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I first came along in early 1978 to the LBC, and met Bhante that Christmas while on a womens’ retreat at Street Farm in Norfolk. It was my first retreat and I felt a bit overwhelmed by the intensity and mid-winter darkness of it all - I was used to sunny Australian Christmas beach barbecues, beer, surf and sandflies. I was also a bit trepedacious about the arrival of a group of radical feminist LESBIANS who were about to arrive as well - I’d never knowingly met any lesbians before 😲. I was also very questioning and suspicious of just about everything, especially ‘Bhante says…’ and I suspect gave Sanghadevi, who was leading retreat, some annoyance. Eventually she said ‘Look, he lives just up the road - why don’t you go and ask him all these questions yourself!’ So off I went into the bleak Norfolk midwinter wilderness to Padmaloka, to test him out.
We met for a couple of hours talking about what I can’t really recall, except I do remember he recommended I read the Lankavara Sutta, saying ‘That should keep you occupied for an hour or two’. I’d never heard of it of course, and when I got it out of the library, hmmm how to start? what was it about? which way up should I even hold the thing!? So he has a sense of humour, I thought…
Something definitely happened energetically in that first meeting I had with Bhante - I made my way back to Street Farm through rain, dark and wind, elated, revelling in the storm and elements. When I got back I sat against the wall absorbing it all and the others remarked that I seemed to be radiating heat into the room. ‘I’ve been zapped!’, I thought.
Over the years we met intermittently, usually when I had some crisis or other. He was especially helpful and supportive in those early years of my involvement after I had been diagnosed with cancer - The Three Jewels hadn’t been published yet and there was a misunderstanding among many in the movement about the Niyamas. Many believed that everything that happened to you was the result of your own personal Karma - not helpful when you’ve got cancer… He was very clear that this was not the Dharma.
So I was very pleased to have met up with Bhante a couple of months ago and to get the chance to thank him for his support over the years and to touch base again.
He was bright and full of humour and warmth. We had a lively chat about his mum, agreed that a good way to deal with poor health was to become bigger than it, untidiness being the mark of a creative mind 😉, heart connection and portrait painting.
His grip saying goodbye was strong and connected in spite of his frailty, poor eyesight and deafness.
I hope he didn’t suffer at the end and pleased he was surrounded by good friends.
What a legacy he has left for so many…🙏💙💛❤️