Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:47 am

Chapter Seven: Healing the Breach

The idea of forming a Sangha Sabha or Council of Buddhist Monks of Great Britain was not mine but Venerable Ratanasara’s, though it was I who called the meeting at which that body came into existence. Ratanasara was a Sinhalese monk of a type with which I had become familiar in India as a result of my connection with the Maha Bodhi Society. Portly, urbane, and voluble, and my senior in both years and ordination, he was working towards a Ph.D. in the University of London with a thesis on Pirivena Education in Ceylon. Though there was little of the monk about him except his robes (he wore a long overcoat over them when he went out,while his shaven head was concealed by a beret), and though he regarded meditation as frankly a waste of time, he was good-natured and sociable, and since I was used to his type, and did not expect much from him, spiritually speaking, I did not find it difficult to get on with him. We met at his lodgings in South Kensington, and at the Vihara, where on occasion he could be found sitting at our dining room table in the basement, puffing away at a big cigar, and jovially presiding, through clouds of tobacco smoke, over a meeting of his Buddhist Studies Trust.

One day he told me that being newly arrived in England I was in duty bound, as a monk, to report my arrival to the Sangha and seek their cooperation. Thinking this a good idea, I made arrangements for a meeting of the Sangha to be held at the Sinhalese Vihara in Chiswick on the next full moon day. Seven monks in all attended, the senior most being Chao Kun Rajasiddhimuni, a leading member of the Thai ecclesiastical establishment who later became Sangharaja or Supreme Patriarch. He had been in England since June or July, teaching ‘insight meditation’ and conferring with his embassy about the temple the Thai government planned to build in London. I had met him once or twice before, when he spent a few days at the Vihara, where a few weeks earlier I had been welcomed with a warmth that was in marked contrast to the coldness of my reception at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. Phra Maha Vichitr, who was junior to me in years and monastic ordination, was the Chao Kun’s interpreter, besides being a teacher of ‘insight meditation’ in his own right. Plump and self-satisfied in appearance, he always reminded me of a well-fed cat.When the Chao Kun returned to Thailand, a month or so after the formation of the Sangha Sabha, he stayed on at the Vihara for a year or more, though not without making it clear that he was not part of the Vihara and had nothing to do with the English Sangha. On the door of his room he hung a sign announcing, in large letters, ‘Office of Thai Sangha’. In the room itself he installed an enormous executive desk, quite the biggest I had ever seen, behind which he sat when receiving visitors. His stand-offishness saddened me. In India, in recent years, Thai monks had been among my closest friends within the Monastic Order. They had stayed with me in Kalimpong, and accompanied me on my lecture tours, and it seemed strange that in England one of their compatriots should behave in such an unfriendly fashion. Besides Ratanasara,who in respect of seniority came between Sumangala – the bhikkhu in charge of the Chiswick Vihara – and me, the remaining members of the meeting were Vimalo and Mangalo, the two junior most in ordination. Ananda Bodhi did not attend.

After I had reported my arrival to my brother monks, and explained that we needed to discuss ways and means of ensuring the continuance and expansion of Buddhism in Great Britain, the meeting got down to business and a number of resolutions were passed. I was formally recognized as Head of the English Sangha and incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, and the establishment of the London Buddhist College, by the Buddhist Studies Trust, was ‘highly commended’ and given the meeting’s wholehearted support. It was also resolved that those present should constitute themselves into an organization known as the Sangha Sabha or Council of Buddhist Monks of Great Britain, with Venerable Sayadaw U Thittila as President and Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita as Secretary. U Thittila was the first Buddhist monk I had ever set eyes on. It was from him that I took the Three Refuges and Five Precepts at a Wesak meeting in London, during the War, and I was glad to be once again associated with him. A fine Pali scholar, he now lived outside London with an elderly English couple, his supporters, and was engaged in editing an Abhidhamma text for publication by the Pali Text Society.

The fact that I had been formally recognized as Head of the English Sangha and incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara naturally strengthened my position, both at the Vihara and within the wider British Buddhist movement. As I realized only later, this had not by any means been Ratanasara’s sole objective. His principal objective, in reminding me of my duty as a monk, and getting me to call a meeting of the Sangha,was to secure the Sangha’s backing for his London Buddhist College, which was due to open the following month at the Vihara, in whose premises the classes would be held for the time being. It was in fact Ratanasara who had directed discussion at the meeting, who had drafted all the resolutions, and who had persuaded the rest of us to agree that novices should be encouraged to take advantage of the College, as he tactfully put it, and it was clear that in his eyes, at least, my cooperation with him in his plans for the Collegewas nomore than a quid pro quo for the part he had played in my recognition as Head of the English Sangha and incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. When I was obliged, later on, to oppose certain of those plans because of their implications for the Sangha Trust’s finances he therefore felt that I was not keeping my side of the bargain. For my part, I was unaware of any bargain having been struck. When I supported his plans I supported them on principle, and when I opposed them I did that, too, on principle. Ratanasara seemed quite unable to understand this. At the same time, he was too shrewd a person to quarrel with me; we remained on friendly terms, and when he found himself without anywhere to live (he was not welcome over at Chiswick) I offered him a room at the Vihara.

Whether or not I had Ratanasara to thank for it, I was certainly in a stronger position after the holding of the Sangha Sabha, and could start thinking of establishing personal contact with the dozen or so little Buddhist groups that had sprung up outside London, some of whose members I had met at the Summer School, and of how best to heal the breach between the Sangha Association and the Buddhist Society. I had already conducted a meditation class in Hastings and given a lecture in Leeds, where I stayed with the Secretary of the Leeds Buddhist Society, Rosa Taylor, with whom I had exchanged letters while still in Kalimpong. As Rosa was not on the platform to meet me when my train arrived, as I expected she would be, I went and waited for her outside the station entrance. Two porters were talking to each other. As they were standing quite near me, and had loud voices, I could not help overhearing their conversation, but it was only after a few minutes that I realized I did not understand a word of what they were saying. I was in the North of England! I was in Yorkshire!

A less amusing experience awaited me in Staffordshire, at the meditation centre at Old Hall,which the Sangha Trust had bought the previous year. Not much of the original building was still standing, the greater part of it having been reduced to ruins by Cromwell’s cannon during the Civil War. There were only eight or nine habitable rooms, two of them quite big, and I quickly perceived that a good deal of work would have to be done on the place. This did not worry me.What worried me was the tense, strained atmosphere of the place. I do not remember who was in charge at the time, or if a formal course was in progress, but I noticed that the seven or eight meditators then in residence all had a remote look. They were practising ‘insight meditation’.

As tiny, white-haired Mrs Rauf drove me back to London, crouching over the wheel as we hurtled down the m1 at a speed to which I was unaccustomed, I had a lot to think about. ‘Insight meditation’, at least in the form taught by Ananda Bodhi, in conjunction with the Canadian monk’s brash personality, had been responsible, at least in part, for the breach between the Sangha Association and the Buddhist Society. If that breach was to be healed, and if more people were not to be given a wrong impression of Buddhist meditation, then the teaching of the controversial Burmese technique at the Vihara by Vichitr and Nai Boonman, a Thai layman, would have to be phased out and the more traditional methods taught instead. This would have to be done circumspectly. In recent years many members of the Sangha Association had come to identify meditation with ‘insight meditation’, and in the eyes of some of them not practising ‘insight meditation’ was tantamount to not meditating at all. It also had to be borne in mind that in the case of some people, at least, a moderate practice of the technique had proved beneficial. But even if the teaching of ‘insight meditation’was phased out at the Vihara this would not by itself be enough to ensure that relations between the Sangha Association and the Buddhist Society were harmonious and cooperative. There were other, broader differences between the two organizations to be resolved, some of which were rooted in their respective histories.

The Buddhist Society had been founded in 1924 as the Buddhist Lodge of the Theosophical Society, from which it separated two years later as a result of the Krishnamurti debacle, and members and friends would soon be celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Christmas Humphreys, the President (‘Toby’ to his intimates within the Society), was Britain’s best-known Buddhist and his best-selling Pelican Buddhism had probably introduced more people to the Buddha and his teachings than had any other book since the publication of Sir Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia in 1879. Perhaps because of its origins in the Theosophical movement, and Humphreys’ personal sympathies (he believed Buddhism and Theosophy to be complementary), the Buddhist Society’s approach to the Buddha-Dharma was not sectarian but ecumenical. Besides running its own classes and holding the Summer School, it provided a platform for visiting Buddhist teachers of all traditions, and was the central body to which what London-based Buddhists called ‘the provincial groups’ were loosely affiliated. Since the appearance of Dr D.T. Suzuki’s writings in the fifties, Christmas Humphreys’ special interest within the field of Buddhism had been Zen, and his ‘Zen class’ (the scare quotes indicate its admittedly non-traditional status) was in effect the Buddhist Society’s equivalent of the Theosophical Society’s esoteric section. Other members of the society had a special interest in the Theravãda and it was one of these who, as the Bhikkhu Kapilavaddho (formerly William Purfurst), had in 1956 been mainly responsible for forming the [English] Sangha Trust and, I think, the Sangha Association, with the object of creating in Great Britain a monastic community for Westerners.

Kapilavaddho was by all accounts an eccentric, charismatic figure who oscillated between the cloister and the hearth, asceticism and hedonism, and who tended to go to extremes in both directions. After spending less than a year in Thailand, and achieving what he seems to have thought was Enlightenment, he had returned to England, spent not much more than a year in a whirlwind of activity, and then abruptly given up the robe in order to marry and run a public house. ‘I like my beer and women,’ he had told the press, according to a cutting sent to me at the time. Kapilavaddho was succeeded by Pannavaddho, who despite his youth and inexperience, and the fact that he had been a full monk for only six months, nobly rose to the occasion and carried on his teacher’s work for the next five years. All the English Buddhists to whom I spoke praised him warmly for his simplicity, his sweetness of character, and his conscientiousness. In 1961 he went to live permanently in Thailand and his place was taken by Ananda Bodhi. At first all was well. Both Kapilavaddho and Pannavaddho having worked in harmony with Christmas Humphreys and the Buddhist Society (Humphreys had originally hailed Kapilavaddho as ‘the modern Milarepa’), there appeared to be no reason why Ananda Bodhi should not do likewise. The Buddhist Society had accordingly made him welcome, invited him to teach under its auspices, and published a portrait photograph of him in The Middle Way. It was not long before his ‘insight meditation’ evangelism, coupled with what he himself called his ‘hell-and-brimstone’ style of lecturing and his abrasive personality, not only helped to bring about a split between the Sangha Association and the Society but also alienated a number of the Sangha Association’s own members, many of whom resigned. There was an exchange of letters between Maurice Walshe, who was both a Vice- President of the Society and a loyal supporter of Ananda Bodhi, and Christmas Humphreys, in the course of which the latter had spelled out his objections to Ananda Bodhi’s teaching. This was more than a year before my arrival on the scene, and since then the breach between the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association had been complete.

I had no wish to take sides in the dispute. I wanted to be fair to both parties, and despite the fact that my first few days at the Vihara had given me an unfavourable impression of Ananda Bodhi’s character I was prepared to recognize that he was not without good qualities and had done much for the Sangha Association and, indeed, for the cause of Buddhism in Britain. He was active and enterprising, and possibly on account of his Canadian background was not afraid to break fresh ground or to do things in an unconventional manner. It was he who, the Sangha Trust having received a large donation, bullied the reluctant trustees into buying first the two adjacent properties on Haverstock Hill, one of which was now the Vihara, and then, a year later, Biddulph Old Hall. I was also prepared to recognize that both parties may have been at fault to an extent, and that in respect of certain of Ananda Bodhi’s proceedings opponents and supporters alike may have over-reacted. The incident of the bowl of jelly was a case in point. I was told about this incident by many people, some of whom had been present at the time. It had taken place in Cambridge, at a meeting of the Cambridge University Buddhist Society, among whose undergraduate members the controversial monk had an enthusiastic following, and had generated an enormous amount of excitement. Ananda Bodhi had walked into the lecture hall carrying a bowl of jelly and a large spoon with which he proceeded to flick the jelly over the audience until the bowl was empty. His disciples were beside themselves with delight and admiration. Once again Ananda Bodhi had demonstrated his unique greatness as a teacher. Flicking jelly was an absolute masterstroke. It was a profound teaching, even an initiation of sorts. Others were less impressed.

When I first heard about the jelly-flicking I could not help smiling to myself. To me it seemed amusing at best, at worst childish and in poor taste, and I was surprised to learn that it had provoked such over-reactions. But I quickly perceived that, as symptomatic of a tendency to polarization within the British Buddhist movement, such over-reactions were in reality no laughing matter. Ananda Bodhi’s teaching of the Burmese ‘insight meditation’, itself a controversial variant of an important traditional practice, may well have been one-sided, and his supporters within the Sangha Association may well have gone to extremes in their enthusiasm for the technique, but Christmas Humphreys and Ananda Bodhi’s other opponents at the Buddhist Society and elsewhere had also gone to extremes, albeit in the opposite direction. ‘Insight meditation’ stood accused of concentrating on the development of the iddhis or lower psychic powers of which the Buddhist Society’s Theosophical heritage had taught it to be so afraid. Some of its members went so far as to throw away the meditation baby with the ‘vipassanã’ bathwater. Meditation was ‘dangerous’! I could perhaps have resolved the conflict, at least to an extent, by speaking to Ananda Bodhi and persuading him at least to teach ‘insight meditation’ in a more traditional manner, but he was no more willing to discuss matters with me than he had been to discuss them with Christmas Humphreys, and shortly after the formation of the Sangha Sabha he left for Canada. Better to be the first man in a village than the second in Rome!His departure left me free to start phasing out the teaching of ‘insight meditation’ at the Vihara. It also made it easier for me to heal the breach between the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association and, perhaps, resolve some of the broader differences between them.

The first thing I did was to make myself equally available to both organizations. On Sunday afternoons I lectured at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara and on Friday evenings at the Buddhist Society’s premises in Eccleston Square, near Victoria Station, to which it had moved seven or eight years earlier. I also started visiting the provincial groups on a regular basis and giving talks for societies and clubs of various kinds in and around London, besides officiating at funerals, speaking at the Buddhist Society’s fortieth anniversary celebrations at Caxton Hall, and organizing an innovatory three-day Christmas Buddhist Seminar for fifty persons at the Vihara. In this way I got to know quite a number of people, especially in London. After my weekly lecture at the Buddhist Society ten or twelve of us would adjourn to the Jiffy Bar, where those who had come to the lecture straight from work would have a meal or a snack, I would have a cup of tea, and where a lively discussion would generally take place, either on a point arising out of the lecture itself or on some unrelated Buddhist topic. Several of the participants told me that they enjoyed these informal gatherings even more than the lectures themselves and actually learned more about Buddhism from them. After meetings at the Vihara, if no one wanted to see me privately, as was often the case, I would invite two or three people up to my room for a chat. Some faces I saw both at the lectures I gave at the Buddhist Society and those I gave at the Vihara. In fact I encouraged members of the Sangha Association to join the Buddhist Society and attend its meetings and members of the Buddhist Society to join the Sangha Association and take part in its activities both at the Vihara and at the Biddulph meditation centre. Many were happy to do this, though there were a few diehards on both sides who wanted to have nothing to do with the rival organization.

Several of the faces I saw both at the Buddhist Society and at the Vihara were to become very familiar to me. They included the morose and radiant faces belonging, respectively, to Maurice and Ruth Walshe; the jovial, worried-looking, and smiling faces of the Vihara’s ‘Three Musketeers’ – Alf Vial, Mike Hookham, and Jack Ireland; and the plump, cheerful face of Anna Phillips, who had a car and had already constituted herself my driver. They all, in their different ways, played a part in my life during the next two years, and even beyond, and I shall later on have to attempt a portrait – or at least a sketch – of each of them.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:51 am

Chapter Eight: ‘The World of Publishing’

In India i had been accustomed, when not on tour, to devote my mornings to literary work. At the time of my departure for England I was engaged on a five-part ‘Heritage of Buddhism’, which had kept me busy for the last two years and was still far from complete. As I did not want to stop working on it, in accepting the Sangha Trust’s invitation to spend a few months in England I had stipulated that I should have my mornings to myself. I had not been at the Vihara many weeks before it became obvious that I would be spending more time in England than I had expected and that there was no question of my mornings being my own. There were always people to see, lectures to prepare, correspondence to attend to – and the telephone kept ringing. In these circumstances there was little hope of my being able to produce more than the occasional article. But if it was not possible for me to carry on working on my ‘Heritage of Buddhism’ I could at least prepare the first part of it for publication in separate book form and write a short preface.

