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Sangharakshita's Diary 2017

December 2017

Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees now, apart from the oaks and even their autumnal mantles are looking thin and revealing the skeletal dark frames beneath. November was a mix of grey leaden sky’s with wind, rain or stillness, and blue skies with dazzling winter sunlight and the kind of cold that seeps in under most layers.

The new gardens have been nonetheless a hive of activity, even though the plants have all slowed or finished growing this year. Hundreds of spring flowering bulbs have gone in, lots of new rose bushes planted and even a couple of trees replaced in the mandala beds. What seems dead or dormant now, is in reality the beginning of a great abundance in spring.

Bhante’s month apart from a continued high level of meetings with different people, has been relatively quiet. Having finished ‘News from nowhere-and from India’, Bhante went on to write two shorter pieces about his uncles, both of which should we available, if not now, then very soon. And I hear he’s now working on another longer piece.

And towards the end of the month Bhante visited the Kidderminster hospital, for a combined vision test, scan, and injection of Lucentis.

Having met with several of the Public Preceptors during the college meeting and others over events in between, Adhisthana finished the month with the Anagarika convention, in which Bhante did meet with some of them one to one but also came out on a sunny and cold morning for a group photo in front of the Library.

Bhante met with 32 people​ from 1st of Nov to the 30th Nov.​

With Metta,

November 2017

Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve, the 31st of October is not only the deadline for November’s Shabda now but also this year a Tuesday and the Adhisthana communities combined sangha evening. Reputed to be the night when ghouls and ghosts roam the land, buried beneath the consumerism and mass marketing lie layers of traditions and myths and superstitions that seem to have flowered more recently as a rather cheap sickly sweet Plastic flower, yet have old roots that run far back through the USA and Europe into pagan and Celtic rites that were once tied to the seasons and the land, but now are distant memories.

Nonetheless here at Adhisthana whether the country side will be roaming with ‘beings’ seen and unseen, the autumn is most certainly upon us and the leaves are falling from the trees in all manner of colours, yellows, oranges, deep rich reds and earthy browns. The nights and mornings are closing in, the clocks have now turned back and the morning mists have begun to settle over the ponds and give us the most amazing mysterious shafts of light in the mornings, muted and often golden.

Bhante is in remarkably good health and has been for many months now. Having just passed the changing of the clocks his good sleep and rest has not been affected by the shift. This month past has also seen him move from separate visits for eye tests and eye injections to a single hospital visit that incorporates both tests and an injection. Though this does lessen the number of appointments, those remaining ones are longer and more disruptive to the usual daily routine, the first of which took place on the 26th of October.

Bhante has also been able to meet with many people this month from the 1st to the 31st,​ ​38​ in total.

Along side all the meetings with people, Bhante continues to ‘write’ in the evenings after dinner. Earlier in the month he finished writing ‘Blake and the Gates of Paradise’, which mostly looks at the theme of forgiveness. From there he moved on and has just finished writing ‘News from Nowhere and from India’ in which Bhante talks about William Morris’s socialism and Doctor Ambedkar’s mass conversion to Buddhism.

Mahamati was to be seen with Bhante most days over a two-week period this month, partly covering myself while I attended a retreat, and partly for Paramartha who was away from Adhisthana working for a week. The additional cover helped as Ashvajit was away in India, meeting with old friends giving talks etc., and leading a retreat. Ashvajit will soon be with us again in Bhante’s household while Suvajra continues to recuperate after his ankle replacement operation, which all in all seems to be going well.

With Metta,

October 2017

Having recently passed the autumnal equinox and entered into autumn, Adhisthana has had a few beautiful golden light days that seem to rise out of early morning mists on the field and slip through the slanting early evening light into night time. However rain has also visited and I'm sure more will follow as the autumn advances. The trees are beginning to change colour and the leaves are falling.

With the shifts in weather and temperature, Bhante has not been going out for walks by the pond or anything further afield, though he has certainly had visitors, there having been a great many wishing to see him this month.

One of those visits was from Mary Schaefer from the USA, who was attending the recent 6 guidelines going for refuge retreat here at Adhisthana. Mary is the editor of ‘Vajra Bell’ magazine in the US and Bhante enjoyed their conversation, which was wide ranging, useful and interesting.

