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Sangharakshita's Diary 2016

December 2016

As autumn passes into winter, here at Adhisthana the ponds are filling with drifts of leaves on the surface ​ and ​ this morning we saw the first ice forming on the ponds. ​ ​While the oak trees; last to loose their colour are gradually turning into majestic statues. November here has been in turns beautiful and sunny, misty and damp, and there have been days of heavy cloud and constant rain.

For Bhante life has been very quiet in many ways. After the last few months of poor and erratic sleep along with the adjustment to different medication, there have been almost no visitors to the Annexe, shabda has been dipped into very little and even the usual flow of audio books in and out of the annexe has slowed down.

Though in the last few days of November we have all noticed some improved sleep and energy during the days that has not been present for some months, in the Annexe there is a feeling of tentative optimism.

Certainly Bhante's love of the written word shines through and just as writing letters was the last thing he left of doing it was the first thing he returned to when he felt better, and though he has not been able to reply to many he has continued to hear all the incoming letters and emails.

There was also a double trip to the dentist on one day. Having lost the major part of a filling the previous day a trip was in order at which the stump of the tooth remaining was extracted, though the bleeding gum would not quite stop so a return trip had to take place where Bhante then had some stitches put in. Of course you will be glad to know that all is now well, the stitches having been taken out by the dentist a week later.

The same day Bhante received a home visit from his GP, who wanted to see for herself how Bhante was doing, even though she had been receiving regular reports on his condition from one of his carers. The visit reassured both Bhante himself and his carers. At Bhante's request, in future diaries I shall be giving only a general account of his health, as he wishes the details of his condition to remain confidential.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

November 2016

The clocks have turned back an hour and we feel on the cusp between autumn and winter. The nights will be longer and the days much shorter. Here at Adhisthana I look out and the beech trees by the front pond are in full autumnal show. Their leaves every shade and colour from green to copper brown, and the local orchards are being harvested so the lanes smell of apples.

Bhante's sleep is still very varied with some good nights of rest, but many more disturbed or poor ones. His system has also had to adjust to recent changes to his medication.

Consequently apart from his household team, Bhante has only seen Saddhanandi this month for a very brief visit to say hello on one of his good days. Though he has managed to keep abreast of his incoming correspondence outgoing mail is much reduced.

On the 26th October Bhante's morning schedule was disrupted by a visit to the Royal Worcester hospital for an appointment where he underwent various Vision tests and had a somewhat reassuring meeting with one of the consultant ophthalmologist's.

Nowadays Bhante hardly listens to the news, as it rarely contains anything positive or uplifting.

Paramartha and Suvajra continue in their faithful service to share the overnight duties and anserwing the call at any hour of the night or day, Sanghadasa has been a very delightful entry to the annexe and Bhante very much appreciates his help and his cooked lunches. While Mahamati who often covers my times away, has been with us most days since his return from Guhyaloka at the beginning of October, including a full weeks cover for me while away on retreat. To be honest given the pressures Bhante and his team are under and some of the sleepless nights, there is a remarkable positivity between us all, and I feel very fortunate indeed to be a part of this little Kula.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

September - October 2016

The nights are drawing in fast now and there is a chill to the air not present a few weeks ago, summer flowers are fading and the autumn blooms like dahlias and chrysanthemums are beginning to really show their colour, making the most of these sunny autumn days.

Much has passed here at Adhisthana since the last Shabda back at the beginning of August.

Most notably, Bhante's GP has attempted to reduce one of his medications, and this has seriously effected his sleep. Yes there have been 'good' nights, but there have been many poor nights too marked by little or no sleep followed by days trying to recuperate and sleep.

Paramartha and Suvajra continue to support Bhante to the best of their abilities and in the last few weeks have unfailingly 'answered the call' no matter the time of day or night.

Buddhadasa returned to Melbourne after serving Bhante faithfully for three years, and Sanghadasa who already lives here at Adhisthana has joined our little household around Bhante.

Though the two months have been marked by poor sleep and little energy, Bhante did manage to see some people earlier in August, so between the 31st July and 29th September he saw 14 people.

Bhante has also managed to keep up his intake of correspondence, and managed to hear all the birthday wishes cards and letters that have arrived during August and September. He was also pleased to be able to meet on both the men's and the women's conventions all the visiting Indian order members for a photograph with them.

