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It’s become clear that the apparently large gathering of 1,200-1,400 people in the barn at Adhisthana on Saturday for Bhante’s funeral was, in fact, a small fraction of the international audience taking part by following the day live on Facebook and YouTube, and by participating in simultaneous events at Buddhist Centres around the world.
For a start, it’s estimated that those watching at public screenings across India numbered at least 61,000 – not including all those who watched at home or in social projects such as children’s hostels.
Often doing the same puja at the same time, often at very different times of day, many thousands of us watched together at at Buddhist Centres round the world. Some of us watched at home: in a small village in Wales; in Sweden, sitting in front of a shrine, dressed in blue.
Some viewers registered their presence and gratitude with posts on Facebook while watching from New Zealand, north America, Mexico, India, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Mongolia.
The numbers are all the more amazing given that much of the broadcast came via Candradasa’s iPhone, which he and I took turns holding up in the air for three hours – the more sophisticated livestreaming arrangements having failed at the last minute.
Here are just two reports, from India and New Zealand, but you are welcome to add yours to the comments section below or add to the remembrance page.
India Most of the Indian photographs here were sent to Lizzie Guinness, Programme manager at Karuna Trust, who writes: “I’ve spoken to people in Goa and Wardha today. They have said how special and amazing it was to be able to screen the funeral. They felt very connected with the atmosphere at Adhisthana and were participating along with the mantras and meditation and puja. It meant a great deal for them to be able to watch live.”
Vandanajyoti writes: “As the sun set in Aurangabad, about 120 people clad in blue saris and shirts gathered in front of the boys’ hostel. It was the last day of the Diwali holiday family retreat so many had been taking part in pujas every day at 7pm since Bhante’s death, holding him in mind in love, reverence and gratitude and now they were ready to participate in this final farewell. The retreat leaders were hard at work setting up the projector, battling against time pressure but meanwhile many retreatants had found better reception on their mobile phones tuned to YouTube.
Gradually the atmosphere settled, the projector started to work and the Shakyamuni mantra began. We had a sense of the mantra spreading across the world to us and beyond, starting with the crowds of people at Adhisthana but also knowing that more than a thousand more were gathered in Nagpur, in Pune at the Mahavihar, and that more were watching at many other Centres in India.
It was so moving to be part of this Indian crowd sitting on the dusty ground of the hostel compound chanting the mantras and joining in with our sevenfold puja, some in Marathi, some in English and most in Hindi. Then as the light began to fade at Adhisthana, everyone marvelled at the beauty of the pale English setting sun with those magical rays of golden light on the autumn leaves beside Bhante’s grave.
For many watching, Bhante had already become a mythic inspiration, a symbol of aspiration and an encouragement to practise. Many people told me how they had longed to visit him as they had heard from others how kind he was, how interested and understanding of their lives, even speaking Hindi to them at times. But we felt his presence strongly around us as we joined in the mantras and recited the puja, knowing that we were chanting with other sangha members across the world. And now people here long to make a pilgrimage to Bhante’s burial place in Adhisthana which looked so mysterious and magical in the misty golden beauty of the fading winter light.”
New Zealand Zoe Lim writes: “Meanwhile in Auckland, 30 Order Members and Mitras braced themselves for a sleepless night with an overnight puja held in tandem with Bhante’s funeral. People were arriving at the Auckland Buddhist Centre from 9.30pm, some traveling from Thames and Waiheke Island, two hours away.
As there is a 13-hour time difference between New Zealand and the UK, live-streaming of the funeral would start only at 1.30am local time. Before that, sleeping bags and snacks were laid out for topping up late-night energy. Hugs exchanged and words whispered in low voices. The atmosphere was solemn, tender and warm. Devotion for Bhante was gently and keenly felt. Video clips of Bhante’s life, compiled by Clear Vision, were played from around midnight. When livestream finally got through at nearly 2am, (silent) cheers of relief were mixed with joy and reverence at the sight of Adhisthana and familiar faces. In the next three hours, speeches were listened to and mantras chanted alongside Adhisthana, sending Bhante metta, gratitude and blessings from the southernmost part of the Sangha. It was a beautiful farewell with Bhante, with heartfelt solidarity with Adhisthana and the Sangha worldwide.”
Read a report on the day at Adhisthana.
See more photographs from the day at Adhisthana
+Follow posts on the Sangharakshita memorial space on The Buddhist Centre Online.
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