Speedbumps and the Vassa

From Tahn Pamutto: “One of my root teachers, Luang Por Pasanno, once famously exclaimed, “It’s illegal to live simply in this country!” That became something of a running joke at Abhayagiri Monastery in northern California, where ever stricter building codes have made it incredibly expensive to build even the tiniest structure. You can’t just nail some boards together – everything must be able to simultaneously withstand both forest fires and earthquakes. That means concrete, metal rebar, and elaborate fire-suppression measures.

Yet, with a devout lay community and a long-cultivated spirit of compliance with the fussy Building and Planning Commission, Abhayagiri has managed to build everything they originally set out to (and survived said forest fires along the way). They are a model of steady growth and a stable monastic training environment.

Though I no longer live there, Abhayagiri Monastery’s long uphill battle to afford ever more expensive structures is part of my monastic DNA. I was there, watching and learning. Last year, when I set my mind to return to western Massachusetts to start a dhamma practice center, I knew what I would be up against. Every improvement has a cost.

It’s illegal to live simply here! You would think it wouldn’t be too hard for a couple of Buddhist monks to get together and practice diligently, but you would be wrong. Our laws and societal structures are built around a very narrow definition of living, and monasticism, to say nothing of forest monasticism, was not in the consideration.

There are these four requisites of life – Clothing, Food, Shelter, and Medicines. That is the simplest definition of human needs, and for years I traveled this area content with the bare minimum: almsfood placed in my bowl, three thick robes, sleeping in the forest, and only the supplies I could carry on my back.

I learned over time, though, that only individuals can aspire to live by the minimums. The moment you seek to bring others along for the journey, needs multiply and laws and societal structures start to kick in. Complications arise. And yet, curiously, in those places you succeed and the conditions for practice are stabilized, interested dhamma friends seem to show up as if summoned.

Thus, I’ve spent much of the last three weeks puzzling over the fate of Upavana’s ‘mobile temple’. There have been a number of requests by monastics and lay people to visit and perhaps join for the summer. Both the Leverett site and camper weren’t yet fit for the expansion. In every place I thought to expand, I ran across a lack of resources and even legal considerations. The more people, the more visible a movement becomes. But through perseverance and flexibility, I think the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place.

After one of the many speedbumps to finding a place to park the camper — a town Board of Health that wasn’t sure if camping on private property was even legal in their town — a friend who was frustrated by the matter turned to me and said, “Well, if I’m this upset, I can only imagine how you feel.”

Curiously, I didn’t feel anything. “Maybe I’m just in shock.” I said. “But it doesn’t seem like a big deal.” It was potentially a major setback, yet somehow I knew if I stayed on course, I would still get where I was going. It wasn’t about results, but having a clear trajectory that could tolerate the bumps.

All of this – finding a site, repairing structures, deciding who to live with — is happening like clockwork and occurs every year at this time. We are about to enter the period of the Indian calendar known as Vassa, the monsoon season [Vassa sure sounds a lot like Water, doesn’t it?]. During this time the intense rains make it impractical to travel. Monks are required to secure a shelter or shelters and determine a region to live three months of this four-month season.

We used to joke in California that we were keeping the Rains Retreat in the driest part of the year, but this is already the third wettest July on record and we’re barely half through the month. Nevertheless, two monastic friends are undaunted and arrive on Monday to see if Upavana might provide a place to train for the season.

More on them when they arrive. In the meantime, I’m set up in the town of Wendell, the densely forested hill-town with a warm and inviting community of less than a thousand people. This was the first place I came on my wandering in 2015 and the first place I spent a Vassa on the road. The ability to go almsround every day provided the perfect nourishment for my growth in the disciplines of wandering. How very circular that Upavana’s sangha should arrive here first to begin it’s own journey!”

Finding Our Center

Last night during the tea time another perennial question came up – how are we supposed to relate to the differences between the Buddhist traditions, and which practices should we take up or avoid?

The first part of the question is mostly historical. The three main branches of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana – are designations for styles of practice from different regions and cultures. Theravada (tare – uh – vahd – uh) came from India and migrated to Southeast Asia; Mahayana branched up through China and to the Far East, and Vajrayana is centered around Tibet and Nepal.

