by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni
Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage marked the end of the Rains Retreat 2015 with an End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony on Saturday, 31st October 2015.
Two separate groups of volunteers came to the Hermitage on the afternoon of Sunday, 24th October and Friday, 30th of October to clean, polish, dust, and tidy the place to get ready for the ceremony. They also hung up some Buddhist flags around the Sala of the Hermitage. Everyone was enthusiastic, happy, energetic and worked very hard. We were like Tom Sawyer’s friends, willingly offering our time and energy to join in the work for fun, for happiness and to honour the Buddha and Sangha.
Phalinee Sawangying offered this year’s the ‘End of Rains Cloth’ to the bhikkhunis of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. We were delighted Phalinee had the opportunity to offer the End of Rains Cloth in front of her family and friends especially her first granddaughter, Matilda.
This year was Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni’s 5th Rains Retreat and the 5th End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. When Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni moved into the Hermitage on 26th of November 2010, we especially chose the name, ‘Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage’. We especially used the word Bhikkhuni Hermitage to signify the establishment of the Bhikkhuni community in Australia. We called the Hermitage ‘Patacara’ because we were inspired by the Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara during the Buddha’s time. Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara was an exceptional female role model. She attained the highest goal of the monastic life – liberation and freedom, Nibbana.
Life is full of endings and beginnings. Today, we marked the End of Rains Retreat 2015. The period outside the Rains Retreat begins. Patacara ended her life as a daughter, a young girl and became a wife and a mother. After the shock and unexpected sudden death of her husband, children and her parents and brother, Patacara ended a life of security and ‘certainty’ , and entered the life of the Sangha and began her journey as a Bhikkhuni. Both Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni and myself resonated with her journey, especially the impermanence and the removal of a security blanket in life. We were also inspired by her. Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara ended her journey in Samsara, Nibbana.
Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara was a great female teacher who helped and guided a lot of people, especially women and nuns on the path of practice. It was like Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni, who had and has been a great teacher to many of us especially the female practitioners. Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara was named by the Buddha as the foremost bhikkhuni in Vinaya. I am personally very interested in Vinaya. Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara was indeed an excellent role model for us.
The following are the verses by Arahat Bhikkhuni Patacara from ‘The Verses of the Elder Nuns’:
PLOUGHING THE FILED WITH THEIR PLOUGHS,
SOWING SEEDS UPON THE GROUND,
MAINTAINING THEIR WIVES AND CHILDREN,
YOUNG MEN ACQUIRE WEALTH.
THEN, WHY, WHEN I AM PURE IN VIRTURE,
PRACTICING THE MASTER’S TEACHING,
HAVE I NOT ATTEND NIBBANA—–
FOR I AM NOT LAZY,NOR PUFFED UP?
HAVING WASHED MY FEET,
I REFLECTED UPON THE WATERS.
WHEN I SAW THE FOOT WATER FLOW
FROM THE HIGH GROUND DOWN THE SLOPE
MY MIND BECAME CONCENTRATED
LIKE AN EXCELLENT THOROUGHBRED STEED.
HAVING TAKEN A LAMP, I ENTERED MY CELL.
I INSPECTED THE BED AND SAT DOWN ON THE COUCH.
THEN,HAVING TAKEN A NEEDLE,
I PULLED DOWN THE WICK.
THE LIBERATION OF THE MIND
WAS LIKE THE QUENCHING OF THE LAMP. ( THIG 112-116)
In order to celebrate the 5th End of Rains Cloth Offering Ceremony, a special cake with the theme,’The story of Patacata’ was especially made and offered by Purnima and Dilusha and family on that day.
The Bhikkhunis at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage were very grateful for the supports, generosity and lovingkindness that you offered over the years, to allow us to continue to practise on the Eightfold Path for the attainment of Nibbana.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.