We are writing earlier than expected, with wonderful news.
Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project signed a lease on 29th November, for a three-bed property in Oxford- our first temporary "Bhikkhuni Residence." This pivotal step is the outcome of three years of dedicated hard work and the many beautiful new spiritual friendships that have developed through serving in Dhamma together.
Although the primary purpose of the Bhikkhuni Residence is just that: a dwelling place from where I (Ven Canda) can continue to develop foundations for a future "Forest Monastery," we will also be open for guests to visit and serve from mid-January until the end of June, 2019 and hold regular meditation and teaching sessions for the public.
View on route from London to Oxford, from the train
Last week I was still in Australia
, as Caroline (Anukampa's Co-chair) heightened her online search for furnished rental options in Totnes and Oxford. We had already ruled out a house in Totnes two weeks earlier due to it's location on a noisy road and were aware of the scarcity of options in that town, when an unexpected email arrived from Donna McCarthy, of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis. On 20th November she wrote to me (from San Diego) thus:
"I noticed on your website a request for temporary lodgings. I have an old friend who lives in Oxford and I sent him an email to see if he might know of anything.
By the way, George and I met about 1965 while we were both teachers at the Government Secondary School in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia. He was with the VSO and I was with the US Peace Corps. Also assigned to Semporna around that time was another Peace Corps Volunteer named Bob Jackman. He had a Master’s in Asian studies, spoke Chinese fluently and had a Buddhist practice. At the end of his two years of services, he went to Thailand and trained as a Buddhist monk, eventually with Ajahn Chah. His religious name is one you might recognize ……Ajahn (now Luang Por) Sumedho!! What a small world, eh?
By the way number two, one of our board members is currently working on a Master’s degree in Buddhist studies at Oxford. I imagine she will be in touch with you, if she hasn’t already, when she gets a breather from her studies."
That same day, Caroline notified me of a potentially suitable house
- in Oxford no less- which was immediately available to view, so I contacted Donna's friends (George had just returned from Nepal!) and an Oxford-based friend of mine. All three replied straight away, offering to view the house. Their feedback was unanimously positive- the property seemed fit for our purposes, being both quiet yet conveniently located, within a 30 minute walk from the train station and five minutes from direct bus lines to London, Heathrow and Gatwick. Naturally, there were other interested parties, so we were given just two days to decide.
Making a decision from the other side of the world
is tricky, but trust in the team on the ground and intuition helped. Within a couple of hours I let go of hopes for an idyllic rural life in Devon (for now!) and started to get excited about the speedy serendipity of things falling into place with Oxford. All that remained now was to talk it through with our Wise Teacher and Adviser, Ajahn Brahm. Ajahn was busy teaching a retreat, but realising the urgency of the situation called that evening. Animatedly, we agreed that Oxford, with the advantage of accessibility and a thriving Dhamma scene, would be a good move at this stage. It would also enable me to continue to develop the existing volunteer team and support network in the London area, before moving further afield later on. With an encouraging "Go for it!" from Ajahn, we were ready to confirm our intentions to the owner and the deal was (verbally) done!
I arrived back in England on 27th November
and yesterday, on 29th, a supporter accompanied me to view the house and sign the lease. Adrenalin overcame jet-lag for a while!
Happy journeying to Oxford with Anna
Signing the lease, with Anna as witness
Just as lovely
as seeing the house was meeting the owner's son. A gentle, friendly man, Harry told me that his mother, who is suffering from dementia, would have been very happy to know that her former home was being rented to a Buddhist group. We also spoke about reviving the Bhikkhuni Order in the Theravada Tradition and he expressed sincere interest and support. In the end he had to rush to collect his children from school, emphasising that having daughters gives his part in our project extra meaning.
Speaking with Harry in the attic room and the small outdoor courtyard
I am really looking forward to moving in mid-January
and making the place feel like a homely Vihara
(Monastic Residence) for all to share! In the meantime I look forward to meeting many of you at Ajahn Brahm's events next week, (the Oxford talk now all the more meaningful!) and will be in touch with additional news and details on applying to visit our Bhikkhuni Residence, soon afterwards.
Calling Anukampa's Treasurer to give the go-ahead for the deposit. Lounge (or meditation room?) in the background.
"Happily we live without yearning among those who yearn,
Among those who yearn, we dwell without yearning."
(Dhammapada 15: 3, "The Happiness Chapter")
With deep loving kindness and enormous gratitude,
Ven Canda and The Anukampa Team
To make a donation towards our rental/living costs, please visit the Anukampa Project Donations page or use the button below.