Fifty Years, Fifty Voices: Aloka & Surata (Highlights)On Thu, 22 December, 2022 - 11:36
My name is Dharmachari Aloka (long first ‘a’) – born 31 March 1948, London.
In 1968 I was in Maidstone (Kent) in my penultimate year at my third and final Art School, in the midst of my love affair with hallucinogens and narcotics. I spent all of the 60s in various Art Schools starting at the age of 13.
In 1978 I completed six years doing part-time Art teaching - I contacted the movement in 1974 (Wesak) and was Ordained by Bhante in April 1976 along with Atula & Punya during the first Sukhavati community retreat (1 week long). I lived at Sukhavati as a technical assistant to Chintamani helping build his Buddha figures for the LBC shrines. I moved to Norwich at the beginning of 1977 after the first Padmaloka Winter retreat to help Devamitra start a men’s community (Vajrakula) By 1978 I was working in a team-based vegetarian restaurant which I did for 4 years before leaving Norwich.
In 1988 I was living in the Norfolk countryside operating as the ‘Order Coordinator’ to help Bhante be in contact with all Chapter Convenors worldwide. I would send out topics that he wanted to discuss and collate all the replies, plus start Order Convenor retreats and meetings of the Convenors at Order gatherings. In 1988 Subhuti asked me to help out on what became ‘The Going for Refuge Retreats’ to help men understand what was entailed in being part of creating an effective Sangha.
In 1998 I moved back to Norwich with Padmajyoti who’d returned from living back in Mallorca for a time(I’d first met her in 1982). I needed a more stable base for my artwork. I was still working at Padmaloka up until November of 1999 when ill health made it impossible for me to continue. I was eventually diagnosed with Hepatitis C which I had picked up 30 years earlier. After a year-long treatment which left me with chronic health issues, I concentrated on my Artwork plus producing images for Order members and the movement as it better accommodated my unpredictable stamina.
In 2008 I moved to my current base in Norwich at the beginning of 2002 - thanks primarily to the generosity of two Dharmacharis - where I concentrated on my own work plus making images for the Order’s ‘visualisation’ practices. In 2007 Samudradaka started the Padmaloka Shrine Room Project, asking for two large panels a year until the room would literally be panelled with Buddhist iconography.
In 2018 I’m still at the same base with Padmajyoti and continuing with the Shrine Project even though at a greatly reduced work rate. Most of the main panels have been completed but there is still a way to go until all the walls are totally covered.
In 1968 I was aged 20, living with my parents and younger brother in Harold Wood, Essex. I’m from the last remnants of an East London working class ‘extended family’ background. I was in my 4th year of a 5-year Maintenance Fitting and Turning Apprenticeship in a rubber factory. I was doing a block-release OND [Ordinary National Diploma) in Electro-Mechanical Engineering. Learning to drive. Member of a Cycling club – racing and touring. I was gormless, naïve, emotionally blocked and very confused.
In 1978 I was living and working in what would become the LBC. (I’d lost my virginity in 1970 and then given up sex as meaningless. I was still very confused! I’d met Subhuti and Buddhism in 1973 – that was ‘love at first sight’. Ordained at Padmaloka in 1976. I’d been to India with Lokamitra in 1977 to contact some of Bhante’s old friends and visit Mr Iyengar in Puna. I experienced massive culture shock both going to and coming back from India and fell violently and painfully ‘in love’).
I was trying to decide whether to leave Sukhavati and follow ‘the woman’ (the Brighton connection) and train to be an Iyengar Yoga teacher.
In 1988 I was working at the Brighton Buddhist Centre.
(I spent 7 months from August ’79 in France trying to sort out my attitude toward women. I’d been to Tuscany in ’82 on the retreat team and subsequently experienced ‘difficulties’ with some of the local Order Members in Brighton. They disapproved of my then relationship. In 1984 – 86 I did a 2-year Post Graduate Counselling Course.).
I was Men’s and Women’s Mitra Convenor and Men’s and Women’s Mitra study leader and taught Regulars classes and Yoga at the Brighton Centre. I joined the team for my first Guhyaloka 4-month Ordination course and moved to Padmaloka to join the Ordination team in October 1988.
In 1998 I was living and working at Padmaloka on the Ordination team. (I had a mini-breakdown/went ‘haywire’ in 1991, then was on the team for the Guhyaloka 4-month course, then again in ’93. Did a 3-month Solitary in ’93 – ’94 in Guhyaloka. Told I was a Private preceptor and performed my first 3 Private ordinations in ‘95. The 4-month course again in ‘97 & yet more Private ordinations.)
Became interested in Scaravelli Inspired Yoga.
In 2008 I was still living and working at Padmaloka on the Ordination team. (Went on Guhyaloka 2000 4-month course. I was asked to join the College of Public Preceptors and then became 1/8 head of the order in August 2000. Performed my first Public ordination’s in 2001 at Guhyaloka. Many Public and Private ordinations followed! In 2007 I visited my Parents now living in Sydney Australia, and travelling for 2 weeks in Japan.) Began training in Scaravelli Inspired Yoga in London.
In 2018 I am still living and working at Padmaloka and working on the Men’s Ordination team. After decades I’m still trying to adapt to the digital age, e-mails and being a Member of the Preceptors’ College Council, (meetings and administration have never been my forte). I love my work with men who have asked for Ordination and the ever-changing life in an active and vibrant Men’s community.