Sangharakshita's Diary

See also the Triratna News Website - news from around the buddhist movement that Sangharakshita founded.

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 Given the somewhat changed nature of the secretarial role, Singhamanas has honourably withdrawn – though he has been here at Adhisthana for the last few weeks, helping Bhante in whatever ways he can.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.

Vidyaruchi

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’.

Vidyaruchi

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 thebuddhistcentre.com.

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.

Singhamanas

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.

Vidyaruchi

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.

Vidyaruchi

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.

Vidyaruchi

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.

Vidyaruchi

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.

Vidyaruchi

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

2010

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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.

Vidyaruci

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 ‘..it 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.

Vidyaruci
Madhyamaloka

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.
Vidyaruci
Madhyamaloka

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.