Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mukpo

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:47 am


This is the story of my life, and it is also an intimate portrait of my husband, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The two things are quite intertwined for me. My husband was a Tibetan Buddhist lama, the eleventh incarnation in the Trungpa lineage and the abbot of Surmang, a major group of monasteries in Eastern Tibet. Rinpoche (pronounced RIM-poach-eh), the name by which I usually called him, is a title for great lamas and incarnate teachers, which means "precious one." Rinpoche left Tibet in 1959 because of the communist Chinese invasion of his country, and after spending a few years in India, he came to England. I met him there when he was twenty-eight and I was fifteen. We were married when I was sixteen, which was quite shocking to both my family and to Rinpoche's Tibetan colleagues. We loved each other deeply, and we had a very special connection. However, our marriage was highly unconventional by most standards, and it was not without heartbreak or difficulty. In the end I have no regrets.

Rinpoche was one of the first Tibetan Buddhist teachers in the West and one of the very first to teach Westerners in the English language. The time that he spent in the West -- between 1963, when he arrived in England, and 1987, when he died in North America -- was an important period for the transplantation of Buddhism to the West, and I hope that my viewpoint as his wife may offer a unique perspective on that period. A lot of what my life was about during those years was about him and what happened to him. So a main objective for telling my story is so that the memory of him and of all those things that happened can be preserved.

I also want to talk about our life together and our relationship because it was so human and so intimate. Ultimately I think that this is the essence of the Buddhist teachings: they are about how to live our lives as human beings, intimately, moment by moment. So I will try to share with you what it was really like to love such a person. It was quite extraordinary.

The first time I saw Rinpoche was in December of 1968, during my Christmas break from Benenden School, an elite English boarding school for girls. I was fifteen at the time, and I was spending the holidays at home with my mother and my sister in London. The previous summer, my sister Tessa and I had traveled with Mother to Malta. At that point in my life, I couldn't communicate at all with my mother, and I felt claustrophobic around her. While we were in Malta, I withdrew more and more into myself, and I read many books about Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. When we got back to London, I started to go to lectures and other events at the Buddhist Society in Eccleston Square. Buddhism was not particularly popular at that time, and none of my friends were interested in it. However, my father had had an interest in Buddhism and after his death, when I was thirteen, I began to question and explore my own spirituality, first reading about comparative religion and then focusing on Buddhist writings. In the autumn of 1968, I read Born in Tibet, Rinpoche's book about his upbringing in Tibet and his escape from the Chinese. I thought it was an exciting and somewhat exotic story. However, the book was nowhere near as thrilling as meeting the author proved to be!

Over the Christmas holidays, I went to St. George's Hall to attend a rally for the liberation of Tibet, sponsored by the Buddhist Society. The program went on for several hours, with one speaker after another. I found it quite boring. One of the last speakers on the schedule was the author of Born in Tibet, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who appeared onstage in the maroon and saffron robes of a Tibetan monk. I looked up at him from the audience, and much to my amazement, I felt an immediate and intense connection. Before he could say anything, however, he collapsed and was carried offstage. We were told that Rinpoche had taken ill, but I imagine that alcohol may have been involved.

Although he was only onstage for a few minutes, I knew that I had a very deep and old connection with him, and it stirred up a great deal of emotion for me. The only way I can describe this experience is that it was like coming home. Nothing in my life had hit me in such a powerful way. I said to myself, "This is what I've been missing all my life. Here he is again." This wasn't just some exciting, powerful experience. I knew him, and as soon as I saw him, I realized how much I'd been missing him. From that moment on, I wanted desperately to meet him.

Since the age of thirteen, shortly after my father's death, I had had several very vivid dreams about previous lives in Tibet.
I didn't tell anyone about them because I didn't know what to say about them, and I thought that people might misunderstand. I didn't really understand these dreams myself, although somehow I knew that the location was Tibet and these were about previous lives. When I saw Rinpoche, I knew that he was connected to the world that I had encountered in my dreams.

In one of the most vivid dreams, I lived in a nunnery on a large white lake in Tibet. At first I lived in a dormitory with other nuns, but then I was given my own living quarters in a large room dominated by a huge white statue of a Buddha. I stayed in the nunnery for several years, practicing meditation and studying. Then, I left to go on retreat in a cave in the mountains.

In retreat I wore a heavy woolen nun's robe, which is called a chuba, and it was lined with fur. The furnishings in the cave were spartan, with a small bed in one corner, an area for cooking, and a simple shrine in front of which I practiced, seated cross-legged on a small raised platform. At one time, I could remember the deity that I visualized in retreat, although that memory has faded now. Later, when I described this to my husband, he knew exactly what practice I was doing.

I was terrified of wild animals in the vicinity. I started building a fire near the front of the cave every night to keep the animals away. Eventually, people from a nearby village raised the money to build a white facade to the cave, and then I felt safe staying there alone.

Once, I saw some Westerners passing through the area. I was amazed and fascinated by them. They had boots that were like nothing I had ever seen before, hiking boots, I suppose. When I recall them, the memories are as clear as any part of the past.

To get water, I had to walk down the valley to a little stream. It was peaceful there, and I enjoyed these outings. One day, I was sitting by the water holding a pomegranate. I have no idea where I got it. Pomegranates grow in Northern India, and perhaps they grew in this part of Tibet as well. It's quite tropical in some of the valleys. I distinctly remember the feel of the fruit in my hand. Then, suddenly, I died -- just like that. I think I must have had a heart attack. Then I saw my body from a long way away. I felt as if I were in a vacuum hose, being vacuumed up and out of this world through a tunnel. That is the last thing that I can remember.

When I described all of this to my husband, he said that with a little more discussion he could tell me exactly who I had been but that it wouldn't be a good thing for me to know that. He thought it might become an obstacle. He told me that probably I was given my own room in the nunnery because I was the relative of an important person, possibly a high lama. He thought I might have been related to his own predecessor, the Tenth Trungpa. He never said anything further about it.

I only told Rinpoche about this dream after we were married, but he said that he'd known about my past life in Tibet from the first time we met. I have told very few people about all of this, but it seems that it might be helpful now to understanding our connection.

After seeing Rinpoche in London, I continued to read anything about Tibet or Tibetan Buddhism that I could get my hands on. Not long after the rally, I was able to attend a program that he was teaching at the Buddhist Society, which is one of the oldest Buddhist organizations in England. It was founded by Christmas Humphries [Humphreys], a very colorful and well-known judge. When Rinpoche first arrived in England, the Buddhist Society often invited him to teach-there, and they published some of his early lectures in their journal, The Middle Way. However, at some point, the Buddhist Society and Rinpoche had a falling-out. I heard that, after they discovered he was drinking alcohol during a program, they never invited him back.

The particular program that I attended was a series of lectures on Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, the Indian teacher who was instrumental in bringing Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century. Rinpoche told us stories of Padmasambhava's life and the lessons that one could take from it. Frankly, I don't remember the talks that well; I mainly remember staring at the teacher. I thought that he looked beautiful in his monks' robes, and although he had rather thick reading glasses, I found him quite good-looking.

The participants were told that we could have a private interview with the teacher if we requested one. Although I felt a bit shy and intimidated, of course I asked to see him. The lectures were conducted in a large room upstairs in the Buddhist Society, across from which was a small interview room. During the interview, Rinpoche was incredibly sweet. He gave me instruction in meditation, which I don't remember very well. I was just so hungry for him. To me, he seemed to be a very special being: so kind, so pure, so sharp. During the interview, I had the sense that he was touching my mind with his. There was absolutely no barrier in our communication. He seemed to fall in love with the mind of whomever he worked with. I felt that he had no personal agenda except to be kind and helpful.

In the interview room, Rinpoche sat on a cushion on the floor, and I sat across from him. There was a bowl of grapes in front of him, and at a certain point, he offered me some. Even though we had just met, I think there was already some sexual feeling between us, but I didn't really pick up on it. I was only fifteen and quite naive at that point. After the interview, I felt enchanted by the experience and by how close I felt to him. I resolved to spend more time with him.

In 1967 Rinpoche had cofounded a rural meditation center in Scotland, named Samye Ling. He spent most of his time there, and one could go to the center to practice meditation and hear lectures on Buddhism. Early in 1969, I heard about a program at Samye Ling that I wanted to attend during a long weekend that I had off from school. Being only fifteen, I had to have my mother's permission. When I asked her, she told me that the only way she would allow me to go was if she came too. The prospect of her accompanying me was unpleasant. Our relationship was not good, to say the least, and my mother also was extremely prejudiced against anybody who wasn't white and a member of the English upper class. She would have had a problem with Rinpoche if he were Italian, let alone an Asian who was an adherent of some strange religion -- as far as she was concerned. However, I felt that I had no choice, so I told her that it would be fine if she came along. I think she was mildly intrigued by something as exotic as a Tibetan lama.

Mother, Tessa, and I took the long drive up from London to Scotland. Although I wasn't looking forward to spending the weekend with my mother, I was excited to be going to Samye Ling, especially with Tessa, with whom I was quite close. The drive took us more than six hours. Most of the roads weren't good, which made it slow going. We crossed the border from England into Dumfriesshire, in the southwest of Scotland. From the city of Dumfries, we turned northeast onto a two-lane highway, which we followed for about twenty miles until we came into Lockerbie, a town of a few thousand residents. We passed through an area forested with short pine trees and then came into a part of the Scottish lowlands with almost no trees at all.We headed north on a small country road. The countryside there feels quite empty, but also quite romantic in a desolate way.

We continued north to Eskdalemuir, a tiny village composed of a few houses here and there. A few miles further north, we found ourselves at Samye Ling. The main building was a large white stone house, several hundred years old, set starkly in the middle of its lawn. There were several small buildings spread around the property, for people doing retreats. The well-tended grounds were surrounded by barren terrain, windswept hills with a mixture of green and brown long grass now flattened by the wind. Little clouds in the sky seemed to mirror the scattered sheep on the hillsides.

When we entered the house, we were directed down the main corridor. On our left was a room with large windows that looked out into the garden. Sherab Palden Beru used this room as his painting studio. He was one of the Tibetan monks in residence there and was a talented painter of traditional Tibetan religious paintings, which are called thangkas. The room was filled with his drawings and paintings in various stages of completion. They depicted Tibetan mandalas and deities, some of them quite fierce. I was somewhat familiar with these images, but it must have been quite strange to my mother's eyes.

Farther down the hall on the left was the main shrine room, a large room set aside for meditation and the conduct of various Tibetan practices and ceremonies. It was painted in deep reds, yellows, oranges, and gold, and a number of shrines were set up around the room. In addition to the more elaborate central shrine, there were smaller shrines in various parts of the room. There were butter lamps burning, and we noticed a number of bronze and gold statues. Thangka paintings hung on the backdrops to the shrines and on the walls of the room, and there was a heavy smell of Tibetan incense. There were low benches and cushions for people to sit on as well as a sort of throne covered in brocade. We were told that this was where Rinpoche sat, as the presiding lama. Early morning services, or pujas, were held every day in the shrine room. Rinpoche used to come down to morning puja. There were stories about him falling asleep on the throne, and people used to drive around the driveway honking the horn to wake him up.

On the right was a room with nothing in it but a rug, a small table, and a few cushions on the floor. This was where Rinpoche conducted personal interviews. I can't imagine what my mother thought, as the whole place had the feeling 'of a Tibetan monastery.

We were given a room on the second floor with ,windows overlooking the grounds. Soon after we arrived, Rinpoche invited Mother to come for an interview. Most of the people who came to Samye Ling were not from my mother's social class and were much younger than she was, so I'm sure that Rinpoche was intrigued to meet her. My sister and I snuck down while she was talking with him and stood outside the room wondering what was going on in there. We had a good laugh, because my mother's high-heeled snakeskin shoes were neatly placed beside the closed door. We thought it was a hilarious image: my mother taking off her shoes and going barefoot to meet with somebody. We found it amusing and incongruous to see these two worlds coming together in that way.

When my mother came out of her meeting, she said, "He asked me to stay." She was absolutely enamored of Rinpoche. This was surprising, to say the least, but it was fantastic news for my sister and me. We all settled into the routine at Samye Ling. We took our meals at one of the long wooden tables in the dining room set aside for Western students. The food was quite simple; I remember we had soup and bread for supper. There were a number of other Westerners there for the weekend, as well as a number of resident students. There were several , practice sessions every day. We got up around 6:30 and practice started at 7:00. My sister and I were asked to help with simple chores, such as doing dishes.

I also had an interview with Rinpoche while we were there. I remember telling him about my anxieties and my problems with my mother. He seemed very understanding. I asked him questions about his new book, Meditation in Action, which had just been published in England by Stuart and Watkins. However, the main thing for me was just being in his presence. I was pretty blissed out.

Most of the Western students at Samye Ling were English or Scottish. I don't remember meeting any Americans at that time. In addition to Rinpoche and the painter Sherab Palden Beru, we were introduced to another Tibetan: Akong Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche's longtime companion and the cofounder of the center. Akong had escaped from Tibet with Trungpa Rinpoche and had lived with him at Oxford University, where Rinpoche had studied for several years after he arrived in England. Akong at this time was not teaching very much, although Akong was a rinpoche as well. He was in charge of the administration of Samye Ling, while Rinpoche was the spiritual head of the center. Apparently, they had known each other for several lifetimes (the Trungpa tulkus, or incarnations, and the Akong tulkus had been very close in previous lives), and the two had been very close in this lifetime as well, like brothers. However, by the time I visited Samye Ling, they were having major disagreements, though I didn't know this at the time. During our stay there was no evidence of discord. As far as I could see, it was a peaceful scene.

I was also interested to meet an English Buddhist nun, Josie Wechsler, who was a student of Rinpoche's and very fond of him. There was an area of the house upstairs where the Tibetans lived, which was generally off-limits to Westerners. Josie, however, was allowed to stay in that part of the house when she was not in retreat.

Both the morning and the evening services were chanted in Tibetan. The main emphasis at that time was on a traditional Tibetan approach to meditation practice, quite different from what Rinpoche eventually developed. Things were already in transition, however. Rinpoche had introduced a new liturgy that was practiced in English almost every day, and the atmosphere was changing rapidly.

In the summer of 1968, Rinpoche had gone to India for a visit. It was the first time he had returned to Asia since coming to the West five years earlier. While he was there, he went to Bhutan at the invitation of the queen, who was a devout Buddhist practitioner. She and Rinpoche were both students of the revered teacher Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. She was very friendly and extended her courtesy to Rinpoche when she heard he was coming to India. While at Oxford, he had been a tutor to Jigme Singye Wangchuck, her eldest son and the future (now current) king of Bhutan. In addition to an invitation to visit the royal family in Bhutan, Rinpoche was permitted to do a meditation retreat at Taktsang, a famous cave where Padmasambhava meditated before entering Tibet.

