When Bhanté was 102, he had a middle cerebral artery stroke… a common type of brain vessel rupture in the brain. Alan Stein, his wife and their son Alex, lived in Potomac, Maryland at that time. Alan is an architect who studied with Bhanté at Claymont.
Initially, Bhanté was semi-conscious. The initial focus was to keep him hydrated and nourished. Gradually, over about six months, he recovered rather completely from our external view. Well after the event, Bhanté mentioned to me that he felt he had lost much in his language skills, although it was not apparent to any of us who are his students.
One meaningful moment from that time was when Cinuçen Tanrıkorur and his wife came to visit. Cinuçen was an oud master, prolific composer of Turkish classical music, musicologist, and music journalist. He served as the director of Turkish Music at Ankara Radio, and taught music at Selçuk University.
He was born in Istanbul. He was first exposed to music through his uncle Mecdinevin Tanrikorur, who was a student of Münir Nurettin Selçuk. He was introduced to the oud through his mother, and started composing at the age of 14. At the age of 22, he became a musician at the Istanbul Radio. He is a graduate of the Italyan lisesi high school, and later studied architecture in Istanbul, and then moved to Ankara where he worked for the government as an architect. He wrote a method for the oud, which was awarded a prize by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. He was later the director of the traditional music section at Ankara Radio for several years. He composed over 500 pieces of both instrumental and vocal music. He is regarded as one of the greatest contemporary Turkish composers in the classical tradition. He also created a new mode, Makam Şedd-i sabâ, which he demonstrated in a classical suite (fasıl) of six pieces.
Cinuçen was in his late fifties when he visited because of what had been diagnosed as an inoperable tumor on or near his spine. His wife advocated natural cures, with which Bhanté resonated. He gave specific advice about diet and herbs, about prayer and green dichromatic light, about activity and gratitude. While he did better than expected, my recollection is that Cinuçen passed in 2000. He wife graciously stayed in touch.
Another moment within that period was when Bhanté and I sat on a daybed in his room at Alan’s house while Alan changed the lock on the door. Bhanté was planning to travel while leaving his possessions with Alan. For a timeless period, my mind was still and free of thought.
After a delicious period of timelessness, a thought bubbled up at the psychoemotional ties that bind us known as samskara. I asked Bhanté if he would enlighten me about such matters. With a smile, he said, “If the experience of the last few hours is not sufficient in this moment, please excuse me, I am, how you say, old and it is time for me to retire.”
And so it was at that moment.
Bhanté had eight more years of teaching, traveling, and being with those of us who loved him.