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Bhante founded Padmaloka in 1976, living here for twelve years until moving to London in 1988, afterwards visiting us as often as he was able to. In many ways Bhante never left Padmaloka, he lit a sacred flame here which we still tend. We’ve always been crystal clear that he is our teacher and we are his disciples, regardless of the vicissitudes that intermittently sweep through the Order and movement. The last time I saw Bhante, during this summer’s European Chair’s Assembly at Adhisthana, he said he regretted not being able to visit us anymore, I assured him that he was always with us at Padmaloka. Now more than ever, he always will be.
In the days following Bhantes death, we weren’t hosting a retreat here, so the community gathered together every evening for puja. As many of us who were able to, attended the UK and Ireland Area Order Weekend at Adhisthana, sitting with Bhante’s body in the Amitabha shrine room, grateful for the opportunity to be with so many of our Dharma brothers at such a time. After the weekend our practice of performing pujas for Bhante every evening continued, all the while during the day trying to sort out how we would square the start of the upcoming retreat with Bhante’s funeral the next day. In the end we opted to start the retreat and take everyone to Adhsithana for the funeral, it was quite a logistical feat and the support team went above and beyond the call of duty to make it happen. Needles to say the funeral was a profound and moving occasion.
The following weekend, the Eurpean Men’s Mitra Conveners held one of their regular Men’s Great Gathering Weekends at Padmaloka, this had booked out well over a month before and had 105 men in attendance.
During the weekend Padmavajra led a very powerful and moving puja on the Saturday night to mark Bhante’s passing. During the introduction to the puja Padmavajra, evoked Bhante’s time at Padmaloka. The puja ended with a torch-lit procession along candle lit light paths to a pre-prepared bonfire in the grounds of Padmaloka. The flaming torches were thrust into into the bonfire to set it ablaze, whilst Bhante’s poem ‘The Six Elements Speak’ was read, followed by mantras and the casting of incense into the flames, all the while bearing in mind one of the meanings of Adhisthana: a warrior’s last stand. Our teacher has passed away, yet we have not lost our teacher, he is more present and more vivid that ever before. We will continue to tend the flame he lit here, doing everything we can to ensure that it burns more brilliantly than ever before.
You can listen to Padmavajra’s introduction to the puja on Free Buddhist Audio here. Or use the widget below.
Padmavajra also references Bhante a great deal in the talk he gave during the weekend on the Heart Sutra. You can listen to this here.
You can view some of the photos of Bhante over the years at Padmaloka here.