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 » Sat Jul 25, 2020 3:10 am

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Circles Within Circles

Although there was no summary of my reflections on the recent history of British Buddhism, and no expression of my hopes for the future, as there had been in my diary of a year ago, this did not mean that I had no plans for the coming months or that I did not have a tolerably clear idea of the nature and present extent of our tiny British Buddhist movement or of my own place within that movement. It was as though there was a series of concentric circles, and that the bigger these circles were the greater was the number of people they contained. I occupied the innermost circle. With me in that circle there were only two other people, Terry and Eric, though we were shortly to be joined by a fourth, in the person of Thich Thien Chau, a scholarly Vietnamese monk of about my own age who had often stayed with me in Kalimpong and who was one of my closest friends within the monastic order.

The second circle, which was not very much larger than the first, contained the Three Musketeers, Amritapani, Ruth, Beryl Jenks, and, perhaps, Bernie Whitelaw. The Three Musketeers saw me regularly, and few weeks passed without my having a lengthy discussion with all three or with one or two of them. Alf and Mike continued to be strongly inclined to the Mahãyãna, especially in its colourful Tibetan form, and under their influence Jack, too, had begun to incline to it, though the Theravãda remained his favourite form of Buddhism. Amritapani saw me rather less often. Having left Biddulph before her year of meditation and study was up, she was struggling to create a community in the terrace property which, with the reluctant agreement of her trustees, she had bought in Camden Town, and which she liked to think of as an outpost of the Hampstead Vihara. Ruth (and of course Maurice) still lived just round the corner; we still travelled down to Victoria together by bus or tube whenever I had a lecture or class at the Buddhist Society, or at least did so on those occasions when Terry was not free to drive all three of us there in the Little Bus. Besides being one of the stars of the speakers class, she was now able to teach basic meditation, and I had already started handing over some of my classes to her. Beryl Jenks, a tiny, ginger-haired South African, was a former Scientologist. She was also a former actress, as well as being a drama teacher and a speech therapist, and it was by virtue of this combination of talents that she had quickly become my right-hand man at the speakers class. Lean, haggard-faced Bernie Whitelaw came to see me every Saturday morning, when it was his duty (unless I happened to be out of London at the time) to hand me the Vihara's housekeeping money for the week and his pleasure to stay for one of those little chats from which I learned so much about his tenants and about the previous occupants of the Vihara.

The third circle was not only bigger than the second but very much bigger. It comprised about two hundred persons, of whom the majority were people who regularly attended my lectures and classes, whether at the Hampstead Vihara or at the Buddhist Society. The rest were people like Christmas Humphreys, Muriel Daw, Kathy Phelps, Maurice Walshe, and even George Goulstone, with all of whom I was in fairly regular contact by virtue of the fact that they were office-bearers in one or other (or in Maurice's case both) of the two Buddhist organizations which, ever since my arrival in England, I had been trying to bring together, namely, the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association. Most of those attending my lectures and classes left straight afterwards, but a few of them, especially at the Vihara and especially after the Sunday lecture, stayed on either to talk with one another in the basement over a cup of coffee or to have a personal interview with me. On Sunday evenings there might be half a dozen people standing in the passage outside the door of the abbots room or sitting on the stairs, all patiently waiting their turn. Of all ages, both sexes, and varying degrees of cultivation, they were probably representative of the kind of audiences I had for my lectures (far more people came to lectures than to classes), at least there at the Vihara. Some of them wanted to ask my advice about a personal problem, others to discuss this or that point of Buddhist doctrine, and yet others simply to ask which book on the Dharma they ought to read next. Occasionally there would be a young man who wanted to be a monk, or an evangelist who wished to convert me to Christianity, or rather, to his own particular brand of that religion. But whatever the reason for their coming to see me might be, few of them, as I gradually discovered, thought of themselves as Buddhists or indeed could be regarded as such, so that the actual number of those attending my lectures, or even my meditation classes, was not a reliable indication of the real strength of the Buddhist movement in Britain.

Most of the people who came to see me in the abbots room are now not even names tome. Even those whose names survive in my diary are, in many cases, no more than names. The few exceptions relate to people who were unusual in someway or who had a strange story to tell. One of these was a young man of nineteen whose father was in prison for committing incest with his daughter, the young mans elder sister. The case had attracted a good deal of publicity (I could well imagine how the gutter press had revelled in the details), and he and his mother and sister had been forced to change their name and move to another part of the country. All this had happened some years ago, he said. His father would be in prison for a few more years, and in the meantime he was visiting him every week and trying to share with him whatever he himself had learned about Buddhism. I was greatly struck by the young mans sincerity and decency, as well as by his loyalty to his father in these painful and even traumatic circumstances. Eventually, when we had met a few times, he brought his mother and sister to see me, and it was then that I heard the strangest part of the story. His sister, who was now married, and who was the older of the two by five or six years, said little or nothing; but the mother had a good deal to say, and indeed seemed relieved to have found someone outside the family to whom she could speak freely. The relationship between father and daughter had lasted for several years, coming to an end only when the girl reached the age of sixteen, when she started going out with boys. This made the father very jealous, so jealous, in fact, that whenever she went out with a boy there was a furious row, and in the end, exasperated by his behaviour, she had told her mother the truth. Daddy didn't want her to go out with boys because he was jealous, and he was jealous because.… The mother had been thunderstruck. At the same time, she told me, she realized, to her horror, that she had known what was going on all along.

Veronica was certainly an unusual person. She was a witch. How she came to be present at my Sunday lectures I no longer recollect, if indeed I ever knew, but before long it became obvious that she was interested less in Buddhism than in me. Of medium height, blonde, and in her mid-thirties, she habitually wore a black sweater and black leggings that fitted as closely as a bathing costume and revealed every detail of her decidedly curvaceous figure. Naturally she was an object of intense masculine interest, and I was not surprised to learn, later on, that she could not travel on the Underground without exciting what Dr Samuel Johnson would have termed the amorous propensities of her male fellow passengers. In the meantime she had joined the queue outside the door of the abbots room, and was even coming to see me during the week, usually bringing some charm or amulet for me to wear. Perhaps she was trying to cast a spell on me. I certainly seemed to have cast a spell on her. In front of me she either stood absolutely rigid, as if transfixed by my gaze, or trembled and looked down in confusion as if totally overpowered by my presence. I was unable to make up my mind whether I really did have that kind of effect on her or whether it was just an act she put on in order to flatter my masculine or spiritual vanity and in this way wheedle herself into my good graces. Years later I remembered that my friend Dr Mehta of Bombay had once told me, after giving me a medical examination, that I had a high sex potential. Could Veronica, I wondered, have sensed this (untapped) potential and wanted to utilize it for her own magical purposes? It was well known that magic, especially of the darker kind, often depended on the deployment of sexual energy, whether individual or collective.

Whatever the reason may have been for her behaving in front of me in the way she did, that behaviour had no effect on me, and I was in no danger of succumbing to whatever designs she may have had on the potential of which Dr Mehta had spoken. Her antics amused me, like those of a kitten playing on the hearthrug, and when she invited me to tea at her flat in Putney, where she lived with her ten-year-old son, I had no hesitation in accepting the invitation. I arrived just as another person was leaving a tall, thin young man wearing a green dress and heavy make-up. That was her friend Daphne, Veronica explained, as though young men in green dresses and heavy make-up were part of everyday life. She was much more at ease in her own surroundings than she ever was at the Vihara, and much more talkative, and before long I was being regaled with an account of the activities of the various black magic groups to which she and her friends belonged. One of these friends was Gerald Yorke, whom she seemed to know quite well. Though aware that in his youth Gerald had been a disciple of the notorious Aleister Crowley, I was under the impression that his involvement with black magic was very much a thing of the past, but it now appeared this was not the case. Not that I was really surprised. Geralds' fondness for telling smutty stories in the Oak Room indicated there was a dirty old man side to his character, and this may well have found an outlet in some of the activities Veronica described. So far as I knew, he was the only Buddhist (for such he regarded himself as being) who had anything to do with black magic, but a few months later there came to see me a young Adonis with a Yorkshire accent who combined a fascination for black magic with an interest in Buddhism, and who besides attending my Sunday lectures wanted me to teach him the black magic practices he was convinced I must have learned in India. In vain I protested I had learned no such practices, whether in India or anywhere else. He continued to press me, and one day brought his girlfriend to meet me. She was Irish, and a Roman Catholic, and after our meeting told him so he reported that she had felt terrified and was convinced I was the Devil. But black magic is not a subject on which it is desirable to dwell, and I had better pass on to the fourth and last of my circles.

This contained all the people who attended the Summer School and the various provincial Buddhist groups I visited from time to time, especially those I visited on a regular monthly basis. As some of the people attending the Summer School also came to my lectures and classes at the Hampstead Vihara or the Buddhist Society, or at one or other of the provincial groups, some of the people contained in the third circle were also contained, temporarily, in the fourth. People whom I met only during the ten days of the Summer School, or in the course of a flying visit to a provincial group, I obviously could not get to know very well, though there were exceptions, at least in the case of some of the provincial groups. Among the exceptions were white-haired Charles Williams in Hastings, the Wraggs, and lame, loyal Jim Martin in Brighton, much-married Derek Southall in Birmingham, and bald, bespectacled little Cyril Petitt in Northampton, who despite being a victim of polio and having to run about on all fours when at home, had a wife and two children and functioned as the very efficient secretary of the group.

My fourth circle could be regarded as also containing people who, though I knew them quite well, I did not see very often. These included John Hipkin at the Blue House near Maidstone, Adrienne Bennett, whose husband was dying of cancer, Clare Cameron, still editing the Science of Thought Review down in Bosham and still a chain smoker, and the various Sinhalese bhikkhus at Chiswick, the seniormost of whom was the Venerable Saddhatissa, who at Ratanasaras insistence had been elected Vice-President of the Sangha Sabha in absentia. Tall, scholarly, and inclined to be sardonic, Saddhatissa had been known tome in India, having in fact participated in my bhikkhu ordination at Sarnath in 1950. Shortly after his arrival in England I went to see him at the Sinhalese Vihara, as the London Buddhist Vihara was commonly designated. I found him wriggling into the long, narrow tube that one could make with the upper robe by rolling its two shorter edges together, after which one pulled the top of the tube well down, thus freeing ones head, then wound the upper portion of the roll round ones left shoulder and so down into ones left hand, which had to keep a tight grip on the end of the roll if the whole arrangement was not to come undone. It was a style much in favour with the orthodox, probably because the way in which the monks imprisonment within his yellow cocoon was suggestive of a strict observance of the Vinaya on his part. Do you know why I am doing this? Saddhatissa demanded, as his head emerged from the drapery. No, I did not know. I am doing it, he said slowly and emphatically, in order … to please … fools. The fools in question, as I well knew, were the conservative Sinhalese lay folk who would soon be coming to offer Saddhatissa and his fellow monks a ceremonial meal.

Though few of the people attending the Summer School and the various provincial Buddhist groups were well known to me, after sixteen months in England I was sufficiently well acquainted with most of them to understand just where they stood in relation to Buddhism. As was the case with those attending my lectures and classes in London, few of them thought of themselves as Buddhists or could be regarded as such. Some were Spiritualists, some Theosophists, some Vedantists, while others subscribed to this or that brand of universalism. More than once, at the Summer School, I overheard a group of elderly women comparing the merits of the different summer schools they had already attended that year, it apparently being their custom to pass the summer months going from one to another of these. As one of them remarked, it was cheaper than staying at a hotel and one met more people. At a meeting of the Northampton group I met a stout, obviously uneducated woman who, it transpired, was a professional medium. Who was my spirit guide, she wanted to know. I explained that Buddhist monks did not have spirit guides. My reply greatly astonished her. She had a spirit guide, she assured me, volubly. He was a little boy, all dressed in blue. She saw him every day, and he told her what to say. If I did not have a spirit guide, how did I know what to say when I gave a lecture or when people asked me for advice? It therefore was not surprising that my experience at the Summer School and the provincial groups should have led me to conclude, as I had concluded from my experience of the people I saw at the Vihara, that the actual number of those attending lectures and classes was not a reliable indication of the real strength of the Buddhist movement in Britain.

British Buddhists still numbered hundreds rather than thousands, though from time to time one heard more optimistic estimates. Nor was the British Buddhist movement simply a very small one. It was also a highly diluted one. It was diluted in the sense that even those who regarded themselves as Buddhists, and they were few enough, tended to combine their Buddhism with elements that were incompatible, in some cases, with the basic principles of the Dharma. When asked how many Buddhists there were in Britain, I was apt to reply, if in provocative mood, that there were altogether two and a half. There was myself, reckoned as one whole Buddhist, while the combined membership of the Buddhist Society, the Sangha Association, and the provincial groups, made up the remaining one and a half Buddhists. This was a gross exaggeration, or rather minimization, of the actual position, but I wanted people to ask themselves what it meant to be a Buddhist and whether they were really justified in regarding themselves as such.

Though it was with Spiritualism, or Theosophy, or Vedanta, that many of them sought to combine their Buddhism, Christianity was the biggest diluting agent. This was only natural. Christianity, in one form or another, was the national religion, most people had been brought up in it, and much as they might appreciate the ethical teachings of Buddhism, or value meditation, they did not always find it easy to give up their belief in God or to accept the fact that Buddhism was a non-theistic religion. Some of them found it quite impossible to do this, even going so far as to maintain, despite the evidence of the scriptures, that the Buddha had not denied the existence of God. In India I had encountered this perverse attitude time after time (Mahatma Gandhi had famously argued that all great spiritual teachers believed in God, and that since the Buddha was a great spiritual teacher he too must have believed in God, whatever his latter-day disciples might say to the contrary), and it was disappointing to find the same attitude so prevalent in England. It was disappointing, indeed, that the Buddhist movement in Britain should be so small, and so diluted, even though I could not but recognize that it took people a long time to become accustomed to unfamiliar ideas, and that in the meantime their views might well be an odd mixture of the old and the new. Perhaps an entirely fresh impetus was needed. More than once I wondered if I ought not to start giving lectures and holding classes outside the orbit of the Hampstead Vihara and the Buddhist Society, though without relinquishing my existing activities and responsibilities, and even discussed the feasibility of my so doing with the Three Musketeers and Eric (Terry had no interest in the Buddhist movement as such), all of whom were as wholeheartedly Buddhist as anyone within any of my four circles. There was no question of starting another Buddhist organization. We already had two of these, the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association, and in any case, had I not been trying, ever since my arrival in England, to bring the Society and the Association together, and did not much work still remain to be done in this connection?