From the 1st of September to the 30th September Bhante met with 25 people.

Just last week Bhante had an appointment for another lucentis injection into his left eye in Kidderminster, other than this his health continues to be very robust and his sleep is plentiful. On the subject of health, Suvajra of course has now had his ankle in plaster for 6 weeks following his ankle replacement operation. While he takes several months to fully recover, Ashvajit has returned to help out around the annexe, often cooking Bhante's lunch and spending time with Bhante.

Bhante's recent flow of literary works, seems to have slowed down and there is no new project on the horizon just yet, though his most recent piece ‘Evil in myth and in human experience’ is finished and should be posted soon after it has been proof read.

And finally Bhante was very pleased to hear about the opening of the New Buddhist centre in Southampton, and to hear from the Highlands Sangha, who have bought premises for their new centre.

With Metta,

September 2017

The last few days of August have been blessed with sunny and warm weather which fitted neatly with the international gathering and Bhante's Birthday. Much of the rest of the month has been mixed with cold spells and some showers and rain along side some sunnier days.

Some flowers are fading while others are just coming into their own, the sunflowers and dhailias have begun to really blossom in profusion.

Bhante's month has been relatively quiet culminating in two large camping events ( The combined area order weekend, and the international retreat) and his 92nd birthday Here at Adhisthana. Which of course has seen many requests to meet with him and a wave of cards and messages of good wishes for his birthday.

Earlier in the month Paramartha drove with Bhante across Herefordshire to the west, and they spent some time visiting Vidyadevi and her partner Andy for morning tea. There was also in the room an open grate fire which Bhante had not seen for along time but enjoyed the warmth and light of it.

There has also been another visit to the hospital for his 19th Lucentis injection into the left eye.

There were 28 Visitors this month between the 1st and the 31st of August.

Of course the month has ended with two very large gatherings, during which Bhante saw many of the list above, and during the international retreat on the morning of his birthday was helped out of the door to the men's community where some 250/300 of us were gathered to wish him a happy birthday and give him a few gifts. These along with many other cards, emails and presents that have arrived so far, along with a rather large and tasty coffee cake from Ireland! Bhante has very kindly received and sends his thanks to all those who have sent them.

With Metta,

August 2017

Finally, after many weeks of dry and often sunny weather, the grounds and gardens have been treated in the last couple of weeks to downpours of rain, misty drizzle and long gentle overnight soakings. The rock hard lumps of clay earth are softening again. We've also seen this month second broods of moorhens hatching - tiny, little, black golfball-sized fluff, chirruping and calling for their mothers.

Bhante's month has been fairly quite, while keeping up his correspondence, at least hearing the incoming post regularly, he has also been keeping up with most of the articles, threads and stories of the past and present on The Buddhist Centre online and their subsequent threads.

There have of course been guests and visits from old friends and new, and so this month from 1st July to the 31st Bhante has met with 20 people.

There have been two hospital visits, one for a vision test and scan, which led to the second visit - Bhante's 18th lucentis injection into the left eye.

Bhante also went over to the Library to view the Blake exhibit, which was part of the Blake retreat. Following which Paramartha took Bhante on a wheelchair tour of the new Landscaping including his ‘Burial site’ that is slowly being developed and planted up.

With Metta,

July 2017

We have seen some very hot weather here at Adhisthana during June, which has been very welcome given all the earth works and path laying that has been going on. This has included the path by the pond, so although Bhante has been able to get out and enjoy some of this lovely summer weather, he has not as of yet been able to enjoy his familiar pond-side walk. However all the new paths are laid now and the diggers and dumper trucks etc., have left site a couple of days ago.

We have also come to the end of the present Dharma Training Course, and the eight men from it joined our recent sangha evening to say their farewells. Also in mid-June the two communities here at Adhisthana came together for our second 'sangha at home' this year, at the end of which Bhante joined us for a cup of tea in the lecture hall and then a group photo by the front pond.

Their have been other little excursions from the Annexe further into the site here. One of which was to attend a performance of the 'Singing in the Sangha' retreat choir, who sang in the atrium of the Library. Bhante enjoyed the singing, commenting on the very good acoustics and that it was the first live music he had heard for some years.