What differs in terms of doctrine or beliefs between the three branches is (mostly) centered around the willingness to recognize teachings from after the Buddha. The Theravada formed out of a desire to focus again and again on the original teachings and commentaries, while the Mahayana and Vajrayana flourished through recognizing new ideas and source material. None of the three stances is definitive, and each person tends to know intuitively what resonates with them.

It might seem that you could categorically describe any of the three branches by their chanting, or vows, or favorite teachings, but the more you travel and look around the more you see how diverse each branch is. They are each over a thousand years old and encompass numerous cultures. Any practice or austerity you can find in one is found somewhere in the others. They all draw their inspiration from Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and the realized and well-practiced proponents of each branch dwell in harmony and respect for the others. In the beginning, the roots of all three schools dwelt together in central India, even in the same monasteries. While they might not practice the same, it’s as though they say, “What you do works too. Practice well!”

The spirit of the tolerance of differences is at the heart of the Buddha’s most famous teachings. In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha encourages the Kalama people to give up hearsay, blind faith and guesswork, and instead ask, “When I practice in this way, do wholesome states increase and unwholesome states decrease?”

This is the standard we can use when we are visiting other centers or seeking a practice to call our own. Don’t just trust what you’ve heard about others or make snap judgments. Try it and see for yourself. If it doesn’t work for you, trust your judgment. Move on when you have a better option.

We have a blessing that is also a curse in the modern world. Choice. Virtually anywhere you go you will have access to all three Buddhist traditions and a buffet of options for practice. I’m currently staying in a hilltown in western Masschusetts with a population of 850 – and yet all three traditions are represented at the weekly meditation group.

We have access to all the teachers, all the books, all the chants and rituals … how do we pick? Should we pick, or should we just use them all? I say this is also a curse because, perhaps you’ve heard the simile of the hundred wells? “Which is more likely to find water: digging one hundred one-foot wells or one, one-hundred foot well?” The answer is fairly obvious. Picking and choosing will make us a very balanced practitioner on the surface, but as the goal of the practice leads in the direction of learning from discomfort and relinquishing preferences, forever shopping around will prevent us from reaching the deeper truths each tradition seeks.

Yet plugging away at a practice that doesn’t suit us for decades is no more likely to bear fruit. This is the balance we strike, the ever-evolving Middle Way. We can be clear about which teachers we choose, which practices, which colors and bells and bows – all without being attached. Neither clinging to, nor pushing away. We trust ourselves; we trust what works for us.

This is the simplest advice to offer one trying to find their place in the world of spiritual practice: Your seeking for the right conditions and right fit for you is actually part of the practice. Learning both to let go and to devote yourself fully will develop your faith and wisdom. So don’t be afraid to try new things – the Buddhist world is vast – but when you find something that works, go for it.

Three Refuges and Eight Precepts

This is one example of the formal ceremony for requesting the Three Refuges and Eight Precepts, as is done every Uposatha observance.  A representative of the gathered community will make the Request of the ceremeony leader, who may be a monastic or respected lay practitioner.  The Leader will then guide the community through the ceremony through call and response.

Aṭṭhaṅga‧Sīla‧Yācanā (Request)

Community Representative: Okāsa mayaṃ Bhante* tisaraṇena saha aṭṭha‧sīlāni yācāma

Dutiyam pi okāsa … (repeat above)

Tatiyam pi okāsa … (repeat above)

Tisaraṇa (Refuges)

Leader: Yam ahaṃ vadāmi taṃ vadetha.**( Singular: vadesi)

Community: Āma Bhante*

Leader: Namo tassa Bhagavato arahato sammā‧sambuddhassa.

(Leader says once alone, Community repeats 3 times)

Leader, followed by Community:

Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Dutiyam pi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Dutiyam pi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Dutiyam pi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Tatiyam pi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Tatiyam pi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Tatiyam pi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.4

Leader: Tisaraṇa‧gamanaṃ sampuṇṇaṃ.

