Fifty Years, Fifty Voices: Khemajoti (Highlights)On Wed, 5 October, 2022 - 17:03
“We used to do rituals in the basement of the shop, invoking Padmasambhava while we made egg sandwiches”
In 1968 I was living in my birthplace, Swindon UK, with my parents and younger brother in the house we’d moved into in 1960. I was finishing primary school where I’d been a bright, happy child (top of the class) and moving to secondary school where I met children who were more of a match for me. I was moving into the awkwardness of adolescence.
In 1978 I was finishing 3 years at a small teacher training college in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. It was a time of big education cuts and it was hard to get a primary school job outside of the big cities. It was the year I went to Canada with my then boyfriend to visit a couple we’d met whilst hostelling in Scotland. Due to the lack of teaching jobs, I ended up living back with my parents, working in a warehouse, ending the relationship with the boyfriend and feeling miserable.
In 1988 I was living and working in London as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher after 7 years living abroad. I found being back in the UK strange and hard to adjust to. I’d returned to the UK looking for a Buddhist group to teach me to meditate and during the Easter holidays I went to a lunchtime class at the Croydon Centre. I knew I’d found what I was looking for (in spite of the strange atmosphere) and went regularly to classes and got to know Manjunatha. In the autumn I went to Tarragona in Spain for an EFL job. Whilst there I kept up yoga and meditation, read a few Dharma books I had, wrote long letters full of Dharma questions to Manjunatha and at the end of the year went on a group retreat at Osel Ling instead of the holiday I’d planned with a friend. Being at Osel Ling (and reading Subhuti’s ‘Buddhist Vision’ from their library) convinced me that I wanted to practice with the FWBO. I also learnt that Moksananda was in Valencia trying to start a Centre and I contacted him early the following year.
In 1998 I was in Croydon working in the wholefood shop, the women’s Team-Based Right-Livelihood Business (TBRL). I had been ordained the previous year in June at Tiratanaloka. I was living in a community with 3 of the women from the shop (2 of whom are now Satyalila and Ksantika). In the spring I went (with no money!) on a mad, impulsive 3 week trip to Mexico City to visit the sangha. There were no Dharmacharinis there (possibly I was the first to have visited??) and only 2 Dharmacharis – Upekshamati and Samamati. I was generously hosted by 2 Mitras (now Jnanadakini and now ex OM Kovindu). We went on a weekend retreat where I gave (with a lot of help from Kovindu) a short talk in Spanish. From Mexico I flew to San Francisco to visit Viveka who I’d been ordained with. There we went as retreatants on a weekend retreat with Kamalashila who was visiting.
On the plane home I had a strong wish to use my Spanish more, to be with more experienced Dharmacharinis and to have more time with my preceptor Sanghadevi. When I got home I received a card from Dhammadinna asking if I could go to the first Tuscany retreat that autumn as translator for a Spanish speaking Mitra who spoke no English. At that time there were only 3 Spanish speaking Dharmacharinis in the world (!), myself being one. I had no idea if I was up to the task but said yes and so Saddhakara joined the Order. I had a very intense 6 week retreat and my wishes from the plane were fulfilled!
In 2008 I was still living in Bristol and working in the Windhorse:Evolution shop at the beginning of the year. I then had 2 months of working as an Evolution shop visitor in London, Brighton, Norwich and Cambridge. During and after this time I was homeless for 5 or 6 months, staying with friends, my Mum, house sitting and going on retreats. A wide variety of retreats – Pure Awareness at Vajrakuta, study at Dharmapala College (Madhyamaloka), Breathworks at Taraloka and 2 retreats at Vajrasana – an Evolution retreat and a families’ retreat. I had the idea that I would like to move to Bath but realized this was impractical and in the autumn rented a v cheap (!) room with friends with the idea of not working for a while and just seeing what unfolded. I focused quite a lot on meditation and also helped Kulamitra run a Dharma course in Bath one eve a week.
In 2018 I sold the family house, attended the inauguration of Suryagupta as chair of the LBC, and was unexpectedly invited (at a few weeks’ notice) to help lead the ordination course at Akashavana. In the autumn Bhante died – I was fortunate to attend a day of the vigil, the funeral and the first retreat at Adhisthana afterwards. I’m still living in Bristol, working at the Buddhist Centre and running a couple of Mitra groups.