It’s difficult to summarise my connection with Bhante Sangharakshita, which goes back to my early twenties and encompasses so many transformations – on his part as well as mine, as you can see from these images. At the time of writing he is still active, in his nineties. When we first met I knew I wanted to learn from him – a feeling I’ve rarely felt so strongly. I lived just round the corner, was already interested in Buddhism and meditation – Milarepa was my great inspiration – and sitting on the hill above Alexander Palace in Muswell Hill, North London, I read his book A Survey of Buddhism. That was enough for me to dive in, with my usual lack of caution.
I never regretted it. Indeed, it’s been my best decision so far. In the forty years since then I have worked happily in a variety of ways for the movement, starting ventures, practising, going on retreat, teaching, travelling, talking, studying, writing, working… and much of that has been influenced by my connection to Bhante. Certainly his writing and thought formed my basic and developed understanding of Buddhism. I’ve also been greatly influenced by his example, his enthusiasm for spreading the Dharma in the West, as well as his critical understanding, his constant questioning of cherished traditionalist beliefs. In my mature years I have felt out of synch with some of his emphases – for who is perfect – but my loyalty remains intact and, of course, even my disagreements stem from his influence. His thinking has become knitted thickly into my own in a way reminiscent of these sixties era pullovers.