Community: Āma Bhante*

* Chant Bhante for a Bhikkhu, Ayye from a Bhikkhuni, Mitte (friend) for a layperson.

 

Aṭṭhaṅga‧Sīla (Eight Precepts)

Leader, then repeated by Community:

1. Pāṇātipātā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

2. Adinnādānā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

3. Abrahmacariyā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

4. Musā vādā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

5. Surā ‧ meraya ‧ majja ‧ pamādaṭṭhānā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

6. Vikāla bhojanā ‧ veramaṇī‧sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

7. Nacca ‧ gīta ‧ vādita ‧ visūka dassana ‧ mālā ‧ gandha ‧ vilepana‧

dhāraṇa ‧ maṇḍana ‧ vibhūsanaṭṭhānā ‧ veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

8. Uccā sayana ‧ mahā sayanā ‧ veramaṇī‧sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

Leader:

Imāni aṭṭha sikkhāpadāni samādiyāmi.

Sīlena sugatiṃ yanti,

Sīlena bhoga‧sampadā,

Sīlena nibbutiṃ yanti,

Tasmā sīlaṃ visodhaye.

Community: Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!

 

Requesting a Dhamma Talk

(After bowing three times, with hands joined in añjali, recite the following:)

Brahmā ca lokādhipati Sahampati

Katañjali andhivaraṃ ayācatha

Santīdha sattāpparajakkha-jātikā

Desetu dhammaṃ anukampimaṃ pajaṃ

The Brahma Sahampati, Lord of the World,

With hands palm to palm before his heart, requested a blessing:

“There are beings here with only a little dust in their eyes.

Please, out of compassion, teach the dhamma.”

 

(English) Request for the Three Refuges & Eight Precepts 

Community: Permit us, Bhante*,  to ask for the three refuges together with the Eight precepts.

A second time permit us … (repeat above)

A third time permit us … (repeat above)

The Three Refuges

Leader: Repeat after me.

Community: Yes, Bhante*

Leader/Community: Homage to the Sublime One, the Worthy One, the Fully  Enlightened One. (Monk says once alone, Laity repeats 3 times)

Leader: followed by Community:

I go to the Buddha for refuge.

I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

I go to the Sangha for refuge.

A second time I go to the Buddha for refuge.

A second time I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

A second time I go to the Sangha for refuge.

A third time I go to the Buddha for refuge.

A third time I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

A third time I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Leader: The three refuges are complete.

Community: Yes, Bhante*

 

The Eight Precepts 

Leader, then repeated by Community:

1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.

2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.

3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from all sexual activity. 4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.

5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from intoxicating drinks and   drugs causing heedlessness.

6. I undertake the training rule to abstain from eating at improper times.

7. I undertake the training rule to abstain from dancing, singing, music, shows, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and

beautifying with cosmetics.

8. I undertake the training rule to abstain from the use of high and large seats and beds.

Leader/ Community: I undertake this set of eight precepts.   (Monastic says once, Laity repeats 3 times)

Community: Yes, Bhante/Ayya.

Leader: With morality, good rebirth is gained;

With morality, wealth is achieved;

With morality, perfect peace is attained.

Therefore, morality should be purified.

Community: Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

Practice with Family

At times it feels like there are two different narratives going on around spiritual practice – the clear, direct, meditative path of becoming peaceful and serene like a Buddha statue; and then what practice is actually like day to day.  One is an ideal that we get to strive for whenever we have time to ourselves and a meditation cushion.  But the other is a reality shared by everyone.  We are not already enlightened – we have attachments, delusions, and expectations, and even if we didn’t we would inevitably be surrounded by people who do!

While it might seem like the interactions with others are the most difficult part of practice, they are also the most visibly rewarding.  Over time we can really see how we start the practice opinionated, controlling and resentful, only to blossom into a caring and empathetic human being.  Nowhere is the transformation more apparent than in our relationship to our family.

Who knows us better, or can push our buttons as well?  The day we were born there were bonds of relationship formed with parents, siblings, and relatives that will endure our entire lives.  And no matter how much we may want the best for them, push our buttons they will!  For if we have found ourselves born into a group of people in this endless swirl of samsara then we have probably been going round and round in family relationships with them for a long, long time, trying to find love and acceptance but often creating divisions.