The ‘Heritage’ had begun as a series of articles for the Oriya Encyclopaedia, but I soon realized – my enthusiasm for the Dharma having carried me far beyond the number of words required – that I was writing not a series of articles but a book or books. I therefore started looking for a London publisher, and at Lama Govinda’s suggestion wrote to Gerald Yorke, the reader for Rider & Co., then the leading English publishers of books on Buddhism. He replied promptly, and after a few more letters had passed between us an agreement was signed. As it happened I met him at the Summer School, which he was in the habit of attending in quest of new authors.

Gerald Yorke was a cheerful, communicative man of sixty or more, in a tweed jacket, and with a brier pipe which he waved around when talking. At the Summer School he was to be found of an evening in the Oak Room, where he would hold forth to some of the younger men until quite late, reminiscing about his experiences in China in the thirties and sometimes telling, so I gathered, stories that were not fit for the ears of monks. Not least because I was one of his authors, he took a fatherly interest in me, and in the course of the next few years I saw quite a lot of him and his wife, both at their London flat and at Forthampton Court, their country house near Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire. During one of my stays at Forthampton Court, once a residence of the abbots of Tewkesbury, Gerald showed me the house library, which had been started in the eighteenth century by one of his ancestors and contained a number of leather-bound volumes that I took the opportunity of perusing. He also showed me his personal library, which was of a very different character. In his younger days he had been a disciple of the black magician Aleister Crowley, ‘the Wickedest Man in the World’, and the collection was rich in books and, I think, unpublished manuscripts, by that strange and complex being, besides other memorabilia. Perhaps because he wanted to see how shockable – or unshockable – I was, Gerald at one point drew from the shelves a slim, blue-covered volume and asked me to read the little work. It turned out to be a long stanzaic poem by Crowley in praise of the Virgin Mary, and it had been published by Burns, Oates & Washbourne, publishers to the Holy See. It was a rather beautiful poem, I thought, and showed that the celebrated Satanist possessed, among his other talents, an admirable command of metre and rhyme. But before I could finish reading it my host,with a chuckle, drew my attention to the fact that the first letter of each line of verse, read downwards, spelled out a string of obscenities very much at variance with the professed character of the work. Crowley had been delighted with the success of his stratagem; Burns, Oates & Washbourne, deeply embarrassed, had hastily withdrawn the book from circulation.

Jack Austin, a Westminster Bank employee and whilom leading member of the Buddhist Society, had certainly not been a disciple of Aleister Crowley; but he shared the black magician’s tastes in at least one respect. He had a marked fondness for what has been called, in disparagement, ‘ecclesiastical millinery’. In his case the millinery was of Japanese provenance, and almost the first thing he did when I visited him at his home in Banstead, in Surrey, where he lived with his wife and two young children, was to fling open the doors of his wardrobe and show me his collection of brocade robes. There must have been several dozen of them, of various colours and designs and degrees of sumptuousness, and Jack not only explained to me, enthusiastically and at great length, who had presented each robe to him and in what circumstances, and when he was entitled to wear it, but paraded back and forth in his favourite items so that I could see how he looked in them. Had he lived in the previous century he would probably have been a Ritualist curate, very much preoccupied with surplices and chasubles, genuflections and incense. Instead he was a Mahãyãna Buddhist living at a time in the history of Western Buddhism when the only robes with which the average English Buddhist was at all familiar were the yellow cotton robes of the Theravãdin monk, such as I was wearing, and when the only kind of ordination of which he (or she) had any real knowledge was monastic ordination.

As I knew from our long correspondence, the topic of ordination was a very sensitive one with Jack. He did not want to be a monk, but he desperately wanted to be an ordained person. He wanted to be a Buddhist priest, and exercise priestly functions, conducting services,marrying and burying (or cremating) people, sitting on interfaith committees as the Buddhist ‘representative’ and, of course, giving public lectures on Buddhism, of which he had a good general knowledge. Over the years he had sought ordination in various quarters, at one time receiving from Robert Stuart Clifton, founder of the short-lived Western Buddhist Order, what he believed – wrongly, as it turned out – was a Soto Zen ordination. It was on the strength of this ordination that he styled himself, and insisted on being styled by others, the Reverend Jack Austin. But while he was comparatively well known outside the British Buddhist movement, his position within it was ambiguous. He had always ploughed a lonely furrow, and even though this was more by choice than necessity it was impossible not to admire the energy and pertinacity of his ploughing. In particular I admired the way in which, year after year, he brought out Western Buddhist, his little magazine of Mahãyãna Buddhism. Bringing out a Buddhist magazine was not easy, as I well knew. Though now living in England, I was still having to edit the Maha Bodhi, the monthly journal of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, which was printed and published in Calcutta and which I had edited for the last ten or eleven years.

Fortunately I had the assistance of Mrs A.A.G. Bennett. In her capacity as the Maha Bodhi‘s Representative in Europe and the Americas (a post I had created specially for her) she had assisted me for many years. Besides writing for the Journal herself, and providing news of Buddhist activities in the West, she had translated a number of scholarly articles from German and French, thus helping to give the Maha Bodhi a more international flavour. Though she had assisted me for such a long time, and we had exchanged hundreds of letters, relations between us, though cordial, had remained rather formal (her letters were always signed ‘Adrienne Bennett’), and I knew little more about her than what she had revealed in a biographical note which, at my request, she wrote in 1954 for a special number of the Maha Bodhi. The note read:

Editor of the Bulletin of the Standing Conference of the Theological and Philosophical Libraries of London. Studied Mathematics and Physics. Later changed to Painting, exhibiting frequently in London. Lived for 14 years in India and China. 1939–45 war, engaged in linguistic work; then on a history of the Development of Religious Thought. Librarian of the Buddhist Society, London, 1949–52. Editor of The Middle Way, 1951–52.

Her association with The Middle Way – and the Buddhist Society – had not ended happily. Her efforts to upgrade the magazine intellectually had been frustrated by Christmas Humphreys’ determination to keep it popular. According to Jack Austin, at that time a regular correspondent, there had been a stormy Council meeting at which Humphreys spoke to her so brutally that she left the room in tears.

The Middle Way‘s loss had been the Maha Bodhi‘s gain, and since it had been my gain too I was anxious to establish personal contact with our faithful representative in Europe and the Americas and get to know her personally. On visiting her at her flat in Holland Park, shortly after my return to England, I found a haggard-faced woman of sixty or thereabouts, wearing heavy make-up and with henna-dyed hair, who was bursting with nervous energy that evidently needed an outlet. It being our first meeting we naturally talked shop. I was particularly interested in the translation of the Bodhicaryãvatãra on which she was then engaged, and encouraged her to persevere with it, despite the difficulty of the work. At that time there was only one English translation of Šãntideva’s classic celebration of the Bodhisattva ideal in print and this, though very readable, unfortunately was incomplete.

The chapter of the Bodhicaryãvatãra that had been giving Mrs Bennett most trouble was Chapter 9, on the Perfection of Wisdom, which Lionel Barnett, the previous translator, had chosen to leave in the obscurity of the original Sanskrit. The Perfection of Wisdom was the principal subject matter of the Prajñãpãramitã or ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ sûtras, an important body of Mahãyãna canonical texts that had been translated, almost in their entirety, by Dr Edward Conze,who had devoted twenty years of his life to the project, thus putting all English-speaking Buddhists very much in his debt. With him too, therefore, I was anxious to establish personal contact.

We met in Oxford, that famous ‘home of lost causes’,when the Oxford University Buddhist Society invited me to give a lecture under its auspices that autumn. I spoke on ‘The Spiritual Ideal in Buddhism’. Dr Conze was in the audience, and afterwards the two of us met. This was the first of a number of meetings, at his home and at Manchester College, where he taught, and where I once heard him speak on the Madhyamaka School to no more than twenty people – a pitifully small audience for so great a Buddhist scholar. Though he was reputed to have a ferocious temper, and people were said to be terrified of his caustic tongue, I never saw the least sign of either. He struck me as being a kindly, even compassionate person. Common friends to whom I mentioned my impression disputed this, but I remained convinced that that was what he was really like. If it is true that ‘As fire drives out fire, so pity pity,’ then it could have been that his compassion for people’s spiritual ignorance at times got the better of his pity for their mundane sensitivities. His, perhaps, was the healing knife, that wounded only to cure.

Be that as it may, Edward Conze struck me as being not only a kindly person but also quite a sad one, and indeed he was not very happy at Oxford.When I naïvely asked him, during our first meeting, if there was not a good deal of interest in Buddhist philosophy at Oxford, now that he was there, he replied, gloomily, that there was no interest in it whatever. Oxford philosophers were interested only in linguistic analysis, which was not philosophy in the traditional sense at all. Buddhist philosophy was a lost cause, it seemed, even in the home of lost causes.

There were other reasons for Dr Conze’s unhappiness. Academic Oxford was an exclusive, conventional, and snobbish place, and it was not above humiliating a social and intellectual outsider in mean and petty ways. As Freda Wint and other Buddhist friends there told me, since Dr Conze held only Continental degrees he was listed in the University calendar as plain Mr Conze, and since the lady with whom he was living was not his legal wife the authorities refused to recognize her existence and she was not included in invitations to official functions. So far as the University was concerned, Mr Conze was a bachelor.

I met Mrs Conze (as she truly was in Buddhist eyes) more than once. The first time was when I had lunch with them at their flat and Dr Conze introduced her in what I thought was rather an offhand manner, simply saying, as she walked into the room, ‘This is Muriel.’ Did he feel embarrassed? Or was he unsure what my attitude would be? Whatever the explanation, it pained me to think that a man of his eminence and distinction should be placed by society in such an invidious position. Years later, having eventually succeeded in obtaining a divorce from his first wife, Dr Conze married his Muriel. But by that time he had long severed his connection with Oxford.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:06 am

Chapter Nine: London Twenty Years After

In recent years people have sometimes asked how long it took me to adjust to living in England, after my twenty years in the East. In fact it took me no time at all. I might even say that the idea that one needs time to adjust to a new situation, or set of circumstances, and has just to sit there adjusting for a few weeks or months before being able to do anything, was meaningless to me, not to say absurd. There was not such a great deal of difference between arriving in London and taking up residence at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara and arriving in Calcutta or Bombay or Poona and going to stay at one of the local monasteries or with friends.Of course this did not mean that there were not differences between London and the various Indian cities I was accustomed to visit. Obviously the differences between them were enormous, but for me there was no question of my having to make a psychological adjustment to those differences as distinct from my familiarizing myself with them and learning to take them into account when it was necessary to do so. There was no question of my being given an emotional shock by the new situation and no question, therefore, of my needing time to recover from that shock.

One of the biggest differences between London on the one hand and the Indian cities on the other was a singular one I had noticed on the very day of my arrival. Compared with Calcutta and Bombay, and even Poona, London was a very quiet place. The traffic rolled smoothly through the streets making hardly a sound; and it all kept,miraculously, to the side of the road to which it was supposed to keep. There were no bullock carts or wandering cows getting in the way, or sweating coolies pushing barrows piled high with tins of kerosene or sacks of flour.What was hardly less strange, London was practically deserted. There were no streets as warm with men, women, and children, and the few people who were about behaved in an orderly fashion; no one walked in the road, or squatted to urinate in the gutter, and there were no beggars. Compared with what I was used to when I left my mountain retreat to travel the plains of India, London was luxe, calme et volupté as the lands to which Baudelaire, in a famous poem, invites his faithless beloved to accompany him.

The one place that was neither luxe, nor calme, nor volupté was Haverstock Hill, or at least that part of it on which the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara happened to be situated. A busy arterial road, it was so noisy that one had a long way to go before finding a noisier. Traffic, especially lorries, roared and thundered up and down it incessantly, from early morning until late at night, or rather, until the early hours of the following day, so that one had only a few hours respite from the din. Sometimes the traffic was so heavy, even on a Sunday afternoon, that the whole building shook with the vibrations and the windows rattled. On the opposite side of the road stood the Haverstock Arms, and on Friday and Saturday nights, especially, the shouts and cries of revellers could be heard above the noise of the traffic. In the whole of north-west London there could hardly have been a less suitable spot for a Buddhist monastery.

What, then, had led Ananda Bodhi and the Sangha Trust to fix on 131 Haverstock Hill as the new home of the English Sangha and the venue of its teaching activities? The reason was that Haverstock Hill, together with its continuation Rosslyn Hill, ran straight through the then London borough of Hampstead, bisecting it along its north-south axis, and Hampstead was reputed to have more intellectuals to the square mile than any other part of the metropolis. As Buddhism was an intellectual religion, and could therefore be expected to have a special appeal for Western intellectuals, what better location for a vihara could there be than in the area where the potential interest was greatest? Western intellectuals,who had no faith in meaningless rites and ceremonies, and who relied solely on reason, were already more than halfway to Buddhism. Let them only hear the Dharma, in its pure Theravãdin form, from the lips of a Theravãdin Buddhist monk, and they would be sure to embrace it immediately.

I had long been familiar with this line of argument. It was a favourite one with Western-educated Eastern Buddhists like Narada Thera, the doyen of the English-speaking monks of Ceylon, who had visited Europe on more than one mission ofmercy andwho seemed to believe, judging by the reports he wrote, that inasmuch as the intellectual Westerners had listened attentively to his lectures and applauded politely at the end he had made converts of them on the spot. No doubt there were a few who really did think of Buddhism as an early Indian form of Rationalism and to whom it appealed for that reason, and no doubt they had their representatives within the British Buddhist movement in London and elsewhere, but so far as I could make out Western intellectuals in general were more likely to embrace scientific materialism and scepticism, or even cynicism and nihilism, than a spiritual, transcendentally-oriented teaching such as Buddhism. Apart from Maurice Walshe, who was a minor academic rather than an intellectual, during my tenure as incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara I did not, to my knowledge, see even one of the famed Hampstead intellectuals at my Sunday afternoon lectures. They preferred to play chess at Prompt Corner in South End Green.

People have also sometimes asked me, in recent years, if I ever missed India, especially Kalimpong, the little town in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas where I had lived for fourteen years and where I had several teachers and many friends. Did I not miss them particularly badly during those first few months after my return to England? So far as I remember I did not miss them at all, if by missing one means pining for them and regretting that I was not there in India, and especially in Kalimpong, instead of being where I actually was. This is certainly not to say that I never thought of them. I thought of India, and of Kalimpong in particular, every now and then, and with great fondness. I thought of the crowded, colourful bazaars, of the green rice-fields, of the great rivers, of the mighty, snow-capped mountain ranges. I thought of my peaceful hillside hermitage, where in latter years I had been wont to spend the three or four months of the rains reading, writing, and meditating, and hearing no other sound than that of the rain drumming on the roof and the occasional soothing tinkle of the wind-bells on the veranda outside my window. Above all, perhaps, I thought of (and sometimes found time to write to) my kind teachers, particularly Dhardo Rimpoche, and to my affectionate friends, of whom I had many in Calcutta, Bombay, Poona, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Jabalpur, and Delhi, and other parts of the country.

