From " Dhammananda Newsletter February 1999"
Reflections on a Suitable Place
Sarah E.Marks

In the Manqala Sutta one of the 38 blessings is a suitable place. As human beings living on the earth at this time we have the blessing of a suitable place from the Buddhist perspective, for we have the opportunity to learn the Buddha’s teachings and to practice them.

This is a very rare opportunity as the time periods and number of universes are immense in Buddhist cosmology. The only comparable thing is modern astronomy with its 50 billion galaxies. It is interesting that with all the realms of existence (31 planes in this universe) that the earth is considered the most suitable place for the birth of Buddha. From whatever perspective we care to regard the worlds that surround us, either scientific or traditional Buddhist perspective, it has been the good fortune of mankind to have an able teacher in the person of the Buddha to show us how to relieve much of the suffering in the world. Considering the vastness of
time and universes we all have very timely fortunate rebirths.

Of course being a human being on the earth still does not automatically insure one of a suitable place. In one of Venerable U Silananda’s early Dhamma talks he mentioned how Burmese people considered the United States and other such countries as unsuitable places because there was no Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha present in them. Happily in this country that blessing seems to be well-rooted now and growing. Sadly in many parts of the world it is still very difficult for the
Dhamma to take root or for people to practice religion freely.

Despite all of these fortunate circumstances finding a suitable place even here is still not so easy. Beyond the basic opportunity to hear the Dhamma, usually a suitable place is defined as a place that is suitable for meditation. For only through practice, through meditation will we understand fully what the Buddha has taught.

What is considered a suitable place for meditation? It is a place that is quiet. It is a place that is secluded, that is away from worldly activities, but still accessible
to supporters and devotees. Such refuges the Buddhist communities have tried to provide even here in the land of airplanes and cell phones. The Dhammananda vihara has grown to become more and more such a place. Here people can come and take rest even if only briefly for a few hours from a very stressful, severely agitated and all too often violent world.

A quiet, secluded place is not only a refuge from an agitated and stressful world, but it is also the basis for the development of one’s meditation. Often in the Suttas five great powers are named as the indispensable elements of meditation. They are energy, concentration, mindfulness, faith and wisdom. Initially one has to have some faith or confidence in the Buddha and his teachings and also some understanding. Then to develop meditation to see these teachings in depth one must have energy and concentration. Concentration in particular requires the support of a secluded and quiet place.

So a suitable place is very important in the practice, as well as being a refuge from a noisy and agitated world. Still many find it difficult to free themselves from their worldly responsibilities to seek even a brief respite at a meditation retreat or monastery. There is a lovely Asian tradition that can help in this situation. It is the custom of having a household shrine, hopefully large enough that one may sit and refuge or meditate there. Such a place can be a wonderful refuge in difficult times. Usually the household chooses a quiet, clean, orderly place to keep objects held in respect and veneration. The external aspects of this suitable place can help the mid become quiet, clean, orderly, respectful and venerable. That is true if we take the time to spend there and meditate. I think the existence of such a place is a wonderful reminder that one should take time to be peaceful. It can be the strong support of one opening one’s heart to the possibility of allowing the living reality of the Dhamma to arise.

May the multitudes of beings rejoice at our blessings! May multitudes of being find a suitable place!