Last night for the Uposatha, Tahn Pamutto was inspired by the ‘small talk’ conversations of Buddhist practice, the ones that have been overlooked and abbreviated in the major Buddhist texts.  What is the best thing we can do for our family, and how do we understand these seemingly unbreakable bonds so that we can love and let go?

Can Laypeople Become Enlightened?

Recently I was traveling with a friend when I was asked a perennial Theravada Buddhist question – “Can laypeople become arahants?” It’s a fairly sophisticated question, requiring a knowledge of Buddhist doctrine and a familiarity with the monastic order, at least enough to recognize the esteem monastics are usually held in.

Like most teachers asked the question, I usually dance around the matter a bit. You see, the definitions are wrong. While it’s true, the number of historic lay arahants number in the single digits, the actual form of monasticism available to or practiced by all the other arahants has differed wildly through the centuries. Sometimes ordination wasn’t even possible … but still, the goal was reached.

The first arahants were beckoned into the dispensation of their teacher, the Buddha, with the words, “Come, bhikkhu.” Modern day arahants, however, have usually been ordained in one form or another for decades before their full awakening. Seeing the difference, one is forced to conclude it’s not the ordination itself that conveys the possibility of enlightenment.

It might be a radical notion, but I ask you to consider: is there some other way to look at the question of what is needed to become an arahant? While it’s true, the overwhelming majority of enlightened beings have worn the robes of a monastic, there IS something they have shared with the lay arahants.

“Just as a glow on the horizon is a harbinger of the rising of the sun, so one thing is a harbinger of the arising of the Noble Eightfold Path. What one thing? Good friendship.” (SN 45:56–62)

Suppose you turn the question around, and instead ask, “What is it monasticism provides that supports the “utter destruction of craving”, the “unsurpassed liberation of the heart through non-clinging.”? Most lay people know monasticism only by its chafing surface features – the renunciation, the rules, the ceremony and etiquette. Thus, the question of lay arahants arises as a reaction to the things they feel they are being asked to give up.

And yet, past those obvious features of monasticism, I am aware of no arahant who attained enlightenement without friends. Teachers, peers, companions, and students. Even the Buddha himself, upon hav

ing reached his goal, thought with fondness to repaying the kindness of his meditation teachers Alara and Udaka.

When we think about those things monasticism provides and what it demands, we can look past the shaven heads, the ocher robes, the rules and meditation and discipline. All of those things have changed and evolved through history. But the essence of the Going Forth, its real heart, has not changed in 2600 years. It’s still summed up in the image of the Buddha’s first urging – “Come, bhikkhu.”

No arahant reaches the final goal of spiritual practice alone. Whether or not a practitioner says, “No,” to shaven heads, to fasting, to celibacy – do they say “Yes” to being part of something bigger than themselves? Can they agree to heeding the wise counsel of another, to accepting assistance on this difficult journey? For those committed to the utmost, this is what the taking of ordination vows represents.

Even if there is renunciation, and ritual, and rules, there is something the monastic is seeking when they take the Going Forth beyond all that. They are surrendering to the acceptance that they themselves need help and support. While Good Friendship is not only found in monastics, it’s what we seek when we take this step. We’re not seeking to rise triumphant to the top of some peak. We’re merely wanting to claim a seat beside the greats who have come before. The ordination is the chance to join a community of noble people.

Seeing this, hopefully, one can settle this long-running debate in their heart. Cultivate a love of good friends, and an inclination towards fellowship with the wise and noble. If this ripens in monasticism, so be it. But it will certainly serve you very well on your path.

When It Rains It Pours

Lots of news!

News, like the rain, is rarely purely good or purely bad, but a mix of both. For instance, in the materialistic West, the approach to rain is often as the destroyer of vacations and the ruiner of fun. Hench the children’s rhyme – “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day!” Yet in the East the monsoon rains flood the fields and grow the rice. Rain is seen as the benevolence of protector spirits and dragons, and is only an adversary when it fails to arrive on time or comes too generously and floods the villages.

