It is possible to visit Santacittarama during the day and there is also limited accommodation for those who wish to spend a period of time participating in the daily life of the monastery. Those interested in such an experience are requested to read the following information carefully.
Santacittarama is a monastery of the “Forest Tradition”, the life of which is regulated by the moral discipline and monastic conventions established by the Buddha. Guests are invited to help the resident community to sustain a quiet and harmonious atmosphere, observing the 8 precepts and conventions of this monastic tradition as well as participating in the communal activities.
No charges are made for staying in the monastery, although donations are appreciated to help cover the running costs. When making the request it is useful to mention any physical or mental health issues, such as might affect your participation in the daily life of the monastery or if you have recently been taking any psycho-pharmaceutical medication. Usually the first visit is a maximum of 1 week, with the possibility of an extension at the discretion of the senior monk. The best time to arrive is before 11 a.m. lunch time or before 5 p.m, when a monk is usually available to meet guests. One should aim to arrive least well before 7:30 p.m, when there is meditation and after which we silently return to our lodgings. Please bear in mind that Monday is a day of silence and rest, with no programme of communal activity, and should thus be avoided as the day of arrival.
The daily routine varies according to the season and needs of the moment, but a typical day is as follows:
5.00 Morning chanting and meditation
6.30 Domestic chores
8.00 Work meeting
11.00 Main meal. The Theravada monastic tradition of not eating from mid-day to the following dawn is observed. After the meal no more food is available. The guests help with the washing up.
12.30 Time for individual meditation or study.
17.00 Tea break
19.30 Evening chanting and meditation.
Those that don’t have previous meditation experience should ask to meet with a senior monk for guidance. An introductory manual is available on line: (Meditation). Perhaps more important, though, than any particular meditation technique, the monastic convention encourages the use of all aspects of daily life, however ordinary, as occasions to develop awareness and sensitivity and other spiritual qualities that are conducive to liberation.
The Eight Precepts
The monks and novices of Santacittarama follow a code of conduct, established by the Buddha, the basis of which is formalized into the following eight precepts:
1. Harmlessness: not intentionally harming any living being.
2. Trustworthiness: not taking anything which is not given.
3. Chastity: refraining from any sexual activity.
4. Right speech: avoiding false, abusive or malicious speech.
5. Sobriety: not taking intoxicating drink or drugs.
6. Renunciation: not eating after mid-day.
7. Restraint: refraining from attending games and shows, and from self-adornment. (Guests are asked to dress modestly, and not to play radios, musical recordings or instruments).
8. Alertness: to refrain from over-indulgence in sleep
These are intended as a means of promoting harmony within the community and as a framework for contemplation. Guests are expected to observe these precepts during their stay. It should also be pointed out that it is forbidden to smoke in or near the buildings, and that there is a serious fire risk especially in the summer months.
Guests should be aware that their conduct has an effect on the monastic environment and on other guests and visitors. In order to maintain the calm and peaceful atmosphere expected at a monastery, guests are requested to behave in a restrained manner, speaking quietly and making as little noise as possible around the property. Bringing close attention to one’s actions and their effect on others is very useful in extending meditation from the formal sitting practice into everyday life.
There is separate accommodation for men and women. It is sometimes necessary for guests to share a room, which requires great sensitivity on the part of each person to maintain a pleasant and harmonious atmosphere. Talking should be kept to a minimum with silence observed between the evening meeting and the morning meeting of the following day. Food and drinks should not be brought into the sleeping accommodation. Please take responsibility for keeping the living spaces clean and, at the end of your stay, leave the accommodation in a condition that you would wish to find it.
Most days include a work period of about 2 hours, usually in the morning. This is assigned at the meeting at 8 am, and depends on what needs to be done as well as on the person’s capacity. Typically it involves cleaning, building maintenance, gardening, cooking etc. The work period also offers the opportunity to develop meditation in ordinary everyday activities, extending collectedness and awareness beyond the formal meditation exercises. The monastery also depends for its functioning on a spirit of goodwill and collaboration; occasions for serving the community are many.
Temple and shrine room
Special sensitivity is required wherever there is a shrine or altar with a Buddha image. As a symbol for our highest aspiration the Buddha image is usually placed in an elevated position, and it is considered disrespectful to put oneself higher when approaching it. Also to be avoided is pointing the soles of the feet (being the lowest part of the body), such as when sitting with the legs extended forwards, at a
Buddha statue or monk or, indeed, any other person.
When entering and leaving one should be as quiet as possible, not talking or banging doors. To avoid disturbance during scheduled meetings please try and arrive a few minutes early and not leave until the formal ending. Those who have difficulty sitting on the floor are welcome to use chairs towards the back of the hall. Cushions and chanting books are available in the meditation hall and should be returned before leaving.
Everything in the kitchen has been formally offered to the Sangha (monastic community) and should not be taken for personal use without permission. Since the monastery is entirely dependent on food offerings, a special diet is not usually possible without a previous agreement with the senior monk. The kitchen is a very public part of the monastery and should be kept as clean and tidy as possible. Whoever is responsible for cooking should try and use whatever food needs to be consumed, to avoid unnecessary wastage.
What to bring
Guests are requested to bring their own sheets and/or sleeping bag. Blankets are available. One should also supply ones own personal toiletries and towel. Work clothes, indoor slippers (no outdoor footwear is worn inside), slip-on shoes, torch and alarm clock are useful items to bring. Warm clothing is necessary in the winter.
This guide is intended to be a general outline for suitable behaviour in the monastery, conducive both to one’s own meditation practice and to harmony with others. Naturally, nobody begins by being perfect and everyone makes mistakes; a willing and responsive attitude is what counts. It may be helpful to re-read this guide during your stay, and we would welcome any comments or suggestions for it.
As with all monasteries of this tradition, Santacittarama and its resident community is supported by freewill donations and offerings of food and other requisites. Although no charges are made, financial contributions are appreciated to cover the running costs. Any excess is used to finance further building developments and to sustain the teaching and practice of the Buddha’s Way in Italy. Offerings may be placed in the wooden donations box, by the door in the entrance hall, or made directly into the current account for Santacittarama Association (see Donations for details).
If guests have any problems or questions during their stay please feel free to approach the senior monk. We hope that your stay at Santacittarama will be both enjoyable and beneficial.