Our Visit to Cittaviveka, Chithurst Buddhist Monastery

Last Sunday a group of us from several of the Buddhist groups on the island travelled to the mainland to visit Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst.

The nuns meditation hall and khuti at Āloka. The khuti is also used by visitors.

Down by the lake in the centre of the wood……………………………………….

“In the spring of 1978, one of those small miracles happened that stop the mind’s rational expectations. Keeping to the apparently pointless routine of going out for alms every day, as prescribed by Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho encountered a lone jogger on Hampstead Heath whose attention was arrested by the bhikkhus’ appearance. This jogger had acquired an overgrown forest in West Sussex called Hammer Wood, out of the wish to restore it to its former glory – but he also understood that this was work for more than one man and one lifetime. Although not a Buddhist, he had the openness of mind to appreciate that an order of forest monks might be the perfect wardens for his woodland. Subsequently, he attended one of the ten-day meditation retreats that Ajahn Sumedho held at the Oaken Holt Buddhist Centre near Oxford, and later made an outright gift of the forest to the Sangha. This marvellous act of generosity did of necessity involve a lot of legalities, as local bye-laws prevented the construction of any permanent structures on forest land, so in this situation the Sangha gratefully accepted the invitation to stay instead at Oaken Holt for the ‘Rains’ of 1978 and let the Trust sort things out.

Early in 1979 Ajahn Chah was invited to England to see how his disciples were making out; it was also about this time that George Sharp (Chairman of the English Sangha Trust), hearing that a large house near Hammer Wood was up for sale, agreed to purchase it. This was Chithurst House, and its purchase was a gamble that did not meet with unanimous approval. Buying the property had necessitated selling the Vihara and the adjacent town house whose rent had provided the basis for support for the Sangha – in order to purchase an unsurveyed and ramshackle mansion. In May, Ajahn Chah arrived, somewhat disturbed by rumours of his disciples’ activities, to find a monastic community that actually had nowhere to live. The new owners allowed the Sangha to use the Vihara for a couple of months to receive the Venerable Ajahn and to effect their move. In this atmosphere of insecurity, Ajahn Chah added one more doubt by intimating that he was going to take Ajahn Sumedho back to Thailand. While the Sangha members watched their minds, he went off to America for a visit and there was nothing else to do but go ahead. On 22nd June 1979, having bundled as much as they could into a removal van, the Sangha left London for Sussex.”

From How the Buddha Came to Sussex by Ajahn Sucitto

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