Vidyaruchi, Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes with some of his latest news, saying - ” In my last update of Bhante’s activities, written all of two months ago, I reported a return of his arch-nemesis - namely insomnia. Unfortunately the insomnia worsened in December, so that he was tired much of the time, and all but stopped receiving visitors. He managed to make a few exceptions, including for Subhuti and Mokshapriya, the latter in connection with the arrangements for Bhante’s accommodation at Coddington Court.
A particularly disappointing consequence of Bhante’s sleep deprivation was that he was unable to attend the launch of his two latest publications: The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation, and Beating the Drum, edited by Vidyadevi and Kalyanaprabha respectively. The launch took place at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on 25 November, and Bhante was due to speak at the event, but sadly had a bad night and did not have the energy on the day. Nonetheless, the launch went well, with talks from both the editors, and quite a few copies of the two books were sold.
The insomnia has generally been less bad in the last few weeks, an improvement which could have been due to a number of factors. As well as a change in medication, Bhante has gone more frequently than usual for acupuncture treatment. Also, Srimala has kindly lent him her light-box while she is in India, which may be helping. The light-box, which Bhante sits in front of for half an hour each day, simulates the sun’s light, a lack of exposure to which can cause certain chemical imbalances in the brain, with insomnia a possible result.
When Bhante has had the energy he has tried to keep up with his usual activities as much as possible. He manages a walk most days, and has often been to Kings Heath Park with Paramartha. He also keeps taking sustenance from the world of books. Paramartha and he polished off Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth by Marion Meade; and they started on The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography by John J. Collins, which is from the ‘Lives of Great Religious Books’ series, and which describes in detail the area in which the eponymous scrolls were found and gives an account of the opinion of different scholars about their significance. Bhante continued his exploration of John Masefield, who was born in Ledbury, the town closest to Coddington Court, by having me read to him An Endless Quiet Valley: a reappraisal of John Masefield by Paul Binding - a literary biography of the poet, which Bhante found extremely interesting. The audio book service has provided The Gospel According to Women, by Karen Armstrong. Bhante described it as a very scholarly work based on much research, dealing with the disastrous effect of Christianity on women and the different ways in which, through the centuries, women have tried to cope with this.
Meanwhile, work continues at Coddington Court, to make ready for Bhante’s relocation. When you hear from me next month, we hope we will be within a few weeks of the move being complete, after which a new phase of Bhante’s life will begin.