Darryl’s departure

For all the friends and community of Santi, I have the sad duty of passing on some tragic news. Our good friend Darryl Gradwell passed away yesterday (Monday 25 Jan). His death was sudden, and comes as a shock to all of us. We have no details as yet as to how it happened, but we’ll keep you informed as we find out. Darryl was staying on retreat with Bhante Jag at the retreat place in Laguna.

Darryl first came to the monastery a couple of years ago. He was suffering terribly from MS, and at the time had to spend most of his time resting and just coping. (I don’t know whether the MS has anything to do with his death.) But he stayed on, and his interest in Buddhism and meditation just grew and grew. In all his time here he was totally devoted to practice, and was a loved and respected member of our little community.

His struggles with MS became so bad that for several months he could hardly speak, and communicated only by writing. This became too much, so he left and spent several months by himself. He loved staying in nature, and would often spend time simply sleeping in caves or on the beach. Eventually he found a treatment that made his MS regress, and he returned, back to more or less full strength.

In his long stretches at Santi, he helped us in many ways, giving advice on buildings and development; if you visit Santi and see our beautiful, unique semi-spherical shrine upstairs, that’s one of Darryl’s ideas. He was also an amazing artist, who drew dozens of extraordinary pencil sketches for a book of mine, as well as many others. In his last month, he was drawing and taking notes of conversations constantly, all of which showed his amazing gifts for observation, and delight in the wisdom and quirks of human beings.

As well as his dedication to solitary meditation, Darryl always took a great interest in people. When our fairy grandmother Eva was ‘a little ill’ (translate: recovering from a triple bypass), Darryl would walk with her every day, and monitor her food, making sure she didn’t eat anything naughty. Every meal time there’d be signs on each inappropriate dish saying something like, ‘Eva, don’t even think about it!’

Darryl also contributed to Santi through being a committee member, and through helping organise our Sydney talks. I especially remember and value the few times when we had a difference of opinion, and he’d be straight enough to tell me why he disagreed, offering another perspective that was always worth listening to.

It’s been an honour to know Darryl, and to see him constantly learn and grow through these past years. Of all the many people who pass through Santi, he is perhaps the one to best embody the life of simplicity. Even though he was an accomplished architectural designer with his own firm, he lived with literally next to nothing. In his little retreat cave there’s be just a simple bed, mosquito net, a couple of books on meditation, and not much else. He had so much to give in his life, and asked so little. It’s tragic to see him pass away so young, but he has lived a great life, with friends, meditation, art, and wisdom. I don’t know where he is now, but I’m sure he’ll be drawing it.


33 thoughts on “Darryl’s departure

  1. Hi Bhante,

    Thanks for posting this tribute to Darryl. He really did embody the idea of simplicity – in his lack of possessions, his love of nature, and the direct way he communicated. Even his art work has a very unadorned, direct quality. This is such sad, sad news.


  2. Sounds like Darryl was a wonderful person to know and a great loss to Santi community.

    My heart goes out to everyone affected by his death …

    with metta,

  3. Wow. Very beautifully said Bhante (and funny too about the “don’t even think about it Eva!” :o)
    It does come as a shock since one does get a bit attached or acquainted to the community one lives with even if it was for 6 months.
    I guess the best thing to do is just sharpen up the practice, having more ardour. I don’t know how transference of merit works but I heard a Dhamma talk on it… and if we put more effort into our practice he’ll have sympathetic joy for us and this state of mind will be beneficial in his own practice and liberation, wherever he is. Is that how ‘transference of merit’ works?
    Hopefully he’ll come across the Dhamma again and be reborn only a few more times and finally end samsara.

  4. Just listened to one of Aj Brahm’s talks in which he said that it’s not the length of life that counts but how the life is lived.

    From Aj Sujato’s description, Darryle lived a good and beautiful life. Thus, he is now in a very good and beautiful place he’s so deserved.

    Aj Brahm also said that perhaps death is a good cause for celebration for one can shed the old ugly shell and get a better one. I believe that his good nature will warrant him a new beautiful shell.

    With metta,


  5. Shocked and saddened to hear the news. Bhante, if you are in touch with Darryl’s family please convey our sympathies.

  6. Dear Bhante,

    Thanks for your kind and beautiful words about our dear friend Darryl. Darryl was a lovely man with a big heart, and a pleasure to live with at Santi. We will miss his mischievous smile, enigmatic ways and portable whiteboard. Not to mention his amazing artistic & technical talents.

