Bhanté meeting HH the Dalai Lama on Capitol Hill

Among the more memorable moments was when the 14th Dalai Lama was invited to Capitol Hill for the first time to speak about the plight of the Tibetans. Charlie Rose, a congressman from the Carolinas, and Milton Friedman, his chief of staff, provided the formal invitation.

When we arrived on Capitol Hill for the event, as we got out of the car, camera people ran over and started to take pictures of Bhanté. I whispered to him, “perhaps they think you are HH.” He whispered back, “I know, and they will figure it out.”

His Holiness’ remarks were succinct and heartfelt. As he came off the dais, he noticed Bhanté in the far corner, along with Jim Turner and me. HH proceeds to put his forehead on Bhanté’s toes as a sign of reverence and respect. They spoke briefly in Pali. HH then proceeded to the receiving line where Senators, Congresspeople and staff were lined up in protocol order.

I pulled on Bhanté’s elbow and asked why HH had shown such respect. Bhanté responded that ‘he is permitted to do this’. Asking if I should do the same, he asked if I wanted to. As a formal show of respect, Bhanté was disinterested. But, as a genuine, spontaneous sign of respect, it is permitted.

As you can read in other episodes, Bhanté had been instrumental in securing Daramsala as a government in exile for the Tibetans. He had also spent a year teaching protocol to the young Dalai Lama from about 1959-1960. Bhanté had also spent a year, at the request of the US State Department, to brief them after the French withdrew from Cambodia. Bhanté advocated to John Foster, Alan Dulles, and President Eisenhower to keep America out of IndoChina. Indeed, Bhanté served as personal liaison to Norodom Sihanook, the King of Cambodia at that time.

Bhanté recovers from a stroke at Alan Stein’s home in Potomac, Maryland

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.

Bhanté traveling over Memorial Day weekend to LA via BWI

Students of Bhanté, either from Claymont or from the College for Continuous Education in the UK, requested him over Memorial Day weekend to perform a ceremony.

He asked me to book his ticket. The best fare I could find was on American Airlines departing and returning to BWI, Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore.

When we arrived at BWI, upon entering the terminal we were met with a huge banner: ‘People Express: The Low-Cost Carrier’. Bhanté scanned it and asked if he was flying on People Express. My response was that his ticket is on American Airlines.

He asked me to find out if People Express had a better fare. The terminal was quite busy because Memorial Day weekend is one of the days in the year when travelers abound.

I asked for a supervisor at People Express. I asked if he would check BWI-LAX and to his surprise he found one seat. I asked if he could check the return for Monday, Memorial Day. While the computer checked, he informed me it is unlikely that a seat would be available as most flights were by then over-booked.

Again to his surprise, the computer found a seat. He printed the ticket. Looking at the ticket, he seemed perplexed. Asking what was going on, he informed me that the fare was their lowest fare; what you might get if you booked many months in advance.

Not quite knowing what to do at that moment, two choices were offered to the supervisor. First choice, the gentleman in saffron robes about 20 feet away can come over and perhaps explain what happened. Second choice is to clear my credit card and save yourself a few minutes. Taking the second choice, I brought the ticket to Bhanté and he asked if we had saved any money. Yes, $39 if my memory is accurate. His point seemed to be that this was someone else’s money and we had to be assiduous stewards. He made his point.

The total fare was ~$294 compared to $255.

Bhanté came back from that weekend in his usual, radiant state. He rarely spoke about events that occurred. He spoke about the moment and about related moments that he and others present had shared.

If you are wondering if Bhanté was able to mentally influence circumstances, including machines, my experience is that answer is up to each of us who spends unencumbered time with people like him. As “mind-boggling” as this episode may seem, there are many other moments where it seemed there was a distortion in the space-time continuum.

Buddhist Ceremony between Russ and Rebecca by Bhanté

After Rebecca’s father Robert and Maria Carmen Calvo established their relationship, I proposed that Rebecca and I affirm our relationship by receiving blessings from those whom we held dear at the traditional time for those spiritual ceremonies. We were fortunate that each of the individuals whose blessing we sought were available at the traditional time for such ceremonies to be held. Curiously, most of them were only available during the small time window we sought their blessing. All had been mentors and sources of inspiration to me.

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Bhanté was his usual composed, present, kindly self only more radiant than usual. He made clear that he was affirming our relationship in Pali, Sanskrit, French, Cambodian, and English. A friend (Vee Lyons) was able to secure a wedding dress that was insured for a substantial sum on loan from Sotheby’s where she worked. The fabric was hundreds of years old. Rebecca was radiant in that costume. The dress looked as if it had long been hers.

Bhanté’s chanting transported me into an unusual state of enhanced awareness yet concurrent non-attachment.