I have sometimes wondered why, after my return to England, I did not miss my Indian friends at least to a small extent, especially as I was now having to live and work with people who almost without exception were perfect strangers tome. But unless memory plays me false, I did not miss them, did not, that is to say, pine for them or regret I was not in their company. In this connection I recall what one of them once told me, after I had spent some three weeks in Poona giving lectures for the benefit of my ex-Untouchable Buddhist friends. We have all become very fond of you, he said, and we are extremely sorry to see you go, but you do not seem to be at all sorry to be leaving us.Whether these words expressed admiration for my detachment as a monk or disappointment at my indifference as a friend, or even a mixture of both, I do not know, but they made an impression me at the time and gave me food for thought afterwards. Detachment, in the sense of freedom from self-interest, was one thing, indifference, in the sense of a lack of concern for other people, quite another. While the former was perfectly compatible with true friendship, the latter made any kind of friendship impossible. Did my not feeling sorry to be leaving my friends in Poona, and my not missing my Indian friends after my return to England,mean that I was detached, or did it mean that I was indifferent?Was there, I even wondered, a general lack of emotion in my make-up?

In the end I came to the conclusion that I was neither without concern for other people nor lacking in emotion generally. But my feelings were to a great extent buried. They were buried beneath layers of reticence and reserve through which it was difficult for them to break. For this there were, so far as I could see, a number of reasons. Besides my cultural conditioning as an Englishman,which had probably given me a stiff upper lip without my realizing it, there was the fact that the natural expression of my feelings had been inhibited by my being obliged, from an early age, to be constantly aware of what I was doing. Then again, I was a Buddhist monk, who was expected to be always calm and controlled, and at the time of my arrival at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara I had been a monk for fourteen years longer, if my period as a freelance wandering ascetic is included. But there were other, more positive reasons for my apparent coldness. If my feelings strove to break through the layers of reticence and reserve less urgently than they might have done, it was partly because they had an alternative outlet. This outlet was poetry, which I had written since I was a boy and in which I could express my feelings freely. Similarly, if I did not miss my Indian friends at all, my not missing them was partly due to the fact that I possessed a vivid imagination, so that whenever I thought of them it was as though they were, in a manner of speaking, actually present and I could see them. In other words, I did not miss them in the ordinary sense of the term, because they were not really absent at least not when I was thinking of them.

Not that I very often felt the need to think of them and, as it were, enjoy their company. My life was a full one, and I was kept very busy, not infrequently until late at night and even into the early hours. I had the management of the Vihara to attend to, besides which there were lectures to prepare, provincial Buddhist groups to visit, people to see and my immediate environs to explore. During my first few weeks in England explorations were limited to the Belsize Bookshop and the nearer reaches of Hampstead Heath, but later I re-familiarized myself with central London, which I had known very well during the War, visiting the second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road again, renewing my acquaintance with the Egyptian mummies in the British Museum, and once more walking past County Hall, where I had worked for two years before being conscripted. As I made my way around I realized that London was not only different, in so many ways, from the major conurbations of India; it was also different from its own former,wartime self. Red double-deckers still plied the major London routes, but the bone-shaking trams and swift, silent trolley buses had gone, and there were more motor cars on the roads. Launderettes and Indian restaurants had sprung up and become, apparently, an integral part of peoples lives, tv aerials sprouted from rooftops, and men no longer raised their hats when passing the Cenotaph in Whitehall. I also noticed that people were much better dressed and had, as it seemed, more money to spend (there were certainly more consumer goods in the shops for them to buy), so that I could not but recall the ignoble slogan You've never had it so good, with which Harold Macmillan and the Conservative Party were said to have won a general election and which, when the echo of it reached me in distant Kalimpong, had almost made me ashamed of being British.

But though much had changed much had remained unchanged. Besides the red double-deckers, red telephone kiosks and red pillar boxes were still to be seen; policemen wore the same kind of helmets as before; the Underground was as stuffy, crowded, and convenient as ever; and in the City there were still a few bomb sites, grim reminders of the Blitz, from whose rubble-heaps there rose clumps of pink-flowering willowherb.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:32 am

Chapter Ten: A Portrait in Oil and a Few Sketches

Portraits can be executed in oils, in water colours, and even in charcoal. A portrait of Maurice O'Connor Walshe Reader in German at Bedford College, Vice-President of the Buddhist Society, Chairman of the Sangha Association, etc. would doubtless have to be executed in oils, for only in that rich and expressive medium would the artist be able to do justice both to his mottled complexion and his complex, contradictory character. A portrait of him in words, even one that is no more than a sketch, must be executed in the literary equivalent of oils. I have described the expression on Maurice Walshe's face as morose and that on his wife Ruth's as radiant. Both epithets are only approximations, as single epithets as applied to human beings unavoidably are. Maurice Walshe looked morose only when he was comparatively relaxed, as he sometimes was after attending a lecture or a meditation class. At other times his expression could range from the belligerent to the sullenly obstinate.Most often, though, and perhaps most characteristically, the face that looked out from beneath the stiff grey hair and prominent brow was that of an angry child.

In his capacity as a member of the Sangha Trust (he was not then its chairman, I think), I had been in correspondence with him for several months prior to my departure from India, and after my arrival at the Vihara we naturally became personally acquainted. He and Ruth Walshe lived just round the corner from the Vihara, down a tree-lined side street a little further up Haverstock Hill, though whether Muhammad had gone to the mountain or the mountain to Muhammad I never discovered. The Summer School had not been long over before they invited me to tea, and soon an afternoon visit to their comfortable upstairs flat in Hewitt Road was a regular feature of my week. These visits usually took place on the days I was lecturing at the Buddhist Society when, the three of us having had tea together, Maurice and Ruth would take me down to Victoria and to the Society's premises in Eccleston Square. After the lecture and our usual session in the Jiffy Bar they would bring me back to the Vihara. I was not used to being escorted and accompanied in this ceremonious manner, but it seems my predecessors had insisted on it. Some of them, indeed, had always taken taxis when a private car was not available, as travelling by public transport was thought to be incompatible with monastic dignity. Kapilavaddho in particular, I was told, had cost the Trust hundreds of pounds in taxi hire for himself and his attendant.

While Ruth always chattered gaily on our journey into central London, Maurice was usually morose and silent, and I was therefore not surprised when, on the grounds that he had work to do, he eventually stopped accompanying us. Tea being over, he would withdraw into his study, leaving Ruth with the responsibility of getting me to the Buddhist Society in good time for my lecture (or meditation class, as the case might be) and returning me safely to the Vihara afterwards. Occasionally he came to the Society straight from college, arriving just before the lecture was due to begin. On those days I did not have tea at Hewitt Road and Ruth called for me at the Vihara.

That I no longer had Maurices morose company on my shuttlings between the rival Buddhist establishments (as they still were to an extent), but only that of his more cheerful and communicative wife, certainly did not mean that I saw him only when the three of us had tea together. Living as he did just round the corner, it was easy for him to call in at the Vihara, which he did at all sorts of odd times. At first he came simply to see how I was settling in, or if there was anything I needed, but after a while it was in order to confer with me on this or that item of Sangha Trust or Sangha Association business. I thus had many opportunities of observing him, even of studying him, at close quarters. Clumsy in manner and awkward in demeanour, he usually appeared ill at ease, whether in my own company or that of other people, and he often fidgeted and grimaced as though torn by violent conflicting emotions.When engaged in conversation, he would study the floor, or glance from side to side of the room anywhere but in the face of the person to whom he was speaking. All this tended to give him a shifty, untrustworthy look, as if he had something to hide, or was ashamed of himself, or felt guilty. I also noticed that when something went wrong, or if there was an emergency, Maurice either became flustered and threshed about helplessly, not knowing what to do, or else panicked and acted precipitately, without thinking. He moreover was extremely forgetful, being in this respect the typical absent-minded professor of popular belief. Once he forgot the key to the Buddhist Society, with which he had been entrusted since he was chairing my lecture that evening, and had to go back to Hampstead for it while we all waited outside. Later on he repeatedly forgot to send notices of my outside lectures to the press, with the result that there was a smaller attendance than usual. He forgot so often that I could have been forgiven had I wondered whether his forgetting was not a Freudian slip.

Though he always treated me with respect, even consideration, and seemed pleased that I was staying in England longer than I had originally intended, and though for my part I appreciated his scholarly knowledge of Buddhism, the fact was that we never really became well acquainted. The reason for this, questions of personal chemistry aside, was that he knew I had serious reservations about the Burmese-style insight meditation, which he himself had been practising under the guidance of Ananda Bodhi and which he continued to practise under the guidance of Vichitr, with whom he had a weekly meditation interview in the Office of Thai Sangha whenever the plump, self-satisfied Thai monk happened to be in residence. He also was aware that I was taking steps to phase out the teaching of insight meditation at the Vihara, at least where the public classes were concerned, and replace it with more traditional methods a process that in the end took me six or seven months to complete. Thus although we could regularly discuss and agree upon Trust and Association affairs, and although we could sometimes exchange views on points of general doctrinal interest, Maurice Walshe and I were never able to touch upon anything of a more personal nature, least of all on anything that had a bearing on the practice of meditation. Had I attempted to take the initiative in this connection, and especially if I had attempted to raise with him the question of the validity or otherwise of insight meditation, the result, I suspect, would have been an explosion.

Maurice's original instructor in the controversial Burmese method was, of course, Ananda Bodhi, and I gathered that he had loyally supported the Canadian monk throughout the latter's dispute with Christmas Humphreys and the Buddhist Society, even though he himself was one of the Society's vice-presidents. He supported him loyally still. In the course of his Chairman's report at the Associations annual general meeting, which was held at the beginning of December, he made a point of paying heartfelt tribute to Ananda Bodhi, speaking of his great qualities as a teacher and his wonderful work. Yet for all his loyalty, and despite the public eulogy, from time to time there escaped from him, almost against his will, a caustic comment, or acerbic aside, that suggested there was an element of ambivalence in his attitude towards his former teacher.

There was certainly an element of ambivalence in his attitude towards Christmas Humphreys. It might not be too much to say that his entire attitude towards the Founder-President of the Buddhist Society was one of ambivalence. Publicly he sang his praises, just as he did those of Ananda Bodhi, but in private he rarely spoke of him without disparagement. At the Vihara, and in his own home, he was in the habit of referring to the older man as the Pope of Eccleston Square, a sobriquet which in view of Humphreys high-handed, even dictatorial, way of running the Buddhist Society was not entirely inappropriate. But those who bestow sobriquets must beware lest they are similarly honoured. One of the more waggish, and perhaps better read, members of the Sangha Association had nicknamed Maurice himself the Mock Turtle (Mock for short), after Lewis Carroll's famous character, as depicted by Tenniel either because of the way in which our Chairman held himself when he stood up to speak at meetings, or because in the figure of the Mock Turtle the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had satirized the academics of his day. Personally I thought that with his baggy suit, dangling flipper-like arms, and disconsolate air, he looked much more like Tenniel's Walrus, in Through the Looking-Glass, despite the absence from his upper lip of that oyster-loving creatures drooping moustache.

Had I then been better acquainted with psychoanalytic theory, I might have been tempted to conclude that Maurice had a problem with authority, for it was obvious that he tended to behave towards anyone higher up than himself in the organizational, religious, or social hierarchy with a mixture of respect and resentment, deference and defiance, submission and rebellion. This was all the more the case when the authority figure in question happened to be, as Christmas Humphreys was, an older man. Whether Maurice's father had been a Theosophist I do not know, but his mother certainly was one. She was a member of the Hastings Buddhist group, and once told me that Maurice had had a difficult childhood. Difficult childhood or not, he had been brought up as a Theosophist, and perhaps it was not without significance that the favourite target of his criticism, so far as Humphreys was concerned, should have been the latter's marked Theosophical leanings. Beside bestowing on the Society's president the sobriquet of the Pope of Eccleston Square, he had dubbed the latter's unique mixture of Buddhist and Theosophical teachings Christmas pudding. This was by no means unfair. Humphreys was as much a Theosophist as a Buddhist. He indeed believed and loudly proclaimed that as expressions of the same Ancient Wisdom Buddhism and Theosophy were fundamentally identical. In his pantheon, Mme Blavatsky a large photograph of whom dominated the Society's library occupied a place that in effect was practically on a par with that of the Buddha. Though I was ready to acknowledge the part played by the Theosophical movement in making the Enlightened One and his teaching known in the West, I no more believed that Buddhism and Theosophy were identical than Maurice did. I could, therefore, agree with many of the criticisms he levelled against Humphreys on that score. I only regretted that on Maurice's caustic tongue those criticisms, objectively valid though they were, should have had an emotional edge to them that was far from objective. Perhaps it was the angry child speaking.

Apart from the fact that she, too, was a Buddhist, Ruth Walshe was as different from her husband as it was possible to be. Not only was her expression as radiant as his, usually, was morose. She was as gracious in manner as he was clumsy and awkward, and as much at ease with people as he was ill at ease with them. Possessing a delightful laugh, as compared to the sardonic grin that was all he could manage, she spread sweetness and light rather than the sourness and gloom he tended to dispense and was a popular figure with the members of both Buddhist organizations, whereas Maurice, while not exactly unpopular, was few peoples favourite British Buddhist. How two persons of such very diverse characters had ever come to meet and marry was a mystery of which the popular theory that opposites attract seemed a quite inadequate explanation. But they had met, and they had married, and appeared to jog along together beneath the matrimonial yoke as contentedly as most married couples. I noticed, though, that Maurice rarely mentioned Ruth's name in her absence, and even then only in passing. Ruth, on the other hand, spoke of dear old Maurice, as she always called him, quite frequently.

In appearance Ruth was undistinguished. She was of medium height, rather slightly built, and probably had not been very pretty even as a girl. Her only remarkable feature, apart from her expression, was her hair, which was deep ginger in colour and so heavily permed as to resemble a wig. I had been writing to her, as to Maurice, while still in India, and since the correspondence was in this case of a personal rather than an official nature we were in a sense acquainted even before we actually met. But although the acquaintance was commenced at the Summer School, and over the cups of tea I had with her and Maurice at their flat, it was only when Maurice stopped giving us his company on lecture days, and Ruth and I travelled down to the Buddhist Society without him, that acquaintance started developing into something like friendship. We both enjoyed these trips. Except in very bad weather, when we were glad to take advantage of the Underground, we walked up to the South End Green bus terminus and there boarded one of the red double-deckers that were usually waiting.We sat upstairs, at the front of the bus, and as the journey to Victoria took forty minutes there was plenty of time for conversation.

Ruth naturally was eager to know more about my life and work in India, and about my teachers, and I was happy to satisfy her curiosity. So far as I can remember, I never asked her about herself, as quite early in our acquaintance I had gained the impression that she did not like having to recall the past. Since she was of Austrian Jewish extraction and had, I believe, come to England as a refugee, this was hardly surprising. Her curiosity regarding my life and work in India, and my teachers, having been satisfied, our bus-top conversations were generally concerned with matters of Buddhist interest nearer home, and in this way I came to learn much about recent events with the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association, as well as about some of the more prominent personalities involved. But communicative, even talkative, though she was, Ruth was no gossip, and I never heard from her lips an unkind word about anyone. She certainly did not share Maurice's ambivalent attitude to Christmas Humphreys. On the contrary she liked and admired the man,was tolerant of his Theosophical leanings, and was a leading member of his Zen Class, Zen being the form of Buddhism to which she was most attracted. She was not attracted to the Theravãda, at least not to the kind of Theravãda that was virtually identical with Buddhist monasticism, and I gathered that she distrusted Ananda Bodhi and disliked his teaching. At the same time, she was aware of her husbands loyalty to his old teacher and of the extreme importance that insight meditation had come to have for him. On one occasion, when we had become good friends and were able to confide in each other, she spoke to me frankly about this, saying, with great earnestness, Bhante, please don't criticize the Vipassanã. Maurice's whole emotional security is bound up with it. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to avoid criticizing the controversial Burmese method, however tactful I tried to be. Though I never criticized it in my lectures, people often asked me what I thought of it, both publicly and privately, and in honesty I could not conceal my real views.

