I am now back in Thailand after spending eight months in Europe.
Following Ajahn Sucitto's 'retirement party' on November 4th, I travelled to Ireland for teachings. First was a weekend retreat at Sunyata Centre in County Clare on the west coast near to Shannon Airport (www.sunyatacentre.org). The committee of Sunyata would like to offer the ten-acre property to the Sangha as a branch monastery. However, due to a large debt and the unavailability of a senior monk to take on the project, it seems that it will remain a meditation centre in the near future. Besides a purpose-built meditation hall, there are several converted farm buildings and one hut on the ten-acre property, with a small wood and a stream. Located on a hillside, it has an extensive view of the verdant coastal plain and the waves of rain clouds rolling in off the Atlantic. Members of the Thai community in Ireland are very supportive of the idea of a forest monastery, although it is somewhat removed from the population centres of Dublin and Cork.
I then travelled to Cork for two public talks and another weekend retreat. The first public talk, at University College Cork, was attended by some 170 people as it was linked to a conference on mental health. The second talk was at the hall of the village where I stayed overlooking Cork harbour, to introduce the setting up of a weekly meditation group. Another weekend retreat of 20 appreciative people was organized in a very quiet holiday Oyster Haven resort on the south coast.
I ended my Irish trip with an evening talk in Dublin organized by the Irish Sangha Trust, and then took an early morning flight to Rome. After a few quiet and sunny days at Santacittarama,, I caught my return flight to Thailand on November 22.
Santacittarama (orange building in centre), amongst vineyards and olive groves.
I had a few days in Bangkok to recover from jet lag, and then travelled to Petchaboon province in north-central Thailand for a five-day Thai retreat in the Turtle Hut 'spiritual resort' in the hills. It is a very pleasant place with four-star accommodation and gardens for walking meditation.
Turtle Hut Spiritual Resort, Kow Kho, Petchaboon.
Nearby is a branch monastery set up by Ajahn Achalo on a scenic hilltop adjacent to a National Park. Although he has only been there for four years, the monastery already has five huts, a large senior monk's cottage with a library beneath and an adjacent property for nuns and female guests. Ajahn Achalo has built various shrines based on the Buddhist Holy Sites in India, such as Vulture's Peak, and designed a stupa and the buildings to reflect Nepalese style.
I spent a very relaxed and pleasant week there, and then arranged to travel into the remote branch hermitage near the Burmese border, where I will be until early January. Since I shall be there over the New Year, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Joyful New Year 2015.