While Rinpoche was in retreat there, he uncovered a liturgy entitled the Sadhana of Mahamudra. I say that he uncovered it because, according to traditional Tibetan belief, he didn't write it himself. Instead, Rinpoche discovered this text -- a text that Padmasambhava was believed to have composed hundreds of years ago -- hidden in the recesses of his own mind. Meditating in the cave where Padmasambhava had practiced centuries ago unlocked this precious text, which is about the spiritual degeneration and materialism of the current age and how this darkness can be overcome by an ecumenical approach to presenting genuine spirituality. My husband was considered to be a terton, a Tibetan tide that means "treasure finder" or "treasure revealer." A terton is a little bit like a prophet, in the Western biblical sense. Many of Tibet's greatest teachers have been tertons. This tide is given to those who discover teachings -- and sometimes actual texts and ritual objects -- that Padmasambhava is said to have hidden in' various places to help people in future generations. I think of such teachings as time bombs, in the sense that they often reveal a new understanding, or wisdom, at the appropriate time. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a famous example of one of these hidden teachings. Some of these texts are discovered hidden in a rock in a cave or are found in a container left at the bottom of a river, or in other unusual places. Some of them are said to be hidden in the mind, and they arise or are discovered there, in the mind of a terton. Rinpoche was considered to be the kind of terton who was able to find such mind terma or mind "treasures" as well as physically concealed terma. He had already discovered a number of terma as a young lama in Tibet, but the Sadhana of Mahamudra, I believe, was the first terma he found after leaving his country.

When we were at Samye Ling, Rinpoche had only recently returned from his trip to Bhutan, bringing this text with him, newly translated into English. Now, in addition to chanting in Tibetan, students at Samye Ling practiced the Sadhana of Mahamudra in English. I remember that the text was crudely mimeographed on colored sheets of paper.

One afternoon, after we'd been there for several days, I walked into the bedroom to find Mother sitting on the bed, absolutely frozen. She seemed to be in shock. She didn't move or say anything for several minutes. Then she said, "My God, I've been hypnotized. I've been hypnotized by this Asian. Pack your bags immediately. It's black magic. We have to get out of here."

Looking back, I realize that it was amazing that she stayed at Samye Ling as long as she did. In a way, it was magic. She had completely set aside her normal concepts of propriety during this period of time. I don't actually understand why this was possible. Whatever the spell was, it was now broken.

At the time, I didn't appreciate how remarkable her behavior had been. Rather, I was focused on wanting to stay longer and distraught that she insisted we leave. Both my sister and I tried to convince her that everything was all right, that it wasn't black magic, and that we could stay. I pleaded with her, but she said that we had to go immediately. I went to say good-bye to Rinpoche, whom I felt I'd barely seen while we were there. I told him that, because of my mother freaking out, we had to leave. He reassured me and told me not to worry, that it would be all right, and that we could get together in the future.

My sister had friends nearby in Scotland, and since she was older, Mother allowed her to stay with them for the rest of the weekend. I had to drive home alone with Mother. I loaded our cases into the car, a Jaguar sedan, and the two of us drove back to London. I didn't speak; I didn't open my mouth on the whole trip, except to give monosyllabic replies to direct questions. Several hours into the journey, Mother stopped and bought me an ice cream cone, thinking it might change my mood. I waited until we were on the road again; then I opened the window and threw the cone out. I remember her pleading with me, "We'll move to South Africa. You'll like it there. I'll buy you a horse farm. You can have. as many horses as you want. Just please, please forget your interest in Buddhism and this strange man." Of course, I did nothing of the kind.

Soon after this, I went back to school at Benenden. It was the spring of 1969, and I didn't see Rinpoche again for almost six months. During the spring term, I was shocked to hear that he had had a terrible car accident and was paralyzed on his left side. Shortly after that, I heard that he was slowly recuperating and was planning to marry a young Englishwoman by the name of Maggie Russell. That was another shock. Then, a little bit after that, I heard that Maggie had decided not to marry him. Strangely enough, that was the most disturbing news. I couldn't believe it. I remember thinking, "How could somebody say no to him? How could he want to marry somebody and they would turn him down like that? She has to be out of her mind." I thought to myself that if I ever had the opportunity to marry him, I wouldn't hesitate. I would have no second thoughts.

When Rinpoche later wrote about his car accident, he talked about overcoming hesitation, doubt, and self-deception. In the epilogue to Born in Tibet, "Planting the Dharma in the West," he wrote about the message that came through to him from this accident:

When plunging completely and genuinely into the teachings, one is not allowed to bring along one's deceptions. I realized that I could no longer attempt to preserve any privacy for myself, any special identity or legitimacy. I should not hide behind the robes of a monk, creating an impression of inscrutability which, for me, turned out to be only an obstacle. With a sense of further involving myself with the sangha, I determined to give up my monastic vows. More than ever, I felt myself given over to serving the cause of Buddhism.1

At the time, I knew nothing about the implications of the accident, For my part, I simply thought about Rinpoche constantly and couldn't wait to see him again. A young girl of fifteen, I was infatuated with him and caught up in my own life, my own dramas. I didn't stop to think about the deeper meaning of what he was going through.

During this period, my schoolwork started to slip. I had never been that comfortable at Benenden, and now having met Rinpoche, my view of life was changing drastically, and I seemed to be increasingly out of place and out of step. Benenden was where the British upper class, the children of foreign diplomats, and royalty from around the world sent their daughters. It offered the best education in the style of British public schools -- which is what the most exclusive private schools in England are called. Frankly, I never felt that I fit that well into English society, from early childhood, so at its best, Benenden was not an easy place for me to be. At this point, I couldn't relate to ,the situation at school at all, and I became more and more disconnected from life there. I was becoming quite a problem child by that point. I remember feeling that I just wanted to get away. Especially after the falling-out with my mother at Samye Ling, I felt desperate and somewhat depressed.

During this time, a friend, who was in school near Cambridge, started to send me drugs in the mail. Periodically, she would send marijuana, which I enjoyed smoking -- anything to take the edge ?ff of my life. Then, she sent me some opium in the mail. I had never tried that. I thought I would save it for a special occasion. A few weeks later, we were told that Queen Elizabeth was coming to Benenden to visit Princess Anne who was one of the girls in my house at school. I thought this was the perfect opportunity, and I ate the opium before the queen arrived. I remember having a really good time, feeling very relaxed and enjoying myself immensely during her visit. At a certain point, I was standing in formation to say good-bye to the queen in the parking lot, and I felt as though I were floating.

The next thing I remember is that I was lying down in a corridor in the school because my legs were suddenly so heavy. My housemistress was standing over me, saying, "Diana Pybus, get up immediately. Stand up. Why are you lying there?" I looked up at her and said, "What's the problem, man? I'm just stoned." Of course, that got a reaction out of her. She reported me immediately to the headmistress and then put me to bed, because I was quite incoherent at that point. The next morning I was sent to explain myself to the headmistress. I told her that, no, of course it wasn't drugs. I said that I had drunk my first glass of wine ever, feeling despondent about my father's death and how much I missed him. I didn't receive a very serious punishment. Either they believed my explanation or they felt sorry for me. Actually, I had lain in bed the entire night having hallucinations and enjoying it.

At one point during the term, I asked to see the headmistress and told her that I was becoming a vegetarian because I was now a Buddhist. She told me that she wasn't about to enter into a philosophical discussion with me but that I simply must eat meat. I also told her that I didn't want to go to church anymore. We were required at Benenden to attend services twice on Sundays. Being a Buddhist was not considered an acceptable excuse. I was told that I absolutely must attend.

I stopped going anyway, and eventually I got caught. As a punishment, I was told to walk about two miles to the church in the village, where I was to sit quietly by myself, memorize a psalm, and then walk back to school where I was to recite the psalm to our housemistress and all the monitors in my house at school. My friend Veronica Bruce Jones decided to come with me. When we got to the church, there was no one around. It wasn't the regular hour for services, so the church was empty. We were, however, able to get into the main sanctuary, and behind the altar I found the vicar's robes. Veronica and I also found a bottle of sacramental wine, which we drank. Then I put on the robes and stood in the pulpit, where I delivered a sermon to the empty pews on the meaning of impermanence and the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths. At the end, I remember standing there and saying, "Well, I'm a Buddhist, and Buddhism is better than this!" After that, we walked back to school, rather sloshed.

Somehow I finished out the year at school, but I knew that I didn't want to go back to Benenden in the fall. I asked my mother if I could transfer to Kirby Lodge, where my sister had spent her last two years of school. Although I longed to go to Samye Ling in the summer of 1969, I was away all summer with Mother and Tessa on a trip to Mijas, Spain, where my mother rented a villa for our vacation. I investigated where to buy local drugs cheaply and also enjoyed shoplifting in the marketplace. I stole a number of caftans, colorful long dresses worn by women in some countries of the Near East. I took to wearing these as the perfect sort of hippie clothes. While we were in Spain, I had a pet goat that I named Pan. I used to walk him around the village on a leash.

In the fall of 1969, I started school at Kirby Lodge, a' small school for sixteen- to eighteen-year-old girls located in a village outside of Cambridge. At Benenden I had done best in sciences, but at Kirby Lodge I decided to do my A-levels (advanced coursework and examinations) in languages: Sanskrit, Spanish, and English. I wanted to study Sanskrit because of my interest in Eastern religion. There were no courses in Sanskrit offered at the, school, but they arranged for me to have. a tutorial with one of the professors at Cambridge. I used, to take the bus into Cambridge once a week to have my Sanskrit lesson. However, I didn't do the assigned work, so eventually the professor refused to teach me any longer. Altogether, I'm afraid that I didn't do very well at Kirby Lodge. I had changed schools, but that didn't solve anything because that wasn't the real source of my problems.

There was one bright light in my studies during this period. I had also wanted to learn Tibetan, of course, and I heard about a Tibetan lama, Ato Rinpoche, living in Cambridge. I approached him, and he agreed to give me Tibetan lessons. His wife, Alithea, was the English daughter of an Anglican bishop, and I believe she has remained a Christian. He was absolutely devoted to her and she to him, calling him Rinpoche-la. At that time, although he occasionally lectured on Buddhism, Ato Rinpoche made his living as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. I went to his house in Cambridge once a week for my Tibetan lesson. He was very patient, and both of them were very sweet to me. He knew Trungpa Rinpoche and respected him very much, so I loved going to visit him.

On the home front, I was still having terrible problems with my mother, and our communication -- or lack of it -- did not improve. The custom at Kirby Lodge was that on your birthday your parents would bring up a cake and other food. I had my sixteenth birthday coming up on the eighth of October. At the last minute, my mother decided not to come for it at all. Sixteen is an important milestone in a young girl's life, so it was particularly devastating that she wasn't going to be there. I had already invited people to a party when I found out that Mother wasn't planning to come up. Mother told me to go out and buy things for the party myself.

Throughout this dismal autumn term at Kirby Lodge, I thought about going up to Samye Ling to see Rinpoche again. It was out of the question to discuss this with Mother, so I decided to find my own way there, the first chance I got. At the end of October I decided to leave school for the weekend without permission. I asked my friends at school to cover for me, and I hitchhiked up to Scotland. Before I left, I went to a nearby greengrocer and bought Rinpoche a pomegranate as a gift. I didn't consciously know why I chose that, but it seemed appropriate, and I put it in my bag.

When I arrived at Samye Ling, I discovered that Rinpoche wasn't staying there. He was living about a mile down the road to recuperate from his accident, at a residence called Garwald House, an old Scottish home owned by Christopher and Pamela Woodman, two students who were quite devoted to him.

Rinpoche also left Samye Ling because he and Akong had had a major falling-out. After his trip to Bhutan, but even more so after his accident, Rinpoche started to reach out to his Western students. He really wanted to explore the world beyond monastic constraints, and he didn't want to be typecast as a Tibetan monk. He wanted to go beyond all of the cultural boundaries. Akong became frightened of what Rinpoche was doing, and as Rinpoche told me later, Akong's fear became controlling. There was a huge discrepancy in the way that they wanted to treat Westerners and to be treated by them as well. Akong didn't mind Rinpoche's behavior -- which included some sexual activity and the consumption of alcohol -- as long as it was kept very private. But after the accident, Rinpoche was no longer willing to hide behind the pretense of religiosity. The only way that Akong seemed able to deal with Rinpoche's behavior was to say that Trungpa Rinpoche had gone crazy. Akong often would not allow Rinpoche to teach at Samye Ling, and it became a very limited existence for him there.

But at this time, I knew nothing about all this. Rinpoche's students who lived in and around Samye Ling may have known what was going on, but publicly everyone, except Rinpoche, was trying to keep things very hush-hush.

The first evening I was at Samye Ling, Rinpoche came by to have dinner with the Tibetans. After dinner, as he was getting ready to return to Garwald House, I saw him outside by the car. He was no longer wearing monks' robes. Instead he had on a layman's chuba, or robe, and he was walking slowly in a labored way with the aid of a walker. He was quite crippled from the accident. I managed to get close to him, and as he walked past me, he stopped to greet me. I had the pomegranate with me to present to him as a gift. I pulled it out of my bag and extended it to him. He took it graciously and thanked me for it, commenting that it was a very significant gesture. At that point, I hadn't told him about my dreams of life as a nun in Tibet.

Although I only saw Rinpoche that evening for a few minutes, in that short period of time I realized that he was a completely different person than he had been before his accident. Of course, he looked quite different physically because he was paralyzed on one side and had obviously been through a lot. However, it wasn't just his physical being that had changed. He manifested differently now, which I found fascinating. Before the accident, he had been so youthful, pure, and light. Now he was much more heavy and solid, and there was a well-processed feeling about him. He seemed much older, and he had an unfathomable quality that I hadn't experienced before. He was transformed.

His earlier manifestation had been one that Westerners, especially the proper English Buddhists, were more comfortable with. He was obviously powerful and accomplished, but not in a way that was threatening. He radiated loving kindness. Now, although his kindness was still apparent, there was a wrathful quality. It was a little bit scary to approach him, and when he looked at you, it was penetrating and disconcerting. But for me, he was magnetic.

I desperately wanted to have an audience with him, but the people I spoke to at Samye Ling told me it would be impossible. Nevertheless, the next day I decided to visit him at Garwald House. I walked a little over a mile to the turnoff to the house, and then began to walk down the long driveway that wound through the Woodmans' property. I was wearing a red caftan, part of the collection I had shoplifted the previous summer.

Near Garwald House, I met one of Rinpoche's American students who was helping to care for him after the accident. When she asked me what I was doing there, I told her I had come to see Rinpoche. She said that he simply wasn't having any visitors. She was adamant, but so was I. I told her that if he didn't want to see me, I wanted to hear that from him directly.

I walked on down the driveway, and when I got to the house, someone went upstairs to tell Rinpoche that he had an unexpected visitor; A few minutes later, she came down and said that I would be allowed to go up to his bedroom for a few minutes. I was told to keep it short. I was led up the main stairs to a large room, whose only furnishings were a double bed and a small nightstand. When I entered the room, Rinpoche was in bed, and he was wearing maroon cotton pajamas. He spent a great deal of time in bed during this period, as he was still recovering from the accident itself and from the pneumonia and pleurisy that he had developed as side effects of the original trauma. However, as I soon found out, his injury didn't stop him from being sexually active.

