Monday 24 June, 08:51 pm
Kamalashila lives in West Hampstead, London, with Dharmacharini Yashobodhi. That's where he is in the more recent picture above. Born in 1949, he grew up in Kent as Anthony Matthews. In 1974 he was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order by Urgyen Sangharakshita who gave him his Dharma name: 'Kamalashila' - 'He whose conduct (śila, Sanskrit) is like a red lotus (kamala)'. Though friendly, he is by temperament rather shy, quiet and thoughtful.
Kamalashila has been active for forty years, teaching meditation, establishing communities, writing and leading Dharma study. In 1976 he founded the West London Buddhist Centre near Earls Court, as seen in an early class above with Sangharakshita as a guest. He moved to Wales in 1979 and became a founder of Vajraloka Meditation Centre and later Vajrakuta, Triratna's first residential Dharma study centre. He also has longstanding connections with Buddhafield, a land based collective running retreats and festivals.
In the year before his ordination Kamalashila undertook a vow of chastity which persisted very happily over 25 years (with an 'experimental' break around 1993!). He formally became an Anagarika or 'homeless one' in 1985, and continued practising in that way until 2003.
In 1985 and 1987 at Bhaja retreat centre in India, in the presence of at least 500 people, Kamalashila performed the first public ordinations in the Triratna Community not conferred directly by Sangharakshita, on his behalf.
In 1994 Kamalashila and a dozen other Order members were requested by Sangharakshita, as his most trusted disciples, to take increased responsibility for the Triratna Community. He went to live with Sangharakshita at Madhyamaloka in Birmingham, joining the newly formed Preceptors College. During his time at Madhyamaloka Kamalashila worked spreading the Dharma in numerous ways, making many teaching trips abroad as well as teaching locally at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre.
After his mother's death in 1997 Kamalashila began to feel limited by such a long involvement with the movement's institutions and began looking for some fresh inspiration. He gave away his possessions and became homeless. From the early 90s he became attracted to the immanence of Enlightenment as investigated through Buddhist methodologies like Mahamudra. Around 1998, on one of her visits to Madhyamaloka, he met Shenpen Hookham, an old friend of Sangharakshita's. A lively friendship continued over several years sparked by this kind of theme, culminating in Shenpen acting as an advisor during a solitary retreat under canvas that Kamalashila undertook from 2001 to 2003. The retreat was dedicated to Prajnaparamita and during it Sangharakshita also gave his blessing to Kamalashila taking up the Chöd practice. Over these years, from 2001 to 2005, Kamalashila lived as a hermit in uninhabited moorland above Llandeilo in SW Wales. It was a time of great peace and significant insight experience.
After the retreat Kamalashila realised that though Anagarikahood had supported his practice well over the years, as had life in spiritual communities within Triratna, he now wished to integrate more closely with ordinary society. Accordingly he gave up his golden Anagarika kesa and began looking for a life partner.
He then went to look after his father Arthur Matthews, who was coming to the end of his life. After he died Kamalashila returned first to his hermitage, and later to the Buddhafield Community, hoping to start a community of practitioners living in the wild. Unfortunately, this failed to attract enough stable interest. Now with Yashobodhi, he then moved to the ecological community ecoDharma in the wilderness of the Spanish Pyrenees. Here Kamalashila intended to set up a facility for long retreats, living on retreat himself and acting as a mentor to other retreatants. Unfortunately the idea had not been adequately understood and did not gain wholehearted acceptance from the existing community, which was in its formative stage. Eventually, after considerable financial and physical investment, the painful decision had to be made: to leave and return to the UK.
It was now 2010 and, apart from maintaining his connection with the Preceptors College, Kamalashila had effectively spent a decade away from the mainstream of the Triratna Community. It seemed time for another change, so he decided, with Yashobodhi's agreement, to move to London and engage once again with teaching the Dharma. He is once again involved with the West London Buddhist Centre and, with London as a base, communicates Dharma around the UK and elsewhere in Europe.