“Akshavana is now in its third year of providing ordination retreats for women from all over the world. The third three-month-long retreat took place earlier this year, and we’ve recently completed the second two-week retreat for women unable to manage a long retreat, in the course of which four new Dharmacharinis entered the Order: Jayakara, Aryashila, Candrika and Sanghamani.
“This autumn's retreat was blessed by glorious sunny weather and a series of spectacular sunsets. It was a small retreat, but all present felt the benefit of the beauty, wildness and elemental quality of the Spanish mountains where Akashavana is set.
“Following on from the retreat this autumn we held an Open Day for local people to visit. Six people from the Valencia Buddhist Centre came to help with the occasion, in addition to five Dharmacharinis - Vikasini who is coordinating retreat support at the moment, Padmadharini, who lives in the area, as well as myself, Vijayasri, Siddhimala and Siddhishvari who were there to support the ordination retreat.
“Akashavana is sited 8 kilometers up a rough and rocky track, so we were not sure how many people would actually make it to the retreat centre! We thought maybe 50 at the most? So it was with mounting delight we saw one 4x4 after another arrive, disgorging many people from the nearby village of Penarroya de Tastavins, who have long been curious about the Buddhist women on retreat up in the mountains.
“Various local friends and helpers - plumbers, builders, bakers, hairdressers, even the man who runs Valderrobres great pizzeria - in fact everyone we've had any help from or contact with over the last five years were all invited and most came. Also a local Spanish Tibetan monk called Vicente, or Ngawang, visited and expressed much admiration for the environment for practice we had created, being himself at the start of a project to renovate an old house as a meditation centre in a nearby village.
“When we realised that numbers were mounting to around 150 people there was a bit of worry that we had enough vegetarian tapas to feed them all, but Siddhishvari's and Siddhimala's great work in the kitchen proved to be plenty for all.
“Giuliana and Stephanie from the Valencia Sangha led sessions giving a brief introduction to the FWBO in the shrineroom, and then led everyone in a short taste of meditation. The shrine room was full for three consecutive sessions. I for one found it very moving to look around the room and see many people who have been helpful and hospitable to us enjoying and appreciating what we have created. It was great to be able to show them something of what our movement is about, directly by demonstration rather than just trying to explain.
“We had many favourable comments, about the beauty of the location, the quality of the work on the house, the well-thought-out solar electric and water pumping system, and our openness in inviting them into the retreat centre.
“Thanks to all who made it such a great day”.
More photos of Akasavana are available on FWBO Photos.