Towards the end of September Bhante was delighted to receive his copies of the first published Volume of his Complete Works (Volume 9). He commented to several people on the very fine work that Dhammarati has made in designing the cover and also the pages within, also the work that Priyananda and Windhorse publications has made and continues to make in publishing the Complete Works and of course the two editors Vidyadevi and Kalyanaprabha, and their helpers. To all of them he is very thankful.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

August 2016

July has seen a welcome shift in the weather for all our sun worshipers here at Adhisthana. We've had some gloriously sunny weather, which was timely not only for the open day but also for the full moon day and our celebrations of Dharma day. All those at Adhisthana were invited to an evening under the great Oak tree in the field sitting around the Buddha rupa. As the evening unfolded we watched the sunset with shafts of golden light through distant clouds to the west and the moon rise large and luminous over the shoulder of Oyster hill to the east.

In June Bhante had a difficult run of two or three weeks where his sleep was often disturbed or far too short. during this month he has had several ‘Bad’ nights, in that he has not had enough sleep which left him tired the next day. Though he has not been full of energy all the time, he has managed to keep on top of hearing all his incoming correspondence and, where possible, has replied, though often more briefly than he would like to.

Similarly he has seen some though not all of the people who have asked to meet with him. So from the 1st July to the 30th July he has met with 21 people.

Apart from his correspondence and meetings, Bhante has been studying and discussing different material with Paramartha in the evenings, such as Chapter Three of 'A Survey of Buddhism'. He was surprised to find how much of it was still relevant, and made the point that more Order members could be reading and studying it together. They have also been comparing Berkley’s subjective idealism with Vasubandhu’s, the great Mahayana buddhist teacher.

When Suvajra is with Bhante he spends some time reading to him from a modern biography of Milton, supplemented by Doctor Johnson’s summary of Milton's life.

Bhante has also been listening to recordings of Aniketa reading passages from the buddhist scriptures, something she loved to do. She had a beautiful reading voice. The recording was sent to Bhante by one of Aniketa’s daughters Andrea as she thought Bhante would enjoy hearing her mother's voice again. Bhante had a close connection with Aniketa, who died in 2002.

Bhante wanted to make the point that nowadays people are arriving at Adhisthana from many parts of the world, especially during the conventions, but also for other retreats and meetings too. Many have asked to see him, and though he would like to see them all, unfortunately his health and energy levels will not allow him to do so. None the less, he hopes to see at least some of those who want to meet him.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

July 2016

Coming to the end of June the weather has been overcast with spits of rain in the breeze - cool for mid summer but still warmer than winter or spring. The roses are all in bloom even if they are struggling against the wetter days, and Sanghadeva seems to be cutting grass somewhere in Adhisthana every other day.

Bhante's month has been almost of two halves with regard to his sleep, having had fairly good regular patterns for the first half, which have changed and been fairly poor and irregular for the second half. Apart from this, and a tooth problem, which may well see a trip to the dentist, Bhante's health is quite good. The addition of his new 'Roamer' - a walking frame on wheels - has seen him getting a lot more exercise in the garden, and with greater speed too. Another trip to Worcester Hospital has brought Bhante's eye injections of Lucentis up to 12, by his count.

Bhante has managed to see a few people this month on the days he has felt rested and energised enough to do so. Which came to 16 between the 31st May and the 30th of June.

As well as his visitors Bhante continues to keep up his correspondence, by hearing all his incoming letters and emails as well as Shabda's reports. Among this month's letters was one from an old acquaintance from India, Amrit, now aged 86 and a Bhikshu in the All India Bhikshu Sangha. In his letter which he entitled 'A Loving Memory' he included also a copy of a letter Bhante wrote to him in 1963, hence the title of his letter. Bhante was very pleased to hear from him and also receive the copy of his letter, as many of his India letters were lost. That letter to Amrit in 1963 contained supportive and concerned comments to Amrit about spreading the Dhamma in Gujarat. Bhante had also been very keen that the children receive special attention, by making the Dharma interesting for them and he suggested telling them stories, getting them to enact dramas in the big programmes, giving them all Buddhist badges and flags to wave, getting them to recite the Vandanas and Gathas etc., and, if possible, teach them Buddhist songs. He also mentioned at the end of the letter that he, Bhante, was "still hard at work on my book 'The Heritage of Buddhism', which simply must be finished" and that "next year I may go to England for four months, as the English Sangha association has invited me."

On the 23rd June, Britain had a referendum on leaving or remaining in the EU. Bhante thought he should comment briefly on this, and so asked me to include that in his opinion there should not have been a referendum and that the question of leaving or remaining in the EU should have been dealt with by the government.

