Sangharakshita Diary

July–October 2001

During the period July to October 2001, Bhante spent most of his time at home at Madhyamaloka, apart from attending the Order Convention. This was a period of adjustment to the condition of impaired sight, and of finding ways of continuing his literary and other work. Apart from the condition of his eyesight, which renders him unable to read or write, Bhante’s health has been generally good. He is able to manage most of the affairs of day-to-day life reasonably well, but literary work, including his memoirs and correspondence, takes much more time, and therefore progresses much more slowly than previously. As ever, meetings with individuals or groups continue to occupy a considerable amount of his time.

At the time of writing, Bhante has recently had a second session of photodynamic therapy (PDT), this time for the left eye only. The first session of treatment appears to have been effective in slowing down the rate of macular degeneration in both eyes, with the haemorrhaging in the right eye having apparently been stopped and the resultant scarring reduced. The consultant overseeing Bhante’s treatment is cautiously optimistic that no further PDT will be required, the treatment having achieved the objective of inhibiting further degeneration.

Neal Warren has continued to assist Bhante’s work on the current volume of memoirs, by doing research and taking dictation. Recently, the events being covered have been Bhante’s farewell tour of India and return to England in 1966–67. Other literary tasks have included work on the new edition of The Eternal Legacy, and an Author’s Note for the new edition of the seminar The Endlessly Fascinating Cry.

From the 2nd to the 16th August Bhante attended the Combined and Men’s Conventions at Wymondham College. One evening he attended a celebration of his birthday, consisting of performances of instrumental and vocal music, and poetry readings and recitals. During the Combined Convention he also launched Maitreyabandhu’s book Thicker Than Blood, Friendship on the Buddhist Path. His main activity was meeting with Order members, either individually, or at meal times in groups according to Chapter, region or nationality. Bhante also conducted one Kalyana Mitra ceremony.

In mid July Bhante heard one evening from his niece’s husband that his sister Joan (mentioned in Learning to Walk) was seriously ill and had been admitted to Basildon hospital. She had previously broken both legs in an accident, and was now suffering complications, including a stroke. There were several other relatives at her bedside when Bhante arrived the following day, and although she was slipping in and out of consciousness he managed to talk privately with her for several minutes. Subsequently, while staying in London, Bhante got the news that his sister had died the following morning. Eight days later, Bhante again stayed overnight at the London Buddhist Centre before joining his relatives and others in Basildon for the cremation. During the ceremony Bhante spoke especially about the early life of his sister, a period of which no-one else present would have had first hand knowledge, and also spoke about some of her positive qualities.

Continuing his involvement with local interfaith affairs, in September Bhante addressed the annual general meeting of the Birmingham Council of Faiths. This was at the invitation of Vajragupta, the meeting marking the start of his year of chairmanship of the Council. The address, which was Bhante’s first speaking engagement outside of the Movement since his eyesight deteriorated, dealt with the importance of the practice of true tolerance through the recognition of our fundamental human solidarity. An abridged version of the talk appeared in the November 2001 Articles Shabda. In October Bhante attended an evening interfaith reception held by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, during the course of which he made contact with, among others, some local Shi’ite Muslim scholars.


Bhante undertook during this period included a visit with Kovida and Kulananda to see a property potentially suitable for the Sangharakshita Library and Vihara Project. He celebrated his birthday by going out for a meal with a small group of friends.

In October, as part of the Windhorse Publications event held at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre, Bhante took part in a question and answer session about the process of writing and being an author, along with Paramananda and Maitreyabandhu. Nagaraja came to interview Bhante for the Radio 2 programme he was making, and Suryaprabha filmed Bhante and Anomarati together for his video on friendship, Ordinary Magic.

As he can no longer read himself, several people have been reading books and articles to Bhante. Neal Warren has read The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, by Ch’an Master Sheng-yen, Towards a Modern Chinese Buddhism by Don A. Pittman, and is currently reading The Jesus Sutras by Martin Palmer. Usually taking place in the late afternoons and early evenings, Subhuti’s reading has included Asvaghosa’s Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, translated by Yoshito S. Hakeda, and The Lion’s Roar of Queen Srimala, translated by A. and H. Wayman, as well as several important articles on Buddhism. Others, including Devamitra, Cittapala and Khemavira have read Shabda and other material.

In addition to continuing to listen to music on CD, Bhante has been listening to audio cassettes of the poetry of Blake, W.B. Yeats, Keats, Coleridge, Philip Larkin, Tennyson, W.H. Auden and others, as well as recordings of Macbeth and Julius Caesar.

Originally published in Madhyamavani 6: Spring 2002 (Birmingham: Madhyamaloka, 2002).

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