Among those whose emotional security was not bound up with insight meditation were the Viharas Three Musketeers, jovial Alf Vial, worried-looking Mike Hookham, and smiling Jack Ireland. Alf, who was the leader of the trio, or at least its most vocal member, was a pink-faced, fair-haired man in his early or middle forties who for many years had been a Communist and a shop steward. He worked as a cashier, spoke with a decidedly cockney accent, and was proud of the fact that he and his two teenage children were Bethnal Greens only Buddhists. Both Mike and Jack were somewhat younger and both were bachelors. Mike had a background in science and was engaged in scientific work of some kind. Though knowledgeable, he was a colourless sort of person, so that I find it difficult to give even a sketch of his character. Jack was quiet and unobtrusive, and like the Cheshire Cat was at times little more than a grin. All three Musketeers were great admirers of A Survey of Buddhism, and referred to it constantly. But while Alf and Mike were strongly inclined to the Mahãyãna, particularly in its Tibetan form, and were always questioning me about the Yogãcãra and the Madhyamaka, and about lamas and Tantric initiation, Jack on the other hand tended to favour the Theravãda and wanted to know about Pali texts and translations.

Anna Phillips's plump, cheerful face had not long been in evidence at the Vihara, her effective discovery of Buddhism having more or less coincided with my own arrival on the scene. Middle-aged, and a divorcée, she was a strong, active, sociable woman for whose character impulsive was probably the most appropriate single epithet, though good-hearted and generous would have done almost equally well, while terms such as slapdash, erratic, and reckless, would not have been entirely out of place. Since her car was at my disposal, together with herself as driver (a confident rather than a careful one), I saw quite a lot of her, and since she did not stand much on ceremony I did not find it difficult to get to know her.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:58 am

Chapter Eleven: Monks and Laymen

On 1965 i started keeping a diary. My entry for Friday 1 January began with a summary of my reflections as I faced the New Year, then went on to record the principal events of the day, which apart from the fact that there were no lectures, no classes, and no travel, was a fairly representative one. The entry was as follows:

After twenty years in the East, I find myself, at the beginning of 1965, in England, where I have now spent more than four and a half months. Not unexpectedly, this has been a busy period, though an interesting one, and, I feel, so far as the Buddhist movement in this country is concerned, a time of crucial importance.

I go on to reflect on the state of the British Buddhist community, which I had found to be practically split at least in part as a consequence of Ananda Bodhi's behaviour, to say nothing of his teaching, and its application of questionable meditation techniques.

On one side stood the Sangha Trust, the Sangha Association, and the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara; on the other, the Buddhist Society. Now, Ananda Bodhi is out, and (we hope) peace and harmony have been restored. During 1965 may I progress towards Supreme Enlightenment, and with the blessings of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, dharmapãlas, and dãkinîs may the Dharma continue to spread in England!

Rose at 6.15 and attended puja in the Shrine Room with Ven. Dhammaloka (Ceylon), Ven. Maha Vichitr (Thailand), Ven. Vimalo (Germany), Rev. Kassapa (England), and Kenneth (usa) who, with Ven. S. as incumbent and Head of the English Sangha, make up our community at the Hampstead Vihara. Spent the whole morning in puja and reflection, reading the Bodhisattva Šîla and going through the various meditation texts translated from the Tibetan. Pleasantly interrupted by a phone call from Holland, from Rechung Rimpoche, whom I last saw in Kalimpong more than three years ago. Said his colleague, a Tibetan monk I probably met in India, would be coming to England for a few weeks and would like to stay with me, if convenient. In the afternoon a long talk with Mr Revill about the affairs of the London Buddhist Vihara, Chiswick. All by no means well, it seems. Read latest New Statesman. Very peculiar behaviour by Vimalo; had to speak to him strongly, almost harshly. In the end he saw his mistake and apologized but the incident left me disturbed, as it showed he was not psychologically balanced, and that I would have to give attention to his spiritual development, whereas I had thought before that he was sufficiently advanced to be able to get on without my interposition. No one seems really normal. Mrs Phillips came. Discussed various people. She gave me, as a New Year present, the material for a Tibetan jacket. In the evening a long talk, about Buddhism, with Abraham's friend Ruben, who did not leave till 10.30.

Ananda Bodhi had indeed upset a lot of people. There was little doubt that he had an exaggerated idea of his own importance, and little doubt too that he had misled at least some of those who had come into contact with him. His insight meditation retreats at Biddulph involved the observing of complete silence, except for the daily ten-minute interview with the teacher, himself, and the systematic reduction of sleep to a maximum of four hours a night. Such a regimen, with its lack of ordinary human communication and lack of sleep, together with long periods in the same posture, was sufficiently demanding to risk bringing about the unhealthy mental state for which I subsequently coined the term alienated awareness, or worse, in the unprepared or vulnerable.

There were also serious doctrinal misunderstandings. Sensations of pain in meditation, the meditator was told,was a sign that insight transcendental insight was being achieved. Experience of the fact of suffering thus was confused, simply on account of its occurring within the framework of meditation, with the experience of transcendental insight into the Buddhas noble truth of suffering a very different thing. Moreover, the achievement of transcendental insight being equivalent to breaking one or more of the fetters binding to mundane existence, the meditator was encouraged to think that he had attained, or was in process of attaining, Stream-Entry, the first stage of the transcendental path leading directly to Nirvãäa. I had encountered misunderstandings of this kind before, in India. A Buddhist friend who had attended an insight meditation course in Burma, the original home of the method, returned with a certificate stating that he had completed the course and attained Stream-Entry. The certificate was signed by Mahasi Sayadaw, the leading monastic (as distinct from lay) insight meditation teacher of his generation.

Ananda Bodhi did not hand out certificates, so far as I know, but the fact that it was he who authenticated or did not authenticate the spiritual achievements of his disciples was sufficient to invest him, in their eyes, with tremendous authority, an authority which the formal insight meditation interviews, with their repeated threefold prostrations, tended to reinforce. It also made the more susceptible of them dependent on his advice and approval even in quite minor matters.

But if I thought that I now had little more to learn about Ananda Bodhi, I was greatly mistaken. I in fact had a lot more to learn, as I was to discover less than a month later, when light was suddenly thrown upon him and his activities from a totally unexpected quarter.

The latter half of my diary entry introduces several new characters. Dhammaloka was a simple, scholarly monk who at Ratanasara's invitation had come from Ceylon to teach Pali at the London Buddhist College,which as yet was no more than a weekly class or two held in the basement of the Vihara. After his arrival it transpired that Ratanasara had promised his old friend that he would meet all his travel expenses, provide him with board and lodging, and pay him a handsome monthly salary.Or rather, he had promised that the Sangha Trust would do so. As the Trust had not authorized him to make these promises on its behalf, and as it was in any case not in a position to pay anyone a handsome salary (the figure Ratanasara had mentioned was ludicrously high, especially for a monk), there was the inevitable showdown, first between Ratanasara and the Trust, and then between Ratanasara and Dhammaloka. In the end the latter, who was much less worldly-minded than his colleague, agreed to teach at the College in return for board and lodging plus a reasonable amount of pocket money. He was therefore accommodated in the house next door, which the Trust also owned and which had been divided into flats that were its principal source of income. During the time of his stay with us he proved to be a conscientious teacher, as well as a friendly and helpful member of our little community.

Kassapa was the elder of the two English novices and the one I had heard, on my first morning at the Vihara, ordering supplies on the phone and asking for the more expensive kind of salmon to be sent. I have already characterized him as saturnine. Forty or more, of medium height, and formerly a civil engineer, he moved slowly, and said very little.Occasionally, for no apparent reason, he would let out a low chuckle. As Ananda Bodhi had left him on my hands without telling me anything about him, it was only later that I came to know he had been quite ill and suffered from some form of mental illness. His gp warned me that he would have to be kept under constant supervision and it would be better if he did not stay at the Vihara. In consultation with Saddhatissa, his official preceptor, I therefore made arrangements for him to disrobe and return to lay life and, I hoped, proper medical care.

Kenneth was one of the handful of men who, during my incumbency, spent a few days or a few weeks at the Vihara, either because they were in search of peace of mind or because they wanted to have a taste of community life. I remember no more about him than I remember about Abraham's friend Ruben,who is mentioned at the end of my diary entry. Abraham himself I remember only as a youngish man with problems, who talked a lot, and who sometimes kept me up until very late at night. As my reference to him suggests, Rechung Rimpoche was an incarnate lama whom I had known in Kalimpong. Born into the aristocratic Pheunkhang family, at the age of thirteen he had been recognized as the fourteenth reincarnation of Rechung, the gifted but wayward disciple of the great yogi Milarepa and author of the famous biography of his master. Like other lamas who had arrived in India in the aftermath of the Chinese occupation, he had eventually been offered employment in the West, and was now working with a Dutch scholar in Leyden. In Kalimpong he had lived with his two brothers, one of whom was also an incarnate lama, the other being the husband of the eldest daughter of the Maharaja of Sikkim. Pheunkhang-se, the married brother, was already a friend of mine, and Rechung and I were soon acquainted. During his years in the hill station he was a frequent visitor to my monastery, studied English with me, and was always ready to collaborate with me in my Buddhist activities there. By the time he left for the West he had become my closest friend among the incarnate lamas, so that when he phoned me from Holland I was glad to hear his familiar voice.

Like Kassapa,William Revill had been a civil engineer (he was now retired), but unlike Kassapa he was cheerful, talkative, and very long winded. A white-haired, ruddy-faced bachelor who lived with his mother in one of the remoter suburbs, he often spent the whole day at the Vihara, bringing his sandwiches with him in a small attaché case that also contained an assortment of tools and copies of his most recent correspondence. Originally he came to complain about the monks attached to the London Buddhist Vihara, as the Sinhalese Buddhist centre at Chiswick was officially styled. None of them understood him, he declared, and they had treated him very badly. He was particularly critical of Vinita, a young monk with whom he had struck up a friendship which, if Revill was to be believed,was being undermined by the monks obtuseness, intellectual dishonesty, and inability to admit that a bhikkhu might commit a mistake in relation to a layman. As evidence of Vinitas shortcomings, and the correctness of his own position, he produced from his attaché case copies of the letters they had exchanged over the last few months. His own were of considerable length, written in a crabbed hand with many underlinings, and so obscure and tortuous in expression that it was difficult to make out what he was saying except that he was in the right and his friend in the wrong. Vinita, a pleasant, good-natured monk whom I had met once or twice and who clearly was out of his depth dealing with someone like Revill, had confined himself to typewritten general expressions of good will and esteem that the obstinate, eccentric old man found highly unsatisfactory.

Some months later Vinita and a Sinhalese monk whom I had come to know in Calcutta, while staying at the headquarters of the Maha Bodhi Society, left England to teach at the Washington Buddhist Vihara, then the principal Theravãdin centre in the United States.One day they went out together for a walk and were not seen again. At least, they were not seen again for many months and not in America.When eventually they did resurface it was in Japan, two years later, by which time both had disrobed and married. Had they been as much out of their depth with American Buddhists as Vinita had been with William Revill, I wondered, and had this had anything to do with their dramatic disappearance from the scene?
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 18, 2020 2:00 am

Chapter Twelve: The Penalties of Success

The dharma, in the sense of the Buddhas teaching, has been described in a number of different ways. The Buddha himself described it as a raft and as a path. It was a raft inasmuch as it was something to be made use of and then left behind, and a path inasmuch as it consisted of a series of steps or stages that had actually to be traversed.

Probably the best-known formulation of the path is that in which it is described as eight-fold, as consisting of perfect view, perfect motivation, perfect speech, perfect action, perfect livelihood, perfect effort, perfect mindfulness, and perfect meditation. Perfect view is view that is in accordance with reality, while perfect motivation and the rest are perfect to the extent that they are in accordance with that view. Perfect view is not easily achieved. It is achieved only with the help of, or on the basis of, right view, which is the mundane counterpart of perfect view in the sense of being the expression of that view or better, that vision in conceptual terms, perfect view or vision itself being of the nature of a supra-conceptual, transcendental, transforming insight or gnosis.

The development of right view, and therewith the abandonment of wrong view(views that are not in accordance with reality) thus is of crucial importance.Without right view it is difficult to make progress on the mundane eightfold path and without systematic progress on the mundane eightfold path it is extremely difficult to achieve perfect vision and thus to make progress on the transcendental path and attain, ultimately, Nirvãäa or Enlightenment.

Right view can be expounded, and wrong views exposed as such, through the medium either of the spoken or the written word. The spoken word, by virtue of its more immediate impact, is often the more effective medium, and much of my time was therefore spent giving lectures. Besides lecturing regularly at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society, I gave talks to the members of the provincial Buddhist groups, and on different occasions addressed divinity students, young Jews, philosophers, farmers, and Theosophists. I always prepared my lectures, at least mentally and in outline, and they always contained a strongly doctrinal element. I also enjoyed giving them. In giving them I was communicating the Dharma; I was sharing my own deepest convictions and insights. But much as I enjoyed giving lectures whatever the nature of my audience, I most of all enjoyed lecturing at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society, particularly at the Vihara. There were several reasons for this. Apart from the circumstance that in both places my audience consisted mainly of Buddhists, or at least of persons sympathetic to Buddhism, there was the fact that I lectured at both of them regularly. This meant that I got to know my audience, and they got to know me, so that as the weeks and months went by, and one lecture succeeded another, a definite rapport was established between us. It also meant that in every lecture Iwas able to build, at least to an extent, on all the lectures that had gone before, knowing that certain topics had already been dealt with and that the larger,more regular part of my audience was already familiar with them. This was particularly the case when I gave a whole series of lectures, as I did that winter at both the Vihara and the Society, speaking at the one on The Bodhisattva Ideal and the Six Pãramitãs every Sunday and at the other on The Developed Buddhism of the Mahãyãna on alternate Fridays.Other lectureswere on such subjects as the Middle Way, Tantric Buddhism, and Buddhist meditation.

Many of the lectures, including those that made up the two series, covered ground that was covered in a more detailed and scholarly manner in A Survey of Buddhism. This made it possible for the more studious, or more inspired, members of my audience to follow up the topic of the weeks or fortnights lecture by turning to the relevant section of my book. The Survey itself, of course, had grown out of a series of lectures. I had given the lectures ten years ago, in Bangalore, to a mainly Indian, predominantly Hindu gathering. I had given them without making any concessions to my audience, and now that I was speaking to a mainly English, predominantly ex-Christian audience in London I made no more concessions than I had made then. On both occasions I beat the drum of the Dharma, and blew the conch shell of the Dharma, vigorously and without compromise, and on both occasions my efforts met with a positive response, the only difference being that in England people expressed their appreciation in a more restrained fashion.

There was one lecture that did not meet with a very positive response. This was an independent lecture, that is, a lecture that did not form part of a series. It was on The Pure Land. I gave it at the Buddhist Society, and like the lectures that made up the two series it covered ground that was more adequately covered in the Survey. In Bangalore, so far as I can remember,my exposition of the Mahãyãna conception of the Pure Land, the archetypal realm where Enlightenment is more easily attained than on earth, had met with as positive a response as the rest of my lecture on the Mahãyãna schools, of which it formed part; but in London it fell flat, probably because the subject was new to my audience and, perhaps, confusing.

Not all the lectures I gave covered ground that was covered in the Survey, either at that time or later on. In some I explored aspects of the Dharma I had not explored before, at least in lectures, while in others I gave expression to recent developments in my thinking. The first time I did either of these things systematically, in a series of lectures,was when I gave four lectures on The Meaning of Conversion in Buddhism. In these lectures, given at the Hampstead Vihara, I dealt with conversion to (and within) Buddhism in terms of Going for Refuge, Stream Entry, the Arising of the Will to Enlightenment, and Turning About in the Deepest Seat of Consciousness. The immediate cause of my giving thought to this question was that some English Buddhists spoke of their having been converted to Buddhism (some even claimed to have converted themselves), though the fact that I had until recently been involved in the movement of mass conversion of ex-Untouchable Hindus to Buddhism must also have played a part. Short as the series was, compared with the two others I had given, it was an important one. In it I not only gave expression to some of the ideas that had come to me as a result of my realization, over the years, of the central importance in the Buddhist life of the act of Going for Refuge; I also paved the way, with the help of the concept of conversion, for the further development of those ideas. In particular I paved the way for what I have elsewhere described as that radical reduction of Stream Entry and the Arising of the Will to Enlightenment and even of Turning About in the Deepest Seat of Consciousness to Going for Refuge which characterized my later Buddhist thinking.

