On Vesak day, May 3 2015 at 3.40pm, Graeme Lyall passed away. Those familiar with Buddhism in Australia will know of Graeme’s unsurpssed service to Buddhism in this country and internationally. He was the senior Buddhist in the whole country, having been part of the original Buddhist Society of NSW from its inception in 1953.
I won’t give you a history of his life, but will share with you some of my memories of him as a man.
Graeme reminded me of the Monkey character from the classic show: his nature is irrepressible! He was an august and respected figure, but in the true Australian spirit never let that become pomposity or conceit. He laughed and joked all the time, and his humor always had a point to it.
Graeme was a man after my own heart, in that he was not afraid to speak his mind. If you think Buddhists are often too quiet in the face of events that need to be spoken of, you haven’t read Graeme’s amazing website. The domain seems to have lapsed recently and is now run by a different group. But you can still see snapshots on the Internet Archive; here’s the most recent:
I met him for the last time a few months ago, and as always he was in fine spirits, and speaking of his work as a prison chaplain. Not for him the lazy retirement of the dignitary. He went straight to those most in need, and gave them his heart.
And he was still growing in his own heart. I was very privileged to see a little moment a few years ago that spoke so much to me. I don’t want to give any personal details, but there had been some disagreement between Graeme and someone else involved in the Buddhist scene. They ran into each other at a ceremony I was at, and when they saw each other there was a moment of recognition: and then a big hug! To me that’s a sign of a real practitioner. Not to be perfect, but to forgive and to move on.
While Graeme was deeply non-sectarian in his approach to Dhamma, he had a strong connection with the Chinese Pure Land tradition, and was a close student of Master Chin Kung. A number of years ago, when he was very ill, he laughed with me that he would be soon in the Pure Land. He was delighted at the prospect!
Wherever he is now, I have no doubt at all that he’s happy. He devoted his life to sharing the joy of the Dhamma, and I know that he would just want you to be happy as well. So let’s make his life meaningful by staying happy. And if anyone has some thoughts or memories of Graeme you’d like to share, please leave them below.