A list of honour: some of my teachers and influences in approximate chronological order
"Of course we can always imagine more perfect conditions, how it should be ideally, how everyone should behave. But it is not our task to create an ideal. It's our task to see how it is, and to learn from the world as it is. For the awakening of the heart, conditions are always good enough". Ajahn Sumedho
Whatever benefits may be on offer on this website are really a sum of these many parts, including a good number of others that are not mentioned here for the sake of brevity.
I am wanting to create this list of influences out of a desire to honour that fact.
This is not an attempt to claim lineage holder rights on anybody here. I am a disciple of the lineage of awakening and I stand and fall on that sword alone at the end of the day.
It is moving for me and perhaps interesting for you to see how contact in various ways with inspirational lives makes us who we are.
We all need contact with those with blessing power to become more of ourselves.
Each life contributes to an increasingly enriched whole. In some mysterious way a part of each of these spirits lives on inside me.
Not all these relationships have been a rose garden. But looking for perfection is like “looking for a turtle with a moustache” as Ajan Chah said.
But these relationships have all been “good enough” and ultimately culminate in a felt sense of gratitude for the best of what humans can offer.
A felt sense of respect for ones elders is healthy and I wish that you all find the mentors you need in life.
I was about 16 years old when my brother showed me a book about the Shivapuri Baba. I remember being stunned when finding out he was 120 years old when this photo was taken and this picture has been etched in mind ever since.
This alerted me to the fact there was a degree of human potential that could be realised I had no clue existed. It is said Queen Victoria wrote much about him in her diaries but all references to him were destroyed after her death.
There is a story that he was having dinner with the Queen and George Bernard Shaw when Shaw said to him “the life of you mystics is a total waste of time you do nothing for the world ” the Shivapuri Baba replied, “but I live outside of time, I live in eternity”.
I did my first retreat aged 19 with Tew and he was my first ever teacher. It was with him I had my rather dramatic Kundalini experience and he skillfully nursed me through like a midwife. There were only 2 on this retreat and he led it with his full attention.
I then did a number of retreats with Diravamsa. At the time I was so impressed with him I planned to go live with him in the USA.
He subjected me to some super intense body work and left me with instruction I still ponder to this day. At one point he had be lying on the floor and had his assistant drive her thumb deep into my solar plexus with unrelenting force. He was trying to get my juices flowing no doubt.
I never met Trungpa in person but was heavily involved with his community in Scotland and did several retreats with teachers he sent over from the USA. There was some real electricity and magic about his lineage, he was a spiritual genius – but I do not wish to hide from the fact that there were a lot of things that also went very wrong with his “crazy wisdom” approach that is well documented but conveniently ignored by some.
He openly admitted to an acquaintance of mine that he struggled with a drinking problem after he crashed his MG into a joke a shop in Scotland. Never the less he remains influential even now for some reason.
A big influence on my early life. I met him in Edinburgh and he impressed me as the first truly joyful westerner that I had ever met.
After my first retreat with him I asked to ordain I lived with him for many years and despite his passing, he still lives on for many.
He had been a US Marine and had a bullet in the back of the head.
He eventually died of a brain tumour, caused by the trauma of the wound, strangely on the same day he was shot in Vietnam.
I lived with him in my first years as a novice. If ever there was a natural monk he is probably the one. He is presently the Abbot of Amaravati Monastery in England.
The founding father of the order I was to ordain in. It so happened that on the day I left home to become a novice, the last day of my life as an independent young man, he appeared on TV in the morning and I always felt it was almost a personal message of support in a synchronic way. Look up “the mindful way” on YouTube if you want to see him in action.
This was my preceptor when I became a novice and he stood and watched when my head was first shaved.
He was clearly impressed that as a young educated westerner I had chosen to ordain and he made it clear he viewed it as auspicious. I don’t wish to make a big deal out of that but it is a point of interest, that he was alert to the emergence of Buddhist influence in the west.
He was a very still and had a very fatherly presence.
He was my preceptor when I took full ordination. He is really the founding father of the western order.
He has been a very large and impressive presence in the lives of all involved in that community.
He has an incredible flair for reflective insight born of intuitive awareness. After listening to thousands of hours of his talks his way of looking is pretty much imprinted deep into my psyche.
Mentored me for many years. Challenged me on my lack of humility and taught me to ask for help. Had the smarts to send me away on pilgrimage when I grew obnoxious and difficult – turned into the best experience of my life. Presently the Abbot of Harnham monastery.
I was his personal attendant for a period of time and have many stories of life with him. Sometime a difficult relationship no doubt for us both, but always an undeniable inspiration.
