IV. Sangharakshita’s Career
b | Sangharakshita’s involvement with British Buddhism in the 1960s
In 1964 Sangharakshita made a visit to England, his first for twenty years, at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust (EST) — whose overall aim was the establishment of an English Buddhist monastic Sangha. The EST was evidently impressed by Sangharakshita, and they soon invited him, as the seniormost English bhikkhu, to be the Chief Incumbent at their Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. But in 1966, while Sangharakshita was in India making a farewell tour, he received a letter from the EST informing him that they would be
seeking elsewhere for an Incumbent to have charge of the religious life of the Vihara. [ 56 ] In seeking to substantiate its defamatory portrait of Sangharakshita, The FWBO Files makes much of this episode, repeating unfounded rumours that have been a source of mistrust in British Buddhism for 30 years. The trustees of the ESTsubsequently attempted to stem the rumours when the situation had become riven with gossip. [ 57 ] But even now, over thirty years later, the unsubstantiated rumours persist. Sangharakshita is presently writing about this period in his memoirs, and this will be the first time that he has given a full and public account of his side of the story. [ 58 ]
[ 56 ]
Letter from the EST was evidently impressed by Sangharakshita, and they soon invited him, as the seniormost English bhikkhu, to be the Chief Incumbent at their Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. But in 1966, while Sangharakshita was in India making a farewell tour, he received a letter from the EST Trustees to Sangharakshita dated 1 November 1966 (WBO Archives).
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[ 57 ]
‘The Ven. Sangharakshita — A Statement’. The Directors of the English Sangha Trust Ltd. wish it to be known that in deciding to replace the Ven. Sthavira Sangharakshita in the office of Chief Incumbent at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara they are not making any charge of impropriety or misconduct against him. The Directors hope that whatever may have been said to the detriment of his character in the course of recent speculation and gossip may now be withdrawn and that all concerned may turn their energies to the study and practice of the Dharma. The Buddhist, February 1967.
In November 1997 Lance Cousins, an academic and seasoned observer of these issues commented:
I heard various claims that S[angharakshita] was asked to leave India in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have never believed them, since they only surfaced after feelings had become both public and very bitter. Internet Newsgroup uk.religion.buddhist, November 1997.
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