Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sangharakshita's Diary

Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita's secretary, writes with news of his recent activities.

He says - “Two months have sidled by since last I wrote of Bhante's doings, and in this time, as you will know, our Teacher 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.

“On that occasion 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 Windhorse Publications’ new series 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 water-meadow 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 ever driven Bhante, but the journey went smoothly, and we arrived just a little late for dinner.

“Hard upon this weekend of activity came 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 to concentrate on correspondence, as well as writing about his search for traces of his Lingwood ancestors, as mentioned in the last Diary, which he has greatly enjoyed.

“Bhante has also been involved in the literary endeavours of others. Kalyanaprabha continues with her work of 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, about whom he has written 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 Wojtek, the Krakov centre'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 the Lalitavistara Sutra to Bhante, 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.




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