There have of course been the usual opportunities to meet with all sorts of different people and although it has not been possible for Bhante to meet with everyone he did manage to see 20 people from the 1st to the 30th of June.

On the Literary front, the ‘Adhisthana writings’ have now been put on Bhante’s website, and for those who don't recall mention of them in previous diary entries, they are pieces composed over the seven months Paramartha was away in New Zealand, which Bhante dictated to Suvajra who sent them to Paramartha. They include some autobiography, reminiscences and reflections. And soon to arrive, Bhante has written a new piece of writing called ‘Four Visits'.

Finally, it's worth mentioning a visit from the district nurse, her first visit having taken over from the local surgery's Community Matron. The nurse concluded during her visit that Bhante is in good health for his age and he needs only a routine monthly visit.

With Metta,

June 2017

May has been a month of large changes around the Adhisthana land. Diggers and dumper trucks have been shifting tons of earth around for some of our largest works since opening. Inside the buildings there has also been much work taking place in several areas, not least in the shrine room where the shrine is undergoing a major transformation. Even though the machines have been rumbling away most of the month there have been gaps and breaks and it’s during these pauses in work that one enjoys the roses coming into bloom or the large red poppies exploding into colour, or hearing the cuckoo or blackbird sing out from the hedgerow.

Bhante himself has been no stranger to work either this month. While he has been writing new pieces, he has of course also been engaging with his editors looking at previous works and has therefore been answering questions and queries on the Complete Works and the Adhisthana Writings. Sometime last year, Bhante was interviewed in over 20 sessions by Saddhanandi and discussed 10 different poems from the many he has written over the years. These 10 interviews are now all available to listen.

Bhante has also been spending some of his evenings going through Advayacitta’s book, Thinking at the Crossroads: A Buddhist Exploration of Western Thought with Paramartha which they have finished. Having read it, Bhante recommends it, in particular the chapter on psychology and Buddhism, but all the chapters are of interest too.

The month has also seen many visitors to the annexe, so from 1st to 31st May Bhante has met with the following: Ben Lindsey-Bloom, Ratnadharini, Dharmapriya, Ratnaprabha, Manjuvajra, Eduardo Visuet, Sraddhasiddhi, Tom Robinson, Saddhanandi, Acharashraddha, Marcus Lagerqvist, Filip Sobczak, Parami, Matthew Hibbert, Prajnaketu, Dharmasri, James Brodie, Vidyadevi, Buddhadasa, Nissoka and Sarah, Mark Childs and Munisha.

As well as guests there have been trips out. Firstly, one of the more usual trips for Bhante was to the hospital for a meeting with his consultant ophthalmologist, who has recommended for the moment one more Lucentis injection some time next month. The other outing was a social call, something Bhante has not done since before his attack of pneumonia over Christmas. So a short trip into Great Malvern took him to Paramartha’s flat, where he met for tea with Deji, Paramartha’s partner.

With Metta,

May 2017

April has certainly been a month of growth and birth, it seemed as though every day a new plant or flower was sprouting or coming into bud and blossom. The various nesting ducks have all hatched their ducklings and the swallows and house martins have returned.

Bhante himself seems no less effected or part of this springtime growth, as he has entered into a rich period of writing, going from one set of reflections to the next, addressing one theme after another. Earlier in the month he finished his piece entitled 'Living with Carter', then moved on to his recent piece on the Garava sutta, which he wrote/dictated with Paramartha's help. And there is another piece on the way which will probably be entitled 'A good friend, the false friend and the spiritual friend'.

While 'writing' in the evenings has taken up some of his time he has also been going through Advayacitta's book, again with Paramartha. And for some enjoyment there has been an audio set of short stories by Oscar Wilde.

There has of course been time to meet with various people throughout the month, so from 1st April up to the 30th April Bhante met with 24 people.

Kathy Wu an old friend from Madhyamaloka and a practitioner of traditional Chinese herbal medicine visited from the states and very much enjoyed her two weeks here at Adhisthana, and was able to meet with Bhante three times to catch-up and impart a wealth of medicinal knowledge to Suvajra and Sanghadasa.

