Dear Sangha Friends,
As Gunopeta, a friend in downeast Maine recently said, ‘The sap is rising’. What encouraging words to hear at this not-yet-warm time of year! The winter will turn to spring. The days are longer already, with more than 11 hours from sunrise to sunset. And the equinox is in a mere 2 weeks!
In short, we’ve made it. We are just about through the winter. I hope that you have come this far unscathed. And I’m happy to share that Aryaloka has done just that.
As you know, the Center remains closed for classes and retreats. However it is not abandoned by any means. I asked Roddy Cole and Paul Dupre, who are at the Center regularly, to share a few of the things they have been doing and noticing at Aryaloka over the many months of closure.
Roddy, who cares for the plants at Aryaloka, writes:
“I visit the center weekly to care for our plants. They are like silent sentries watching over our building but each time I climb the stairs I anticipate seeing them just as if I’d be seeing my sangha friends. With the varying temperature settings in different parts of the building I’ve moved some plants around and all are thriving.
It’s a unique opportunity to be alone in the building. I feel the infusion of wisdom and Metta in every bit of the space. In the shrine room, after a brief, chilly sit, I always ring the big gong and before locking up I ring the big outdoor gong. I like the neighborhood to remember we are there and imagine the vibrations making their way to you all. I’m hopeful we will be together there before long.”
And Paul, caretaker, writes of his daily inspections of the buildings:
“First there are the usual winter tasks.of clearing snow from walks and outside stairs, putting the generators in place, spreading sand and salt when needed, checking for damage after storms. I check the heating systems every day, sometimes twice when bitterly cold, and I take fallen branches from the driveway and parking areas.”
Paul has fixed several doors around the place with new or repaired latches, fresh paint, and weather-stripping. These chores strike me as like tending to the vajra walls around the mandala, protecting against the winter winds.
In addition to these two guardians, the Center has been occupied by several solitary retreatants and a weekly visit for quiet meditation by a local Order member. For the first time since the pandemic, a small retreat group of three will live in the domes while attending an online Training for Ordination retreat at the end of March.
Meantime the rest of us have been seeing each other regularly on zoom. Three or four classes meet each week and there is at least one, sometimes two, online retreats each month – all well attended. Thank you to everyone in the sangha who is participating and helping to keep the flames of spiritual friendship and Dharma practice brightly lit.
Our intention going forward is to watch the patterns of the pandemic. As more people receive the vaccine we will consider opening for small gatherings, but we do continue to be cautious. When we can re-open the doors or hold outdoor gatherings our plan is to continue online activities as well. These have become valuable points of contact for folks who do not live near Aryaloka and we will keep those online avenues open. The Center will eventually have three kinds of events: in person, hybrid (in person with online capability) and online. Won’t we be busy then!
The governing groups at Aryaloka have met regularly all along – our Board of Directors meets monthly and the Spiritual Vitality Council checks in every two weeks. In December 2020 we welcomed Dhammarati into our midst as a new Center President. Based at Adhisthana, in the UK, Dhammarati will be joining governance meetings and the occasional retreat to support and be a friend to Aryaloka. Our finances are in good shape and we have not had to dip into reserves. Raise a great cheer for that! And to yourselves for your generous contributions, for the Payroll support grant in 2020, and for the strength of programs that bring in income. Please also raise a hand for our Center Manager, Suddhayu. He has worked steadily throughout these strange times; he has raised our visibility in social media, led Tuesday Friends’ Nights with Dharmasukta without a break, and has helped create retreats with compelling themes and excellent leaders. It is Suddhayu we hear from every week to let us know about current programs.
My own contact with friends connected to Aryaloka has been consistent for all these months of closure, and I hope I am not alone in feeling the support and bond of sangha. If you have any doubt about whether zoom can be a viable means of making spiritual progress and finding friends on the path, I encourage you to just keep coming and keep sharing yourself with us. The heart-doors are open.
I send a sincere wish for your good health and a contented mind/heart. May we meet often and realize the Dharma together – online or in person later this year.
Chair of the Spiritual Vitality Council at Aryaloka