Farm picked for Buddhist monastery

TEMPLE — Last month, Derbyshire Farm in Temple was on the short list of properties in New England to host a new Buddhist forest monastery. This week, Bruce Kantner, the owner of the farm, announced that his property was chosen for the first Northeast monastery in the U.S., after a three month search for the best location. The monks will be returning to the farm on Saturday to give a talk on what having a forest monastery in the community entails.

Kantner, and his wife, Barbara, have owned Derbyshire Farm for 30 years, Kantner wrote in a letter provided to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday. They have run a variety of education, sustainable living and meditative programs through their non-profit. They expanded their farm about 14 years ago when they purchased an adjoining farm, including 125 acres of forest. The entirety of the property, which Kantner refers to as Common Springs, includes 242 acres.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to turn this property into an education center and contemplative retreat/sanctuary with organic gardens and a small, residential staff, living perhaps in a little ecovillage,” wrote Kantner. “We’ve envisioned the land being cared for and protected into the far future with programs that would benefit participants, local communities and our New England region.”

As they enter their 70s, Kantner wrote, they have been seeking people that would keep that vision. In July, they met with Ajahn Jayanto and Caganando Bhikku, two American monks from the Buddhist forest monastery tradition, who were looking to establish a forest monastery in New England.

Forest monasteries are made up of a small group of dwellings where Buddhist monks reside. As the name implies, the buildings are built in a forest. The monks are required to be celibate, eat between dawn and noon, and are forbidden from handling money. Food and necessities are provided by the community surrounding the monastery, in return for prayer, meditation and guidance provided by the resident monks. The monastery at Derbyshire will eventually be home to between 10 and 12 monks, who will each have an individual retreat cabin in addition to a central meeting place with a place for group meditation and places for visitors to the monastery to reside.

Kantner was already familiar with Jayanto, having attended a nine-day monastic retreat co-led by him two years ago. Jayanto and Bhikku started their search for a new monastery at Derbyshire Farm, and were immediately interested in the property, Kantner wrote. And even after several months of considering comparable properties, it was Kantner’s land that was put over the top.

The monks are currently in the process of fundraising and making legal arrangements to purchase or rent the property, said Kantner. The current plan is to begin the transfer in the mid-summer of next year. The monastery is planned to take up one section of the property that Kantner acquired 14 years ago, the former Jessen Farm and Cliff House properties.

Jayanto and Bhikkhu, along with the abbot of an Ontario branch monastery, will be visiting the farm on Saturday. Residents are welcome to come to Derbyshire Farm for a discussion on the monastery project. Residents can arrive any time after 10 a.m. Those that would like to have lunch with the monks should bring their own bagged lunch. At noon, Jayanto will give a talk on the monastery project, followed by questions and discussion. At 1 p.m., residents can join the monks in a walk around the property and into the forest for a tour of the future site of the monastery.

For more information, visit forestmonastery.org or call the Derbyshire Farm at 654-2523.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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