Yesterday as I drove to work I passed a Tibetan monk walking along the road in Sutton Forest, quite far from anywhere in particular. A most unexpected sight! He had probably walked all the way from the Sunnataram Monastery – a Thai forest Buddhist monastery near Bundanoon, a couple of villages away.
Until that moment, my head had been absolutely spinning with things to do, orders to place, calls to make, banking to be done and a swirl of ideas I need to bring together. But seeing this man in his saffron robe immediately made me feel calm. My mind stilled. I was aware of my foot pulling a little bit back off the accelerator. In that instant I was making myself calm down. Was it the aura that surrounds the Tibetan persona? … years of absorbing through the media the Dalai Lama’s teaching, seeing interviews, reading the news about the Tibetan dilemma? Or was it the impact of that distinctive colour? Why did they chose that particular colour for their robes? It made me want to learn more and from about.com I read that the Buddha taught the first monks and nuns to make their robes of “pure” cloth, which meant cloth that no one wanted. Types of pure cloth included cloth that had been chewed by rats or oxen, scorched by fire, soiled by childbirth, or used as a shroud to wrap the dead before cremation. Monks would scavenge cloth from rubbish heaps and cremation grounds. Any part of the cloth that was unusable was trimmed away, and the cloth was washed. It was dyed by being boiled with vegetable matter — tubers, bark, flowers, leaves — and spices such as turmeric or saffron, which gave the cloth a yellow-orange color. This is the origin of the term “saffron robe.” Theravada monks of southeast Asia today still wear spice-color robes, in shades of curry, cumin and paprika as well as blazing saffron orange.
Embarrassed at how little I knew of the local Monastery, I googled Sunnataram and discovered “it is a place where you can learn and apply Buddhist teachings to add inner peace in your daily life. They offer many Dhamma programs and activities for all levels of interest, from serious meditators to students or just curious visitors. Monks and volunteers have created teaching tools to simplify the complicated Buddhist teachings into modern day language.” And this particularly interested me – the plants in the monastery gardens are carefully chosen to link with Buddhist history and add more peaceful and pleasant feelings to both meditators and visitors. You can learn more here: http://www.sunnataram.org/
And all this got me thinking about the power of colour in the garden. In particular orange. I have to say I have never been a fan of orange until I saw a splendid display of tulips at Hidcote last year. That splash of colour on a gloomy day was uplifting and beautiful. It warmed a chilly day and reflected in a pond in joyous brilliance. When I came home I planted a bed of the lovely orange rose Pat Austin, named for the breeder’s late wife. They are gorgeous, glamorous and a very beautiful orange. This year they will be underplanted with orange parrot tulips. I’ll have them in stock soon, along with lots of other colours, if you too would like to make a brave move and add colour to your garden this spring.
FOOTNOTE: If you would like to help with a donation to Summataran these are some of the Things they Need
Gardens: the following plants- Waratahs, Rhododendrons, Pieris Temple Bells, Hellebores, Euphorbia. Chicken Wire, Garden Stakes, and bags of potting mix. There is a list of other items they need on their website where you can also make a donation. http://www.sunnataram.org/