I sat down on the side of the bed and we started to chat. I was so happy to see him. I couldn't believe that I'd finally found my way to him. He was very friendly, and I felt closer to him than I had ever felt before. Somewhat unexpectedly, but also much to our mutual delight, one thing led to the next between us. I reached out my hand to him, and he took it and we kissed each other. He sat up in bed, put his arm around me, and invited me to get into bed with him. I accepted with no hesitation. It was in fact exactly the invitation I was hoping for at that moment.

I had barely turned sixteen, and I knew very little about sex or about men, having grown up in a sheltered environment, having my father pass away when I was just thirteen, and having attended boarding schools from the age of nine, where there were no boys. I had a boyfriend in Cambridge, but we hadn't done anything much more than kiss. As I was climbing into bed, Rinpoche started to take off his pajamas. I remember saying to him, "Where are your knickers?" And he replied, "Well, men don't wear knickers." I also was shocked to discover that men had pubic hair.

Once I entered his bedroom, his manner was so intimate that it seemed natural for us to take the relationship to this new . level. I had never been with a man before, but I didn't have any qualms about making love with him. When I visited him again a few weeks later, I asked him a number of questions about a religious teacher having sexual relationships and why he had given up his robes. But we didn't talk about any of that the first time we were together. I was so happy being there with him that I didn't question anything. Later on, I realized that it was rather outrageous for us to be sleeping together, but I also thought it was terrific.

After we made love, we stayed in bed and talked. In fact, we spent the entire weekend in bed together. Being with him made complete sense to me, in a way that nothing in my life had before. I had never connected with English culture, and I had always felt like an outsider. Basically, I thought the whole English thing was crackers, from day one. I had felt emotionally repressed my entire life. Suddenly here was this person who I could connect with, who could go anywhere with you in your mind. I felt that I had been rescued -- and liberated, because it wasn't just that I could go anywhere with him; he would go anywhere with me, too. During that weekend with Rinpoche, I discovered this tremendously vast playground. There was so much space, and I felt the freedom to be myself. That was one of the things that I always most appreciated ;bout him: that fathomless quality.

I remember that at some point he turned to me and said, "Maybe one day, someday, we could get married." I pretty much melted at that point, and I said, "Yes, yes, I'd love to marry you." While we were together, he wrote me a beautiful poem. It began, "This marriage is the marriage of sun and moon."

People have many naive ideas about tantric sex and what it must be like to sleep with the guru. It was certainly amazing to be with him, but not because of exotic sexual positions or super orgasms. What was extraordinary about it wasn't the physicality at all. Rather, it was the atmosphere of pervasive gentleness and compassion. There was, I would almost say, a sense of being zapped by the huge space of his mind. I can only describe the experience as a combination of profundity and sweetness.

By the end of the weekend, I was in a fog, but it was a soft, velvet fog unlike the cold spaces I usually inhabited. It was difficult to leave, but I pulled myself away and caught a ride south with someone leaving Samye Ling. I managed to slip back into school undetected. I think they never knew that I'd been gone.

This Marriage

This marriage is the marriage of sun and moon.
It is the marriage of ocean and sky.
What can I say if the universal force demonstrates it?

Today there is a big storm;
The autumn leaves are swept by the force of wind.
That is the meeting of wind and tree.

Emotion, what is that?
Longing for you is something deeper than my impression of you
And the memory could be carved on rock, something substantial.

Your letter is beautiful because it is written by you.
I hear Krishna playing his flute
In the long distance.

There needs to be courage from both you and me.
The words that I said will not fade
Because they are carved on this gigantic rock.
Your presence in my chamber
Still remains
As the presence of my Guru
In my mind.

Let's dance together
In the nondualistic air.
Let's sing together
In the silent clarity.

Still there is sorrow
As oneness crowned with thorns and crucified.
But it's not the fault of Pontius Pilate;
It's beyond his stature and his power.

There have been many discoveries
Like a child collecting pebbles.
I'm so pleased that you are the source of happiness.
You radiate light.

This is the gateway for you:
As you enter this gate
You will find openness without effort.

Faith is most important.
Nothing else matters.
It is the channel for everything.

Come my darling,
Be open.
There is tremendous discovery.
It is not you alone
If we both make the effort.2

NOVEMBER 2, 1969
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:49 am


A few weeks later, I decided to go up to see Rinpoche again. Unless your parents made special arrangements, on weekends you were expected to stay at school. My mother, of course, had no idea what I was up to and hadn't given her permission for me to go anywhere, but I decided to leave school for the weekend anyway. This time, I didn't cover my tracks so well. I just split.

My mother wouldn't give me any spending money because she thought that I would use it to buy drugs. So there I was in the south of England, and I had to find a way to get up to Scotland without any cash. I called Rinpoche, and he said that if I could get to the Carlisle train station, which was the station nearest to Samye Ling, he would pay for my taxi the rest of the way.

I hitchhiked part of the way up to Scotland. A truck driver picked me up ~d drove me all the way up to Yorkshire. There I boarded the train to Carlisle. In England in those days, you had to give your ticket to the conductor at your destination. Since I had no ticket, I waited until the train slowed down coming into Carlisle Station, and I opened the door and jumped off the train. I remember hitting the ground with a big thonk and rolling down an embankment. Then I had to climb over several fences, which led me into a chicken farm. There were hundreds of chickens running around in the yard. When I got out of the farm, I walked around to the front of the train station, relatively unscathed, and took the hour-long taxi drive up to Garwald House. Rinpoche, as he'd promised, paid for the taxi.

We had a fabulous weekend together. It only deepened my connection with him, and we were able to talk about a lot of things. I had some questions about our relationship and whether it was appropriate for a Tibetan lama to be sexually active. When Rinpoche and I were in bed together that second weekend, I said to him, "You know, I thought sex was bad, especially for people like you." I told him that I'd heard that the Dalai Lama had spoken about the value of sexual abstinence. Rinpoche told me that was true for some people, but that it wasn't true for everyone. He pointed out to me that he was no longer a monk.

In Tibetan Buddhism there is quite an old established tradition of married lamas, who can be revered spiritual teachers. Khyentse Rinpoche, one of my husband's main mentors, was one of these married teachers. It is often the case, for some reason, that tertons marry. When Rinpoche began finding hidden treasures, terma, in Tibet, some of the older monks at his monastery speculated that he might take a consort in the future.

Speaking more broadly, I believe that sexuality is viewed differently in Buddhism than it is within the Judeo-Christian tradition. I think that many Oriental teachers who've come to the West have hidden their views on sex from their Western disciples because they've realized that these attitudes, which are cultural as well as religious, would be misconstrued. Some Western adherents of Buddhism advocate a very conservative, almost moralistic, approach, but that doesn't come from the Buddhist tradition itself. There is, of course, an emphasis on not causing harm to others, which applies to one's sexual behavior as well as to other < areas of conduct. But that doesn't mean that one must have a prudish approach toward sex.

In any case, Rinpoche and I spent the entire weekend in bed together, just as we had the first time we were together. I can remember lying awake one of the nights that I was there feeling how special it was to be with him. I was very much in love. The time went by quickly, and I was sad to have to leave. When I had to go, Rinpoche found someone to drive me partway, and then I hitchhiked the rest of the way back to school. This time, when I got back, the school officials as well as the police were waiting for me, and they demanded to know where I'd been. I refused to tell them. There were two or three policemen trying to intimidate me. I dug in my heels and didn't say anything. I knew that if I told them where I'd been or that I had been with Rinpoche or anything like that, it would destroy my chances of ever seeing him again. Finally, they told me, "All right, but if you ever leave school again without permission, you'll be expelled and put into juvenile detention."

At school they were now aware that I was in real trouble. I had reached a point where I was not functioning, not doing anything. The housemistress was very sweet and not judgmental at all. She tried to be helpful. She knew that I was in a difficult family situation, my father having died and my mother being so unstable at this point.

During this time, I went home for a few days. I had an appointment with our family physician, and I told him that I was sexually active. He immediately wanted to give me contraception. He told me that my mother was having a nervous crisis and that if I became pregnant, it would finish her off. My mother had many psychological problems even before my father died. The biggest problem for me was that she wanted me to be a particular way, and what I did was never good enough for her. During this period, she ignored the fact that I was in psychological distress myself and just kept saying, "Oh why can't you be like so and so?" She wanted me to be, not even who she was, but who she had always wanted to be.

She was trying to advance me socially, to have me marry the right man and do the right things and have the right sort of feminine attitude and all of that. She didn't seem to appreciate how unhappy and miserable and confused I was. All I wanted to do was to be with Rinpoche and I couldn't relate to anything else.

My mother did send me to a psychiatrist in London during this period. He opened our session by saying, "Your mother tells me that you want to be a dropout from society." I replied eagerly, "Yes, I do!" So he said, "Oh, do tell me about it:' He was so enthusiastic that I felt that he was about ready to drop out himself. We talked about Buddhism and other things, and finally he said to me, "You know something, I have to confide in you. Your mother is a very troubled person. She has alienated a lot of people around her, including you. I actually think you're doing quite fine." For a short time, this made me feel a bit better about myself.

Throughout the term at Kirby Lodge, I continued to be out of touch with the academic situation. I maintained a vegetarian diet at school, eating the rather disgusting English boarding school food, but not meat or eggs. I became somewhat disconnected from the world around me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I couldn't continue to live with my mother. My sister had already moved out, and the spectacle of being alone in London with Mother over the upcoming Christmas holiday was unbearable. I talked to my housemistress about this, and she seemed very understanding. We talked about alternatives, and we came up with the idea that I could stay with my aunt and uncle in Northumberland. I asked to be put in their custody. I thought that was a good option. They seemed to be fairly stable people, and I felt that I'd be in a more neutral situation with them.

Shortly thereafter I got a telephone call from my mother. The housemistress had obviously phoned her. Mother was furious and told me, "I can't believe you've done this. I'm expecting you home for the Christmas holidays, and I've already bought flowers for the house. I can't believe you're thinking of not coming back." That was the depth of our communication at that point. I felt that I had no choice but to give in to her, so I ended up going home for Christmas. I had a shrine in my bedroom there, with a picture of Rinpoche, a statue of the Buddha, and some butter lamps on it. My sister had painted my room in bright Tibetan colors: orange and maroon and deep blue, which I loved. While I was away at school, my mother had my bedroom redecorated. She repainted, did away with my shrine, and put up curtains with a Chinese design on them. She said to me, "Well, you should like this. It has an Asian theme." It was just Mother and me for Christmas. Did we celebrate? I don't even remember.

Right after Christmas, Rinpoche called me in London, pleading with me to come up to Scotland for the New Year. I didn't know how to persuade my mother to let me go, but then I hatched a plan. I called some friends who were also students of Rinpoche's, Stash and Amalie, who lived near Eskdalemuir, and told them that I needed a cover so that I could see Rinpoche. Stash knew how to do the English upper-crust thing really well, so he called my mother and said that he and his wife were having a lovely New Year's Eve party at their home in Scotland. He told my mother, "I'd really like Diana to come for it. But please be very careful about train tickets, because of all the drunken people on the train this time of year. I think you'll have to spend the money on a first-class ticket, and we'll pick her up at the station in Carlisle." My mother was quite charmed, so this time I ended up having my way paid first class to Carlisle.

I had an instinct that I would never be coming back. When I was packing, my mother walked into the bedroom and said, "You're taking so many things. You're packing as if you're leaving home." I laughed and said, "Oh well, I just don't know what I'm going to need to wear."

When I got off the train, I got a taxi directly to Garwald House and met Rinpoche there. I never even saw Stash and Amalie that night. I arrived on December 30. The next night, New Year's Eve, was wild. Rinpoche and I drove around with some friends to visit various people. The first place we stopped, the people had put hashish in their Christmas cake. After they'd eaten it, they'd had a terrible fight and had broken every piece of china in the house. We went on from there to visit Stash and Amalie, who lived in a cottage in a remote area. We continued making the rounds at Eskdalemuir, stopping at a number of friends' houses.

Halfway through the evening, we joined up with the Woodmans, who owned the house where Rinpoche was living. After that, I remember encountering a lot of negativity toward Rinpoche, and some that was directed at the two of us. I don't know exactly what had happened, whether Rinpoche had gone one step too far for them at that point, or if there was jealousy because of me, or what. However, the situation felt hostile and rather weird.

For Rinpoche at that time, there was so much personal crisis and personal growth taking place simultaneously. He was quite young, if you think about it, just twenty-eight, and he was dealing with incredible forces of change in his life. He'd lost his own culture in a horribly brutal way and had been exiled to a strange land. Then he'd had the big message of his car accident and the subsequent paralysis, which was a major turning point for him spiritually. He used to say to me that there was a point in your spiritual development where you could either go crazy or become enlightened. He was right there, on that point.

I think that he felt abandoned to a large extent, misunderstood both by the Tibetans and by his students. Most of the English students, even those who had been quite close to him, couldn't go along with him at this point. He just didn't fit the mold of a spiritual teacher that the English people wanted. They found him brilliant, but they were also intimidated by him. They could venerate an Asian guru if he remained a holy little man, but a powerful figure like Rinpoche was threatening.

So when I came into his life, there weren't very many people there for him. At the same time, although this era was terribly bleak, he was giving birth to something much more powerful than what had happened in the past. It was a very pregnant time. In October of 1969, Rinpoche had sent a letter to the lawyer for Samye Ling, who was also one of his students, in which he talked frankly about the whole situation. Early in the letter he talks about his decision to disrobe:

I have decided to give up the robe, which I feel stood as a subtle obstacle to the formulation of my teaching in the West. The monk's robe confused many here as a glorious image of spirituality. However, my teaching concerns actual experience. I don't feel that I need to hide behind something, though some people are critical of me for coming out and showing myself as a human being.1

He continues,

To be quite frank with you, I feel that I must make it quite clear that the disapproval which has been directed toward me from some so-called Buddhists, including some of my compatriots, has been a fear of plunging in in this way. My very existence becomes an enormous threat to them because I am utterly without fear in this world of violent change.2

That New Year's Eve, after we went round and visited Rinpoche's students in Eskdalemuir, we went back to Garwald House. Rinpoche got on the phone, and at first I thought he was calling people to wish them a happy New Year. I finally realized that he was calling his old girlfriends and inviting them up to the house. Four or five young women arrived within the hour, and they were each put up in a different bedroom for the night, while I slept with Rinpoche in his room. When I asked him what on earth he was doing, he said, "I'm trying to decide which of you I'm going to marry." Somehow I knew that it would be me, so I didn't feel threatened, as strange as that might sound. But what a bizarre spectacle!

In the morning when I woke up, I wanted to go down to the kitchen to get something to eat, but I couldn't find my nightgown or a robe to put on, so I grabbed Rinpoche's Tibetan robe, his chuba, wrapped it around myself, and went downstairs. Pamela Woodman was there, and when she saw me, she started screaming at me, "Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are that you can wear his chuba?" There was tremendous black negativity in the air.

