Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes with his usual update on highlights from the past month, saying - “Bhante’s daily routine remains constant through the change of season, with snowdrops and daffodils now embellishing his daily walk. He has felt a little more easily tired recently, for whatever reason, but has still had visitors most days, including a group of women from Colchester, and a mixed group from Tonbridge in the company of Suryaketu. Suvajra came with a Tibetan lama friend, now living in Wales, and Avichala and Taraprabha from Seattle also visited. Bhante conducted a baby blessing ceremony for Harrison, the new son of Shantideva and his wife Natalie, who were accompanied by Shantideva’s sister Rachel, a mitra.
Occasionally Bhante receives invitations to events, both inside and outside the Movement, which he usually has to turn down. One such circumstance was an invitation to attend a meeting at the Buddhist Society with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with representatives from various Buddhist traditions. Jnanavaca went in Bhante’s place, and was impressed by the Archbishop, who he described as ‘very intelligent, well informed and sincere’; though he also said he was left with a feeling of gratitude for Bhante’s ‘clarity, and the depth and breadth of [his] vision’.
Bhante has wanted to refresh his memory about some of his earlier writings, and had me read him Forty-Three Years Ago and Was the Buddha a Bhikkhu?. He also wanted to refresh his memory of In the Sign of the Golden Wheel, which we are now half-way through. He and Kalyanaprabha have been discussing the period of his life recounted in the book, as she is in the process of writing an introduction to a collection of Bhante’s editorials for the Mahabodhi Journal, which will eventually be published through Lulu. Also, Kalyanaprabha gave Bhante a copy of Oscar’s Books, which is about Oscar Wilde’s reading habits. Wilde was a great reader throughout his life, and Bhante and I have enjoyed dipping into the book together, looking for references to favourite writers, and learning of Wilde’s contact with them, his view of their work, or the impact they had upon him. Oscar Wilde is of particular interest to Bhante as one of his five ‘literary heroes’ - alongside Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and D.H. Lawrence.
At the International Order Convention last August, Bhante received a gift of Amazon vouchers from the Order, to commemorate his 86th birthday. These vouchers have now been redeemed in exchange for Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Villette by Charlotte Bronte, and a Selection from Plutarch’s Greek Lives, all of which Bhante has listened to and appreciated. He has also enjoyed, from the audio book service, Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby, which he says was less about love than war, and in particular about the way in which Italian villagers risked their lives to help British soldiers that had escaped from German prisoner of war camps.
Meanwhile, the search for land for the Sangharakshita Land Project is proceeding, and Bhante is hoping it won’t be long before there is definite news for him. Vidyaruchi”.
Latest news from the Land Project is on their blog - along with the photographs of some of the many many properties they have explored in their search! Most of the books referred to above are available on Sangharakshita’s website.
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