Friday, 15 July 2011

The Sangharakshita Land Project

Ron L Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, spent his later years on board a ship in search of sunken treasure. Surrounded by his devoted disciples, they sailed from place to place, but never found the treasure.

The Sangharakshita Land Project has echoes of Ron’s search. The TBO has been here before, firstly with Padmaloka, then Guhyaloka then Madhyamaloka. Sangharakshita, who is solitary and bookish, wants a place to study and write, that will also be an organisational headquarters and a venue for hundreds of his disciples to gather. Spot the contradiction? After much time, effort and money the devoted disciples establish ---- loka, and after a few years Sangharakshita decides it’s not for him, and sets his mind on another grand project.

So it is with Sangharakshita Land Project, which we shall call Chimeraloka. How many times will his disciples have to repeat the exercise before it dawns on them that they’ve been there before? A mark of intelligence is learning from your mistakes. Order Members may be ‘Going for Refuge’, but by and large they don’t change very much.

The hunt for Chimeraloka is now nearly 2 years old. It even has its own blog. The cash is there - £2.5 million – and it is a buyer’s market. Yet Chimeraloka, like Ron Hubbard’s treasure, remains elusive.

The last 2 lokas have had an added ingredient: the Sangharakshita Memorial Library. This was supposed to have happened at Madhyamaloka, but the dusty tomes never made it further than the garage. For us ordinary folks, planning your own memorial might seem to have a touch of hubris about it. But spiritual teachers, like the rich, are different.

Sangharakshita is fond of literary allusions. He will no doubt enjoy the reference to Mr Hubbard. But just as apposite is Lord Groan, scion of Gormenghast. His greatest treasure was his vast library, crammed with ancient tomes. Nobody ever read them, but surely that is to miss the point. The point is they stood for something. Symbols should not be undervalued. In Lord Groan’s case, the library stood for his connection to the ancient family past, and when the scheming Steerpike burnt it down, it destroyed him. He lost his reason.

No-one is suggesting, of course, that Sangharakshita has lost his reason. What would be left? In his case, the library is a monument to his intellectual prowess and learning. Again, his books are mostly Buddhist and out of date, and no serious student would use them for research. University libraries are far better funded and up to date. But that is to miss the point. In 100 years, who will know? What will be preserved will be the contents of Sangharakshita’s head, an intimate and impressive collection. Who knows, Sangharakshita may even be re-discovered as the seminal cultural figure he so clearly wishes to be.

Meanwhile, the search for Chimeraloka - the Hunting of the Snark - continues. The search is becoming an institute in its own right, as the blog testifies. It has become an exercise in finding 20 different ways of saying they haven’t found anything.

In 2003, Triratna received a warning shot across the bows when Sangharakshita became anxious and withdrawn for a year (yes, it even happens to Stream Entrants!) It turned out to be a side-effect of his medication. It was a confusing yet liberating time for many of his disciples. 8 years later and Sangharakshita is 85 years old. How long will these ageing members of the TBO continue to dedicate themselves to the contradictory fantasies of an old man?

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