Later that day, after saying goodbye to all the assembled ladies, Rinpoche and I decided to escape the whole scene at Garwald House and go to Edinburgh. 1 thought that we might be getting married there. Rinpoche just said, "Let's get out of here," and I agreed. I phoned my sister, and she and her boyfriend Roderick arrived at Garwald House to drive us. We packed a few things, got in their car, and headed north. We stopped in Glasgow for the night. We didn't have much money, so we stayed in a tiny, disgusting little place where every hour or two the heater would go off and you had to spend a half-crown to get it to come back on. Rinpoche and I would fall asleep, only to be woken up when it was freezing in the room. Then we'd have to find another half-crown and put it in the heater. We spent the whole night like that. The next night we moved into a nicer hotel in Edinburgh.

The period from Rinpoche's accident until we married and left for America a year later was one of the darkest times in his life. Rinpoche was often in the depths of depression. He was sick with pleurisy and pneumonia, he was crippled, his Tibetan compatriots were trying to control him, and many of his students had left him. He felt that his only reason for existence was to present the Buddhist teachings. Akong refused to support him in teaching the way that he wanted to, and he had very few students in England who could hear what he had to say. For Rinpoche, if he had no opportunity to present the buddhadharma, the Buddhist teachings, life was not worth living. He told me at several points that if he couldn't teach, he had no reason to go on.

That night in the hotel, Rinpoche had a big jar of Seconals, which are sleeping pills. I don't know where he had obtained them. At one point that night, he turned to me and said, "Let's take all these pills. Let's just do it." I grabbed the bottle out of his hand and threw the pills out of the hotel window, saying, "We're not going to do that. There's a future for us." Then we went to bed.

I'm not sure if Rinpoche really meant it, if he actually would have taken an overdose. One might think he was testing me somehow, but I'm not so sure. If! had said, "Okay, yes, let's kill ourselves," I think he might have gone ahead. He loved those Japanese movies where the star-crossed lovers commit double suicide, a bit like Romeo and Juliet.

I'm sure it's difficult to understand how a spiritual teacher could even contemplate taking his own life. But Rinpoche was just so real. He wasn't like anybody's concept of a spiritual teacher. Of course, I found the suggestion that we take all those pills quite shocking, although I felt tremendous sympathy for what Rinpoche was going through. In a way, it seemed like a very human response to his situation. Thank heavens I kept my faith in our ability to transcend this awful situation. I don't mean to suggest that I saved his life, exactly. It was more that I was part of the circumstances or the atmosphere that gave him a future. I don't know if you can understand this, but there were many times in my husband's life when circumstances intervened and helped him. I felt as though I were part of that support system -- which almost felt like a cosmic coincidence of some kind.

Later, I heard about another great Tibetan teacher who was driven to the brink of self-destruction. In the eleventh century in Tibet, there was a famous meditator named Milarepa, who is probably the greatest saint. in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He spent years trying to receive the highest teachings from his guru. Because of Milarepa's particularly stubborn and difficult nature and because of his many misdeeds in the past, his teacher made him undergo many tests and trials. Nothing seemed to please his guru. Finally, Milarepa became so discouraged and convinced that he would never receive the final spiritual empowerment that he decided he would take his own life. His teacher appeared just as he was about to hurl himself over a cliff. At that point, feeling that Milarepa had finally surrendered completely, his guru gave him the ultimate transmission. My husband always said that he admired Milarepa because everything he did was undertaken with an attitude of complete warriorship. My husband lived his life in the same way. He was an extreme human being, and he lived his life with extreme and immaculate concern for others. When he became depressed and suicidal, it was not out of self-pity.

The next morning, January 3, 1970, we decided that we were going to get married. What an outrageous time to make this decision! Most people, looking back on their courtship and marriage, would see a happy picture, I think. Our bond, obviously, was not forged out of any such cheerful circumstances. What we had, however, was a true connection, and I never doubted my love for Rinpoche or his genuine love for me.

On January 1, a law had gone into effect in Scotland that made it legal to get married at sixteen years of age without your parents' consent. The morning of the third, Rinpoche called Akong and Sherab Palden at Samye Ling and told them that we were getting married. They came up to Edinburgh right away, but it was like they'd come for a funeral. That's the only way I can describe it. Our marriage was a huge mistake as far as Rinpoche's Tibetan colleagues were concerned, further proof that he was not going to remain securely within the fold. Akong was sullen and wouldn't look me in the eye. I think the icing on the cake for him, so to speak, was that Rinpoche was going to marry a white girl. At that point, Akong might have given in and softened to the situation, but instead he seemed to become more rigid. In doing so, he sealed shut a door of intimacy that had been open between Rinpoche and him, not just in this life, but for many lifetimes. In the letter I quoted from earlier, Rinpoche also addressed his relationship with Akong:

There is much that I think you ought to know about the situation at Samye Ling .... Most of the difficulty boils down to a basic disagreement between Akong and myself. I have not acted more forcefully as of yet because I feel that he is involved in a deep personal crisis through which I want him to discover his own way himself. At heart the problem is that same lack of courage and lack of faith which I have tried to impress on you as the ultimate danger ....

The point is that Akong wishes to control me and use me in a very limited way. He feels that my "becoming Western" is a "disgrace to Tibet" -- (pride lies very near the surface here). But my role is a far deeper one than a mere cultural mission, a representative of the East in the West. I am not Tibetan but Human and my mission is to teach others as effectively as I can in the world in which I find myself. Therefore, I refuse to be bound by any "national" considerations whatsoever. And if Akong wishes to work effectively now, he too must have the courage to break through his Tibetanness, to stop hiding behind our national background .... 3

I think that Akong was hoping that at the last minute Trungpa Rinpoche would change his mind about marrying me, but that didn't happen. Akong and Sherab went with Rinpoche and me to a very formal old Scottish building to apply for our marriage licenses. Rinpoche and I must have been quite a sight as we approached the registrar: a rather short, crippled Tibetan man, age twenty-nine, wearing a special caliper on his leg and a cumbersome walker to support him, and a tall, sixteen-year- old English girl with long blonde hair. The registrar had a Bible, and he said to Rinpoche, "Put your hand on this Bible and swear before God." And Rinpoche said, "I'm sorry, I can't do that. I'm a Buddhist." That was all right for him, but then the registrar gave me the same instruction, and I said, "I'm also sorry I can't do this. I'm a Buddhist." This absolutely appalled him. Here I was, a young English girl who had obviously run away from home and a good family, and on top of that I had renounced Christianity. I thought for a moment that he might not give us the marriage licenses, but he did.

After we got the license, we had to go to the justice of the peace to perform the actual wedding. Before the ceremony, Akong and Sherab bowed out and went back to Samye Ling. Rinpoche had taken me shopping earlier in the day and had bought me a beige camel-hair suit, so at least I didn't get married in one of my hippie caftans. I think he was trying to clean up my act a little. He wore a dark gray flannel suit and tie. Before we got married, we got our picture taken in one of those booths where you put in a coin and take four pictures really quickly.

My sister, her boyfriend, and a couple of other friends went with us to a little hall where we were married by a justice of the peace. We took our vows sitting on folding chairs. We said all the traditional things: we promised to honor, obey, and love one another. I got two gifts: a muslin shirt and a bunch of daffodils. Later, Rinpoche said that we should get married again and have a proper wedding, but we never did.

When we came out of the hall after the ceremony, there was a scene with the press. Because of the new law, a number of reporters were hanging around to see who was getting married, and as we left the hall, they took photographs and tried to interview us. After we escaped the reporters, we went out to eat with our friends and then went back to the hotel and got in bed.

Shortly thereafter, our hotel room door burst open and more reporters came into the bedroom. They said to me, "We want to get some information. You've married your gobo. We need information. Tell us all about it." They didn't know what a guru was, so they kept calling Rinpoche my" gobo," a meaningless word. We were both horrified. That was one of the few times in those early days that I saw Rinpoche become really angry. He yelled at them, "Get out of here before I smash your cameras." And they left.

There were other ,dramas that evening. The press went to my mother's house in London and said that they wanted to ask her some questions about the daughter who'd just married a Tibetan guru -- or gobo. My mother went into shock and said, "Oh my God, oh my God, Tessa got married. I can't believe it." Then they told her, "No, no, it's not Tessa, it's Diana." My mother fainted.

Rinpoche and I received a telephone call later that night from a friend of my mother's, saying that my mother was having the marriage annulled because I was underage. Rinpoche kept telling me not to worry, that it was okay, and that she wouldn't be able to do that because the marriage was legal and we had the marriage license to prove it. But it was still frightening.

The next morning we got the newspapers and discovered that our marriage had made the front page of the People and the Express, as well as the back page of the Sunday Mirror, none of which are among the better English papers. The Sunday Mirror featured a picture of Rinpoche and me, with the caption "Diana, 16, Runs Away to Marry a Monk." Seeing our picture in the tabloids must have been terribly humiliating for my mother.

However, for me, the most outrageous event occurred after all the reporters had gone away and the phone calls had ended. Late that morning, while we were lying in bed, Rinpoche decided he would call some friends to announce our marriage. His first call was to a friend in Wales, and I remember him saying, "Mary, a very exciting thing has happened to me. I'm married." And then he said, "Yes, yes, she's sixteen years old." Then I could hear her talking on the other end of the line, but I couldn't) hear what she was saying. Rinpoche looked slightly quizzical, there was a pause, and then he said, "Hold on a minute." He put his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone, and he turned to me and said, "Excuse me, Sweetheart, but what's your name?"

He had actually forgotten my name! Rinpoche lived his life without the conventional reference points that most of us cling to as the anchors of our sanity. I don't know if you can possibly imagine what I felt at this moment. It wasn't that I felt he didn't care about me or that fundamentally he didn't know who I was. In fact, he knew me better than anyone else dig. But on the morning after our wedding, he couldn't remember my name. Not at all. Not Diana, not Pybus, not any of it. So I told him my name, and he happily went back to his phone conversation as though nothing had happened.

I, meanwhile, was freaking out. There was no regret on my part, but I realized that I had gotten myself into the wildest situation possible. I lay in bed thinking, "I don't know what's going to happen in my life.You know, I really at this point do not know at all what lies in my future. But I do know one thing: my life will never be boring. It definitely is going to be amazing and unusual." On the whole, I was both excited and terrified at the prospect of spending my life with such a person.

That was how our marriage began. I don't really blame my parents for the unusual path I've taken. They had something to do with it, but it is also the result of who I am. I chose this marriage and this life. As I said before, until I met Rinpoche, I never could connect with the world as a whole. I always felt different. I never felt like I was one of "them" at all. Meeting Rinpoche and being in his world were the first real things that happened for me in my life.

Once I entered his world, I didn't have any objective reference points, nothing to fall back on and say, "Well, this is normal, this is civilized. This isn't." For me, there was absolutely no other reference point. Just him. Just us. Just our marriage. I spent a lot of years married to Rinpoche operating in that space with him.

Later, when I started my intensive dressage training, I knew that I had to acknowledge the conventional world and some sort of conventional wisdom and behavior if I was going to find a place for myself in the riding world. I tried to keep those two worlds, my marriage and my career, separate so that I would be accepted in the riding world. Rinpoche's world was not a problem for me. It was just a bit of a balancing act.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:54 am


To understand the cultural divide between my background and my life with Rinpoche, it might be helpful to know something about my childhood and upbringing. I was born Diana Judith Pybus at Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London, England, on October 8, 1953, at midnight on the new moon. My great-great grandfather was the first British ambassador to Ceylon and a member of the Council of Madras. When he returned to England, the king honored him by adding an elephant to the family coat of arms, which is also part of the Pybus seal on the family signet ring.

David Humphrey Pybus, my father, grew up in a large country house in the village of Hexham in Northumberland in the north of England. The house was close to Hadrian's Wall and in fact was made out of stones from the wall, so it had enormously thick walls. Denton Hall, as it was called, is one of the famous haunted houses in England.

Denton Hall, Northumberland

During the reign of Elizabeth I, when many Protestants were being persecuted, a young woman who lived nearby was murdered by Catholics, and she became the ghost of Denton Hall. My father's family called her "Silky," because of the silky white dress she wore as an apparition. Silky was a very active ghost, somewhat of a poltergeist. According to some stories, she was looking for a treasure that was buried somewhere in Denton Hall. Although she usually inhabited the family home, she was also seen in the coal mines in Newcastle that were owned by the Pybus family. The miners used to say that Silky appeared when there was about to be a fall in the mine.

My father had a speech impediment, which he thought was due to his terror of Silky as a young child. The youngest of three boys, he was often sent to bed before his brothers John and Michael. When he was alone in the bedroom, the curtains would begin to move, and he would hear strange moans and groans. Sometimes his dresser would move of its own accord.

Visitors to Denton Hall often reported encounters with Silky. Once when a woman and her son were staying with my father's family, the boy came down to breakfast and asked, "Oh, Mummy, who was that nice lady in the pointed hat who covered me up last night?" Most of the Pybus family saw this ghost on a fairly regular basis, so they realized that the little boy was talking about Silky, but they laughed it off, pretending that he was only dreaming. Another time, when a Catholic bishop came to stay in the house, Silky tore his covers off the bed during the night and terrified him by rattling things and moving them around in his room. Remember, she was a Protestant ghost. The bishop left the house early the next morning. Eventually, after many incidents, the family arranged for an exorcism, which was apparently successful, as Silky disappeared from Denton Hall. They say, however, that she still appears in the church in the little village of Hexham.

Following the completion of his public school education at English boarding schools, which he described as a miserable experience, my father attended Cambridge, where he took a degree in law. For generations, the Pybus men have been barristers and judges, so my father followed in the family tradition, even though his speech impediment did not make him an ideal candidate for the legal profession. After graduating, he enlisted in the British army and became the commander of a squadron that was part of the Normandy invasion in World War II. My father had terrible memories of the war. When 1 was a young girl, he told me how he and his squad had run over a German soldier with their tank. This memory haunted him. He would say, "I wish we hadn't done it. We could have gone around him. What happened to his family? Did he have children? This was a human being." Shortly after the invasion, he was seriously wounded by a sniper in France, the bullet passing an eighth of an inch from his optic nerve. Father was evacuated to England where he had a long convalescence.

My mother, Elizabeth Cornelia Smith, was born in 1910 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her mother was a baroness from Dutch nobility, while her father was an English businessman. When my grandmother decided to marry an Englishman, her family disowned her, for the Boers detested the English. My grandmother never spoke to her family again. (Estrangement seems a recurrent theme throughout our recent family history.)

My mother, Elizabeth, was the eleventh of thirteen children. Many of the older siblings had already left home before she was born. When she was five years old, her father contracted pneumonia and died, leaving a sizable estate to my grandmother. However, shortly after his death, the family discovered that he had cosigned on a large loan for a friend's business. The business went bankrupt, the friend defaulted on the loan, and the family lost everything.

My mother had a tough childhood in many ways. There was often not enough to eat; the children were lucky to have bread and milk for supper. Although my grandmother was a devout member of the Dutch Reform Church -- on the Sabbath, the curtains were drawn and everyone had to spend the day sitting quietly in the living room-after she became so poor, she stopped taking the children to church because she didn't have money for shoes for all of them. My mother was also physically abused by one of her older brothers, who used to tie her to the bed and beat her. She never said this, but I always wondered if she had been sexually abused as well.