I myself was away from the Annexe for almost two weeks of retreat time, and Bhante had the support and help of Mahamati and Vidyaruci with his correspondence, so was able to catch up with both of them and enjoy their company. During this time he also listened to a reading a short book called 'Jews and Judaism' by Leonard Hobley. He had the impression that though it seemed to be written for schools and was not up to date, it was perhaps a useful summary of four thousand years of Jewish history.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

June 2016

Looking out of the window here in the annexe and seeing the trees now in full leaf, its hard to imagine they were so bare and stark but a couple of months ago. our late spring is rushing headlong into summer here and the great field has had two or three cuts now in almost as many weeks. plants and flowers are emerging everywhere, while the cuckoo was heard here last month now morning walks and tea breaks are accompanied with the song of thrush’s and black birds.

Bhante’s health continues to improve gradually from his very difficult arrival here three years ago. Last months visit and medication reduction from Bhante’s GP has had some good impact and yes apart from the occasional night of poor sleep all is well. In the last few days Bhante had another trip to the Hospital in Worcester for another Lucentis injection in his left eye, he thought that now that must be something like 10 or 12 such injections.

Bhante continues to receive a healthy amount of correspondence and reply to most of what he feels needs comment or a reply, and he continues to see people when he is well rested. when discussing this months diary Bhante asked me to include the following:

That he is particularly pleased to meet young people who have decided to dedicate their lives to the Dharma and who have asked for Ordination. He believes that it is on these young people that the future of Triratna depends.

This month then Bhante has seen ​17​ people, from the 29th April to the 30th of May.​

Paramartha and Bhante continue to spend the evenings after dinner in discussion and study, recent areas of discussion have been different aspects of medical ethics and the effect of musical vibrations on the human organism. and in the Mornings from time to time Bhante continues his discussions and interviews with Saddhanandi on his poems, this month they have looked at ‘The Four Gifts’, and ‘An Apology’.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

May 2016

Spring has been bursting forth here at Adhisthana during April. The oaks are coming into their lime green fresh mantles and the copper beech are sprouting, while the Ducklings are finally hatching out! Just the other day Bhante heard the first cuckoo call while sitting out by the pond with Buddhadasa, and he tells me that there are primroses and violets in flower by the path he takes to the pond, while further afield carpets of wood anemones and bluebells are painting the woodland floors around here in blues and whites.

Bhante continues to be in good health and enjoying consistently good nights of sleep, with only occasional nights of poor and broken sleep. His health is in fact so robust of late that a trip to his GP this past month for a medication review has prompted a marked reduction in medication, with some being phased out altogether while others are to be reduced over time.

And of course good health and sleep means more rest and energy available, consequently Bhante has had a rather full month seeing quite a few people, both old friends and new. So in the last Month from the 31st March to the 29th April Bhante has met with 29 people some of them several times.

Paramartha has now been back for a few weeks and he has resumed his evenings with Bhante, in which they are studying and having discussions. He has also taken Bhante out on his first trip this year for a drive and then a short walk by the Malvern hills.

And of course there has been time for audio books and some books being read to him. Among them Bhante has been listening to recordings of Ratnaguna reading from the new translation of the three pure land sutras, which are to be found in Ratnaguna’s new book. Suvajra has been reading some of Bhante’s book reviews to him that were written for the Times Higher Education Supplement. We have also just begun to dip into Suvarnaprabha’s compiled book on Brahmacariya.

Bhante continues to also meet regularly with Saddhanandi to discuss and record interviews on his Poetry, they have now recorded eight separate interviews on individual poems, the most recent having been ‘The Bodhisattvas reply’ and ‘In the woods are many more’.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

April 2016

Spring is forcing its way up through the ground here at Adhisthana, in the way that green things do, slowly quietly and without halt. Then suddenly we take notice and the eye is caught by daffodils and tulips flowering. Though much of March has been dry and even sunny, the last couple of days has seen a cold shift and some nights of heavy rain.

Due to the mostly good spring weather Bhante has been out for his morning walk most days by the Pond enjoying the light sunny weather and fresh air. Of course even the ‘poor’ weather has not left Bhante without diversion having a good selection of ‘talking’ books and visitors over this last month. Recently the College of Public Preceptor’s were here for ten days and Bhante met quite a few of them.

Between 29th February and 30th March Bhante met with 17 different people, some of them more than once.

As well as the novels Bhante has listened to, Suvajra has also been reading to him in the evenings from Berdyaev’s ‘The Destiny of Man’, Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ and Kierkegaard’s ‘Either/Or’ - books which he read many years ago but has been happy to revisit.