In his early monastic life, he was known was extremely ascetic – he is a much-changed man now and certainly not your average Joe. A great wordsmith and ongoing influence and inspiration.
Famously escaped death by thieves while in India who carried machetes by coolly offering them his head to chop off. They where so impressed they left him to live.
He was around during my Chithurst years. He took a great shine to our community.
The first time I met him I was electrified in the heart – it was and experience of Shaktipat that we both implicitly understood had occurred.
We had some sort of affinity and I was momentarily tempted to run away with him, despite visiting him at Skanavale I stayed where I was.
Bhante had a big impact on me. I was his attendant when he visited Chithurst.
He was friends with George Lucas and is the inspiration for the character Yoda in the star war movies.
I can only describe being in his presence as magical – and many magical things would happen around him. He was 106 when I took this photo of him. He told me if I kept practising that life would get “richer and richer”
I was present when he was interviewed by the BBC – unfortunately, it was never broadcast but it was truly far out.
The supremely overconfident interviewer was evidently rattled by being his presence – I don’t think she had ever met such a real human being.
When asked, “what is enlightenment”? he replied without hesitation “enlightenment is when you turn yourself into light” and he is right. Not your average BBC content.
Perhaps the most inspirational human I ever met. I was lucky to spend a whole day with him showing him around the Swiss Alps. Whenever I met him my whole being was shaken to my core. A true metta master. He was nominated for the Nobel peace prize for leading a peace march during the time of the Khmer Rouge. They tried to kill him many times and their efforts always failed. He was mysteriously protected.
I remember giving him the cord my glasses are hanging on for his own glasses.
Remembering that brings me joy – he was the definition of a “field of merit” and it illustrates the power of giving.
He was the head monk of Sri Lanka
Another amazing encounter in my life – he matter of factly told me one day he was a tree spirit in the bodhi tree at the time of the Buddhas enlightenment.
Despite being famously bookish remarkable inexplicable things used to happen around him all the time when I was with him, which may not mean too much but certainly made an impression.
I became aware of the lack of the feminine in monastic life and always felt a strong affinity with Mother Meera.
I kept this image of her on my shrine. I always felt her presence particularly strongly on my birthday for some inexplicable reason but it has always been most palpable.
I am not reading much into that other than her presence has felt real as an energetic learning about the divine feminine and so I include her here.
Not someone you forget meeting. He befriended the Forest Sangha and was a highly impressive person.
Feeling the way his presence filled the room was like bathing in still warm bath water. A kind of somatic initiation that is always remembered.
Was on a bus with him when the first Gulf war started and he burst into tears.
He was unambiguous about his feelings on eating meat saying the karmic consequences of killing so many animals was devastating for mankind.
You can decide for yourself if that makes sense.
His work has had a huge influence on me and fellow monastic greatly enriching my/our understanding of the Buddhist part of my life.
I wrote to him as a monk and replied with a three-page A4 handwritten fax that I was thrilled by.
One of the great cultural heroes of our time unfortunately little known outside of Jungian circles.
She was a pretty much head of the woman’s order until she disrobed.
Been a great friend and inspirational mentor to me who has always offered me unconditional support throughout the vagaries of my roller coaster journey, which has been a great gift and help.
A natural born mystic if ever there was one and ex-monastic friend that has managed to maintain an impressive intensity of practice throughout his entire life.
Deserves wider recognition so his great gifts as teacher and communicator so as he may reach more people.
He was my teacher at the homoeopathic college. After living with the above characters it was hard for me to find teachers I felt much natural respect for but he lived up to the task.
A knower of mysteries a polymath and great orchestrator of happy times for his students.
I regard him as a deeply flawed spiritual genius who ran a very dysfunctional community.
Never the less it’s always possible to separate the wheat from chaff and it would be disingenuous for me to exclude him from this list as I listened to every talk I could get hold of.
He had a genius for articulating highly nuanced aspects of spiritual life in original and almost poetic ways. He had a facility of speech that was second to none that helped shape my path as his talks have resonated in me for years.
He tried to visit our community but the Abbot at the time decided he may have too much of a disruptive influence on the young amongst us so the opportunity passed.
I have followed the work of Ken Wilber for over 30 years although I have not met him in person.
His work has seeped into my outlook over the years and helps with the work of orientation. It’s a bit of a love hate thing but there is no denying his influence.
The last senior monk I lived with. Obviously now disrobed. Taught me through his way of being how to be less of an “air head”. A master craftsman and the true “jester” in our community. The only person that could get away with saying the most outrageous things in the most formal of situations.
World renowned cranial teacher and trauma therapist was kind enough to support me through my long winded journey to disrobing.
Did things with me in therapy I never knew where possible.