When she turned sixteen, my mother moved out of the house and became a hairdresser. She had her own salon in Johannesburg within a year. At eighteen she got involved with an older man who owned diamond mines in Rhodesia. After a brief courtship, she married him and moved to Rhodesia, but she was never happy there. Her husband had grown children and didn't want any more, whereas my mother was ready to start a family. After a short time, he took up with her seamstress. When my mother found out about the affair, she briefly contemplated poisoning her husband or killing herself, but she decided to leave him instead. She had never been off the African continent but had always dreamed of traveling to London. So she told him she wanted to travel by steamship to England, and he agreed to send her. On the boat, she met my father, who was on a holiday, and fell in love with him (my father had been in Africa). When she reached London, she wrote to her husband asking for a divorce.

My parents married a few years before World War II. My mother was eight years older than my father, and their marriage was not well accepted by my father's family. The Pybuses were not at all pleased that my father was marrying a divorcee from South Africa.

During the war, my mother was on her own in London for several years. While my father was away at war, she made attempts to educate herself. To disguise her South African accent, she took elocution lessons. She wanted to be accepted as a member of the British upper classes. She also read voraciously to make up for her lack of formal education. It wasn't so much that she wanted to know more; rather, she wanted to be able to make good conversation with my father's English friends.

While my father was away, my mother also made her professional debut as an opera singer, and she had a short but successful career during the war. A talented mezzo-soprano, she had been taking voice lessons for several years, and during wartime there was a shortage of divas in London. She was given the lead in a number of operas, including Mimi in La Boheme and Violeta in La Traviata. She sang at Covent Garden; the premier opera house in London.

When my father returned to England to convalesce from his war injury, he and my mother moved to a small cottage in the south of England, where he' could recuperate. My mother wrote to the Pybus family asking them for financial support during this difficult period, but they sent no money. Instead, my grandmother sent down Some old discarded linens that had been used by the servants in Denton Hall. The towels were embroidered with the word "Tweeney," which stands for "Between Maid" (between upstairs and downstairs in rank). My mother never forgot this insult.

Some time later, she persuaded my father to move to South Africa, thinking that life would be better for them there. They bought a beautiful old farm on the east coast, which they named Willowstream Park. During their years in South Africa, my mother and father started their family. They lost the first child, a little girl named Carol, who died three days after she was born from a medical condition that would have been easily remedied in England. In 1950, when my mother became pregnant for the second time, she and my father returned to England for the birth of my older sister Tessa. When I was born in 1953, my parents moved back to England for good.

When I was four months old, we moved into a Queen Anne house in the village of Cobham in the county of Surrey in the south of England. The house was called Ham Manor and was situated in a walled garden on one acre of grounds just on the outskirts of the village.

I have heard that only psychotic people remember their infancies, but I remember a great deal about mine, and from my earliest memories I remember feeling disconnected from my mother. I can remember lying in my perambulator on the lawn at Ham Manor, screaming. I had some booties on, and I didn't like their color. I wanted to take them off but I couldn't sit up and I couldn't remove them myself. I must have been very small. I remember thinking about my mother, saying to myself, "She's in the house. She's not going to bother to come out and help me."

English babies spend a lot of time in their navy blue prams, which are made of coach metal and lacquered like an automobile. The baby's bed is large and sits quite high off the ground, with a luxuriously padded interior. There is a little seatback that you can set up in the bed, so that when the baby is awake, he or she can sit up and look around. I remember being wheeled by the nanny down to the village. I loved to daydream in my pram, and I can still remember the fantasy worlds I inhabited.

When I was about a year-and-a-half old, I remember standing in my bedroom, looking up at my dresses hanging in the wardrobe. They seemed tiny to me, and I thought, "Look at that. How ridiculously small they are! I don't know how I got myself into this situation. What on earth happened?" I thought it was quite amusing to be so small. My husband used to say that children before the age of five often have memories from past lives. When I look back on this incident, it seems that I was looking at my wardrobe through grown-up eyes from a previous life.

There was an apple orchard at Ham Manor, and in the middle of the orchard the children had a playhouse, which we called the Wendy House. There were terraced lawns in front of the house, and I was very good at riding my bicycle down the lawn and into the one and only tree on the front lawn, a huge spreading oak.

As you entered Ham Manor, there was a large drawing room on the left and a library on the right. My parents were avid antique collectors, so the house was furnished with a lot of dark wood and Chippendale antiques. If you continued past the front hallway, you entered the formal dining room, behind which were the kitchen, pantries, and the laundry rooms. There was nothing remarkable about the second floor, where my parents had their bedrooms. But on the top floor there was a central room completely encased in glass. It had been built as a wig room. When you powdered your wig, the powder would adhere to the glass. The children had their nursery on the top floor, and my father's study was there. The nanny's quarters were also on the top floor, next to the nursery.

In our family the nanny was the chief caregiver. She took care of my sister and me twenty-four hours a day, and that was her only responsibility. The nanny always wore a uniform, a pale blue or green dress that buttoned down the front and looked like a nurse's uniform. Over the dress she wore an apron and a starched white collar.

When I was three years old, we had a rather elderly woman as our nanny for a brief period of time. She was stocky and wore black stockings. I can remember riding my tricycle in the lane behind the house while she watched me. At some point, I escaped and took off down the lane. She came running after me, yelling at me to stop. I got as far as a new housing development in the village, where there was a circular traffic island. I rode around and around the island, while she chased me in her uniform and black stockings.

Our next nanny stayed with the family, on and off, for a number of years. Frieda Kopfli, a young Swiss woman, was very kind to us, and my sister and I loved her, although she was a bit eccentric. She used to play the violin for us while we were going to the bathroom. It was an unusual toilet training technique. Once, she came into the nursery and started pulling all the jigsaw puzzles off the shelves, throwing the pieces in the air; dancing and singing and mixing all the puzzle pieces up. Finally, my father came in and stopped her. She was sent back to Switzerland for six months to recover from her nervous breakdown, after which she returned to us.

Frieda left the family when my sister was eight and I was five. My mother felt that we no longer needed a nanny when I was sent to a nearby private day school to attend kindergarten. After Frieda's departure, the live-in housekeeper looked after us when Mother was busy. Mrs. Wills, the housekeeper, was also the cook. Although she was quite a good cook, she herself seemed to survive on large tins of English biscuits, and she drank voluminous quantities of very sweet tea. She must have weighed close to three hundred pounds. Once or twice a year there would be a big drama when Mrs. Wills fell down in the lane behind the house. She was unable to get up by herself, so the men would have to be summoned from the garden to help Mrs. Wills up. She would then retire to bed for several days to nurse her bruises.

Mrs. Wills was a temperamental cook. If she was in a good mood, she would allow us to come into the kitchen and even help her with the baking, but at other times, she would scream at us, "You get out of my kitchen!" We ate breakfast every morning in the dining room, and we always knew what to expect for breakfast because Mrs. Wills had a weekly menu that never varied. Mondays would be tomatoes on toast, Tuesdays would be egg and bacon, Thursdays we had kidneys on toast, and Fridays we had cereal. I loved her puddings and the mince pies that she made at Christmas.

Once when Mother was giving a dinner party, she and Mrs. Wills prepared a special apple meringue pudding, which was put into the oven to bake just as the guests were arriving. While everyone was sitting at the table having their main course, my mother heard a crash coming from the kitchen. Excusing herself, she disappeared into the kitchen, closing the door behind her, only to find that Mrs. Wills had dropped the pudding on the floor as it came out of the oven. They conferred and my mother returned to the table. A little while later, apple meringue was brought to the table in dessert glasses. When one of the guests complimented my mother on the dessert and asked her how it was made, she replied, "You take an apple meringue, you bake it in the oven, you drop it on the floor, and finally you put it in glasses." Everyone found this amusing, not suspecting that she was telling the truth.

When we moved down to London when I was seven, Mrs. Wills came along and stayed with the family until shortly after my father's death when I was thirteen. When my mother discovered that Mrs. Wills had a heart condition, she let her go, telling us that it would be really unfortunate if Mrs. Wills were to have a heart attack during a dinner party. Mrs. Wills retired to a trailer park in, the south of England. I felt terrible that this was how her loyalty to the family' was rewarded.

Since my mother had been an opera singer, she had great hopes that her children would be musical. I was completely tone deaf and hated my piano lessons, which were forced on me at the age of four. However, when I was four, I was also allowed to start riding lessons, which I adored. My mother dropped me off at my first lesson at a stable near Ham Manor. She couldn't believe how excited I was. I can remember her saying, "Diana, I don't understand why you want to ride. You'll be out in the weather all the time and it will ruin your complexion."

At my first lesson, I was given a little white pony to ride. When it was over, I hung around the stall where my pony was stabled while I waited for Mother to pick me up. I was wearing a brand new outfit that Mother had bought me for my riding lessons. I took off my new velvet hard hat and filled it with water from a nearby trough. Then I invited the pony to drink out of my hat. After he finished his drink, he nibbled some of the buttons off my new blue sweater and chewed on the sweater as well. By the time my mother arrived, my clothes were pretty well ruined. When we got home, I was sent to my bedroom for the rest of the day as punishment. However, this didn't faze me at all. Horses were to become a lifelong passion.

My father had been working as a barrister, and he had prosecuted some rather important murder trials. But because he had such a terrible stutter, he became embarrassed about having to present arguments in court. When I was four, he went to work for a pharmaceutical company in London, about an hour from our home. By the time I was seven, my mother was bored with country life and wanted to move into the city. My father was glad to move into London; he was overtired from the commute and his long hours of work. I, on the other hand, had never known any other home, and I was sad to leave Ham Manor.

I had chronic bronchitis during my childhood, so when my parents made the decision to move into the city, it was decided that while they were getting the household set up in London, I would go for several months to South Africa to stay with my aunt Carol. My parents thought that the sunshine would do me good. I was sent by myself on the plane, and it was a really long trip. We stopped in Rome and in Nairobi on the way down.

Aunt Carol had a little bungalow outside of Johannesburg. There was a peach orchard in the back of her house, and she had several little dogs, with which I played during the day. I have fond memories of those months. Later, when I was thirteen, I returned to South Africa and at that time realized the extent of the racial prejudice. As a young child, however, I didn't take notice of it. My aunt was nurturing and caring in a way that I wish my mother had been. Tessa came down for the last month that I was there, and at the end of the summer we flew back to London together. I never saw Aunt Carol again. When I was nine, she developed lung cancer. My mother went back to South Africa and cared for her for six months until she died.

When Tessa and I returned to London, my parents had moved us into a large flat in the city. I found London claustrophobic. To my mind, it couldn't match life in the country. Our flat was located in Thorney Court, a Victorian block of apartments overlooking Kensington Gardens. The rooms were quite large, with high ceilings and tall windows, many of them facing the gardens, including those in my bedroom. The central hallway in the apartment was large enough to hold a grand piano and several wingback chairs.

My relationship with Mother deteriorated significantly at Thorney Court. I didn't feel that I could share anything with her because I found her so critical. She was never what I would call understanding or accepting of any pain or discomfort that I experienced, so I kept those things to myself. Occasionally, I would talk about my feelings with my father, with whom I shared more closeness and warmth. But he wasn't around much, so most of what I felt had to be buried.

After we had moved up to London, my parents purchased a small sixteenth-century thatched cottage in Cambridgeshire. We used the cottage during the school holidays, especially the summers. It was near Newmarket in the small village of Snail well. It was quite primitive, with no electricity or central heating. It was set in the middle of a field. We would park in the field, where there often would be Jersey cows grazing, and walk from there through a gate that led into a small garden in front of the cottage. I loved being there in the countryside. I was able to go riding, as there was a stable nearby. My sister and I had a tree house at the cottage, and We had a fort in a hollow tree.

I have wonderful childhood memories of times spent at the cottage. My sister and I had more freedom when we were there. We used to ride our bicycles down to a nearby stream to go fishing. Once some gypsies came in a horse-drawn, brightly painted caravan and camped there, and I remember spying on them. Because we were children of the British upper class, in London we were not allowed to play with what my parents called "common" children. However, when we were at the cottage, the parents relaxed this rule. I used to go up to the nearby farm to see the Jersey calves and to play with several children who lived there.

One summer, my sister and I started the Red Riders Club. We invited our local friends to join, and we held our meetings in an empty house in the neighborhood. We broke into a house that was for sale, and we met in the attic. Initiations into the club were held there. To become a member, you had to sign your name in blood. At a certain point, one of the girls, Jenny, the farm manager's daughter, told on us. We all got into trouble for breaking into this house. I was furious at Jenny, and I decided to get back at her. There are natural deposits of chalk in that area, and I got hold of a piece. When Jenny and her family were away on holiday, I chalked a message onto the front door of their cottage. I wrote, "Jenny is a pig and we all hate her." When the family came home, they found the message, and it turned out I'd pressed so hard into the wood that I'd actually carved those words into the door. Understandably, my parents were furious.

From that time on, Tessa and I were not allowed to play with any of, the children there. It seemed that my parents blamed the incident on the fact that we had been playing with the local village children, who were a bad influence, according to my parents. They were in fact quite prejudiced. As a young child, I had a music teacher who came to the house each week. Once, she brought another piano student with her, a young black boy. I liked him, and we got along very well. However, when I told my mother I wanted to invite him over to play, she told me that I wasn't allowed to see colored children. When I asked her why, she said, "If you play with colored children, you get familiar with them, and when you grow up you might end up marrying one." Intermarriage, apparently, would be a great tragedy. (In my mother's view, Rinpoche was a black man, so her fears did come to fruition.)

Just before my ninth birthday, my parents made plans to send Tessa to boarding school at Benenden School. The thought of being at home without her was frightening. My mother criticized and belittled me, and my father worked long hours and was rarely at home. I got the idea that I would like to go away to school as well. I remember the day this thought crystallized in my head. I had been out playing tennis with a friend. When I returned, my mother was in the lobby of Thorney. Court, and we got in the elevator together to go up to the apartment. Ali of a sudden she started slapping me on one side of the head and the other. She was angry because I had a spot on my shirt. I remember thinking, "I've got to get out of here. I can't be left alone with Mother."

That night I asked my parents if I could go to boarding school too. I presented it as a positive idea, and although they were a little taken aback and worried because I was so young, they agreed. It was not that unusual for English children my age to go off to school. Before I left for school that autumn, Mrs. Wills taught me how to make a bed with perfect hospital corners, a skill that she knew I would need in the school environment.

I was too young to attend Benenden with Tessa, so I was sent to Ports down Lodge, in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex. It was an old, very long brick building that looked more like a hospital than a school. The educational system they followed there could only be described as archaic. We learned to write with quill pens, which we dipped in the inkwells on our desks. Once we mastered writing with a quill, we were allowed to use a metal rub that we also dipped into the inkwell. Finally, we were given fountain pens to write with. For our uniforms, we wore navy blue tunics with white shirts and dark ties.

