Happy 90th birthday, Bhante!On Tue, 25 August, 2015 - 23:18
On this day, 26th August, in 1925, Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood was born in Tooting, south London, UK. His life has changed those of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
We know him as Urgyen Sangharakshita, or, simply, “Bhante”: our teacher, founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community; a leading figure in ‘western’ Buddhism and in Dr Ambedkar’s ’Peaceful revolution’ among some of India’s most disadvantaged people. The Order he founded now numbers over 1,900.
Birthday celebrations are taking place in Triratna sanghas all over the world this week; not least at his home, Adhisthana, in Herefordshire, UK, where, as we reported briefly four days ago, 400 members of the Order, mostly from the UK and Ireland, gathered last weekend for an Order weekend entitled “Conscious Surrender to the Beautiful”. This was an exploration of one of Triratna’s Six Distinctive Emphases as set out by Bhante: the importance of the arts in spiritual life.
Bhante is pictured here in the shrine marquee, for the launch of his newest book, A Moseley Miscellany, and before the presentation of his birthday cake and over £110,000 for the publication of his Complete Works, as well as translations. Just before he arrived, the afternoon’s hot and humid weather suddenly switched to dramatically heavy rain. Movingly, the Order stood as he entered. Thunder rang out and soon rainbows appeared as the sun returned while the rain continued.
The weekend offered a very wide range of artistic, aesthetic experiences: three excellent talks by Maitreyabandhu, Sarvananda and Sahajatara; paintings by Triratna artists hung around the buildings; live performances of music including Bach and Schubert; standup comedy; a choir performance of compositions and arrangements by Triratna composers; singing and poetry workshops; folk music round the bonfire in the barn; and a mobile sauna - not to mention the first-ever silent “Danciteation”, everyone wearing headphones so as not to disturb Bhante or the village neighbours!
Central was the Sangharakshita Library’s first exhibition, entitled “Nine Decades: a life in objects”: an account of Bhante’s life through objects of significance to him, with accompanying audio interviews conducted by Saddhanandi, Chair of Adhisthana. (In the pictures, left, look out for the Order’s original kesa, Bhante’s armchair and the reel-to-reel recording machine used to record his early lectures, which form the basis of Free Buddhist Audio’s online archive.)
Adhisthana proved mysteriously able to accommodate 400 people (mostly camping) without ever seeming overcrowded or chaotic, even despite some extremely heavy rain towards the end; not least because of the very hard work of a team of mitras and Order members cooking and cleaning in the background.
The weekend was widely declared remarkable, for its richness and good humour, and because, as the first Order gathering of this size (outside India) to be held at a Triratna venue rather than rented premises, it established Adhisthana as a true home for our community.
Pictures by Munisha and Suvajra.
It’s not too late to contribute to Bhante’s birthday present. We’ve raised what’s needed for the publication of Sangharakshita’s Complete Works, but further gifts will fund urgently needed translation work.