Sangharakshita's Diary

Also read Sangharakshita’s Diaries on the Triratna News Website.

August and September 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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,


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,


December 2015

Its the middle of November and looking out across the pond the wind is rushing across the great field and rippling the water into peaks and troughs of grey that mirror the leaden skies above. The beech trees are all but bare, while the oaks are only now turning and shedding their mantle.

Over the last shabda month Bhante's health has continued to be robust though unfortunately his energy levels have been upset due to a period of erratic sleep patterns ranging from some full and long nights of sleep with one or two late mornings, right through to nights of almost no sound sleep at all. Of course this has had the effect of Bhante feeling very tired and being unable to see many people over this period, as he simply has not had the capacity to do so.

Those he has been able to see were mainly in the middle part of October, or these last couple of days, so Bhante saw some 8 people during the period between 15th October, to the 14th November.

As mentioned in last months diary Bhante's visit to the Royal Worcester hospital to see his consultant eye specialist resulted in a referral to look at some deterioration in his right eye, however now having seen the new consultant Bhante has been given the first of a series of three Lucentis injections to his left eye at the treatment centre in Kidderminster, which will then be followed up with the other two injections at later intervals and a fourth trip out back to Worcester hospital to see the consultant.

Over the last few days the College of Public Preceptors has begun its international meeting here and although many meetings are going on and Bhante meets who he can, what goes on outside the annexe rarely seems to disturb the quiet, reflective atmosphere within.


November 2015

The second half of September and the early part of October has been blessed with some very fine weather here at Adhisthana. The nights are drawing in and the days are often crisp and fresh, though the sun has shone all the more brightly in the piercing blue skies. Consequently Bhante has been able to get out for his usual walk by the pond with Buddhadasa, and on one or two days has even taken a second walk.

With Paramartha still away for the foreseeable future caring for his mother in New Zealand, Suvajra has been spending the evenings and nights with Bhante in the Annexe. During the evenings while sitting in the conservatory enjoying the fading sunlight on the main field,  Bhante has continued to 'write' reminiscences, usually from long ago and about people he has not written much about, or not written at all. So far there have been another three or four such pieces written since 'A Reverie-cum-Reminiscence in the Form of a Letter to Paramartha'. Of course even Suvajra needs the occasional change of scenery, and so he was away for a week in October to visit his solitary cabin, and Mokshapriya, and see his doctor. While he was away Mahamati stayed over in the Annexe and took on Suvajra's duties.

Bhante has had two trips out from Adhisthana, one very brief trip to his GP for this winter's flu vaccination, and the second for a routine check up with his eye consultant at the hospital in Worcester. This has however revealed a slight deterioration in sight to his right eye and he has a referral to see another specialist in mid/late October.

Other than this, Bhante's health and sleep continues to be, all things considered, quite good. And although he is not always able to meet every one who asks to see him, he does continue to meet with people. So from the 15th of September to the 14th October Bhante has met with some 16 people.

With much metta, Sthanashraddha.

October 2015

A few days into September and it's clear that we have passed the midpoint of the year. Though the days are often gloriously sunny here at Adhisthana, the mornings and evenings are colder now with the one or two overcast days being noticeably chilly, and the wasps have become sluggish and irritable in their hunt for food.

Since the end of July Bhante has been continuing to enjoy regular nights of sleep and rest, with nights of poor sleep becoming more the minority. This has meant that Bhante has not only been able to keep up a fairly healthy amount of correspondence via email and one or two letters, but also has listened to the whole of Shabda letter reports from August.

Of course August has also seen Bhante meeting people mainly for ten or fifteen minutes after his lunch. A wide mixture of order members, Mitras, friends, community members and even our first pilgrim to arrive on foot, having completed some 17 walks starting back in February at the Tooting Public Library. So from the 16th July until the 14th September Bhante has met with some 30 people.

And of course along with the emails and letters quite early on in the month Bhante began to receive birthday cards! Which steadily increased in volume and often length as we approached the 26th. They do now seem to have almost ceased arriving but you never know there may be one or two making their way in late! At present they number 132 all of which Bhante has listened to carefully and one or two quite literally, due to their audio nature!

Messages of well wishing and happy returns have also come attached to donations made towards Bhante’s birthday appeal, these numbered 658 in total and we compiled them into smaller groupings: simple messages wishing Bhante a happy birthday or with thanks or in gratitude, of which there were some 323; messages either in thanks for the Dharma or a wish for it to continue down the ages (also several messages wishing for the success of the Complete Works project) which numbered 145; then there were 83 messages that come from either groups such as centres, teams, chapters, Going for Refuge groups etc and/or individuals outside the UK; there were 50 messages in reference to Bhante having a life changing impact on the author's; 48 noteworthy messages mentioning some Dharma reference or memory in connection with Bhante, or some humorous  event; and finally 9 messages that were devotional prayers in nature.

Of course Adhisthana also hosted its first in-house mixed area order weekend for some 400 of us entitled 'Conscious surrender to the Beautiful', in celebration of Bhante’s birthday the following week. During which Kalyanaprabha launched Bhante’s new book, a Moseley Miscellany. Bhante was very pleased to be able to attend this launch arriving in parallel with a short but powerful rolling summer thunder storm, complete with rumbling skies, monsoon-like rain and rainbows over head. Before settling down to the launch however there was time for Bhante to be garlanded by one of our newest Dharmacharinis attending the weekend, to be presented with a birthday cake while we all sang him a happy birthday, and for Amalavajra to present him with a card informing Bhante that not only had the order and movement raised the sum needed for his birthday wish of publishing the Complete Works but that we had exceeded that by at least £20,000.

Following the end of the order weekend, things have been very quiet at Adhisthana, though Bhante has made three more little excursions from the Urgyen Annexe. Once on his birthday to see the Nine Decades Exhibition for himself, having Saddhanandi and Danasamudra to show him around in sequence. And just the other day Suvajra drove myself and Bhante down past the women's community into the lower field and down to the far end of the Swales (wetlands area), then back up and into the farmyard and through our big barn with the car. Bhante remarking that this was the first time he had been able to visit the wetlands but also to have completed a circuit of the property since he arrived. And then also during the weekend retreat of order members ordained by Bhante, he walked over after lunch for a group photo with them all.

Unfortunately the celebratory mood has not been complete, as Bhante’s close friend Paramartha was unable to attend either the order weekend or Bhante’s actual birthday, as his mother being seriously ill he had to leave for New Zealand just a few days before. Which has understandably cast something of a shadow over an otherwise sunny event.

Bhante has also been spending some of his afternoons and evenings 'writing' with the help of Suvajra, and has recently completed his most up to date piece of writing not to mention the longest given its some 4,000+ words are compared to often brief emails and letters. The title is 'A Reverie-cum-Reminiscence in the Form of a Letter to Paramartha'.

So this concludes Bhante's diary for this period, and also my first month or so of time as Bhante's secretary. I hope to be able to write for you many more. 


July 2015

Several of Bhante’s correspondents this month have commented appreciatively and with pleasure on seeing Bhante looking so well in photos taken in Glastonbury in May (one with Paramartha), which have been published widely on the ubiquitous Facebook and now can be found on Bhante’s 90th Birthday website page. Bhante has not had any more outings, but he has enjoyed the mainly hot weather we’ve had in England over the last few weeks. He says it suits him well and on these hot days, as well as others, he has usually ventured into the Adhisthana grounds for a walk and to sit on a garden bench, most often with Buddhadasa.

Ashvajit completed two years as Bhante’s secretary at the end of May. Since then, first Vidyaruci, and then myself, Mahamati, have been filling in as secretary until Sthanashraddha, the new permanent secretary for Bhante, starts at the beginning of August.

After reading to Bhante any correspondence and taking dictation of any replies, on most mornings Bhante has asked me to help him go through folders and boxes from his extensive archive which has been interesting for both of us. Sometimes Bhante has decided that the papers in the boxes can be disposed of, being of no historical interest. However, most of it is very valuable and is being catalogued and either kept as part of Bhante’s personal archive in the Urgyen Annexe or sent across the way to Danasamudra in the Sangharakshita Library. A number of the boxes contain the original manuscripts for many of Bhante's books, articles, and edited seminars (all either hand-written or typed by Bhante), which will be important for Kalyanaprabha and Vidyadevi in editorial work for the publication of Bhante’s definitive Complete Works. The boxes also include correspondence from different periods of Bhante’s life, his diaries, and important documents recording the early history of the FWBO.

In the last month, Bhante completed a series of audio recordings concerning the nine decades of his life, focusing on three objects of significance from each decade. All these objects will be on display in the Sangharakshita Library as part of Bhante’s ninetieth birthday celebration in August, and will be presented along with the voice recordings, and, for those who cannot visit Adhisthana, pictures of the objects together with the relevant recordings will be available on the Buddhist Centre Online.

Also in the last month Bhante finished listening to The Rainbow by D.H.Lawrence. Bhante was very pleased to renew his acquaintance with this classic which he first read when he was sixteen or seventeen years old. He says that he enjoyed some parts of it more than others. In the book, Lawrence describes some extreme psychological and emotional states that some of his characters go through. Bhante discussed this and other aspects of the book with Paramartha on quite a few evenings.

In last month’s Sangharakshita Diary, Vidyaruchi wrote of the visit of Sudha Shah, an Indian writer and author of The King in Exile: the Fall of the Royal Family of Burma, with whom Bhante has conducted a lengthy correspondence. As a parting gift Bhante gave Sudha an autographed copy of his book Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend, (Ibis Publications 2011) which contains a twenty year correspondence starting from their first acquaintance in 1955. On dipping into the book Sudha discovered, no doubt to her great surprise, that the apartment block in Bombay where Dinoo Dubash lived was the same block where her grand-father, with whom she often stayed, also had an apartment. Sudha and Bhante agreed that it was a “bizarre coincidence” that Bhante’s ‘Dear Dinoo’ should be the ‘Auntie Dinoo’ of Sudha’s childhood recollections.

As I write, the five month women’s Dharma Training Course here at Adhisthana has just come to an end. Over the last couple of weeks or so Bhante saw one by one all the women from the course. Having seen each of them on their arrival he wanted to see each of them again before they left. Bhante had the impression that they had all had a really wonderful time. The list of others who have visited Bhante this month follows.

Mahamati 15.7.2015

The following is a list of the people whom Bhante has seen since 15th June: Viryakirti, Jeronimo Schober, Chris Devlin, Dayavandana, Jo Shaw, Aryabandhu, Satyalila, Liz Kiff, Jaci Smith, Christiane Meckseper, Angela Rohini, Kate German, Kamalashila, Vajragupta, Kate Arrowsmith, Sally Simons, Holly Lucas, Shraddhavajri, Denny Salgado, Steph Delaney, Bruno Mendoza, Abhaya, Ananda, Saddhanandi, Devamitra

June 2015

This is Vidyaruchi, back in my old role as Bhante’s secretary, though just for a short while. Ashvajit has handed on the reins and will soon be retiring to a little cottage in Wales to live a more solitary and reflective life, and meanwhile Sthanasraddha, who will be Bhante’s next permanent secretary, will not be able to assume the post until August.

The most significant news of the last month is Bhante’s holiday to Somerset, his first excursion since moving to Adhisthana more than two years ago, and a sign of the extent to which his health is better now than even quite recently. Bhante stayed with Paramartha in a spacious bungalow, whence they made excursions to Burnham-on-Sea, Cheddar Gorge, which Bhante had not seen before, and Glastonbury, including seeing the Tor, the site of his long visionary poem, written in 1969.

Back at Adhisthana, Bhante continues as usual, attending to correspondence in the mornings, and seeing people in the afternoons when he has the energy. Among his visitors, of particular interest is Sudha Shah, an Indian writer, and the author of The Last King of Burma, with whom Bhante has conducted a lengthy correspondence. Sudha is writing a book about the annexation of Sikkim, from the point of view of the stories of 3 women who were involved: Hope Cook, who married the last Maharaja of Sikkim; Princess Kukula, the Maharaja’s sister; and the Kazini, the wife of L.D. Kazi, the Maharaja’s principal political opponent. Bhante knew all of these women, and all are mentioned in his memoirs. During their meeting, Sudha gave Bhante an account of her interview with Hope Cook, the only one of the three women who is still alive.

The following is a list of the people whom Bhante has seen since 15th May: Jyotipakshini, Parami, Bodhaniya, Bettye Praitt, Donald Woolford, Dhammadinna, Saddhaloka, Dhammarati, Vidyadevi, Danasamudra, Wayne Bedford, Karunabandhu, Sudha Shah, Vidyadevi, Vidyadharini, Lizzie Guinness, Padmavyuha.

May 2015

Here at Adhisthana, Spring has truly begun. The cuckoo has been heard not just once but many times, little brilliantly-coloured wild flowers are to be seen everywhere, and Sanghadeva’s constant gardening is providing vivid splashes of colour at strategic points on the campus. The trees are dressed in a myriad greens, and on the warmer days Bhante has been able to walk up and down beside the pond and even to sit in the sun. He has been sleeping quite well, though with the occasional not-so-good night. This means that, on the whole, he has had sufficient energy to attend to his emails and letters, though not always to respond at the length he would have liked, and to receive quite a number of visitors. He has also listened attentively to Shabda, and enjoyed various talking books. His appetite is good, as I have witnessed regularly at lunch time, and he has been taking his regular exercise walking up and down the corridor of the Urgyen annexe several times a day. He has been studying the Sandhinirmochana Sutra with Paramartha in the conservatory in the evenings, and after supper, Suvajra tells me, has occasionally been quite talkative.

This will be the last Sangharakshita Diary written by me since I am standing down as Bhante’s secretary at the end of this month. Mahamati will be standing in until a new man is able to take up the post. See my reporting-in for more about this.

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, whom Bhante has seen this month:

Angela (Melbourne friend of Chittaprabha), Chandradasa, Dennie, Elena, Karunamaya, Kate Clarke, Lizzie, Maitreyi, Maria, Mokshajyoti, Punyamala, Ratnaguna, Sobhanandi, Sona, Viriyavasin.

With much metta, Ashvajit

April 2015 - part 2

Here at Adhisthana there is every sign of spring: retreatants sunning themselves on benches or on the grass, flowers blooming, trees leafing, birds singing, and by at least one calculation, 31 ducklings scuttling over the surface of the ponds. Until the last few days, the weather has been too cool for Bhante to venture out except on one occasion to visit the barber in the nearby village of Bosbury. However, the sun is now perceptibly warmer, and he has taken several strolls alongside the pond in the company of Buddhadasa, and even enjoyed the sun while seated on his usual bench.

Bhante's health is much as usual - quite good - and despite the occasional night of bad sleep, he is reasonably well-rested most nights. This means he has had sufficient energy to attend to his correspondence, listen to Shabda, pay close attention to literary matters, listen to talking books and to the BBC news, and to see someone every other day or so, sometimes for up to half an hour.

Bhante is currently preparing for his sixth recording session with Saddhanandi during which he will talk about three objects which were of particular significance during his 50th to 60th years.

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, whom Bhante has been able to see during the past month:

Amoghasiddhi, Anya, Aryavachin, Atapini, Dharmabandhu, Katerin Felix-Gregory, Khemasiri, Lokamitra, Lucy Norris, Maitriveer Nagarjuna, Manjuvajra, Megha, Padmadhara, Paolo, Prajnaketu, Prajnasahaya, Saddhaloka,Sravaniya, Subhuti, Ujumani, Vassika, Vidyaruci, Yashosagar, Zoe.

