Sangharakshita recently visited his new library at Adhisthana, as his 11,000 books appeared on the shelves at last.
It’s hard to remember that the Adhisthana project began as the “SLP”: the Sangharakshita Library Project, a home for Bhante’s books. This gradually became the Sangharakshita Land Project: a long search for land and buildings for a retreat centre and library.
Vidyadevi is one of Bhante’s editors. She writes:
“Thanks to the building and decorating efforts of Yashodeva, Ratnadharini, Dayamala and many others, the library was at last ready for books. With the serendipitous gift of bookshelves from the famous London bookshop, Foyles, and sage advice from Dayaka, who works in book conservation for the British Library, I and a team of other women Order members recently spent two weeks shelving them, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
Bhante’s collection began with the hundred or so books he brought back from India in the 1960s. We enjoyed hunting for these, now worn and faded but with a certain wabi-sabi beauty, to be given pride of place. It’s striking to reflect that Sangharakshita’s teachings sprang from those very books, which at one time represented a large proportion of the Dharma study material available in English.
The central arched space is to reserved for quiet reflection. To begin dedicating the space, we had fun working out how to transport a large Manjughosa rupa into the building, and improvising a shrine made from copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
On our last morning, Bhante came to view our work and join us for our tea break. (Luckily, he wasn’t shocked by our outrageous use of encyclopedias for shrine-building, commenting, ‘People get their information in different ways these days.’)
He commented later by email, ‘I really enjoyed my visit to the Library yesterday. The last time I visited it, many weeks ago, the shelves were empty and dusty. Now they are full of books and the Library is ready to function as a centre of study and reflection. You and your little band of helpers are to be congratulated on what you have achieved. I must also say how much I enjoyed the tea party, which was my first social engagement, so to speak, since moving to Adhisthana, and as such it represents a real step forward for me.’
The library still needs finishing touches and we are discussing how best to welcome visitors, but it already has vitality, warmth and stillness.The official opening is planned for the new year.”