Success is not without its penalties. The fact that I was giving so many lectures, and that more and more people were coming to hear me (though they still came in their dozens, not in their hundreds), gave rise to certain problems. There was a problem of logistics, for instance, and there was a problem of space. The logistical problem was due to the fact that I lectured both at the Hampstead Vihara and at the Buddhist Society, as well as elsewhere, and that the programmes of the two establishments had to be co-ordinated. Usually Muriel Daw, the Society's black-browed, rather intense Meetings Secretary and I did this between us. But whenever there were arrangements for the joint celebration of a festival to be agreed upon, or a common policy on some matter of general Buddhist concern, Christmas Humphreys came instead. The first time this happened he drew from his briefcase a list of proposals which he proceeded to run through at top speed, prefacing each proposal with I'm sure you'll agree that… and ticking it off and passing on to the next one before I had a chance to say anything. When five or six proposals had been dealt with in this way I interrupted him with Wait a minute, Toby, I'm not sure if I agree with that, whereupon he looked up from his list with undisguised astonishment. Evidently he was accustomed to having his proposals accepted without demur, and the possibility of my actually wanting to discuss any of them had not occurred to him. But though inclined to be dictatorial he was no fool. By the time our meeting ended he had realized I was not to be steam-rollered into agreement and had changed tack accordingly. At our subsequent meetings, therefore, agreement was always preceded by discussion, in the course of which a proposal whether his or mine might be amended or even dropped.

It was at one of these meetings, I think, that there arose the question of my place in British society. Just how it arose I do not remember, but at one point Christmas Humphreys told me, in all seriousness, that I ought to regard myself as being the Buddhist equivalent of the Vicar of Hampstead. If I could do that, he seemed to think, I would be doing very well for myself, besides bringing credit to British Buddhism. Though I had yet to meet the Vicar of Hampstead, who for all I knew was a very worthy gentleman, I did not relish the idea of being the Buddhist equivalent of a Christian cleric, Anglican or otherwise, nor did I see why the area of my jurisdiction should have to correspond with his. Britain was my parish, and I had no intention of allowing myself to be confined to any one part of it.

Space was a problem only at the Vihara, for whereas the Buddhist Society's meeting room held between ninety and a hundred people, the Viharas, which doubled as the shrine room, could hold little more than half that number. At first this did not matter, but as the weeks went by, and as attendance at my Sunday lectures gradually increased, difficulties arose. People had to sit on the floor on either side of the green-and-gold shrine, on the landing outside the door, and even at the top of the stairs, from which position it fortunately was still possible to hear my voice and follow what I was saying.Obviously, if we wanted to continue holding lectures at the Vihara the meeting room would have to be enlarged. As we the Sangha Association committee members and I definitely did want to go on holding them there, the Sangha Trust agreed that the partition wall between the meeting room and a second, smaller room at the back should be demolished and collapsible doors installed. This would give us an L-shaped room capable of seating ninety people that could be divided, whenever necessary, into two. While the work was being done lectures would be held amid the eighteenth-century splendours of Burgh House, in the heart of old Hampstead.

On my recommendation the contract for enlarging the meeting room was given to a young builder called Krishna Gamre. One of a small group of Indian Buddhists, all followers of Dr Ambedkar, who sometimes came to see me, he was badly in need of work and I wanted to help him. Though I was now living in England, I had not forgotten my exUntouchable friends in central and western India, many of whom were still suffering at the hands of the Caste Hindus, and spoke about them and Dr Ambedkar and the movement of mass conversion to Buddhism whenever I had an opportunity. Earlier in the year I had spoken about them at Linacre House in Oxford, when I addressed the Hammarskjöld Society on What Buddhism has done for the Untouchables in India. But words were not enough. I wanted to give some practical help, on however small a scale, and the least I could do, now that I was at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, was to urge the Sangha Trust to give the contract to Krishna Gamre. It did not take him and his labourers all immigrant Indian Buddhists long to demolish the partition wall. But that was the easiest part of the job. Soon it became evident that there was much more to demolishing a wall than demolishing a wall. It also became evident that Krishna Gamre had had much less experience of building work than, in his eagerness to secure the contract, he had led me to believe, and that he was in fact quite out of his depth. I therefore had to become personally involved and ended up virtually supervising the project. There was the District Surveyor to be consulted, floorboards to be taken up, the number of joists doubled to take the weight of ninety people. Above all, there was a twenty-foot steel girder to be inserted beneath the ceiling where the partition wall had been and across the whole width of the building. As it was too long to be manoeuvred up the narrow stairs, we had to hire a crane and swing it in through the window. Miraculously, not a single pane of glass was broken.Maurice became almost ill with anxiety during this exercise, and even I felt a little worried, since I knew no more of building work than Krishna Gamre did and had only my common sense to guide me. But eventually the job was done. The collapsible doors having been hung, and the carpet relaid, I was able to go down to Camden Town and buy the additional wooden folding chairs that would now be needed. Krishna Gamre had estimated that the work of enlarging the meeting room would take altogether two weeks. In the event it had taken more than six.

Besides my ex-Untouchable friends in central and western India, there were my Nepalese and Tibetan friends in Kalimpong. I had not forgotten them either. In particular, I had not forgotten my servants and disciples at the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, the interdenominational monastery I had established on the outskirts of the town seven or eight years earlier, who continued to be financially dependent on me, as did the Vihara itself. Previously I had supported them out of the donations I received and from my remuneration for articles and book reviews, but now I was living in England these sources of income had dried up. If I was not to have no alternative but to return to India I would have to find a way of raising funds where I was. Having sounded out Anna Phillips, Alf Vial, and a few others, all of whom were anxious to keep me in England, I set up a small, informal organization, the Friends of the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, the members of which all contributed a small monthly sum towards the upkeep of the monastery and the support of its inmates. Among the two dozen members (no greater number was required) were the President of the Buddhist Society and the Chairman of the Sangha Association.

Though I was the principal speaker at the Hampstead Vihara I was not the only one. Mangalo and Vimalo also spoke there occasionally, when they were in London, as did some of the more knowledgeable members of the Sangha Association. Since the lay speakers had a poor delivery (not that Vimalo was a shining example in this respect), besides being deficient in other ways, I launched the speakers class, as it was called. Membership was open to all who were willing to prepare and give a fifteen-minute talk which would then be collectively criticized by the other members of the class. There was no honorary membership. We met every other week, initially at the Vihara but subsequently (at Christmas Humphreys invitation) also at the Buddhist Society, and at each meeting there were three or four talks. Subjects (given by me in advance) included Practical Buddhism, The Three Jewels, Faith in Buddhism, The Message of Buddhism, The Symbolism of the Stupa, Right Action, and even A Teenagers View of Buddhism, the teenager in question being Alf Vials sixteen-year-old daughter Christine. Soon the speakers class was not only improving old speakers but producing new ones, so that the Sangha Association was in a better position to respond to the growing demand for talks from schools, women's clubs, and other groups. Our star performers, by general consent, were Ruth and Alf, whose talks later appeared in the Associations journal The Buddhist (formerly Sangha), which I now edited. Maurice either spoke very well or spoke very badly there was no middleway. Probably because he was in the habit of doing so at college, he always spoke extemporaneously, and if he got into the right track straight away he could be brilliant and even witty. If this did not happen, he very soon lost his way and floundered from one inconsequential point to another until he dried up and had to sit down. All the time he would be frantically twiddling a pencil or fiddling with his bottom waistcoat button.

My Sunday lectures at the Hampstead Vihara were generally followed, both before and after the enlargement of the meeting room, by a little quiet socializing. People talked with one another or came up to me and introduced themselves. One evening I was approached by a young woman. She was a nurse, she said, but she also had a kind of second sight that enabled her to see when someone was suffering from cancer. She was sorry to have to tell me that I had cancer of the stomach, and that I should see a doctor as soon as possible. Her words naturally gave me quite a nasty shock, especially as she obviously believed what she said and was deeply concerned for me. I therefore consulted Maurice and Ruth, both of whom strongly advised me not to go to an orthodox medical practitioner but to an acupuncturist. The acupuncturist was Mr Van Buren, from whom Ruth herself had been receiving treatment for some time. As a result of this treatment, so she assured me, she felt much better and was bringing up enormous quantities of mucus. (A tendency to dwell on this unpleasant subject was one of Ruth's few weaknesses.) To Mr Van Buren I accordingly went. He could find no trace of cancer but said I needed treatment for my heart. He would give me a little prick then and I could come for the big prick in June or July (it was now mid-February), summer being the best time for the treatment of heart conditions. I little knew that when I visited him for the second time, five or six months later, I would have one of the strangest experiences in my life.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 18, 2020 2:21 am

Chapter Thirteen: Enter the Special Branch

One afternoon early in February I received a visit from the Special Branch. The visit was not unexpected, it being the result of a telephone call I had received that morning from Christmas Humphreys. The Branch wanted to talk to someone in the Buddhist movement about Ananda Bodhi, and he had suggested they should talk to me, as the person most likely to be able to help them with any enquiries. Would I be willing to see one of their people and tell him what I knew about Ananda Bodhi and his activities? As it seemed I did not really have much choice in the matter I agreed, and thus it was that Detective-Inspector Ginn came to be sitting in my room at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara that February afternoon.

In the event I learned much more about Ananda Bodhi from him than he, so far as I could tell, learned about the Canadian monk from me. He was in fact extremely communicative, even chatty, possibly in order to encourage communicativeness on my part. Ananda Bodhi had recently been in Scotland, so my visitor informed me, and while there he had given a talk to a Buddhist group. (Whether or not this was the group that met at Johnstone House, the newly acquired mansion in Dumfriesshire, was unclear.) In the course of this talk he had spoken in such a way as to convince at least one member of the group, herself a Buddhist, that he was not a Buddhist monk at all but a Communist who, under the cloak of Buddhism, was engaged in propagating the gospel according to Marx and Lenin. Horrified, she had written to the Special Branch denouncing him and demanding an investigation. On their looking into the matter, Detective-Inspector Ginn continued, they had made the interesting discovery that Bhikkhu Ananda Bodhi was none other than their old friend Leslie Dawson, of whom they had lost track four or five years earlier when he suddenly disappeared. Now he was again under surveillance, it seemed, for Ginn added that according to reports they had received he did not behave like a Buddhist monk. What exactly this meant I thought it best not to enquire. Except for his disregard of monastic etiquette, I had witnessed no un-bhikkhu-like behaviour on his part, nor had I ever heard him talk in a way that suggested he might be at heart a Communist. But then, I had seen very little of him, and he had shown no sign of wanting to take me into his confidence even to a small extent. There was only one circumstance that could be regarded as being at all suspicious. This, as I explained to my visitor, was the fact that he and two of his staunchest supporters, a youngish married couple based in the West Country, had first met in Moscow, when the three of them were attending an international Communist students conference.

A few days later Mangalo told me that the previous evening while I was away at the Buddhist Society taking a meditation class, Ananda Bodhi had been to see him. In the course of the visit he had declared, in his usual dramatic fashion, that he was now trying to tear people away from Buddhism as it was too stultifying. How seriously were these words to be taken? Neither Mangalo nor I really knew, but if Ananda Bodhi had been indulging in that kind of talk in Scotland, and perhaps also giving expression to left-wing political views, it was not surprising that people should have started doubting his bona fides as a Buddhist monk or have even become convinced, in the case of at least one person, that he was not a Buddhist monk at all but a crypto-Communist.

Though I found it difficult to believe that the brash, controversial Canadian monk was truly a Buddhist (as distinct from being simply the purveyor of a mixture of insight meditation and psychotherapy), I found it no less difficult to believe that he was a paid-up member of the Communist Party who had become a Buddhist monk in order to propagate the gospel according to Marx and Lenin under the cloak of Buddhism. The fact that he had first met two of his staunchest supporters in Moscow, at an international students conference, did not really amount to much. Many young people went through a vaguely idealistic, left-wing phase, and Ananda Bodhi, in his days as Leslie Dawson, may well have been one of these. At the same time, I could not ignore the fact that this troubled world of ours, halfway through the sixties, was still in the grip of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ranged on one side of the great ideological divide and the United States and Western Europe on the other. Three years earlier the Cuban missile crisis had brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, but although Khrushchev had drawn back at the last minute the Soviet Union had not yet awoken from its dream of a world dominated by totalitarian Communism. As I knew from my own experience in India, its strategy included such activities as subsidizing fellow-travellers, setting up front organizations, and infiltrating cultural bodies (not to mention government departments, trade unions, and the media), and it was not inconceivable that the British Buddhist movement, tiny as it was, had been thought worthy of the KGBs attentions. The Indian Buddhist movement had certainly been infiltrated, as had a section of the Theravãdin monastic order in Ceylon. I could not, therefore, altogether rule out the possibility that Ananda Bodhi was in fact a crypto-Communist, or, at the very least, more of a Communist than a Buddhist.

Despite the Cold War, and the fact that the British Buddhist movement might have been infiltrated by Communists, I took little interest in politics. Least of all did I take interest in British party politics. I knew, of course, that there had been a change of government in the autumn, but I was no more enthused by Harold Wilson's talk of the white heat of technological revolution than I had been, in India, by Harold Macmillan's talk of Britain never having had it so good. But if I was not interested in British party politics I was interested in the opportunity of meeting a British politician, especially one who was a famous journalist and an author to boot. The politician was Tom Driberg, the Labour MP (and future Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Labour Party), with whose lively William Hickey column I had been familiar during the War. We met in the Lobby of the House of Commons, the meeting having been arranged by Anna Phillips, who had once worked for him and who had told him that I liked his book The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament, a copy of which she had given me, and was planning to review it in a Buddhist magazine. So far as Anna was aware, he knew little or nothing about Buddhism, but years later I discovered, on reading his autobiography, that he wished he had kept more of his parent's Indian curios' for instance, a Tibetan prayer-wheel.

At the time of our meeting' Driberg was a tall, well-preserved man of sixty, with rugged features and a non-existent hairline. He received us with what was even then being described as old-fashioned courtesy, but when Anna, with misplaced flirtatiousness, attempted to rally him on his having neglected her for the last few months he repressed her promptly and without mercy, and I perceived that there was a streak of brutality in his composition and that he was not a man with whom it was wise to take liberties. Naturally we talked about the book, and about Dr Frank Buchman, the leader of the Moral Re-Armament Movement, about whom my Bombay friend Dr Dinshaw Mehta had often spoken to me, the American evangelist's ideas on divine guidance having influenced his own. As Driberg was well known for his championship of the underdog, I took the opportunity of telling him about the plight of the ex-Untouchables, and about Dr Ambedkar's movement of mass conversion to Buddhism, as well as about the visit that B.K. Gaikwad, one of the political leaders of the new Buddhists, was proposing to make to England. Our host listened with what appeared to be genuine interest and sympathy, and expressed his willingness to help with newspaper publicity in connection with Gaikwad's visit.

When the three of us had talked for half an hour Driberg obtained passes and showed Anna and me to the Distinguished Strangers Gallery, where we spent the next half hour and more listening to the debate. We heard two short speeches, one by Quintin Hogg (the former Viscount Hailsham) and one by Anthony Crosland. Hogg was a Conservative, and thus spoke from the Opposition Benches, and as the Distinguished Stranger's Gallery faced these we had a good view of him as he spoke. He spoke extremely well, in the sense that his delivery was excellent and his language polished. What the debate was about I no longer remember, if indeed I ever knew. Of Croslands speech I have no recollection whatever. But what drew my attention even more than the two speakers was the historic Chamber itself. It was much smaller than I had expected it to be, and much more Gothic in style. Indeed, with its abundance of elaborately carved woodwork and heraldic reds and blues and golds it looked less like the home of a modern legislative body than a royal chapel which is what it was originally. As I looked round at the place, and thought of the great issues that had been debated there, it was as though the fretted roof still echoed with the oratory of Canning, Cobden, and Bright, of Gladstone and Disraeli, of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.

