Dear friends of Tisarana,
I am drafting this New Year’s letter, flying on a 747 high over the Arctic, just having the crossed the Bering Straights and now heading south over Russia, mainland China and then on to Hong Kong. I’m on my way to Thailand for a bit of teaching and a touch of monkish vacation.
I trust your year has been edifying and your practice of the Buddha-Dhamma has deepened and broadened your understanding of life. I hope you are well. I have had a very rewarding year, filled with the ups and downs of worldly existence yet always buoyed by the lightness of knowing the way things are. Our Tisarana sangha is well, living in harmony and diligently practicing the Buddha’s way.
I am glad to report that we have now moved into the new bhikkhu vihara. I have a somewhat fatherly feeling of happiness in seeing the sangha has such good facilities for bathing, meditation, office work and all the amenities of life that are so necessary in this cold climate. Building such facilities in tropical countries like Thailand is relatively straight forward. There are many, many people to lend a helping hand and the building requirements are relatively minimal because of the warm climate and less stringent building codes. Here in Canada, however, to build such an impressive building as our bhikkhu vihara is a major achievement considering our small numbers. May we all applaud the good and diligent efforts of our Tisarana community.
So many people have been involved in this endeavor that to name them all would inevitably lead to the error of missing a few. Perhaps it is enough to say that we are deeply honored by the trust and generosity of our many supporters and helpers throughout the world. May our practice of the Dhamma-Vinaya be a tribute to the Buddha’s teaching and an inspiration to our lay friends.
I have been pondering my calendar for next year and through my discussions with the sangha it has become obvious that it would be good if I spent more time at Tisarana and also more time on personal retreat. I have thus cancelled some of my scheduled teaching engagements for next year so my apologies to the organizers of those events. My batteries don’t recharge as quickly as they once did, so a more open diary should be good for me.
As for future developments at Tisarana, our main projects still to be realized are first, the enlarging and renovation of our kitchen and second, the construction of an adequate meditation hall. Our present hall can only hold 25 people for meditation so the need is there. We are in the first stage of design and we have already done several renditions. From time to time you will see design proposals on our website and then they will disappear as we work towards a suitable building that is not beyond our means.
Designing a building is a slow process of much collaboration and many possible solutions are modeled before something agreeable begins to take shape. Quite often a design we dislike will tell us what we do like. In Thai they say ‘pit pen kroo’ – ‘mistake is teacher’. It will take many years to gather the resources, develop the design, and finally do the actual construction but I hope we can create something that is meaningful and useful for all of us.
Our own practice of the Dhamma has a similar requirement of repetition and experiment before our doubts are quenched and the path is clear. Reading about the practices that various Buddhist meditation masters have undertaken, I am always struck by their diligent questioning of the teachings, looking profoundly at their own very ordinary, human predicament to realize for themselves the end of suffering. Through the journey of their practice they go from trust and faith in the Buddha’s words to insight and confidence in the way things are.
This movement from faith to confidence, from knowledge to insight, from doubt to certainty is the way the Buddha’s teachings have been transforming human minds for the last two and a half millennia. Hopefully, our collective efforts at Tisarana are of some inspiration for each of our individual journeys as we face the challenges of each day and gain confidence in the teachings by applying them to our everyday, real-time lives.
What would I wish for all of us in this coming year? Certainly good health, prosperity, good friendships and deep peace plus a list of goodness as long as lists can be. But also, I would wish us all the profound insight that things are as they are and hidden in the simple observation that what arises, passes away, lies a possibility of well-being beyond our imagining.
From the Sangha at Tisarana
Happy New Year