Another guest to mention was Peter Oswald a well known playwright, who came to interview Bhante about his meetings with Dr Ambedkar for a play he is writing looking more at the life of that great man.

During the month Bhante made another trip to Kidderminster for his 16th injection of lucentis into his left eye, and there was a visit from the local matron towards the end of the month who was pleased to find Bhante quite well and thought that he would need only one more visit from her.

And just yesterday Paramartha drove Bhante over to the Adhisthana library to see the 50th Anniversary exhibition. Bhante has been pleased to hear of all the various celebrations around different parts of the movement celebrating our first 50 years. And of course as some will have seen in a short video clip taken by Suvajra, Bhante indeed made his own surprise appearance at the celebrations here at Adhisthana. So in some small way we were in person able to publicly thank Bhante with some words, flowers and a round of applause.

With Metta,

April 2017

Calm has descended at Adhisthana, the ponds have shifted from the place of mating ducks and squabbling groups of Mallards. To a silent realm of morning and evening sunlight slanting golden across the fields, and groups of drakes meandering about and bobbing the surface together while the ducks are now all hidden around the buildings, under bushes, hedges and even in the balcony bedding troughs, nesting and protecting their eggs. Even the Sadhana retreat has spent today in silence going deeper and focusing more on Avalokiteshvara.

Bhante’s health continues to be very good since his illness over christmas, and his energy is more fully present and available to him than it has been for such along time. Consequently he is able to listen to more correspondence, more shabda reports, and has even been taking quite an interest in the stories of the past and present on the Buddhist Centre Online, and particular interest in any responses to his two pieces there.

Following on from those writings Bhante has continued to delve into his past memories and has just finished writing another paper entitled ‘Living with Carter’, and this month has also been talking with people about publishing his ‘Adhisthana Writings’; a series of reminiscences which were written over several months to Paramartha while he was away in New Zealand caring for his Dying mother.

Of course Bhante has also been able to see people this month and sometimes even two the same day. So from the 1st of March to the 31st March he has seen 21 People.

Lyn who met with Bhante this month, has been living in Colwall for many years and had heard there were meditation classes happening at Coddington Court. Having come along she was pleased to discover that we were not only part of what was the ‘FWBO’ but that Sangharakshita lived here, whom she had met many years ago at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara and had attended some of his lectures there.

Bhante also heard this month from Mokshini who has just returned from india, where she met with Awn Zakhari who wanted her to remember him to Bhante and pass on a photo of them both together. He had very strong memories of touring with Bhante during his 1992 lecture tour and being responsible for taking care of the multitudes of flower garlands Bhante received at that time.

Now the weather has changed enough with the onset of spring, Bhante has made several trips out into the garden with Sanghadasa. To walk along the pond side path, sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth of it.

With Metta,

March 2017

As this short month of February comes to a close here at Adhisthana it's clear the seasonal battle between summer and winter is on. We have enjoyed a few delightful days of blue skies and warm sunshine as the snowdrops blossom all around the hills, but the winds have howled too! The rain has lashed the window panes on more than one side of the building and the temperature has fluctuated. None the less summer is winning, as it always does, even if the victory can seem a little weak in England sometimes.

During some of the worst weather this month we lost an old friend. Toppling over one morning, one of the beech trees by the front pond crashed to the ground. Apart from this Adhisthana suffered no loses even during storm Doris. Just to further my usual opening verses on the natural world around Adhisthana, Bhante thought a nature note was in order: the ducks and drakes here are all pairing off and beginning to roam around the buildings searching out their familiar nesting sites before they settle and lay their eggs. Bhante mentioned a Pheasant spotted outside the conservatory recently. Some of you on more than one occasion will have already spotted a robin in the main dinning hall which also visited the annexe kitchen once or twice while Sanghadasa was preparing Bhante’s lunch.

Bhante’s health is continuing to be very good since his recovery from the attack of pneumonia in December. Though he has taken to using his zimmer frame about the house for support, he has also commented on feeling health-wise, better than he has done for some time. There have also been two hospital trips this month, one for his 14th Lucentis injection in the left eye, and the other trip to see Mr Gandhi, his consultant Ophthalmologist, one of a team of six eye consultants at his hospital, who is a very talkative and friendly man with a turban.