Churchill had died the previous month, so that it was not difficult to imagine that bulky, cigar-smoking figure rising to address an anxious House in the darkest days of the War. Happening to drive past the Parliament building on a grey January afternoon, I saw the long dark lines of mourners silently waiting to pay their last respects to the great man as he lay in state in Westminster Hall. At least, I think I saw them. Vividly as the picture of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the gathering dusk, the lines of mourners, the drizzle, and the occasional black-caped policeman, presents itself to my mind's eye, I may only have seen it in the newspaper the following day.

Not that I was a great reader of newspapers. I sometimes looked at the conservative Daily Telegraph, of which I had been a regular reader during the War, as well as at the weekly New Statesman, the left-wing house organ of the Hampstead intellectuals, and that was about all. In those days the press hardly ever carried material of specifically Buddhist interest. When it did so the item related, more often than not, to the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. In the weeks following my return to the country I was in fact interviewed several times. One reporter, from a popular womens magazine, apparently thought that Buddhist monks were something to do with the Trappists. Was I allowed to speak to people, she asked, or to leave theVihara? Another wanted to know who had sent me to England, as though somewhere in the East there was a central Buddhist authority, rather like the Pope, who sent out missionaries in all directions.

But my most interesting encounter with the press came when I was interviewed by a journalist from a leading Scottish daily. He could not have spent more than half an hour with me, yet in his article, which appeared under a pseudonym, he described at length how he had asked if I would ordain him, how I had agreed, and how he had spent the weekend at the Vihara wearing the yellow robes and fasting and meditating. Apart from me, he informed his readers, he had seen nobody during that time, and the silence of the place had been uncanny.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 18, 2020 2:38 am

Chapter Fourteen: A Startling Claim

the college of psychic science was situated down a side street in South Kensington, not far from the Underground. A product of the wave of interest in spiritualism that had struck mid-Victorian England, it offered a programme of lectures on various aspects of the paranormal as well as demonstrations of mediumship under controlled conditions. I had no special interest in either the lectures or the demonstrations, for though I knew from my own experience that things for which there was no scientific explanation did happen, and was willing to believe that not all mediums were frauds, for me such matters had no direct bearing on the living of the spiritual life. What interested me about the College of Psychic Science was the fact that its lecture room was for hire at a reasonable rate, and that the College itself was located in a part of London to which I was keen to extend the Sangha Associations activities. True, I was already giving a weekly lecture at the Hampstead Vihara, and fortnightly lectures at Burgh House and the Buddhist Society, besides occasional lectures elsewhere, but at that time I was possessed by a passion for spreading the Dharma through the medium of the spoken word. Socially and economically, South Kensington was a very different kind of place from Hampstead, and a series of lectures there might be expected to attract a correspondingly different kind of audience.

Beginning in the middle of March I therefore travelled, every alternate Wednesday, from Belsize Park down to South Kensington and to the rather gloomy premises of the College of Psychic Science. The lecture room, which was situated at the front of the building, on the first floor, seated about sixty people, and thanks to its big windows was fairly well lighted. Entrance hall, staircase, and first floor landing and passages were on the contrary all dimly lit, though not so dimly that one could not make out, through the gloom, the framed examples of spiritualist art with which the walls on either hand were entirely covered an art of crepuscular colours in which mysterious robed figures floated through vast cathedral-like interiors. The atmosphere of the place was not exactly spooky, but one sensed that something out of the ordinary went on there.

My first lecture, on Buddhism and Humanism, was poorly attended, Maurice having forgotten to advertise it, and the second, devoted to Buddhism and Mental Health, fared only a little better; but for the third in the series we had a full house, the subject on this occasion being Buddhism and the Problem of Death.

What had led me to speak on such a topic I cannot say. Perhaps I thought it might attract some of the people who attended the Colleges own lectures. There certainly were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the audience that evening, as well as those of Anna Phillips, Bill Revill, and Ruth, and the rest of the little contingent from the Vihara that manned the bookstall, tape-recorded my lecture, and stood at the door with the dana bowl at the end of the meeting. Death was not something about which I had thought very much. Awareness of the inevitability of death had played no part in my becoming a monk, anymore than it had in my realization that I was a Buddhist. I knew that I would die, but the knowledge did not go very deep until the day I heard the young English monk Khantipãlo (then known as Sujiva) speak on the subject at a training course I had organized for new Indian Buddhists in Poona. Khantipãlo said nothing I had not heard, or read, many times before. I could have been giving the talk myself. But on this occasion the familiar words took on a vital new meaning and sank deep into my heart. I knew that I would die. That was three years ago. Khantipãlo was now in Thailand, but we were still in touch, and it perhaps was a letter from him which, by reviving memories of that day, had led me to speak on Buddhism and the Problem of Death.

I began by denying that the subject was a morbid one. Far from being morbid, thinking about the fact of death was realistic, even though people who liked to think of themselves as realistic tended to be unrealistic in this regard. To speak of death in euphemistic terms, to have gloomy funerals, and to hide the dead body in a wooden box this was what was really morbid. It was morbid because it represented a refusal to accept the fact of death, and it was this refusal not death itself that constituted the problem. The reason we refused to accept the fact of death was that we clung to self, and saw death as signifying loss of selfhood. We therefore feared death. Indeed, so terrible to us did loss of selfhood appear that we were unable to contemplate even the bare idea of it. This suppressed or repressed fear of death was the cause of much psychological disturbance. We were unable to come to terms with life were unable to live happily because we had not faced the fact of death. Haunted, as it were, by suppressed fear of death, we were like the man who sees a ghost but pretends it isn't there.

The problem could be solved, I declared, if we first learned to face the facts, and the Recollection of Death practice, one of the group of forty traditional Buddhist meditation exercises, could help us do this. Having described the practice at length, I pointed out that if we bore the fact that we will die one day constantly in mind, and oriented our lives accordingly, many things now regarded as important would become unimportant. Quarrels would cease, and funerals instead of being gloomy would be relatively cheerful affairs, as they were in the Buddhist countries of Asia. Besides teaching the Recollection of Death practice, Buddhism studied the phenomenon of death in detail, paying greater attention to the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the process than was usual in the West. According to Buddhism death takes place in five stages. The physical senses withdraw from their respective objects, so that the external world is no longer perceived; the breath ceases; heat departs from the body; the dying person swoons; and, finally, consciousness is completely dissociated from the physical organism. Buddhism also taught that at the time of death various experiences of a hallucinatory nature could occur. One might see oneself performing past actions, whether skilful or unskilful, or see signs indicative of ones place of next rebirth.

All this was common ground to the different forms of Buddhism, I said, but Tibetan Buddhism investigated the death process in greater de- tail than any other school. In particular it investigated what happened in the bardo or intermediate state, the period between the ending of one life and the beginning of another. Having explained that in fact there were three bardos, I went on to describe each of them in turn, following the account given in the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. I described how in what was termed the bardo of the moment of death one is suddenly confronted by the Pure White Light of the Void, the light of Ultimate Reality, and how, if one does not shrink back from it in terror, and is able to recognize it as being ones own mind in its primordial state, one achieves Liberation from the cycle of repeated births and deaths. Such an achievement was within the reach only of those who, during their lifetime, had been advanced practitioners of meditation. Next I described how in the bardo of (glimpsing) Reality those who had been unable to achieve Liberation in the bardo at the moment of death are faced by a succession of glorious visions visions of archetypal Buddhas and other divine beings; and how, if one has meditated on them during ones lifetime, and neither shrinks from their dazzling radiance nor is attracted by the duller light proceeding from the corresponding sphere of mundane existence, one attains Buddhahood in the Archetypal Realm. Finally, I described how in the bardo of seeking rebirth those who had neither achieved Liberation nor attained Buddhahood see a vision of the five (or six) spheres of mundane existence, and how, if they are attracted to the human sphere, as usually is the case, they see their future parents copulating, try to get between them, and fall into a swoon, whereupon there follow conception and, eventually, rebirth.

While I was describing the three bardos the audience was especially attentive, and there prevailed in the room an atmosphere the intensity of which relaxed only slightly when I went on to speak of the post-mortem rituals of Tibetan Buddhism and to draw attention to the correlation between the three bardos and the deep sleep, dream, and waking states, and the three kãyas or bodies of Buddhahood. I concluded by saying that death was a problem only when it was ignored, or seen out of con- text. If life was understood, death was understood, and vice versa. Life and death were the two sides of the same coin. Once this was realized there was no problem but only a great opportunity for which we had to prepare ourselves now.

After the lecture, which lasted nearly an hour and a half, several members of the audience came and spoke to me, as people often did on such occasions. The last person to come was a tall young man in a dark three-piece suit who had been sitting in the front row making notes and whom I had, I thought, seen once or twice before. I just wanted to tell you, he said, that I have seen the Pure White Light. Had almost anyone else made such a startling claim I would have been inclined to think he was either crazy or a charlatan, but so unassuming was the young man's demeanour, and so frank and trustful his gaze, that it was impossible for me not to believe that he spoke the truth. What reply I made I do not remember. Probably I simply acknowledged his communication in a way that showed him I took it seriously.

The following month he was at the Vihara for my Sunday afternoon lecture on Right Livelihood, and I invited him to come and see me one evening. This he shortly afterwards did, and we had a long and interesting talk, lasting until nearly midnight, in the course of which he told me his entire history. Quite an exceptional person, I commented in my diary. After my next lecture at the College of Psychic Science, which this time was on Buddhism and Mysticism, he offered me a lift in his Volkswagen caravan, Anna's little car not being available. Not wanting to trouble him unnecessarily, and thinking that perhaps he could drop me at a convenient Underground station, I asked him how far in the direction of the Vihara he was willing to drive.

I can drive you as far as you like, was the cheerful response.

Could you drive me to India? I asked, the words springing unpremeditated to my lips.

Yes, he replied, his face lighting up, I could.

Thus began a friendship that was to have important consequences for the rest of my life and, through me, for the future of British Buddhism.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 18, 2020 2:49 am

Chapter Fifteen: The History of a Depressive

Terry Delamare was ten years younger than me, and like me he was a Londoner born and bred. On the spear-side he was partly of Huguenot descent, his father being a nephew of the poet Walter de la Mare, who had died as recently as 1956 but whom Terry had never met. More than once I wondered what would have happened had the two been able to meet and whether the aged author of The Listeners and Peacock Pie would have understood his sensitive great-nephew.

Terry's father clearly did not understand him, any more than his hypochondriacal mother did. A butcher by trade, and a Freemason who had once had the honour of welcoming a member of the Royal Family to his lodge, he was a stern, harsh man of decidedly Victorian views who believed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, and the rod had certainly not been spared in Terry's case, either literally or metaphorically. One of Terry's earliest memories was of his father catching him, at the age of three, playing with another little boy and thrashing him, in the interest of his morals, very severely. Whether he told me about the incident in the course of our first talk I do not remember, but I know he spoke of it, whether then or later, on only one occasion, probably because the subject was so painful. This thrashing may have prevented him from making friends with other boys at school. An only child, he grew up lonely, anxious, and withdrawn, his main concern being to guard himself against the encroachments of the outside world.

Not that he could guard himself against those encroachments completely. In particular he could not guard himself against them on Saturday mornings, when he had to help his father in the shop. The smell of blood and the sight of carcasses and sections of carcasses hanging up was bad enough. What was worse was the fact that his own special job was to kill the rabbits. If Terry did not speak of his school life (and I do not remember him speaking of it even once), uncongenial as this must have been, it probably was because the unhappiness of weekdays was quite eclipsed, in his memory, by the horror of those Saturday mornings, about which he spoke several times. He hated having to kill the rabbits, but was much too afraid of his father to refuse to do the work or even to think of refusing. Once, when we had known each other for two or three years, I suggested he tried writing about the rabbits and how he felt about having to kill them, as writing could have a cathartic effect, and he eventually made the attempt. It was not very successful. After describing how before killing the rabbits he had cuddled and talked to them, telling them how sorry he was and trying to soothe their fears, he broke out in a cold sweat and started trembling and shaking so violently that he had to stop.

The strength of his reaction was hardly surprising. He had been shown how to kill rabbits when he was ten or eleven, and had carried on killing them week after week, except when on holiday with his parents at the seaside, until well into his teens. Naturally the experience of having to do something so utterly repugnant to his feelings, and having to do it repeatedly for so many years, traumatized him deeply. But of this his parents knew nothing. They were quite oblivious to the fact that a soul raged in their child a soul which, being unable to communicate the pain it felt or even to grasp it consciously, simply shrank back into itself. Quiet and obedient, and physically healthy, Terry gave them no trouble, and they assumed he was happy. When years later, as a man of thirty-three, he tried to tell them, in a carefully-worded letter, that his childhood had not been a happy one, they were incredulous, and his mother wrote back saying, inter alia, We always thought we three got on so well together. According to their lights they had been good parents. Terry had always been well fed and well clothed and had, in fact, wanted for nothing, and they were puzzled to think what had gone wrong.

Having to kill rabbits on Saturday mornings was not the only cause of Terry's later resentment against his parents, though it was perhaps the most important one. He was also bitter because they had allowed him to leave school at fifteen. His bitterness was due not so much to his having liked school as to his conviction that, having received only an elementary education, he was at a serious disadvantage when mixing with people more educated and knowledgeable than himself, whether at his place of work or socially. Such people made him feel inferior and inadequate and, therefore, nervous and tongue-tied.

Terry's place of work, at the time we met, was the New Bond Street offices of a well-known advertising agency. How he had managed to get into the highly competitive world of commercial advertising, then as popular a career choice for ambitious young men as television and computing would be in future years, he never thought it worth while to tell me, but I gathered that his having been good at art when at school had opened a door. Once in the advertising world he had stayed in it and without actually reaching the top of the tree had done quite well, eventually joining his present firm and becoming a chief designer there. The reason for his success, he believed, was that unlike some designers he did not think of himself as an artist manqué and did not try to be creative. He simply followed the clients instructions. Much of his work was concerned with motor vehicles, especially trucks, and his photographs of the latest model appeared regularly on the front covers of leading trade magazines.

There had been only one interruption to his career. This was when he was doing his two years National Service, an experience that did him no harm and perhaps some good. He worked in the company office, was popular with his colleagues, and was away from the repressive and deadening influence of home. A year after leaving the army, when he was twenty-one and back at work, he married the daughter of a Jewish solicitor. They had a church wedding, and her father gave them, as a wedding present, two houses in north-west London, one to live in and one as a source of income. Terry never told me how he had met Gillian, or why he had chosen to marry her rather than any of the other women he knew, though I gathered he had not been in love. What he did tell me, more than once, was what he had thought marriage would be like. It would be like living in paradise. Indeed, it would be paradise itself. It would be a supremely blissful state of perfect harmony and fulfilment that left nothing further to be desired. How he had arrived at such a conception of marriage was not clear. He could hardly have believed his parents to be living in paradise, unless he was as ignorant of their real feelings as they were of his, and it is unlikely that he had been influenced by Renaissance love poetry like that of Spenser or at the other end of the literary scale by modern popular romantic fiction like that of Barbara Cartland.

Tennyson claimed that the peace of God came into his life when he married, and Dean Inge made a similar claim. Both men married when they were over forty, after a lifetime of celibacy, and the peace of which they spoke evidently was not St Paul's peace of God which passeth all understanding but the peace of sexual fulfilment after a long period of abstinence and frustration. In Terry's case there had been no such period of frustration, and the peace Tennyson and the Gloomy Dean claimed to have experienced did not enter into his life at this time. Marriage nevertheless brought him a measure of sexual fulfilment (Gillian had been his first girlfriend), though he had never responded to women in a purely physical way and considered himself to be lacking in male aggressiveness. The fulfilment, such as it was, proved to be short-lived. Terry soon discovered that Gillian was a very frigid woman who found sex distasteful and who regarded copulation as an unpleasant marital duty to be got over as quickly as possible. The discovery left him more emotionally traumatized than ever. He was unable to give free rein to his feelings, and sexual intercourse, never satisfactory, became a repulsive and degrading exercise that brought on headaches and a feeling of stuffiness that gave him what he called a cotton-wool mind. Gillian herself he eventually came to despise. Though a nice person and an excellent housewife, she was naïve, with many adolescent enthusiasms, and no more capable of responding to him intellectually than she was of responding sexually. That Terry should have realized this so late in the day suggests that he could not have known Gillian very well before their marriage and had, perhaps, been so convinced of the paradisal nature of marriage as to think that who one was actually married to hardly mattered.