Just how much work remained to be done was borne in on me quite early in the New Year, when Maurice told me that the less we had to do with the Buddhist Society the better we meaning the Sangha Association, the Vihara, and, I supposed, the Vihara's present incumbent, who was still giving lectures and taking meditation classes regularly at the Society's Eccleston Square headquarters. What prompted him to say such a thing I do not know. Perhaps he was going through one of his periodic bouts of antagonism towards the Society's president. Perhaps he had quarrelled with Ruth on account of her loyalty to Toby and his Zen Class. (It was difficult to imagine her quarrelling with him.) Or again, perhaps he was unhappy at the extent of my own involvement with the older and better-known organization, of which, after all, I had been a member during the War and to which I still felt a certain loyalty. Whatever may have been the reason for his wanting us to have less to do with the Buddhist Society, I strongly disagreed with him. We ought to have more to do with the Society, I declared, not less, so that there took place between us what my diary terms rather a clash, after which he left to take the first of the Viharas Tuesday Theravãda study classes.

It was not simply that I disagreed with Maurice. I was profoundly shocked. Besides being Chairman of the Sangha Trust and the Sangha Association, he was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Buddhist Society, and one would have thought that as a matter of common honesty not to speak of Buddhist principle he would not have urged upon me in private a policy which, as he well knew, he could hardly have advocated publicly without being accused of trying to split British Buddhism. It also shocked me to recall how at the last Annual General Meeting of the Sangha Association, held a few weeks earlier, he had taken a very different line from the one he took with me. Speaking in his Chairman's report (which I published in the January issue of The Buddhist) of the past years very extensive programme of lectures and other activities, he referred appreciatively to how the speakers class and the guided group meditation classes had been held alternately at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society's headquarters in Eccleston Square, adding relations between the two organizations have undoubtedly become closer recently as though he thoroughly approved of this development. As I was beginning to realize, Maurice had a Machiavellian side to his character, and a month after our clash I caught another glimpse of it. Mangalo having decided to leave Biddulph for good, the Sangha Trust had decided to dispose of the property and make plans for a meditation centre nearer London. Maurice had been one of the parties to the decision. However, at the beginning of February I discovered that he had been playing a double game, having secretly instigated the Midlands Buddhist Group, as the Birmingham group was officially known, to get up a petition opposing the sale of Biddulph. Though well aware that Maurice was difficult and irascible, I had not realized he could be duplicitous, and the realization gave me cause for disquiet.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 4:27 am

Chapter Twenty-Eight: News from Sikkim

The way in which I spent the first day of the New Year was far from being typical of how I spent the whole month. But although January was a busy time for me, it also happens to be one of those times my recollection of which is decidedly patchy. In itself this is not surprising. What is surprising is that I should have no memory whatever of the very event which, of all the events of the month, might reasonably be expected to have made the strongest impression on me and of which, therefore, I might be thought to have the clearest and most vivid recollection. This notable event was the memorial meeting held for Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Prime Minister of India, who had died suddenly a few days earlier and which, according to my diary, I attended with Terry. The entry for Friday 21st reads (in part), Reached Albert Hall soon after 7 and took our seats on the platform. Speeches by Prime Minister [Harold Wilson], Lord Mountbatten, Selwyn Lloyd, Lord Sorensen and Jeremy Thorpe. Lord Attlee, Kingsley Martin, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Arnold Toynbee etc. also present. All over by 8.30. Whether I spoke to anyone, or anyone spoke tome, either before or after the meeting, I do not know, but I must have surveyed this gathering of the nations great and good with considerable interest and have been more than a little pleased, perhaps, to find myself probably thanks to friends in the Indian High Commission occupying a seat on the platform as sole representative of Buddhism.

But if I have no memory of the Albert Hall meeting I have a distinct recollection of what Terry and I did straight afterwards. Then round to Clare's, my diary continues, in its usual laconic fashion. Fitted my cloak. Left at 9.15. The Clare in question was the elegant, well-groomed Clare Sampson. Though she was no longer secretary of the Sangha Association, we were still in touch, as she had offered to make me a winter cloak to replace the light summer one that had been stitched for me, shortly after my arrival in England, by Upasika Jhanananda, the elderly Russian nun who had been a disciple of the notorious Chao Kung, alias Trebitsch Lincoln, and who lived alone in a flat not far from the Vihara on a stipend from the Sangha Trust. Clare being a much less experienced needlewoman than the old Upasika, my winter cloak had been a long time in the making, and it was only now, more than halfway through January, that Terry and I found ourselves visiting her in her basement flat in Victoria for my fitting. The cloak was of a thick woollen material, dark brown in colour, and so voluminous that it hung down round me in a multiplicity of folds. It was also very heavy, and very hot, so that when it was at last finished I wore it only when the weather was exceptionally cold or used it as a blanket. In its very different way ,my brown woollen cloak proved to be no less inconvenient a garment than Saddhatissa's yellow cotton tube.

Victoria was the scene of another visit that month. This time I paid it on my own, and not to a tiny basement flat but to a spacious apartment in the vicinity of Westminster Cathedral. The apartment had been rented from a relative of the Queen by Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Maharaja of Sikkim, who was paying a short visit to London with his American second wife, the former Hope Cook, and their small son. I had known the Maharaja since the early fifties, when he was still Crown Prince, and had several times been his guest in Gangtok, the principality's village capital, when I went there to lecture on the Dharma. Indeed I believe I was his guest in Gangtok, and delivered lectures there, not long before my departure for England. Politically, Sikkim (population about 200,000) was a protectorate of India; constitutionally, it was a diarchy, in that some powers were vested in the Maharaja, who exercised them through his diwan (actually an Indian appointee), and some in the elected representatives of the people. There were a number of political parties, as well as a representative of the Government of India, known as the Political Officer, who like his British predecessors was the real power in the land. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the Ruling Family and the land-owning aristocracy were of Tibetan Buddhist stock, while the rest of the population was mainly Hindu and mainly of Nepalese immigrant origin. I was in the uncomfortable position of being on friendly terms both with the Maharaja and with Kazi Lhendup Dorje, the Maharajas main political opponent, who lived in Kalimpong and who with his formidable European wife was committed to the overthrow of the Namgyal dynasty and the establishment of full parliamentary democracy in Sikkim.

The Kazini, as she was universally known, was the Maharajas bête noire on account of the campaign she was conducting against him in the correspondence columns of the English-language Calcutta dailies, and whenever we met he would be sure to complain bitterly tome about her latest attacks. The present occasion was no exception. After we had discussed the state of British Buddhism, and the current political situation in Sikkim, the Maharaja proceeded to launch into his customary diatribe against the Kazini, a diatribe that his painful stutter did not make it easy for him to deliver. Since he and the Kazini were both Buddhists (he was president of the Maha Bodhi Society, she a personal disciple of mine), I had always sought to pour oil the oil of the Dharma on these very troubled waters, and if I could not bring the two of them together at least persuade them to moderate their hostility. Hitherto I had been unsuccessful, and in London, so far as the Maharaja was concerned, unsuccessful I continued to be.

Palden Thondup Namgyal was not the only Sikkimese friend who was in town that month. One afternoon I received a visit from diminutive, quietly-spoken Sonam Topgay, who was a nephew of Kazi Lhendup Dorje, a member of the Political Officers staff, and a disciple of Dudjom Rimpoche, one of my own Vajrayãna gurus, and who had been the means of my meeting more than one eminent Tibetan lama. Sonam's visit was not without a purpose. As I already knew, the Political Officer had placed his services at the disposal of the Dalai Lama, and he had come to ask me if I would help correct the English of a book His Holiness was writing on Tibetan Buddhism. Naturally I agreed, though Sonam was unable to say how long it would be before the first draft of the book was ready. The rest of our time together was spent exchanging news of common friends, talking about the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa, and discussing, at considerable length, the important Buddhist doctrine of the so-called two truths, namely, the relative truth and the absolute truth or to translate the Indian terms more literally the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. More than my meeting with the Maharaja, my contact with Sonam Topgay brought with it memories of my life in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, with their views of the distant snow peaks, their colourful local people, and their no less colourful festivals and processions. As we talked, I could almost hear the deep, rumbling sound of the Tibetan trumpets, almost smell the acrid perfume of the juniper incense.

From the foothills of the eastern Himalayas to the suburbs of South London is a far cry, and it did not take long for my memories of the one to be obliterated by my far older memories of the other when, a few days after Sonam's visit, Terry and I drove down to Southfields to see my father and Auntie Florrie (as I still thought of her). I had seen my mother a few weeks earlier, when she told me of the death of my Auntie Jessie, who had been a kindly presence in my early childhood, and now it was time for me to see my father. Of my actual meeting with him and Florrie I remember only that he showed Terry some photographs of me as a child, but I have a vivid recollection of the journey to Southfields. From central London we drove down across Westminster Bridge to Kenning- ton, and from Kennington down through Oval, Stockwell, Clapham, Balham, and Tooting Bec to Tooting Broadway, where we turned right into Garratt Lane. Garratt Lane formerly known as Defoe Road, after the author of Robinson Crusoe, who once lived there took us to Earlsfield, where we turned left at the station, made our way through the side streets, and so arrived at my father and Auntie Florries door. Balham, Tooting Bec, and the Broadway were the heart of working-class south London. They also happened to be the scene of the first eighteen years of my life, and as we drove through them I looked out of the window of the Little Bus with more than just idle curiosity. Much had changed. Balham Hill was no longer dominated by the giant green dome of the Hippodrome, traffic had increased tenfold, and there were no swaying, clanging trams rattling along. The biggest change, however, was in the population. Two-thirds of the people thronging the streets of Balham and Tooting Bec were Asian, and some, the women especially, wore traditional dress. In Upper Tooting High Street many of the names above the shops were Punjabi, Gujerati, and Bengali names, while the windows of the shops themselves, more often than not, displayed either crimson, emerald green, and mustard yellow saris or pyramids of Indian sweetmeats covered with silver foil. One could almost have fancied one- self in Bombay. The South London of 1966, it seemed, was an altogether more crowded, lively, and colourful place than the South London I had known in the thirties and forties.

Towards the end of the month Terry and I saw several films, only one of which I remember at all clearly. This was the famous screen version of Henry V, with Laurence Olivier in the title role, which according to my diary I enjoyed very much, though I thought the sets a little crude. Terry had now more or less recovered from the depression into which the circumstances of his send-off had plunged him, and which had lasted for several days, and we spent much of such time as we were able to spend together listening to music and discussing the books we were then reading, which in my case included D.T. Suzuki's The Zen Doctrine of No Mind and in Terry's The Heart of Man by Erich Fromm. We also visited Bristol, where I addressed the members of the University's International Society on Buddhism and Western Civilization and where, taking advantage of the opportunity, we looked round the Cathedral, including the particularly impressive Norman chapter house, and saw the church of St Mary Redcliffe (the fairest parish in England, according to Elizabeth I), with its poignant associations with Chatterton, the marvellous boy. On the way back to London we stopped first at Bath, where we saw the Abbey, then at Oxford, where, having spent an hour at the Ashmolean, we called on Trungpa Rimpoche, who was happy to accept my invitation to conduct a few meditation courses at Biddulph.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:06 am

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Buddhism and the Bishop of Woolwich

During my years in India I had become increasingly aware that the Christian missionaries, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, were not only anxious to make converts but none too scrupulous about how they made them, and my knowledge of this fact had given me a decided animus against Christianity. I had not always had that animus. The reading of Isis Unveiled at the age of fourteen may have liberated me from the burden of Christian belief, but I was not antagonistic to Christianity, and even when, two years later, I read the Diamond Sûtra and the Sûtra of Wei Lang and realized I was a Buddhist and always had been, I continued to appreciate such works as St Augustine's Confessions and Dionysius the Areopagites Mystical Theology. While still in the army, and stationed in Singapore, I happened to come across a little book called The Practice of the Presence of God, a collection of the sayings and letters of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, the seventeenth-century French Carmelite mystic, and was so taken by the work that I wrote an article on certain aspects of its teaching for the Vedanta Kesari, one of the English-language monthly organs of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

It was only some years later, when I had settled in Kalimpong, and had come to know what kind of methods the missionaries, with few exceptions, were employing to win souls for Christ, that I developed that animus against Christianity of which I have spoken. The methods in question were both direct and indirect. They ranged from providing free, or virtually free, education and medical treatment to offering direct financial inducements, as when the moneylending priests of the local Roman Catholic mission offered to write off the debts of the poverty-stricken inhabitants of a Lepcha village not far from Kalimpong if they agreed to be baptized. This anxiety of the missionaries to make converts, and their total lack of scruple about how they made them, was at no time more nakedly apparent than in the months immediately following the Lhasa uprising of 1959, when there was a dramatic increase in the number of Tibetan refugees pouring into the little Himalayan township and when it seemed as though evangelists were flocking vulture-like from the four quarters of the globe to feast on what they thought was the dead body of Tibetan Buddhism. More than once, during the next few years, did I see preachers compelling hungry refugees to listen to a sermon, or read a tract, before they would give them a few spoonfuls of rice. But that was not the worst. Children taken from parents who were unable to feed them would be kept incommunicado within the mission compound and subjected to intensive indoctrination. Nonetheless, my animus against Christianity did not prevent me, during this period, from reading a certain amount of Christian literature, especially once I had accepted the Sangha Trust's invitation and agreed to spend a few months in England.

Three books were of special interest to me: Geoffrey Faber's The Oxford Apostles and the two Penguin volumes on, respectively, Methodism and the Orthodox Church. The central figure of Faber's study was John Henry Newman, whose life was traced in detail up to the point at which, as all England held its breath, he made the fateful decision to leave the Church of England and become a Roman Catholic. It was a dramatic story, and I too held my breath as the future cardinal nerved himself to take the final step. In my teens I had read Newman's Arians of the Fourth Century and the two volumes of his Essays Critical and Historical and had greatly admired his beautiful, Ciceronian prose style, but now I empathized with him as he agonized over his religious difficulties, and shared his relief as he emerged from the darkness, as it was for him, of his doubts, into the light of certainty. Of the volume on Methodism I remember only its leaving me with the impression that the religion of John Wesley was a very different thing from the Methodism with which I had been familiar in my boyhood, albeit to a very limited extent, and that there was in it an experiential element which was almost Zen-like in its intensity. Timothy (later Bishop Kallisto) Wares The Orthodox Church was quite another matter. I had read Stanley and Arsinief's works on the subject around the time of my reading Newman's writings, while I was still in the bardo between my two realizations, namely, that I was not a Christian and that I was a Buddhist, but Wares book was a new one, and not only gave a detailed and comprehensive account of the great Eastern branch of Christendom but was the means of introducing me to the highly significant concept of sobornost, most inadequately translated as collegiality, of which I was to be reminded, many years later, when attempting to give adequate expression to my understanding of the real nature of the Buddhist spiritual community.