    I will never forget the sheer look of delight in Darryl’s eyes when he discovered there was a TV in the Santi workshop, on which he could see some of the track & field events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately I never got to watch these with Darryl, as they were on way past my bedtime, in the middle of a cold cold Santi winter. He was so thrilled to see Usain Bolt win the 100 & 200 meter events in record times.

    I was looking forward to meeting Darryl again at Bodhinyana. Wherever he is now, I’m sure he will illuminate and bring joy to his new abiding – with his keen eye for detail and notepad in hand.

    May Darryl’s family & loved ones be comforted in their loss, and rejoice at the time they had to spend with such a gifted, kind and wise man.


    Mike Percy
    aka x-Mudita Bhikkhu

  7. Dear Sujato,

    Tash and I wish to pass on our Love and comfort to you and the Santi crew. We are both shocked and saddenned by Darryl’s death. He was a good friend and community member.

    Regards Noel

  8. Dear Bhante Sujato,
    Thank you for caring for your Sangha family. Just witnessing this (from so far away) inspires love for the Sangha and faith to continue.
    Darryl, may you be safe on your journey, may the fruit of your practice guide you through to a beautiful shore, may you always be well, peaceful and happy, protected from harm and find your Sangha wherever you touch down… and may many small blessings find your family and loved ones in the weeks and months ahead.

  9. I also want to pass on my love to all at Santi and to Darryl’s family and friends. It is such sad news, that Darryl has left this life this soon.

    In the short time I knew him, Darryl’s heart and mind were always both gentle and piercing; and his character, always resonant. He knew well how to cut through fog that others might be caught in.

    It is such a loss that he isn’t here with us for much longer. I wish him well and will remember his magic ways.

    My best wishes to all close to him.


    • That’s darryl in the blue check shirt, working on what appears to be a tiny surfboard; perhaps it’s meant for the baby he’s holding in one shot…

      The nature shots are of the cave where Darryl has been staying much of the past several months and the ocean he was overlooking…

    • Yes, we were making handboards for bodysurfing made out of a broken surfboard. Here is the end game:

      I’ll be finishing Darry’ls board over time, attempting to finish it according to his wishes (we had some differences on design!), and then trial it out in the ocean. I bet it’ll be a winner.

  10. Dear Bhante,

    thank you also for writing this beautiful tribute to Daryl, I felt deeply moved upon reading it, and feel that you have captured dear Daryl as I remember him. He was indeed really lovely to be round. I smile when I think of him. So many memories rising as I go about my day:

    He and our fairy godmother Eva going off for long walks each morning – his very long lanky legs and frame, and her shorter white cuddly figure. And remembering him finding Eva and tapping her on the shoulder at lunch, and Eva – having tried to sneak ‘something naughty’ and ferret it away (the signs didn’t always work!) – looking very rueful, reluctantly relinquishing!

    Going up into his austere room, browsing through his amazing collection of drawings, and also the drawing lesson that he gave me. He was very indulgent at my stammering attempts – saying something like, you say you can’t draw, but you lie, you’re actually very good – after an hour of finally managing to draw something that resembled a pepper, a bit! Also, remembering talking with him, words and ideas pouring from my mouth, he listened patiently and shook his head, saying that his mind couldn’t keep up with all the leaps and action! – I really appreciated his quietness and deeper observation (in contrast to my torrents;). Thinking of the organic molasses he gave me (so I wouldn’t eat so much chocolate at night!) And flip side of the gentleness being revealed when he zoomed off in his little car (a car he generously allowed all of us to use).

    Also thinking of his rather quirky and wicked sense of humor. He told me once that the Studio rooms weren’t sound proof at all – that he had heard every word of my psych interview! – and remembering also the sometimes very unapetising combinations of food he took Eva on retreat!

    And remembering how he was a ‘closet nun’ during the bhikkhuni conference. It was meant to be women only at Santi, but Daryl was really too unwell to leave. So, during this time he slept in one of the Narnias (small storage room off the Shrine Hall) and slunk about pretending he wasn’t there. He wasn’t intrusive at all, though, a kindly presence to have around. And afterwards he drew some beautiful pictures of some bhikkhunis, and illustrated Bhante’s Sujato’s bhikkhuni book.

    So, memories rising and warming my heart, like the sun’s rays soaking in, bringing warmth and happiness, through long summer days. Thinking of Daryl, and his family and friends, those he loved and who love him – wishing all of you well

    with metta,


  11. It has been sometime since I was last at Santi (nearly 2 years, time flies…) but memories and reflections of the time I spent with Darryl are as fresh and fond as ever. They will continue to be so. May any merit made be shared with Darryl & may he find liberation as soon as possible.
    with much metta

  12. It’s lovely to see so much warmth and joy here, in celebrating a life well-lived. Such beautiful states of mind. If those he left behind are capable of such loveliness, I would like to think that he would fare as well in his/her new destination.