Two friends of mine from California, Bryce and Lorraine, made a vegetarian festive meal to celebrate the event. They had driven cross country to attend the ceremonies. They schlepped 5 pounds of organic almond meal, dates, natural vanilla and spices with them. Bryce was a student of Dr Ramamurti Mishra from his San Francisco Ashram and Lorraine was Bryce’s lady. Bryce was from a wealthy Texan family. As a teenager, he rejected wealth and the hypocrisy he observed in his family and their friends. He ended up in Haight Ashbury and then became a student of Dr Mishra.

Bryce called me about 3 weeks before the events asking if I needed a chef for anything. He had a dream that we needed a lot of healthy food. He wanted to be the one who supervised the food preparation.

Bryce was a friend whom I trusted. Lorraine was his muse, confidant and person who made happen what Bryce envisioned. A lovely couple and a healthy balance of skills and talents. This made the feeding of people at the events easy and effortless for me.

We needed a food & beverages coordinator, a travel and lodging coordinator, and a spiritual practices coordinator for each event and then a coordinator of coordinators (24 in total).

Bryce became the nature food & beverages coordinator. Travel & lodging was coordinated by Russ’s secretary at the time. Spiritual practices was coordinated by Russ. Addison Woolcott Lee IV provided musical interludes and candid photography. David Sanders recorded sound and handled lighting. My brother Mitch and sister Marcy helped when and where needed.

Rebecca’s father and step-mother attended the Buddhist ceremony. So did Vee and Dudley Lyons. About 30 people attended including Wayne Silbey, a pioneer in socially responsible investing and founder of the Calvert Fund.

The ceremony started at about 11 AM and lasted until about 1 PM followed by an informal reception and buffet lunch.

HH was gracious enough to grant us half an hour while he was in transit on his way to Switzerland, stopping at JFK airport. Indira Gandhi had been assassinated. There had been an unsuccessful attempt on his life. There had been a bomb threat at the Air India Terminal at JFK just before we arrived. People had evacuated the building. Sikh guards had cordoned off the building. We tried to explain that we had an appointment with HH. We were informed that no one may enter the building.

Behind the guards, a young Tibetan monk identified us and cleared us through to the bomb-proof room where HH and entourage sheltered. He sent everyone out except the monk that stays with him at all times. Half the time we spoke about spiritual science. Half the time we prayed. Both Elsa Hart and Rebecca felt a warmth in the 3rd eye region.

Elsa stayed with a friend. Rebecca and I returned to Elsa’s apartment whose rent I paid for some years as a thank you for her generous mentoring help in the early days of the EAB lab. The apartment was in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan near the UN. The building was on the corner of 48th St and 2nd Ave. It served for a number of years as a tier in Manhattan while the family lived an hour away in Hopewell. A lovely neighborhood. Kurt Vonnegutt, Jill Krementz and their daughter Lily and family were neighbor friends of Elsa. Katharine Hepburn’s brownstone was across the inner courtyard.

That may have been the evening Rebecca and I conceived Anna.

Missing Bhanté for a year and then meeting at his birthday party by serendipity

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By: Dr. Russell Jaffe

Interest in non-invasive measurements and non-invasive therapies led to a general interest in light therapy also sometimes called color therapy or phototherapy.

20th century advocates included Dinshah Jhadiali (Spectro Chrome Metry Encyclopedia of Color and Light). Before him there was Edwin Babbitt (Color and Light) from which Faber Birren extracted parts and made a lifetime’s work in fashion and design. There was also Dr. Abrams and his light box with a 2,000 watt Klieg light source passing through glass of different colors (made of lead glass; can not be painted nor made of acetate or plastic).

Along the way, anecdotes came up about a Buddhist monk who had decoded a color healing system. By report, the system had been included in the teachings of the Buddha, practiced for 500 years, lost for 2,000 years and rediscovered by this fellow, Bhanté Dharmawara.

To my surprise, he was then a scholar in residence at Georgetown University. Only much later did I learn he accepted this position so that his great granddaughter (Phobol Cheng) would qualify for a faculty scholarship so that she would gain a Masters in International Studies to then become the Cambodian representative at the United Nations in New York.

The few times I went, hoping he might be in the building, he was not. The staff said that he was a nice older fellow, however, he kept his own calendar and schedule. At the end of the semester (May) he departed without any forwarding information that I was able to obtain.

A few months later, Chris McCloud (an etheric massage therapist who had studied with Diana Adkins) called seeking a ride to a monk’s birthday party. Reluctantly i agreed, probably because in our social circle mine was the only operative vehicle at that moment. In Oxon Hill Maryland was the first buddhist vihara in the Capital District.

Address:

Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc.
13800 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Voice & Fax: 301-622-6544
http://www.cambodian-buddhist.org/

The Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc. was organized in 1976 and incorporated in the State of Maryland in 1978. The headquarters of the society, called the Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Wat Buddhikarama), was located first in Oxon Hill, MD, then in New Carrollton, MD, and finally was moved to Silver Spring, MD in 1987.

The Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc. is governed by a Board of Directors of 15 members. Except for the Buddhist monks on the Board, all members of the Board are elected biannually.