However that may have been, for Terry domestic life was becoming unbearable. He and Gillian never argued. Perhaps it would have been better had they done so. Between them lay what has been called the silence of marriage the silence not of mutual understanding but of mutual estrangement. To make matters worse Gillian was pregnant, and when the child came Terry felt more tied down than ever. So tied down did he feel that his attitude towards the new arrival was one of indifference, though later he grew very fond of his little daughter. Not only did he feel tied down; he felt he was spending the best years of his life simply dissipating his energies, besides which he realized how emotionally and intellectually deprived he had been as a teenager and how lacking in freedom. Eventually he came to loathe everything connected with marriage and the home. In deciding to get married, he concluded bitterly, he had acted immaturely and now was having to suffer the consequences.

At this juncture he encountered Vivien, a Chilean girl who also worked in advertising. Though in his opinion she lacked the capacity to be creative or original, he found talking nonsense with her, as he termed their light-hearted exchanges, a pleasant relaxation from his debilitating everyday experiences. Just when the friendship developed into a sexual relationship, whether shortly before or shortly after Terry left his wife, I do not know, but at the time he and I met Vivien was still his girlfriend, though they did not live together and apparently had never done so. Perhaps it was not without significance that the first time I saw her sitting primly beside Terry at one of my Sunday afternoon lectures I was uncertain if she was his wife or his sister. Despite her South American origins she was light-complexioned, with auburn hair, cold blue eyes, and full flushed cheeks, and though she was slightly built, and small in the waist, when she stood one saw that her legs were remarkably thick, almost like tree-trunks. If his friendship with her had turned into a sexual relationship while he was still living with Gillian Terry must have felt extremely guilty, for he certainly felt guilty about it after leaving the marital home, and continued to do so for some time. In his own eyes he was committing adultery, and adultery, he had been brought up to believe, was a sin. Divorce was unthinkable.

It was therefore with some trepidation that he eventually told his parents that his marriage had broken down irretrievably, and that he and Gillian were thinking the unthinkable. Though shocked and upset beyond measure, they were in no doubt as to who was to blame for the catastrophe. The culprit was Vivien. She was the fatal other woman who had wrecked their sons marriage and no words were too bad for her. Thereafter she was always that South American bitch or simply that bitch and they refused to meet her. So far as Terry was concerned Vivien was only a minor factor in the breakdown of his marriage, but he could not tell his parents this without telling them what the major factors were, and this it was psychologically impossible for him to do. He could not speak of the chronic emotional frustration he had experienced with Gillian (sex had always been a taboo subject at home), nor could he tell them of the revelation that had finally brought matters to a head.

The revelation had come without warning, like a flash of lightning from a clear sky. There was a telephone call from Gillian to Derek at the office, as a result of which Terry was told that the two of them were having an affair. Derek was not only Terry's colleague. He was his best in fact his only friend, the only friend he had ever had, and he owed a lot to him. It was Derek who had taught him how to handle money, Derek whose influence had made him less self-conscious in social situations, Derek who had helped him get through many a bad weekend. And now.… Terry felt, in his own phrase, that everything had been blown sky high. At the same time, he felt free free to tell Gillian about Vivien, and free to see Vivien herself as often as he wanted.

The fact that he was free to see Vivien as often as he wanted did not mean that all was well. On the conscious level he had no qualms about seeing her, but deep down it was another story, and each morning he woke exhausted by the conflict. He was particularly concerned for the future of his daughter Fiona, now three years old, and though annoyed with Gillian for her foolishness (he used no stronger term) in becoming involved with Derek he therefore felt obliged to point out the implications, for both her and the child, of the situation in which she had landed herself. Derek was loose-living and erratic, as he well knew, and it was unlikely that she would be able to rely on him for long. With Derek, to whom he still felt a basic loyalty, he was no less frank, warning him what he had to look forward to where Gillian was concerned. Derek soon found this out for himself. Within a few months he was complaining to Terry about Gillian's lack of individuality, and the way her views fluctuated, and before long the wretched affair was over.

For some time afterwards Terry was undecided what to do. Life was proving too much for him, and initially he was tempted to creep back into the shell from which, with Derek's help, he had emerged not many years earlier. But he resisted the temptation. Instead of withdrawing, he would on the contrary face the problems that had arisen and try to understand them. The biggest of these problems was his continued lack of sexual responsiveness. In fact the problem haunted him, and convinced that unless it was sorted out his emotions could not be unblocked he sought the advice of Dr David Cooper, an associate of R.D. Laing. Cooper, with whom he was to be in contact, on and off, for the rest of his life, advised him to postpone any decisions. This advice Terry had rejected. Far from postponing any decisions, he had proceeded to abandon all interests and activities other than his job, had stopped trying to patch up his marriage, and finally had broken to his parents the news that he and Gillian were thinking of getting divorced.

The next four years the years immediately preceding his appearance at my lecture on Buddhism and the Problem of Death was a period of psychological exploration and adjustment, mystical experience, and widening intellectual horizons. The psychological exploration took place at the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis, to which David Cooper had given him a referral. He was a patient of the Clinic for two and a half years, attending each day for fifty minutes, five days a week (except when on holiday), and paying eight shillings a session for treatment. As the Clinic was situated in New Cavendish Street he was able to get there in the morning on his way to work. Psychoanalysis freed him up sexually and, in consequence, emotionally too to an extent, and he ceased to suffer from a lack of sexual responsiveness. But sex was not everything, and in any case, even at its most satisfactory he never experienced the erotic glow he had sometimes felt as a child. When he had been attending the London Clinic for two and a half years he therefore again sought the advice of David Cooper, who this time recommended that he become a short-term patient at Villa 21.

Villa 21 was an experimental therapeutic unit for young schizophrenic patients in the Friern Mental Hospital just north-west of London. Cooper had started the unit in 1962 (it lasted until 1966), and it was experimental in the sense that it dealt with schizophrenic patients according to the family-oriented ideology of R.D. Laing and A. Esterson. That he should have thought Terry might benefit from treatment in the unit did not mean that he regarded him as suffering from schizophrenia, but only that he thought he exhibited some of the characteristics on account of which a person was labelled as schizophrenic by his family and members of the medical profession. For Cooper such terms as schizophrenic, patient, and treatment were mentally to be placed within single inverted commas, and in a book published in 1971 he was to define schizophrenia as

a micro-social crisis situation in which the acts and experience of a certain person are invalidated by others for certain intelligible cultural and micro-cultural (usually familial) reasons, to the point where he is elected and identified as being mentally ill in a certain way, and is then confirmed (by a specific but highly arbitrary labelling process) in the identity schizophrenic patient by medical and quasi-medical agents.

Terry's parents may not have actually labelled him a schizophrenic, but they certainly regarded his evident dislike of what he called the stereotyped living of suburbia as a sign of mental illness or, at least, of there being something seriously wrong with him.

The treatment Terry was given at Villa 21 was simple and, in a sense, drastic. He was given ether. There were two sessions, and on both occasions the ether was administered by a certain Dr Caple. As he wrote shortly afterwards, As Dr Caple administered the ether so my mind seemed to ascend one level of understanding after another. Time was the first fiction to be exposed coupled with the crippling effects that personality has upon a persons true self. As my awareness increased the frequency at which my mind seemed to function was fantastic and in contrast to that of my surroundings. I was irritated by Dr Caple's ignorance of my experience and longed for her to stop questioning me as it was time-consuming and inane. I became reluctant to talk and wished only for silence. Presently he transcended time and the feeling he had was one of exquisite fineness -- a fineness he at one stage described as the point of the point of the point of a needle. Yet knowing that there was the climax of no point still to come he waited and observed. Whereupon he experienced a sensation of standing in pure knowledge -- a moment of total comprehension that represented a human beings perfect and total development. But even this moment of no point contained a subtle experience of knowing. It therefore was not the absolute experience, which was.… But what it was Terry was never able to say. Or rather, he gave different accounts of it at different times. It was a state of total oblivion, a fluorescent darkness (a description that reminded me of Dionysius the Areopagites deep but dazzling darkness), and even, on one occasion, an experience of being back in the womb. In his discussions with me he usually spoke of it, borrowing the language of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (with which he seems to have been familiar even before meeting me), as the Pure White Light or, more simply, as the ether experience or ether abreaction.

At both of his two sessions of treatment the experiences Terry under- went followed much the same pattern. On both occasions, ether having been administered, there was the same immediate rapid ascent through successively more refined levels of consciousness, and on both occasions, unfortunately, the same irritating questioning by Dr Caple. At one point in the second session he was so exasperated by her continual bombardment that he decided to satisfy, for a moment, her desire that he should become aggressive, and in the course of so doing demonstrated presumably in relation to the attendants who were restraining him incredible strength. Having thus dispensed what he termed the appropriate shock treatment he returned to lying on his back and allowed the process of ascent to continue. At no stage of the ascent, on either that or the previous occasion, were there any LSD-type visionary experiences, and on both occasions the climactic moment the moment of total oblivion -- occurred simultaneously with the descent back into ordinary consciousness. The moment of death was also the moment of birth. But despite his having returned to ordinary consciousness it seemed to him, again on both occasions, that silence was imperative, and he attempted to remain quite mute. At the same time, coupled with a feeling of detachment and serenity, there was an intense love for, and understanding of, all the people around him, including the insensitive and talkative Dr Caple.

The ether experience had a permanent effect on Terry's thinking. It left him convinced that for human beings there were two possible approaches to reality. They could either develop an understanding of themselves and their environment over scores of lifetimes, and experience reality as the reward of their creative effort to evolve; or they could simply see that the truth, pure and unadulterated, was and always had been available and that it moreover was capable of being experienced here and now, whether by means of fasting or meditating or as the result of a drug abreaction such as he had undergone. He also realized that in the course of a lifetime a human being had to put in what seemed an unbelievable amount of effort and discipline, and this hideous, self-imposed struggle he found so upsetting, when recovering after his first session of treatment, that he burst into tears. He also felt compelled to tell Dr Caple, in this connection, that she could not help him, for while her drugs were extremely potent he now knew that for him the best psychotherapy was a prolonged and sincere attempt to dispel the clouds that were obscuring the pure light of the mind.

That attempt could not be made in an ideological vacuum. It had to be made within the context of a particular philosophy, and with the help of that philosophy's special disciplines. Terry therefore started attending the meetings of a number of different organizations, from the Fabian Society to the Personalist Group, and from the Gurdjieff Society to the College of Psychic Science. He did not look for what he was seeking in any of the Christian churches, nor did it ever occur to him to look for it there. This was partly because he had not been brought up to be religious (his parents, though puritanical, had no time for religion), and partly because conventional Christian piety nauseated him. Even after he had come to regard himself as a Buddhist he saw Buddhism as a philosophy rather than as a religion, and though by no means lacking in a spirit of reverence (a phrenologist would have said that his bump of reverence was a big one) he was disinclined to join in acts of corporate worship such as pujas.

The organization whose meetings Terry attended most regularly, and whose teachings he took most seriously, during the difficult time that followed his ether experience, was the School of Economic Science. In the summer of 1965, when our paths started to converge, he was still attending classes at its premises in the Haymarket (he was to attend them until the end of the year), and in the early days of our friendship the organization and its teachings was one of the topics of discussion between us. I knew nothing about the School of Economic Science, though the name was quite familiar to me. Like many others, I had seen on the walls of various London Underground stations -- usually from the other side of the track, while waiting for the train to come in -- the big black-and-white posters advertising the Schools courses. Later I learned it was the front organization, so to speak, for a curious amalgam of Western Esoterism and brahminical Advaita Vedanta. The Western Esoterism derived from one of the numerous Gurdjieff-Ouspensky splinter groups, while the brahminical Advaita Vedanta derived from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and, subsequently, from Swami Shantananda Saraswati, one of the four principal Shankaracharyas and a fellow disciple of the Maharishi. The Schools teachings were therefore sufficiently broad, not to say eclectic. Students moreover were encouraged to read the philosophical and religious classics of both East and West. In particular, it seems, they were encouraged to read Plato, and Terry was already familiar with several of the dialogues, including The Republic. Contact with the School of Economic Science had, in fact, widened his intellectual horizons, and he had much to be thankful to it for. But much was not everything. There was still something lacking.…...

Which was why he had started coming to my lectures at the College of Psychic Science.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 18, 2020 4:16 am

Chapter Sixteen: Strangers Here

What was lacking at the School of Economic Science was communication. At least, communication was one of the things that were lacking albeit perhaps the most important. The teaching given out at the classes was undoubtedly interesting and helpful, at times even stimulating, but there was no room for discussion, and Terry's soul panted for discussion as much as the Psalmists hart panted for the water brooks. He desperately wanted to be able to engage, with a sympathetic friend or two, in the kind of intellectual exchange of which the Platonic Dialogues were the supreme example. Discussion, however, was something School frowned upon. Teaching was given very much ex cathedra, and students were not expected to ask questions or air doubts, or even to talk much among themselves during the coffee break. Communication thus was entirely one-way, which meant it was not communication at all in the full sense of the term, and it was not surprising that the tutors (as the class instructors were called) should have been in Terry's opinion rather too conscious of their position.

He therefore was pleased when I asked him to come and see me one evening, and still more pleased to have the opportunity, when he took up the invitation shortly afterwards, of telling me his entire history. Two days later came my lecture on Buddhism and Mysticism and our exchange about India. I had been only half serious when I asked him if he could drive me there, for I was undecided whether to go back that year or not, but an hour or two later, when we were in my room at the Vihara, he confirmed that he was ready to accompany me there. This time, too, he stayed until nearly midnight, and I confided to my diary, As before, had an extremely interesting exchange of thoughts. Find he brings out what is best and deepest in me. Thereafter our friendship developed rapidly. Usually we met once or twice a week, more often than not after Terry had driven me back to the Vihara from either a lecture at the College of Psychic Science or a lecture or meditation class at the Buddhist Society. On one such occasion, being loth to stay indoors, we went for a walk on Hampstead Heath, and despite two showers of rain (it was early July) sat on Parliament Hill talking and looking down on the lights of London until somewhere a clock struck twelve. We then drove to an Indian restaurant in West Hampstead, where Terry had a meal and I a coffee, after which he returned me to the Vihara and I gave him a copy of the Sûtra of Wei Lang.

Most of our conversations were à deux, but whenever Vivien accompanied Terry to the Sunday afternoon lecture, as she occasionally did, they would both come up to my room afterwards, and one Sunday Terry was accompanied by his younger colleague Alan who wanted to meet me. Though I knew now that Vivien was Terry's girlfriend, I was not surprised that I had at first been uncertain whether she was his wife or his sister, for they behaved more like good friends than lovers and it was obvious she had a life of her own apart from Terry and did not expect him to spend all his evenings and weekends with her. What was more, she too was looking for a philosophy, and may have attended classes at the School of Economic Science for awhile. She had certainly been given a mantra, either there or at the School of Meditation (both organizations taught the so-called Transcendental Meditation introduced by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) and in the course of the next couple of years she was to visit me independently of Terry a few times in order to discuss her practice. Though Terry still thought she lacked the capacity to be creative or original, and though there was no question of her being the ideal partner of his youthful dreams the partner he once hoped Gillian would be he remained fond of her, in a detached sort of way, and was grateful for the companionship she had given him over the years.

If Vivien was more like a friend than a lover, then Alan was more like a disciple than a colleague -- at least outside office hours. An unsympathetic observer might even have described him as Terry's sidekick. Short and stocky, with a square, pallid face and dark hair, and an expression at once good-natured, earnest, and puzzled, he evidently hero-worshipped Terry and hung on every word that fell from his lips. In his own way he must have been looking for a philosophy, or at least for something more than a career in advertising could give, but he had little capacity for abstract thought and I noticed, at both that and our few subsequent meetings, that he received the scraps of Gurdjieff and Plato that Terry fed to him from time to time with the same mixture of awe and incomprehension with which the average ancient Greek must have received the pronouncements of the Delphic Oracle. I also noticed that Terry adopted towards Alan an attitude that was distinctly didactic, even a shade patronizing, and that he was less open with him than he was with me or even Vivien.

