Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rupavati emerges from nine-month solitary at Naga-Naga, Australia

Naga-Naga is a little-known FWBO women’s vihara in Eastern Australia, some way south of Brisbane. It was created upon land traditionally owned by the Dhungutti nation and developed as a place dedicated to women’s spiritual practise by its previous owner, Minmia, a senior Wiradjiri woman. When the FWBO took it over, they included in their vision their intention to provide support to women who are serious Buddhist practitioners, particularly those who are ordained or seeking ordination in the Western Buddhist Order; also to live in harmony with and to promote the well being of the land its inhabitants, both seen and unseen.

Among other projects they offer facilities for women to engage in long solitary retreats; FWBO News has recently received this report from Rupavati, newly emerged from a nine-month retreat there. She says -

“In June last year I was newly arrived at Naganaga Vihara. I was planning a nine-month solitary retreat – it was yet to begin and I was looking forward to a road trip first.

“All that is far behind me now. My retreat finished towards the end of April this year, and as I slowly emerged from that I gradually merged into the community and their annual May ‘Rains Retreat’. During my time alone everyone in the community - Megha, Padmalaya, Satyagandhi and Viryadana – had been a wonderful support, bringing me my weekly food shopping, replenishing gas cylinders and other requests as need arose. I am extremely grateful to them all, especially Satyagandhi, for creating such a safe and beautiful situation.

“The retreat itself was a huge internal adventure. Being continuously face to face with my mind for that length of time was a sobering experience. From where does it all come? As my awareness developed and intensified, as I engaged more and more deeply and fully with my sadhana practices and formless meditation, I felt sometimes as if I were inhabiting an alternative world or life, an all-enveloping hallucination. Then my awareness would return and I would remember the illusory nature of this existence too. I reflected often on Emptiness, something I had not done in years. Going deep into my body and looking at atoms that are more space than matter (remember the Tao of Physics?) and seeing form and emptiness. This was reflection not experiential but gave me a feel for the illusory nature of my body.

“Towards the end of the retreat I became aware that I was engaging with a much more subtle level of my body. What I have learned is ongoing, pathways yet to be explored, new doors opening in my practice.

“The caravan I inhabited was in a beautiful setting. From my sofa outside I could see the Macleay River and across to the mountainous hills opposite. Everything was lush and green as we had a very wet summer. I walked daily in the valley by the river, sometimes just sitting beside it watching it flow, and enjoying the multitude of wildlife. I walked late in the afternoon when the sun began to lose the intensity of heat, the sun slanting through the leaves of the trees and gleaming on the rich chestnut-coloured cows and their beautiful little calves. It has been quite a wrench to leave all that and engage with the world again.

“Now I am back in New Zealand, slowly relaxing into a very different beauty and serenity. I'm here until mid-October when I return to the UK and my life in London. Lastly I'll just mention how very much I enjoyed a sense of being in touch with the wider Order during my solitary – although I was alone I read the Order’s monthly journal ‘Shabda’ treating myself to a few letters or an article in bed each night. Much love to all in our Sangha.


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