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Sangharakshita's Diary 2013

December 2013 / January 2014

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

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

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

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

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

November 2013

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

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

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

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

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

September 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much metta to all, Ashvajit”

July 2013

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

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

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

May 2013

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

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

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

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

April 2013

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

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

March 2013

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

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


February 2013

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

January 2013

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

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

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

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

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