Giving Tuesday

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For those who have been interested in supporting Upavana and its growing mission to nurture buddhist community locally and abroad: this coming Tuesday, starting at 8am EST, is Giving Tuesday on Facebook. This fundraiser is a once-a-year event where Facebook will match all donations given to 501.c3 Non-profit’s like Upavana. All donations are tax-deductible.

Even if you don’t use Facebook, it’s possible to make donations and check our wish list on the Support Page.

This year, the cause is: Please support Upavana Foundation with it’s Shelter Fund, which will help pay for expanded living accommodations for monastics in Western Mass. These facilities are not simply hermitages but will allow the monastics to receive guests, host meditations, and broadcast online dhamma activities. Help us create safe spaces for dhamma practice to grow!

Dear Season

The Upavana working retreat, themed around Mettā practice, has wrapped up. It’s always wonderful to dedicate time to sincere Mettā! It was not a time without challenges or work to be done, but everything is so much easier to hold when the mind is full of goodwill. The recordings of the hour-long morning and evening sessions (including 45 minute meditations) can be found at:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhHe4p1yupnsjTLAFhFYqmovqwFIuc4dJ

The retreat coincided with the end of the formal ‘robe season’, the traditional time of making robes, in which Tahn Pamutto was able to sew not one but two warm new robes for the coming winter.

The time has come for Tahn Pamutto to mothball the mobile temple for a month. Deer season is a volatile time to be a wandering forest monk, especially one who wears deer-colored robes. Conversely, it’s a great time to head to the city to heal up, repair and acquire requisites, and spend time with family and friends. Tahn Pamutto will be in New York City at Vihara Parivara Dhamma Acala until just before Christmas. If you are in the city feel free to reach out to find out what dhamma activities he’ll be leading/joining. The usual online activities, including Wednesday tea times and Uposatha gatherings, will continue unaffected.

The new year will bring new opportunities to practice. For buddhists, every day is thanksgiving! Thank you for your support!

Mettā Program starts tomorrow

This coming week, we’ll be experimenting with a new program: a “soft” or “working” retreat. Basically, this means we’ll be practicing together in the morning and evening, and developing a theme through the week. Morning session is at 6am-7am, and evening session is at 7-8pm. We’ll go Monday to Friday, with the extra session on Wednesday night including a chance for discussion. They will be on Zoom and recorded to the Innovative Dhamma YouTube channel.
 
The theme is Mettā, or Goodwill. Many of us already know about the benefits of practicing Mettā but there are so many good contemplations for its development, it can really pay off to set some time aside to just focus on it.
 
Mettā is most beneficial when we manage to take it with us off the cushion and into the rest of our daily lives. If you have the chance, come join the Zoom session or integrate the one-hour recordings into your day and see if it helps remind you to open your heart at the right moment.

Dividing Time

The website and online front of Upavana have been pretty quiet and dusty the last two weeks. As when this has happened in the past, it’s usually a pretty safe bet it’s because Tahn Pamutto has been spending his time in the rustic mobile temple where local community is strong and loving, but cell and wifi signals are the not. This represents an important part of monastic life and the quietude most supportive for contemplation. The two Saturday ‘Days of Mindfulness’ have been incredibly quiet and productive! The small town of Wendell is also a great place to practice compassion and give and receive teachings on life.

The rest of the month though will be a period of dividing time, also spending time in Shelburne, MA, where most of the retreats and online teachings have taken place. Here the sangha can be accessible and have easy access to resources and communication, which increases reach.

The fact that practice and access is so different in these two locations, and that both are equally valid modes of building community, is precisely why Upavana exists as a non-profit rather than a single forest temple. What we learn from practicing Buddhism on the many frontiers of America is that the needs of each community, and sometimes each town, can be very different. People practice the dhamma everywhere, and everywhere Sangha is a support.

In the future there will be people and interest enough to manage both modes of practice and being simultaneously. Until then, learning how to properly manage time is the practice. Meditation teaches us the pain of multi-tasking we are sometimes eager to overlook – it’s never pleasant to do many things at once and the divided mind is far less effective. This doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish many things simultaneously. It just involves training ourselves to do one thing at a time with our complete attention, as in meditation, but be able to change what that thing is without sticking or getting distracted along the way.

The coming two weeks will see a renewed effort to build the online community. We’ll have our Tea Time Chat on Wednesday, and the online Uposatha Friday. Next week from Monday to Friday we’ll do our first ‘Working Retreat’, a chance to develop Mettā with meditation, chanting, and reflections at the beginning of the day before we head to work and the end to help us wind down and learn.

Following this period the mobile temple will go quiet. Deer Season begins December 1st– a great time for forest monks in fawn-colored robes to depart for the city. Tahn Pamutto will be joining friends in NYC and will be active there until Christmas.

Migrations

The vassa is now fully over, and monastics are back to traveling freely and seeking the most suitable places to practice. Bhante Sumano and Tahn Tānakāro, who have been in Western Mass since July, have departed to spend time in NYC, visit other monasteries and traditions, and plan to connect with fellow monastics on the west coast.

Their growth and ordination answers a question few would have thought to ask – is it possible to equip and train monastics without the security net of an established temple or organization? Time and again, sincere practitioners remind us that there’s no need to wonder ‘What do we need to practice?”. Buddhist practice requires very little beyond the food and support provided by community and friends, and the true situation is the other way around: practice is the very thing needed for other things, like temples and organizations and sitting groups, to flourish.

Last Sunday was their final day, with the three monastics parting ways while attending the Kathina festival at Wat Pa Thai Thavorn in Albany. It was quite the gathering of monastics and lay people from both NYC and the greater Albany area, but predictably it was hampered and cut short by cold, rainy late-autumn weather.

Tahn Pamutto has returned to Wendell, where the renewed flexibility of being on his own will allow him to coordinate a variety of new events to keep Upavana developing. Saturdays will be devoted to In-Person mindfulness, meditation, and sutta study, while Sundays will be spent with the local community attending a well-established Buddhist meditation group.

A quick review of the last year shows how many different locations have been host to Upavana events! The time is drawing near for a solid home base with the amenities for both In-Person and Online gatherings. Anyone with ideas is encouraged to contact info@upavana.org

Anumodana!

Many blessings to all our generous benefactors, both local and abroad, who’ve provided funds, material and skills to get Upavana ready for the coming winter. Thanks to our local friends Rich and Jonathan, the mobile temple has a new woodstove installed and wood donated to ward off the coming cold. Our indonesian friends got together and made a collection to rent a portable toilet service for that space, certainly to benefit visitors in the coming weeks. And an offer has been extended of an apartment space for monastics to shelter during storms, bathe and do laundry. All of these things together mean that even when the snows fly, the practice can continue.

Even though they are practicing to be content with whatever comes their way, supporting three monks day after day is no easy task. Unlike many monasteries that overcome the uncertainty of almsround by running a kitchen, the monks are living together with no support staff. Gratitude to our many meal donors and friends in the town of Wendell who have consistently filled our bowls on almsround. We have not gone hungry!

Special thanks to the Indonesian Buddhist Family of NYC, the Wat Thai Thavorn sangha and community, the Cambodian community of Leverett, and our many friends on Facebook and Upavana.org who have made financial contributions! Last but not least, thank you to everyone who has been watching the wish list and donating needed items, often only days after they are posted.

Uposatha Tonight

Tea with Tahn is cancelled tonight in favor of the Uposatha observance, being held online from where it first began in January at Vihara Parivaravihara Dhamma Acala. The program starts at 8pm.

Upavana Foundation info@upavana.org

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