Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita's secretary, reports on some of the highlights of the last three months of Sangharakshita’s activities -
"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.
|Madhyamaloka garden, with|
Sangharakshita's flat visible on far right
"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.
"Talking of memoirs, 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.
"In May Bhante continued 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 fish and tropical birds. 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 wishing to refresh his memories of the ideas of that philosopher. 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..
"Paramartha has also continued archiving, and 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 Guenther'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. 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".