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Sangharakshita's Diary 2014

November 2014

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

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

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

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

With much metta, Ashvajit

October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much metta, Ashvajit

September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

July 2014

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

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

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

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

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

June 2014

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

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

Yours with much metta, Ashvajit

May 2014

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

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

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

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

Yours with much metta to all, Ashvajit

April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours with much metta to all, Ashvajit”

March 2014

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

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

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

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

February 2014

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

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

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

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

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

With much metta to all, Ashvajit”

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