The Dark Side of Brighton

My grandson and I went to Brighton, 75 kilometres south from London, a holiday town on Britain’s south coast, famous for clubbing, partying, barbecues on the beach, recently for a couple of days arriving at Brighton railway station around 22.30 on a Friday.

There were plenty of people on the train including a group in our carriage drinking far too much on their way down to Brighton for a late night out. My grandson, aged 8, had fallen asleep on the train. One of the women, half drunk, spotted him and shouted out to her friends. “Hey, look at this great looking kid. I would take a photo of him if it weren’t against the law,” she yelled out before stumbling further down the corridor.

My grandson, plus his small mountain bike, and I arrived at Brighton station. The atmosphere was dark and heavy and the same group on the train were shouting at the ticket inspector. My grandson looked afraid on witnessing the tension all around and so we left the station quickly.

I was not surprised to read the other day in The Independent newspaper a two page article titled “The Dark Side of Brighton” carrying a report of the daily acts of threats, thefts and violence in the town. Alcohol and drug binges generate a tension in the streets, clubs and bars. It is unfortunate since there is much to appreciate in Brighton – the long seafront for walking and cycling, affordable restaurants, a lovely network of dharma friends.

A report on the front page of the same issue of The Independent said that one million Britons used cocaine in the past year, a 25% rise on the previous 12 months. There has been a huge increase among young users between the age of 16 and 24 years. I would imagine that the level of increase in Brighton is even more. Little is done. The Brighton economy depends on clubbers, tourists, young people attending language schools and a huge population of people living in bedsitters and small flats in the area.

I enjoy the buzz of Brighton but the ongoing buzz does seem to have impact on the consciousness of many who live there. Bodhi Garden, the non-residential dharma centre, provides a wonderful service for dharma yogis through offering classes and workshops every week. The centre needs greater support. The lease on the modest facility, three minutes walk from the beach, runs out next year and so far another new location has not been found.

Dharma friends tell me it is very hard to stay conscious in Brighton, to meditate regularly or find time to go to Bodhi Garden.  Nearly all those that I know have come to live for a period in Brighton from elsewhere. Shadows of self interest can take precedence over meditation, kindness and respect. These shadows affect relationships, whether with a partner or friends.  There is a loss of trust when a person feels betrayed.  A loving discipline, which stays true to depth, contributes to awakening.

There is a transitory sense in Brighton due to the large international community, as well as people from all over the British Isles, who take up some residence in Brighton.  Some stay for weeks, months, a year or two, several years or permanently. Some spend a few months a year in Brighton and then travel or wander the festivals in the UK and continent. There is a freedom of the spirit here but this  can generate an unsettled culture of individuals who find it hard to develop  deep,  lasting friendships and sustain deep intimacy with another. I have noticed over the years a restless, unsettled energy and fluctuating impulses and interests – despite aspects of Brighton life to be much appreciated. Brighton is surely a postmodern city with numerous people there often uncertain about their future direction, either in Brighton or elsewhere.

Brighton needs more and more people totally dedicated to the Dharma in daily life to meet together regularly for meditation, deep sharing,  purity of heart and wise action. Genuine love shows respect for relationships.

Bodi Garden needs regular support from dharma practitioners instead of the rare appearance.

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