  13. I met Darryl in 1990, it was our first year at Canberra Uni. Standing in line I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned around and this guy said “Hi I’m Darryl Gradwell” and were mates from that day onwards. Throughout our Uni days were shared some great times. In those days he was distant from being spiritual in any way but still believed in doing good will to all. He loved to ride his bike and one summer during Uni break he decided to ride his bike to Perth from Canberra. A couple of hours into his journey he realised he was carrying too much weight so he decided to halve everything. threw away half his oats stockpile, squeezed out half his toothpaste and even snapped his toothbrush in half in order to lighten the load. At the end of the first day he had arrived in Gundagai. Upon arriving he realised he had no money and no access to any at that time also. He went to the local pub and told the owner of his trip, his lack of funds and offered to wash the dishes in the pub that evening for a meal in return. The owner accepted and also offered him a place to pitch his tent out the back for the evening; Darryl was grateful but pointed out it was beside the industrial fan for the refrigerator which turned on and off intermittently keeping him awake. A couple of days later he came to stay with my family in Albury for 2 days where he was very appreciative to my Mum for washing his clothes as he only had half the number he had set out with. He arrived in Perth some 40 days later which he said was about 33 days in the saddle. Along the way it got too hot to travel during the day so he rode his bike at night. When a vehicle approached at night he said it was great because they lit up all the road ahead for him with their headlights. This gave him the opportunity to wave his torch behind him to alert the approaching vehicle of his presence. On one occasion he caught up with a bus driver that had passed him and the driver pointed out that he thought Darryl was a “low level UFO” as he could not work out what would make a light move in the fashion in which Darryl was waving it behind his back. One year as larrikin Uni students Darryl and I participated in the ‘Inaugural Tripod Classic’, a three legged pub crawl race, and won. Our heads were sore the next day and ankles bruised as Darryl was a few inches taller than I and with longer legs my gait could not keep up as we ran arm around each other inside legs tied together from pub to pub. Also whilst at Uni Darryl had a car – that would only travel in reverse as the gearbox was gone. He only drove it to Uni when he needed to deliver a model project for architecture. He said “you just get on the opposite side of the road and cars see your reverse lights on a just go around.” When Darryl went to Japan his appreciation of the studies of Feng Shui in architecture grew from a simple interest to a full blown obsession to which he even wrote a book about. Darryl also went, I think it was Malaysia (although it may have been Singapore or some other similarly located Asian country) and got very very sick. His weight dropped of him to critical levels and I believe the consulate called his parents and said your son is gravely ill and may not make it home. Darryl made it home and when he came to stay with me on the Gold Coast he looked very poorly. Once home he started to do weight training and was in a competition with a guy at the gym to get to 90kgs first. I think Darryl won. He would apply himself to many things throughout his life almost obsessively. He liked to stay fit and would involve himself in what he called incidental exercise. An example of this is he would buy his groceries and then walk home with the bags in his hands arms extended out horizontal to the ground, and walk in the door busting from the exertion. Whilst on the Gold Coast Darryl would point out to me that he was just constantly tired, we were not to know at the time that this was probably the onset of MS. I was groomsman at Darryl’s wedding and he at mine. When I went up for his wedding he invited me up onto the roof looking over Rose bay the day before he got married and it was then that he told me had MS. I was shocked and didn’t know a lot about it, but I know that it caused him lots of physical pain and at times was an emotional struggle. He sought solace with the Monks at the Monastery. There he found peace which gave him time to focus on meditation and healing his body from the rigours of MS. Darryl was there to cook for the Monks and they in return allowed him to stay. He didn’t mind doing the cooking and he said they never complained as many had taken a vow of silence. Which I though was hilarious. I spoke with Darryl early this year about his cave dwelling and he said it was great, a little cold sometimes but that just toughens you up he said. He said he’d wake up each morning and look out over the water with the sun glaring off it, he loved it. I’ll miss my great mate, he was a bloody excellent bloke. Darryl your loss has made me cry. Jeff.

