May this Vesāk find you in good health and at peace with the way things are.
It has been two years since my mum died and high time I composed a few words about life at Tisarana. I’m a frightfully lazy fellow when it comes to writing and would generally rather be doing something practical with my hands.
Reflecting back to the time spent with my mum in the last decade of her life, I experience a lot of joy in the memory of our time spent together. Mum lived well beyond what she expected her span would be and in the end she was very, very tired. Every now and then she would say, “Perhaps the reason I have lived so long is so that your monastery in Perth could get established.” Her words often come to mind as Tisarana grows in the early spring of its life.
This year I experienced my first winter retreat at Tisarana and now that the cold season has passed I am enjoying the unfolding beauty of spring: the return of the dawn-chorus of songbirds, the bright green of the emerging maple leaves and the smell of the earth. I finally feel that I have landed at Tisarana and it feels good. Hopefully this old body has a few more years of vitality and I will be able to participate in the growth of Tisarana for some time to come.
A tremendous amount has been accomplished under Ajahn Kusalo’s resourceful and energetic guidance. His last project, the Kusala sala, serves us well as both meditation hall and refectory. We have built enough kutis for the time being and the lay guests have good accommodation facilities in the main house. The old horse-barn has been renovated into a workshop and a rudimentary road gives our old Ford pickup truck access to the kutis and the back of the property.
Six years ago when we first spoke to the county planners about our application to be a monastery, we were granted permission to build twelve kutis and two additional structures: a monks’ utility building and a largish meditation hall. Because we have only one shower for everyone staying at Tisarana (this can mean 12 or more people), we have decided that the monks’ utility building is our next priority.
The township council’s originally vague definition of the monks’ utility building gives us a lot of scope for this building but we have permission for only one such facility. We have carefully pondered the structure’s design in light of what the Sangha might need in the next 25 years in order that the bhikkhus, samaneras, anagarikas and stewards have appropriate facilities.
The major features of the new building will be: showers, toilets, a laundry area, a monks’ office, two guest rooms for visiting monks, and a library/meditation room. Having just been with my elderly mother I immediately thought to include a space to care for elderly monks. Since I’m the oldest fellow on campus (having just entered my 67th year) that would probably be me! Therefore one of the rooms will be a largish office that can convert into a living space for an elderly monk. Years ago when Ajahn Kusalo was sick with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy he used our existing, small office as a sick room in order to be near a bathroom and assistance, so a room for sick monks that can double as a guest room for visiting monks is needed. All these rooms add up to a sizable structure.
Fortunately the township planners approved our design for the monks’ utility building, as outlined above. And even more fortunately, when friends in Kuala Lumpur heard of our need they pledged the bulk of the funds required for this large capital project. Together with some donations from Thailand, we now have secured 90% of the funds necessary to pay for the building. Construction is set to begin in the coming months. Professional tradesmen will be employed to carry out the building work because of its large scale.
Building a monastery from scratch creates the conditions for the Sangha to grow and the possibility for many people to experience the Buddha-Dhamma as a way of meaningful living. A vibrant community of monks is a critical foundation to allow for teachers at Tisarana to reach out to the lay community through activities such as Dhamma talks and meditation retreats. May we all flourish in this good work and may our efforts be of benefit for many beings both now and in future generations.