Maybe our approach to rain in America says something about why our News is almost all Bad News. The reality of the situation is often more in the middle. Good, welcome news brings challenges, and hard, unwelcome news brings opportunity for change.

Because of all the things going on, there’s been less time and energy for updates to the facebook and webpage. But, like the weather, this is just part of a cycle that will come around again.

The first piece of news is that Upavana Foundation has finally received confirmation of its status as a 501.c3 Non-Profit. This won’t have many affects in the short term, but will absolve it from having to pay taxes and will make donations to it tax-deductible. There are a wealth of resources to help non-profits flourish – we just need to find them! After many long months of waiting (the process of applying for non-profit status used to take only weeks pre-covid), it’s hard to know where to begin.

Second, several monastic friends have asked to join the fold, coming up to visit and spend some time with Tahn Pamutto in Massachusetts starting in July. It’s always a delight to connect with and support other monastics; at the same time, it will be an interesting logistical challenge to find a place where three monastics can both come together in practice and spread out to live comfortably. In the short term, the community will probably need a new spot for the mobile-temple, and offers of meals and supplies will be even more helpful to be sure they can continue the lead the holy life in earnest.

Third, Upavana was offered a professionally-built website based on the old website. This new site is in WordPress, something which Tahn Pamutto (who, by the way, lives in the woods) is not familiar with. The new site is up and running, though we’d be happy to talk with anyone who is very familiar with the WordPress system who might be able to help with changes to the set-up and design to better suit the different avenues of Upavana’s mission.

Finally, with more friends getting involved, it’s becoming easier to offer things to the community and breathe life into things that have gone dormant during COVID, like local Meditation Groups and Retreats. Tomorrow Tahn Pamutto will sit in on the first meeting of a group in the small town of Wendell that ran every Sunday for years before the lockdowns. It’s not easy for one person to be in many places, but that’s the default for many people! So if you’re nearby and looking to connect with good people, drop us a line or just keep an eye on the website for updates about activities in your area.

This Full Moon will be the beginning of the Rain’s Retreat, a time of stability for monastics during the monsoon. Though we don’t (usually) have quite so much rain during this time of year, it’s a great opportunity to fix up a structure, get comfortable, and develop a close connection with the community. Let it rain!

Our First Retreat

Upavana’s first in-person/online retreat was a big success! Many thanks to everyone who helped out, especially our retreat coordinator Alex, our hosts Donna, Sandy, and Issa, Lusiana and family who provided delicious food for everybody, and for everyone who joined and helped spread the word. By the final talk, when Zoom had had enough and the livestream was slipping, the feeling of camaraderie was palpable.

Samadhi was the theme of the retreat, and that was our focus – to create a relaxed and focused space for practice and to support each other in developing confidence in the main exercise of meditation. Anyone who would like to revisit the talks or run the schedule for themselves in the future, the full retreat is available at the link provided below.

The mission of Upavana is not any particular structure or service, but to support the growth of dhamma, practitioners, and community. In this experimental retreat we were able to demonstrate that all of that could come together flawlessly from little more than a date and an intention.

Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of the retreat was the ability to connect together as meditators, and to help each other describe a meditation experience that is relaxing and purposeful in equal measure.

Have you ever thrown a party and no one came, only to turn on your computer to see all your friends sharing your party from their own space? Pandemic life is so weird!! In some ways it was a tremendous relief that most of the in-person attendants, including some possible other monastics, weren’t able to make it. Even with a doubled online presence, there was no extra work to be done. I don’t think I’ve ever emerged from a retreat as refreshed and relaxed! And that’s maybe the best sign for the growth of Upavana’s resources and reach – that the retreat ended with spaces fresher, fridges fuller, and organizers more ready for the next retreat.

A space has been offered for a retreat towards the end of next month. Anyone who would be interested in helping organize the online aspect of the retreat, including postings, Zoom room management, and scheduling, please visit www.upavana.org and get in contact with us.

Many blessings for continued practice through the heat of June!

