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Kalyanaprabha is one of Sangharakshita’s two literary editors. (The other is Vidyadevi.) She writes to tell us about a new set of interviews with him, about his poetry.
“Recently there appeared on Sangharakshita’s website a link to some rather unusual interviews on The Buddhist Centre Online: over 10 separate sessions, Saddhanandi* interviews Sangharakshita about 10 of his poems.
Each interview opens with a sensitive reading of the poem by Saddhanandi and then the conversation begins, her questions leading Sangharakshita to reflect on the poem’s meaning, or layers of meaning, its imagery, how he came to write it, its significance, whether personal, historical, or spiritual - or perhaps all three.
The delight in these interviews is to feel one is present at an intimate exchange between friends, and at the same time Sangharakshita is the elucidator of matters both ordinary and profound. There are throughout messages, especially to members of the Triratna Order, about what it means to lead a spiritual life, to be an aware individual, to be a member of the Order, and so on.
The scope of the poems chosen - like the scope of his Complete Poems published in 1995 (and there have been quite a few more written since then; see his website) - is broad, from ‘Meditation’, which came to him when he was a young man of only 21, without any conscious composing, to ‘The Root Speaks’. Here the twisted root speaks to the pure white rose beneath the brilliant stars. There is ‘An Apology’, which Saddhanandi introduces as a prose poem, a response to the damage wreaked by mankind on Planet Earth; and one of three Arthurian poems, ‘Love and Duty’ - another poem that ‘just came’, this one in 2009.
They are beautifully presented on The Buddhist Centre Online, each interview being divided into 10 or so tracks so that one can choose to pause, and pause again, before continuing. I found myself listening to just one or two of these interviews at a time and then coming away to let the words, the images, the elucidation, sink in before returning for more. There are so many riches there - and even so one feels at times the conversation was only just beginning to reveal the deeper meanings to be fathomed in these poems.”
* Saddhanandi is Chair of Adhisthana, in Herefordshire, UK, home to Sangharakshita and a community of women and men.