by Ajahn Amaro 2013 English

Beginnings

Perhaps it is impossible to say where anything really begins, nevertheless, it can be useful to map out a few landmarks here and there. Accordingly, here is a little of the background against and amongst which much of the thread of these travelogues unravels.

In the early 1980s Ajahn Sumedho began to make regular visits to northern California. He was the senior Western disciple of Ajahn Chah, one of the most highly respected Buddhist masters of the Thai forest tradition of Theravāda Buddhism, and he had been invited to come and teach in the US by Jack Kornfield, a former Peace Corps volunteer and psychologist, with whom he had spent some time in Thailand, in the late ’60s, when they were both monks under Ajahn Chah’s tutelage.

Jack had left the monk’s robes after returning to the States in the early ’70s and, with his friends Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and Jacqueline Schwarz (now Mandell), had embarked upon establishing the Buddhist retreat center in Massachusetts called Insight Meditation Society (IMS). This had met with great success but had also revealed some differences in styles of teaching and practice amongst the founders. These differences, along with the massive interest in Buddhist meditation that was brewing in northern California, led Jack back to his city of origin, San Francisco, to found a parallel center to IMS on the West Coast. When it eventually came into being the new place became known as Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

These annual invitations to California were doubly attractive to Ajahn Sumedho in that, not only being an American and an alumnus of Berkeley University and thus being given a chance to visit his old stomping grounds, they also gave him the opportunity to visit his elderly parents and sister in San Diego. It therefore duly became part of his annual schedule to step out of the many duties he had in the foundation of his new monasteries in England (Cittaviveka in West Sussex and Amaravati in Hertfordshire) and to head to the West Coast for a few weeks to teach and to see family.

Over the next ten years he developed a devoted following of students in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 they formed the Sanghapala Foundation, with the mission of creating a branch Monastery of Ajahn Chah’s lineage somewhere in northern California. Dr. Marc Lieberman, Nancy Garfield, Debbie Stamp and[…]”

Excerpt From: Ajahn Amaro. “Rugged Interdependency.”