With his recovery and renewed energy levels, Bhante has begun to meet with people here at Adhisthana, so from the 1st of February to the 28th February he has met with 15 people.

As I mentioned last month Bhante has received many personal replies to his personal statement and clarification, these continue to arrive and are almost all expressions of understanding and much appreciation and gratitude, there being just two or three replies of a more searching or critical nature which were also expressed in an overall mood of gratitude. Along with these letters Bhante is also aware of the recent article in the Observer magazine which was read to him later on the day it was published.

This month Bhante has been going through a Book about the book of Job with Paramartha in the evenings. Though as he pointed out to me this was not his first encounter with Job. He has something to say about the book in his own book 'From Genesis to the Diamond Sutra' including this “when I was in my teens my favourite books of the Bible were the Book of Job and the Song of Solomon, especially the former, which I read over and over again.” (p17)

On the 24th of February, four years ago Bhante arrived at Adhisthana, apparently it was very cold with ice and snow around. This month then, on the 24th, the Sangha here marked the anniversary with a photo outside the men’s community in the sunshine with Bhante, followed by a more than usual festive tea break and homemade cake, some of which was sent through to Bhante.

And finally on the subject of past events and memories, Bhante is working on more than one set of personal reminiscences at the moment, which he hopes before too long will be ready for ‘publication’.

With Metta,

January - February 2017

As Bhante pointed out, when I finished writing the last diary, back at the end of November, we didn't know there would be so much to write in this one!

There is not much to report from the early part of December apart from Bhante having a rather quiet time having recovered from a long spell of poor sleep over the summer and autumn. ​ ​ During that time he saw three people having seen almost no one in the previous month or two.

Then Bhante caught a cold which quickly deteriorated and he was admitted on the evening of Tuesday 20th December to Hereford County Hospital suffering from pneumonia. ​ ​ Whilst in hospital the Uddiyana team, arranged 24 ​ ​ hour attendance between Sanghadasa, and Paramartha and Suvajra who took it in turns to stay overnight with Bhante. ​ ​ He was in hospital for ten days and left in the afternoon of Friday, 30th December.

As soon as he was out of hospital, that evening, he dictated his personal statement to Paramartha before going to bed, which has been circulated to the Order and others. There have been many emails cards and letters posted in reply, the vast majority expressing appreciation and gratitude, which I must say even as secretary has been deeply moving to read to Bhante. ​ ​ It has taken several weeks for his health to improve and only now does he feel fully recovered. ​ ​ Bhante hopes to write something about his hospital experience but in the meantime said it would surface to say that the experience was very different from his life at Adhisthana and he was glad to return home.

However, this recent illness does seem to have marked a change in Bhante's life. ​ ​ Things are, and will be, quite different now and Bhante will be receiving quite a bit more help and care from the health care services. ​ ​ He has already received a new hospital-style bed that can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button, and a visit from a physiotherapist who has given him a set of exercises to help him keep mobile (these are done every day with the help of Sanghadasa). ​ ​ Soon there will also be a visit from an Occupational therapist and a Community Matron. ​ ​ Bhante also had another visit to the eye clinic on Thursday the 19th at Kidderminster Hospital for his 13th lucentis eye injection.

Apart from the world of health of course other things continue, such as study with Paramartha. ​ ​ At the time of going into hospital they had gone through the first chapter of The Lotus Sutra: A Biography, by Donald Lopez on the White ​ ​ Lotus Sutra and after his return from hospital they picked up where they left off and have now finished it. ​ ​ Listening to Audio Books also has resumed - at present it's Evelina by Fanny Burney, the daughter of Charles Burney, a friend of Doctor Johnson.

With returning strength and energy Bhante has also been able to begin seeing people for short meetings again and has during the later half of January seen seven people. And as the days begin to lengthen and slowly but surely the spring bulbs make their way up through the earth, I know Bhante is looking forward to once again walking out in the garden by the pond and feeling the sun shining on his face.

With metta,

Diary by year: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009