With much metta, Ashvajit

April 2015 - part 1

A late winter chill lingers here in South West England, but the sun is getting progressively brighter and warmer, and leaves and buds are preparing to burst forth. The temperature in Bhante’s sun lounge at Adhisthana has been quite high during some of the brighter days, and the Bodhi tree there has been putting out quite a spray of heart shaped leaves. The rather chilly and damp weather outside, however, has meant that Bhante has not ventured out of the Urgyen Annexe even once during this past month, but he hopes to be able to get out as soon as he feels the warmth of Spring. His health has been quite good and he continues to get reasonably good sleep most nights. This means that he has had sufficient energy to attend, as usual, to correspondence, listen to Shabda, pay attention to literary matters, listen to talking books, and to see someone every other day or so, sometimes for up to half an hour.

Bhante is currently preparing for his third recording session with Saddhanandi during which he will talk about objects of significance during the third decade of his life.

Last month the Sangharakshita Diary listed a number of books of Bhante’s that had been translated into other languages and published in recent months. That list was not intended to be exhaustive, and there was one mistake. It was Who is the Buddha? that had been translated into Turkish, and not What is the Dharma? Human Enlightenment is currently being translated into Turkish and may be published later this year. The main point that was being made, of course, was the importance of studying the Dharma in one’s own language, even in one’s own dialect, and by implication, the need for many more translations – and translators!

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, who have seen Bhante during the past month:

Vajragupta, Dhammarati, Parami, Lokeshvara, Vajranatha, Vajragupta (Dharmachari), Dharmavajri, Amitasuri, Dassini, Holly, Kate and Steff (three of the women Dharma trainees at Adhisthana), Bodhiketu, Shraddhavajri, Vidyadharini, Sanghadevi, Brian Lilley, Vidyaruci.

With much metta, Ashvajit

March 2015

After a relatively mild winter here, the appearance of snowdrops and frost-free, misty mornings are heralding the return of spring. Looking back on the past month in the Urgyen Annexe, Bhante's health has been quite good and he has been getting reasonably good sleep most nights. This has meant that he has had sufficient energy to attend to correspondence, listen to Shabda, attend to literary matters, and see someone practically every day, sometimes for up to half an hour.

He has made a start with Saddhanandi on a series of voice recordings concerning the nine present decades of Bhante’s life, focusing on three objects of significance from each decade. A recording of Saddhanandi interviewing Bhante about his first decade has been completed, and he hopes to complete the remainder soon. People will in due course be able to hear these recordings in the Library, and see the objects themselves, which will be on display.

A number of translations of Bhante’s books into other languages have been published during the past month. Into Hungarian and into Turkish: What is the Dharma. Into Hindi: Ambedkar and Buddhism, and into French: The Ten Pillars of Buddhism. This reminds us, of course, of the importance of studying the Dharma in one’s own language.

Bhante has also been finding time to help Kalyanaprabha bring out a book called A Moseley Miscellany, on which she is working in addition to her editorial work on the Complete Works, on which she started at the beginning of February.

Here is the list of people, apart from his carers, who have seen Bhante during the past month, more or less in the order in which he saw them:

Suryaketu, Rijupatha, Shraddhadharini, Pedi (a German woman Mitra); Robert, Chris, Will, Robin, Francis, Rob, Roberto, Joe, David and Ewan (the men who have been attending the 5 month Dharma course here at Adhisthana), Vidyaruci, Gunabhadri, Saddhanandi, Padmakumara, Silajala, Amitajyoti, Danasamudra, Sanghadaka, Rocani, Sthana- shraddha, Rijumati, Dharmapriya, Saraha, Nagapriya, Ratnaprabha, and Jinapalita.

With much metta, Ashvajit

February 2015

Due to the absence of a January Shabda, two months have gone by since this Diary appeared. During this time, Bhante has visited the Royal Worcester Hospital twice, the first visit being for a consultation with the cardiologist, who said he did not feel he needed to see Bhante again. The second one was for an Echocardiogram to be taken, which apparently the cardiologist had requested.

Bhante's sleep pattern is now fairly regular, though he still has the occasional night of late or interrupted sleep. Though much, as usual, has been going on at Adhisthana, with more than a hundred and fifty people attending the retreat from the LBC, as well as other quite large events taking place these last two months, hardly any sound penetrates the Urgyen Annexe, which remains very quiet and peaceful. I have been reading his emails and letters to Bhante and describing to him the copious greeting cards and card-letters he has received recently. He has been responding with his usual meticulous attention to detail to those needing a reply. Shabda, articles of interest from other Buddhist magazines, as well as literary matters have as usual also been receiving Bhante's attention.

Bhante's health during this period has been good on the whole though for the two weeks just passed he has been afflicted with a sore throat and conjunctivitis; for the latter he was prescribed special eye drops. These unwelcome guests have both departed during the past few days, and after a fortnight's lapse extending over the Christmas period and into the New Year, Bhante has once again started seeing people other than his carers.

The chief event at Adhisthana to report this time is the official opening of the Sangharakshita Library, or simply 'the Library', for short, which took place on Sunday 11th of January with more than seventy guests attending. Bhante was unfortunately not well enough to be present, though he was very much there in spirit, peeping out from amongst the books. Thanks are due particularly to Vidyadevi, without whose ‘push’ the event might have taken rather longer to happen than it did. She gave an absorbing talk on the significance of the event, recollecting Nalanda and also reminding us that the Library represented just one of the four lineages that Adhisthana embodies. Thanks also to her little team of helpers who dusted and set out the books with such good humour, and of course to those who got the actual building ship-shape, particularly Ratnadharini, Ajjavin and Yashodeva. It was good to see Ananda and Shantavira in the audience, and to see on display - probably for the first time for many Order Members - the thangkas depicting the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava, purchased in Kalimpong by Bhante at the only period of his life when he is known to have declared that he wished he had more money. Vidyadevi also took the opportunity to launch the latest of Bhante's books in the Ibis series called Metaphors magic and mystery. Participants in the Opening were invited to sign the Visitors Book, after which tea and delicious cake, which quickly disappeared, was served in the dining room.

Here below is the list of people (apart from his carers) who have met Bhante in the Urgyen Annexe these last two months:

Amalavajra, Ashokashri, Dan, Devagupta, Dhammarati, Indrabodhi, Ivan Trujillo (a guest of Suvajra’s), Jenya (our first Russian Mitra), Jeremy, Jnanavacha, Joe, Karunamati, Kalyanamati, Lilavati, Mahasiddhi (who saw Bhante in November but was inadvertently omitted at that time), Maitreyabandhu, Maitripala, Maitriveer Nagarjun, Rob, Rupachitta, Sanghamati, Srimala, Sthirananda and Vidyaruci.

With much metta, Ashvajit

November 2014

Here in our corner of Herefordshire it has been wet and windy, though with occasional bright sunshine, and Bhante has not been getting out very much. One outing was to the Royal Worcester Hospital, where he had an appointment with the cardiologist. The cardiologist did not find anything really wrong with Bhante and said he did not need to see him again, which was a relief. On the whole Bhante is in good shape for his age, and has been sleeping well, apart from the odd bad night. This has made it possible for him to see people, which he is always glad to do. However, he makes only tentative appointments, often only a few hours in advance, and for people who are already here at Adhisthana. He will usually see them for about ten minutes.

I have as usual been reading reports in Shabda to Bhante, and taking dictation for some interesting correspondence with an Indian authoress who is writing a book about people who Bhante knew in Kalimpong and Gangtok in the 'fifties and 'sixties. It is sobering to reflect that he is probably one of the few people left who can recollect with clarity what was going on in that part of the world in those days.

The people Bhante has seen during the past month besides his carers are as follows:

Parami, Vidyaruci, Harshaprabha, Amoghavajra, Bernard Stephen and Frederic (Mitras in the Brussels sangha), Anna Grubb and Martin Harris (GFR Mitras from Norwich), Sagaramati, Kamalashila, Maitreyabandhu and Mokshananda.

With much metta, Ashvajit

October 2014

Here at Adhisthana, autumn is upon us, though the tree leaves, often golden at this time of year, have only just begun to turn; they are mostly still green or only lightly touched with brown, orange or yellow. The weather has become colder and the mornings mistier. Rain patters or occasionally pours down, interspersed with hours of bright sunshine, blue sky and scudding clouds. In such quickly changing weather conditions, the eye becomes sensitized to colour to an unusual degree.

For Bhante, this has meant that he has not been getting outside to walk with Buddhadasa along the path beside the pond and sit in the sun as much as usual. Despite his age, infirmity and partial sightedness, however, he is in good spirits in his 90th year and continues to engage with people helpfully and to the fullest extent he can. Earlier in the month he was beginning to consider the preparation of a small publication comprising some of his writings not yet collected into book form.

It is now more than a month since Bhante stopped taking the sleeping pill Zopiclone, and he has been sleeping reasonably well nonetheless. Some of his friends say that he is sleeping better because he is not taking the Zopiclone, but of course that is not necessarily so, or not necessarily the whole story. Opinions differ. Be that as it may, he is feeling reasonably well.

One morning recently, Buddhadasa took Bhante by car to the Library, and Vidyadevi greeted them at the entrance. She showed Bhante round the Library, where the books had all been laid out in their allotted positions on the fine shelves that were a gift from Foyle’s, the famous London bookshop. Afterwards he had tea with Vidyadevi and her little band of helpers in the brightly lit central space of the Library. This was his first social engagement, so to speak, for quite a long time, and he very much enjoyed it. Whist not many weeks ago, the shelves were empty and dusty, now they are full of books and the Library is almost ready to function as a centre of study and reflection. Vidyadevi and her little band of helpers are to be congratulated on what they have achieved. The tea party was Bhante’s first social engagement, so to speak, since moving to Adhisthana, and as such it represents a real step forward for him. Some of you may have seen a selection of Suvajra’s excellent photographs of the event on facebook.

Another significant change is that Bhante has started meeting people outside his team of carers in the Urgyen Annexe again. So far he has met Vidyaruci, three of the nine men attending the five month course here, and Sarathi, from Germany. This does not however mean that Bhante is accepting appointments; meetings are arranged on an ad hoc basis depending on how he feels on any given day, and on who is able to make themselves immediately available here.

A number of people have written to me during the past several months expressing doubts about the recitation of the White Tara long life mantra for Bhante. I asked him about this, and he replied that he is happy for people to continue reciting it, but that, as he has no particular wish to live to be a hundred, the emphasis should be on merit and wisdom, rather than on long life. I responded by asking him if he would mind living to be a hundred if his health was good and his mind clear, and he smiled.

With much metta, Ashvajit

September 2014

Late summer has passed into early Autumn, with misty mornings and windless days of warm sunshine at Adhisthana.

These last two months have not been easy ones for Bhante. He has been withdrawing from the sleeping pill Zopiclone whilst dealing with the unpleasant side effects of that. Moreover, he has had several episodes of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, which caused anxiety to his carers. and sometimes sleeplessness to Bhante. Late one night, Paramartha was obliged to take Bhante to the Accident & Emergency department of the Royal Worcestershire Infirmary, where he was given an ECG and various blood tests. Paramartha and Bhante were accompanied to the hospital by Karunamati and Santachitta, both of whom happened to be on retreat at Adhisthana at the time.

Bhante is now completely off Zopiclone. A blood thinning pill has been prescribed for him by his GP, as well as a pill to reduce the likelihood of arrhythmia, which though in itself benign for a man of Bhante’s age, can lead to complications if such arrhythmia coincides with rapid heartbeat.

This period has seen the celebration of Bhante’s 89th birthday. He was presented with three birthday cakes and received more than a hundred birthday cards, some signed by many people. There were also gifts and many hundreds of greetings by email. August moreover saw the release of Early Writings, ably edited with an Introduction by Kalyanaprabha, who launched the book on the Combined Convention at Wymondham.

Bhante has as usual been keeping up with his correspondence and with Shabda, and has, rather to his own surprise, recently produced a number of short poems. He has kept up his exercise, walking with Buddhadasa along the pathway in front of the pond, and has been listening to audio books. Most recently, he has had an outing with Paramartha to Holly Bush, a favourite spot in the surrounding countryside.

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

July 2014

There has been copious sunshine on the Malverns this month, with short-lived and occasionally thundery showers. The ducklings are growing rapidly and the large pond or small lake on which they swim and besides which Bhante sits on fine days has been mostly mirror-like, reflecting blue sky and white clouds gently drifting by.

As for the Urgyen Annexe, Bhante’s health remains quite good. The supply of sleeping pills that he has been taking is diminishing and at present, every third night is pill-free. The results of the withdrawal have so far not been as dramatic as his little team of friendly carers feared, and Bhante has been getting at least some sleep on pill-free nights. Another result of the withdrawal from Zopiclone, though of course this may be due to other factors as well, is that Bhante is feeling more at ease in relatively low temperatures, though he half-humorously refers to the Annexe corridor along which he paces regularly for exercise as ‘the Arctic corridor’. Due to his irregular sleep patterns, and therefore the need to take a nap whenever he feels like it, Bhante is still not making appointments to see anyone, much though he would like to be able to do so.

I have, as usual, been reading to Bhante his various types of correspondence, most of it expressing deep appreciation and gratitude for his life and teaching, informing him here of the deepening of personal spiritual experience and there of the expansion of an existing Triratna Centre or occasionally of the establishment of a new one. Just three days ago I completed reading aloud for him his Travel Letters, a duty which I found by turns enjoyable, informative and inspiring. Bhante nearly always seems to remember with great clarity the events of earlier years, and often laughs or smiles at the recollection of some amusing incident in his richly eventful past, or nods his head at some extended series of reflections concerning the spiritual life that are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. It has also been fascinating participating, in a small way, in the preparation, in correspondence with Kalyanaprabha, for the publication and launch of Bhante’s next book Early Writings, which is due to be launched by her on the Convention at Wymondham in August.

The Sangharakshita Library has been re-roofed and by yet another extraordinary Adhisthana coincidence, Foyles, the famous London bookshop, almost to the day the re-roofing was completed, let it be known that they wanted to divest themselves of scores of big bookshelves worth tens of thousands of pounds. They were in first-class condition and Foyles offered them to us for only the cost of transport. These shelves have now been neatly and expertly installed by Yashodeva, Sagaradana and others in the rooms on the ground floor of the library on either side of the great central space, and Paramartha took Bhante to see them recently. It will not be long before Vidyadevi and others will be placing Bhante’s collection of books in their appointed places ready for the Grand Opening of the Urgyen Sangharakshita Memorial Library.

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

June 2014

After rain, sunshine. The fields and woods around Adhisthana are green and beautiful, and retreats and other events continue apace. However, Bhante’s health has been much less good than usual this month past. In mid May, he had a chest infection, as did several other people here, and he was prescribed a course of antibiotics. He did eventually get over the infection, but it was painful listening to him coughing and wheezing while it lasted. Since then things might have returned more or less to normal, but owing to a change in the guidelines, Bhante's new doctor has had to take him off the Zopiclone sleeping pills that he had been taking. She has given him a limited supply of pills and these are having to be eked out so as to minimise the discomfort of withdrawal. We have now got to the stage where Bhante is having half a pill some nights and at others no pill. This of course means, especially during the nights of no pill, that he tends to have even less sleep than usual and therefore very little available energy during the day. During this period, therefore, and until his sleep returns to a more normal pattern, he is not seeing anyone.