After my return to England I continued to read Christian literature. The Hampstead Vihara's little library, which I was not slow to investigate, contained a number of popular and scholarly books on Christianity, including translations of some of the classics of Christian mysticism. The proportion of works dealing with Christianity, especially as compared with the proportion of those dealing with Buddhism, was indeed astonishingly high, a fact the significance of which I came to understand only later. Among the classics of Christian mysticism were two volumes of selections from the Philokalia, the Orthodox Church's great collection of writings on the ascetic and contemplative life, and these I read with avidity. Though there were fundamental doctrinal differences, I sensed a greater affinity between Buddhism and Orthodoxy, spiritually speaking, than there was between Buddhism and Roman Catholicism. In the Hampstead Public Library I came across more books on Orthodox spirituality, including one about the monks of Mount Athos. My most important discovery in this field, however, was Lectures in Godmanhood, by Vladimir Solovyev, the nineteenth-century Russian philosopher, mystic, and poet, who had researched the Indian and Gnostic philosophies at the British Museum and was a friend of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Later I read other works of his, and came to develop an admiration not just for his thought but for his life, which was one of exceptional integrity and courage. Both the Hampstead Public Library and the Vihara Library contained accounts of the Second Vatican Council, as well as a number of books on matters of current religious debate, and it was not long before I came upon a modest paperback volume, published the previous year, which had sold hundreds of thousands of copies on both sides of the Atlantic and been the centre of a good deal of controversy.

This was Honest to God, by the Bishop of Woolwich, John A.T. Robinson. Echoes of the controversy surrounding the book had reached me even in distant Kalimpong, and I had looked forward to being able to read it on my return to England. I was not disappointed. It was an honest book, and one that was of more than academic interest even to a Buddhist, and I therefore decided to give a lecture on it under the title Buddhism and the Bishop of Woolwich. After all, I told my audience at the time, the Bishop was trying to come to grips with a problem that was common to all religions, and which they all had to face: the problem of the restatement of spiritual truths in a language that was meaningful to contemporary humanity. In the case of Christianity the problem was perhaps more acute than it was in the case of some other religions, and the Bishops efforts to come to grips with it were therefore of particular interest.

As it was not possible for me to deal in a single lecture with all the issues he had raised, I confined myself to two or three major ones that were of special interest to Buddhists. The most important of these was the issue of God. Historically speaking, Christianity was a form of theism, but in modern times theism had come increasingly under attack; even religious people felt it to be unsatisfactory. The Bishops great merit was that he had faced up to the fact. Chapter 2 of Honest to God was en- titled The End of Theism? Despite the interrogative, the reader was not left much in doubt that he thought traditional theism was finished. Moreover, in Appendix 1 of The New Reformation (published a few weeks earlier) he had not only asked Can a truly contemporary person not be an atheist? but had conceded that God was intellectually superfluous, emotionally dispensable, and morally intolerable. Where did all this lead? It led, in my opinion, to the idea of non-theistic religion even to the idea of non-theistic Christianity. Though the Bishop was quite aware of this, he seemed not to be aware of the fact that the idea of non-theistic religion was a very ancient one, and that there existed a whole family of non-theistic religions of which Buddhism was the perfect example. The significance of the Bishop of Woolwich for Buddhists consisted in the fact that he represented a movement, within the Church, towards a non-theistic form of religion, and Buddhists might not always agree with him, but he certainly commanded their sympathy and respect.

Chapter 4 of Honest to God, entitled The Man for Others, dealt with the issue of Christ. According to tradition Christ was God Incarnate, but if there was no God, then who or what was Christ? Though the Bishop rejected the traditional view, he did not go to the opposite, humanistic extreme of regarding him simply as an exceptionally good human being. This fact was of great interest to Buddhists, I pointed out. For Buddhists, the Buddha was neither God nor an exceptionally good human being: he was an Enlightened human being, and the Bishop seemed to be struggling towards some such conception of Christ. In Bonhoeffer's phrase, Christ was the man for others, and it was in concern for others that transcendence was to be experienced. This was certainly a very noble conception, but the fact of his having lived for others did not make Christ unique, as it seemed the Bishop still wanted to think. He might, of course, say that Christ had died for others (that is had died to redeem mankind), but this idea was part of the doctrinal structure he was trying to abandon, and in any case, Socrates could equally be said to have died for others, as could Edith Cavell and the Vietnamese monks who had burned themselves to death a few months previously. There was also the issue of prayer and worship. If there was no God, then to whom did one pray, whom did one worship? The Bishop seemed not to give serious consideration to meditation, so that the religious life appeared to be reduced to various forms of social service. However, I did not want to criticize the Bishop, I said in conclusion. He had introduced an important catalyst into the Church of England, and one could only hope that, as this did its work, Christianity would gradually become less theistic, both in theory and practice. If that was to happen, then in my opinion it would cease to be Christianity in any recognizable sense. One could appreciate that the Bishop was attached to Christianity, but it seemed tome that the logical outcome of his position was Buddhism. Whether he would ever take the next step and recognize this remained to be seen.

I had given the lecture back in May, at Burgh House, and Bill Revill, who liked to style himself Honorary Recording Engineer-in-Chief to the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, had recorded it. Bill had been very excited by the lecture, which he was convinced would make history. So excited was he, and so convinced, that he was determined that the Bishop should listen to the tape recording he had made. His first move was to write to the Bishop inviting him to come to the Vihara and hear the tape. I did not see the letter, but having had some experience of Bills epistolary style I wondered what the Bishop would make of it and whether he would reply. In the event he did reply, but through his secretary who, after explaining that there was no need to address the Bishop as My Lord Bishop as Bill apparently had done, went on to inform him that swamped as the Bishop was with correspondence arising out of Honest to God he was unable to come to the Vihara and listen to the recording, but that if a copy was ever made he would be glad to have it. In those days of the cumbersome old reel-to-reel machines it took a long time to copy a tape. At least it always took Bill a long time (I often found him sitting on the floor of the lecture room surrounded by miles of tape), and it was not until November that a copy of Buddhism and the Bishop of Woolwich was finally dispatched to the Bishops residence in Blackheath, pending his return from Majorca. Within twenty-four hours of his listening to the lecture he had telephoned Bill to say he was in the district and would like to pay him a visit. Whether the district in question was Hampstead or the suburb where Bill lived, and whether the Bishop saw Bill at the Vihara or at the latter's home, I do not remember, but the visit was paid and the Bishop made three requests. He wanted to hear the question-and-answer session that had followed the lecture; he wanted to hear my lecture on Buddhism and Mysticism, and he wanted to meet me. Thus it was that one evening early in the New Year, seven months after I had given my historic lecture, I found myself being driven down to Blackheath in the snow to meet the Bishop of Woolwich.

Though I had allowed Bill to write to the Bishop (it would have been difficult to stop him), I had not really expected his efforts to meet with the success they did. Least of all had I expected them to lead to my actually meeting the Bishop. I may even have been a little wary of meeting him, for though impressed by Honest to God I was aware that meeting the author of a book one admired could be disappointing, and besides, my last encounter with a representative of the Church of England had not been an entirely happy one. The encounter had taken place exactly a year previously, when before an audience mainly of very young people I had a discussion at the Arrowline Club, Hampstead, with the Rev. Joseph McCullough, the Rector of St Mary-le-Bow in the Strand. Joseph McCullough was a theological pugilist, being well known for his lunchtime debates with leading public figures, when the two contestants occupied pulpits on opposite sides of the famous City of London church. The theme of our discussion was Buddhist and Christian Attitudes to the World. Each of us spoke briefly in turn (I spoke first), after which we responded to each others remarks and finally the audience were invited to ask questions. To my amazement the Rector agreed with practically everything I said. The doctrine of karma and rebirth? It was found in Christianity. Nirvãna? It too was found in Christianity. And so on. I realized that my interlocutors object was to contain Buddhism (a tactic with which I had been familiar in India, where it was a favourite one with orthodox Hindus), for if everything taught by Buddhism could be found in Christianity it followed that there was no need for a Christian to become a Buddhist. Probably Buddhism was being contained in this unceremonious manner for the benefit of our youthful audience, but even so I felt that in having recourse to such tactics the Rev. Joseph McCullough was being disingenuous, not to say intellectually dishonest, and this saddened me. As the Arrowline Club was connected with the Hampstead Parish Church, our discussion was preceded by drinks (in my case orange juice) at the Vicarage, where I met the portly, rubicund old Vicar of Hampstead, whose Buddhist equivalent Christmas Humphreys had once seriously told me I should regard myself as being. There was also a bevy of curates, as Trollope might have called them, elegant young men dancing attendance on the Vicars fashionably dressed wife and daughters, all of whom wore black fishnet stockings. I like to see a nice pair of legs on a woman, declared the Vicar over his port.

Sitting beside Terry in the Little Bus, on the way to Blackheath, I remembered that evening with the Arrowline Club. Though I felt reasonably certain that the Bishop of Woolwich would not be at all like the Vicar of Hampstead, I was not so sure that he might not be at least a little bit like the Rector of St Mary-le-Bow. I need not have worried. Within minutes of our arrival at the episcopal palace, as Bill would probably have called the Bishops modest suburban residence, I realized that Dr Robinson was no more like the pugilistic Rector than he was like the rubicund, port-drinking Vicar. Unfortunately my diary is as laconic on the subject of our meeting as on everything else. Got lost at Lewisham, the entry for the day records (in part). Arrived at Manor Way 10 minutes late. Welcomed by Bishop of Woolwich and his wife and son. Long and interesting discussion. Nothing very deep, though. Found him more donnish than I had expected. Spoke about my work in India among the ex-Untouchables. Said he would put me in touch with a friend interested in Eastern religions. Left at 10.30. Had Bill been there to tape-record that long and interesting discussion, the tape would have been a useful aide-mémoire, as I have no recollection of what was actually said on the occasion, but neither the Bishop nor I wanted our words to be tape- recorded, and in any case the Vihara's Honorary Recording Engineer-in-Chief was of an argumentative disposition and would have found it difficult not to butt in and put us right whenever he thought we were wrong.

As the Bishop had told Bill that he wanted to meet me I had assumed, perhaps rather literal-mindedly, that he meant just that, and that such discussion as there might be would take place à deux. I had forgotten that Anglican bishops had wives, and that wives do not like being left out of things. Ruth Robinson was no Mrs Proudie, but she had no intention of being left out of the discussion between me and her husband (Terry and their son were content simply to listen). The discussion was therefore a three-cornered one, which probably accounts for the fact that although it was long and interesting nothing very deep in the way of communication took place. This lack of depth was not necessarily due to Ruth Robinsons being a woman. Communication is always likely to be less deep and intense when the parties to a discussion happen to be more than two in number.

Though I have no recollection of what was actually said that evening, I do remember noticing that Ruth Robinsons religious views were even more unorthodox than her husbands, or it may simply have been that she expressed them more freely. Dr Robinson himself, being not only a bishop but a theologian and New Testament scholar, chose his words carefully, and in the course of our three-cornered discussion he did not, I think, go much beyond the position with which I was already familiar from my reading of Honest to God. Probably it was this careful choice of words, together with the air he had of a man more at home in the senior common room of a college than in a cathedral cloister, that was responsible for my finding him, in the words of my diary, more donnish than I had expected. He was certainly more don than bishop, if by bishop one meant a mitred reverend father in God of the traditional type, so that I was not surprised to learn, years later, that he had resigned his bishopric in order to devote himself to New Testament scholarship, and that Ruth Robinson, more unorthodox than ever, was attending meetings of Don Cupitt's Sea of Faith group.

What effect listening to my lecture on his book, and meeting me, had on Dr Robinsons thinking I do not know. Perhaps none at all. For my own part, reading Honest to God, and spending an evening in discussion with the author (and his wife), made me realize, more clearly than I had done before, that not all Christians were like the missionaries whose methods of making converts had been responsible for my developing, while in Kalimpong, an animus against Christianity. During the twenty years I had been away a change had taken place. Among sincerely religious people which is to say, mostly among Christian people there was now a good deal of interest in non-Christian religions, perhaps especially in Buddhism. Some Christians had written about Buddhism not only sympathetically but with a degree of understanding. One such more open-minded Christian was the friend of whom Dr Robinson had spoken and with whom he had promised to put me in touch. This friend, so it transpired, was George Appleton, author of On the Eightfold Path, a copy of which the publishers sent me on Dr Robinsons instructions a couple of months after our meeting. George Appleton, now Archbishop of Perth, had worked in Burma for twenty years and had known many Buddhists. The little paperback book was a study in the Three Jewels and the Four Noble Truths based, mainly, on Theravãdin sources, and though not entirely free from errors and infelicities it was on the whole a reasonably faithful account of the essentials of the Buddha's teaching. As one might have expected, the author compared and contrasted Buddhism and Christianity and concluded, what might no less have been expected, that Christ's Way went beyond the Eightfold Path, even as Christianity itself, with its vision of an Eternal God who is Creator and Redeemer, went beyond Buddhism. Nonetheless, he considered that Christianity needed to learn from its worldwide encounter with Buddhism and this attitude, after my experience with the missionaries, gave me food for thought.

If Christians could study Buddhism, and even write sympathetically about it, then it ought to be possible for Buddhists to study Christianity. I did not have either the leisure or the facilities to study it systematically and in depth, but at least I could read Christian literature from time to time, as I had been doing for the last year or more, and in this way make myself at least as well acquainted with Christianity as I was with Hinduism, which I had studied enthusiastically in my early years in India. The reading of such literature was all the more necessary if, as now seemed likely, I would be staying in England indefinitely and having, therefore, more and more contact with people who, if they were not actually Christians, had a Christian background of some kind. In the years to come I was to read many of the classics of Christian spirituality, as well as histories of Christianity and studies of Christian thought, and though I continued to be critical of many aspects of the religion, and to disagree with its fundamental doctrines, my animus against Christianity gradually disappeared.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:13 am

Chapter Thirty: An Important Anniversary and a Typists Nightmare

Thursday 24 February was a rather full day, though perhaps no more full than were most other days at the time. In the afternoon, Francoise having been given her work and visitors dealt with, Terry and I drove to Mildmay Hospital to see Alf Vials fourteen-year-old son, who had had his tonsils out and was still recovering. (My own tonsils had been removed when I was six, and remembering the unpleasantness of my stay in hospital on that occasion I could sympathize with the boy.) Alf was already there, and after the three of us had spent half an hour with David, and I had given him a big picture of a Buddha-image and a bundle of incense sticks (he regarded himself as a Buddhist), the most vocal of the Three Musketeers took us to his flat in nearby Bethnal Green, where we had tea with him and his wife and his daughter Christine, who was already known to me as a member of the speakers class. I had not been in the East End before and little suspected that one day I would be very familiar with Bethnal Green and that it would occupy an important place in my history. From Bethnal Green Terry and I drove to Red Lion Square, Holborn, and to Conway Hall, where we attended a meeting of the Personalist Group and heard a lecture by Dr E. Graham Howe, a psychiatrist whom I had met a year earlier, author of The Invisible Anatomy and founder of the Open Way venture, who was an old friend of the Buddhist Society. The lecture was followed by a discussion, after which my friend and I made our way up to West Hampstead where, by way of celebration, we had a meal at the Indo- Pakistan restaurant.

