And now for the very, merry month of May and to carry on from where I left off last month, I was out of action for a week or two, nothing serious, just some bug or other but it meant that despite at the last minute saying I would go to receive that honorary doctorate from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, at the very last minute I cancelled – a bit disappointing but never mind – and now I’ll have to wait until I go in January to receive it.
But not going to Thailand did enable me to fulfil another important and long standing engagement. Off and on, for years it seems, and encouraged by a former pupil, there has been the occasional contact between me and Wellington College with a view to my talking to their students and perhaps providing some Buddhist chaplaincy support. At last I had a date to speak there in chapel, it was agreed long before I knew about receiving the honorary doctorate and it was the same weekend. Had I gone to Thailand Ajahn Manapo would have stood in for me – and might well have done better than me – but not going meant I could do it. So I was there to give a ten minute address in chapel on Sunday evening, the 12th May and the following Thursday I was back, again in their magnificent chapel, to give a longer talk followed by questions, which was very stimulating and enjoyable. In case you don’t know, Wellington College is a large, well-endowed public school in Berkshire that used to be I believe for the sons of military officers but is now a modern co-ed establishment with a branch in China. It’s not far from Broadmoor, where I’m the Buddhist chaplain, and was founded by Queen Victoria at around the same time as Broadmoor in the mid nineteenth century and named after the great Duke of Wellington.
The Sangha presence here has been boosted for a while with the welcome arrival of Tahn Nyanavisuddhi who has come over from Amaravati to stay for a couple of months. When I was there at the end of last year for the memorial for John Coleman and at that time on my own here, he very kindly offered to come and help me out and even though Ajahn Manapo unexpectedly came back in February he still came but it is only until just before Vassa which he has to spend at Amaravati.
Usually in May falls the full moon of the ancient lunar month of Vesakha when we remember the Birth, Enlightenment and Final Passing of the Buddha. The Pali scriptures record that each of these events occurred on a Vesakha Full Moon with the Enlightenment, according to traditional dating having taken place 2,551 years ago when he was thirty-five. This year the Vesakha Full Moon was on May 24th and on several days before and after I was involved with Vesak celebrations in the prisons, at Chithurst and at The Forest Hermitage. I hadn’t been to Chithurst since June 1999 but this year I was invited to go for their Vesakha Puja day and give the Dhamma Desana, which I did. That was on May 19th and the week after it was our turn and a very good day we had too with an impressive turnout of students from Warwick Uni, friends old and new and particularly, as every Vesak, our old friends who for years have run the Liverpool Buddhist Society. More pictures are here.
Otherwise, everything carries on as normal.