Despite all this, Bhante has been taking regular exercise both inside and outside the Annexe, strolling along the lakeside and sitting in shirtsleeves and hat on one of the seats there on particularly sunny days. His appetite remains good. He has also been listening and responding to mail, and listening to Shabda reports as well as to the radio and to CDs.

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

May 2014

This month ​the Adhisthana campus and the countryside around have been blessed with gentle rain and bright sunshine, making the trees heavy with leaves of innumerable shades of green, and the fields of grass, ​swaying in the breeze, sparkle with millions of little yellow flowers. ​Further afield, the flanks of the nearby Malvern Hills have been carpeted with glorious bluebells of subtle and exquisite fragrance. With nature displaying herself in this sort of way, it is not difficult to see this place as a Pure Land.

Recently Adhisthana has a retreat for women mitra convenors and for women regional Order convenors, a retreat for preceptors and a meeting of presidents. A retreat on Eros and Beauty co-led by Padmavajra and Subhuti is​ in progress. There has also been an Open Day, lit by brilliant sunshine and enthusiastically attended by friends and neighbours. It gave them the opportunity to view the improvements to the Adhisthana campus over the last year, to listen to a talk by Dhammarati and to be afforded a taste of meditation by Sanghadeva. Buddha Day has also been celebrated here with talks and meditation, and with a puja attended by retreatants and community members alike, led by Padmavajra.

Bhante has had a difficult time both health and sleepwise this month, and though he has seen a few people, notably visitors from the Spanish-speaking world, he has for the time being stopped seeing people altogether pending a return to better health and more regular sleep. He has nevertheless been able to take in Shabda reports and listen to correspondence, though as was the case last month, this has meant that he has not been able to reply to emails and letters as quickly or at the length he would like to have done. He has also been taking his usual morning walk and sitting for a while on one of the seats beside the lake with Buddhadasa.

My list of Bhante’s visitors this month runs as follows: Prajnasahaya, Kularatna, Sridevi, Ashokashri​, Tarachitta ​and Ratnaprabha, Dharmanishta; Prajnasiddhi and Amparo Riosas from Valencia; Saddhajoti, Sandra Ruelas and Lupita Martinez from Mexico, and Asha and Avinash Acharya from Nagpur, India.

Yours with much metta to all, Ashvajit

April 2014

Ashvajit, Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes with his usual summary of Bhante’s activities over the past month. He says -

“Looking out of my window here at Adhisthana I see the small lake, mirror-like, reflecting the trees and the cloudless blue sky. Spring is with us, greening the trees, bringing bees, butterflies, white and pink blossom, and the welcome warmth of the sun. Nature is once more reminding us that all is not decay and death, but that there is also growth and fresh, new young life. The air is still bracingly cool, which makes going for walks up nearby Oyster Hill or on the Malverns inviting, easy and enjoyable.

Bhante’s energy has been rather up and down this month, due to changes in his medication, resulting quite often in less than adequate sleep. This has meant that he has not been able to reply to emails and letters as quickly or at the length he would like to have done. Nevertheless, he has been responding to essential matters, and listening both to my reading of Shabda reports and to his old Travel Letters, often remembering clearly and vividly the events related in them, and inspiring me with the skill and elegance of his prose and the keenness of his observation.

Buddhadasa has been accompanying Bhante on his morning strolls alongside the lake, and sitting with him on one of the many wooden seats that Sanghadeva and Yashodeva have placed around the campus.

The eight fortunate young women currently resident at Adhisthana have all met Bhante now, and I have been noticing how bright-eyed they look when they emerge from his room. Despite his lack of energy, Bhante has managed to see quite a few other people too; nowadays he sees them after breakfast for ten minutes or so. My list of his visitors this month runs as follows:

Maitreyi, Padmavajra, Hannah, Subhuti, Maitreyabandhu, Ratnadharini, Dhammarati, Roman Kalkreuth, Erika, Momtaz, Alice, Claudia and Mariana.

These people Bhante has seen not by prior appointment, but because their being at Adhisthana has coincided with his feeling well enough to see them briefly on a particular morning.

Yours with much metta to all, Ashvajit”

March 2014

Ashvajit writes with his usual summary of Sangharakshita’s diary for the past month, saying - “Misty mornings at Adhisthana this month past have been accompanied by ‘sounds and sweet airs that hurt not’ - by bird song and mild breezes. The mists have often been followed by sunny, though still cool days, and daffodils, primroses and other small flowers have been opening in the bright air.

Bhante’s health has been on the whole good for someone of his age, though the quality of his sleep is still variable. He has however usually had sufficient energy to attend with appreciation to correspondence, to listen to Shabda and occasionally to readings from various books. He has been taking a regular morning constitutional with Buddhadasa, often sitting, well wrapped-up, on a seat in front of the small lake (I prefer to call it that rather than a pond). He has also had sufficient energy to see various people; earlier on in the month he would meet them after lunch, but more recently it has been after breakfast, when Bhante’s energy is at present at its brightest.

I have noted the following visitors to Bhante in the Urgyen Annexe this past month: Anya, Satyadasa, Elaine, Hattie, Vidyadevi, Vajranatha, Nagarakshita, Kate, Padmabodhini and Aryajaya. Apologies for not being able to supply surnames (for the non-Order members) at present.

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

February 2014

Ashvajit writes with his usual monthly round-up of Sangharakshita’s news, health and visitors, saying -

“The Adhisthana ducks have sometimes been paddling in the field beyond my window rather than in our ponds; however they have not been able to actually swim in the fields around here, which has been the prerogative of ducks in some parts of the UK this month.

Bhante’s health has been much the same, his energy being dependent upon the sleep he has had the previous night. However, he has been blessed, on the whole, with more nights of reasonable sleep than not, and has, weather permitting, been taking his regular morning walk with Buddhadasa. He has also as usual been taking a lively interest in Shabda and in his correspondence.

Eight young women have arrived at Adhisthana to participate in the five month course arranged for them. Bhante is hoping to see each one individually in the course of their stay.

There have been a small number of visitors to Bhante in the Urgyen Annexe this month. They are: Vimalasara, Mahamati, Dhammarati, Mariana Hermosa, Saddhaloka, Samacitta, Harshaprabha, Rijumati, Vessantara and Ananda.

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

December 2013 / January 2014

Ashvajit writes with his usual round-up of Sangharakshita’s news over the past month, saying - “Rain has fallen on Adhisthana, Bhante’s home near the Malvern hills, this month, sometimes torrentially, and temperatures have hovered at times not far from zero. Some mornings, the skies have been clear and the rosy sunrise spectacular. The pond just beyond our windows, often ruffled by the breeze, is at times as smooth as glass, clearly reflecting the leafless trees and the frisky passage along a felled tree-trunk of one of the squirrels that have chased each other playfully in previous months.

“Christmas passed us by except for a pudding shared between Bhante and the team on Christmas day. Bhante’s health is generally good, but his energy is variable, depending as it does on his unpredictable sleep. Despite this, he has been taking regular walks in the Adhisthana gardens with Buddhadasa. Bhante’s other companion, Paramartha, left three weeks ago to visit his mother in New Zealand, and is missed. He will be back after a month’s absence. On the other hand, Nityabandhu from Poland is with us for four weeks, contributing his friendly and welcome presence.

“Retreats and other events have taken place at Adhisthana, notably the London Buddhist Centre winter retreat which filled the available accommodation for two weeks and which, despite the numbers of newcomers, proceeded peacefully and inspiringly, so we were told by Jnanavaca who kept Bhante well informed of the programme. The Chairmen’s event has just come to an end and its 30 or so friendly participants male and female, from all over Europe have departed.

“Bhante has been well enough to see a few visitors in the Urgyen Annexe after his lunch for fifteen or twenty minutes. The visitors’ names I have remembered or noted (apologies for any omissions) are as follows: Danasamudra, Padmasuri, Ethan, Arthakusalin, Pamela, Jnanavaca, Shraddhasiddhi, Vaddhaka, Vajramati, Manjuvajra, Evgenyi, Khemayogini, Munisha, and Maitreyabandhu. As Bhante’s health improves, he hopes to be able to see more people and for longer periods.

“With best wishes to all, and with much metta, Ashvajit”

November 2013

Ashvajit, Sangharaskhita’s secretary, writes with his usual ‘round-up’ of his latest news, saying - “There has been a slight improvement in Bhante’s sleep pattern this month, so that he is less likely to feel tired in the afternoon and evening.

Recently we have had some fine autumn days here at Adhisthana and Bhante has been able to get out into the surrounding countryside with Paramartha on a few occasions. Trees are no longer various shades of green, and there are many fallen leaves. One weekend this month, Adhisthana had a full house, so to speak, with more than a hundred men attending the Men’s Area Order Weekend. Bhante was able to spend half an hour with Subhuti who had given a talk on the event, and who was about to leave for a week in Hungary. Others who have met Bhante during this month have been Karunamaya, Nagabodhi and Mangala.

Bhante was happy to receive from Nityabandhu a couple of copies of the Polish translation of A Guide to the Buddhist Path, to hear the reportings-in in the November issue of Shabda, and to receive a little scattering of emails, letters and letter-cards.

Bhante’s farthest excursion from base since his arrival at Adhisthana occurred recently. This was to Worcester Hospital Ophthalmology department. The specialist determined that Bhante’s vision was stable, and that he need not visit for another year.

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

September 2013

Ashvajit, one of Sangharakshita’s carers, writes with his monthly update on Bhante’s diary for the past few weeks. He says -

“On 1st August there was a great burst of activity to get things ready for the Grand Opening of Adhisthana, Bhante’s new home. On 2nd 3rd and 4th of the month, the doors were thrown open, on the Friday to neighbours and all those who had assisted in any way in the refurbishing of the premises, on the Saturday to Order members, and on the Sunday to Order members and Mitras. There were more than 500 visitors, for many or most of whom this was a first visit. They were shown around, pleased and amazed at the extent of the campus, savouring its pleasant and peaceful atmosphere, and participating in the ceremonies. Those who knew the place before were delighted by the way that the grounds had been improved, opened up by the removal of fences and obstructing bushes and hedges, by the work done at the front of the Old House by Sanghadeva, and by the extensive refurbishing of the buildings.

Bhante, though his health has continued to improve, was not well enough to participate directly in the dedication programmes. He therefore asked me on the Saturday and Buddhadasa on the Sunday to present offerings on his behalf to the new shrine during the Dedication ceremonies led by Parami and Dhammarati. He had placed in my palm a tiny Buddha-rupa which was offered on the Saturday as a blessing to all. I placed it in the meditating hands of the gently-smiling Borobodur image in the new large shrine room, where it remains for the present. On the Sunday, Buddhadasa offered on Bhante’s behalf a flower, a lighted candle, and a stick of incense to the Shrine, by now graced with scores of small Buddha images that had arrived from all over the world.

Bhante meanwhile has been slowly but surely recovering from the strain of the move from Birmingham to Adhisthana, and from the after-effects of the medication previously mis-prescribed in an attempt to deal with another bout of insomnia. He has been sleeping more naturally recently, with the result that he has more energy, and is therefore able to take a more lively interest in his new surroundings and everything that is going on. During the glorious weather we have had in England this Summer, he has been sitting outside the Urgyen Annexe enjoying the warm sun, and from time to time Paramartha has taken him on little excursions into the beautiful surrounding countryside, during which he has admired the scenery beloved of William Langland (author of the famous poem Piers Ploughman) and been for little walks.

On 26th August Bhante’s birthday was celebrated by a 108-year anniversary Puja in the Adhisthana Shrine Room, and some of those present spoke of their meetings with him. Bhante himself, not wanting a fuss made, remained in the Urgyen Annexe, where a chocolate and walnut Birthday cake made by Vimalabandhu was presented to him. There were hundreds of Birthday greetings.

There have been visitors to the Urgyen Annexe guest room, notable amongst them being Nityabandhu, who stayed here while he was attending the European Chairs Assembly retreat.

Since then, the glorious Summer days have given way to Autumn, the fields have turned from green to gold, harvests have been reaped, the meadow beyond the Old House has sported cylindrical bales of hay, and the roadsides are beginning to be littered with yellow leaves. The extensive accommodation at Adhisthana is already being put to good use, and there has been a succession of events, some larger and some smaller, with a programme extending well into the New Year.

Much metta to all, Ashvajit”

July 2013

Ashvajit writes:
Summer has truly arrived at Adhisthana this month, and the wonderful Herefordshire trees all around here are in full leaf. Bhante’s health, though still not completely predictable, continues on an upward trend. He has been sitting outside more often, enjoying the warmth and the gentle breeze, noticing Sanghadeva working on the area in front of the Old House, or Yashodeva overseeing the transport of one of the Borobodur-style rupas to the large shrine room. He has even taken a few little strolls along the path in front of the small lake, accompanied by Paramartha.

He has been answering letters and emails, which have been fewer recently than before, so that he relies more on Shabda to keep himself informed about what is happening to Order members worldwide. He continues to take exercise walking up and down the corridor of the Urgyen Annexe, beneath the benign gaze of Amitayus and Amoghapasha, depicted on thangkas he acquired in Kalimpong.

Meetings with visitors are still unpredictable, but quite a few have been fortunate enough to see Bhante personally for a short period. He also continues to listen to audio-books on CDs sent by Calibre and RNIB. In addition there have been gifts of CDs from Order members, including the Naxos recording of Ronald Pickup reading some of the poetry of John Masefield, who was born in Ledbury, just a few miles from here.

May 2013

This month Ashvajit writes for the first time with a round-up of Sangharakshita’s health and activities during the past month, following his recent move to Adhisthana, his new home and headquarters near Malvern in the UK. He says -

“The past month has seen Vidyaruchi depart both in his capacity as Bhante’s Secretary and as resident of Adhisthana. Bhante has appreciated both his secretarial work over several years and his service as lunchtime cook, and wishes him well in his next venture. Bhante’s health continues to be variable, but continues a slow upward trend, with increasing periods of wakefulness and interest in his correspondence. He takes regular exercise by walking up and down periodically in the ‘Urgyen Annexe’ at Adhisthana.

Meanwhile the sudden access of summery weather has come and gone, one hopes temporarily, and noises of building are gradually subsiding as the work at Adhisthana draws slowly but surely towards a conclusion. I, together with Buddhadasa as assistant secretary, have taken over from Vidyaruchi, while I prepare Bhante’s lunches.

Bhante is still unable to see people as he did previously, but has had the pleasure recently of seeing just a few old friends for a few minutes when they visited Adhisthana.”.

April 2013

The move from Madhyamaloka to Adhisthana a couple of months ago was a huge upheaval for Bhante, compounded as it was by the crippling insomnia that he experienced both before and after the move itself. Since then, you will be glad to hear, Bhante has definitely been making slow progress towards recovery. There is still a way to go and things are by no means easy for him, but his sleeping pattern is more stable, and, though he is still tired a lot, there are also times when his energy picks up. On a couple of occasions in the last few days he has felt well enough briefly to see people from outside his immediate circle of helpers, which seems a very positive development, though such occasions cannot be predicted and planned for. He clearly appreciates all the messages of support and solicitation he receives, and occasionally has had the satisfaction of sending a few words by way of reply.