We were celebrating because 24 February was an anniversary. It was the anniversary of the day on which he and I first saw each other. This had been when Terry happened to attend, and I happened to be chairing, a talk by Mangalo on Buddhist Meditation. The talk was given at the College of Psychic Science, South Kensington, where two months later I gave my lecture on Buddhism and the Problem of Death, and where, after the lecture, Terry came up to me and told me he had seen the Pure White Light. Since then a lot had happened, culminating in Terry's giving up his job at the end of the year, after moving to the bigger, brighter flat in Lancaster Grove where much of our time together was now spent. Believing as we did that the moods of depression to which he was subject were due partly to the nature of his job, we had assumed, perhaps naïvely, that once he stopped working and was free to study and meditate there would be an improvement in his condition, but this proved not to be the case. In the New Year he became more depressed than ever, so that years afterwards, when I reflected on this development, I was led to wonder if his having to hold down a job he loathed, besides being a cause of his depression, had not also sometimes been the means of his keeping the blacker moods of it at bay. He also started having nightmares, from which he awoke sweating and trembling and in need of reassurance, so that I had to stay overnight at the Other Vihara more frequently than I might otherwise have done. Some of the nightmares were not only horrific but bizarre. In one of them he was a baked bean, trapped inside a Heinz tin with hundreds of other beans.

Happily it was not a state of affairs that lasted. After a couple of weeks the nightmares ceased, and with them the moods of depression from which, as I had soon learned, Terry periodically suffered. For the remainder of the month, and for the whole of February and March, he in fact was more consistently cheerful than I had ever known him to be or than he was ever to be again. During that period I did not have to write in my diary, as I had had to write so often before, Terry a little low, or Terry depressed, or Terry upset. Thus there was a welcome respite, and though it was Terry who had been suffering from the moods of depression it was almost as much a respite for me as for him. Having to spend time talking him out of these moods had on occasion been something of a strain, especially when I also had people to see, lectures to prepare and give, correspondence to deal with, and the affairs of the Vihara and the Sangha Association to oversee and direct, all of which made heavy demands not only on my time but on my energy. The situation was made more difficult by the fact that Terry was obsessively anxious that no one should know he suffered from depression or, indeed, suspect that he was anything other than the positive and well-adjusted, if rather reserved, young man he appeared to be. This meant that I was never able to talk freely to anyone about him, and had to make excuses for him when he was too depressed to turn up for a lecture or class as expected.

But now those days were over, at least for the time being. Terry was able to devote his morning hours to study and meditation as originally planned, I no longer had to spend time talking him out of his moods of depression or make excuses for his non-appearance, our friendship blossomed anew, and we fell into a routine that lasted, with few interruptions, until April came and with it the Easter meditation retreat at Biddulph. The routine varied a little according to whether or not I had spent the night at the flat. If I had spent the night there, Terry and I would meditate together, after which I would spend the rest of the morning working on my next lecture, while he studied and made notes, and then go back to the Vihara after lunch. Otherwise I would try to be at the flat for part of the evening and we would talk and listen to music. On some days Terry would come round to the Vihara early and join Eric and me and, later, Thien Chau and Robert, the new postulant, as well, for our morning puja and meditation and for breakfast. Thus my time was usually divided, during those months of welcome respite, between the Vihara and the flat, between periods of external activity and shorter periods of withdrawal, reflection, and deeper communication. It was divided, in other words, between the two places that had come to embody, respectively, the public and the private the lower and the higher monasteries or hermitages of my dreams.

Sometimes Terry and I would spend the afternoon in town, either visiting the bookshops or seeing a film. So far as I remember we never visited the National Gallery or any other of London's great art collections, probably because Terry had little interest in the visual arts for their own sake. He did however have a favourite painting, or perhaps I should say there was one painting he liked, and of which he possessed a postcard. This was the work by Bronzino known as An Allegory or, alternatively, as An Allegory of Time and Love, with its smooth, marmoreal bodies, its predominance of cold whites and blues, its touches of rose and pale green, and its enigmatic meaning. Despite his lack of interest in the visual arts, Terry was happy to photograph a small soapstone Buddha-image for the Sangha Associations Wesak card, as well as to design the card and get it printed a task that took up more of his time and energy than either of us had expected. There were also visits to the provincial Buddhist groups. Some of these visits involved an evening meditation class or lecture, and one of my most vivid memories of that whole period is of Terry and me driving down the eerily deserted motorway afterwards and my watching, fascinated, as the long rows of overhead sodium lights in front of us appeared to twist and turn with every turning of the road and every change of altitude. At such times I experienced a deep sense of contentment, with myself, with my surroundings, and with the work I had just done.

The only thing that disrupted Terry's cheerfulness was his fortnightly visit to Ilford, when he took Fiona there for the weekend. Though these sojourns under the parental roof with his harsh, tyrannical father and hypochondriacal mother continued to be a trial to him, they affected him much less badly than before and he recovered from them much more quickly. This was all the more remarkable in that his parents now had, as they thought, more cause for complaint than ever. Not only was it no longer possible for them to conceal from friends and neighbours the shameful fact of the breakdown of their son's marriage. They now had to come to terms with the no less shameful fact that he had given up his well-paid job in order to study philosophy, whatever that might be, and that sooner or later friends and neighbours would have to be informed of this too. From what Terry told me, I gathered his parents were as little able to understand his giving up his job as they were of understanding his desire to study philosophy (he dared not say anything about studying Buddhism). The only explanation they could think of, apparently, was that his interest in philosophy had affected his brain, and that it was because his brain was affected that he had given up his job. Now that he was studying philosophy full-time he was bound to get worse.

Terry did indeed get worse, though not in the sense they meant, and his getting worse was certainly not due to philosophy. The immediate cause was the decisive change that took place in his relations with Gillian a change for which Gillian herself was responsible. The change related not to their divorce, which was about to be made absolute, but to some of the consequences of that divorce. I had met Gillian in November, Terry having taken me with him when he went to collect a few belongings from the former marital home in Harrow. Tall, dark, and slim, she was, as Terry had reported her to be, a nice person and, obviously, a good housekeeper. During the half-hour we were there she and Terry con- versed amicably enough, and anyone observing them together would have thought they were a well-matched couple. But now, as March passed into April, there came from that quarter a succession of blows from which, perhaps, he never really recovered. The gist of the matter was that Gillian was planning to marry again, that she and her husband-to-be would be moving to Cornwall, and that the latter had stipulated, as a condition of the marriage, that Fiona should live with them and be brought up as his daughter.

Terry was shocked, hurt, angry. Unfortunately, he was quite unable to express his anger, even in a controlled way. To express anger and aggression was to invite violence (here the butcher father of his boyhood cast a dark shadow), and of violence he was so afraid that any expression of anger, whether in speech or writing, was for him a psychological impossibility. Consequently whenever he replied to a letter from Gillian, or wrote to his solicitor, there was a severe conflict between what he felt like saying and his fear of actually saying it, so that his drafts and redrafts were a typists nightmare of false starts, corrections, and interlineations. Had he expressed himself too strongly? Could the same point not be made more moderately? Was a qualification needed? Sometimes the struggle would go on for hours, even days, leaving him feeling exhausted and depressed, and with nothing to show for his pains other than a stilted statement of his position that could have been written for him by someone with no personal interest in the matter and which, dissatisfied with it though he might be, he had no alternative but to sign and send.

Much as I sympathized with Terry there was little I could do to help, apart from offering advice and reassurance and typing his letters for him when he was too tired or too depressed to do so himself. Though I have no recollection of the precise content of these letters, I remember being left with the distinct impression that strong as his position might be, morally speaking, legally it was quite weak. Whether out of old-fashioned gentlemanliness, or naïvety, or a feeling of culpability, he had allowed himself to be cast in the role of the guilty party (after his separation from Gillian her father had put two private detectives on his -- and Vivien's -- trail) and as the divorce laws then stood this circumstance probably counted against him so far as custody of, or access to, Fiona was concerned. Be that as it may, one of the consequences of the divorce was that when in the late spring or early summer, Gillian moved to Cornwall with her new husband Fiona went with them and Terry saw his little daughter no more.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:24 am

Chapter Thirty-One: Giving The Three Jewels a Final Polish

In accepting the Sangha Trusts invitation to spend a few months in England I had stipulated that I should have my mornings free for literary work, just as I did in India when not on tour. That in the event this proved impracticable was not the Trust's fault. It was not anybody's fault. So much was there to be done, almost from the very day of my arrival, that for upwards of a year there was no question of my ever having time to produce anything more than a short article or book review. Not that I really minded this. To borrow an image from Sãntideva, I was no less happy to meet the demands of the new situation than the tusker is to plunge in hot weather into the next pool he comes across.

Since Francoise's appearance on the scene towards the end of November, and Terry's giving up his job and moving to a bigger flat, there had been a change. I now had more time to myself, which meant I had more time for writing. There consequently appeared in the April 1966 issue of The Buddhist, under the heading Ven. Sthavira's Literary Work, the following item of Vihara news:

Since the beginning of the year the Ven. Sthavira Sangharakshita has been devoting himself to literary work. Last month he completed The Three Jewels: An Introduction to the Study of Buddhism, the greater part of which was written before he left Kalimpong but which had to be laid aside owing to the great pressure of lectures and other work, particularly the reorganization of the Vihara activities. During the last two or three months he has, therefore, been less available at the Vihara for personal interviews than previously, but it is hoped that through the written word he will be able to reach a larger number of people than through the spoken word. The Three Jewels will be published by Rider before the end of the year. The Ven. Sthavira has also revised his well- known work A Survey of Buddhism, the third edition of which is now in the press.


The Three Jewels was not published before the end of the year (it did not come out until the beginning of 1968), and the third edition of the Survey, the black and red dust jacket of which had been designed by Terry and printed in England, remained in the press in Bangalore for many more months. So far as I remember, I completed The Three Jewels at that time only in the sense that it was then that I gave the work a final polish, checked my references, and wrote a preface, all the actual writing having been done in Kalimpong. Though The Buddhist did not mention the fact, I had a third work in the pipeline. This was the work that was eventually published, in 1985, as The Eternal Legacy: An Introduction to the Canonical Literature of Buddhism. In a sense it was a continuation of The Three Jewels, with which, together with three other works, one partly written and two as yet unwritten, it was to form part of a projected five-part series entitled The Heritage of Buddhism a series I was never able to complete. Since I was not expecting to be away from Kalimpong for more than four months I had left the manuscript of The Word of the Buddha, as The Eternal Legacy was originally called, in a cupboard in my hillside hermitage. But four months had become six, and six a whole year, and as it now seemed likely that I would be staying in England indefinitely I had arranged for the manuscript to be retrieved from my cupboard and sent to me at the Vihara, where Francoise was currently typing it for me.

The business of giving The Three Jewels a final polish, and checking my references, must have been both laborious and time-consuming, for apart from the preface I did not, I think, do any original writing during the months to which the item in The Buddhist referred or indeed for a long time afterwards. I did not even write fresh editorials for the Sangha Associations little monthly journal, which I was still editing, as I had occasionally done before. Instead I reproduced some of the editorials I had written fourteen or fifteen years earlier for Stepping-Stones, the little monthly journal of Himalayan religion, culture, and education I had published from Kalimpong, which, since they dealt with themes of fundamental Buddhist concern, were as relevant now as they had been then. I also started serializing my essay The Meaning of Orthodoxy in Buddhism: A Protest, which had first appeared in 1957, in the Buddha Jayanti issue of the quarterly France-Asie, and which remains one of the most important literary products of my India period. The essay was a critique of the claim that the Theravãda was certainly the most orthodox school of Buddhism and a systematic enquiry into the real nature of orthodoxy. Its appearance in the pages of The Buddhist scandalized a few people, as its appearance in France-Asie had done a decade and a half earlier, the more especially as the claim that the Theravãda was certainly the most orthodox form of Buddhism had been made by the eminent, if rather dry, Pali scholar Miss I.B. Horner, whose work Adrienne Bennett, herself a Pali scholar, had once characterized, in memorable phrase, as the last ounce of dust in desiccation. Maurice Walshe was not exactly scandalized by my essay, but he was perturbed, and wrote an article on Orthodoxy and Fundamentalism which I printed in a subsequent issue of The Buddhist. Though admitting that Miss Horner's remark of several years ago was probably incautious, he also thought that there was a certain amount that could and should be said on the other side. On the whole his article was sensible and balanced, and there was much in his discussion of some of the points I had raised with which I agreed. He also scored a palpable hit at (some) students of Mahãyãna. Though fundamental Buddhist doctrine was found in Mahãyãna sources, this was not realized because the doctrine was so wrapped up in glorious and extraneous trappings as to become much less noticeable. The result, in his opinion, was that students of Mahãyãna were often inclined to lick off the jam without swallowing the pill.

Limited as my literary activity then was to polishing what I had already written, checking references, and reprinting old material, the early months of 1966 were among the least productive of my whole life. I had in fact written very little for the last year or more, and nearly a decade was to pass before I was able to achieve anything like the degree of productivity that I had habitually enjoyed during my days in Kalimpong. In the course of my first two years back in England I produced only one poem, whereas previously few weeks had passed without my writing one or two. That solitary poem of mine was written or rather composed in Berkeley Square, as I sat in the Little Bus waiting for Terry while he transacted some business at his bank. It was spring, and the green shoots that had started to appear on the branches of the aged trees moved me in the way that, in Kalimpong, I had been moved by the scarlet crowns of the poinsettias, the ink-blue foliage of the pines, and the distant spectacle of the gleaming white masses of the eternal snows. London itself was beautiful that calm, sunlit morning, and for a few moments, at least, I did not regret that for the time being my lot was cast not among the foothills of the eastern Himalayas but in the midst of one of the biggest conurbations in the Western world.

But productivity is not just literary. Though I was less available for personal interviews than previously, and was devoting myself to literary work, I continued to lecture regularly at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society, as well as occasionally to groups outside London, and this lecturing activity of mine was in principle no less away of being productive than was writing itself. It was as though the creative energies that formerly had gone into literary work were now going into the business of lecturing. Besides continuing my fortnightly lectures at the Buddhist Society on Tibetan Buddhism, with the New Year I started a new series of Sunday lectures at the Vihara under the general title Introducing Buddhism. Each lecture, I announced, would be self-contained, so that those who for any reason missed any of the lectures need not be afraid of being unable to follow the later ones in the series. Among my February lectures, which like their predecessors were very well attended, there was one in particular which, according to a report appearing in the March issue of The Buddhist, gave rise to comment and discussion. This was the lecture on Evolution -- Lower and Higher, in which I attempted, for the first time, to situate Buddhism, as a spiritual path, within a broader, evolutionary context. In later years the idea that the Path to Enlightenment was also the Path of the Higher Evolution was to play an increasingly important role in my thinking. As I wrote in 1971, summarizing my position, Science revealed how far man had come. This was the Lower Evolution. Buddhism, as the Path, showed how far he still had to go. This was the Higher Evolution. Though not strictly continuous the two phases between them constituted the halves of a single process. Science and religion, the Lower and the Higher Evolution, were comprehended in one gigantic sweep.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:33 am

Chapter Thirty-Two: Ordinations on the Easter Retreat and a Birthday

Thich Thien Chau arrived at the Vihara in the middle of March, and after my experience with Vichitr and Ratanasara and even with Mangalo and Vimalo I was glad to have living and working with me a monk who was already a close friend, who had been a student of one of my own teachers, who as a Mahayanist shared my ecumenical views, and who moreover was easy to get on with. I had come to know him through his mentor Thich Minh Chau. Like Minh Chau he was then studying at the Magadh University in Bihar, where he was later to take his ma in Pali, and like Minh Chau he used to spend the summer months with me at the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, thus exchanging the scorching heat of the plains for the comparative cool of the hills. Last year, too, he had spent the summer there, in my absence organizing the Vihara's usual Vaishakha celebrations. Now he was in London where Minh Chau had arranged for him to read for his Ph.D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

In appearance and character he could hardly have been more different from Minh Chau. Both were quite short, but whereas Minh Chau was short and stout Thien Chau was short and slender. So short and slender was he that what with his smooth cheeks (neither he nor Minh Chau needed to use a razor) and piping voice he could easily be mistaken for a youthful novice, though he had been a monk for almost as long as I had and was my junior by only five or six years. Minh Chau, energetic and efficient, was very much the scholar-administrator (he was Rector of Van Han University in Saigon), whereas Thien Chau, quiet and retiring, was very much the scholar-poet. The one, though not unkindly, was brusque and decisive, the other gentle, sensitive, and affectionate.

