Spring at the Hermitage

Comings & Goings

After spending four and a half months at the Hermitage, Venerable Nisabho departed on April 16. He hopes to settle in the Seattle area for the vassa/summer to explore his interest in setting up a monastery there. With appreciation for his many contributions, the sangha and community wish him well.

Venerable Jino and Venerable Dhammavaro arrived on April 4 from Abhayagiri, and will be staying until late June.

Ajahn Cunda will continue his role as the senior monk at the Hermitage until early July. At that time, after passing on his duties to Luang Por Pasanno and Ajahn Karunadhammo, he plans to return to Abhayagiri.

Luang Por Pasanno, Ajahn Karunadhammo and Anagarika Ty plan to arrive in late June to stay for the entire vassa/summer period.

Ajahn Sudanto is planning to continue his sabbatical at Abhayagiri until at least November.

How fortunate we are to have the presence of this sangha in our community!

What’s Happening at the Hermitage

Garden Parties are Back!

The first event is on Saturday, May 1, followed a month later on Saturday, June 5. We are hoping to have a third Garden Party on Saturday, July 3. Spring brings with it the need to tend the yard and the forest, with weeding and other land care activities. Join fellow community members at the Hermitage in this beautiful act of dana, for any part or all of the day’s schedule (no sign-up required).

11:00 a.m.  Potluck (arrive by 10:30 a.m. if you’re bringing food)
1:00-3:00 p.m. Yard work and projects
3:00-4:00 p.m. Tea and refreshments

We will continue to maintain safe Covid-19 protocols, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

A Return to Yoga Samadhi

Pamela Chambers, the new owner of Yoga Samadhi in White Salmon, has invited the monks back for weekly in-person Tuesday Meditations and Teachings. Both Ajahn Cunda and Luang Por Pasanno (for the summertime) agreed and the first of these will begin on Tuesday, May 11 with Ajahn Cunda, Ven. Jino, and Ven. Dhammavaro. The livestream portion of the event will begin at 6:30 p.m. via the Pacific Hermitage YouTube Channel.

Please note the planned schedule:

5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m.: A silent sitting for experienced meditators. Participants are asked to come on time and stay for the entire session.

6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Meditation, Reflection, and Q&A (the livestreamed portion).

Currently, up to 20 people may participate in-person at the Studio during these events.

Sunday Sila with Portland Friends of the Dhamma

This Summer, join Luang Por Pasanno for Sunday Silas with Portland Friends of the Dhamma. These are held on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. While he is here at the Hermitage, Luang Por Pasanno will be leading these on the third Sundays of the month: July 18, August 15, and October 17.

What’s Happening with Pah Bah This Year?

We are hoping to hold a Pah Bah this year on September 18 & 19, and are currently discussing how we can have a safe and joyous event. Feedback from the community will be quite helpful as we determine what form it might take. We plan to send out a brief survey soon. Thank you in advance for sharing your opinions to help us plan this auspicious day.

Meal Offerings

With the arrival of spring, the protocols for weekend meal offerings have changed. Specifically, as of April 16, meal offerings are being held outside and are no longer limited to one household. All are welcome. Thus, if there are already one or several people signed up on the Dana Calendar for a particular day, visitors are still welcome to join the event and should not worry that they are encroaching on another person’s dana offering. We do ask that mask wearing and social distancing continue to be observed.

  • As always, please email the dana coordinator (dana@pacifichermitage.org) to sign up for the date you’d like to visit (regardless of a name already being on the calendar). This is so others planning to attend can have an idea of how large the group is and how much food to bring. That being said, everyone is welcome to attend, having signed up or not.
  • Although meal offerings may be brought to the Hermitage any day of the week, it is only on the weekends that the monks receive guests after the meal.
  • The weekend visiting hours are 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • On the weekends, if you don’t want to participate in the meal offering, but would like to visit the monks, you may do so by arriving around noon.

Connecting with the Sangha

Ajahn Cunda will continue to share Dhamma with the community via livestreams on the Pacific Hermitage YouTube Channel following the same schedule: Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Friday mornings at 7:00 a.m..  After May 4, the Tuesday livestreams will be held at Yoga Samadhi at the same time, but follow a different format (see above for more information).

On Fridays, in April, May, and June, Ajahn will share a Dhamma talk followed by a brief Q&A. As always, if you have questions you would like to hear Ajahn Cunda speak about, you can email: hermitage@abhayagiri.org.

Ajahn Cunda Reflects:
Working with Fear & Anxiety

[Edited and adapted excerpts from a Dhamma Talk by Ajahn Cunda, 4.16.21]

A question came up recently from one of the livestream listeners in regards to fear and where it fits within the kilesas (the defilements), and more specifically, the akusalamūlā, the three roots of the unwholesome: greed, hatred, and delusion. The person who asked this question wanted to know how to work with fear within the context of these three unwholesome states.

In terms of the akusalamūlā, it is commonly understood that delusion is the linchpin of the three. It is the opposite of clarity and understanding. When we have clarity we are able to recognize and understand desire, greed, craving, hatred, aversion, and anger. We can also see how we tend to respond to these unwholesome emotions in ways that keep us coming back for more. It’s delusion that keeps desire going, that keeps us in the realm of cyclical birth and death. We can say it fuels desire by hiding desire’s true nature from us.

