Thank you Vajrasadhu!
I heard this week that Vajrasadhu died on 26th May, aged 74, after four weeks in hospital following a stroke. Very few of our sangha knew him as he was based at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre and his contribution to the West London Buddhist Centre was behind the scenes rather than upfront as a teacher. If you attended classes and courses before the lockdown, if you enjoyed cups of tea in our reception area, if you loved coming to the centre to connect with friends and the wider sangha, well none of that would have been possible without Vajrasadhu.
When I first joined the West London Buddhist Centre centre team in 2012, the centre was based in a house a few streets away in Westbourne Park Villas. We had temporary permission to use the basement and ground floor as a Buddhist Centre despite being located in a residential street. There was a lovely intimacy to the old centre but space was very limited (25 people in the shrine room was cosy!). We were looking for new premises for years – I remember numerous trips looking at shops, pubs, office buildings and houses which were further and further afield and still outside our price range. Or else people were looking for a cash buyer and not willing to wait while we sold the existing building. And we didn’t want to close the centre while we sold the building and then looked for somewhere suitable.
Ratnaprabha had the idea of asking Vajrasadhu for help, knowing that he had played an important role in helping other Triratna centres and businesses. Vajrasadhu helped us to connect with an estate agent that specialised in premises designated for community use and through them with Mani, the director of a property development company that had purchased the language school situated at our current location. Mani had obtained planning permission to build some luxury flats, but the ground floor and basement were to remain for community use. This meant it was much cheaper than either commercial or residential property which made it possible for us to buy such a spacious property in such a prime location. Vajrasadhu was able to persuade Mani that the Buddhist Centre would be a good fit, even a positive selling point (when the building work on the flats was completed we saw an advert in Cosmopolitan where being situated above the West London Buddhist Centre was listed under desirable features!).
Vajrasadhu worked long and hard to negotiate a very complicated deal whereby we sold the old centre to Mani (when we left it reverted to residential use) and we bought the yet unbuilt ground floor and basement that were to become our current centre. We bought it as a ‘shell and core’ basically the walls and the infrastructure for water, electricity etc. This left us free to bring in our own architects and design and purpose build our beautiful Buddhist Centre (many thanks to Yashobodhi who worked very closely with our architects). Vajrasadhu was helpful in applying for planning permission as at one time he was Chief Planning Officer for Islington and then Cambridgeshire.
Vajrasadhu (John Popper) was also involved in international NGOs, particularly those concerning refugees, as well as Médecins sans Frontières. However, he gave it all up to commit himself to a Buddhist life, joining Windhorse Trading where he worked on the vans for many years as part of his practice. During this period he also gave advice and help to various Triratna projects, including the establishment of Adhisthana and the new West London Buddhist Centre. Our sangha owes Vajrasadhu a tremendous amount of gratitude. Let’s remember him with appreciation and send metta to Vajrasadhu, his family and friends.
With thanks, Bodhilila