Once my old friend had succeeded in tracking down the elusive Professor Henderson, his supervisor at the University of London, and I had taken him to see the British Museum and a few other places of interest, he soon settled in at the Vihara and started making friends. Terry and Eric both took to him, in their different ways, Terry on account of his gentleness and sensitivity, Eric because he knew classical Chinese and could help him with his Sino-Japanese studies. Much as Eric liked Thien Chau, however, his slightly aquiline nose was often wrinkled up in disgust at what he regarded as the latter's sentimentality. The reason for Thien Chau's sentimentality, if sentimental he really was, was the plight of his native land, where the United States was increasing its military involvement and where thousands of men, women, and children were being killed or horribly maimed every month. My country, my country! the tender-hearted little monk would sob, the tears trickling down his face, whenever the news from Vietnam was particularly bad. On such occasions Eric was sometimes so unfeeling as to mimic him, but Thien Chau never took it amiss, apparently considering Eric had as much right to mock his grief as he himself had to feel it. Ruth, too, took to Thien Chau, for much the same reasons as Terry, he and I having taken the new arrival round to her place for tea one afternoon, after which we all drove down to the Buddhist Society, where he met Christmas Humphreys and sat in on my meditation class.

Back in Kalimpong Thien Chau had always helped me in whatever way he could, and now that he was again staying with me, this time not at my quiet hillside hermitage but in London, at the noisy Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, he was as helpful as ever. Indeed he was more than just helpful. Convinced that I worked too hard, that I was not taking proper care of myself, and that my health was suffering, he saw it as his duty to look after me, especially as nobody else at the Vihara, so far as he could see, was doing any such thing. Perhaps with traditional Chinese medical notions at the back of his mind, he was particularly concerned that I was expending so much energy in lectures. No sooner had I finished giving my Sunday lecture, therefore, and was sitting down, than he would hurry up to me with a little pot of Vietnamese tea and two tiny cups on a tray and gently urge me to swallow at least four or five cupfuls of the beverage. As the cups were not much bigger than thimbles I had no difficulty doing this, though the tea was always piping hot and made me catch my breath. All the time Thien Chau would be standing over me, smiling approvingly and filling one tiny cup as fast as I emptied the other. Before many weeks had passed he and his little teapot were a familiar sight at the Vihara on Sunday afternoons, and my drinking the ritual four or five tiny cupfuls of Vietnamese tea after the lecture was as much an accepted part of the regular proceedings as the lecture itself.

By the time Easter came, and with it the Easter retreat, Thien Chau was well settled at the Vihara and I was therefore able to leave for Biddulph knowing that he and Eric would be looking after the place and that in my absence activities would be continuing more or less as usual. Spring was early that year, I think. Terry and I, through the open windows of the Lancaster Grove flat, had already heard the nightingales singing in a neighbouring garden, nightingales that were perhaps descended from the very bird that had inspired Keats's ode, and on our arrival at Old Hall I was glad to see that the brilliant yellow daffodils were more plentiful than they had been the previous year and that the pink rhododendrons were out. I was less glad to find the retreat centre itself in a very dirty, untidy, and neglected condition, though Mangalo was still lingering there (he left the following day, after being critical of vegetarianism) and though Douglas, the young warden, lived on the premises with his wife and was supposedly looking after the place. My friend and I had arrived a few days earlier than the other retreatants, partly because we wanted to have some time to ourselves before the retreat began and partly so that I could spend my last free afternoon and evening with the members of the Midlands Buddhist Group. By the time we returned from Birmingham, which was not until well past midnight, everybody who was expected had arrived, and after breakfast the following morning I led the first guided group meditation of the week, Terry and I having already meditated together before breakfast, in my room.

There were altogether twelve or fourteen people attending the retreat, including Ruth, the Three Musketeers, Terry's friend Alan, and a bright-eyed, red-cheeked woman of uncertain age called Phyllis Turner, who though not herself a medium had a personal spirit guide, known to her simply as Chang, whose instructions she implicitly followed. The programme was of the more balanced, mixed type that I had devised for the retreats of the previous year, though I think there was less meditation and more discussion this time, and in the evenings we had either a live talk by Ruth or a tape of one of my lectures on The Meaning of Conversion in Buddhism. The biggest difference was that each day I devoted a disproportionate amount of my time to the same three people, namely, to Alf, Mike, and Jack, the Vihara's Three Musketeers. All three were deeply interested in Tibetan Buddhism, especially Alf and Mike, and in the course of the last seven or eight months I had not only shared with them the texts of some of the practices into which I had been initiated but had promised that next time they came on retreat with me I would explain the four mûla or foundation yogas of the Vajrayãna, take them through certain forms of deity yoga, and give them the Bodhisattva ordination. This promise I was now keeping, while Ruth, acting as my deputy, took the meditation class or led the discussion. I gave the Bodhisattva ordination, the taking of which marks ones commitment, at least in principle, to the Mahãyãna ideal of Enlightenment not for ones own sake only but for the sake of all beings, on the penultimate full day of the retreat, which was a day of silence and the one on which we listened, most appropriately, to my lecture on The Arising of the Will to Enlightenment.

The following day was Ruth's birthday. Terry and Alan had made a birthday card and this, together with a big bowl of pink rhododendrons, was put in front of her place at the breakfast table. I had asked the others to come and sit down before the bell rang, so that Ruth should come in at the end, by herself, when we were all seated. She was delighted with the card and the flowers and her artless joy was reflected in the faces of all around her. Joy was indeed the keynote of the whole day, especially as the weather had changed and it was now fine and sunny. In the afternoon Terry and Alan took group photographs out in the garden, after which I had a lengthy final session with the Three Musketeers, saw a distraught and tearful Phyllis, and talked for a few minutes with Mangalo, who had been staying nearby with a married couple who were, or had been, supporters of Ananda Bodhi. The day ended with puja, meditation, and my lecture on Parãvrtti -- the Turning About in the Deepest Seat of Consciousness.

Despite there having been no actual turning about on the part of any of the retreatants, at any rate not in the deepest seat of consciousness, the retreat must have had a strong effect on all of them, for the following morning everybody turned up at 6.30 for the concluding sevenfold puja. Thereafter Terry and I had only to pick daffodils and rhododendrons for the Vihara shrine, have breakfast, and then make the journey back to London with Ruth sitting with us in the front of the Little Bus and Alf, Mike, and Alan sitting behind. Having had lunch at the Vihara with Thien Chau, Eric, Alf, and Mike, we drove with them and Ruth down to the Buddhist Society, where the Society's Wesak party was in progress and where I talked with Toby, Carmen Blacker, Jack Austin, a Japanese Soto Zen bishop, the rigidly Theravãdin Mrs Quittner (just back from Ceylon, and looking quite ill), Kathy Phelps, and the Parsi universalist Phiroz Mehta, whom I had first met many years ago in Bombay when he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. As it was a warm day, and there were nearly a hundred people at the party, the atmosphere gradually became hot and stifling, and after a couple of hours I was glad to leave, glad to get out into the fresh air, glad to be back in the silence and comparative coolness of the flat. By this time I was feeling very tired, and I had a headache. After talking briefly with Terry, and listening to a little Mozart, I therefore went to bed early. Tomorrow was Sunday and there would be a lecture to prepare.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:51 am

Chapter Thirty-Three: Preparing for Greece

A year or two before my departure for England one of my friends in Kalimpong had given me a copy of Henry Millers The Colossus of Maroussi. I had not read anything by Miller before, and his books may not even have been generally available in India at that time. This one was the result of an eight-month trip through Greece in 1939, and though I did not find Katsimbalis, the Colossus of the books title, as attractive a character as the author himself evidently did, the book as a whole impressed me deeply and gave me a liking for Millers writing at its lyric, improvisatory best that lasted for many years. I was particularly struck by his account of his visit to Delphi which, seen on the afternoon of his arrival through a strange twilight mist, seemed even more sublime and awe-inspiring than he had imagined it to be. The following day after wandering about amid the broken columns, he and his friends had ascended the tortuous path to the stadium on high.

The setting is spectacular [he wrote]. Set just below the crest of the mountain one has the impression that when the course was finished the charioteers must have driven the steeds over the ridge and into the blue. The atmosphere is superhuman, intoxicating to the point of madness. Everything that is extraordinary and miraculous about Delphi gathers here in the memory of the games which were held in the clouds.


Evocative as were such passages as this, I was struck less by Miller's description of the sights of Delphi than by the fact that his visit had affected him so deeply. The oracle may have ceased long ago, but it was evident that Delphi was still very much a sacred place, and though there seemed little likelihood then of my visiting England, much less still Greece, there arose in me as I read those enthusiastic pages a desire to see Delphi with my own eyes.

I must have spoken to Terry about this desire of mine quite early in our friendship, and in the course of the next few months we must have talked quite a lot about Greece and about the possibility of our visiting it together. It was not until late summer or early autumn, however, that we eventually decided to make the trip, and not until February, when Terry was no longer working, that we were in a position to start actually planning our journey. Less than a year earlier, after one of my lectures at the College of Psychic Science, I had asked Terry how far in the direction of the Vihara he was willing to drive me. As far as I liked, he had replied. Could he drive me to India? Yes, he could. In retrospect the exchange seemed significant, even prophetic. The possibility of our visiting Greece together had been first mooted in connection with the idea that Terry might accompany me to India, for by this time it had become obvious that my work now lay in the West, and that sooner or later I would have to pay a farewell visit to the land of the Buddha and take proper leave of my friends, disciples, and teachers there. We would drive all the way to the subcontinent in the Little Bus and visit Greece -- and see Delphi -- on the way! This was by no means impossible, but we soon realized the impracticability of the plan which in fact was really never anything more than a dream. Instead of going overland to India we would go overland to Greece! We would leave England for the Continent in the middle of June, and be away for two months. The India visit would take place separately, probably in the autumn or winter. By the time we returned from the Easter retreat, therefore, our Greek adventure was only five weeks away. They would be five busy weeks. Not only were there the final arrangements for our journey to be made. There was the Festival of Wesak to be celebrated, a retreat to be attended, parents and friends to be visited, and the details of the Vihara's programme for July and August to be finalized.

The Wesak celebrations followed much the same pattern as those of the previous year. There was a public meeting at Caxton Hall, Westminster, under the auspices of the Buddhist Society, at which the speakers were me, Dr Malalasekera, and Christmas Humphreys, who as President of the Society was, of course, also in the chair. Probably fewer people attended than last time, but this year there was, I thought, a happier atmosphere. There was certainly a happy atmosphere at the devotional meeting I conducted at the Vihara late that night, as well as at the Vihara's own Wesak celebrations a few days later. The public meeting began with a little procession consisting mainly of the children of members bringing in flowers. After I had placed the flowers on the green-and-gold shrine, where candles and incense were already burning before the image of the Buddha, there were speeches by Trungpa Rimpoche, Dr Malalasekera, Maurice, Thien Chau, and me. There were also readings from the scriptures by Beryl and Jack, and the proceedings concluded with a vote of thanks by Alf, who had recently taken over from Maurice as Chairman of the Sangha Trust. After the meeting Maurice, Ruth, and I, together with other members and friends, talked at length with an important guest who had turned up unexpectedly. This was Dr Manzen Nakada, the Soto Zen bishop whom I had met at the Buddhist Society's Wesak Party the previous week. In the course of discussion he intimated that an invitation to come and teach in England for a while might not find him unresponsive.

Though the Wesak celebrations themselves followed the usual pattern, on the morning of the thrice-sacred day there took place at the Vihara a ceremony that marked, according to The Buddhist, a turning-point in the history of the English Sangha. This ceremony was the ordination of Eric as a Srãmaäera, and it marked a turning point in the history of the English Sangha in that it represented the first time that an English novice monk had been ordained, on English soil, by an English-born Sthavira or Elder. Apart from the fact that the ceremony was conducted in Pali (with a running commentary in English), that I was assisted by Thien Chau, and that I gave Eric the name Viriya, I remember little or nothing of the proceedings. There does, however, survive a group photograph that was taken in front of the shrine after the ceremony. I am standing nearest the camera, with Thien Chau behind me to my right. I am wearing a Tibetan-style shirt and jacket beneath my Theravãdin robes and my hair, I notice, is rather longer than it used to be in India. Viriya is standing behind me to my left, his head freshly shaved for the ceremony. In front of him, further to my left, stands his adoptive mother and behind Thien Chau his adoptive father. Behind Viriya and his adoptive mother stand Viriya's friends Mr and Mrs Lawrence. She is wearing an enormous fur hat shaped rather like an inverted bucket, that comes down almost below her eyes. Mr Lawrence is something in the City, and Mrs Lawrence is second or third cousin to someone who is, or was, private secretary to the Queen. For reasons I was never able to fathom, Viriya idolizes the Lawrences and spends quite a lot of time in the company of them and their three teenage daughters. We all look rather serious, except for Viriya's adoptive mother, who attempts a brave smile but who, I know, is afraid that Viriya may have become a Buddhist monk because she and her husband have failed him in some way. Light comes from the window to our right, highlighting the right side of my face, as well as that of Viriya and his adoptive mother, and leaving everyone else's faces in the shade.

In my speeches at the two public meetings, at Caxton Hall and the Vihara, I had spoken of the significance of Wesak in general terms, reminding my audience that it was the anniversary of the Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment, and emphasizing that we, too, could attain Enlightenment if we followed the Buddha's path of ethical conduct, concentration and meditation, and transcendental wisdom, as many in the West were already doing. My editorial in the May issue of The Buddhist struck a similar note, besides which I pointed out that Vaishakha (the Sanskrit equivalent of the more familiar Sinhalese Wesak) should be a time of moral and spiritual stocktaking, of ruthless self-examination. This stocktaking was not only individual but collective, and since at this time of year Buddhist groups in some parts of the Buddhist world surveyed the progress made during the previous twelve months I proceeded to do a little stocktaking on behalf of the Sangha Association. I also ventured a prediction.