Although fear may seem like it is mostly related to aversion, its relation to delusion is just as strong because we are not clear about what it is we are experiencing. If we think about how we experience fear, we can see that it tends to be a difficult emotion to deal with. The mind may be racing, lurching, and moving so quickly that it becomes impossible to have a steady awareness of what is actually happening or what the best response might be. We may want to fight or flee, but we aren’t always aware of other alternatives, we’ve momentarily lost our clarity.

People sometimes ask why fear is not included in the five hindrances. Although it’s closely related to worry and the restless movement of mind, it’s also closely related to aversion. When we’re afraid, there is a sense of wanting to get away from whatever it is that is threatening to us – whether it’s something that’s physically present for us, or a possibility that we’re thinking about (the dread of what if). With either of these, there can be a sense wanting to push something away.

This also plays into desire: we want to get something or experience something that is far away from that which we feel aversion towards. Aversion is never very far from desire. We can say that these two hindrances/defilements are part and parcel of each other. We seek to be associated with what we like and because of that, we simultaneously seek the disassociation from its opposite. If we are desperately wanting to be unafraid, we can be equally averse to the fear that is present for us.

Fear is also a precursor to doubt, the fifth hindrance. We can also see it operating in desire, as in: I’m afraid of not getting what I want or being associated with what I don’t want. In terms of the hindrances, fear is an in-between emotion This may be one of the reasons the Buddha did not name it as a particular hindrance; it evades particularity.

A clear example of fearing something present for us is encountering a dangerous animal in the woods or when we get the the dreaded diagnosis of a life threatening illness. But we also experience subtle fears with nagging anxieties of which we’re not quite aware or we don’t understand. There can be a sense of fear about the future or worrying about our past actions. We can believe that something is definitely going to happen; we sometimes erroneously think: “without a doubt this will inevitably be the outcome.” Or we think about what we should have done or could have done and feel a sense of regret: if only . . .

For many people including myself, experiencing fear can be quite uncomfortable. We can squirm and feel as if we want to run away and avoid it at all costs. A sense of dread can arise and we may think: “I can’t do anything to get out of this situation, I’m completely done for.” This is, at times, the story line behind fear.

In the Bhayabherava Sutta [Fear and Dread, MN.4], the Buddha talks about fear arising due to our moral compass being askew. There’s a sense that we’ve done something wrong in the past and we’re concerned about this. This is how the hindrance of restlessness and worry plays out.

In the same sutta, the Buddha talks about our fear of losing our lives. Thus, one of the main underpinnings of fear, if not the root cause of fear, is the weight of our own impending death, not to mention the death of those whom we love. We might not recognize this fear of death because it’s not so evident day to day. We can pretend it away, as if it’s off in some distant unknowable future. However, it’s actually right here and now; our experience of death and dying is how we relate to it in the present moment.  

When we’re working with fear, I think one of the important things is to consistently use the tools we’ve been taught to use by the Buddha. Primarily, we want to be able to recognize fear as fear, to see it clearly and feel it clearly. When there is a more subtle fear – unlike encountering a wild tiger or being close to death with an illness – when it’s more of a worry about the future, or a subtle concern about something we’ve done in the past – then there’s a presence of mind we can have that allows us to clearly see through it.

In the Fear and Dread Sutta, the Buddha asks himself: “Why do I dwell always expecting fear and dread? What if I subdue that fear and dread while keeping the same posture that I am in when it comes upon me?” This is the technique he suggests: he stays in the same posture, he doesn’t distract himself with doing another activity, and he focuses on subduing his own that fear – he does not allow it to overwhelm him. When it comes to subduing fear, we need to understand it for what it is. We ask ourselves: “What is it I experience when I feel fear?” It really comes down to a sense of being willing to feel whatever it is that we’re feeling. That statement may seem incredibly obvious to those who have been practicing for a while, but it’s not necessarily obvious in terms of what we do, and how we behave when we feel fear or any other unwholesome emotion.

If we look at and face this fear coming up for ourselves, we can try to recognize how it arises from our unique conditioning. What is our personal story of fear? What is it that we’re afraid of? What do we worry about? I find these questions quite useful, rather than thinking of fear as something that is amorphous or having nothing to do with my specific patterns of mind. Each of us has our go-to fears, our go-to anxieties. For example, it could be that we have a fear of social interactions, and we may not feel comfortable in groups. There can be a tendency to make sure that we’re in good standing with everyone we’re with (which can be an exhausting phenomenon). If we find there’s contention between ourselves and another, then this fear can arise. We can be worried about how we’ve appeared or we can worry that we’ve done something wrong; wronged somebody else. We can palpably feel this experience of “wrongness” and it can rob us of our stability and mindfulness.

This is where our formal practice can lend a hand. When we make the time to sit, stand, walk or even lie down and allow fear and worry to arise and cease in our awareness, we see clearly: “Oh, I keep going towards that particular story, the one with my relatives or friends, or whatever.” We have an opportunity to see how we’re creating scenarios of what we wish for or dread, and how our worries and fears play out. This leads us to choices; “Do I really want to follow that thread again? How many times have I been down this track?” So we can make the choice to let go of this fear and dread and no longer be defined by our personal stories. This allows us to see the not-self characteristic more clearly. We might realize: ‘oh this is just the creation of me’. When we learn to let go of these sankhara or mental formations, then fear becomes much less potent. If we don’t have our personal stories – if we’re not taking everything as me and mine, who I should be and how I should be – then it’s possible to be less afraid because we don’t take things so personally. We have the capacity to recognize that our fear based stories are simply false narratives. They are coming from a misconception and a misattribution of self. After all; who is afraid and what is there to be afraid of?