There have been some changes to the plans for Bhante’s secretariat and support community. Given the somewhat changed nature of the secretarial role, Singhamanas has honourably withdrawn – though he has been here at Adhisthana for the last few weeks, helping Bhante in whatever ways he can. Meanwhile, Buddhadasa will soon be moving to Adhisthana to offer Bhante his support and companionship. Exactly how the secretarial duties will be covered is still to be worked out, but, in any case, it really does seem that this will be the last you hear from me with my secretarial hat on. I would like my parting words to be a wish, which I am sure you will join me in, that the Spring awakening around us will continue to be reflected in Bhante’s inner renewal, so that his remaining years at Adhisthana are happy ones for him, and a source of blessing for our community.

March 2013

24th February 2013 was a significant date for the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community: It was the date on which Bhante moved to Adisthana. The move was expedited by two weeks, in the hope that doing so would help with the insomnia that Bhante has for several months been suffering from. It has, it seems, helped a bit, though more time is needed for him to gradually break the cycle of sleeplessness. The workers here at Adisthana have done a fine job on ‘The Urgyen Annexe’, so there is every reason to believe that once Bhante’s sleep has stabilized he will be able to live the remaining years of his life here comfortably and contentedly. Meanwhile, we (Paramartha, Ashvajit and I) give him whatever support we can, and he tries to bear his affliction with patience.

Singhamanas now being back from India, during the next few weeks I will gradually hand on the secretariat to him, so that this may be the last time I write to you all as Bhante’s secretary. I hope that you have enjoyed these missives of mine over the years, and that you will enjoy those of Singhamanas even more.


February 2013

I regret having to be the bearer of the tidings that for Bhante the last month has been dominated by the experience of insomnia and the effects of insomnia. Though not yet reaching the extent of the worst times during his annus horribilis of 2003 (as described in the third of the ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’ – available on Bhante’s website), it has nonetheless been unpleasant enough, and has necessitated the almost complete cessation of the visitors that usually give Bhante so much enjoyment. Other than the members of the Madhyamaloka community, the only person Bhante has been seeing is Rosi, his acupuncturist, whose twice-weekly treatments he feels help him a lot. On days when he has slept better, he manages to write the odd email, and dips into Shabda; and he still tries to have a walk when the weather allows this. Otherwise, plenty of rest, low input, and quiet companionship is the order of the day. We are now only weeks away from the move to Coddington Court, and I am sure you will all join us in hoping that once this is achieved Bhante’s sleep will stabilize and he will soon be back to his old self.

January 2013

In my last update of Bhante’s activities, written all of two months ago, I reported a return of his arch-nemesis – namely insomnia. Unfortunately the insomnia worsened in December, so that he was tired much of the time, and all but stopped receiving visitors. He managed to make a few exceptions, including for Subhuti and Mokshapriya, the latter in connection with the arrangements for Bhante’s accommodation at Coddington Court. A particularly disappointing consequence of Bhante’s sleep deprivation was that he was unable to attend the launch of his two latest publications: The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation, and Beating the Drum, edited by Vidyadevi and Kalyanaprabha respectively. The launch was at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on 25 November, and Bhante was due to speak at the event, but sadly had a bad night and did not have the energy on the day. Nonetheless, the launch went well, with talks from both the editors, and quite a few copies of the two books were sold.

The insomnia has generally been less bad in the last few weeks, an improvement which could have been due to a number of factors. As well as a change in medication, Bhante has gone more frequently than usual for acupuncture treatment. Also, Srimala has kindly lent him her light-box while she is in India, which may be helping. The light-box, which Bhante sits in front of for half an hour each day, simulates the sun’s light, a lack of exposure to which can cause certain chemical imbalances in the brain, with insomnia a possible result.

When Bhante has had the energy he has tried to keep up with his usual activities as much as possible. He manages a walk most days, and has often been to Kings Heath Park with Paramartha. He also keeps taking sustenance from the world of books. Paramartha and he polished off Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth by Marion Meade; and they started on The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography by John J. Collins, which is from the ‘Lives of Great Religious Books’ series, and which describes in detail the area in which the eponymous scrolls were found and gives an account of the opinion of different scholars about their significance. Bhante continued his exploration of John Masefield, who was born in Ledbury, the town closest to Coddington Court, by having me read to him An Endless Quiet Valley: a reappraisal of John Masefield by Paul Binding - a literary biography of the poet, which Bhante found extremely interesting. The audio book service has provided The Gospel According to Women, by Karen Armstrong. Bhante described it as a very scholarly work based on much research, dealing with the disastrous effect of Christianity on women and the different ways in which, through the centuries, women have tried to cope with this.

Meanwhile, work continues at Coddington Court, to make ready for Bhante’s relocation. When you hear from me next month, we hope we will be within a few weeks of the move being complete, after which a new phase of Bhante’s life will begin.

November 2012

At the end of October, I (Vidyaruchi) returned to Bhante’s service after a six-week break, during which time Singhamanas, who will succeed me permanently in March, stepped into the secretarial saddle. The changeover went smoothly, and I am hopeful that with Singhamanas Bhante has found a secretary who will have most of my virtues and few of my failings. (Fortunately, Bhante has never had cause to see my office).

Though Bhante’s routine of correspondence, daily walks, and visitors continues in outline, he has started to cut down on what he does and the numbers of people he sees, due to dwindling energy, and a wish to conserve himself for the impending rustication to Coddington Court. Moreover, he has seen something of a return of the insomnia that plagued him back in his annus horribilis of 2003.

Nonetheless, Bhante has seen people, including 9 Order members who came to Madhyamaloka to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their ordination in Tuscany 1982. He has also met with three Indian Dhammacharis - Amoghasiddhi, Amrutdeep, and Yashosagar - who came straight from retreat at Maes Gwyn, Subhuti and Srimala’s property in Wales, to ask for Bhante’s blessing on their becoming Public Preceptors, which he was glad to give. Kalyanaprabha has continued visiting Bhante for sessions of literary work. They are currently working on a volume of Early Writings, the footnotes of which need to be checked with Bhante.

Paramartha is still reading aloud Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth, and Bhante continues to find it both interesting and entertaining. They have also read John Masefield’s Grace Before Ploughing, written towards the end of the poet’s life, in which he reminiscences about his childhood in Ledbury, of particular interest as the town nearest to Coddington Court. Besides this, Bhante has returned to the poetry of Coleridge, in particular through a CD of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, which has been one of Bhante’s favourite poems since his teens, and which he revisits from time to time.

Bhante visited the hospital for one of his regular vision tests. Happily, there has been no further deterioration in his eyesight since the last test earlier in the year. Meanwhile, we hope his sleep will stabilize - for in the words of the Ancient Mariner, ‘Sleep it is a gentle thing, beloved from Pole to Pole’.


October 2012

Change is very much the colour of the season here at Madhyamaloka and for Sangharakshita especially. He has both been adapting to a new secretary, and preparing concertedly for his immanent move to Herefordshire and Coddington Court.

Bhante visited his future home on the 25th September. The historic occasion was caught on film, and, if you would care to see some images from Bhante’s first visit to Coddinton, please navigate to the recent news articles concerning the visit at

Sangharakshita was pleased by the site, commenting immediately on how preciously quiet the environment was, and then inquiring from resident Dharmacarini Ratnadharini if she had, per chance, noticed any ghosts in the vicinity.

Whilst at Coddington Court, Sangharakshita focused his attention on the available building spaces, with a keen eye to finding a suitable dwelling for himself within the complex. A suitable space has since been decided upon.

Beyond this, Bhante was keen to take in views of the surrounding Malvern country-side from the car to and from Coddington, and he has also been refreshing his memory of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and John Masefield - poets who both passed idyllic childhoods in the area.

In other reading, Bhante has been listening to Gentle Genius by George R. Marek, which he has found to be a perceptive exploration of the life and genius of Mendelssohn, with special reference to the position of the Jewish community in 18th and 19th century Europe. He has also been enjoying a biography of Madame Blavatsky with Paramartha, whose Isis Unveiled Bhante read at the age of fourteen and that made him realize that he was not a Christian. The author is Marion Meade and the sub-title to the biography The Woman Behind the Myth, and he has said he is finding the woman in question very much more interesting than the myth that has grown up around her and been fostered by the Theosophists.

Moreover, Bhante has been reading essays from Thomas McEvilley’s encyclopaedic tome The Shape of Ancient Thought, his focus being on themes concerned with Orphics and Jains, Platonists and Vijnanavadins especially.

Visitors continue to arrive on an almost daily basis to meet with Sangharakshita, including a large group of Polish Buddhist from the Krakow sangha who spent a long weekend in residence here. Unfortunately Bhante’s health took a turn for the worse that week and he regretfully had to cancel all engagements. He did, however, manage to meet the many members of the Krakow sangha the following week via the marvels of Skype.


September 2012

Change is afoot at Madhyamaloka. By the time you read these words, we hope that the long wait will be over, that Coddington Court will in the possession of the Order, and that preparations will be underway to make it a new home for Bhante and a new centre for the Triratna Community. Nonetheless, the last two months since I last wrote a diary have been fairly quiet ones for Bhante, who is wanting to preserve his energies for what we hope will be the forthcoming move. Even his birthday was celebrated with only a quiet meal in the company of those of the Madhyamaloka community who were not attending the Order Gathering at Wymondham. In August Nityabandhu visited for a few days, and at the time of writing is here again, this time accompanied by a contingent of men and women from the Krakow Centre. September has also seen visits from Subhuti, who visited Bhante over three days for some wide ranging discussions; and Lokamitra, who also had a number of sessions with Bhante, while his wife Visshaka and their daughter Rajyashri stayed in Bhante’s guest room. Otherwise, Bhante has continued seeing visitors from all over the Movement, including a group of six mitras from Ipswich. He has also engaged in two Q&A sessions via the, for him, new technological medium of skype: one with members of the Aryaloka Sangha in the US; and the other with the Chairs Assembly at Vajrasana. Both occasions went very well.

I have read to Bhante three articles from the London Review of Books, all by Perry Anderson, and entitled, respectively, ‘Gandhi Centre Stage’, ‘Why Partition?’, and ‘After Nehru’. Bhante found them of absorbing interest and described them as essential reading for anyone interested in India (they are available on the LRB website). Following this Paramartha has read to Bhante Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life by Katherine Tidrick, which Bhante found fascinating, especially as it was by no means a hagiography and at times showed the darker side of Gandhi’s life and work. I have since read to Bhante most of an independence day special issue of Outlook, a weekly magazine published in India. Most of the articles were about Dr Ambedkar, who has just been voted India’s greatest Indian after Gandhi in a nationwide poll. The magazine was helpful in giving some idea of the broader context of our own movement in India. Paramartha has read to Bhante Warrior For Peace, Jinananda’s life of the Buddha; and I have helped refresh Bhante’s memories of his own work by reading him the section on the Sangha from The Three Jewels.

Of particular interest from the audio-book service was The Zoo-keeper’s Wife by Dianne Ackerman. The zoo was the Warsaw Zoo, and the zookeeper and his wife lived there during WW2 caring for their animals as best they could and helping Jews to escape. He has also enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the sequel to Wolf Hall. It was a birthday CD from Paramartha, and Bhante very much enjoyed Mantel’s vivid portrayal of the Tudor period. Finally, he has been listening to the Proms. Among the items he especially enjoyed were performances of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ and his Piano Concerto No. 4, Haydn’s ‘London Symphony’, a young Maltese tenor’s rendering of two famous operatic arias, and Rodrigo’s ‘Concerto de Aranjuez’.

July 2012

While what passes for summer passes us by, Bhante’s usual routine continues, and he waits patiently for a possible move in what we hope will be the not-too-distant future. Despite the inclement weather, he has been able to walk round the garden most days, which due to the rain is looking lusher and more floral than ever before. Visitors continue to come from near and far, and this month have included a group of women from Shrewsbury. Last month, as I mentioned in the previous diary, a group of women came from Dublin. What I did not mention before is that some of them have recently formed a new women’s community, which, at the time of their visit, they asked Bhante to name. The name he has subsequently chosen is ‘Silagandha Community’, which the community members have professed themselves thrilled by. Another new women’s community from London visited the previous month (which I omitted to mention), and having asked Bhante for a name in advance left Madhyamaloka proudly bearing the title of the ‘Maitrimandal Community’. Bhante is very pleased that more women’s communities are being set up.

On the literary side, Kalyanaprabha has come for several sessions with Bhante in connection with the editorial work she is doing on Beating the Drum, a collection of Bhante’s editorials in the Mahabodhi, for which she has written a very substantial introduction. Paramartha has read to Bhante The I Ching: A Biography by Richard J. Smith, which is in the ‘Lives of Great Religious Books’ series, as mentioned last month. Also, The Philosophy of John Norris of Bemerton by R. Acworth. Bhante thought this a very clearly written book, and enjoyed it very much. Norris was a seventeenth century Platonist who was also influenced by Descartes and Malebranche. The audio book service sent a CD of John Betjemen’s Summoned By Bells, his blank verse autobiography. This, too, Bhante enjoyed, especially as he had not read it. Otherwise, Bhante wanted to remind himself of the contents of his ‘Message to the Order’, and has had me read it to him. We have also started on Sangharakshita: A New Voice in the Buddhist Tradition, Subhuti’s overview of Bhante’s thought, which Bhante wanted to refresh his memory of so that he could see if there were any gaps in his thinking that needed filling in. As always, we continue to read Shabda, and most months we get through all the reportings-in, and at least some of the Threads and articles too. Bhante’s impression is that on the whole the quality of the reporting-in has improved.

June 2012

For much of the last month Bhante has been mainly occupied with producing a final edit of Living Wisely. This work has now been completed, and Bhante hopes that Windhorse will be able to publish it before too long. He has since returned to correspondence, which was largely squeezed out while we worked on the book. He also continues to see people most days, and has had visits from numerous groups, including five women from the Highlands of Scotland, three from Dublin, and Padmalila and the rest of the team from Lama’s Pyjamas in London.

Paramartha, when he is at home, has been reading to Bhante most evenings, and they have got through The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan; Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography by Martin E. Marty, which is in the ‘Lives of Great Religious Books’ series, other publications from which were mentioned last month; and Platonism and the Spiritual Life, a short work by George Santayana. Continuing the theme of Platonism, I have read to Bhante The Philosophy of Plotinus by Emile Brehier.

Bhante has been listening to CDs of two poets: Edward Thomas, and Philip Larkin. The latter CD was of the poet reading his own verse. Larkin reads very well, Bhante thought, and is becoming his favourite contemporary poet (contemporary with Bhante that is!).

A few times recently I have heard from people who are under the impression that Bhante has been having health difficulties, but I am glad to say that this is not true, and that he continues in good health for a man of his vintage.

May 2012

After a quiet period last month, Bhante has returned to receiving visitors most days. There are as many requests for meetings with him as ever, but he doesn’t have the energy to see so many people as before, so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to fit everyone in. Other than visitors, Bhante’s main focus at present is doing a final edit of Living Wisely, which he hopes to finish in the next month or two. I would like at this point to correct an error of mine. In a previous diary I referred to the Precious Garland seminar transcripts on which Living Wisely is based as having been edited for book form by Vidyadevi, when it fact it was mainly Jinananda who did this work.

Last month Paramartha read to Bhante The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography, and this month the two of them have gone through two more books from the same series: Augustine’s Confessions: A Biography by Garry Willis, and The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Paul C. Gutjahr. Bhante thinks it a very interesting series and looks forward to having further volumes read to him as they are published. Meanwhile, Bhante has again wanted to refresh his memory of one of his own books, and I have read him The FWBO and Protestant Buddhism: An Affirmation and a Protest. He considers this one of his most important works (as well one of the most neglected) and he hopes all Order members will read it.