While complacency would be out of place, the English Buddhist movement as centred on the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara can look back over the past year with a feeling of sober satisfaction. Systematic teaching of the Dharma, together with the regular practice of guided group meditation, attendance at the speakers class, and participation in the devotional meetings, have between them not only built up membership of the Association but helped create the nucleus of a spiritual community of people who, taking the Buddha as their ideal, His Dharma as their way of life, and the members of the Sangha as their guides, are gradually coming to constitute a living presence of Buddhism in Great Britain. Various Buddhist traditions have contributed to this development. Theravãda, Mahãyãna, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen are all honoured at the Vihara. If anything has become clear during the last year it is the fact that while English Buddhism, or British Buddhism as some prefer to call it, will draw gratefully on all Buddhist traditions, it will not confine itself exclusively to any one of them. Indeed, it is clear that a distinctive Western Buddhism, a Buddhism adapted to the spiritual needs of the West, is already in process of emergence.


Like my essay The Meaning of Orthodoxy in Buddhism: A Protest, the ecumenical views expressed in the concluding sentences of this extract scandalized a few people. They gave particular offence to those Theravãdins who believed that Buddhism in the West should be simply a transplanted Sinhalese or Thai Buddhism, cultural trappings and all, and to whom the idea of a distinctive Western Buddhism was anathema.

The retreat came two weeks after Wesak and was, I think, a smaller and quieter affair than the Easter retreat. Terry was on it with me, while among the other retreatants were Antoinette, Mrs Mills, Emile Boin, and two elderly married couples. The programme was of the same mixed type as before, the only difference being that this time there were two tape-recorded lectures a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, an arrangement some people preferred. I did not attend the lectures, which in any case were ones I had given myself. Instead, I stayed in my room clearing up arrears of correspondence while Terry conducted proceedings downstairs. At most other times I was with the retreatants. Besides leading all the meditation sessions, I saw them at meals and was available for personal interviews. Mrs Mills, who confessed to having a problem with repressed anger, and who came to see me more than once, was a schoolteacher. She was also the mother of Bhikkhu Khantipãlo, who had once spent a few months with me in Kalimpong before moving on to Thailand and to whom, as it happened, I was then writing to ask if he would come to England for awhile during my absence in India. Emile Boin, who came to see me on the last day of the retreat, and whom I strongly suspected of also having a problem with repressed anger, was the proprietor of Sakura, the Japanese shop in Monmouth Street upon which I had stumbled the previous summer. As one might have expected, he was interested in Zen, though he never attended any of my meditation classes and had not been on retreat with me before. He was constant in his attendance at my Sunday lectures, however, besides being a lively, if controversial, contributor to the pages of The Buddhist. His pseudonymous (M. Eel) article Sentimentality, Samurai, Violence, Vegetarianism, with its blunt assertion that Buddhism is not beamed at a little group of sentimental old women, but at mankind as a whole, and its caustic reference to the old girl shedding a tear for her deceased cat, while relishing a leg of lamb, prompted an immediate rejoinder from Maurice which, in its turn, led to a whole series of letters to the Editor of the Associations little monthly journal.

The fact of the matter was that Emile was an idealist, and if he had a problem with repressed anger it was because he was a frustrated idealist. He was an idealist in that he had an ideal, the ideal being the mental picture he had formed of what a British Buddhist movement ought to be like, and he was a frustrated idealist in that this ideal had found no concrete embodiment. It was not that he was critical just of the sentimentalized, emasculated pseudo-Buddhism of the type he had handled so roughly in his article. He was critical, indeed bitterly critical, of the Sangha Association as it had been before my arrival and of the Buddhist Society as it had been, was now, and according to him always would be. Walshe he regarded as an old woman, Humphreys as a fraud, and though he faithfully attended my lectures at the Vihara (the Society he eschewed) he was far from believing that the problems facing British Buddhism could be solved simply by healing the breach between the two rival organizations, a breach which, despite my efforts, still existed to an extent. What Emile really wanted, I suspect, even at that time, was a new Buddhist movement, a movement that would make a quantum leap to the next stage of the development of Buddhism in Britain, leaving both the Sangha Association and the Buddhist Society far behind. But of such a movement there was no sign.

Shortly after our return from Biddulph Terry and I spent an evening in Southfields with my father and Auntie Florrie, whom we found concerned about the war in Vietnam. This was followed, a few days later, by an afternoon and evening in Rayleigh -- and Southend -- with my mother and sister and my sisters two youngest children, twelve-year-old David and eighteen-month-old Kamala. We also paid a visit to Veronica, who seemed rather upset. She was upset, it later transpired, because she had been under the impression that the following week we, too, would be leaving for India, not for Greece, and that she would be meeting up with us in Calcutta. How the misunderstanding arose I do not remember, if I ever knew, but in recent months it had become increasingly obvious that I featured in Veronicas plans much more than she featured in mine. I had one old friend who had close ties with both Greece and India. This friend was, of course, Marco Pallis, of whom I had seen little or nothing since sharing the platform with him at the Buddhist Society's Wesak meeting the previous year. A fortnight before the meeting with Veronica, however, I lunched with him and his friend Richard Nicholson at their Knightsbridge flat, where we talked at length about our much-loved Kalimpong, to which I would soon be paying a farewell visit, and about the friends we had in common both there and in neighbouring Sikkim and Bhutan. There were other reminders of my Indian past about this time. One of them was a visit I received from Rechung Rimpoche, who showed me his translation of the first part of a Tibetan medical text. Another was a visit from amiable, scholarly Mother Fiske, an American Roman Catholic nun I had met in Poona, where she was doing research into the meaning of religion and Buddhism among what she termed India's New Buddhists.

Thus the days between our return from Biddulph and our departure for Dover passed quickly, both for me and for Terry. Not only were visits paid and received. We had trips to make to the AA, to the bank, and to the bookshops, where we stocked up on classical authors, besides which I had my usual classes to take and lectures to deliver. I also hosted a reception at the Vihara. About sixty people turned up, including representatives of some of the provincial Buddhist groups, so that it was fortunate that the weather was fine and we were able to get out into the garden. In the course of the afternoon I managed to talk for a few minutes with everyone present, which left me feeling a little exhausted, though after a short outing to Kenwood with Terry, Alan, and Paul, the young Adonis with the Yorkshire accent, I was sufficiently refreshed to be able to have a long talk with Alf and his family, Mike, and Jack and, after they had left, with Terry, Alan, and Viriya.

The last few days passed quickest of all. We were to leave on the Sunday, in the evening. On Wednesday, after lunching with Antoinette, I checked the dummy of the June issue of The Buddhist, which included the Vihara's programme for July (the June programme had appeared the previous month), and saw a young man who had embarked on a fast. Thursday Terry and I spent packing and clearing up at the flat, which we were vacating. On Friday, our packing done, we took several boxes of Terry's belongings round to the Vihara and stored them in my cupboards, after which I left Terry to finish moving out of the flat while I went and took my meditation class at the Buddhist Society. On Saturday, Terry having left for Ilford, I spent the morning clearing my desk and the afternoon attending part of the Society's weekend Conference of Provincial Buddhist Groups. Sunday was of course lecture day at the Vihara. I spent the morning writing my notes, talking with Viriya, Bill, and Alf in the afternoon, and at 5.30 gave what for the time being would be my last lecture. It was entitled Buddhism and The New Reformation, and was byway of being a successor to Buddhism and the Bishop of Woolwich. After the lecture I spoke to a few people, Terry returned from Ilford, and half an hour later, after I had given Viriya some final instructions (Thien Chau was away in Paris), we left in the Little Bus. Both very happy to be off, my diary records. Headed south.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:56 am

Chapter Thirty-Four: Boyhood Haunts

Shoreham-by-sea, six miles to the west of Brighton, was the scene of some of the happiest days of my childhood, for it was in this quiet, unfashionable resort that the family had its annual summer holiday. Having spent Sunday night in the vicinity of Worthing, camped beside a cornfield, on Monday morning Terry and I drove back along the coast into the old seaport, where we parked the Little Bus opposite the same unremarkable terrace house where I and the rest of the family had stayed and where we always occupied the upstairs back rooms overlooking the river Adur, with its miscellaneous shipping, its gulls hovering and crying, and its broad expanse of brown mudflat when the tide was out. We were in Shoreham partly because we were not due to leave Dover until Wednesday the fifteenth, as I had a meditation class to take in Brighton the previous evening, and partly because I was desirous of revisiting some of my old haunts and showing them to Terry.

Our first stop was the parish church, a grey Norman structure with a square tower and a truncated nave. Dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, it was commonly known as St Mary de la Haura (or de la Havre accounts differed), Shoreham having been a flourishing harbour town throughout much of the Middle Ages. In the churchyard, after a short search, I found something I particularly wanted Terry to see. This was the tombstone of a man who, if the inscription on the weathered tombstone itself was to be believed, had died at the age of 146. I used to visit the churchyard every time we were on holiday in Shoreham, and in the family album there was a photograph of me standing beside the tombstone, taken by my father, which I used to show to the sceptical as proof I was not romancing and that in Shoreham there really was a tombstone with such an inscription on it. From the churchyard we walked to the beach, which meant having to cross to the other side of the Adur by means of the iron former toll bridge. It was a fine, fresh morning, and as Terry and I plunged down the pebbly foreshore I was glad to have sight of the sea again, glad to have the sound of the waves in my ears and the smell of the ozone in my nostrils. There was a strong wind blowing, and after plodding along the beach for a few hundred yards we took shelter under a breakwater, sitting with our backs against it and legs stretched out. It could well have been one of the very breakwaters in the crevices of whose rotting, seaweed-clad timbers I had once hunted for crabs. As we sat there eating bananas the sun came out and it grew quite warm. Shoreham had not changed much, I reflected. The principal difference was that Bungalow Town had expanded, that there were more chalets, and that there now stood, at the very edge of the beach, an ugly, incongruous, high-rise block.

The afternoon was spent up on the Downs behind Shoreham. We were parked beside a field of barley, and in the distance we could see the silver windings of the Adur and, away to the north-west, the neo-Gothic splendours of Lancing College. While Terry was busy inside the Little Bus, stowing away books, clothes, and tinned goods in their proper places, I sat outside on the grass preparing a salad lunch. Having driven down to the south of Spain many times and camped there, my friend had a good idea what we needed to take with us. We would not be away for only two weeks, however, as he and Vivien had always been. We would be away for two months, and would therefore be needing a proportionately bigger stock of certain items. Thus it was that we had on board sixty tins of minestrone, as well as sixty tins of condensed milk, of which Terry was particularly fond and which he always took in his tea. After lunch I read Euripides Iphigenia in Tauris and Hecuba, having started working my way through the two volumes of the Everyman translation of the Greek dramatists plays more than a week before. I had read the whole of Aeschylus and Sophocles (and Aristophanes) in my teens, but so far as I remember all I had read of Euripides was the Bacchae, in Gilbert Murrays translation, and it seemed appropriate that as part of my preparation for visiting Greece I should make good the deficiency and make myself better acquainted with sad Electras poet. While I was absorbed in Iphigenias joy and Hecubas sorrow Terry was deep in the mysteries of the Laúkãvatãra Sûtra.

We could not have had a more pleasant, peaceful afternoon. There were larks singing in the sky, tiny specks that soared higher and higher until, lost in the living blue, they became sightless songs. In my boyhood I had often heard the larks. I had heard them on Wimbledon Common, on the Sussex Downs, and in Norfolk, and now, as I lay in the sun reading Euripides, I was hearing them once again. It was the first time I had heard them since my return to England, so far as I remember, for the lark was a rarer bird than it had been twenty years earlier (thirty-five years later it is rarer still). I must not only have heard the larks in my boyhood but have been greatly moved by those distant ecstatic trillings, for my first poem, written when I was eleven or twelve, was about the lark. The poem has not survived (it was in one of the poetry notebooks left with my father in 1944), but I remember the first verse, which ran:

The lark rose singing from the ground
Singing with all its might;
No sweet singer might be found
To equal the lark in flight.


Shortly afterwards I discovered Shelley's To a Skylark, which became for me, as perhaps it was for him, a symbol of the upward aspiration of the human spirit an aspiration whose principal expressions were literature and the fine arts, friendship and the spiritual life.

The Brighton Buddhist group was still holding its meetings at the Tatler restaurant, and it was there that I took the meditation class that evening, Terry and I having driven into the resort a little earlier and taken a stroll along the seafront. After the class we chatted with people for a while, then drove along the coast to Hastings, and from there inland in the direction of Battle, near which we passed the night. The following day was spent in Hastings, where we explored the second- hand bookshops, visited the Fishermens Museum, and walked along the beach. It was a fine hot day; both sea and sky were intensely blue, and we saw several hovercraft skimming the waves. In the evening we drove to Dover, stopping only at Brookland to see the thirteenth-century church, which was remarkable for its belfry, a three-storeyed, conical wooden structure standing separate from the main building.

That night we camped on the Downs. In the morning, having done a little shopping in the town, called at the AA office, and had a good walk along the front, we drove up to Dover Castle and established ourselves in a corner of the car park. The castle was much more extensive than we had imagined, and in the afternoon it took us a couple of hours to look round the massive keep, from the top of which there was a fine view, and round the ancient fortress to drive down to the dockside, where I passed the hour and a half we had to wait before boarding the ferry reading Plutarch's Lives (the Greek ones, not the Roman!). Once on board, we went and sat in the saloon. At midnight on 15 June the ferry left for Ostend. During the crossing Terry and I spent some time on deck. It was a little cold, and there was a strong wind blowing. I read the Life of Aristides. We were on our way to Greece.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2020 7:35 am

Chapter Thirty-Five: Over the Alps

In Brussels we had our first experience of culture shock. We arrived in the Belgian capital at six in the morning, having driven there via Ghent in dull weather through flat, uninteresting countryside. After admiring the ornate, gilded façades of the Town Hall and other buildings in the Grand Place, and seeing the rather tawdry interior of a church that may or may not have been the cathedral, we made our way to the market. It was here that we received our culture shock. We had just bought some fine cherries and strawberries and a few vegetables, and were about to leave, when I happened to see a stall at the back of which was a row of plucked chickens. This was not surprising. What was surprising -- indeed deeply shocking was that in front of the chickens there were rows upon rows of tiny plucked songbirds among them, in all probability, larks that less than twenty-four hours earlier had been singing in the sky. There were several such stalls, all with their pathetic rows of tiny naked victims of human barbarity and greed. This was my first intimation of the fact that songbirds were a feature of continental cuisine. Nor was this the worst. In France and Italy, as I was to discover a few years later, the shooting of small birds constituted a favourite national sport, millions of them being destroyed annually by the guns of so-called sportsmen.

