Category Archives: Abhayagiri

Choosing to Follow

Have recently returned from an intense week at Wat Metta followed by another at Wat Abhayagiri under the guidance of two brilliant Masters (neither of whom would approve of my saying so but there you go, too late now). Ajahn Thanissaro coaxed, teased and flattened a particularly insatiable (and less than beautiful) habit of mine followed by Ajahn Pasanno shoveling up the pieces only to walk away leaving me to follow or wallow, the choice of course is mine.

The benefits of these master’s guidance have led to palatable results and encourages me to follow their lead. The most noticable benefit thus far is felt within the very challenges I alluded to in my previous post. Though these challenges are still present they now arise within a settled heart and mind. I hope to learn how to lean toward, settle into and remain in this contented space. Given time and a whole lot of effort perhaps my appreciation of good teachers will deepen along with a recognition of all they put up with in guiding folks like me ;)

This Buddha statue stands 52 feet and considered to be the highest free-standing Buddha statue of the world.

Snow at Abhayagiri

Apparently parts of California are experincing their fair share of snow this winter. Here’s a few photo’s just in from Abhayagiri monastery . . .

Letting My Hair Down

I began this blog with a somewhat narrow ambition: create a space to share the joy that arises from my activities with the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. As the Buddhist center grows I’m finding my involvement and responsibilities appropriately shifting and surprise, surprise, the changes do not always lead to the arising of joy, heh, heh, heh. Hmmmmm . . . My focus for this blog is no longer quite so lofty. Rather, it now expands to a broader purpose of sharing my practice via the challenges and rewards that arise while aiming toward noble and skilfull balance. Kind of like letting go of blissful expectations; let the hair down, the wind blow and the tangles be known. So, in the spirit of sharing “This Upasika Life”, let the blogging proceed.

Notice the top knot of the Buddh’as hair in his lap

A bit of history: Portland Friends of the Dhamma sprung out of a desire to establish and nourish a sense of contact with the Abhayagiri community. As this contact grew I began to seek out others who also found the Ajahn Chah lineage inspiring and began to invite a person here and there, to gather together in the style of the Abhayagiri Monastery.

Within a few months I met Barbara Backstrand and Chris Robson, it was clear we shared a deep appreciation for our meditation styles and decided to anchor our connection with Abhayagiri. We wrote a mission statement, signed a lease on a lovely space and founded the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. That was nearly eight years ago. Barbara and Chris have both moved on, the community has grown and my role as founder is now changing.

The morphing of a founder’s responsibilities is not always an easy or pleasant undertaking. Still I believe it is a necessary step for any expanding community that intends to remain healthy and available to all it draws toward its purpose. I hope to write about the process of morphing, how to approach this as a follower of the Buddha’s example and as one living well “This Upasika Life”.


Meeting Ruth

Ruth Dennison whirled through the Abhayagiri Monastery in good speed and with good deed. I was lucky to have traveled the 626 southerly miles a few days earlier and hence present for Ruth’s Dhamma. I was touched by her manners, her easy courage and natural strength. There she sat in the top corner of the darkened shrine room. Candlelight emphasized a sparkling mind and wrinkled body.

Growing up I hadn’t recognize a female role model to emulate. Understandably so as few could live up to the lofty standards scripted in the Catholic publications delivered weekly in our mailbox. There were so many amazing women, all of them strong, honest and dead. It was easy to project wisdom in their silence. At six years of age I could figure it out; my family wasn’t silent, so my family wasn’t wise . . .

Ruth didn’t care when she meandered or that she would sometimes fall asleep between pauses. It was all just part of her expression, part of her truth, part of her Dhamma.
At 53 I should be able to figure this out. I met up with a female I wanted to emulate, and she wasn’t silent, and she wasn’t dead.

Mosier Hermitage Comes to its End

Tempatures dip and the rains return to carpet autumn leaves underfoot. The Mosier Summer Hermitage comes to a close. In seven days we’ll pack up the tents, fold up the blankets and send the monks on their way. It’s been a valuable experiment, I’m pleased how many folks took advantage of these venerables presence over these past three months. Maybe, with luck and a lot of good work, we’ll have a monastic presence here year round.