The audio book service has sent The Old Man and the Sea, which Bhante had read many years ago in India (as mentioned in In The Sign of the Golden Wheel) and which he considers a masterpiece of short fiction. Also, Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor, which Bhante recommends to all those who think that in Triratna we talk too much! Lastly, he was impressed by Christ Stopped at Eboli, a modern classic by Carlo Levi, which he felt was well worth reading.

Bhante has been keeping well. His vision has now stabilised and he has been tested for new spectacles, which he will have received by the time you read this diary.

April 2012

For the first two weeks of April Bhante had a break from seeing visitors – the first such break that I have known him take. For the first week of this he was without his usual secretarial support, as I was away in Norfolk. Bhante was not idle, however, and by the time I returned he had finished the eighth instalment of ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’, and we managed to get it typed up and edited to his satisfaction in time for publication in May Shabda. The theme, which was suggested by Mangala, is music, and Bhante’s experience of it throughout his life.

While I was away Paramartha read to Bhante The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography by Donald S Lopez Jr. Bhante found it very interesting, and recommends it to others. He was turned on to the book by Paul Weeks, who contacted Bhante regarding Lama Govinda, about whom (among others) Paul is writing a dissertation, and who is mentioned in Lopez’s book. Otherwise, Bhante and I finished In the Sign of the Golden Wheel, and have nearly come to the end of Vishvapani’s biography of the Buddha.

Bhante’s health remains good. He has started trying to have two walks each day when possible, and is enjoying the Madhyamaloka garden even more than usual now that so many of the Spring flowers are out. One of Bhante’s fillings came out a few weeks ago, and he went to a new dentist to have the filling fixed as well as a general check-up. The treatment went well, and he is pleased with the new dentist.

March 2012

Bhante’s daily routine remains constant through the change of season, with snowdrops and daffodils now embellishing his daily walk. He has felt a little more easily tired recently, for whatever reason, but has still had visitors most days, including a group of women from Colchester, and a mixed group from Tonbridge in the company of Suryaketu. Suvajra came with a Tibetan lama friend, now living in Wales, and Avilacha and Taraprabha from Seattle also visited. Bhante conducted a baby blessing ceremony for Harrison, the new son of Shantideva and his wife Natalie, who were accompanied by Shantideva’s sister Rachel, a mitra.

Occasionally Bhante receives invitations to events, both inside and outside the Movement, which he usually has to turn down. One such circumstance was an invitation to attend a meeting at the Buddhist Society with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with representatives from various Buddhist traditions. Jnanavaca went in Bhante’s place, and was impressed by the Archbishop, who he described as ‘very intelligent, well informed and sincere’; though he also said he was left with a feeling of gratitude for Bhante’s ‘clarity, and the depth and breadth of [his] vision’.

Bhante has wanted to refresh his memory about some of his earlier writings, and had me read him Forty-Three Years Ago and Was the Buddha a Bhikkhu?. He also wanted to refresh his memory of In the Sign of the Golden Wheel, which we are now half-way through. He and Kalyanaprabha have been discussing the period of his life recounted in the book, as she is in the process of writing an introduction to a collection of Bhante’s editorials for the Mahabodhi Journal, which will eventually be published through Lulu. Also, Kalyanaprabha gave Bhante a copy of Oscar’s Books, which is about Oscar Wilde’s reading habits. Wilde was a great reader throughout his life, and Bhante and I have enjoyed dipping into the book together, looking for references to favourite writers, and learning of Wilde’s contact with them, his view of their work, or the impact they had upon him. As you will have read in ‘Reveries and Reminiscences VII’ in last month’s Shabda, Oscar Wilde is of particular interest to Bhante as one of his five ‘literary heroes’.

At the International Order Convention last August, Bhante received a gift of Amazon vouchers from the Order, to commemorate his 86th birthday. These vouchers have now been redeemed in exchange for Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Villette by Charlotte Bronte, and a Selection from Plutarch’s Greek Lives, all of which Bhante has listened to and appreciated. He has also enjoyed, from the audio book service, Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby, which he says was less about love than war, and in particular about the way in which Italian villagers risked their lives to help British soldiers that had escaped from German prisoner of war camps.

Meanwhile, the search for land is proceeding, and Bhante is hoping it won’t be long before there is definite news for him.


February 2012

The end of January saw the completion of Bhante’s ‘Reveries and Reminiscences VII’, which indeed was the longest of the series so far, and which appears in these pages. The other literary project of the moment is the checking of Living Wisely, which, like Living Ethically, is based on transcripts of a seminar Bhante conducted on Nargarjuna’s Precious Garland, and which has been edited for book form by Vidyadevi. This work was interrupted by my going on retreat, which gave Bhante a quiet week and a relative holiday from correspondence. Other than this, there has been no disruption to the usual routine, except a few days in which a layer of snow made the paths of the Madhyamaloka garden too treacherous for the daily walk. Bhante has continued receiving visitors most days, including a group of women from the Brixton Sangha who came with Amarapushpa. Meanwhile, the land search turns its gaze northwards, and Bhante waits patiently to see what will turn up. Kalyanaprabha is continuing work on the Order library, and has now nearly finished the cataloguing of Bhante’s many books.

The audio book service has provided several choice offerings, including Simone de Beauvoir by Judith Okely, a critical study of the life and work of the famous feminist, from which she emerges as a not very likable person; Some Desperate Glory by Edwin Campion Vaughan, a vivid account of the horrors of life in the trenches during the First World War; and My Lucky Life in War, Revolution and Diplomacy by Sam Falle, which Bhante found well written and interesting.

The only health news, apart from a routine blood test and prescription review at the local surgery, is that Bhante went for a check up following on from his cataract operation. According to the consultant the eye had ‘healed beautifully’. Lastly, I am pleased to add that since the beginning of the year Bhante has been practising veganism, having been ‘convinced by the arguments’ expressed in Shabda and elsewhere.


January 2012

As befits the time of the year it has been a quiet month for Bhante, with what may be the last Christmas he spends at Madhyamaloka marked, as usual, only by a meal with the community and a few guests followed by a chat round the log fire. This year there has been no snowy weather to preclude his walks in the garden, nor to check the flow of guests from here and there, which has included a group of women from Paris, on their way back from a retreat at Taraloka.

Bhante is in the thick of the seventh instalment of his ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’, which is turning into the longest of the series so far, and which should be ready for publication in next month’s Shabda. It is on the subject of his five literary heroes. The identities of the five I will leave for readers to find out for themselves, and to speculate about in the meantime if they are so inclined. Meanwhile, Bhante is enjoying revisiting the lives of these great men, and his memories of their impact upon him.

Literary discoveries of less long standing have been brought to Bhante from the audio book service, including Beyond a Boundary by CLR James, a history of cricket in the West Indies and much else; Ugly and Beyond Ugly by Constance Briscoe, a very moving autobiography by a black woman who, despite an awful childhood at the hands of a sadistic mother, managed to become a barrister and a judge; and Man of Wars by Alan Hankinson, a biography of William Russell, the famous Times war correspondent. Bhante found all these works fascinating, in their various ways.

As was foretold in the last diary, on 3rd January Bhante underwent a cataract operation on his left eye. All went smoothly, and, though there has been no dramatic change in Bhante’s vision, a slight improvement is discernible – in particular a greater vividness in his perception of blue and white.


December 2011

December 10th saw Bhante giving a talk in Birmingham, at the launch of his new book Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend. It was his first public talk for more than a year, and his first time speaking at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre for around five. Preceding him at the lectern was Kalyanaprabha, who spoke movingly about her experience of engaging with the project - editing the letters that form the substance of the book, and writing extensive notes and an introduction. Then Bhante addressed the assembly, and surprised many –perhaps including himself! – by speaking for nearly an hour. The unifying theme of the talk was around letter writing of various kinds and at various points in history, which allowed enough scope for Bhante to touch on topics as diverse as the illusory nature of money, the contrast between the teachings of Jesus and St Paul’s version of Christianity, and even Bhante’s next rebirth. We were also, of course, introduced to Dinoo, the Parsee lady to whom the letters of the book are addressed. The talk was filmed by the good people of Clear Vision, and I expect will be available online by the time you read this. Bhante was pleased with how the launch went, and pleased that so many people showed up including Sangha members from Nottingham, Cardiff and Manchester.

A couple of weeks before the book launch, Bhante enjoyed a brief visit from Nityabandhu, who had been to Padmaloka with Wojtek, one of the Krakow centre’s postulants. Among his many other visitors has been a group of women from London - two English, one German, one Dutch - who have just started a new women’s community.

Bhante’s audio book consumption has included Norse Myths by R I Page, which he found interesting but not nearly so beautiful as the Greek myths, and Persuasion by Jane Austen, which he had read many years ago and which he enjoyed even more this time. He and I finished Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, and Bhante commented that he was surprised how much he remembered of the events the book describes.

Early in January Bhante will have a cataract operation on his left eye, and he went to the hospital a few weeks ago to do the preliminary paperwork. It is hoped that the operation will bring about some improvement in his vision.


November 2011

The big news this month is the publication of Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend, which can be ordered from Lulu. Bhante’s copies have arrived through the post, and he is quite satisfied with the quality of the finished product. Kalyanaprabha was responsible for editing the letters referred to in the title of the book, and for writing the introduction and notes, and she hopes to do more literary work for Bhante. Indeed, Bhante’s only trip away from Madhyamaloka, other than to the park, was to Kalyanaprabha’s flat, a few doors down, in order to discuss further projects.

Among the flow of visitors from here and there, various collections of people have come to pay their respects and spend some time with Bhante, including a group of youngsters from the Paris sangha who were on their way to the big annual young Buddhists’ retreat, some postulants from a women’s GFR group in Croydon, a mitra study group from Cambridge, and a team of Karuna fundraisers who were in the last week of a highly successful appeal in Birmingham, led by Amalavajra.

Bhante and I have started reading Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, which is bringing back vivid memories for Bhante about his early years in Kalimpong. Also, Paramartha has read him Plutarch’s Treatise on Isis and Osiris. Audio books that Bhante has enjoyed include Proved Innocent by Gerry Conlon, one of the ‘Gilford Four’, a horrific account of a scandalous miscarriage of justice; Cranford by Mrs Gaskell, which Bhante enjoyed even more than he did when he first read it many years ago; and Later Than We Thought by Rene Cutforth in which the author reflects on how the events of the 1930s affected him.

There is good health news to report. As mentioned in last month’s diary, Bhante underwent a scan, the results from which have now come back, and reveal that the problems he was suffering from in relation to his digestion were a result of mild diverticulosis, which apparently is nothing to worry about.


October 2011

The highlight of the last month seems to have been Bhante’s visit to Maes Gwyn, Subhuti and Srimala’s property in the wet and sheep-filled hills of North Wales. I had the pleasure of driving Bhante there and back – 5 hours of driving altogether – and we arrived late morning to a warm welcome from the two residents. After and tea and cake in Srimala’s cottage. Subhuti and I left Bhante and Srimala together for a while, then showed Bhante down to Subhuti’s lodgings while Srimala prepared a tasty lunch. After lunch Bhante rested in the guest quarters, after which we gathered in the atmospheric shrine room, with its striking blue Buddha set against a grey slate wall. Here Bhante recited some verses of blessing, and photos were taken. For the drive back we took the scenic route across the mountains (which is also quicker), and enjoyed miles of stunning views of heather-covered hillside and glacial valley. A day or two later, Bhante commented that the day was the most enjoyable he had had for a long time, and that he had rarely experienced such positive good-will as from our hosts at Maes Gwyn.

Other than the trip to Wales it has been a quiet few weeks. It looked for a while as though Bhante would be moving to Wales, but in the end it was decided that the traffic noise was prohibitive – so back to the drawing board, and a psychological adjustment required for all those involved. Meanwhile, Bhante had dinner with a group of Men’s Regional Order Convenors, who were staying and meeting at Madhyamaloka for a few days; and his flow of visitors continued unabated, including a group from the Tonbridge sangha, accompanied by Vidyakaya.

Part V of Bhante’s ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’ was completed. It may be the last of the series, and it is published herein. Bhante has not been listening to audio books much, though he and I did finish Blake’s Milton.

Bhante’s inflamed cyst in his neck now seems to have healed, but he continues to have trouble with his digestive system, in connection with which he has just had a scan at the hospital.

September & August 2011

Now it is autumn, the transition to which Bhante and I both thought seemed to happen unusually quickly this year; and now I must write of some of Bhante’s activities of the last two months. The most notable was his trip to Norfolk, the main purpose of which was to attend two days of the Combined Convention. Paramartha drove him to Padmaloka, where he stayed for five days, receiving various friends, as well as visiting Aloka and Padmajyoti at their home in Norwich. Bhante went to Wymondham College on two days: Thursday 19th and Saturday 21st August. On the first of these he heard Dhammadinna’s talk, and had tea with India Order members, then lunch with some from Mexico. On the second day he had lunch with the team from the one-year Karuna Appeal, then attended the celebration of his birthday, with the cake cutting followed by entertainment provided by Order members from all over the world. The evening before his return to Birmingham he met with, and gave his blessing to, the first meeting of the International Council of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community.

The time in Norfolk was only the second time Bhante has left Birmingham this year, and the first that involved spending more than a day away. Perhaps Bhante’s disinclination to travel in part stems from a wish to save his energy for the eventual move to the countryside. Hopes of a suitable property were recently raised by Chantmarle Manor, but we were beaten by our competitors, and the search continues. Though Bhante feels no particular inclination to move anywhere, and would be quite happy to live out his days at Madhyamaloka, he nonetheless feels the call of duty, and believes the project, including his presence on the new land for his remaining years, is the best way to safeguard his legacy for future generations of Triratna practitioners.

Hard at work in anticipation for the move is Kalyanaprabha, who continues cataloguing books for the Order library, necessitating the periodic removal of batches from the many volumes in Bhante’s study, shortly followed by their return with the addition of numbered stickers. Kalyanaprabha has also been nearing the end of her work on Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend, a book of letters from Bhante to his old friend Dinoo Dubash, and I am told that the first copies should be back from the printers some time in October. Bhante is often to be found stopping by the library on his way back from his daily walk, to talk over some detail or other of one of these projects.

Bhante’s own literary work took a pause in August, though since the last diary he has finished part IV of his ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’, which appears in these pages, and made a small start on a fifth instalment. He has, however, continued feasting on choice morsels from the world of audio books, including The Magician of Lublin, (abridged) by Isaac Bashevis Singer, which he thought gave a vivid picture of a certain slice of Polish life towards the end of the Nineteenth Century; The Galleys of Lapanto by Jack Beeching, which tells the fascinating story of the events leading up to the crucial naval battle which prevented the Ottoman Empire from extending further into Europe; and How Can We Know? By A N Wilson, a spiritual journey in which the well known author makes his way through atheism and Roman Catholicism to a kind of liberal Anglicanism. In August Bhante and I finally finished the Gandhavyuha, which my records tell me we began reading back in November. We have since entered an imaginative realm of a different kind: the complex symbolic world of William Blake and his Milton. Meanwhile Ashvajit, on nights when he has stayed over with Bhante, has been reading summaries of various works by Kierkegaard, which Bhante thought very well written, and was struck by some correspondences with his own thinking. Other reading has included Jayarava’s essay ‘Is Paticca-Samuppada a Theory of Everything’, and an article on Metta Bhavana in Sarvastivada by Bikkhu Dhammajoti. Bhante has also been listening to some of the promenade concerts on radio 3 and particularly enjoyed Mozart’s last piano concerto and Mendelssohn’s Elija. On hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony he had the heretical thought that it was much too long and that each of its four movements was too long, especially the last.