Even had we experienced no culture shock there, we would have felt little inclination to linger in Brussels. The city presented a somewhat shabby appearance, and having done our shopping we drove straight out. Or rather, we attempted to drive straight out. Getting in had been easy, but owing to the complicated one-way system and poor sign posting getting out proved difficult and it was half an hour before we found the right exit and were on our way to Namur. I navigated, using the route plans Terry had obtained from the AA in London, which were both detailed and accurate and which were to stand us in good stead throughout our journey. From Namur we followed the course of the River Meuse to the picturesque little town of Dinant, through which we drove after crossing the historic bridge. Dinant! The name rang a bell for me, and eventually I recollected having read somewhere about a certain David of Dinant, a medieval scholastic who had narrowly escaped death for his heretical views. After Dinant came the Ardennes, under whose green eaves we were glad to stop for lunch, and after the Ardennes the city of Luxembourg, capital of the Grand Duchy of that name. In Luxembourg we stayed only long enough to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame, where there were fifteen or twenty people praying in the sunlit nave of the building. Their prayers were directed to the statue of the Virgin Mary standing on the altar at the far end, and to judge from the expressions and attitudes of the supplicants their prayers were real prayers. So real were they that I could actually see them winging their way through the air to their objective. The atmosphere of devotion was more intense than any I have experienced in a church before.

From Luxembourg we drove through the Moselle Valley to Metz. We were now in France. First we saw the church of St Segolene (a saint of whom I had not heard before), where a woman showed us round and where there was a quantity of fine stained glass, some of it damaged in war. In which war it was damaged was unclear, for in the course of the last four or five centuries Metz and its fortress had been much fought over. Originally a free town of the Holy Roman Empire, it was part of France for two hundred years, part of Germany for fifty, and was now again part of France. The damage to the stained glass may of course have been done during the Second World War. Though I did not realize it at the time, the beautiful Ardennes had been the scene of the Battle of the Bulge, when the Germans attempted to halt the eastward advance of the Allied forces and huge losses were sustained on both sides. There was fine stained glass in the Cathedral too. By the time we found ourselves standing in front of that building, however, it was evening, and I was feeling extremely tired, so that I have only a vague, dreamlike recollection of our climbing the steps to the entrance of the great Gothic structure looming up in the dusk, and of our cautiously opening the heavy iron door. Inside we were at once enveloped by a mighty, rolling volume of sound which, proceeding majestically from an invisible organ, entirely filled the vast space of the deserted church and continued to fill it, rising and falling, for the greater part of our visit. Whether it was Bach or Buxtehude that was being played, or simply the organist improvising, I do not know, but the sound was the most magnificent I had ever heard and one that transported me, despite my tiredness, to the seventh heaven of delight. We were still looking at the stained glass when a young man quietly descended from the organ loft and slipped out by a side door.

Having left Metz by one of its ancient gates, we pressed on as far as Nancy, where we pulled up on the roadside and there spent the night. We had driven 320 miles that day, had not slept for thirty-six hours, and were now eighty miles from the Franco-Swiss border.

In the morning we drove south-east through Épinal to Remiremont, where there were many public fountains, and from Remiremont to Mulhouse, passing on the way wooded hills and picturesque villages. At the border we stopped and bought picture postcards (I sent one to Viriya, Terry one to his parents), then drove on through Basel, and from Basle, still heading south-east, to Olten. The more direct route to Olten being blocked, we were obliged to make a wide detour. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for it took us after we had been briefly caught in a hailstorm through some exceptionally beautiful wooded ravines we would otherwise have missed. Here we halted for lunch, heating minestrone and brewing tea on our portable Calor gas stove. For reasons of economy, but also because Terry tended to feel anxious in unfamiliar restaurants and cafés, we had decided that we would buy provisions along the way as we needed them and we adhered to this decision throughout our journey. From Olten we drove through thirty or forty miles of beautiful countryside to Lucerne, the scenery becoming more mountainous with every turn of the road. Switzerland, we could not but notice, was much better kept than either Belgium or France, and I remembered my mother telling me that her favourite holiday destinations were Austria and Switzerland. They were so clean, she said. But Switzerland was not only clean. It rejoiced in picturesque old wooden houses, carefully cultivated fields, and what my diary terms thoughtful arrangements for tourists.

As we approached Lucerne we had our first glimpse of the snows and soon were inside the town walls and looking for a parking spot. Having eventually found one, we spent a couple of hours walking round the place, which obviously depended very much on the tourist trade, bought a few souvenirs, and then drove via Brunnen to Altdorf, skirting the Lake of Lucerne on the eastern side and passing through several small tunnels. A mile or two past Altdorf we left the main road and found a pleasant spot beside the River Reuss, the noise of whose fast-flowing waters we could hear in the darkness. Owing to the different nature of the terrain, as well as to our having been obliged to make a detour between Basle and Olten, we had covered only half the distance covered the day before, but we were well content with our progress and slept soundly.

The third day of our journey saw us crossing the Alps. The famous mountain chain was more than a fact of geography, more than a white patch on the map. For centuries it had been a barrier separating Italy and Northern Europe psychologically as well as physically, so that crossing the Alps, far from being simply a stage in the journey south, possessed significance that was psychological and cultural and even spiritual. It was a significance of which travellers from the north were often aware, at least subliminally an awareness of which, in modern times, the Goethe of the _____ is the prime example. Crossing the Alps meant emerging from grey skies, fog, and mist into a world of blue skies, brilliant sunlight, and vivid colours emerging from numbing cold into bone-penetrating warmth. It meant leaving primeval forests of fir and oak for orange groves and olive gardens. It meant exchanging the Gothic for the classical, Christianity for paganism, religion for art, melancholy for joy. Small wonder, then, that poets and artists from England and Germany, especially, should not only have celebrated the splendour of those immaculate peaks but have felt, as they crossed the Alps, that they were about to enter a new world, perhaps begin a new life.

What Terry and I felt as we crossed the Alps there is now no means of telling. I have no recollection of what I myself felt then, and my diary is silent on the subject. But I must have enjoyed the unfamiliar landscape, and have looked forward to seeing Italy, for in my teen years I had had as great a love for Renaissance Italy as for Classical Greece and Ancient Egypt -- especially after reading John Addington Symonds Renaissance in Italy, the seven volumes of which I borrowed from the Tooting Pubic Library. Silent as it is about feelings, my diary is fairly circumstantial regarding facts. In relying on those facts, however, no doubt I would do well to bear in mind what Dr [Samuel] Johnson has to say, in Idler no.97, on those narratives of travellers in which nothing is found but such general accounts as leave no distinct idea behind them, or such minute enumerations as few can read with either profit or delight. Probably there have been more than enough of these minute enumerations already in this account.

Be that as it may, on the morning of the day we crossed the Alps Terry and I rose to find the mountains flecked with snow. We also found the waters of the fast-flowing Reuss icy cold. The crossing took much less time than we had expected. Hardly had we left the pleasant spot where we had passed the night than the road started becoming steeper and the scenery more and more impressive. In less than two hours we were at the head of the St Gotthard Pass (6,926 feet above sea level), having driven through Wannen, where we did some shopping, and the popular mountaineering resort of Andermatt. Both places reminded me of hill stations I had known in India; there were the same narrow streets, the same wooden houses, the same cheerful faces and, above all, the same buoyant, exhilarating atmosphere. In the course of ascent we saw great patches of hard, unmelted snow, patches through which the road cut from time to time. The air was very thin, so that I experienced a slight nausea; the weather was cloudy, and there were several showers of rain. Rather to our surprise, traffic was heavy all the way, for at that time of year there was little danger of the road being blocked by snow and the route was a popular one, as we ought to have known. After the St Gotthard Pass came a succession of hairpin bends, thirty-seven in number, that dropped us down via Airolo and Faido to Bellinzona (761 feet above sea level), from where it was only a short drive to Lugano.

In Lugano, having lunched in a quiet spot with a fine view of the lake and the mountains, we explored the shopping arcades, visited the fifteenth-century cathedral, and looked round what I think must have been the cathedral shop, where we found a remarkable variety of modern Catholic art, some of it of a very high standard, especially the carved wooden figures of the Virgin Mary and other saints. We then continued on our way skirting Lake Lugano for several miles, passing through the Swiss and Italian customs, where there was a short delay, and arriving in Como late in the evening.

Finding a secluded spot in which to pass the night proved difficult, and in the end we simply parked at the side of the road near the lake. Como was quieter than either Lucerne or Lugano, and when we went for a walk along the shore before darkness fell we found it deserted. The air was very still, and there was a pleasant view across the waters. That night Terry and I had a long talk. It was our first real talk since leaving England, but regarding the content of the talk my diary is, as usual, silent.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2020 7:50 am

Chapter Thirty-Six: Reclaiming a Heritage

Venice was about 150 miles from Milan, at least as the crow flies. We could easily have covered the distance in a day, but our route lay through three historic north-Italian cities, all of some cultural significance, and it therefore took us the better part of three days to complete this stage of our journey. On each of the two nights we parked in a lay-by on the autostrada. This was probably illegal, but no one took any notice of us, and we reckoned we could be safer there than parked somewhere in town. Italy was not Switzerland, or even France.

Milan did not detain us long. We arrived there from Como around midday, having driven down the autostrada, and found the city centre without any difficulty. At the far end of the Piazza del Duomo rose the vast bulk of the Cathedral, the third largest in Europe, its triangular west front positively bristling with crockets and pinnacles. As there was a High Mass in progress we were unable to see much of the buildings interior, but we could see the archbishop in his red skull-cap and hear the priest who, in highly declamatory style and with much waving of arms, was holding forth from a pulpit on the opposite side of the nave. Though I knew no Italian, from the constant recurrence of the word comunismo, often to the accompaniment of a vigorous shaking of the speakers fist, I had little difficulty concluding that the worthy priest was engaged in denouncing the godless creed for the benefit of the assembled faithful. The faithful themselves were quiet and attentive, though people were coming and going all the time in a way that would have been unthinkable in England.

There were other differences between the colourful Roman Catholic ceremony and the more sober Anglican services I had attended as a boy. What those differences were I cannot now recall in any detail, but I distinctly remember finding the whole atmosphere much more pagan than anything with which I was familiar. It was therefore possible for me to understand the reaction of a Protestant who, witnessing a Roman Catholic service for the first time, and seeing its images and altars, its candles and incense, its tonsured priests in gorgeous vestments, its worship of relics, its elaborate rituals, its chantings and blessings, should have concluded that Roman Catholicism was in truth little more than a pseudo-Christian version of the old Mediterranean paganism. Such had been the conclusion of the genial superintendent of the Baptist Sunday school I attended for a while who, on his return from a business trip to Rome, solemnly described to some of the older boys the abominations he had personally witnessed in St Peters.

From the Cathedral and the Piazza del Duomo we walked the length of the Via Dante to the Sforza Castle. On the way we had our second experience of culture shock or rather I did. Having located a gabinetto, and made sure I was following the signs that read signori or gentlemen and not the ones reading signore or ladies, I descended the stone steps briskly. At the bottom of the steps, to my astonishment, sat a woman a stout, elderly woman in a tight-fitting black dress and black cotton stockings. But apparently I had not made a mistake. On seeing me the woman rose to her feet with a welcoming smile and, hurrying on ahead of me with every expression of delight, flung open the door of a cubicle, gave the toilet seat an energetic dusting, and having thrust a wad of tissues into my hand finally ushered me in with bows and smiles that were evidently meant to wish me a successful outcome to my visit. These ministrations were not entirely disinterested, as I quickly discovered when, in my ignorance of gabinetto etiquette, I attempted to return, and gain the cheerful skies without according them the customary recognition. Evidently Benign Mother could easily become Terrible Mother! Reflecting afterwards on this my second experience of culture shock it occurred to me that perhaps the average Italian male did not feel comfortable unless there was a sympathetic and encouraging maternal figure close at hand on such occasions.

The Sforza Castle was extensive without being impressive. On our arrival we found that the museum and art gallery that were housed within its walls, and which we had been hoping to visit, were both closed. We therefore walked back to the Little Bus and drove first to the twelfth-century church of Sant Ambrogio, then to S Lorenzo Maggiore, with its colonnade of reused sixth-century Corinthian columns, and finally to the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. All three were closed, to our great disappointment, for we had not yet grasped the fact that in Italy the afternoon hours were sacred to siesta and that during this period even the saints were not to be disturbed. We were particularly disappointed that the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie was closed, for this was the building that contained, painted on the wall of the former refectory, what was the most famous, even as it was probably the greatest, of all Milans artistic treasures: Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper.

Having found our way back to the autostrada, we therefore drove on to Brescia, turning aside into a service area when we were a few miles short of our destination in order to improvise a belated lunch. Fields of ripe wheat and half-grown maize lay golden and green all around us, while away to the north and west, each on its separate hill, there were dotted four or five little towns, one walled, and all of them with red-tiled houses and red-tiled churches. Some of the churches, as was apparent even from where we sat, were in a sad state of dilapidation, and the little towns themselves, I thought, had a desolate and deserted look, many of their inhabitants no doubt having left to work in the factories of Milan, which far from being just a treasure-house of centuries-old art and architecture, as one might have thought, was one of the major industrial centres of modern Italy. Despite the proximity of the filling station, it was pleasant and peaceful there amid the fields, beneath a clear blue sky, and within sight of the foothills of the Alps. So pleasant and peaceful was it that Terry and I not only lingered over our lunch but sat contemplating the scene for so long afterwards that we did not reach Brescia until six o'clock. In Brescia we spent the evening exploring the city on foot, but al- though the names of the churches and other buildings we saw are noted in my diary, these are now little more than names, and I have no distinct recollection of any of them.

Such is not the case with regard to Verona, where we spent the whole of the following day. In connection with this city there come crowding upon me recollections of ancient bridges over the fast-flowing River Adige, Romanesque churches of pink brick, the statue of Dante in the Piazza dei Signori, ornate polychrome porches whose pillars were supported by winged lions, paintings by Pisanello, Mantegna, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and the unobstructed view we had, after climbing up to the Castel Vecchio, of the red-tiled roofs, the campaniles, and the domes of the unspoiled old city, the sunlit pinks and reds of which were relieved, here and there, by the dark spires of the cypresses. Three recollections stand out with particular vividness. The first finds us in the Basilica of San Zeno, standing before Mantegna's altarpiece, Enthroned Madonna and Child with Saints, perhaps the most magnificent of all the many paintings we saw that day, of which it has been said, Considering the brightness of the colours and of the gold, the power of the architectural masses, the sharp definition of forms, and the consistency of the spatial formulation, the illusion of reality a higher reality within the frame is overpowering. My next recollection is of our coming, quite by chance, upon what according to local tradition -- and the city's tourist department was Juliet's House, complete with the very balcony from which the lovely daughter of the Capulets listened to the pleadings of the lovesick scion of the Montagues. I had forgotten that the scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was laid in fourteenth-century Verona. Finally, there is a recollection of Terry and myself arriving late that afternoon at the entrance of the great Roman amphitheatre, said to have seated 25,000 people, only to find the gates already closed for the night. We did not greatly mind, for our impression on looking through the bars was one of what my diary describes as massive brutality. The impression was as much psychic as aesthetic, for like the Colosseum in Rome the amphitheatre had been used for fights between wild beasts, and between wild beasts and men, as well as for gladiatorial contests of various kinds.