The children were put to bed at six o'clock in the evening, even in the summertime. There was no talking after lights out, and if you cried in your bed at night, you were punished. You had to spend the next day in silence, no one was allowed to speak to you; and you were not allowed any dessert. That was the punishment for the first offence. I was terrified to talk, and I would lay awake in bed for hours.

After a few weeks in this repressive situation, I became spaced out and disoriented. I can remember feeling terrible about myself The staff had my hearing tested because I was so unresponsive; they thought maybe I was partially deaf. Although life at boarding school was stark and lonely; I honestly wouldn't say that it was worse than my life at home. Leaving home and. going to boarding school was perhaps exchanging one prison for the next, but I preferred being in an emotionally noncommittal situation. In many respects, it was better to be free of the feeling of intimate personal attack from my mother.

At the same time, I missed my home .and family terribly. One day, I saw my parents' car parked outside the school, and I was so excited, thinking that they were there for a visit. I waited expectantly, but they left without coming to see me. That was devastating. When I asked my father about it afterward, he said that they had a meeting with the headmistress, who was concerned about me because I was so remote and withdrawn. They were trying to figure out what to do. He thought it wouldn't be good for me to see them because it wasn't a visiting day.

Ports down Lodge closed after my first term there. I think they had financial problems. I transferred to Sibton Park in the village of Lyminge, in Kent. It was also a repressive environment, but after I adjusted to it, I liked it better because of the facilities and some of the activities they provided. I was especially excited about the opportunities for riding at the school. There was a large stable, and they also had tennis courts and swimming pools.

Sibton Park was a large, sprawling Georgian building, with a beautiful facade onto the road. The students there, particularly the older girls, were especially cruel to new girls, in the best tradition of English prep schools. When I arrived at Sibton Park, one of my most precious possessions was a black doll with long hair, which I called my golliwog. At that time, golliwogs were very popular dolls in England; there were many children's stories written about them. Later, they largely disappeared because of the racist implications. For me, my golliwog was a precious possession, for which I felt great affection. Tessa had made the doll, and I always took it to bed with me. My first night at Sibton Park, the older girls ripped the golliwog out of my hands and shaved his hair off.

There were other incidents, some relatively harmless (such as tearing the covers off my bed just before our rooms were inspected), some sadistic. We bathed in cubicles lined up one next to the other. While I was in the tub, the girls would throw dead birds and insects over the top of the wall into my bathwater. During my first term, many early mornings around five A.M. a particularly nasty group of girls would gather at my bedside. One of them would grab me by the hair and yank me out of bed so that they could pour a pitcher of ice water over my head.

When I went home for the first school holidays, I tried to talk with my mother about what was happening at school. She laughed and treated it as a joke. She said to me, "Oh Darling, don't worry. If they aren't nice to you, just kill them." I took her advice quite literally. When I got back to school, I was determined not to let the girls tease me anymore. There was one especially nasty girl who abused me verbally. She was twelve, one of the oldest girls in our dorm, and she was the prefect, the girl in charge in our dormitory. She went out of her way to be mean to me, constantly teasing and making fun of me.

One night when she started in on me, I got out of bed and grabbed her hair with one hand while I punched her time after time. She started screaming, but I kept hitting her over and over again, on her body and her head. Finally, the girls ran to get the school matron, who burst into the room shouting at me to stop. I told her that I wouldn't. I said, "Oh no, I'm not stopping. My mother told me to kill her, and she's not dead yet." At that point, several of the staff pulled me off her and dragged me downstairs, where I was held until my mother came and picked me up. I was suspended for two weeks. When I went back to school, however, nobody gave me any more trouble.

The approach to many things at Sibton Park was old-fashioned. When I came down with chicken pox, I was put into isolation in a sick room and wasn't allowed to eat anything for twenty-four hours. I remember being so hungry. They felt it was bad to feed you very much if you had chicken pox. I was kept in isolation for two weeks with another girl who also had chicken pox. Her name was Sonam, and she and her sister Dechen both attended Sibton Park. She was a Bhutanese princess, the sister of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who is now the king of Bhutan. She told me magical stories about Bhutan and its crystal mountains. She talked a lot about her brother, how tireless he was and how he could ride for days on end. I found her stories exciting. She also told me that she could do black magic, so if I didn't give her all my candy, she would do black magic on me. I believed her and gave her my whole stash of candy. I believe this was the first time I heard anything about Bhutan, a country closely connected with Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism.

At Sibton Park, the stables were across the courtyard from our classrooms. When classes were done for the day, I would go and help in the stables, and I could ride the horses there. After I'd been at the school for a while, my parents told me that if my marks were really good, they would get me my own horse. My father, being a lawyer, drew up a detailed document in Latin promising me an equus callibus unum, which means "one horse" in Latin, ifI got a certain number of high marks during the term. This was a great motivator. I decided that I was definitely going to obtain my pony, whatever it took, so I got the equivalent of all A's in school that term.

My mother took me to a dealer's yard, where there were a number of ponies of different sizes and colors all running around in a field. Not knowing anything about horses at all, my mother picked one based on its color. She picked out a Welsh bay pony, with four white stockings and a blaze. Appropriately enough, it was named Blaze. We arranged for the( horse to be delivered to the school. When he arrived, it quickly became apparent that he had never been ridden and was totally untrained. After he was turned out into the field, nobody could catch him for several weeks. Eventually we did catch him, however, and he proved rather easy to train. It was the fulfillment of my dreams to have my own horse. In the spring and early summer, after school, I would ride Blaze through the woods and across the fields.

In the spring of 1966, when I was twelve, I took the common entrance examination so that I could attend Benenden School in the fall. Benenden was -- and I think still is -- one of the top private schools in England. When I was there, Princess Anne, who was three years older than me, was a student there. The sister of King Hussein of Jordan and his daughter also attended Benenden, as did the Princess of Malaysia and Hailie Selassie's grandchildren, Princesses Mary and Saheen. The school was housed in an old building with beautiful grounds near the village of Benenden, in Kent. You had to perform quite well academically to be admitted, so I was very happy that I passed the entrance examination and was admitted to go there. I looked forward to joining Tessa, who was three years ahead of me.

When I came home for the summer holidays in 1966, it was apparent that the relationship between my mother and father had grown quite difficult. My father looked stressed, and he had aged considerably in a short period of time. Because his mother had treated Mother so badly, he was forbidden by Mother to see Grandmother or take us to see her. Secretively, my father would go with my sister and me to visit Grandmother, He told us that we absolutely mustn't tell Mother about this; she had threatened to divorce him if he defied her. Father told me that he actually wished he could divorce my mother, but that he wasn't going to do that because of how it would affect his children. There was a terrible stigma attached to divorce. It was not as it is in this day and age. He felt that if he were to divorce my mother, we would become known as the children of divorce and become less socially acceptable.

The family took a holiday that summer in Portugal. We stayed at a villa about fifty miles from Lisbon, up in the mountains above the beach. Our house was on a road opposite a convent for a silent order of nuns. One day when my sister and I were sitting in the villa garden, a. man came by driving a herd of turkeys with a stick. We felt sorry for the turkeys, so we went out and bought two of them, which we kept in the garden for the rest of the summer. They made unbelievably loud screeching noises. It must have been very unpleasant for the nuns.

We were there with my mother for about two months, during which Father came out for a three-week visit. When he was there it was even more evident that my parents were having a great deal of difficulty. He cut his stay short, in fact, and went back to England to stay by himself and work.

When I think back on it, I realize that my mother had tremendous anxieties and insecurities that arose from trying to secure her position in English society. It was quite a stigma for her to have come from South Africa. In fact, she didn't tell anybody that she had grown up there. She was always struggling with her past. She really was not who she presented herself to be, because she felt that she wouldn't be accepted for who she was. As a result, she had an extremely strong desire to mold us into perfect, British upper-class children, her perfect products.

I realize now why she was incapable of having good communication with her children. Her overriding need for us to succeed where she could not prevented her from seeing who we were or what we needed. She had no ability to connect with our emotional life at all. The heavy burden from her past produced many of her emotional problems and made her dysfunctional as a parent.

I don't seem to have a single memory from childhood of feeling nurtured by my mother. In fact, it's difficult for me to think of even one time that my mother and I spoke openly and honestly to one another. I was always afraid of her, and I was afraid .of exposing myself to her. If I let down my guard and allowed her to see my vulnerability, she was extremely critical and would tell me who I should be, what I should be, and why everything else was bad. I was never able to break through that. When she died, I realized, standing over her deathbed, that I had never in my entire life communicated with this woman, my mother, even once. That was both poignant and painful.

In 1966, after we came back from Portugal, I was lying in bed one morning in London when I had a very strong flash that one of my parents was going to die. Throughout my life, I've had these premonitions, usually in dreams, but this was not a dream. I lay there for a while looking at the sun coming through the curtains, thinking, "I hope it's my mother." When I caught myself having that thought, I felt tremendously guilty. Obviously, it was a very unpleasant thought. I tried to put it out of my mind.

My father was having a professional as well as a personal crisis at that time. He had started his own company a few years earlier, a company that was producing a new type of children's vitamin. He had used almost all his savings in the start-up. The product went on the market at almost exactly the same time that the problems with thalidomide came out, and this gravely affected sales because customers were afraid to try anything new and untested on the market. The company failed, and he lost everything he had invested. He was under tremendous financial strain. To keep my sister and me in private school, my father and my mother realized that they had to buy a smaller flat. While we were at school that fall, they moved into a modest flat in the Kensington area of London.

It was on that note that I started at Benenden School in September 1966. When you were accepted at Benenden, you received a long list of clothes that you had to purchase. There was a special department store in London where you went to get the things for your uniform. You had to have long-sleeved viyella -shirts, and the younger children wore navy blue tunics with a tie. After the first two years, you didn't wear a tunic anymore. You had a navy blue pleated skirt. I was assigned to Guldeford House, and Guldeford wore orange ties. There were six houses, and each house had its own color.

For outings, we had to have navy blue straw boaters, hats with brims that stood straight out. Men used to wear them in the 1930s. You had a band around your boater that was also the color of your house. Just by looking at a girl's tie or her hat, you could always tell what house she was from. The younger children wore navy blue overcoats. When you were a bit older, you wore a long woolen cloak. We also had regulation shoes. There were four or five styles that you were allowed to choose from. We wore navy blue stockings with our uniforms. In the afternoon, we could change into a velveteen dress. The dresses were exactly the same for all the girls, but you had a few colors to choose from.

When you got into the sixth form, which Tessa was in, you were finally allowed to change into your own clothes in the afternoon. I remember that Princess Anne had quite unfashionable clothes. I believe that she was only allowed to wear clothes made by the tailor for the Royal family. She wasn't allowed to wear the sort of hip clothes that other girls had.

Three houses at Benenden were located in the main building, and the other three were in freestanding buildings on the grounds. Guldeford was in the main building. Each house had its own dormitory and common rooms. You tended to identify with your house and socialize with girls from that house. I didn't have many friends in the other houses. There were about fifty children in each house, of all ages, and there was a housemistress for each house.

I did fairly well academically at Benenden, but in other respects I was a less than model student. The new girls were all expected to play lacrosse. We went to practice several afternoons each week, and in the evenings after practice, we would look at a bulletin board to see how well we'd done that day. Next to your name on the board were five empty squares. If you did very well at lacrosse practice, you would find that one square had been filled in with the color of your house. If you performed adequately, half of one square would be filled in. If you had done poorly, the square would be empty. After about two weeks, the girls who were quite good at lacrosse got five squares, and they were allowed to play in a house game. Girls who were unathletic might take three or four weeks to fill in their squares. I managed to go three months without getting my squares filled. Finally, they gave up and allowed me into a game. During the first game, I managed to do an over pass and hit the teacher on the head with a lacrosse stick. My school report card at the end of the term said, "Diana is a complete and thorough danger on the lacrosse field." Eventually I found my way into the position of goalie. I could wear a lot of padding and just sit in the goal and let the balls fly by.

Once again, at Benenden I found myself becoming disoriented and unhappy. In part I think this was due to continuing problems at home, but I can't blame it all on that. I came into this world feeling disconnected. At school, I didn't feel I was one of them. Fundamentally, I didn't know why I was there; as a result, I failed to engage with my world.

My sister was also at Benenden for the first three months I was there. She was a monitor, which is like a prefect. I had been looking forward to being at school with Tessa, but in fact we didn't get along well at school. I'm afraid that I was a bit of a pest and I think it embarrassed Tessa. She decided that after the Christmas holiday, she was going to transfer to Kirby Lodge, near Cambridge, to prepare for her A-levels.

When we came home for Christmas, there was still a lot of tension between my parents, although they put on a good face so that we could enjoy the holiday. On New Year's Eve, 1966, the family stayed up together to welcome in the New Year. Just past midnight, after we ,made toasts to the New Year, my father took me aside and said that he wanted to give me the family seal, the Pybus signet ring with the elephant on it. He said, "This is always handed down in our family, and I want you to have this." I was shocked. I said, "Why? I'm so young. Why now?" He simply said again, "I want you to have it." I felt terrible about this because it brought back my premonition that one of my parents was going to die. Suddenly, I felt that he was going to die -- quite soon. That night, Father slept on the couch in my bedroom. I asked him why he was sleeping in my room, and he said, "Life is precious. I don't have that many opportunities to be with you." There seemed to be a certain unspoken understanding between us that he was nearing the end of his life.

Two days later he left to take my sister to school. After dropping Tessa at Kirby Lodge, he was going to spend the night at our cottage. He told me that he wanted to get it ready to open up in the spring, so that I could come out and go riding. Perhaps he also wanted a night or two away from my mother. I remember hugging him good-bye. He was a heavy smoker, and I still remember the smoky smell of his cashmere overcoat as we embraced, the touch and the feel of it as we said goodbye. Later that evening, he called my mother and wanted to talk to me to wish me good night. I told Mother that I didn't want to talk to him. I couldn't bear to speak with him on the phone. Somehow I knew this would be the last time I would ever talk to him, and I just couldn't do it.

The following morning, I was in the flat with my mother, and she was having a fit because I had lost one of the rollers that she used to curl her hair. She was screaming and throwing the curlers at me one by one. The doorbell rang, and I went to answer it. It was the police, and I knew why they were there. They said to Mother and me, "You need to sit down. We have to talk to you." Immediately I said, "I know. My father's dead. How did it happen?" They told us that he had made a mistake when he turned on the gas, which we used for the stove in the house. Apparently, he had a fire going in the fireplace to heat the cottage. Gas from the tank leaked in the house and built up, and eventually the open flame in the fireplace ignited it, and the house caught on fire. My father apparently ran upstairs when the fire started to try to escape the flames, and he was overcome with smoke inhalation. By the time the fire engines got there, my father was dead. The cottage was completely destroyed.

In the days after his death, I felt a sense of unreality, as though there had been a mistake and he was going to show up again, just walk through the door at any moment. At the funeral, when I saw the coffin, I accepted that he was dead. Nobody talked to my sister or me, however, about how we felt.