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhHe4p1yupnvjz2sLxWVbDjDYrmC0Ul71

Retreat Underway

Despite many planning hurdles, everything is coming together for our first meditation retreat. It will be held this weekend, starting with an opening talk and the taking of the Refuges and Precepts tomorrow evening. It will conclude Sunday at 5pm.

The schedule and location for online livestreams/recordings, as well as info about participating in the Question and Answer session or having an interview with the teacher (limited to participants running the full retreat), can be found at:

https://www.upavana.org/retreat

Upcoming Meditation Retreat

Despite many planning hurdles, everything is coming together for our first meditation retreat. It will be held this weekend, starting with an opening talk and the taking of the Refuges and Precepts tomorrow evening. It will conclude Sunday at 5pm.

The schedule and location for online livestreams/recordings, as well as info about participating in the Question and Answer session or having an interview with the teacher (limited to participants running the full retreat), can be found at:

https://www.upavana.org/retreat

The Temple is Done

I’ve heard a story – probably much embellished by this point – that once there was a new Dhamma Hall commissioned to be built at Wat Suan Mokh, the late Ajahn Buddhadasa’s monastery. The plans were drawn and materials ordered, but the construction itself dragged on and on. Workers would lose necessary tools, things would be done wrong and need to be re-done, and many times the monks themselves would barely get tools unpacked before the bell rang for the meal or evening pūjā.

Years passed this way. Finally, one day while sitting with the Ajahn, a lay follower complained. “Ajahn! When will the Dhamma Hall ever be finished?!”

“What do you mean?” Ajahn Buddhadasa responded. “It’s done!” When his followers gaped at him incredulously, he explained further. “Every evening when we pack the tools away, the hall is finished. Didn’t we start using it as soon as the floor was poured? We don’t carry our work into the next day like a burden. When the tools are away, the hall is finished.”

I feel much the same way about the camper in the Bamboo Grove. Sure, it’s rough. There’s insulation poking out and I recently put a hole in the ceiling to investigate a leak. It’s hot in the sun and cold at night. But, no matter how much work gets done, or how much seems to remain, all through the day I find myself sweeping the dust to one side, finding a place to sit, and settling. Ah, done at last.

The dhutaṇga’s, the austere practices, do cultivate this sort of contentment. After all, just try setting up in a forest grove and getting it FINISHED. There is no such thing. You’ll hardly get it swept (and good luck, there’s no flat ground in the forest) when a gust of wind will scatter the place in fresh leaves and pinecones.

On a deeper level, the task is already done precisely because it IS impermanent. This is not the first shrine room whose construction I’ve overseen, nor will it be the last. It’s not even the best or a stepping stone to something greater yet. Life, after all, doesn’t move in a linear progression. Fortunes come and go. I’ve lived in multi-million-dollar monasteries, and I’ve sheltered under a tarp in the woods. One didn’t lead to the other. I just woke up each morning and said, “Aha. This is where I’m at now.”

Likewise with the temple, there is no final phase of the project in which everything will be complete and everyone will be happy. In some ways it’s the things yet unfinished – the places where someone can be a part of the process – that draws people in. Happiness is not found in external conditions, it’s to be found within ourselves. In each moment, in each situation.

The real temple isn’t land or lumber – the bricks of the temple are the people. While each person is bringing their resources, skills, and artistic touches, they are also taking a moment to step out of the busy lives they lead to do something together. They lend a hand, they make a connection, they breathe easier after making an offering. The mortar that keeps it all together is the wholesome mindstates we bring.

“Even royal chariots wear out;

This body too wastes away.

But the dhamma of the good doesn’t age.

For the good pass it on to the good.” Dhp 152

It’s delightful to be on the side watching the physical temple and community take shape, bit by bit. There’s a beautiful new shrine, pots, pans, candles and incense; friends near and far have sent coffee and tea for cold mornings and every day my bowl has been filled. Meditators and friends are coming by ones and twos, and group sittings are just around the corner. Some will participate and others are happy just to support.

As for the hole in the ceiling – pay it no mind! It’s a good deed waiting to happen. 🙂 The temple is done.