The sixth day of our journey began unpropitiously. We woke early, and it was a fine morning, but Terry admitted he was feeling rather depressed, and this necessitated our having a long talk before we could drive on to Vicenza. He had not felt depressed for several weeks, the last time having been around the middle of May, when he was still coming to terms with the knowledge that he might never see his daughter again. This time his depression had a quite different cause. It was due, as I eventually discovered, to all the sightseeing we had been doing the last few days. It was not that he had any objection to sightseeing, or that he was not almost as keen as I was to visit the famous and interesting sights of the places through which we passed. But so much of what we saw had no meaning for him. This was particularly true of the paintings. Most of them were of a religious nature, and they illustrated stories with which he was unfamiliar, depicted personages whose very names were unknown to him, and were replete with symbols to the significance of which he had no clue. The more he saw of such paintings, as well as those of a historical or mythological character, the more acutely he felt his lack of education, and the more acutely he felt his lack of education the more he was reminded how much he was at a disadvantage with people more educated and knowledgeable than himself and how inferior and inadequate such people made him feel. Terry laid the blame for his lack of education at the door of his parents, who had allowed him to leave school at sixteen, and his depression that morning, as on so many previous occasions, was due largely to the anger and resentment he felt towards them on this account. Had it not been for his lack of education, the places we had visited and the paintings we had seen would have had meaning for him, he believed, and he would not have felt so cut off from an important section of the great heritage of Western culture.

My own position in this respect was quite different from my friends. Though I had received even less formal education than Terry, in my teens I had read as widely as I could in the fields of European literature, art, and philosophy, both ancient and modern, and even during my twenty years in the East I had not entirely lost contact with Western culture, at least to the extent that this was represented by English poetry. For me our present journey, and the sightseeing we were doing along the way, represented a renewal, and a deepening, of that contact. The places we visited, and the paintings we saw, had meaning for me. Through them I was reconnecting with my cultural roots, reclaiming my cultural heritage, for although I was a Buddhist I was a Western Buddhist, and could not afford, psychologically and even spiritually, to cut myself off from those roots, or to renounce that heritage, as some misguided Western Buddhists thought they were obliged to do. Now that I had the opportunity, I wanted to immerse myself in Western culture. I wanted to stop at every historic city, to visit every church, castle, and palace there, to look at every painting and sculpture. At the same time, I was aware that for Terry much of what we saw was without meaning, though he dutifully consulted such guidebooks as we possessed and asked me questions from time to time. Paintings were often without meaning for him because he was ignorant of the Bible stories or classical myths and legends on which they were based. Such ignorance was by no means unusual, and in years to come, when progressive education policies had done their work, it would be widespread in Britain. Terry at least knew that he was cut off from his cultural heritage, and resented the fact. People in the future would hardly know there was a cultural heritage to be cut off from.

How I talked Terry out of his depression I do not remember, but a few hours later we were in Vicenza and looking at paintings by Mantegna, Tiepolo, Memlinc, and others in the Chiericati museum and art gallery. Among the works we saw (I forget by whom) were a remarkable Herod with the Head of John the Baptist, a beautiful St Sebastian, and an impressive Ecstasy of St Francis. We had already visited the Cathedral which, having been practically destroyed during the War and then rebuilt, was not only spacious but uncluttered. Palladios Basilica, which was not a church but the Town Hall, appeared to have suffered no damage, but it had a shabby and neglected air, and we were surprised to find that there were shops downstairs and that the great hall upstairs was being used for basketball. Despite its many Renaissance palaces, Vicenza was on the whole a much less attractive place than Verona and we were not altogether sorry when the time came for us to leave for Venice. We did not leave without seeing Palladios last work, the famous Teatro Olimpico, a classical Renaissance theatre with fixed perspective scenery in and out of which, the building being open, we were able to wander at will. Our evening was spent in a campsite on the seashore near Mestre, the industrial suburb of Venice. There were many caravans parked on the grass among the trees, and the place had a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. Terry and I walked for a while on the beach, which was strewn with shells, then bought a few provisions at the site shop, cooked ourselves a meal, and read, my own choice of reading matter being Selected Poems of D.H. Lawrence.

There was a lot to see in Venice. So much was there to see that after spending the whole of the following day in the city sightseeing Terry and I decided to spend an extra half day there, which meant staying a second night at the campsite. Venice was not to be seen from the comfort of a motor vehicle, whether public or private. Twice crossing the cause- way linking Mestre and Venice, and each time leaving the Little Bus in the car park, in the course of our day and a half in the city we saw, either on foot or travelling in one of the vaporetti that plied up and down the Grand Canal, the sights that millions had seen before us and that thou- sands, perhaps, from Goethe and Byron to Ruskin and Frederick Rolfe, had celebrated in verse and impassioned prose. There were streets that were only alleys between high walls, tiny bridges over canals a few feet wide, a fruit and vegetable market that was the finest we had seen in Italy, and an enormous number of shops selling the famous Venetian coloured and gilded glassware. Above all, there were the glories of the Byzantine St Marks Cathedral and the grandeurs of the Venetian-Gothic Ducal Palace, both of which we visited on our first morning in the city, the Gallery of the Academy, which we visited on our second morning and where we saw Giorgione's mysterious Tempest, and Veronese's sumptuous Feast in the House of Levi, and the palaces that stood on either side of the Grand Canal, their façades reflected in the dull waters. But though we saw many buildings, many paintings, and many people (most of them tourists), what most impressed me was the tout ensemble of Venice itself. It was enough simply to be there, to walk round in the brilliant sunshine, to sit a while in the Zen Chapel, to eat our sandwiches in the little secluded garden. It was enough simply to enjoy the gay, almost festive atmosphere of the place, to feel the breeze coming off the lagoon, and to have the sense that Venice was open to the sea and, through the sea, open to the world. Thus it was not surprising that the Doges should have wed the sea with rings, or that it should have been from Venice that Marco Polo set out on his travels travels that were to take him, eventually, to the court of Kublai Khan. Venice had her back to Europe, and looked towards the East. Venice was Europe's gateway to the East.

On the direct route between Venice and Brindisi, from where we were to take the car ferry to Greece, there were only three cities of cultural importance: Padua, Ravenna, and Rimini. In Padua, to which we drove after spending the morning in Venice, we had time to see only the Basilica of St Anthony, the Eremitani Church, and the Arena Chapel. The Basilica was a monastic church, the first one we had visited, and on entering it we found the monks, all in black habits, chanting in the choir. St Anthony of Padua, to whom the Romanesque-Gothic structure was dedicated, was the most celebrated of the followers of St Francis of Assisi (legend represented him as preaching to the fishes, just as St Francis had preached to the birds), and the chapel containing his bones was evidently the object of much popular devotion. Richly ornamented with carved marbles of various colours, it was hung with scores, perhaps hundreds, of ex votos of the different limbs and organs that had been healed thanks to the intercession of the saint. In Greece we were to discover that this pious practice had very ancient roots. Popular devotion was also very much in evidence in the cloisters of the Basilica, where there was a large shop selling an amazing variety of cheap souvenirs, all in the worst possible taste and all decorated with, or incorporating, however incongruously, a picture or figure of St Anthony. Five or six monks ran the shop, serving customers and operating the cash registers with remarkable speed and efficiency. Outside the Basilica, on the piazza, was Donatello's fine equestrian statue of the Venetian general Erasmo da Narni, sitting relaxed and thoughtful on his great charger.

The Eremitani Church, rebuilt after World War II in the original Ro- manesque style, was a simple and impressive building. It was famous for its frescoes by Mantegna. Some of these had been destroyed during the fighting, but I have neither record nor recollection of our seeing those that survived and they may not have been on view. Fortunately the Arena Chapel, which stood nearby, had suffered no damage, and its inner walls were still resplendent with the blues, reds, greens, and browns especially the blues of Giotto's frescoes depicting the life of Christ and the Last Judgement, all largely intact and all very little faded. In Verona we had seen a painting that may or may not have been by Giotto, but here was a whole series of works that were undoubtedly from the hand of the master and from that hand at the height of its powers. Though the life of Christ was depicted in strict accordance with the traditional narratives, and though symbolism was by no means absent, so naturalistic was Giotto's style, so dramatic his treatment of each episode, so vivid his characterization of the personages involved, and so great his capacity to represent the emotions they were experiencing, that many of the frescoes could have meaning at least a simple, humanistic meaning even for those who, like Terry, were unfamiliar with the gospel stories and the dogmas with which those stories were associated.

From Padua we drove to Chioggia and from Chioggia down the coast to Pomposa, where we decided to stay at the campsite near the Lido. Our intention was to stay only one night but in the event we stayed three. The reason for this change of plan was that towards the end of the following afternoon, when we should have left for Ravenna, I started running a temperature and had to go to bed, where I passed a feverish night, sleeping only fitfully and perspiring a lot, and where I woke late next morning feeling better but rather weak. The fever may have been due to malaria, from which I had suffered in India, or, what is more likely, to the fact that it being a fine day, with a clear blue sky, Terry and I had spent much of our time on the beach, where he went swimming and I took a few dips in the pleasantly warm water. Whatever the cause of the fever may have been, we decided to stay where we were until I was fully recovered. This enabled us to catch up on our reading. I dipped again into Selected Poems of D.H. Lawrence, began and finished The Bostonians, probably my favourite Henry James novel (not that I know them all), and read Plutarch's Life of Pericles.

Ravenna was only a few miles from Pomposa. We arrived in the small, compact city soon after 10 o'clock and spent the next four or five hours visiting the Basilica of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placida, the Neonian (or Orthodox) Baptistery, the Cathedral, the Basilica of S Apollinare Nuovo, and the cloisters of the National Museum, where there was an exhibition of books and manuscripts relating to Dante, who had died in Ravenna and was buried there. Except for the eighteenth-century Cathedral, all the churches belonged to the fifth and sixth centuries and contained mosaics of the same period. These mosaics gave me one of the most intense aesthetic experiences of my life. Mosaics of quite unearthly beauty, I commented in my diary that evening, adding that they were incomparably better than the ones we had seen at St Marks in Venice. The mosaics of San Vitale, which we visited twice, were remarkable for richness and harmony of colour, variety of subject matter, and historical interest, those of the Mausoleum of Galla Placida for the depth and intensity of their blues, especially the blues of the elaborately decorated vaulting, and those of S Apollinare Nuovo for their long, rhythmical processions of white-robed Martyrs and gold-robed Virgins, one occupying the right-hand side of the nave, as the spectator looked towards the altar, the other the side on the left.

But the most beautiful mosaics were those in the Basilica of S Apollinare in Classe, which was situated three or four miles south of Ravenna, amid fields, and which we saw on our way to Rimini. As in S Apollinare Nuovo, the nave was flanked by two rows of marble columns, but apart from the very late series of portraits on the side walls the mosaic decoration was confined to the choir and the semidome of the apse. In the semidome, his arms held up in prayer, stood the figure of St Apollinare, the first bishop of Ravenna. He stood in a wide green valley, a valley filled with all manner of trees and shrubs, while from either side there advanced towards him a row of white lambs, each separated from the next lamb in the procession by a spray of white lilies. Above the saint, within a enormous blue medallion, was a jewelled golden cross, and above the cross a sky of gold streaked with cloud. Combined as they were with the symbolism of the shepherd and his sheep, the predominant greens, browns, and whites of the lower half of the semidome created a sense of harmony and peace reminiscent of Bachs Sheep May Safely Graze or the pastoral interlude in Messiah. This sense of deep peacefulness was enhanced by the silvery hues of the Corinthian columns, by the quality of the light filling the place, and by the fact that during our visit we had the whole building to ourselves.

Among the trees depicted in the apse, in highly stylized form, was the umbrella pine, and indeed there extended not far from the Basilica what was left of the ancient pine forest Byron admired and in which he was accustomed, during his residence in Ravenna, to ride and shoot. We did not venture into the forest, but drove straight to Rimini, where we were content to view the ruined Castle of Sigismondo from a distance, and then on via Pesara to Fano.

That night we stayed in a small new campsite, the Verde Luna. The following day we drove to Pescara in the morning, and in the afternoon from Pescara, where we stopped for lunch, all the way to Campomarino. Our route lay between the mountains and the sea. On our right were the foothills, many of them crowned with towns and castles; on the left, the Adriatic, in colour an intense green-blue and with rollers of white foam. In the course of the days journey we saw vineyards and cornfields and, eventually, olive groves, which we had not seen before, and which to judge by the gnarled and twisted trunks of the little trees with the silver-green foliage must have been very old. There were also broad sandy beaches, with fewer and fewer people on them the further south we penetrated. Near Campomarino we found a campsite. It was small and scruffy, but it was situated on the seashore, it was deserted, and there was a fine view, and we were delighted with the place. So delighted were we that we stayed there not just that night but for the greater part of the following day. For the first time since leaving England I felt truly away from it all. We had nothing to do but cook, wash a few clothes, and read about Greece. Above us was only the blue sky, before us only the green-blue sea, behind us only the low-lying range of mauve foot- hills. There was no sound but that of the wind and waves, no sign of life but the lizards darting about in the wiry grass and the black scarab beetles which, the afternoon of that second day, I watched trundling their balls of dried dung over the hot sand. We were in a different world. It was a world of intense heat, the world of Hyperion and Apollo, almost the world of Aton and Ra.

It was certainly a different world through which we drove during the next twenty-four hours, on the last lap of our journey from Venice to Brindisi. It was a world of small towns where people sat in their doorways and where there prevailed an atmosphere of complete inertia. It was a world of long cypress avenues and untidy commercial centres, of streets strewn with litter and squares filled, late at night, with people, and of glaring contrasts between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. In many respects, it was a world that reminded me strongly of India. It was a world in which, when we reached Bari, there was only a rather dirty campsite wherein to pass the night, but it was a world, also, of clear, bright mornings, and a coastal road that ran past beautiful bays and curious rock formations and from which we could see giant prickly-pear cacti, stone beehive huts in the middle of fields, and grove after grove of olive trees with trunks fantastically contorted.

In Brindisi we discovered there was a car ferry leaving for Igoumenitsa that afternoon, but decided not to take it as there was some uncertainty about sleeping accommodation. Having booked a passage on a ferry that would be leaving next day, we therefore found a campsite, had a meal, and read. That night there was a very strong wind, and I had a strange dream, in the course of which I drew forth the life-essence of a number of demons and cast them into the fire. Like many dreams, it appeared to have no connection with my waking thoughts and I was at a loss to understand where it had come from and what it might mean.

Terry and I spent our last day in Italy our last for the time being, at least cleaning out the Little Bus, replenishing our stores, and seeing what we could of Brindisi. Though we turned up at the dockside on time, we were unable to board until 10 o'clock, and the Egnatia did not sail until an hour and a half later. We wandered round the ship, which was much bigger and more luxurious than we had expected, cashed travellers cheques, drank tea, and did not retire to our berths until 2 o'clock. Before retiring we went up on deck. It was a clear night, the sea was calm, and there was a nearly-full moon shining on the waters.
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