Amongst the usual steady stream of visitors has been a group of Spanish ladies – postulants who were on their way back from Tiratanaloka, for whom Parami acted as translator during the meeting; a women’s mitra group from Liverpool, who were so numerous that they had to split into two and come on different days; three Indian Dharmacharis, members of the men’s ordination team, who spent a few days staying at Madhyamaloka; and three members of the team responsible for developing Triratna’s presence in Bodh Gaya.

Bhante’s health has generally been good, though while away in Norfolk a cyst on his neck became inflamed, and he commenced a course of antibiotics, which caused some unpleasant side effects.

July 2011

Literary work, old and new, has been the main theme of the last month. Bhante’s series of ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’ is now coming to the end of its fourth instalment (the third appears in this month’s Shabda), and the writing, dictating, checking, correcting and revising of this is a daily task. Bhante has had me read to him from quite diverse material related to the writing, either to check some fact, or to stimulate his imagination.

Bhante has been pleased to see the new, revised edition of A Guide to the Buddhist Path released at last, and hopes it will see a good circulation. He was also pleased to see a review of his Ambedkar and Buddhism by Yoginder Sikand, sent to Bhante by Lokamitra. It was a long review and Bhante thought it did justice to his book.

Though Bhante has not been listening to many audio books, he has greatly enjoyed hearing a CD of Satyadaka reading his own translation of Heine’s The North Sea, and described it as ‘an impressive piece of work’. Satyadaka was inspired to attempt translating the poem after reading the first part of Bhante’s ‘Looking Back’ series, published in Shabda last year. In his account of his time with Paramartha in Ipswich searching for traces of his Lingwood ancestors, Bhante mentions his longstanding admiration of Heine’s poem in the course of describing the visit they made to Felixtowe, to see the sea after which the poem is named.

Bhante and I have continued following Sudhana’s adventures in the Gandhavhuya Sutra, and as the hero has finally reached Vairocana’s tower, there is good reason to think we may finish in the next month. I also read him Sulak Sivaraskha’s book The Wisdom of Sustainability: Buddhist economics for the 21st Century, which he thought an inspired sermon on the need for a society more in accordance with Buddhist ideals.

June 2011

The last month has seen Bhante engage in a number of encounters that are somewhat unusual. The first was with Maitrivir-Nargarjuna, an Indian Dhammachari based in Hyderabad, who came to England for a month or so. Over three days he interviewed Bhante for 'Lord Buddha TV', a Buddhist cable channel in Maharastra, on various topics, such as his impressions of Dr Ambedkar, Buddhist art and iconography, and the challenge of effectively communicating the Dhamma in modern India. The interview is a significant one, not least because when it is eventually broadcast it may potentially be seen by several million people. On another occasion Bhante fielded questions in a context with perhaps less far reaching implications, though it was nonetheless appreciated by the participants. I refer to a Q&A he conducted with the students of the Triratna Training Course, now in its penultimate week. Topics ranged from the meaning of anatta and transcendental insight, through the relationship between time and pratitya samutpada, to sex and relationships.

Bhante has met with some luminaries from the wider Buddhist world. About a dozen members of Byoma Kusuma came to visit, including Ven. Narayan Prasad Rijal, one of their senior teachers. Byoma Kusuma is a Nepal based Buddhist group, some English members of which visited Bhante last year. This time, he first met with the whole group, and spoke a little about the structure of the Seven-Fold Puja, and then he and Ven. Narayan were left to discuss together alone, while Paramartha and I served tea and chatted with the other members of the party. Their teacher, Ven. Ratnashri, has written many essays, a few of which I read to Bhante, who was impressed by the clarity about the Dharma that they evince. To celebrate Ven. Ratnashri’s birthday Byoma Kusuma are planning to produce a magazine, and they have asked Bhante’s permission to publish one of his articles in it. He has, of course, given his permission, and the article they have chosen is ‘The ‘Problem’ of Ahimsa’ from Crossing the Stream. It will be translated into Nepali by Ven. Narayan himself.

Then there was David Loy, who came to Madhyamaloka for a visit. His main objective in doing so was to meet with Bhante, though he also spent time with the students on the course, talking about Buddhism and the modern world. Bhante has been recommending David’s book, Money Sex War Karma, after having had it read to him last year.

Other than these interesting and pleasant diversions, and the usual round of visitors and daily walks, Bhante has continued his current piece of writing, ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’ - the second instalment of which appears in this edition of Shabda - with help from Nityabandhu, whose knowledge and recollection of certain details has been called upon several times. Bhante has found time to enjoy some audio books, including Marlborough, England’s Greatest General by Richard Holmes; and a CD of Philip Larkin reading his own verse. He has also had me read to him from a number of sources, including Sulak Sivaraksha’s new book The Wisdom of Sustainability; a special issue of Contemporary Buddhism, focusing on U Dhammaloka, one of the first Westerners to ordain as a Buddhist, whose life demonstrates a different kind of Western monk to the scholarly types, such as Ananda Metteya, previously thought to be the earliest Western converts to Buddhism; and some chapters from God: Being an Introduction to the Science ofMetabiology by John Middleton-Murray, which is interesting to Bhante insofar as it touches on ideas similar to his ‘Evolution, Higher and Lower’.

May 2011

There is little to say this month, for, aside from a visit to the acupuncturist, there have been few disruptions to Bhante’s usual routine of visitors and walks in the garden. Even the audio books have been largely unheeded, as most of Bhante’s attention has occupied with his current writing project, called ‘Reveries and Reminiscences’, the first instalment of which appears in this month’s Shabda, and the dictating, typing, and editing of which generally takes much of our morning session.

As well as progress with a new literary project, the last month has seen previous publications receiving attention from outside of Bhante’s typical readership. The novelist Robert Irwin published in the Guardian his list of ‘top 10 quest narratives’, which included The Thousand Petalled Lotus at number 8. (as well as Lama Anagarika Govinda’s The Way of the White Clouds). In praise of the book, Irwin says ‘since Sangharakshita has a razor-sharp mind, this book can be read with profit even by those who have no interest at all in religion’. Unfortunately, now that the book has been conflated with Learning to Walk, and is published as The Rainbow Road, interested readers may not know how to obtain copies themselves.

Fame may also be looming for What is the Dharma?, which is due to play a key role in the plot of a Hollywood Film. ‘The Fourth Noble Truth’, will star Harry Hamlin as a wayward movie star and Kristen Kerr as the meditation teacher assigned to rein in his excesses. What is the Dharma? will be a gift from teacher to student, and an inner change in Hamlin’s character will be reflected in his changing responses to the book. We hope such exposure of Bhante’s books will help them become better known, and thereby further their purpose and message.

April 2011

The search for a property to house the Sangharakshita Library and Study Centre continues, which leaves Bhante not knowing how long he will live at Madhyamaloka, or where he will move to when he goes. But go he will, and perhaps it is therefore natural that his latest literary project is a series of reveries whose starting point is some memories of Madhyamaloka that he will carry with him to his new home. He has not long started the piece, but it will be interesting to see how it develops, and it certainly gives him something to ponder as he takes his daily walk.

Amid the flow of daily visitors was the indefatigable Subhuti, who again had a number of discussions with Bhante, this time about the social implications of the Dharma. I am sure many people look forward to seeing what results. There has also been a contingent from Nottingham, led by Paraga, who were treated to tea and cake in the Madhyamaloka cafeteria.

Bhante’s audio book listening has mainly been Martin Amis’ memoir Experience, which was quite long, and which Bhante found sometimes interesting and sometimes a bit boring. Much of it was about the author’s father, the novelist and poet Kingsley Amis.

Bhante and I finished Sulak Sivaraksa’s autobiography Loyalty Demands Dissent, and Bhante wrote to Sulak expressing appreciation for the book, and noting a few parallels between the lives of the two men. I have also read to Bhante articles by David Loy and Philip Larkin, and an essay by Lama Anagarika Govinda called ‘Teilhard de Chardin in the Mirror of Eastern Thought’, which Bhante admitted to finding a little disappointing.

No health news to report, except that Bhante went to the hospital for a vision check, and will go again next month.

March 2011

As was mentioned in the last diary, Nityabandhu, along with a friend from the Polish Sangha, came to stay with Bhante for a few days in February. He visited again a few weeks later - this time for a longer stay, and with six friends. As well as spending time with Nityabandhu, Bhante met with the whole group for a couple of question and answer sessions, and at the end of one of these one of the men asked for ordination, making him the second member of the Krakow sangha to have taken this step.

In the last week of February, Bhante attended a talk and book-launch by Vishvapani at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre. Bhante is very happy that Vishvapani’s book Gautama Buddha: The Life and Teachings of the Awakened One, has been published. Its appearance is timely, it seems, given the renewed emphasis in the Movement on the importance of a familiarity with, and feeling for, the historical Buddha, and Bhante hopes that Order members and mitras will read the book.

Bhante’s correspondence with Claire Jordan, the granddaughter of his old friend the Kazini, has continued, and has remained interesting and illuminating for both parties. With the help of Clear Vision, Bhante has been able to send Claire some photographs of the Kazini.

Audio books that Bhante has enjoyed have included Charles: Victim or Villain? by Penny Junor, which Bhante described as ‘a well researched and objective account of Prince Charles’s difficult life’; and Pack My Bag: A Self Portrait by Henry Green, which he thought ‘a sensitive and thoughtful account of the first twenty five years of the author’s life’. Incidentally, Henry Green, known mainly as a novelist, was the younger brother of Gerald York, who was responsible for the publication of The Thousand Petalled Lotus.

As well as making steady progress with the Gandhavhuya, I have read to Bhante another two essays from The Future of New Religious Movements, this time about ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), who are interesting insofar as their situation as a movement in some ways reflects that of the Triratna Buddhist Community. Also, we are coming to the end of Sulak Sivaraksa’s eventful autobiography, Loyalty Demands Dissent. Sulak is a well known Buddhist peace activist, and a founding figure in the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Bhante and Sulak have corresponded, and Sulak has read several volumes of Bhante’s memoirs.

And, of course, Bhante’s daily routine continues, including seeing people almost every day, and walking round the garden, which must be more enjoyable now that spring is on the way, and the snow drops are out.

February 2011

Bhante’s latest run of literary composition has come to an end with the completion of the sixth of his sketches about his early childhood, on the theme of ‘Illness and Accidents’. This, as well as the fifth sketch, entitled ‘Nana’, will soon be added to his website, alongside the four that are already there. Since completing them Bhante has been engaged in reflections from a very different time, and in memories not so much of his own life, but of that of an old friend from his Kalimpong days. He has been in contact, initially through Kalyanaprabha, with the granddaughter of the Kazini of Chakhung, who appears several times in Precious Teachers, including in a chapter dedicated predominantly to her. This granddaughter, whose name is Claire, has been researching her family history, and is naturally very interested to hear Bhante’s memories of her fascinating and unusual forbear. It has also been very interesting for Bhante, who has discovered a lot about the life and character of his old friend, including much that is rather unexpected, and has been all the more interesting because Claire is herself a fascinating and unusual character, being a poet and witch (a white one of course!), as well as a witty and perceptive person. The correspondence is still in progress, and will no doubt continue to entertain.

As for Bhante’s audio book consumption, he has largely been listening to plays and poetry: the former in the form of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Othello; and the latter in the form a compilation of English verse entitled English Poetry from Elizabeth Bishop to Shelley, as well as T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Four Quartets, and a CD of Shelley’s verse, which was a gift from Rijumati, and which on the whole Bhante thought very well read. Also, he has heard Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life by Ian Hunter; and Detour: A Hollywood Tragedy by Cheryl Crane.

Bhante and I have continued to follow Sudhana on his adventures in the Gandhavhuya Sutra, and I have read to him the introduction to a collection of poems compiled by Harold Bloom, entitled Till I End My Song. We have also dipped into The Future of New Religious Movements, including essays on the factors in the success, and in the failure, of new religious movements. This is obviously of some relevance to us in the Triratna Community, and it is reassuring to see that we seem to have most of the bases covered!

Apart from this Bhante’s usual routine of visitors and walks has continued. By the time you read this Nityabandhu will have come and gone, accompanied by Wojtek, the first postulant mitra to come out of Sanghaloka, the Krakow Centre.

January 2011

A quiet month for Bhante, especially as the snow kept him housebound for a couple of weeks or so. He did not mind this, however, as the beautiful view from his window of the snow covered garden was a sufficient compensation for the loss of his daily walk. Christmas was particularly quiet, as for a few days running he received no visitors, and was also without a secretary, who was away with family. Bhante’s own celebrations extended no further than a meal with a few members of the Madhyamaloka community, and one or two guests.

Bhante has continued writing the sketches on themes from his early childhood. The first four are now available to read on his website. He has nearly finished the fifth, and there may be another one on the way.

The audio book service has provided interest and entertainment in the form of the following: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, which Bhante described as brilliantly witty, but with a serious moral concern; Journey to the Middle Kingdom by Christopher West, which he thought a fascinating account of China old and new; Asquith, by Roy Jenkins, was an austere political biography of an important British Prime Minister; and John Lennon – The Life by Philip Norman, about which Bhante commented that on the whole Lennon seemed not a very attractive character, and that Yoko comes out rather better. I have continued reading to Bhante from the Gandavyuha Sutra, as well as, for the second time, Subhuti’s new paper ‘Re-imagining the Buddha’. He has also enjoyed listening to ‘The Genius of Mozart’, a celebration of Mozart’s music on Radio 3.

Bhante has been to the hospital for an eye test, and is now not due to go again until March - a longer interval than previously, which one hopes is a good sign.

December 2010

The recent cold weather disrupted Bhante’s routine only to the extent of precluding his usual walk round the garden, the paths in which became perilously icy, for a week or so. During that period he was without his usual secretarial support, as I was on solitary retreat, but the visitors continued nonetheless, including Nityabandhu and Shantaka, who came for a weekend.

The most unusual event of the last month was a fundraiser at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre, at which Bhante was guest of honour. The event was called ‘Tea with Bhante’, and consisted firstly of a performance which included recitations and musical settings of some of Bhante’s poems, then songs that were popular in his youth; and secondly the serving of tea and a vast selection of cakes and biscuits, during which Bhante chatted with various members of the local sangha.

Other than this, Bhante’s many visitors have included various groups from around the Movement, including Dharmavajri and three friends who had been celebrating a Kalyana Mitra ceremony together here in Birmingham; a group of ladies from Sweden; and men from Shrewsbury, accompanied by Akasharaja. He also had dinner with the public preceptors while they were at Madhyamaloka for their meeting, as well as seeing a number of them individually.

Bhante’s literary work has continued, and he has completed three of the short sketches in which he recalls incidents of various kinds from his early childhood, to which he has given the collective title of My First Eight Years: A Mosaic of Memories. They will go up on his website at some point, so look out for them. He has listened to audio books of, among other things, The Simple Soul and other Short Stories by Catherine Cookson, which Bhante thought good but not great, though he appreciated the fact that the stories exemplified strong ethical values; and Ted Hughes by Elaine Feinstein which he found interesting and informative. I have continued to read to him from the Gandhavhuya, and we have read some of the contributions to Buddhist Warfare, a selection of essays edited by Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer, which Bhante thought did not sufficiently distinguish between ‘Buddhism’ and the Dharma. I also read him Subhuti’s new paper (not yet out at the time of writing) Re-imagining the Buddha, which is based on conversations the two of them had around the subject of the Imagination.

