A Life of Loving Kindness
In memory of our beloved instructor 1943 - 2014
“His wise, genuine, and deeply compassionate personality will be missed, as well as his great talent and power as a meditation teacher. He is celebrated as a holy hero by those whom he has touched throughout his life.”
- a student of Robert Mawson's
Meditate with Middle Way Meditation Instructor
Mr. Robert Mawson
Part 1 Relaxation
Part 2 Visualization
Robert Mawson, a resident of Hastings on Hudson for 29 years, died on November 22. He was born in County Durham in the northeast of England in August 1943. He had a colorful life and career, starting from work in the coal mine at 15, through being a nuclear weapons specialist in the British Artillery, to teaching meditation as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. To escape work in the coalmine, he became a boy soldier in the British Army and got his education there. He was stationed in Menden, Germany with the British Army of the Rhine from 1961 to 1968, during the Cold War. He learned the language and became part of the local community. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962), he was prepared to launch a nuclear weapon as soon as word was received from President John F. Kennedy. Thankfully, that word never came. He returned to the U.K. and, as Regimental Sergeant Major and taught cadets at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was then stationed with the Royal Artillery at Larkhill close to Salisbury Plain, where he gazed at Stonehenge every morning.
Having learned of a heart problem from the army doctors, he was told that he would not be able to advance in the army. They sent him to Glasgow with his Danish wife, Karen Lassen, where he served as an army recruiter. He did not like the “desk job”, so left the army and began his career as a salesperson for a Danish company, Hugo Kragh Design. He and his wife had one daughter, Katia, who still lives in Denmark with her husband Henrik and four sons, Martin, Henrik, Kasper and Glenn. Robert and Karen divorced in 1974.
In 1974, at the age of 31, he was rushed to the hospital for open-heart surgery, where the Danish doctors installed two synthetic heart valves and gave him five years to live if he lived a sedentary life. He defied the doctors and started working for a British firm Trent 300, Ltd. in Nottingham, England. He traveled widely in Northern Europe and communed with the Inuit in Greenland, lived in the Middle East (Iran and Iraq) and Asia (Hong Kong and Southeast Asia) during the next decade. One of his favorite spots was Thailand, where he set up a marketing team for the British firm.
In 1983 he came to New York to sell a systems contract for his company to the United Nations. In the process of trying to submit all the proper documents, he met Marcia Brewster, an officer in the Sustainable Development Division, who had previously lived in Thailand for 10 years. The two married in 1984 and had twin sons, Matthew and Marshall, in 1986. Keeping the Thailand connection alive, they had a Thai nanny during the early years of their boys’ lives. Robert also was a famous “Mr. Mom” around the Co-op Nursery in Hastings, which his sons attended when they were three years old. During this period he was introduced to a form of meditation through the Thai nanny.
His wife Marcia was reassigned to the UN regional commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok in 1990, so the family relocated to Thailand, where both Robert and Marcia had fond memories. It was a wonderful time in their lives and they enjoyed their country home on the West coast of Thailand close to Krabi. They returned to Hastings in 1993 where their sons went through the Hastings school system.
Robert continued working as a salesperson and taking care of his sons. He also continued his interest in meditation. While studying and completing various meditation retreats, he was discovered as someone who exceptionally excelled in an advanced form of meditation, known in the Buddhist meditation world as Dhammakāya. After an auspicious series of events, he became the first westerner to be invited by the Abbot of the largest temple in Thailand to be taught meditation one-on-one directly by the Abbot himself. After passing many tests to prove his proficiency, in 1998 he became the first western lay person authorized to teach this form of meditation. Three years later he was ordained as a Buddhist monk (on a short-term basis), where he instructed many people in meditation while wearing the sacred saffron robes. Since then, he has been a meditation instructor all over the world, and has taught tens of thousands of people the power of unifying their body, mind and spirit through proper meditation and life. His travels took him through a number of countries, including Italy, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand (and of course Thailand).
Many legendary stories have been told about Robert, also known as Ajahn Dhammaputra, and his meditation experiences both by himself and with others. As one of his followers relates: “His wise, genuine, and deeply compassionate personality will be missed, as well as his great talent and power as a meditation teacher. He is celebrated as a holy hero by those whom he has touched throughout his life.”
He faced a number of health challenges throughout his life, mainly in the last 15 years, and he came to be known as the “Medical Miracle Man”. Following a number of operations and cardiac arrests, he received a heart transplant in 2003. The operation was performed by Dr. Mehmet Oz and was filmed by the Discovery Channel for “Second Opinion with Dr. Oz.
Robert is survived by: his two sisters, Joan Winter and Sandra Stokoe, and his brother Matthew, who live in County Durham, U.K.; his wife Marcia Brewster and two sons Matthew and Marshall, both 28; his daughter Katia Kankelborg Mawson and her four sons. He also has innumerable nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews.