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During the March Area College gathering for the UK, Ireland and Europe, Kamalashila attended for an evening to have a farewell following his retirement from the Preceptors’ College at the end of last year. He was able to share some of his current threads of practice and inspiration, and a number of those present rejoiced in him. Here we share two of those contributions from Sanghadevi and Satyaraja.
I first met Kamalashila in the early part of 1980 at Vajraloka, soon after it had opened. At that time it was a meditation vihara, where retreatants just came and joined a simple ongoing programme of meditation and silent mornings, with no formal teaching. I was a mitra and had come to Buddhism through meditation and I was immediately attracted to Kamalashila. For me he embodied the archetype of a yogi. He was always friendly and welcoming and I started coming on his retreats. We became friends over the years and then he was on the team for my Ordination Course in Tuscany in 1984.
In 1990 I moved to Vajraloka and Kamalashila was living at Vajrakuta. The two communities formed one chapter and it was very stimulating with a whole range of experiences. He was in the process of setting up the study centre at Vajrakuta. I was coming straight from the so-called ‘Croydon revolution’ and I was probably quite depressed and working out what I could keep or reject from my training in Croydon. Kamalashila was always very kind and had confidence in me and that meant a great deal. One of the qualities I value about Kamalashila is his ability to take you just as he finds you, with interest and without prejudice. He is always curious and unfazed by what is going on for you. I came to regard him as my meditation mentor and I felt he had a depth of practice and insight that I fully trusted. Sometimes when we met the communication would flow, sometimes I felt awkward. I asked him if he thought we should continue to meet and he replied emphatically that we should. This meant we were committed to the friendship and I could relax and be concerned about what was happening on the surface. I have always found him a loyal friend.
I value in Kamalashila that he always follows what he needs to do, that he ‘follows his bliss’, the internal imperative of his unfolding spiritual life. He is not restricted by what others may think and at the same time has absolute commitment to to the Dharma, whatever that may take him or turn out to be. He is spontaneous, a musician and an artist. He trained in art college and has a good eye. Recently I was struck by some iPad drawing he did on Vessantara’s retreat in Wales. He is also a good cook and when I visit him, the first question is usually ‘have you eaten?’ and if not he will knock up a delicious meal in 20 minutes.
In 1995 I knew I would be leaving Vajraloka and moving to Sweden. It was only natural that I should ask Kamalashila to be my Kalyana Mitra together with Padmavajra. We have kept up our contact since and I have visited him at Trevince House, Eco Dharma and now in West Hampstead, where he lives very simply. We go for walks, eat masala dosas and listen to the Grateful Dead, but most of our communication is about the Dharma. A typical meeting is that I go and stay with him for a couple of days and we study a meditation text together and then meditate on that text and then discuss that. I always come away feeling enriched by my friendship with Kamalashila and am very grateful to him.