Newsletter Editorial

From Jnanadhara

January 2019

Dear Friends,

Three times a year I sit down at my desk and write a few words highlighting significant events that have recently taken place. Very often, there are a number of events vying for attention. Not so on this occasion where the death of our founder and teacher has outshone everything else.

Urgyen Sangharakshita (26th August 1925 – 30th October 2018)

As is often the case with the death of an elderly loved one, their passing, though not unexpected, nevertheless comes as a shock. Many of us found it a shock when we heard of the death of Bhante Sangharakshita on the 30th of October this year. Not being a close, personal friend to Bhante I haven’t myself experienced what I recognise as grief. My response to his passing has more been one of immense gratitude for the man, together with a feeling of huge admiration for a life well-lived. It is a life that has been of inestimable benefit not just to me and friends in Dublin, but to thousands of people around the world.

About twenty of us from Ireland attended his funeral at Adhisthana in the UK, along with a gathering of more than a thousand men and women from around the Triratna world. In a simple and moving ceremony, Bhante was poignantly rejoiced in by friends and disciples before being laid to rest in a special plot in the Adhisthana grounds.

Since his funeral, I have spent time reading some of his autobiographical writing and reflecting on his life and qualities. I was – and am still – trying to answer the question ‘who was that man?’

One of the qualities that most stands out for most me is his generosity. Immediately after hearing of his death I was reminded of some lines from a poem of Philip Larkin (a poet whose work Bhante enjoyed) where he writes about the sun:

Single stalkless flower / You pour unrecompensed …
Unclosing like a hand / You give for ever.

For me these words aptly express a life devoted to continuous giving to others. In particular, Bhante gave the gift of the Dharma in both spoken and written form. He did this with great kindness and in a remarkably clear and skilful way, allowing people from a range of backgrounds to enter into ts richness and profundity. My sense is that he did this not only as an act of homage to the beauty of the Dharma, but in order to enable people to practice it and experience for themselves its liberating power.

As impressive and voluminous as his utterances and writings on the Dharma are, I feel it is a limitation though to think of Bhante only as a teacher. He was a man of many parts who has engaged in a wide variety of activities in his long life. He was a poet; a lover of the literature and artistic traditions of the East and the West; a yogin; a scholar; and a friend to many. He enjoyed travel and taking in new sights and meeting people from a vast array of backgrounds. There are so many parts and aspects to which one can point.

The Triratna Buddhist Order and Community

From our point of view, one of the more significant of his activities was the founding of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community. For fifty of his ninety-three years he gave over the lion’s share of his energy and talents to the task of initiating, inspiring and fostering this new branch of the Buddhist tradition. This has involved constant foresight in encouraging and supporting others to take up responsibility for the movement so that it had the momentum to outlive him and continue as a force for good in the world for a long time into the future.

Time will tell if this is going to come to pass. However, I personally feel entirely confident that the Order he initiated, composed as it is of a great number of creative, idealistic and talented people – and despite its imperfections – will continue to offer the Buddha’s unique message and the gift of friendship and community to this troubled and divided world.

And, just before closing, I’d like to rejoice in the most recent addition to the Triratna Order in Dublin – our very own Eamonn Lawlor was ordained in the September of this year. In a continuation of the lineage of ordination started by Bhante, Vajrashura privately ordained him and gave him his new name, Dayasagara, which means ‘he who is an ocean of kindness’. Congratulations Dayasagara! Welcome and Sadhu!

Wishing you all the very best for the holiday season and the New Year ahead.

With metta,