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The latest edition of this file lives on the World Wide Web at: Send updates and corrections to: -------------------------------------------------------------------- METTA FOREST MONASTERY P.O. Box 1409 Valley Center, CA 92082 (1 hour from San Diego) -------------------------------------------------------------------- Metta Forest Monastery (Wat Mettavanaram, or "Wat Metta" for short) is a Thai forest monastery established recently in the rural hills outside of San Diego. Residential meditation retreats are usually offered on the Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, and Columbus Day weekends. Individual short- or long-term self-retreats may also be made by arrangement with the Abbot, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff, an American). If you are interested in visiting Wat Metta, please write to the Abbot at the above address. The following article, which appeared in abbreviated form in _Inquiring Mind_ in 1993 (?) may help give you a flavor of the place. * * * FROM SAN DIEGO WITH METTA by Thanissaro Bhikkhu A new Dhamma center--Metta Forest Monastery--is developing in the mountains of northern San Diego County. At the moment it consists of a tract of land with a few temporary buildings, a small community of people and a plan. The purpose of this article is to notify any meditators who might be interested in visiting the land, getting to know the people, or giving their input to the plan and helping to make it a reality. The place ========= The land is a 60-acre avocado grove located on a hill surrounded by chaparral, with Indian land on two sides and a spectacular view of Mt. Palomar to the east. The location is very secluded and--a rarity for Southern California--the air is clean and smells of wild rosemary and sage: an ideal place for meditation. The grove is only ten years old, and so is still relatively wild, with coyotes, an occasional fox and deer and enough rattlesnakes to make mindfulness mandatory. The people ========== The community is a mixture of American, Thai and Laotian Buddhists. This is also a rarity. Most Buddhist communities in the U.S. are either primarily for Asians or primarily for Americans, as the aims and expectations of the two groups can often be incompatible. Metta's hope is that the Dhamma and Vinaya originally taught by the Buddha, and as free as possible from later cultural accretions, Asian or American, will provide a common meeting ground for serious Buddhists of all backgrounds. The spiritual head of the community is Ven. Ajaan Suwat Suvaco, a Thai monk with 50 years in the robes. He has lived in the U.S. for the last ten years, but for the 40 years before that he spent most of his time training in the forests of Thailand under some of the most respected teachers of the Thai forest tradition. He himself is very highly regarded by his fellow members in the tradition. For those who are unfamiliar with the forest tradition, it started in the last century as an offshoot of the Dhammayut reform movement lead by Prince Mongkut (later King Rama IV, of The King and I fame). When Prince Mongkut was first ordained, he found Thai Buddhism in a shambles caused by the Burmese sacking of the Thai capital in the late 18th century. In his personal quest to recover the original Buddhist teachings and to practice strictly in accordance with them, Prince Mongkut developed a following which eventually became the Dhammayut Sect. At first this was largely a scholarly group centered in cities and towns, but towards the end of the last century, two of its members--Ven. Ajaan Sao Kantasilo and Ven. Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto--took it one step closer to the original teachings by going into the forest to practice meditation, since it was in the forest that Buddhism began. This is a point whose importance is hard to over-emphasize. The goal of Buddhist meditation has always been to take one beyond the relative truths of one's cultural conditioning--and ultimately, even beyond the relativities of time and space--to an absolute truth which can be found only inside, at the point where mind and body meet. This requires the sort of solitude that is best achieved when one is alone with nature, able to observe what is left of one's 'self' when removed from society's norms and concerns. In light of this fact, the forest tradition has long emphasized the need for solitary practice--the usual setting is a small hut or cave in the forest, with one's own seat and path for meditation--and this has become one of the characteristic features of the tradition. Another is its wide repertoire of concentration and insight techniques. The tradition recognizes that different techniques work for different people, and within a very broad framework, one is encouraged to find the techniques that work best for one, and to work at them persistently. Among the usual starting techniques for gaining a solid basis in concentration are breath meditation (Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, one of the forest masters, developed a very sophisticated breath meditation technique), buddho recitation and the contemplation of the elements and parts of the body. Another characteristic feature of the tradition is its emphasis on high moral standards, and on using the 13 classical ascetic practices--such as eating no more than one meal a day--as tools for overcoming one's most basic attachments. Over the course of the years Ajaan Sao and Ajaan Mun inspired many others--men and woman, lay and ordained--to take up the meditative life in the forest as well, to the point where the forest tradition is now one of the largest and most respected meditation traditions in Thailand, and has attracted large numbers of Western followers. In setting up Metta Forest Monastery, Ajaan Suwat hopes to make the forest tradition--or, more importantly, the original Dhamma and Vinaya of the Buddha--available to all Americans who are seriously interested in reaching the goal the Buddha taught. A number of Thais and Americans are helping him in this endeavor, including an American monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), who trained for 14 years within the forest tradition in Thailand before returning to help with Metta. Ven. Thanissaro practiced breath meditation under a student of Ajaan Lee for his first nine years in Thailand, up to his teacher's death in 1986, and since then he has been teaching meditation in Thailand, Singapore and now the U.S.. The plan for Metta is to build both a monastery where men may receive full-time training as bhikkhus, and a center where laypeople can come for individual short-term or long-term meditation retreats within the balanced pattern of lay-monastic relationships designed by the Buddha. (An affiliated center where women may ordain as nuns is tentatively set for a later date.) The building plans for Metta are still in the hearing stage, and the specific plans for how the center is to be organized and run are still relatively fluid. Thus any constructive input is more than welcome. If you are interested in more information, or would like to help in any way, contact Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Metta Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082. May all beings be happy. * * * Updated: 17 Apr 95 Expires: ?? Sources used: Thanissaro Bhikkhu [end]


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