I’ve spent the last 3 weeks at Tisarana Buddhist Monastery, outside of Perth, Ontario. The monastery is located in a forested, flat area with many bogs and lakes nearby. With all the water sources come friendly mosquitos, black flies, various other flying insects, and ticks, necessitating liberal applications of DEET.
Despite the bugs, it’s been an enjoyable time. The monastery schedule is similar to most: morning service, followed by breakfast, a work period, lunch, and then meditation/practice on one’s own until the evening service. The abbot of the monastery, Ajahn Viradhammo, is very similar to my main teacher, Ajahn Pasanno at Abhayagiri. He also has spent over forty years as a monk in this tradition, and is warm-hearted and easy going. Coming recently from Abhayagiri, it’s been like staying at “uncle Ajahn Viradhammo’s place”. Although he number of monastics is about half the size of Abhayagiri’s, the warmth of community is no less.
I was picked up at the Ottawa train station by local supporters whom I’ve met at previous gatherings, and given a place to stay for the night (not to mention some delicious Sri Lankan food as well) before being taken out to the monastery the next day. There were several visits by local supporters who offered meals to the monastery throughout my stay here, and it’s great to see the place so well supported.
There’s been abundant wildlife around here, with deer, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks raccoons, turtles, birds and frogs. Each morning, we have whippoorwill alarm clocks that go off outside our windows. Although the idea of reaching out one’s window and patting the birds gently on the head seems amusing to think about, there’s no snooze button on the whippoorwill alarm clock. Just as well, since morning meditation starts at 5AM.
I’ve explored the local area on foot (and canoe) and found some beautiful places, but once again it’s been the people who have really made the stay enjoyable. While some who know me may find this hard to believe, I used to be pretty shy, to the point where some mistakenly thought me as snobbish since I didn’t talk much. I think working in medicine, and probably Buddhism as well, has certainly brought me out of that shell to a large degree. Although I’m still quite content to be on my own, more and more I find the joy in making new friends and sharing with others, and this trip is weaving a beautiful tapestry of connections as I go along.