Welcome! "Awakening Truth" is a 501 c3 non-profit run by volunteers to support a Bhikkhuni training monastery for Buddhist nuns, bringing ancient teachings into the modern world.



Artist Name - GM-Loving-Kindness.mp3
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A New Samaneri “Goes Forth”

Our friend Michelle Raymond was part of our extended community for a year and half by attending our retreats and helping us upload talks and maintain the Awakening Truth website before she became an Anagarika with Ayya Tathaaloka and her co – teachers in California.  I share these photos and description with joy.

 Amma 


 
A new Samaneri ‘goes forth’ for the Dhammadharini Nun’s community in California

By Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni

All dear Dhamma friends,

I am returned to our vihara from a beautiful time under the saffron-gold full moon eclipse in the freshness and tranquility of the Awakening Forest ~ at our bhikkhunis’Aranya Bodhi Hermitage.

Not only was it the time of a special full moon super moon with eclipse, but also the 2598th lunar anniversary commemorative day of the founding of our Bhikkhuni Sangha with the Buddha so long ago. And, it was the day of one of the most special events in the life of a woman or any human being who goes forth into the monastic life in this Buddha’s Dispensation: it was the day of a Pabbajja for our dear friend and anagarika, Michelle Raymond.

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Beyond Guilt: A Reflective Approach to Mistakes

Recently, I was at Brian Gravestock’s Bike Clinic – designed to outfit and repair bikes for the homeless and unemployed. I love going there. Conversations with Brian, observing his dedication and the kind and respectful way he deals with his customers is as important to me as getting my bike repaired. I frequently leave the clinic energized, encouraged and inspired.

The bike clinic operates from the garage of a shelter helping homeless men transition to mainstream. While I was there, a well-dressed man from the shelter came up to me and talked at length about my electric bike’s battery. I was impressed by his command of the subject. But I was mystified. I didn’t expect an educated and articulate man to be homeless. When I shared my thoughts, Brian said, “Most people are here because they have gotten into trouble. But I don’t think it is right to judge someone by the worst thing that they have done.” Touched, I reflected more on it. 


Many of us have experienced guilt being been used to shame us into skillful behavior. The problem is that it doesn’t work very well. When we feel guilty we feel bad about ourselves. This can diminish our energy as well as capacity to focus clearly. Without clear focus, it is more likely that we will do the same thing again. When we do the same thing again it can reinforce the idea that we are, in fact, a bad person. It is ironic that guilt contributes to repeating our mistakes. Yet, when we see this, we can be motivated to find a guilt free way to be more skillful.

From a Buddhist perspective, guilt serves no useful purpose. What is extremely important is to separate out the cause-and-effect of the unskillful action and its result from the bad person who is the agent of the action. Looking this way, we can see that there isn’t an enduring bad person that does bad things. Instead, we see the result of unwise attention, unwise action and unskillful results. When we don’t feel like we are a bad person, we aren’t likely to succumb to feelings of toxic shame. Instead we can see that when we do something unskillful, it causes unskillful results. Seeing this, we naturally recoil from causing harm.

Seeing our choices and their results has positive impacts. Rather than drain our energy and loose focus, we are careful not to make the same mistake again. Since there isn’t a “me” that gets configured when we look at the cause and effect, we don’t see ourselves in a fixed way – thinking we are basically bad, stupid or get everything wrong. Likewise, when we see others make mistakes, it makes it a little easier to stay open to their strengths, vulnerabilities and weaknesses, place their actions in context, and stay connected.

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"In This Very Life” – 33 Women Ordained As Bhikkhunis at Gampaha

Dear Venerables & Friends,

I received a note from venerable bhikkhuni Kusuma Theri at Ayya Khema Meditation Center in Sri Lanka today. Ven Kusuma is often called “the first Sri Lankan bhikkhuni [in modern times],” as she was a great pioneer in the reemergence of the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha in one of it’s ancient homelands, Sri Lanka.

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Sexism, Andocentrism, Misogyny (reprinted from Sujato’s blog)

For this post I’d like to examine a little more closely some of the issue around the problem of discrimination against women in the Sangha. This is a hard topic, and there will be much inner resistance to accepting my conclusions here. All I can ask is that the reader be aware of their own responses, and to reflect that the writer, too, has dealt with similar responses over many years in working with these issues. For this piece, I will concentrate on the ‘normal’ form of sexism, where it is men who discriminate against women.

Sexism

First up, what is ‘sexism’? I would give the following definition: sexism is irrelevant or disproportional discrimination against a person based on their gender. Sexism is by definition wrong, since it harms women by depriving them of their full humanity. In a more subtle sense, sexism harms men too, since men’s sense of security is maintained by harming the ones they love.

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Buddhism and women: Calling for Bhikkhuni ordination and gender equality in the Forest Sangha

Dear friends,

Thanissara just sent me this letter. Having known her as a nun at Amaravati and having just come out of the community from which these events have been occurring, I would encourage you to read the letter below and sign the petition if you too are concerned and agree with the points.
Metta,
Ajahn Thanasanti

Dear friends,
I invite you to consider signing this petition http://new.ipetitions.com/petition/bhikkhuni-ordination/

You will see that it is an expression of concern and disagreement in view of:
the lack of acknowledgment regards the legitimacy of the recent Perth Bhikkhuni ordinations undertaken by Ajahn Brahm by the Forest Sangha elders Ajahn Brahm’s consequent expulsion and the delisting of Wat Bodinyana from the lineage of Ajahn Chah the un-negotiated 5 point agreement placed upon the nuns at Chithurst and Amaravati monasteries by the UK male elder council. The UK nuns signed under pressure, in an atmosphere of secrecy, having been made clear to them that no further ordinations would happen without their consent to these five points (which mirror the garudhammas but go further in disallowing them from seeking Bhikkhuni ordination)
This is challenging territory. In the transmission of the Buddhadhamma in the West, in which the monastic community plays a vital role, a culture of dissent is not usually encouraged, or necessarily seen as conducive for practice. However there are moments when right speech is not silence, but is challenge and a respectful invitation into dialogue. I believe in the light of these recent events, this is such a moment.

 

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