New and Old Friends in Newcastle

Over the last five years I have made multiple trips to the Newcastle region. I first visited Newcastle at the invitation of a meditation group, the Newcastle Sit-In, and have made several trips each year since then to lead their weekly meditation sessions, as well as leading days of practice and weekend retreats. It’s great to work with a group of people over a long time, especially with a community of dedicated spiritual practitioners. Each time I see the folks from the Sit-In I feel a warm connection and a sense of openness and trust in our shared spiritual purpose. Our long association helps to create a space where we can deepen the work we do in our life and meditation practice, which makes each visit very meaningful.

I’m especially indebted to my good friends from the Sit-In, Jen and Joe, who always host me in Newcastle in their beautiful backyard studio (slightly fancier than my usual forest hut!) and look after me very well, making sure that I am nourished in body and mind. I feel greatly blessed to have such caring and lovely supporters like Joe and Jen and it’s good to be with the Newcastle Sit-In folks.

Whilst it’s great having dear old spiritual friends, on this trip to Newcastle, one of my aims was to connect with some new folks, particularly the Newcastle Sri Lankan community, which I had heard about but had never encountered during my Newcastle visits. This community consists of about twenty families. They regularly keep in touch to share in social and cultural pursuits, as well as engaging in personal and group religious activities through the Sri Lankan Buddhist Association of Newcastle. 

After making contact with some of the community organisers, I was delighted to be invited into people’s homes to give teachings on meditation and Dhamma. It’s always a blessing to meet these multigenerational families to share the Dhamma with little kids, teenagers, young adults and older generations all in the one room. 

A highlight of my time in the Hunter region was being invited to Singleton—almost an hour from Newcastle—to attend a meal offering by a lovely family with four kids. My host, Surangi, talked about how fortunate she felt to finally be able to invite a monk to her home to offer a meal, saying she had been waiting over eight years to do so but had been thwarted by their distance from major urban centres and the lack of a temple or Sangha nearby. We talked about how difficult it is here in Australia for devotees to be able to perform these meritorious deeds and how different it is compared to their country of origin, where such invitations are easy and taken for granted.

These sentiments reinforced to me the importance and necessity of Little Dust’s model of going to meet Buddhists in rural and remote regions, so that they, too, can have access to these important opportunities for spiritual and cultural practice.

At several events in Newcastle I was delighted to see that the Sri Lankan community also invited neighbours and friends to attend their events. This gave the Sri Lankan community an opportunity to share their culture and traditions, something which they relished and took pride in. Having people in the room without any knowledge of Buddhism turned out to be a good way to have conversations about Buddhist culture with the younger generation of Australian Sri Lankans, who often don’t have much understanding of the cultural text that  their parents and grandparents grew up with in Sri Lanka.

So it was a useful opportunity for the newcomers and young people  to learn a little bit more about Buddhist culture and a nice chance for the older generation to share their knowledge and reconnect with important aspects of their spiritual practice.

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