July Update

Luang Por Sumedho’s VisitAjahn Pavaro

It’s a normal summer morning: The big lawn is being mowed; rooms are being cleaned; hardwood planks are being worked on the jointer; a trip to the dump has cleared our recycling bins. The Dhamma Hall is also slowly being raised, block by  block. Yet over much of July things were charged with a unique spirit, as all the  normal routines and tasks of the monastery were weighed and variously considered  in preparation for the visit by Luang Por Sumedho.  

The first week of the stay was kept deliberately quiet, as Luang Por – accompanied  by his skillful, longtime upatak Ajahn Asoko – settled in after a full period at  Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery and on the West Coast. It was Luang Por Viradhammo’s wish that the visit contain plenty of open time for our senior-most  Elder. This meant it was not feasible to arrange public talks or events beyond a day or so in advance. Nevertheless, the Tisarana community, some additional guests, and fortunate day-visitors did have several opportunities to hear Dhamma  reflections, pay respects, and receive Luang Por Sumedho’s blessings.  

Some talks are now posted on Tisarana’s YouTube channel, including one here, which he delivered on Asalha Puja, as Buddhist monastics the world over enter the Rains season.

The largest gathering during Luang Por’s stay brought members of the Indian and Indonesian communities in the Toronto area. They came to offer robes, and gratefully received Luang Por’s encouragement around their intention to organise a traditional offering ceremony for the purpose of generating donations for the Dhamma Hall’s construction.  

The major ‘outing’ of Luang Por’s visit was an afternoon boat ride on Lower Rideau Lake. Its leisurely pace was interrupted only in the final minutes when Crawford, our vigilant host, suddenly opened the throttle in response to a massive thunder head forming. The dramatic storm erupted only minutes after our final dash to the dock landed us, suitably snug and dry, in the cars.  

At various times all of the Tisarana monastics were able to have personal meetings with Luang Por. Late in the month Venerable Rahula – in Ottawa from his centre in Maryland to teach – was also able to make time to visit with Luang Por. In addition, Ayya Medhanandi and Ayya Anuruddha from Sati Saraniya appreciated an  opportunity to visit and receive his encouragement. Mornings often found our Abbot spending time with Luang Por. In addition to my own appreciation for seeing Luang Por Sumedho once again, it was a recurrent pleasure to feel the daily gratitude Luang Por Viradhammo had for being with his elder teacher and dear companion through the decades.  

It was indeed a tremendous honour for us at Tisarana to host Luang Por Sumedho. The gentle presence of his spacious and wise spirit can still be felt.  

As I write this in early August, Luang Por Sumedho and Ajahn Asoko are now  engaged in a site-seeing journey around Newfoundland, accompanied by Luang Por Viradhammo, and driven by our steward Niraso and frequent visitor/assistant Viboon. Regarding this special trip, we wish to gratefully acknowledge the  generosity of the many supporters who offered funds. (Photos are posted here.)

In fact, a significant element to all of Luang Por Sumedho’s visit has been the  degree to which dozens of Tisarana friends and supporters assisted, whether with donations of food, colourful flower offerings, or help with cleaning – and always  suffused with buoyant good cheer. Special note can be made of Dtai, a Thai chef who, thanks to Aree and Dow, was able to donate a full week of work in the kitchen. (He intends to receive Bhikkhu ordination early next year in Thailand –  Sadhu!) Our resident stewards Michelle and Niraso were, as always, indispensable. In addition, the presence of Ajahn Santi – here with us over the Vassa – was very  fortunate. His experience assisting Luang Por Sumedho during his years living at Ratanawan provided welcome support for the Ajahn Asoko.  

Near the very end of his stay, the Tisarana community had the good fortune to host Luang Por on his eighty-eighth birthday. The day offered an occasion for a warm gathering under our large tent, with chanted blessings before the meal. Because it was also the day prior to his departure, the monks and residents later gathered for Paritta chanting and to make the customary request for forgiveness. The gathering  also included an Asian hand-washing ceremony, frequently part of a birthday gathering for a teacher. Much to everyone’s delight, the ceremony concluded with Luang Por sprinkling those in attendance with blessed, fragrant water.  

To conclude, the following verse is from a short text translated from ancient Sanskrit by Ven. Amarasiri and recited during Luang Por Sumedho’s birthday gathering: 

That which speech fails to describe, the state of True Being, 
is realised only when all speech ends.
That dissolution of all causality is even greater than the Most High, 
that Pure Presence of the Sage.