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Vol. III, No. 11, 1958

          At 3.25 p.m on 12th April 1958, the Buddhist organisations of Western Europe had the privilege of welcoming Ven. Sayadaw U Thittila and Ven. Pannadipa who had travelled together from Rangoon as representatives of the Union of Burma Buddha Sasana Council. They were met at London Airport by members of the Ven. Sayadaw's particular organisation, the Buddha Study Association of which he is President, and escorted to the London Buddhist Vihara, 10 Ovington Gardens, S.W.3, where Ven. Pandit Saddhatissa Mahathera is in charge.

          Ven. Sayadaw U Thittila, being already well-known over a period of many years in England and on the continent of Europe, had a full programms awaiting him concerning both his work amongst the Burmese residents and the specific organisations depending on his lectures, advice and instructions for the work to be undertaken during the coming year. On 13th April, H.E. the Burmese Ambassador and his wife invited the Ven. Sayadaw and Ven. Pannadipa to lunch, after which the Ven. Bhikkhus chanted the Metta Sutta and the Ven. Sayadaw discoursed on Metta, while - at each week-end during their stay they were entertained by personnel of the Burmese Embassy and of the Burmese Section of the B.B.C. Gatherings I were always celebrated by the chanting of the Metta Sutta and by short talks. Frequently the Ven. Bhikkhus have been entertained to lunch by Daw Mya Sein, the proprietress of the Burma Restaurant, and the Ven. Sayadaw has been taking to his various appointments in the cars of Mr. I and Mrs. R. Iggleden and Mr. G. Cruikshank.

          In the period preceding the Wesak Festival, Ven. U Thittila spoke in Burmese on the Burmese Section of the B.B.C. at 4.30 p.m. on 24th April; his subject was "Wesak". On the 20th, 23rd and 30th April, respectively, he lectured at the Vihara to the Buddha Study Association on "What is Happiness?", "The Laws of Cause and Effect", and "Rebirth". For the Abhidhamma Study Group he held classes on the Patthana on 22nd and 29th April. At the opening ceremony of the Wesak celebrations at the Vihara when, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Gunasena de Soysa, High Commissioner for Ceylon, Ven. Saddhatissa invited H.E. U Aung Soe, the Burmese Ambassador in London. to hoist the Buddhist flag over the building, Ven. UThittila, heading a list of distinguished speakers, discoursed on the significance of Wesak and all that the terms "Buddha" and "Buddhism" imply. At 2.30 on 3rd May, on the "East Asia Calling" Section of the B.B.C., he gave a talk on "Buddhism" and subsequently answered a number of questions.

          Renewing his contact with the University of Oxford Buddhist Society, at 8.15 p.m. on 5th May, the Ven. Sayadaw spoke to the group on "Meditation" returning on 12th May to conduct a discussion relating thereto. At 7.30 p.m. on 8th May, he addressed the World Congress of Faiths 23 Norfolk Square, W.2, and at 7 p.m. on the following evening the Theosophical Society, Tavistock Square, W.C.2; his subjects were, respectively, "The Practical Aspect of Buddhism" and "Buddhist Psychology". On Sunday, 11th May at 5.3O, he spoke at the Vihara Sunday Meeting on "Causes of Unhappiness", and on the 13th, 20th and 27th continued his lecture to the Abhidhamma Group on the Patthana. For the Buddha Study Association he spoke on the 14th on "The Origin of Life" and on the 21st on the Paticca Samuppada. Both series of lectures were timed for 7.30 p.m. Finally, at 6.30 p.m. on 28th May he addressed the London Buddhist Society, 58 Eccleston Square, S.W.1, on "Buddhism in Burma."

          Having intended to visit France, Germany and Holland, the Ven. Sayadaw expected to leave England on Saturday, 31st May, but since he was obliged, by circumstances beyond his control, to curtail his continental tour, he proceeded to Holland on Tuesday, 10th June. In the interval he has spent more time in reviewing the overall position of his organisations in England and centres of activity which have recently arisen on the Continent.

          This review has confirmed the necessity of greater continuity in the direction and personal management if the Buddhist organisations which have been the Ven. Sayadaws particular care are to expand as healthy organisations should. Many years of work have sown the seeds of success in the expansion of Buddhist teachings, but these cannot mature unless a Burmese centre should be established in Western Europe-and the centre would be in London where the Sayadaw and the assistant Bhikkhus could live and from which they could work. Three points are outstanding regarding the review:

  1. that a considerable change of outlook has occurred during the last few months and that in the present state of flux of thought there is exceptional opportunity to attract followers to the Buddhist Teachings,
  2. that there are some students who have already made suffiificient progress in their studies of Buddhism to be of value to the movement as a whole if they could continue them for another few years,
  3. that the demand for headquarters is not for palatial buildings but for a settled genuine place of work.

         The last of the three points is, of course, that most generally appreciated by Buddhists in England, for they have raised a certain sum of money amongst themselves and are disappointed that the Burmese authorities have shown no sign of giving substantial help. Moreover, enquiries have been received from continental cities which previously showed no interest in Buddhism, yet without a headquarters it is impossible even to deal with the letters. The British Buddhists, and , particularly the members of the Buddha Study Association, while expressing their heartfelt gratitude for the visit of the Ven. Sayadaw U Thittila, do also make an earnest appeal for substantial help from the Burmese authorities, whereby, he may continue to teach them the Dhamma and help them to spread it to others.

A.A.G. Bennett

Edit. Repr. in Europe and the Americas

of the Maha Bodhi Society of India.