    • Jeff, thanks so much for these classic Darryl stories. I’ve been craving to hear more of them. How lucky that you got to be part of his life for such a long time. A fee weeks ago we drove to Canberra to visit a friend. He insisted that I not read the directions to him, so he could find the house intuitively. He found the suburb and then as we wandered up and down each side street, he said, ‘how many streets can there be here? We’ll find it.’ He did find the street, miraculously, but missed the house. When we doubled back, our friend was just driving out the driveway. Instead of ringing her mobile, he said, ‘this is great! We’ll follow her and when we get to where she’s going, we’ll get inside first and act like it’s a coincidence.’ It almost worked. Later we were swimming in a river and he was teasing me about freshwater crocodiles (I’m an ignorant American). He was cracking himself up with that. But suddenly he got very serious and said, ‘Jackie, I feel bad. We don’t have freshwater crocodiles this far south.’ He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

  14. Dear.. Ajanh Sujato

    How are you? Ajan Sujato, Bhante Jag and everyone in santi. We are very sorry to hear about Darryl Gradwell’s departure. Being A Budhists we always remembered the Budha’ s Teaching ” Death in with as 24 hrs. We are not going just because we are old or sick.We strongly believed we can go anytime…. When our time is up. unfortunately Darrly time has came and he happened to be Someone very special at Santi. We noticed that he contributed his time to the community.
    we rembered his harmbleness, beaultiful smile,helping at Santi FM and he also helped us to carry Shinas’ paintings upstair during the Mitra Buddhist conference with the rest of the voluteers at the UTS NSW July 2009, not to mentioned he also helped us to unpack the easles then carried them downstair to put them in the van with the rest of the volunteers. My tear was falling down my face like a water falls as I started to remembered all the things he had helped at Santi and many places. We love to bring the Dana there, not just for the Sanghas only but for everyone who helped and supported Santi FM. That was Budhism it all about CARRING AND SHARING with lot of loving kindness. We believed Darrly has done his duty well on this planet. Good on you Darrly, May you be in peace in a better world, even we didn’t had a chance to say goodbye. we will remember you always. All our loving kindness to Ajanh Sujato, Bhante jag, everyone at Santi FM and all the people who supported Santi FM. May all the Budha, Dharma and Sanghas protect you always, May you be free from all the physical and mental suffering and May you all have peace and good health always.

    With Metta
    Ome , Shina and Zign

  15. i will always remember darryl’s enthusiasm for everything. he was like a bigg puppy! bounding positively through life. it usually was all or nothing with darryl there seemed to be no in between. darryl dreamed BIG and dragged you effortlessly along laughing all the way.
    i will miss him and and wonder what to do with the empty space he has left. i might ask him im sure he’d have a few ideas.
    love to all his family.

  16. I met Darryl at the end 1991 in Surfers Paradise in the Gold Coast.I was backpacking round Oz with some friends and was at one of our stops. Darryl, along with his friends – Axel, Rob and Jeff said hello to me and my friends at the beach as we were watching the sun setting. I only had 2 weeks in SP and I remember spending everyday of that 2 weeks with Darryl. I could still remember going to a party that Darryl and his mates were having and we ended up playing cricket outside the house in the middle of the summer night. We kept in touch for a short while after SP but life took us in different directions and we lost touch.

    In 2007, whilst still staying in the UK, I found Darryl again (on Facebook) and we exchanged news. It was then that I knew of Darryl’s MS and it devastated me. As my family and I was preparing to emigrate to Oz, Darryl said me must meet up if I’m in Sydney. After a few weeks in Melb, we ended up in Sydney and rented a Beach House near the sea. We hadn’t a clue where we were. It was later on that we found out that the Beach House was a stone throw away from Darryl’s cave. We called Darryl to see if he was still wanting to meet up and we did.

    After 18 years, it was surreal to see Darryl again. He looked a bit different – slimmer, more relaxed and with less, oh so much more less hair!! We reconnected again and it didn’t feel like 18 years but more like 18 mths that we hadn’t seen each other. My husband, Ray, got on so well with Darryl. In fact they became really close friends. We then had to move to a more permanent place (nearby) and then found out that this time we were just 5 mins away from where Darryl was renting at that time.

    Darryl was at our place almost every weekend and sometimes weekdays. We spent so much time together round the dining table sharing home-cooked meals and chatting about life . He was always keen to do the washing up to show his gratitude. I nicknamed his my “Washer Upperer”.

    Last Dec Ray and I held a birthday dinner for Darryl. We’d invited 3 of Darryl’s and our friends over too. A few days before this Darryl was unwell. On the morning of his b’day Ray went to his cave to see how he was. He said he was poorly and that had trouble sleeping due to the strong wind that was blowing at that time. So Ray took Darryl home and we had lunch then he retired to the bedroom and rested. That night we had a very relaxing b’day dinner for him. He was delighted with the butter-less, non-egg b’day cake that I’d baked for him. He insisted it’s his 38th instead of 39th b’day since the year before he didn’t have a good b’day so that year didn’t count.