Also during the last month Bhante made a visit to the hospital to meet with his Consultant eye specialist, as well as a trip to see his dentist for a check up. both of which went well without and hitches. Bhante’s health continues to be very good for a man of his age, and his sleep remains reasonably good with only the occasional bad night.

Near the beginning of the month Bhante received a beautifully printed and bound in golden patterned card, copy of his three fold puja which had been translated by the Burmese students of Padodhana who has been teacher training them. Since translating the puja into their own language they have been reciting it after their lessons each day. He was pleased to receive this and hear of its use.

We have also seen a fair bit of coming and going this month. Buddhadasa who had been away for two months arrived back a few days ago, and Ashvajit who had covered much of that time left for his little house in Wales. While after almost 8 months absence, Paramartha who had been caring for his dying mother returned yesterday. Bhante is of course pleased to see both return.

with metta,
Sthanashraddha.

March 2016

February here at Adhisthana has been notably sunny and bright, with cold starry nights and mornings filled with golden sunlight over the frosty field. The ducks have taken to wandering about the place in small herds as the females look for good nesting sites.

Though this last month was a short one Bhante has been keeping up when possible, his meetings with old friends and new, including some fairly regular meetings with Saddhanandi in which she has been interviewing Bhante about various poems that he has written.

So between the 31st January and 29th February he has met with 10 people.

Also during February Bhante had his last in a series of lucentis injections into his left eye, which was different from all the previous ones, in that they had not been painful in the slightest, whereas this last one was quite painful. Which he assured me he let the nurse know.

As some of you will know Paramartha, one of Bhante's close friends has been away in New Zealand the last five months taking care of his ailing mother. Bhante received the news on the 18th that she had passed away, so his thoughts have been very much with Paramartha and his mother. And then on the 24th of February we marked the third anniversary of Bhante moving to Adhisthana, Bhante received some cards and a few bunches of flowers and during his morning walk by the pond had his photo taken with some of the Adhisthana sangha.

And just to finish with Bhante 'reads' many books via a couple of audio book companies and he mentioned that he is at present listening to John Paul Sartre's Road to Freedom.

With metta,

Sthanashraddha

February 2016

Some 10 weeks have passed since the last shabda, and in that time Adhisthana has passed through the longest night of the winter months and the seasonal nadir of the year. Yet so far one would hardly have noticed, with barely a handful of frosty nights and only one real freezing spell when the ponds froze over leaving the duck population mostly high and dry, if a little cold of foot.

For Bhante the time has passed much as it usually does in the annexe, even though around him Adhisthana may swell and fall in numbers, from the mighty gathering of the London Buddhist Centre's winter retreat to the quiet and relative few of the Adhisthana sangha 'at home' days which have just concluded this week.

Mornings are spent attending to correspondence and Shabda while, if rest, health, and opportunity permit, meetings with old friends and new are enjoyed not long after breakfast. And of course in the space of ten weeks that is quite a healthy list. So from the 15th November 2015 until the 30th January 2016 Bhante has met with some 36 people.

Along with Bhante's impressive commitment to his correspondence and meetings, he continues to write/dictate with the aid of Suvajra various smaller pieces in the evenings, and in the space of five months has 'written' over those various pieces around 25,000 words. In connection with Bhante and words it would be good to note he has begun another project of audio interviews with Saddhanandi, exploring a number of his own poems. After the wide spread appreciation of the nine decades interviews Saddhanandi suggested this next round and Bhante happily agreed. Whether it will be present in the finished interviews is not yet clear but certainly the recording sessions are notable in the annexe for the sound of laughter.

At the college meeting at the end of November, Bhante met with a number of the Indian preceptors kula and enjoyed a photo with them. Those present were: Adityabodhi, Amoghasiddhi, Amrutdeep, Chandrashil, Jnanasuri and Yashosagar. And then just a couple of days ago, before the men's Dharma training course ended, Bhante also met with them to say good bye with a photo.

Also in the time that has passed since the last issue of Shabda, Bhante has almost completed his course of Lucentis injections in his left eye. Having recently met with his consultant in the hospital he has just one final injection to have. There have also been one or two more minor visits to the doctor's surgery for things like his flu jab, and so apart from the occasional night of poor sleep, Bhante's health continues to be very fair, and often commented on by those that do meet with him, that he seems to be very well and better than in the last few years.

With metta,

Sthanashraddha


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