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Mahamati is serving temporarily as Bhante’s secretary. He writes from Adhisthana: “Several of Bhante’s correspondents this month have commented appreciatively and with pleasure on seeing Bhante looking so well in photos taken in Glastonbury in May (one with Paramartha), which have been published widely on the ubiquitous Facebook and now can be found on Bhante’s 90th birthday pages on The Buddhist Centre Online.
Bhante has not had any more outings, but he has enjoyed the mainly hot weather we’ve had in England over the last few weeks. He says it suits him well and on these hot days, as well as others, he has usually ventured into the Adhisthana grounds for a walk and to sit on a garden bench, most often with Buddhadasa.
Ashvajit completed two years as Bhante’s secretary at the end of May. Since then, first Vidyaruci, and then I, have been filling in as secretary until Sthanashraddha, the new permanent secretary for Bhante, starts at the beginning of August.
After reading to Bhante any correspondence and taking dictation of any replies, on most mornings Bhante has asked me to help him go through folders and boxes from his extensive archive which has been interesting for both of us. Sometimes Bhante has decided that the papers in the boxes can be disposed of, being of no historical interest.
However, most of it is very valuable and is being catalogued and either kept as part of Bhante’s personal archive in the Urgyen Annexe or sent across the way to Danasamudra in the Sangharakshita Library. A number of the boxes contain the original manuscripts for many of Bhante’s books, articles, and edited seminars (all either hand-written or typed by Bhante), which will be important for Kalyanaprabha and Vidyadevi in editorial work for the publication of Bhante’s definitive Complete Works.
The boxes also include correspondence from different periods of Bhante’s life, his diaries, and important documents recording the early history of the FWBO.
In the last month, Bhante completed a series of audio recordings concerning the nine decades of his life, focusing on three objects of significance from each decade. All these objects will be on display in the Sangharakshita Library as part of Bhante’s 90th birthday celebration in August, and will be presented along with the voice recordings, and, for those who cannot visit Adhisthana, pictures of the objects together with the relevant recordings will be available on The Buddhist Centre Online.
Also in the last month Bhante finished listening to The Rainbow by DH Lawrence. Bhante was very pleased to renew his acquaintance with this classic which he first read when he was 16 or 17 years old. He says that he enjoyed some parts of it more than others. In the book, Lawrence describes some extreme psychological and emotional states that some of his characters go through. Bhante discussed this and other aspects of the book with Paramartha on quite a few evenings.
In last month’s Sangharakshita Diary, Vidyaruchi wrote of the visit of Sudha Shah, an Indian writer and author of The King in Exile: the Fall of the Royal Family of Burma, with whom Bhante has conducted a lengthy correspondence. As a parting gift Bhante gave Sudha an autographed copy of his book Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend (Ibis Publications 2011) which contains a 20-year correspondence starting from their first acquaintance in 1955. On dipping into the book Sudha discovered, no doubt to her great surprise, that the apartment block in Bombay where Dinoo Dubash lived was the same block where her grandfather, with whom she often stayed, also had an apartment. Sudha and Bhante agreed that it was a ’bizarre coincidence’ that Bhante’s ’Dear Dinoo’ should be the ‘Auntie Dinoo’ of Sudha’s childhood recollections.
As I write, the five-month Young Women’s Dharma Life Course here at Adhisthana has just come to an end. Over the last couple of weeks or so Bhante saw one by one all the women from the course. Having seen each of them on their arrival he wanted to see each of them again before they left. Bhante had the impression that they had all had a really wonderful time.”
Please contribute to Bhante’s birthday present: the publication of his entire written work, much of which is out of print or unavailable, and all of which needs to be made available digitally – for everyone, for ever.
Watch a 55-minute video of Bhante’s talk at the launch of Dear Dinoo in Birmingham in 2011.
+Follow the run up to Bhante’s birthday with the Sangharakshita@90 pages on The Buddhist Centre Online.