Monthly Archives: October 2013

Contrasting Meetings in London

This week began for me like most with little to do on Monday until the evening. Then I had to teach at Warwick Uni Buddhist Society and immediately after our Monday evening group at The Forest Hermitage, for which I’m afraid I was rather late. For the last few Mondays Ajahn Manapo has been away at Bradford on Avon, so I’ve been on my own here. Tuesday was out to prisons as usual but then Wednesday was rather different – I had to go to London.

That meant an early start and an early meal. I had to be at the MoJ building in Petty France by 1:30. The reason was a meeting of the Prison Service’s Chaplaincy Council. That sounds rather grand but the reality was an assorted group of people of different religions crammed round a table in a sort of glorified and airless cupboard, which I believe they call a meeting room. I was stuck in there for three hours and I wasn’t in the best of shape by the time I escaped. It’s this strange addiction to air and breathing that I have that was the trouble! And the content of the meeting didn’t help. I suppose it was all necessary stuff – some people seemed to be able to get quite enthusiastic about it – but you could never have called it creative.

Once I’d escaped, Luke appeared to pick me up and run me over to Soho, to Dean Street. Had you been strolling through the heart of Soho on Wednesday evening you might have glimpsed this Buddhist monk, quick as a flash, disappearing down a darkened alley next to Quo Vardis. Had you followed you would have found yourself in a little Court and seen me disappear into a studio run by Giles Forman. Until that evening I had never met Giles, although we had spoken a few times over the phone. His studio is where he trains young actors and Giles himself was taught at Drama Centre where I went fifty years ago. I was received by Giles with great courtesy and introduced to some of his young students as having been in Group One at Drama Centre – they all seemed to know what that meant. And for anyone reading this who doesn’t know what it meant, well there are previous entries to this blog that will inform you. Coincidentally, Christopher Fettes, who taught me at Drama Centre, was there that evening and still teaching at eighty-four. The purpose of my going there had been to meet Giles and to talk about how we might in this fiftieth anniversary year of the founding of Drama Centre honour it and the teachers who taught there and especially the great and wonderful Yat, who died eleven years ago. So Giles, Christopher and I had a brief discussion until Giles had to go off and take a class.

I’ve never forgotten how one day, around fifty years ago, I heard Christopher describing Yat as a creative man. I suppose I knew that already but I hadn’t heard it said. I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone called that before and it struck me then as such a wonderful thing to be, to be a creative person. It’s stayed with me. And that evening with those two people and their young students I was reminded of that and the contrast between what I sensed there and what I’d been through that afternoon was almost overwhelming.

What is done in that studio and what I used to do over forty odd years ago and what I do now is all linked. Yat’s work is described as the Psychology of Movement and what I learnt as a student and as an actor with Yat and Christopher and all the rest has a great deal to do with what I do now, and with what Buddhism has to say about the human condition, our suffering and the cause of our suffering. Life and living and dealing with our difficulties has to be a creative process. You must try to be a creative person. I do and if ever I’m called that it will be for me one of the greatest of compliments.

End of Vassa Merit Making and Robe Offering

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We had a marvellous day with something like two hundred people here – three coaches and thirty cars, they say. Khun Peter from Two Point Restaurant was the main sponsor and he and everyone who came, they were so generous. And the weather too was good to us, the rain cleared and the sun shone. New robes were offered, and an assortment of supplies, there was plenty of good food and around £3,500 was collected – Anumodana!

There are more pictures here. And pretty much the same on Facebook, here.

TBSUK Committee Meeting

This afternoon a meeting of the committee of the Theravada Buddhist Sangha in the UK (TBSUK) was held at The Forest Hermitage. The purpose of the meeting was to take forward the proposal, agreed at our last General Meeting in August, to develop TBSUK as a professional registration body for Theravada Sangha members in the UK.

This was a well attended meeting with almost a full complement of committee members present. Only Venerable Seelawimala of the London Buddhist Vihara was unable to be with us.

For the benefit of Ashin Pannobaso who was not at the last couple of meetings and to remind other members, I briefly related the circumstances that had led us to consider the advantages of having all Theravada monks and nuns in this country properly and professionally registered with a responsible and known association or body, just as is the case with practically all other professions. I explained that this is not to be disrespectful of our various origins in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, or wherever, but to develop for the UK a body not unlike what we have in those various Buddhist countries that registers, regulates and to some extent governs, represents and protects the Sangha. Furthermore nearly all our monasteries and temples in this country are small and it’s obvious, especially with some of the problems we have in common, that what each of us on our own can achieve is relatively limited but when we come together so much more can be done. A recent example has been the Immigration problem and I’m sure it made a difference when I was able to say at a meeting with the Immigration Minister that I was representing fifty temples. Registration will be voluntary and will take time and so I believe we should get on with it as soon as possible.

I’m pleased to say that we had a very useful discussion and now the work begins.

When our main business had concluded, Ven. Chao Khun Phrapanyabuddhiwithet (Ajahn Laow) raised two matters that he had brought from a recent meeting of Thai monks in Europe. The first concerned a so called work of art in Munich that features a large Buddha-Rupa on its side. This has caused a lot of offence and there’s been quite a bit about it I believe in the Thai press. But the protests have all been ignored. And the second was the refusal of Belgium to recognise Buddhism as a religion and in consequence of this there have been some difficulties put in the way of monks going to there. I don’t think there’s much we can do about the first matter but regarding the second I said I would make some enquiries about what EU law has to say about it.

All in all it was an excellent afternoon and I’m so grateful to everyone for going to the trouble of coming here.