The Buddha Comes to Sussex: Documentary – Ajahn Chah

The Buddha Comes to Sussex

This is a documentary about the early days of the opening of the Cittaviveka, or Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, in West Sussex, England, which was begun in 1979 under the auspices of Ajahn Chah. The film opens with a group of monks walking on piṇḍapāta through the English countryside and a gathering of lay and monastics, presumably inside the mansion.

We also see the sometimes hostile, sometimes friendly, sometimes indifferent reactions of the local population to the monastics who have moved in there; to try to ease fears and get understanding the monks have an open day and arrange meetings to discuss matters with the locals.

While many object to the bringing in of foreign ways and customs, and even (God forbid) foreign people, none of them seem capable of reflecting that that is exactly what the Christian churches did all over the world, and often backed up by force of arms also. Interestingly though it is also some of the local clergy who appear to be the most understanding, and genuinely interested in the foundation, and provide the more intelligent comments.

In the film we see Ajahn Chah, who explains some Dhamma principles, a young Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Sucitto, who eventually took over thre running of Chithurst, and a lay woman who became Ajahn Candasirī. Now, as we know, nearly 40 years after the events, the monastery and the monks are as much a part of the community as anyone else who lives there, and they have done so by being true to their calling of living a quiet and simple life.