After the funeral, we all stayed together in the flat for about a week, then Tessa and I were sent back to boarding school. My mother seemed overcome by her grief during this time. For my part, I was never able to express my feelings. I didn't cry much at all. There was the lingering feeling of unreality. From that time onward, the sense of being disconnected from my life became stronger.

A few months after Father's death, my mother moved into an ugly little house, which today we would say had terrible feng shui. It was off Exhibition Road in London, behind a block of large flats that overshadowed it. During the school holidays of 1967, the summer after my father died, my mother decided that it might do us all good to take a cruise to South Africa. We were on the boat for about ten days, traveling on the Union Castle Line on one of the magnificent English ships of that era. I remember drawing into Cape Town and seeing Table Mountain rising behind the city as we docked. As we were preparing to disembark, I noticed that there was an area cordoned off, where we were supposed to walk. As the captain was walking down the center of this gangway, a black porter was walking in the opposite direction. Suddenly the captain grabbed this fellow, kicked him, and said, "Don't you dare get in my way. Don't you dare walk so close to me." I was shocked. Initially, I thought this man was crazy. I thought he was just some horrible, aggressive, out-of-control person, but as the visit went on, I realized that this went on all the time in this country.

When I'd been in South Africa at the age of seven, I hadn't noticed the racial climate. I was now starting to see that many things in the adult world. were not as I had thought before. I think this is a fairly common part of growing up. At some point, you begin to question things that you took for granted as a child. Throughout this visit, I became acutely aware of the atrocities in the apartheid system in South Africa.

I also remember feeling psychologically dissociated from my world and depressed during our time there and thinking to myself, "Maybe I should just kill myself and get out of this misery." On the other hand, I was terrified of dying. I felt groundless.

After we toured around Cape Town, my mother wanted a few days by herself, so she sent my sister and me, along with a boy that Tessa had met, to Victoria Falls in Rhodesia -- by ourselves. In retrospect, this seems like an irresponsible thing for my mother to have done. I was only thirteen, my sister was sixteen, and Tessa's boyfriend Charles was seventeen. However, we thought it was a great idea at the time.

Shortly after we arrived at the hotel in Rhodesia, we learned there was a casino near the hotel, but you had to be twenty-one to get in. So my sister went to work with all sorts of eye shadow and other makeup. We did ourselves up and managed to get into the casino, where we spent all of our money. We had money set aside for the return trip, which we also gambled with. We put the money for the tickets home on number thirteen on the roulette table, and amazingly enough, thirteen came up. We were lucky; it could have been disastrous.

We met up with my mother in Johannesburg, and she took us on a tour of the area. We visited Willowstream Park, the farm where she and my father lived with my sister when she was an infant. My mother told us stories about being there with Father when he was recuperating from his war injury. When they first moved there, he had bandages over his eyes and was very ill. My godfather, Walter Westhead, a retired naval commander, lived with them during that period. He was a bit of an alcoholic. One time when the car broke down, he was so desperate to get his gin that he drove the tractor twenty miles to town.

My mother was completely pro-apartheid, but I knew, even at the age of thirteen, that this was absolutely wrong. I began to hear terrible stories about the racial situation there. For example, when the people in the neighboring farm went to town to purchase groceries, they brought along their black servant to help them with the packages, but they didn't want him in the car, because they said he smelled. They made him ride in the trunk. We heard lots of stories like that.

When we returned to Johannesburg, we visited my mother's relatives, who were very religious. We visited her mother, who was ninety-eight at the time. She had taken to bed at the age of eighty-five, having decided that she was dying. She had spent the last thirteen years in bed. She was moved from one daughter's house to the next. When we were there, she was staying with Aunt Sarah, one of my mother's oldest sisters. Sarah would call to have her groceries delivered, but she wouldn't let the black deliveryman into the house with them. She made him put the box of groceries outside the door because no black people were allowed in her house. Altogether, I felt that South Africa, an exquisitely beautiful country, was ruined for me by the terrible prejudice that was prevalent at that time.

At the end of the summer, my sister went back to Kirby Lodge, and I returned for my second year at Benenden. This is when I began to look into approaches to religion and spirituality beyond the Christian beliefs I had grown up with. I had always had questions about the nature of existence, even as a young child. Something felt out of sync to me, right from the beginning. When, as most children do, I questioned my parents about why things are the way they are in the world, I didn't believe the religious explanations they gave me. When I was about six, I asked my mother, "Why am I me?" I had thought about this for a while. She said to me, "You're you because God made you you." Even at that age, I thought, "This doesn't work for me. I must have a little bit more responsibility in this than that!"

I could never connect with the Christianity with which I grew up. I found it impossible to believe in an unseen, God. God was supposed to make all the decisions and know what people were thinking and feeling and help people through their hardships. To me it seemed like a fairy story. It never made sense to me.

We went to church, in the Church of England, every Sunday when I was growing up. A few years before my father died, he had a crisis of faith, and my parents started going to Billy Graham rallies and got rather fanatical about religion for a short time. This lasted for less than a year. In the last few years of his life, my father got interested in Eastern religion, and specifically in Tibetan Buddhism, but I only discovered that after his death.

Throughout the school year at Benenden, I read books on comparative and Eastern religion. The first Buddhist book I picked up was one by Christmas Humphries. When I read something like "The goal is to have no ego" or "You have no ego; you don't really exist" -- or something along those lines -- I put the book down and I thought, "I'm not going to read about Buddhism any more." I went back to reading about other religions. However, I came back to the books on Buddhism because they made the most sense to me, in spite of my fears. I connected with the emphasis on taking personal responsibility for your own state of mind. Beyond that, I was drawn to the Buddhist teachings because they talk about a path, a real means, to work with yourself and your state of mind. This felt more real and grounded than anything else I had encountered.

As I mentioned earlier, in the summer of 1968, when I was almost fifteen, we traveled to Malta. That summer I became convinced that Mother was trying to poison me. It was a ridiculous idea, but I couldn't get it out of my mind. When I did something she didn't like, she would yell, "I could kill you!" I took her at her word and I absolutely refused to eat anything she cooked. I spent my summer holiday being paranoid about Mother and reading books about Buddhism. It was just four months later that I first saw Rinpoche at the Buddhist Society. My life was about to change in ways I could never have anticipated.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:58 am


My husband, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was born in Tibet in 1940, the Year of the Dragon. His parents were Tibetan nomads living on the high arid plateau of eastern Tibet, and he had several siblings. When he was about eighteen months old, some. monks from Surmang Dutsi Tel Monastery came to the encampment where he lived, looking for the reincarnation of their abbot, the Tenth Trungpa, who had died the year before. The Tibetan Buddhist belief is that when great, realized teachers die, they reincarnate and return, so that they can continue their work teaching and helping others. In their old age, some teachers write a letter about where they will be reborn, but in this case, no letter was found, and the monks were relying on a vision that His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, the head of their lineage, had had. He told them where to look, the name of the child's father and mother, and gave them other details.

The first time they came to my husband's encampment, they interviewed people and made a list of the families with a child about a year old. However, they didn't talk to Rinpoche's parents because they were among the poorest families there, and the monks expected the next Trungpa to come from a more well-to-do situation. When they presented the list to the Karmapa, he told them they must have overlooked someone and they should go back and try again. This time, when they got close to the village, they saw a little boy waving at them, and this was Rinpoche. They talked to his parents, and at first they were confused. The mother's name was right, but the father's name was not. Then, finally, the mother told them that her husband was not the father of this child, and she gave them the name of her first husband, which was the name they were looking for. The family also had a red dog and the door of their tent faced south, which were other details the Karmapa had seen in his vision.

The monks then tested the little boy to see if this was indeed the right child. They had a painted mandala that depicted six different realms of existence, and they asked the little boy which one he was from. He pointed to the human realm, rather than any of the others -- the hell realm, the realm of hungry ghosts, the animal realm, the realm of the jealous gods, or the realm of the gods. That was the right answer, so they kept going. They took out two different bells, two ritual scepters (called dorjes), two walking sticks, and two malas (Tibetan rosaries), and they asked him which ones he would like. In each case, he chose the object that his predecessor, the Tenth Trungpa, had used.

The monks were delighted. Here was their abbot, this little nomad living in a yak-skin tent. He and his parents were invited back to Surmango There are a number of monasteries that are all part of Surmang, spread over an area of perhaps fifty square miles in eastern Tibet. The monastery where my husband would spend most of his childhood was called Surmang Dutsi Tel. Dutsi Tel was an important monastery, but was not the largest. Surmang Namgyal Tse was the biggest monastery in the group, with close to a thousand monks living there. Rinpoche and his parents were taken to Namgyal Tse for the enthronement ceremony. His Holiness the Karrnapa was visiting in that area, and thus he was able to perform the enthronement himself. More than thirteen thousand monks and nuns, plus many laypeople, attended the ceremony. It began with the refuge ceremony, which included cutting a lock of the young child's hair and giving him a Buddhist name.

Rinpoche then moved to Surmang Dutsi Tel, where he would live and study in the quarters of his predecessor. His father went back to the family encampment, but his mother stayed nearby until Rinpoche was five years old and began his formal studies. She was allowed to visit him every day, and he looked forward to these visits with great anticipation.

The Tenth Trungpa had been an austere, saintly man. His lifestyle was quite ascetic. For example, although he had received a beautiful white horse as a gift, when he went to another monastery to teach or went into the villages to see people, he refused to ride and always walked, until he was very old. His quarters at Surmang Dutsi Tel were likewise very spare. The bursar there -- and bursars were very powerful people in the monastic hierarchy -- wanted to redo the apartment completely in a more colorful and comfortable style now that the Eleventh Trungpa, the new abbot, had been found. Up to that point, they kept the rooms exactly the way they had been when the last incarnation had lived there. However, traditionally, when the new person is enthroned, he can make whatever changes he would like. In this case, Rinpoche was much too young to make those kinds of decisions, so his bursar had a free rein.

Rinpoche was delighted by the renovations, not so much because he wanted a fancier place to live, but because he was so interested in the work that all the craftspeople were doing. They painted the wood beams in his apartment in bright colors and designs, and Rinpoche and a little friend stole some of the paints so that they could make their own drawings. He had an interest in art that continued throughout his life.

Until he was five, Rinpoche's life at Dutsi Tel was fairly relaxed and pleasant. He was sometimes allowed to play with other young monks, and not much was required of him. He was a curious little boy, and somewhat mischievous. He got in trouble once for setting off firecrackers on the roof of the monastic kitchens. When there was fresh snow, he and the other little boys would sometimes have snowball fights in the courtyard.

At five, life changed quite a lot for him. There was a ceremony to mark the beginning of his education, and he started to learn how to read and write with a tutor, who stayed with him in his rooms at the monastery and watched his every move. Every detail of what he did was now observed and corrected: his posture, how he ate, how he sat, how he chanted, how he walked. The only time Rinpoche was alone was if his tutor took a break or when Rinpoche was in the privy. Sometimes he stayed there a long time, just to have some time to himself.

Life was both claustrophobic and lonely for him. His mother came less and less frequently to see him, and eventually she went home to their village and didn't return for months at a time. Those few times that Rinpoche was in his quarters by himself, he often would cry with loneliness.

At the same time, his tutor was a kind man, who occasionally disciplined Rinpoche but was generally very sweet and cheerful. If he needed to punish Rinpoche, he would excuse himself and go wash his hands, then he would light a stick of incense on the shrine in Rinpoche's bedroom, he would bow to Rinpoche -- in fact, I think he might have done a prostration to him -- and then he would proceed to spank him. As soon as his tutor lit the incense, Rinpoche knew what was going to follow.

He taught Rinpoche how to read and write by telling him stories about all the Tibetan letters, how this one looked like a man walking, and this one looked like a person sticking out his tongue, this one like a worm, things like that. Rinpoche found it easy to pick up, and everyone was impressed with how quickly he learned to read and write. His tutor also told him stories about the Buddha and about great Buddhist teachers in India and Tibet, which Rinpoche loved. In the evenings he would practice chanting. He was also allowed occasionally to draw, if the subject wa'S a religious figure. On special afternoons, they would have a picnic or go for walks. However, he was no longer allowed to play with other children. In fact, he and his tutor moved up to a retreat center above the main monastery, so that he wouldn't have so many distractions from his studies.

Life went on like this for several years, and Rinpoche thought that things were going pretty well. He loved his tutor as though he were his father. He learned things much faster than anyone expected, and he thought he was doing a good job. But then, when he was about seven, the monastic committee in charge of his education decided that his tutor was being much too soft on him and that he needed greater discipline. So they brought in another man, who was quite harsh. He never administered corporal punishment, but his attitude was so severe that Rinpoche found him much more difficult to deal with. He too corrected Rinpoche's behavior constantly, but his approach was to belittle him with no encouragement, which made Rinpoche feel generally that he wasn't doing such a good job after all. At first, Rinpoche was quite intimidated by his new tutor, but then he decided that the way to deal with him was to be an absolutely exceptional student in every respect, so that there would be less to criticize. So he started to discipline himself and to study diligently, and within a couple of years he found that he could read better than his tutor and that he understood more than his tutor did about many of the topics they were studying. This intimidated the man, although he would pretend that he still knew more than his pupil.

Around the time that his new tutor arrived, Rinpoche began to have dreams about Western technology. He had never seen an airplane or a taxi, but he had dreams about both, and he saw lots of Western clothing, as well as boots and shoes in some of his dreams. His tutor told him that these dreams were nonsense.

Rinpoche felt that, through applying himself, he was becoming quite successful at his studies and he was doing what his elders wanted, but he didn't understand why they were making such a big deal about him. He thought that they were trying to make him into something that he wasn't and that he was supposed to pretend to be somebody. He found this strange and somewhat disheartening, but he tried to go along, to please everyone.

When he was eight years old, there was great excitement at Dutsi Tel because Jamgon Kongtrul, a very great teacher, was coming to conduct important ceremonies and give teachings at the monastery. He would become Rinpoche's root guru, his main teacher. This meant that he was going to be Rinpoche's primary spiritual mentor, who would work intensely and one-on-one with him and impart the most profound teachings to him. Rinpoche expected someone serious and stern, someone very learned and wise whom he would be expected to imitate. But when he met Jamgon Kongtrul, he found that he was not at all like that. He was completely open, kind, and warm, and not at all solemn. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to be slightly afraid of him because he also seemed to exude a lot of power. Rinpoche found that every movement that Jamgon Kongtrul made was very beautiful, not in an artistic way, but everything he did seemed to come from a deep well of genuineness.

Rinpoche thought, "Ah! This is what they want. This is what they've been trying to teach me." He saw that there was real wisdom embodied here and a genuine state of being that he could emulate, and he began to get an entirely different idea of what spirituality might be.

While Jamgon Kongtrul was visiting, Rinpoche had several private interviews with him. Jamgon Kongtrul gave him instruction in the sitting practice of meditation. It was very simple; in fact, it felt almost as though nothing happened. They simply. sat in the space together. Jamgon Kongtrul seemed very pleased with their meetings, and he said that he was very happy to be able to give back to Rinpoche the wisdom that he, Jamgon Kongtrul, had received from Rinpoche's predecessor, the Tenth Trungpa -- who had been his teacher. He told Rinpoche that he shouldn't discuss their meetings with anyone else. Rinpoche understood that his teacher was giving him something precious, something that couldn't be described in words. After Jamgon Kongtrul left, Rinpoche applied himself more and more to his studies, and he began to get a true sense of what the teachings were really" about, which went beyond the rules and the outward discipline that he was expected to follow.