Bhante has been for his usual acupuncture session, and will have had another by the time you read this. Other than this there is no health news, and Bhante seems quite well, despite the cold weather.

November 2010

For the last month Bhante has continued to be engrossed in his literary work. He finished the third of his ‘Looking Back’ trilogy, about his search for traces of his Lingwood ancestry, which appears in this month’s Shabda, entitled ‘Reflections’; and now has begun set down some memories from his early childhood, memories which he has not written about hitherto.

As well as new literary projects, he has also had the surprise pleasure of revisiting an old one. Maitreyabandhu dug up, in the British Library, a copy of an article written by a certain Dennis Lingwood, when but nineteen years of age, on the poetry of Sarojini Naidu, one of the first Indians successfully to write poems in the English language. The article is still very readable – more so than Bhante had expected – despite the style being very different from that of his later writings. I have typed it up, and it will be appearing on Bhante’s website soon.

Among the many subscribers to the afternoon slot for receiving visitors, Bhante has enjoyed tea and biscuits in the company of a group of young women from Sheffield, who have recently formed a new community; and a men’s Chapter from Cambridge. Yesterday Paramartha accompanied him to Cannon Hill Park, to enjoy some Autumn sunshine.

Audio books that Bhante has enjoyed have included: Susan’s Story by Susan Hampshire, the famous actress’s account of how dyslexia affected her life and career; and Vanessa Bell by Frances Spalding, a very readable biography of an artist who was at the centre of the Bloomsbury group. He and I finally finished the Lalitavistara – the highly elaborated and imaginatively rich account of the Buddha’s birth, and life up to and including his first communication of the Dharma – which took us a couple of months of twice weekly bed-time reading. Staying with the theme of Mahayana Sutras, we have now embarked upon the Gandhavyuha.

Bhante had his annual blood test, the results of which were satisfactory. Apart from that there is no news regarding his health, except that he is, as he said in a recent letter, ‘in good health, and even better spirits.’

October 2010

The last month has been relatively uneventful, as Bhante has been concentrating on writing about his search for traces of his Lingwood ancestors, and the discoveries he made thereby.

Among Bhante's many visitors a few are of particular interest. Firstly, Olivia Moore, a postulant mitra from Manchester, who is a violinist, came to Madhyamaloka, and, with a local tabla player named Mohinder Singh, gave a performance of Indian classical music for Bhante and others in the Madhyamaloka community, which Bhante enjoyed and appreciated very much. Then came four members of Byoma Kusuma Buddhadharma Sangha, a Buddhist movement whose principal teacher Mahayogi Shridhar Rana Rinpoche, or Ratnashri, lives in long term retreat in Nepal, which is the native country of three of the four visitors. Bhante found their discussion interesting, and photographs were taken. They are very appreciative of Bhante's writing, and sympathetic to Triratna; and Bhante, in his turn was favourably impressed with what I read him of Ratnashri's writings, which I obtained from the organization's website.

Audio book highlights include The Condition of the English Working Class, by Friedrich Engels, which Bhante described as “a vivid account of the terrible human cost of the Industrial Revolution”; Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, “a fascinating double biography of the great explorer Mumbolt and the great mathematician Gaus”; and finally Yet Being Someone Other, by Laurens Van der Post. Bhante commented that the book was very interesting in parts, but rather prolix.


September 2010

Two months have sidled by since last I wrote of Bhante’s doings, and in this time he reached the ripe old age of 85. The day itself was spent quietly, a meal with the Madhyamaloka community in the evening being the only indication that it was significant, except for the hundreds of cards and messages that Bhante received. The main celebration of the event took place at the European Order Weekend a few days earlier. Bhante was driven across to Norfolk on the Friday by Paramartha, arriving at Padmaloka, where he was to stay, in the afternoon, and meeting with Dharmapriya in the evening. He travelled to Wymondham College on Saturday morning, where he heard the four talks, one on each of the Four Gifts in his poem, and the rejoicing in his merits given by three friends. Bhante then gave his own talk, ‘Looking back, and forward’, in the course of which he spoke of the need for the Order to move into various fields. He then took lunch with the morning’s speakers, plus Prajnagupta, before retiring for his afternoon rest. The afternoon saw him cut his birthday cake in the presence of hundreds of Order members who sang Happy Birthday. He then attended Priyananda’s launch of the first batch of Sangharakshita classics, and Subhuti’s stirring talk. Next morning Bhante met with various people, and then was driven back to Birmingham by me, stopping on the way at my parent’s house, which is about 15 miles from Padmaloka, for afternoon tea and cake. My parents were very glad to see him, and I was happy that I could show Bhante a place that is not only beautiful - deeply embedded as it is in rural Norfolk, including the Orchard and meadowland of the family home, and the adjacent watermeadow leading down to the river - but also significant to me, being where I grew up from the age of ten. The journey back to Birmingham was the longest I had never driven Bhante, but the journey went smoothly, and we arrived just a little late for dinner.

Hard upon this weekend of activity was several days of meetings with Subhuti, this time to discuss Bhante’s thinking around the area of myth, imagination, art, beauty and symbolism. I had the privilege of typing up some of the transcripts, and having done so I can well understand Subhuti’s excitement and satisfaction with the material, and eagerly await the result.

Since then Bhante has returned to his usual routine, though he has seen fewer people in order that he could concentrate on correspondence, as well as writing about his search for traces of his Lingwood ancestors, as mentioned in the last diary, doing which he has greatly enjoyed.

Bhante has also been involved in the literary endeavours of others. Kalyanaprabha continues with her work editing correspondence between Bhante and Dinoo Dubash, a Bombay friend he had known since the fifties, which requires a visit every week or so - not so difficult now that she is happily ensconced just a few doors down from Madhyamaloka. Also, a woman named Liz Corcoran is writing a biography of Bhante’s old friend the Kazini, who he has written about in Precious Teachers. Liz visited from London, and they had a long talk about his memories of that interesting lady.

Nityabandhu visited Bhante for a weekend, bringing with him Voytek (sp?), Sanghaloka’s first mitra, who has now requested ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order.

Bhante’s exploration of the world of audio books has included Two Men Were Acquitted by Percy Hoskins, the horrifying story of how malicious gossip and sensational newspaper reporting nearly sent an innocent man to the gallows. Bhante commented that careless talk indeed costs lives, in more ways than one! Also Middlemarch (abridged) by George Eliot; J.B. Priestly by Vincent Brome, which Bhante found fascinating; and Down Under by Bill Bryson, on which he commented that it gave an excellent impression of the sheer size of Australia and the extent of its uninhabited desert areas. I have been reading Bhante the Lalitavistara sutra, which fitted in well with the subject of his most recent interviews with Subhuti. He has also been listening to the Proms on Radio 3 from time to time.

Bhante’s health has been stable, and I am glad to say that he has even noticed a slight improvement in his vision, which must facilitate his literary work. He has had two acupuncture sessions, and has been to the hospital for a vision check.


July 2010

The period since the last diary begins with Bhante’s trip to Ipswich, which he took in the company of Paramartha, and where he stayed with Swadipa and his partner Carol. On the way there he and Paramartha spent some time in Bury St Edmunds, which Bhante had not visited before, and looked round the cathedral. In the evening they were taken out to dinner by Harshaprabha who then drove them to the mariner and the docks and round other parts of the town.

While in Ipswich Bhante and Paramartha drove around the beautiful Suffolk countryside, visiting the villages and towns of north east Suffolk looking for traces of Bhante’s Lingwood ancestors. They made some interesting discoveries, including the grave of Bhante’s great- great- great- great grandfather and his wife in Brome churchyard. They also spent an hour or so in Folkstone, as Bhante wanted to look at the sea, which he had not seen for some years. They visited Ipswich centre, where Bhante blessed the newly finished chapter room, then gave a talk to the local sangha, and answered questions.

Back at home, Bhante’s regular guest slots remain well subscribed. Kalyanaprabha has come a couple of times to talk about her project of editing some correspondence Bhante had with a friend in Bombay, mainly in the 50s and 60s. These letters throw a lot of light on Bhante’s life and activities at that time. Vajrasadhu, Karunika, and Mokshapriya, who together constitute the Sangharakshita Land Project development team, visited Bhante in order to tell him of their progress.

From further afield, and from outside the Movement, came David Cherniack, who has been a Buddhist for forty years, and documentary film maker for only slightly less time. He is making a film about Buddhism’s transition to the west, which will be shown on Canadian TV and elsewhere, and is interviewing many Buddhist luminaries for this purpose, including Bhante, who he described as an ‘elder statesman of the Dharma’.

Paramartha went to Poland for a week, and Ashvajit stepped in once more to give Bhante practical help, as well as to read to him from Omens of Millenium by Harold Bloom. I have continued reading to Bhante, and we have now finished The Rainbow Road. He also wanted me to read him the Mahagovinda sutta from the Digha Nikaya, which he finds very interesting for various reasons.

Audio books that Bhante has enjoyed include The Unknown Coleridge, a selection of some of Coleridge’s less known poems together with a connecting commentary by Richard Holmes; A child of Bliss by Sebastian Peake, the author’s reminiscences of his famous father, the author of the Gormenghast trilogy; and Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy, a collection that includes what is perhaps his best known short story, The Withered Arm. One of Bhante’s many guests recently brought as a gift a series of four CDs on the life and work of Bach, which he has enjoyed listening to.

The only health news is that Bhante went to the hospital for a vision check, and met with his consultant, who proposed not to give any more eye injections for the time being, and said he would monitor Bhante’s progress over the coming months.


June 2010

As I was away on retreat for a week in the last week of May, and Paramartha was visiting the holy places of Greece, Bhante enjoyed the company of his old friend Ashvajit, who sojourned at Madhyamaloka for that period. Ashvajit stayed overnight with Bhante, helped in practical ways, and read to him some evenings. He also accompanied Bhante on his only recent trip to the Botanical Gardens. Though Bhante has not been out to the parks much, he walks round the Madhyamaloka garden every day, which is a good substitute - particularly now, when the recent combination of rain and sun has brought forth much lush foliage, with scores of flowers of different varieties and colours in bloom. Bhante enjoys the garden very much, and greatly appreciates the work Sanghadeva puts into it.

As regards reading, Bhante and I are now well into The Thousand Petalled Lotus. I have also read him The Story of my Soul by Richard Jeffries; an eloquently written classic of Nature Mysticism.

Bhante enjoyed listening to The Girl in Rose: Haydn’s Last Love, which, Bhante says, despite its rather Mills and Boon title, was mainly a well researched account of the rich and varied musical life of London in the latter half of the eighteenth century. In connection with hearing about the life of Haydn, Bhante decided to listen to Haydn’s ten London symphonies, which were in any case old favourites. On the CD to which he listened the symphonies were performed by the Berlin symphony Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Bhante strongly recommends this performance.

Other highlights from the world of audio books include Making Connections, by Patrick Kavanagh– the Irish poet and novelist’s account of his search for traces of the Grandfather who emigrated from Ireland to Tasmania and from Tasmania to New Zealand; The Masked Fisherman and Other Stories by George Mackay Brown - a writer recommended by me – which Bhante enjoyed, though he thought the stories of uneven quality; and Philby, by Bruce Page, the strange story of the notorious double agent, written before the exposure of Anthony Blunt.

No health news to report, except a couple of trips to the hospital - one for an eye injection, and another for a vision test – and the usual session of acupuncture with Rosi.


Bhante is continuing to enjoy his excursions to the local parks, and especially to the botanical gardens, which is he very fond of. My birthday treat, yesterday as I write, was to accompany him there, and to enjoy tea and cake in the cafe. The gardens date from 1830s, and are a like a miniature Kew, containing quite a variety of trees and flowers, as well as cactuses, and bonsais, and various species of tropical bird. Some of the plants are under glass, in rooms imitating various different kinds of climate, and the rest are distributed around the fifteen acres of land.

The other part of my birthday treat was to read Bhante one of my attempts to write philosophy, which he said he found interesting. Other reading has included continuing with Learning to Walk, and Plotinus, Bhante’s memories of the ideas of which philosopher he wished to have refreshed. Audio books that he has listened to include In My Way, the political memoirs of George Brown, who in the 1960s was foreign minister in the Wilson government; The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, by Tobias Smollett, which tells one quite a lot about life in Hogarthian England; Mrs Oscar Wilde by Anne Clark Amor, the story of a woman who shared in the rise – and spectacular fall – of her celebrated husband; and On the Other Side (abridged) by Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg, an elderly German woman’s account of her life in Hamburg during World War II, written for the benefit of her children in different parts of the world. He has also recently been listening to radio 4, and he says he is beginning to appreciate Gustav Mahler. In fact he quite enjoyed Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, though he was not a little surprised to hear it described by the presenter of the programme as ‘bleak’.

Particularly memorable among his steady flow of visitors from all over the Movement, are Nityabandhu, who came for a weekend, and a few groups of people, including some mainly Indian friends, Order members and mitras from Cambridge and London, and some Birmingham men who study together in a group led by Alokavira.

Bhante’s health has been stable. He had a lucentis injection a few weeks ago, and is due another around the end of the month.



Spring has come, which means that Bhante, aside from enjoying the spring flowers of the Madhyamaloka garden, has been getting out and about more, including taking advantage of his season ticket to the Botanical Gardens. Such excursions will be aided by my recently having passed my driving test, making Bhante less dependent on Paramartha, who is often away working. Paramartha has also continued archiving. This month he has catalogued 74 ring binders containing mainly lecture notes and copies of letters written by Bhante. Also 27 photo albums containing mainly photos taken by Bhante from 69 onwards.

I have continued reading Shabda to Bhante, as well as wading through Geunther’s book on Padmasambhava. The latter may as well be Arabic as far as I am concerned, but Bhante seems to get something out of it. We have also started going through Learning to Walk, because Bhante wanted to refresh his memory of the contents, and correct any factual inaccuracies he might find, as when he wrote it he was in Kalimpong, and had no way of checking some of the details. Paramartha has started reading him The Gospel of Philip, from the Nag Hammadi Library. Bhante has also enjoyed listening to two classic novels: Washington Square by Henry James, and The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. He appreciated the artistry of the first but felt that the second went deeper.

Aside from these things Bhante has kept up his daily programme. His visitors have included only one group, which consisted of friends and mitras from Southampton. He has also continued to work on correspondence. Those who have received a letter from Bhante in the last few weeks may have been pleased to see the Three Jewels emblem on the letterhead, which seems more appropriate for the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order than the previous picture of Padmasambhava.

Bhante’s health has generally been reasonable. He had a cold over the weekend, and had to cancel a few appointments, but he has now largely recovered.


March 2010

You will be glad to know that Bhante has recovered well from his recent angina attack, and after a week or two of taking things relatively easy, is now back to his usual routine of walks, interviews and correspondence. Other than this dramatic and worrying episode the most noteworthy feature of the last month has been a series of visits by Subhuti, who interviewed Bhante on some of his more recent ‘philosophical’ thinking. He has also had a visit from a Manchester GFR group.