The four objectives of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc., are:

– to conserve the Cambodian Buddhist religion
– to conserve the Cambodian culture
– to provide training
– to provide human assistance

Vatt Buddhikarama plays a crucial role in Cambodian life in Cambodia and especially in America. There are at the time of this writing six Buddhist Monks at the Temple. These monks serve as Dhamma teachers and counselors, and preside over various ceremonies. They perform religious and traditional ceremonies at the Temple and at peoples’ homes upon invitation. These ceremonies include birthdays, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and house warmings, to name just a few. Cambodians invite Buddhist Monks to give them blessings.

Every Sunday, the Temple conducts classes on the Cambodian language, Cambodian classical and folklore dance, Cambodian music, and chanting. Also, every Saturday, the Temple provides citizenship training for people, especially the elderly, who want to become citizens of the United States. At the same time, English lessons are given to the elderly.

The Vihara (Buddha Hall).

The Buddha Hall is a genuine Cambodian Shrine which has all the characteristics of a typical Cambodian Vihara in Cambodia. On the outside, the Shrine is decorated with all the Cambodian art works reserved for a Buddhist temple. Inside on the main floor, a giant Buddha Image imposingly sits on the altar surrounded by smaller images. Large oil paintings depicting the life of the Buddha decorate the wall, and two large crystal chandeliers along with ceiling spot-lights provide lighting for the Shrine. The building was completed at the end of 1992 and was consecrated in July 1993. The total cost of the project was about $1.7 million dollars. Because of this distinctive and artful Vihara, the Cambodian Buddhist Temple is a point of interest for tourists visiting the Washington DC area. The main instigator of the shrine was Ven. Oung Mean Candavanno, former abbot of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple.

Ven. Preah Sumedhavansa Oung Mean Candavanno

Ven. Preah Sumedhavansa Oung Mean Candavanno was born on March 13, 1927 near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He became a novice monk at the age of 14, and remained ordained as a Buddhist monk after the novice service. He studied religion, Pali, and Sanskrit in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India, and England. He was fluent in Khmer (Cambodian), Hindi, French, English, Pali, Sanskrit, Thai, and Burmese. He served in several positions in the Cambodian Buddhist hierarchy and in delegations to several countries.

In 1974, Ven. Candavanno pursued his doctorate program at Manchester University, England. His study was cut short by the events in Cambodia in 1975; and he migrated to the United States in January, 1978. At the Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Wat Buddhikarama), Ven Candavanno immediately expanded the activities of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc. He was so popular that he was able to raise more than one million dollars in one year to complete the Vihara (Buddha Hall).

Ven. Preah Sumedhavansa Oung Mean Candavanno passed away on Tuesday March 16, 1993 at the age of 66. Bhanté had ordained and mentored him.

Back to the ‘meeting Bhanté’ saga

When leaving his birthday party, I gave him my card and affirmed my interest in studying with him the color healing system he had re-discovered.

Two days later, while puttering around a 2 bedroom bachelor’s apartment in Greenbelt, Maryland, there was a knock on the door. Upon opening the door, I was surprised to find him standing in front of me. He said, “You look surprised, did you not invite me?” My response was something to the effect… yes, I invited you, however, I thought you might call before coming. “Why”, he said, “You are here.”

He came in and wandered around the apartment in silence for 15 minutes. Long enough for me to be uncomfortable with the silence. Long enough for him to find nooks and crannies that I did not know existed. At the end of his inspection, he announced that the apartment was suitable. The monks who were with him, went out to the car and brought in his possessions. He moved in.

It was like having a foster grandfather. Bhante initially distinguished himself through mindful awareness, compassion, kindness, excellent timing, and as a great cook.

While my interests were esoteric and subtle, he giggled when i inquired about such subjects. He spent time in the kitchen until I discovered that he felt my feet were not well grounded. He guided me in cutting carrots and onions; celery and parsley. As I became a better cook and chef du cuisine, he became much more interesting and engaging.

Over time, because of the people who sought him out for counsel, it became clearer who he was. While he never claimed anything, he had documentation when needed that often astounded and amused. While he never rushed, he was never late. He was as docile as a dove and as cunning as a fox. He never lied and he was often shrewd.

The awareness and frame of reference seemed so vastly more than I could imagine that he became the principal spiritual influence in my life.

Bob Leichtman, when asked to look at Bhanté, commented that this was his second to the last lifetime. That his reincarnation is the due and eagerly awaited next Maitreya Buddha; the Next enlightened human. Bob also commented that in this lifetime, Bhanté would have a global influence through serendipitous interactions with remarkable people. Among those of whom I was aware, Jawaharlal Nehru, B K Nehru, Mohandas Gandhi, B. R. Ambedkar, Indira Gandhi, Meira Kumar, Norodom Sihanouk, Savang Vadhana, John G Bennett, the 14th Dalai Lama, Jerry Brown, John Vasconcellos, Mark Leno, Timothy Healy, Josh Reynolds, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Abdul-Aziz Said, Elon Leibner and Dudley & Volina Lyons.