Sangharakshita Diary

August–October 1998

Since returning from Guhyaloka in early August Bhante has been concentrating on writing his fourth volume of memoirs. This covers the period of his return to Britain in 1964 and his founding of the FWBO in 1967. Consequently, apart from a week in London at the end of October, he has spent most of his time busy at his desk at Madhyamaloka.

However during this time he was able to be present at the openings of three new Centres and number of other events. On the 12th September the new Birmingham Buddhist Centre was opened. Bhante led the dedication ceremony and later spoke to some of the invited guests, including the local MP and clergy of the local churches.

Two weeks later Bhante was off to Cardiff to open the new Centre that Surana and Pramudita had bought and renovated. Here again he conducted the opening ceremony, and gave a short talk.

Finally at the end of October Bhante travelled down to Colchester to open yet another Centre, this time staying all day.

On the weekend before that the Croydon Centre celebrated 25 years of FWBO activities in Croydon and everybody associated with that centre over the years, including Bhante, had been invited. Amongst other events the guests were treated to an afternoon of entertainment including poetry and memories of past times in Croydon. Bhante himself provided some of the entertainment by reading some of his own poems about each of the Three Jewels.

Windhorse Publications celebrated their first anniversary of moving into their new premises behind the Birmingham Buddhist Centre by holding a dedication day in the middle of November, to which Bhante was invited. Here he led the dedication ritual and, as requested, gave a short talk on ‘What Windhorse Publications Means to Me’.

In December Bhante was also present at the launch of Windhorse Publication’s latest book Know Your Mind, which is based on the seminar he gave on the book Mind in Buddhist Psychology. During the evening he read extracts from the memoirs he is currently writing. These included his first impressions of Britain after being away for twenty years, his reunion with his family, the somewhat confused state of Buddhism in Britain at the time, and his experiences on his first Buddhist Society Summer School.

In October many people would have heard Bhante speaking on Radio 4 where he was invited to discuss the topic of conversion on a programme called Between Ourselves. His fellow guest was Hugh Montefiore, the former Bishop of Birmingham, who although born into Judaism converted to Christianity in his youth.

Bhante also found time to engage in some cultural appreciation. This included two trips to Stratford-upon-Avon to see productions of Richard III and The Winter’s Tale, and a concert by Jan Garbarek at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Whilst in London, Bhante went with Prasannasiddhi to see the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the Tate Gallery and in Birmingham he visited the exhibition of works by Edward Burne-Jones currently on display at the City Art Gallery.

Because Bhante is currently writing he has had to reduce the number of visitors he receives. Despite that a steady trickle of Order members and others have made their way to his flat, including the Thai monk Phra Mahalaow, a student at Birmingham University, who consulted Bhante about a thesis he is writing on Buddhism in Britain.

Bhante has also been invited to dinner on various occasions, being entertained by the members of the Madhyamaloka support team community, the Women Preceptors community and the members of the recent Karuna appeal in Birmingham who were staying with Sunanda. In London he also had dinner with the Sukhavati and Samaggavasa communities. In turn Bhante has done his own entertaining; in October a traditional high tea was arranged at Madhyamaloka for members of the Windhorse Publications team. As well as this he has often invited members of the various seminars and other retreats held at Madhyamaloka to dine with him.

See more articles by Sangharakshita on the FWBO website. Visit Sangharakshita’s personal website and see his essays on Nietzsche and Buddhism and Art and the Spritual Life

Originally published in Madhyamavani: Spring 1999 (Birmingham: Madhyamaloka, 1999).