The truth was that Alan did not know Terry very well. He knew nothing of the unhappy childhood, the problems with Gillian, or the two and a half years of psychoanalysis. Least of all did he know about Terry's ether experience or the effect this had had on him. In Alan's admiring eyes Terry was a young man who, besides being remarkably well versed in philosophy and psychology, had a good job in advertising, an account at the fashionable Berkeley Square branch of Lloyds, an attractive girlfriend, a Volkswagen caravan the office had jocularly christened the sex wagon (Terry himself was known as Golden Balls on account of his supposed success with women), and a bachelor flat in NW3.

Terry indeed was all that, but he was very much more. What Alan and others saw was only his persona, the mask he had learned to don for social purposes or, in the more radical language of an author to whose writings we were to give a good deal of attention in days to come, only the character armour he had developed in order to protect himself initially from his parents but afterwards from a hostile world. Behind the persona, beneath the armouring, there existed the lonely frightened child who was forced to kill rabbits, the lover who never experienced an erotic glow, the schizophrenic for whom the moment of total oblivion -- the moment of seeing the Pure White Light -- was also the moment of a return to a world which, in comparison with that, was hell, and the desperate seeker after a philosophy within whose context he could attempt to dispel the clouds that were obscuring the natural radiance of the mind. Looking at Terry's relaxed figure as we sat talking in my room, and listening to his measured speech, it was difficult for me not to believe, as Alan and others did, that the mask was the man, and that the history Terry had related to me on our first evening together was a tale of old, unhappy, far-off things that now belonged to the past. Only gradually did I come to realize, in the course of the months and years that followed, that the account he had given me was as much synchronic as diachronic, and that my friends past was very much part of his present reality, indeed was steadily encroaching upon it. Even his experience of the Pure White Light, euphoric as it had been, had left him with an existential problem to solve.

Though our conversations were interesting and worthwhile even with other people present, Terry and I found them most stimulating when there were only the two of us, which usually was the case. After these more intimate exchanges my diary for the day would include such entries as Felt very strong affinity, Long talk until 2.00 [in the morning], Good quiet discussion for an hour, and Deep mutual exchange. Apart from the one on Hampstead Heath, these early discussions all took place in my room at the Vihara, in the evening, and they invariably lasted a long time. But stimulating though they were, and crucial to the development of our friendship, I have no recollection of their actual content, except that I know we talked about some of the Gurdjieffian ideas Terry had acquired from School, and about Timothy Learys recently published The Psychedelic Experience (an updated version of the Bardo Thödol or Tibetan Book of the Dead), into which I had dipped at Terry's suggestion, and that I once spoke about the late great Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche, from whom I had received a number of Vajrayãna initiations in 1958. My capacity for reproducing a conversation or discussion verbatim has always been limited, so that it is not surprising that at a distance of more than thirty years, and with only a few laconic diary entries to help me, I should be able to give no more than a general idea of the kind of things Terry and I talked about at the time.

Not that this really matters a great deal. What the two of us talked about was less important than the fact that we did talk, and that our talk was of such a kind as to bring us closer together and, in this way, to for- ward our friendship. The key to the nature of that friendship was perhaps to be found in the word affinity, which I had used in one of my diary entries, and in a dream I had a couple of months after Terry and I met. The affinity was a spiritual, even a transcendental one. Terry had seen the Pure White Light and I, at the age of seventeen, had awoken to the truth of the teaching contained in the Diamond Sûtra -- described by Dr Conze as one of the sublimest spiritual documents of mankind -- and in the words of my earlier memoirs had at once joyfully embraced it with an unqualified acceptance and assent. Tome the Diamond Sûtra was not new. I had known it and believed it and realized it ages before and the reading of the Sûtra as it were awoke me to the existence of something I had forgotten. Neither Terry nor I had been able to remain permanently on that higher level. Both of us had been forced to descend and devote ourselves to the task of what he called dispelling the clouds obscuring the pure light of the mind and what I, more Buddhistically, thought of as self- and world-transformation in accordance with Perfect Vision. But though both had descended it was as though we had descended on either side of a veil, a veil that was sufficiently transparent for us to be able to communicate with each other through it without too much difficulty.

The dream, according to my diary, was both curious and impressive. [I] was seated round a table, I wrote, with a number of other people (as at last nights meeting). In front of me, on the table, [there was] a collection of jewels, of all sorts of beautiful shapes and colours. Apparently I had been away somewhere and had brought the jewels back with me. In the dream [I] felt rather sad because no one was interested in the jewels or even wanted to look at them. Suddenly, [my teacher] Dhardo Rimpoche appeared on my left, smiling, and looked at the jewels, whereupon I felt happy and awoke. Jewels, and objects made of jewels, often figured in my dreams, and the beautiful ones about which I had dreamt the previous night were all the Buddhist teachings I had brought back to England with me from India and which I was trying to communicate to the people attending my lectures and classes. No one appreciated those teachings at their true value, the dream seemed to be telling me. Between me and my auditors, too, there was a veil, but this veil was a thick and opaque one, through which it was difficult for me to make myself heard. The last nights meeting was a meeting of the Sangha Trust. The meeting had been a stormy one (probably it was the one at which the Trust eventually decided, by a majority vote, to rescind its support for the London Buddhist College), and the fact that tempers had been lost and harsh words spoken must have disturbed me and left me with the impression that the Dharma was the last thing anyone really wanted to know about. Deep down I must have felt that I was a stranger here, a metaphysical Outsider (I had read Colin Wilsons famous book in Kalimpong), so that when I came across Hans Jonass The Gnostic Religion some years later I felt I was in familiar territory and that I understood what had led the ancient Gnostics to formulate their doctrine or create their myth -- of the Alien whose true home is Elsewhere and who sojourns on earth as in a foreign land.

But if I was spiritually a stranger in my present environment, and an outsider, Terry was equally a stranger and an outsider in his. Inasmuch as we had both descended we were in a similar predicament, and just as two exiles in the literal sense are overjoyed when they happen to meet and at once feel at home with each other, so Terry and I, recognizing that we were both citizens of another realm, were able to communicate without too much difficulty and to develop, before many weeks had passed, a friendship such as neither of us had experienced previously. I did not feel I had known Terry in a former earthly existence, nor did he entertain any such idea with regard to me. Our affinity was beyond time, so to speak, not within it. Neither did I feel that in Terry I had miraculously found my Platonic -- or rather Aristophanic -- other half (I have never felt that way about anyone), though Terry still hoped to find the ideal partner who would enable him to experience himself more fully and function more effectively. Not that he was actively in quest of her; he was only too happy, for the present, to concentrate on developing his friendship with me.

That friendship soon was disembarrassed of any remnants of formality. Due partly to his strict and repressive upbringing, Terry in any case tended to dislike formality, preferring that human relations should be conducted on an informal basis. This did not mean that he treated people casually, much less still took liberties with them, but only that he sought to relate to them simply as fellow human beings rather than in accordance with their social or economic position. Me he never treated as a monk in the way others did; the fact that I wore a yellow robe, and was Head of the English Sangha, meant nothing to him. He even took to addressing me not as Bhante or Your Reverence, as everybody else at the Vihara and the Buddhist Society did, but by my Christian name, a fact that scandalized one or two good lay Buddhists when they came to know of it. I did not mind him addressing me in this way (had he thought I minded, he certainly would not have done so), even though I had never liked my Christian name and had been glad when eventually it was superseded by a Buddhist monastic one. Indeed I rejoiced that such a degree of intimacy and mutual confidence could exist between us, and that I was in contact with at least one person who was able to relate to me not as layman to monk, or even as disciple to master, but as friend to friend in the highest and fullest sense. We even talked of one day working together, though it was difficult for us to imagine what form this would actually take. Terry had his job, and a seven-year-old daughter whom he saw every other weekend; I had the incumbency of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, as well as my work in India, especially among the newly converted ex-Untouchable Buddhists. For the time being, therefore, we collaborated just intellectually and spiritually, by way of our late-night discussions, and did what we could for each other in small practical ways. Terry was particularly anxious to be of service to me as a designer and as the driver of a Volkswagen caravan, and towards the end of July I was able to afford him the opportunity of functioning in both these capacities.

The publishers of A Survey of Buddhism had written a few weeks earlier informing me that they were planning to bring out a third edition of the work, printing double the number of copies, and enquiring if I wanted to write a new preface or make any corrections. When I told Terry this he at once volunteered to design a new dust jacket for the book. I therefore let the publishers know that I would be sending them not only a new preface and a list of corrections but the draft design of a new cover too, a professional designer who was attending my lectures in London having agreed to do the work for nothing. When we had decided, after a good deal of discussion, that the cover should feature not the Buddhas whole form, as the old one did, but simply his face, Terry and I went to see Claire Maison who, I recollected, possessed a fine, rather mysterious- looking image of Sino-Japanese provenance. Terry thought the image would photograph well, Claire had no objection to him keeping it at his flat for a couple of days, the publishers signified their approval of the draft design he soon produced, and a year or so later the third edition of the Survey came out. Not everyone liked the black and red cover, with its simple white lettering, but Terry and I liked it, and my friend was pleased that his skills as a designer had been of use to me.

Despite having been out of England for twenty years, since my return I had done very little in the way of sightseeing. I had been to Hampton Court, and had taken a young Indian visitor, the son of my old friend Dr Mehta of Bombay, to see the Tower of London, and that was about all. When Terry one day asked me if there was any place in England I particularly wanted to see, and offered to drive me there in his Volkswagen one weekend, I naturally jumped at the opportunity of seeing a little more of my native land. But was there a place I particularly wanted to see? There were so many places I had not seen, and that I would have liked to see. In the end I decided on Stonehenge. I had not seen the famous megalithic monument before, it was less than a hundred miles from London, and if I was to start contacting my roots (then a growing preoccupation in some quarters), it was surely the best place for me to begin. One Friday evening, therefore, towards the end of July, we took the M4 to Windsor and thence headed for the South-West.

It was the first time Terry and I had travelled outside London together. I usually left town only when I had a lecture to give, or a class to take, at one of the provincial Buddhist groups, but on this occasion there was no lecture to give, no class to take, and I felt freer than I had done for a long time. Probably Terry, too, felt free. He was certainly glad to be driving not just from one part of London to another, through heavy traffic, but from one part of the kingdom to another, along an open road on which it was possible to maintain a decent average speed. He was also glad that there lay ahead of us several hours of uninterrupted discussion, and lost no time coming up with one of his usual philosophical questions. This led to a small disagreement the first we had ever had. With me it was axiomatic that a driver should keep his eyes on the road, especially when driving at speed, and that it was impossible to drive safely and carry on a serious conversation at one and the same time. Terry however thought otherwise. Two quite separate areas of the brain were involved, he explained, and in any case he had been driving since the age of sixteen and had never had an accident. Though not entirely satisfied by these arguments I allowed myself to be convinced (later I came to have complete faith in Terry's ability to keep his eyes on the road and carry on a serious conversation), and for the remainder of our journey the time passed all the more quickly for our being deep in discussion.

It was ten-thirty when we reached Stonehenge. To my astonishment it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence (I had not realized that vandalism was a problem) up against which several cars were parked. We parked alongside, and in the light of the headlamps were able to see the grey shapes of the Stones. Probably because they were some distance away, and because there was no object beside them no human figures, no tree by which to estimate their real dimensions, they looked disappointingly small, and rather forlorn, huddled together there in the middle of the desolate Wiltshire plain like so many fallen Titans.

The following morning I woke early, while it was still dark, and as soon as dawn broke sat up and looked out of the window at the Stones. I looked at them, on and off, for an hour or more, and when Terry eventually woke he looked at them too. There had been rain the previous evening, but now it was wonderfully bright and clear, without a cloud in the blue sky, and the venerable Stones, as they stood bathed in the early morning sunshine, appeared more gold than grey. The gate did not open until nine-thirty. We therefore had time for a walk, after which Terry prepared breakfast, for the Little Bus (as he called the Volkswagen) was of the Dormobile type, and besides being capable of sleeping four persons contained a miniature kitchen and sundry other conveniences. Once inside the fence we wandered in and out among the gigantic Stones, some of which were fallen or broken, and Terry took photographs. Most impressive of all were the three trilithons, twenty or more feet in height, which stood within what remained of the great outer circle of stone uprights. Chauvinistic Indian friends (mostly upper-caste Hindus) had been fond of pointing out that India was highly civilized at a time when Britain was still sunk in barbarism, but as I looked around me that bright Saturday morning, and reflected on the skill and knowledge that must have gone into the shaping and positioning of these enormous sarsens, more than four thousand years ago, I found it difficult to believe that the builders of Stonehenge had been quite such barbarians as my Indian friends supposed.

As the place was as warm with visitors, some clambering over such Stones as were fallen or in fragments (evidently the weekend was not the best time to see the monument), we did not stay long at Stonehenge, but drove back to Salisbury, through which we had passed the previous night. According to my diary, I thought Salisbury Cathedral the most beautiful cathedral I had yet seen, by which I probably meant that I thought it more beautiful than either Norwich Cathedral or Chichester Cathedral, those being the two episcopal seats with which I was then most familiar. But beautiful as its cathedral was we did not stay long in Salisbury either, and having left the city behind us we managed to find our way to a delightful spot by the river. Here we lay for more than an hour in the sun and here, having slept for a while, Terry made tea and we had lunch. We also had [an] exceptionally deep exchange, perhaps our deepest so far, but regarding the nature of that exchange my diary, once again, is silent. Perhaps I was contacting my roots in more senses than one.

On our arrival back at the Vihara Terry telephoned his friend Ivan. As I already knew, Ivan was infatuated to the point of obsession with a young woman colleague of theirs who, unfortunately for Ivan, refused to have anything to do with him, and Terry was concerned for his friends mental balance. The news was not good. Ivan had attempted to commit suicide, and Terry spent the best part of an hour talking to him and trying to persuade him not to repeat the attempt. He then signalled to me to take over from him, as he needed a break. I had not met Ivan, but Terry told him who I was and that I would like to talk to him. The minute I took over I felt I was struggling with the powers of evil. He was determined to commit suicide, Ivan said. But it was not what he said that horrified me so much as the way he said it. He sounded desperate, possessed. I had the impression I was talking not to a human being but to a demonic entity which, thanks to the state of intense, overwhelming craving into which Ivan had allowed himself to fall, had been able to enter into him and was now speaking through his lips. After Terry had talked to Ivan a second time there seemed to be an improvement in his condition, and he said he might call back before twelve. Terry therefore went to sleep in my armchair, while I told my beads, but the telephone remained silent and at twelve o'clock Terry went home, though not before we had arranged that I should let him know if Ivan called back. Fifteen minutes after he had left the telephone rang. It was Ivan, with a message for Terry. I passed the message on, and at two o'clock my friend telephoned to tell me that he had just finished talking to Ivan and hoped that everything would now be all right.

At noon next day, when I was making notes for the Sunday lecture, Terry telephoned again, this time with the news that Ivan had committed suicide. He had gassed himself, apparently during the night. I was not surprised, though I had not expected the sad and shocking event to happen so soon.

A few hours later Terry came to see me, and we discussed Ivan's death, and arranged to visit the Brighton Buddhist group together the following evening. Terry also told me that he had broken the news of Ivan's death to Nicki, the girl at the centre of the tragedy, and had brought her along to the Vihara with him to hear me speak. The lecture dealt with the Arising of the Will to Enlightenment, and was the third in the series The Meaning of Conversion in Buddhism. Nicki sat in the front row, with Terry and Vivien a dark-haired, white-faced figure in black that was probably not mourning. After the lecture Terry took her home, and I did not see her again.
Site Admin
Posts: 31988
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Religion and Cults

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 2 guests