June began for me with a very busy weekend.
On Saturday, June 1st we had the second of this year’s quarterly Angulimala workshops for Buddhist prison chaplains. This particular one was rather special because our guest for the afternoon was Nick Hardwick CBE, HMI Chief Inspector of Prisons. We have been fortunate in the past to have had the three previous Chief Inspectors, Judge Stephen Tumim, Sir David (now Lord) Ramsbotham and Dame Anne Owers come here to speak at our workshops and I was pleased that we were able to continue the tradition with the latest holder of the post. I must say that Nick Hardwick was very generous with his time and gave us a very enjoyable, useful and inspiring afternoon.
These workshops are long days for me because not only is there the preparation but then the meetings run from 10 o’clock in the morning right through until 7 or 8 in the evening. So you can imagine I might prefer to take it easy the day after but that’s not always possible and on June 2nd I had to leave early for my first Sunday of the month Dana and Dhamma Desana at Khun Peter’s restaurant near Baker Street in London. And when that was over I had to make a pretty swift return in time to be at Coventry Cathedral for a service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. So, you can see it was a busy weekend.
A few days later on June 4th we had a visit by Luang Por Kumpong, a senior monk of Wat Pah Pong, who came for the meal with a group of monks from Amaravati. I have known LP Kumpong since 1973 when newly arrived he was still in white and sent over by Luang Por Chah from Wat Pah Pong to Wat Keun to spend his probationary period with us there. It was a pleasure to see him and to welcome him to The Forest Hermitage, Wat Pah Santidham.
I’m mainly only setting down here the principal events of these few weeks, you can take for granted that every week on usually three days I am out and about with my prison visits and odd moments here are also occupied with Buddhist prison matters. It was after one of these visits on June 19th, which just happened to be the first anniversary of the death of my old friend Victor Spinetti, that I called on his brother who lives not far from here and we spent a lovely couple of hours remembering Victor. Then the next day I was off down to the Isle of Wight to visit the Buddhists in the two remaining prisons there.
Then we had Ajahn Cittagutto come for a week. He was the first monk to ordain here and now lives in Northern Thailand. Every year he visits his family in Germany and comes over here to see me. The day he left, Ajahn Manapo embarked on another tudong walk. We packed him off on a train down to Weymouth where he was met and driven to his starting point somewhere nearby. At Bradford-0n-Avon he ran into the owner of a Thai restaurant who with others is in the process of creating a small temple in an old building near the river. He stopped there for two nights and while he was there I went down to see him and the place and meet the good people setting this up. The result of this chance encounter is that from September Ajahn Manapo will be going down there every Monday for five weeks to teach meditation and then we’ll see what happens after that. His walk ended a few days later back here in time to be here before Tahn Nyanavisuddhi returned to Amaravati. We very much enjoyed having Ven. Nyanavisuddhi here and I hope he’ll be back.
By this time we were well into July and the following week was a birthday week. Khun Ting’s was on the 16th but she invited us to her restaurant in Nottingham on the 15th. That was also the day that work began on the new gate. Then it was my birthday on the 17th and as usual people were very generous. There was one huge cake presented when we were at Khun Ting’s and another on the day with cards and presents. Really, it’s amazing! I have to pinch myself to remind myself that at 69 I am now in my seventieth year!
That evening and the next day it was back to prisons. In the evening of the 17th I was at Rye Hill and on the 18th I went all the way up to the Lake District to see the Buddhist group in Haverigg Prison. Afterwards we had a little drive around Lake Windermere which was nice.
Of course my special reason for making that extra effort to go to Haverigg and at other prisons as well as here was because we were celebrating Asalha Puja or as it’s sometimes known now, Dhamma Day. This is the anniversary of the Buddha’s First Sermon. The actual day was Monday, July 22nd with the Entry to the Vassa the following day but our celebration at The Forest Hermitage was on Sunday, July 21st and a very lovely day it was too.