The day began the evening before! A group Sri Lankans had come to cook. All blessings to them! The next day all the monks and invited guests were treated to a classic Sri Lankan meal.
All day the weather was sultry and occasionally rainy. The floods and promise of worse deluge had put many people off. I know of one person who tried to come, but the floods did actually prevent her. However, we had ourselves made a determination a couple of days before, ‘Until our Opening Day is over, let the rain not disturb us’. It worked and it seems that the weather did not deter many people. We thought we would only have around 50 guests, but over hundred came.
The guests arrived from mid-morning onwards and took their food in the marquee. There they shared what was brought.
By 2 p.m. all was ready in order to start the Ceremonies. The first blessings were for the opening of the meditation/shrine room and the grounds. It consisted of chanting the Blessing Discourses, one of which was the well known Metta Sutta which encapsulates the Buddha’s teachings on love.
A thread had been placed over the Buddha statue and was passed around till all the monks were holding it and the end of the golden thread was then put into a bowl of water. Water is the element with cleansing properties that symbolises purification and cohesive properties that symbolises love. This was sprinkled both around the room and on our procession to where the stupa will be built, around the property.
After the blessings, the monks made their way to the top field where a hole had been dug to lay the foundation of the stupa. Before them walked Ernie who carried the vessel that was to be put into the ground. The vessel contains various soils and herbs. We still have a remnant of such rituals in the laying of foundation stones.
The vessel was placed on the slab, lying at the bottom of the hole, accompanied again by chanting. Then bricks were placed around it by various lay people and finally another slab was placed on top.
This brought our ceremonies to an end. We then returned to the marquee. There, the chair of the Trustees, Seetha, our Chair, gave an opening talk. This was followed by talks from Vens.Pemasiri who talked about Satipanya and its meaning. Then Vens. Piyananda and Silawimala and Catherine McGee encouraged us to make this project a success. Vens.Pemasirir is an elder of our community and Ven.Piyananda is the head of the order. Both had come from Sri Lanka to open the centre.
It was all over well before 4 o’clock, so there was plenty of time for people to have tea and talk amongst themselves. I think many new friendships were formed that day. And I was particularly happy that some neighbours had come to join us.
People slowly began to melt away, but happily some stayed behind and even came the next day to help clear up. By evening of the following day, even the marquee was gone. And by the following Saturday, all was prepared for our first Mahasi Retreat.