    I’m really sad with Darryl’s sudden passing but I’m also happy that after 18 years, I was given the chance to see him again and got to spend (along with my husband my 2 girls) some of the last 6 months of his precious life with him. I will always treasure the lovely memories Darryl had left behind for my family and I especially as everywhere we go now, it reminds us of our special time spent with Darryl.

  17. Hi Norisah,

    Thanks for sharing those beautiful memories. I wanted to let you know that I saw Darryl a week after his birthday, and remember him telling me about a friend who came looking for him in his cave on the morning of his birthday. Reading your post I realise that that was your husband and I wanted to let you know that Darryl told me that he was really touched that someone would make such an effort to come to check up on him. I remember him saying what a lovely birthday it was.

  18. Hi Emma,

    Thank you for letting me know. It’s bringing tears to my eyes…but in a good way. Apart from being concerned about Darryl’s health, Ray and I also wanted his birthday to be a special day for him cos he was a very special person. It was indeed a lovely birthday celebration and we were so glad that he’d enjoyed it very much.

    I’m wondering if anyone knows how I could get in touch with Jeff (Darryl’s friend from earlier post on top)via email, maybe. I remember we were in the car driving back from the Basin Walk one afternoon in September and Darryl had a phonecall and he told me it was Jeff…from 18 years ago and he asked if i could still remember him.

    Thank you

  19. writing poor english i have not used so long… hope you understand what i write.

    i met him at uni of canberra and teach him a japanese. after that i spent the time with darryl a half year in japan (stayed my house)about 1993,1994 not sure..
    he was not a buddhist at the time just ordinary young sports man. ah both were young.
    once i took him to Kyoto showing temple and any traditional places.
    he likes the word “plot” but for me japanese icouldn’t slove what it’s mean deeply..
    after he gone to aus, had a bit call & letters..knew he’s doing well.
    so shocked i saw this HP but let you know he was peacefull , calm, gentle…..
    i remember one of the time shareing with him darryl..

  20. I met Darryl when he was working for an architect in Balmain, I called in to see the owner, who introduced me to Darryl. We became great friends from that day onwards and unfortunately I drove him to the doctors and picked him up that evening when he was diagnosed with MS.

    He was a really lovely person, who had a wicked and fabulous sense of humour and always made me laugh. Just a great guy really, who really had a connection with anything Asian (I am an Aussie born Chinese), so it was natural he really loved Feng Shui, as he was such a clever and talented architect.

    When I think of Darryl, I cry but then I end up laughing, as there are many memories of the discussions we had. He taught me a lot of things about life in general.
    I did lose contact with Darryl after a few years, however did talk to him after he got married and he told me about the business he had started and I wished him the very best for the future.

    I think of you, Darryl and am grateful that I knew you for only a short time, however I will never forget you in my lifetime.
    I trust you are adding humour and fun and cheekiness to the place you are in now and hope you are free from any illness and pain or suffering.

    One day, when I am in the next world, I am sure we will meet up again and thank you for your friendship and life experience on this Earth.

    Your friend always,

    • I was reading “White Bones and Red Rot Black Snakes” and looking at the illustrations thinking how incredible they are ..I presume this is the same Darryl – what an amazing artist – !

  21. Darryl & I met at Canberra Uni finishing our architecture degrees in 1993-4. Actually it was only in the last stretch of the final year when Darryl and I actually started developing a friendship. What I loved about Darryl was his simple joy and enthusiasm plus his sense of humour. Darryl and I enjoyed those intense ‘all-nighters’ finishing off our final projects and Darryl’s company was excellent stress relief – such banter and fun… What a guy. So we were going to meet after Uni was over, in Tasmania. Sadly that meeting never took place and we lost touch. Great to hear the impact and love that he inspired in so many, I’m not surprised.

  22. Darryl darling,
    Your soft voice, your sweet words,
    Our days at the beach,
    Your jokes, your cheeky looks and smiles,
    Our games of fruit chess,
    Your laughter and your humility,
    Our magical mystery tours,
    Your long tender letters,
    Our silent times together,
    I miss them all.
    I miss you.
    Your possum

    You said that I was wrong,
    That I couldn’t go home.
    That you knew better,
    That you’d seen it all.
    That we had the rarest, purest love.
    You were right and I was wrong,
    I was fulfilling others’ expectations.
    If only I had known.
    If only you had known
    That across the oceans you looked upon,
    I thought of you fondly
    And still loved you deeply and tenderly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s