Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Back in California

Back in California for the winter-S.F. Bay
Hi Friends,

After the cold snowy retreat at the Birken monastery in Canada, I've been in sunny warm California staying primarily at the home of my mother in Riverside while conducting periodic Dhamma/meditation programs in various locations.  In December I conducted two weekend retreats, one in Santa Barbara and another near San Jose and had the opportunity to visit three monasteries north of San Francisco.
I stayed with two Dhamma friends in Santa Rosa and was taken to visit the Aranya Bodhi Forest Monastery for Bhikkunis. This is the first forest monastery established exclusively for female Theravada monastics.  Ayya Sobhana, who was ordained as a samaneri at the Bhavana Society,
is the senior bhikkhuni residing there. The monastery is located in a remote area of the mountains near the coastline and Russian River. Ayya Sobhana got her training in building a forest monastery while living at the Bhavana Society and she is putting her construction experience to good use.  With the help of local supporters they have built several kutis and have a kitchen and shrine room, with other improvements on they way. As the property is off the grid they rely on solar power and propane.  At the time of my visit (December 16th) there was just one samaneri (female novice) living there with Ayya Sobhana. I had lunch with them in the small shrine room. The following day I visited Ayya Tathaloka at the new Dharmadharani Vihara in Santa Rosa. 

 Catholic retreat center in Santa Barbara

A little yoga before the morning meditation

Alcatraz Island in S.F. Bay

San Franscisco Skyline

Ayya Sobhana on the porch of kuti at the Aranya Bodhi Monastery

 Solar panels

 Ayya Sobhana explaining the history of this Korean stupa located in a clearing of the forest

Inside the shrine room

In a grove of old growth redwood trees

The new Dharmadharani Vihara near Santa Rosa

AyyaTathaloka (left) with other bhikkhuni and Anagarika

Greeting the neighboring Lama

From Santa Rosa I was driven an  hour and a half north to visit the large Abhayagiri Forest Monastery. This is the largest Theravada Forest Monastery in the US. It is a branch of the Ajahn Chah group of monasteries and has over 15 bhikkhus and novices living there. There are over 15 kutis spread throughout the hundred plus mountainous acres of land about ten miles from the city of Ukiah. I have visigted Abhayagiri about 7 years ago. On this visit I met several of the monks known by me and many more newer or younger monks. Ajhan Passano, the abbot was on a visit in Thailand at the time. Ajahn Karunadhammo leads the sangha while the Ajahn Passano is away.  It was quite impressive to see the rapid positive growth of the sangha.
At the time the resident monks and anagarikas (monks in waiting) were busy working to prepare the monastery for their three months winter retreat starting on January 1st.

Entrance Sign to Abhayagiri Monastery

Foundation of the new Sala

View across the valley

The monk mobile

Map of the Monastery property with trails

Plants and wildlife 

New monks utility building up the hill

Kuti where I stayed one night 

Walking meditation path at each kuti

Main meeting hall for meals and meditation 

The Sangha

Looking up to the top of Mt. San Antonio/Baldy; ele  10,064 ft.

 Devils backbone; narrow trail with steep dropoff on each side

Views from the top 

 Huntington Beach on January 3rd; temperature 73 degrees F

Surfers with Santa Catalina Island 26 miles across the sea

The Queen Mary at Long Beach

Leaving the California coast 

Seals on a buoy

 Dolphins playing with the boat 

Avalon Harbor 

Leaving Catalina at sunset

You can consult the travel teaching page to see where I'll be in the following months.

May the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha continue to light up the path to Freedom from Dukkha.