With Bhante’s assistance, Paramartha has started cataloguing Bhante’s personal archive. So far 37 box files have been catalogued. Material includes lecture notes, press cuttings, correspondence, articles and book reviews.

I have read to Bhante the whole of Suzuki’s translation of The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, as well as reading Shabda to him. Paramartha has read him some of the Gnostic texts from The Nag Hammadi Library. The audio book service has provided information and entertainment by way of Congo Journey by Redmond O’Hanlon in which the author meets Bantus, pygmies, and sourcerers, adopts a baby gorilla, and encounters an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Bhante also enjoyed In Search of the Dark Ages, which he thought was history writing at its best. It emphasises dominant personalities such as Boudicca, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and Eric Bloodaxe, rather than emphasising economics and social trends. The last audio book to which Bhante listened this month was My Invented Country by Isabelle Allende, in which the author gives a vivid picture of pre-Pinochet Chile as she remembers it.


February 2010

Bhante’s routine has carried on unchanged. The snow having gone, his daily walks have resumed, and the steady flow of visitors has continued. Bhante particularly enjoyed receiving, from Lokamitra, who came in January, a model of the 30ft high walking Buddha, recently inaugurated at Nagaloka, and was pleased with the artist’s execution. Another highlight was a weekend visit from Nityabandhu, who took the opportunity to interview Bhante about his early life, particularly the first eight years, before he was confined to bed with alleged heart disease.

As spring approaches Bhante starts to consider the possibility of accepting various invitations to visit centres in the UK and abroad, though he has made no definite commitments yet. He received an invitation from Aryaloka to attend their 25th anniversary, and would have liked to accept, but in view of age and health felt that he could not.

Bhante continues to do his best to keep up with correspondence, despite the difficulties of having to dictate all letters. He has been pleased to see that the great majority of Order members seem to welcome the change of name. He has also been moved by some of the letters he has received regarding the Conversation with Mahamati and Subhuti.

Highlights from the audio book service include A Social History of England, by Asa Briggs, a standard work which Bhante found both informative and illuminating; Macbeth, one of his favourite Shakespeare plays, in which he thought Irene Worth was particularly good as Lady Macbeth; and most recently Florence: A Delicate Case, by David Leavitt, an account of some of the more prominent members of the city’s ex-patriot community during the last hundred or more years.

I have continued to read to Bhante from The Book of Kadam. I have also read Shabda to him, as have Paramartha and Nityabandhu.

The only news regarding Bhante’s health is that he had a vision test and macular scan, following his recent series of operations, and there seems that there has been a very slight improvement.


January 2010

This month has been even more quiet than the last. Vidyadevi has visited a few of times, in order to interview Bhante about some of his favourite poetry. Bhante has received visitors most days, though even this tailed off a bit over Christmas and New Year. For a week of this period I was away visiting family, so Dharmamati stepped back into his old role, for which thanks to him. Bhante’s own Christmas celebrations extended no further than having a meal with the Madhyamaloka community, followed by a chat round the open log fire. The snowy weather, as well as disrupting the travel plans of some if his visitors, has precluded his daily walks for a number of weeks.

Bhante has had a number of friends read to him from various books. Paramartha read him Porphory’s The Cave of the Nymphs, a neo-Platonic allegory of the soul’s descent into the world of space and time. Devamitra read him extracts from A God Who Hates, in which Wafa Sultan describes the effect of Islam on her early life in Syria. I have read him the beginning of Francis Brassard’s The Concept of Bodhicitta in Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, the new introduction to The Religion of Art, by Dhivan, and we have recently started The Book of Kadam, a new translation of an important text from Tibetan Buddhism. Bhante has also listened to a few interesting audio books. These include To The Navel of the World by Peter Somerville-Large, the navel in question being the region around Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarova in Western Tibet; A Nation of Trees by Rosemary Millington, an account of the author’s two and a half years in the Australian outback, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel by Adrian Vaughan, a biography of the famous nineteenth century engineer.

Bhante had another lucentis injection, the last planned for the time being. Other than this his health has been good, despite the wintry weather.


December 2009

Bhante has been continuing to eschew travel, but has nonetheless been kept busy by his daily meetings with visitors, as well as correspondence, which he has been giving more attention to, despite his finding dictating letters difficult. His only trip out of Birmingham was to Worcester, to meet sangha members at their new centre, where they had a discussion mainly on the topic of Team Based Right Livelihood. He has enjoyed meeting with two groups of men at Madhyamaloka, one from Croydon, and another all the way from Dublin. Conversation with the latter group centred largely around Bhante’s article The Path of Regular and Irregular Steps, which they had come over to study with Dhammaloka and Abhaya.

Bhante has continued to have me read to him. We finished Nagapriya’s Visions of the Mahayana, which Bhante enjoyed, describing it as ‘a well researched, sympathetic, but not uncritical account of the Mahayana in India and the Far East’. I also read him an article by Bernard Stevens, a mitra from Belgium, which explored the Japanese philosopher Nishida’s thought in relation to the Abhidharma. Bhante enjoys hearing reportings- in from Shabda, and we get through as much as we can of each issue.

The RNIB audio book service that Bhante has recently joined seems to be working out well, and he has particularly appreciated two of its offerings recently. Firstly The Last Days of the Raj by Trevor Royle, which describes the political and economic background of Bhante’s early years in India. Of course he knew much of it already, but he also learned things that were new to him. The second audio book was Peter the Great, by Derek Wilson, which Bhante described as giving a ‘thorough and interesting, if lurid light on Russia past and present’.

Bhante’s health has been stable. On Wednesday 16th December he had another lucentis injection into his eye, which is the last planned for the time being.


October 2009

Having travelled quite a lot in the summer, Bhante has been enjoying a quiet period at Madhyamaloka, which he intends to continue through the winter. Apart from attending to correspondence, he has been receiving visitors every day, some of them from far away places.
The only other events of note have been dinner engagement at one of the Birmingham communities, and a session with a seminar led by Vishvapani held here at Madhyamaloka, on the life of the Buddha. Bhante was happy to spend an hour or so with the seminar participants, especially since he considers it very important to know of the Buddha’s life, especially through acquaintance with the Pali Scriptures.
Bhante finished hearing Gombrich’s book, What the Buddha Thought, which gives an assessment of the Buddha as a thinker. He considers it a useful book, and thinks it may especially have a good effect in India, where there is still a popular misconception of the Buddha of the kind propagated by Swami Vivekananda, who said ‘ is possible to have the intellect of a Shankara with the heart of a Buddha’, implying that the Buddha did not have such an intellect! Bhante, of course, contributed to correcting this wrong view in his essay Buddhism as Philosophy and Religion, published more than fifty years ago. We have now started on Nagapriya’s new book Visions of Mahayana Buddhism, which Bhante is enjoying. He has also recently joined a talking book service which will hopefully help to feed his continued appetite for learning and artistic enjoyment.
As I write Bhante is at the hospital for a further Lucentis injection into his eye. Another one is planned in December. Other than this, his health has been reasonable, though his energy seems slowly to be running down, to the extent that he considered it necessary to cancel all engagements that he felt would be too demanding.


September 2009

Bhante has had no trips away from Birmingham since the Conventions, but has nonetheless had a pretty busy schedule of meetings, both with individuals and groups, the latter category having consisted of a GFR group from Croydon on one occasion, and a group of friends from Rivendell, including Suryaketu, on another. A highlight for Bhante was a visit from Nityabandhu for a weekend in September. They spent their time together visiting the local parks and enjoying each other’s company.
Bhante also met with Mahamati and Subhuti over a number of days, for a conversation about various aspects of his character and their bearing upon his life.
Paramartha has been on solitary retreat for two weeks, and I have therefore had the opportunity to spend some evenings with Bhante, in which I have been reading to him from Gombrich’s new book What the Buddha Thought. It offers revealing insights into how the Buddha’s ideas were framed in the language of his culture. It is also interesting to note how familiar some the ideas in the book will be to us in the F/WBO, Bhante’s thinking being so ahead of its time.
Bhante continues to explore his enthusiasm for English literature. I recently had the unusual experience of finding a classic novel that I have read and Bhante has not, whereupon I obtained the audio book. The novel in question was The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Bhante was not as impressed by it as I had been, but was nonetheless glad to have filled that particular gap in his knowledge.
Though Bhante’s health has generally been reasonably good, there have been a number of incidents recently that may serve to remind us all that he is an old man. In August he felt unwell enough to call NHS Direct, who, perhaps upon hearing of his medical history, immediately advised calling an ambulance crew round to check up on him. It was decided that no further checks were needed. Now as I write (on 13th October) Bhante is at the doctor having had some chest pain that he thought best to have checked. He continues to find acupuncture very beneficial, though his acupuncturist thinks his heart has weakened a little recently. In view of this and other incidents Bhante is considering whether or not to cancel some of his forthcoming engagements, especially those which make heavy demands upon his energy.

July/August 2009

After Bhante’s visit to Cambridge, detailed in the last report, his next visit was to the Glasgow and Edinburgh centres, accompanied by Dharmamati. Bhante and Dharmamati were accommodated by the very warm and hospitable Shantiketu and Jyotipakshini at their house in a pleasant suburb of Glasgow. From there on the following day Bhante made an excursion to  the Edinburgh Buddhist Centre in time for an evening meal with Order members. After this the doors were opened to the public and Bhante launched his two new books The Essential Sangharakshita and Living Ethically by giving a short talk followed by a book signing.

The following evening Bhante gave a slightly longer talk at the Glasgow Centre. Again he introduced both the books, mentioned above, but to the delight of his audience included a commentary on his poem ‘Meditation’ composed in 1947. It is a short poem, so, it has been included at the end of this report.

Bhante also met people individually and in small groups for meals.

A week later Bhante, again accompanied by Dharmamati, found himself ‘royally’ accommodated by Saccavicaya, at his house near Blackburn. This was the base from which visits to the Northern Centres of Liverpool, Lancaster, and Blackburn would be undertaken. On the day of arrival and after Bhante’s afternoon rest he was driven to Liverpool where he had an evening meal with the local sangha, at a mitra’s home. After that he was taken to the hired room that the Liverpool Sangha use as their Centre. There, as in the Scottish centres, he gave a short talk introducing his latest books followed by a book signing. The next Bhante went to Vidyacitta’s house near Lancaster where he had meal with local Sangha.  After that he was taken to the Friends Meeting House (Quakers) in Lancaster, where the local sangha hire rooms for classes. There he gave another talk to launch his books and sign copies. The following evening Bhante enjoyed a meal with the Order members from Liverpool, Lancashire and Blackburn at the Blackburn Buddhist Centre. This was followed by an informal Q&A session with those Order members. The next day’s event was at the Blackburn Buddhist centre again, this time it was their turn for Bhante to give a talk to launch his latest books followed by a book signing. Bhante also saw some people individually during his stay.   

Only a few days later Bhante, accompanied by Paramartha found himself winging his way to Valencia. Bhante was primarily in Valencia to officially open their new centre, but, also took the opportunity to run two Q&A sessions one for Order members and the other for Women who had asked for Ordination. He opened the centre by giving a talk on … (please ask Bhante to fill this in as well as anything else he would like to say here). He also purchased a Panama hat which some of you may have seen him wearing during the conventions.
Two days after their return from Valencia, Bhante and Paramartha, were off again, though this time only as far as Ipswich to open the new centre. There he gave a talk to open the centre as well as launching his latest books.
The following weekend Bhante gave a Q&A session for Private preceptors at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre.
The weekend after that Bhante led a second session of study on the Ratnaguna Samcaya gatha for a group of men ordained by Arthapriya at Madhyamaloka.
Combined and Men’s conventions.
Bhante stayed at Padmaloka during both the combined and Men’s conventions.
During the combined convention Bhante attended all of the colloquia sessions and met with small groups of Order members for meals. On the last full day there was a book launch during which Bhante gave a long talk the highlight of which was his emphasis on Sila not only being ethics but including manners. On the Men’s convention Bhante did not go to any events apart from a talk by Subhuti. He did, however, meet Order members individually and eat meals with small groups.
Over this period, when at Madhyamaloka, Bhante continued, as usual, to see people individually. The most noteworthy of which was two visits by David Brazier from the Amida trust. He is author of the book New Buddhism which Bhante has been recommending order members to read particularly the chapters on Critical Buddhism. He also had his daily walk in the garden and
Bhante’s health
Bhante’s health continues to be reasonably good. He has recently completed a series of Lacentis injections to inhibit macular degeneration. This appears to have been successful in arresting further degeneration.
Change of Bhante’s secretary.

Vidyaruci recently returned from being ordained at Guhyaloka and he has now taken over fully as Bhante’s secretary. For me personally it has been a great privilege and honor to work closely with Bhante over the last 3 years.
Dharmamati - Madhyamaloka

June 2009

The first activity that Bhante did since the last report was to lead a study seminar on the Virya chapter from Bodhicaryavatara with 4 Order members and 4 Mitras from Belgium and Holland.
This was followed by a visit to Cambridge accompanied by Paramartha and Dharmamati. On the Friday evening of his arrival he met up with the Windhorse publications team in their new offices at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre.  On the Saturday morning he had a Q&A session with the men who had requested Ordination.  In the afternoon he gave a 50 minute talk launching his latest books The Essential Sangharakshita and Living Ethically followed by a book signing. On the Sunday in the context of an Order day Bhante did a first for many a year, much to the delight of those Order members present, he led the Green Tara sadhana.  In the afternoon he gave a Q&A session for Order member. On the Monday morning, the day of his departure, he met up with the Women who had asked for Ordination.
On a day to day level Bhante continues to deal with correspondence, engage with various issues concerning the F/WBO, meet with people individually nearly every day, as well as go for his daily walk. He has also nearly finished listening to Vajragupta’s ‘History of the FWBO’.
Bhante’s health continues very well and he has recently been receiving a series of Lacentis injections to arrest the macular degeneration. This is the second series of these injections which, although not having improved Bhante’s eyesight, appear to have been successful in arresting further degeneration.
Dharmamati - Madhyamaloka

January 2009

"In January, Sangharakshita was filmed being interviewed by Mahamati in honour of the occasion of the Order Convention at Bodh Gaya, and the film was shown for the first time in India on 24 February. Sangharakshita considers the occasion of the first Convention to be held in India to have been a very significant one for the history of the Order.

"The recording of the interview with Sangharakshita that was shown at the convention in Bodhgaya is available for general viewing on VideoSangha. Copies can be ordered from ClearVision.

"Since then, aside from being kept busy by a steady stream of personal appointments, Sangharakshita has participated in two question-and-answer sessions on events hosted by the Dharmapala College. The last such event was attended by Nityabandhu, who, having left England almost exactly a year ago to set up the FWBO's first Centre in Poland , returned to his old room in Sangharakshita's flat for the duration of his stay.

"Matt, Sangharakshita's secretary, has had the pleasure and privilege of reading to him from David Loy's snappily titled book Money Sex War Karma, which looks at various contemporary issues from a Buddhist perspective. Sangharakshita found it very interesting and stimulating, and recommends the book to Order members. You’ll find it reviewed by Nagapriya on the WBO’s Western Buddhist Review website.

"Sangharakshita's health has generally been stable, though he is easily tired, and in January he was forced to leave Bristol, where he had planned to lead a weekend of study, early, due to having slept badly. In February he had the first of a series of injections into his left eye, which, it is hoped, will slow down the macular degeneration, and maybe even improve his vision slightly. He is due another such injection on 25 March, and another a month later.