Barry Letts, who passed away in October 2009, was one of the founders of London Retreats, the direct predecessor of London Insight Meditation.
During eight years, until his retirement at 80, he did all the leadership and coordination work for the Sangha. He was generous with his time and energy, and we owe him a great debt. His warm open-heartedness is much missed.
Here is Barry’s Guardian obituary.
To listen to the tributes and chanting for Barry at the October 2009 retreat led by Bhante Bodhidhamma, click here (to download, right click, and then enter “Save Link as…”).
Here are some personal tributes to Barry:
Barry was a man who walked his talk. As a founder member of London Insight Meditation (London Retreats as it was known then), Barry stepped in quite early to help us. Within a relatively short while he and I were running it as it continued to grow monthly.We started off in Primrose Hill Community Centre, moved to Friends House, Byng Place and when that was overflowing moved to King Alfred School where it remains today.
As with any organisation in its early years, we had our own share of teething problems. It never failed to amaze me Barry’s calmness and fortitude in the light of whatever happened. He always seemed unruffled and simply continued, dealing with anything that occurred without reacting and always finding a solution. I felt he was a Buddhist in the true sense of the word. As the years passed we built a bond of true friendship and I was fortunate enough to see him a couple of weeks before he died and he still showed the same qualities during his long illness as in the rest of his life. It was an honour to have known him and his passing will be a great loss to myself and the sangha.
I got to know Barry when we both volunteered to assist in the running of London Retreats when Sallie moved away. Barry took on all the behind the scenes organisation of London Retreats as well as hosting most of the days. He carried this responsibility from the age of 72 until he retired from it aged 80, with such little fuss that it was only when he gave it up we realised just how much he had been doing. During the time Barry was at the helm of London Retreats the attendance more than doubled. Barry’s warm personality infused the whole atmosphere of London Retreats. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble or bother and he always had time to chat with people.
He took his own practice very seriously and the wisdom he gained through it was apparent on the day the teacher failed to turn up and Barry fielded the Q&A session himself and it was a great day!
Barry was so modest about his other life that it was only quite late on in our acquaintance that I got to know a little about his role in Dr Who becoming an iconic programme when he shared his delight in going to talk to gatherings of fans.
I shall remember Barry with great affection and be ever grateful for the work he did to maintain the monthly oasis which has been an enormous aid to my own practice.
Barry gave me some of the most pertinent advice about sitting that I have ever heard. His advice was simple. He said “When it comes to the time that you sit, don’t ask yourself ‘Do I feel like it or not? Don’t make it a choice. Just sit. Make this a rule.”
He told me that had worked for him at times when he didn’t feel like doing his sitting. He didn’t give himself a choice, and it helped him to continue his sitting practice down the years.
I really liked Barry and his wise words help me every day with my practice.
Barry had that rare combination of gifts – great kindness and generosity as well as persistence and efficiency – which he put wholeheartedly into the service of creating our London sangha.