Around this time, Rinpoche spent several months studying with Rolpe Dorje, who was the regent abbot of Surmang, which meant that he was the acting abbot of the monastery until Rinpoche reached the age and had the maturity where he could assume these duties. Rolpe Dorje was quite a realized teacher in his own right. He was staying in a cave at his retreat center in the area, away from the main monastery at Dutsi Tel.

Rinpoche found his time with Rolpe Dorje very powerful. Rinpoche started what are called the preliminary practices, or the ngondro, in preparation for more advanced tantric practice. The preliminaries include performing a hundred thousand full prostrations while visualizing the Buddhist lineage and taking refuge in the Buddha, the teachings, and the sangha, or the Buddhist community. Rinpoche also did other practices that involve purifying oneself and surrendering one's ego so that it is possible to connect with the wisdom of the Buddhist lineage. Although he found all of this very helpful, he wanted more than anything to go to Jamgon Kongtrul's monastery to study with his guru. Jamgon Kongtrul had told him that he had much more to learn and that he should come and spend time with him when he was ready, and Rinpoche felt that indeed the time was approaching for him to go to his teacher.

Rinpoche was now nine years old. It was 1949, and the influence of the communist Chinese began to be felt in this region of Tibet. Nothing had actually happened to disrupt their way of life, but the Tibetans were very distrustful of the situation. Around this time, Rinpoche's mother left her husband and was able to move to Surmang permanently. Rinpoche was very happy to have her return. She was given a position working in the dairy farm just outside the walls of the monastery. She worked with the yaks in the dairy and helped take care of the horses. Whenever he could, Rinpoche would go down and spend time with her. Once, when they were in the horse stables, he found some of the salty pickles that were given to the horses as treats. He started eating them, and he found them delicious. He was chewing on one of them, and he asked his mother what their family name was. She said, "You are Rinpoche. Your name is Rinpoche." And he said, "Yes, I know that, but what is our family name?" And she said, "Why do you want to know that?" He replied, "Well, you're my mother and I came out of your body, and I want to know who I am." He was very persistent. Finally, she said, "Well, you shouldn't think about that. But if you will stop eating those pickles, I'll tell you our name." And he stopped, so she said, "Our name is Mukpo. But forget about that. You are Rinpoche."

Rinpoche was very proud to be a Mukpo. In Tibet, Mukpo is one of the six main clans. His Holiness Karmapa was from the Mukpo clan, as was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, another of my husband's teachers. Gesar of Ling, who is a famous folk hero in Tibet, was also a Mukpo. So Rinpoche took great pride in the Mukpo name. He used the name C. T. Mukpo on his British passport and passed on that family name to me and to our children.

When he was twelve, Rinpoche talked to the monastic committee about going to Sechen Monastery to study with Jamgon Kongtrul. They convinced him to first do a tour around the Surmang area, as there had been several invitations for him to visit neighboring towns and monasteries. These tours were one way that the monastery raised money for its operations, so the committee was very interested in having Rinpoche do this. The tour took about three months, and while he was traveling around, for the first time, he saw Chinese soldiers encamped around some of the monasteries to the south of Surmang. It was a troubling sign.

Finally, having completed his obligations, he left for Sechen with several attendants, including his tutor, who insisted on coming along. It took ten days to reach the monastery. He arrived on his thirteenth birthday. Jamgon Kongtrul was delighted to see Rinpoche and immediately had him start a rigorous course of study. His main tutor at Sechen was a khenpo, the equivalent of a Ph.D. in the West. Khenpo Gangshar was a very learned man. Over the course of time, he became a somewhat wild and crazy yogi who would impart much more than book learning to Rinpoche.

One day I called upon the tutor of the second Grand Lama, Tsan Chenba, a venerable priest, seventy-four years of age, who was very kind to me. As he was reputed to be the highest authority on Tibetan grammar and rhetoric among the three thousand priests in the temple, I asked him several grammatical questions, and in doing so I took care to select such questions as were familiar to me, for I wanted to know in what way my host would try to explain them. I was, however, disappointed, as he confessed that he could give no answer and said that he could only refer me to a learned physician living at Engon on the road to Lhasa, who, he was inclined to believe, could give me a satisfactory answer. I was, therefore, glad to take leave of him. En passant it may be stated that five branches of science—phonetics, medicine, logic, engineering and religious science and philosophy—were centuries ago introduced into Tibet from India, but now-a-days very few—I will almost say no—Tibetans are proficient in them, or even in one of them. Under present circumstances, those who take to the study of grammar belong to very limited classes, the majority of them consisting of the men in the Government service who learn just the elementary rules of grammar, in order to be able to prepare official documents. It is not wonderful therefore that there should be scholars who, in spite of their zeal in the investigation and exposition of Buddha’s doctrines, are absolute strangers to history and other branches of science....

I struggled on for about four miles further, and then came out upon a wide space. Looking to the right, I saw two large buildings standing on the summit of a mountain. These buildings constitute the Engon temple where, as the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo temple had kindly informed me, lives the celebrated grammarian....

I stayed at the temple for the night, and the next day I had an interview with its principal priest. The latter, however, talked only something of Buddhism, being ignorant of grammar and rhetoric, but[255] was kind enough to refer me to the physician, Amdo Ka-sang, of whom the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo had such a high opinion.

I then called upon this physician and grammarian, to whom I gave some presents in token of my respect. After the usual greetings had been exchanged, the host questioned me how long I had been studying the Tibetan language. “Three years,” I replied. My host declared that the study of grammar and rhetoric greatly depended upon the method used and that, if the method were a poor one, the period of three years would prove too short to accomplish anything. He then asked me a few questions on grammar, which, as they were very simple, I answered quickly. I asked him to put to me some more difficult questions on rhetoric, but, to my great disappointment, he confessed that he had no knowledge of rhetoric. I next asked him which of the Tibetan grammarians he thought the best, to which question he answered that he preferred Ngul-chu Lama’s grammar (Ngul-chu being the name of a temple) which, in reality, is very imperfect. I almost doubted his sincerity, so that I again asked him why he did not follow the views taken by Situ Lama, who is well-known as the highest authority on Tibetan grammar. To my great surprise, my host had never read Situ’s works, though he had heard something of the grammarian. I then turned my questions to the number of vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, about which there are two different opinions among grammarians. This question, simple as it may appear, has been the subject of much discussion, so that the study of the Tibetan language must be started with this theme. My question on this subject seemed to embarrass my host who, after some pondering, said that there were sixteen vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, and began to enumerate them. Curiously enough, all the vowels mentioned by him were those of the Samskrt[256] alphabet, so I asked him what he thought of the opinion that the number of the Tibetan vowels was five.

The doctor seemed abashed. He apologised for his mistake in having mentioned the Samskrt vowels, and admitted that the Tibetan vowels numbered only five. (This five-vowel opinion is erroneous, though several western scholars maintain it in their works. It must be noted that the Tibetan characters were invented by Thumi Sambhota, who tells us in his work that there were only four vowels in his language.) In short, the interview proved a disappointment. The doctor possessed very limited knowledge, being a great grammarian and rhetorician only in the eyes of ignorant native priests. I returned to my room, where I was asked by a priest on what subject I had talked with the ‘learned’ doctor. When I answered him that I had discussed some grammatical questions with the doctor, the priest said with an air of importance that the doctor was the highest authority on grammar and rhetoric throughout the province of Tsan, that one or two interviews with him would be insufficient to secure any benefit, and that I should stay with him for at least two or three years if I really wished to study grammar. In addition, the priest confessed that, long as he had had the fortune to listen to the doctor’s lectures, he was still a total stranger to grammar. I was so much tickled by these remarks that I burst out laughing, which seemed somewhat to embarrass the priest.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

Rinpoche was able to stay a full year at Sechen. During that time, Jamgon Kongtrul conducted an extensive transmission of important Buddhist texts, called the Rinchen Terdzo, which takes about six months to complete. All the students receiving these teachings had to be up and in the shrine room by five A.M. every day, when the morning session began. Several hundred monks attended this presentation of the teachings. At the end of the whole program, Rinpoche was selected from all the participants to receive a special empowerment that made him the holder of these teachings and gave him the permission to transmit them to others. He was somewhat overwhelmed by this honor, which is only extended to one person at an event like this. He was just a young monk, and there were many older, much more learned teachers attending this cycle of teachings.

When the Rinchen Terdzo teachings were finished, Rinpoche continued his studies under Khenpo Gangshar. He lived in the monastic college, or shedra, which housed about a hundred students at Sechen Monastery. He would finish his breakfast before five A.M. and then study for three hours. At eight A.M., Khenpo Gangshar would begin the day's lecture. The studies were demanding, but Rinpoche found that he enjoyed them. The material was quite advanced and presented in depth, and Rinpoche loved the challenge and the vitality with which the Khenpo taught. He also was able to continue his private instruction with Jamgon Kongtrul, which was not just about learning the doctrine but was about actualizing the teachings in one's personal experience.

One of the aspects of the training that Jamgon Kongtrul emphasized was teaching Rinpoche how to compose dohas, which are spontaneous songs or poems that express your experience or immediate realization of the teachings. They are quite different from traditional Tibetan poetry, which is prescribed and formal. Rinpoche also learned those strict poetic forms, but having to compose dohas in the presence of his teacher was both more intimidating and more profound for him. Jamgon Kongtrul could see through him right away if he was not completely genuine and on the spot.

What is the origin of “man on the spot”?

on the spot - at the place in question; there; "they were on the spot when it happened"; "it had to be decided by the man on the spot" (Emphasis added)

Some evidence suggests that the origin of the phrase refers to decisions made by officials of the past British empire and actions taken by them.

-- English Language and Usage, english.stackexchange.com

By examining how their collective character was formed and expressed, and to what effect, and by understanding the contemporary ethos in which it functioned, we may comprehend the perspective of the 'man on the spot' and bring out the extent to which they influenced both British Tibetan policy and the image of Tibet.

-- Tibet and the British Raj, 1904-47: The Influence of the Indian Political Department Officers, by Alexander McKay

Just after his fourteenth birthday, Rinpoche's monastery sent word that they wanted him to return to Surmang Namgyal Tse, the large monastery where he had been enthroned, to conduct the funeral rites for an important lama who had just died. He would have preferred to stay at Sechen, but his tutor insisted that they must go. When Rinpoche went to tell Jamgon Kongtrul that they were leaving, his guru told him that he should return as soon as he possibly could. Jamgon Kongtrul had a dream in which he saw a half moon that others said was full. "This means that you are not fully ripened," his guru said.

On the way back to Surmang, Rinpoche and his party saw a Chinese airfield and soldiers riding around on newly built roads in their jeeps. After Rinpoche performed the requisite ceremonies at Namgyal Tse, he received an invitation to visit Drolma Lhakhang, a monastery about six days from Surmang. Several days after arriving there, he was requested to give the Rinchen Terdzo empowerment. This was a great honor, although Rinpoche felt intimidated to be asked to do this when he had so recently received it. As well, he was only fourteen years old. It was at Drolma Lhakhang that he first met Akong Rinpoche, in this lifetime at least. Akong was the young abbot there, and he and Rinpoche became close friends in a short period of time.

Rinpoche was fifteen when he finally returned to Surmang Dutsi Tel. He had been gone for more than two years. Now, there were many signs of the influence of the Chinese. They were building roads in the area, and they appeared at the monastery and sat in on many events. Clearly, they were advancing their objectives in this part of Tibet. It was in this atmosphere that Rinpoche continued his duties and his training at Surmang.

He was now old enough to begin learning the tradition of monastic . dance, for which his monastery was, and still is, quite famous. It is a contemplative form of dance that incorporates the meaning of some of the highest Buddhist teachings from the Chakrasamvara Tantra, a very advanced Vajrayana text, in the gestures and movements that are performed by the dancers. It is extremely physically demanding. Rinpoche threw himself wholeheartedly into the training, and by the time of the Tibetan New Year's celebration at the end of that year, he was able to join in the dances, although he felt that his training was certainly not complete.

The Chinese were now visiting the surrounding monasteries to show propaganda films to the monks. Many senior teachers were becoming quite worried about what the Chinese would do next. Both His Holiness the Karmapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama made visits to eastern Tibet around this time, ostensibly to give teachings and blessings to the people, but also to warn them of what might be to come. They were not able to speak out directly, of course, because they were being watched, and in fact they now had to travel with a Chinese escort who observed and listened to everything they said.

It was extremely moving to Rinpoche to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was able to have a brief private interview with the Dalai Lama, and Rinpoche talked at greater length with the Karmapa, who urged Rinpoche to complete his education and to build a monastic college at Surmang, which Rinpoche took to heart. There was no actual discussion about what the Chinese might be up to, but when the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa described their recent trips to Beijing, reading between the lines, it was clear that all of Tibet was in a precarious situation. Some Tibetan teachers were already making plans to escape to India, but Rinpoche hoped at this stage to remain. He still wanted to return to his teacher one more time, and thankfully, he was able to do so. He traveled back to Sechen and spent a few months with Jamgon Kongtrul, where he received the final teachings from him. Jamgon Kongtrul told him that he would now have to make decisions for himself, and that he should always be guided by the wisdom of the teachings and the lineage in whatever he did. His guru said that he had seen that Rinpoche might indeed be going to the West.

Rinpoche returned to Surmang where he began work on building a shedra, the college for advanced Buddhist studies that His Holiness Karmapa had recommended he create, similar to the shedra at Sechen that so inspired him.

Things were now in an uproar, with the Chinese beginning to take over some of the monasteries, burning books from the monastic libraries, destroying religious treasures, forcing the monks to do manual labor on the roads, and so forth. Some laypeople were organizing a Tibetan militia in eastern Tibet to fight the Chinese. There had been no problems yet at Surmang, but almost everyone felt that it was only a matter of time.

During this difficult period, Jamgon Kongtrul sent Khenpo Gangshar to Surmang to help Rinpoche with the work of establishing the college. While at Surmang, Khenpo Gangshar became convinced that it was time to take drastic measures. My husband told me many stories about the time that he spent with Khenpo Gangshar and the amazing teachings that he received from him. Rinpoche told me that while at Surmang, Khenpo Gangshar had taken ill and seemingly died. After remaining in a meditative state for several days, he got up, as though life had come back to his body. Before that, he had been a gentle, quiet man, a perfect monk and extremely learned. But from that time on he exhibited wild and wrathful energy. Rinpoche said that indeed Khenpo Gangshar was the embodiment of what is called the" crazy wisdom" lineage in Tibet. Such teachers are known for displaying their wisdom through unconventional and often unpredictable behavior, which is the expression of compassion without bounds. Crazy wisdom is not indulging in wild behavior just to have a good time or to be shocking and provocative for no reason. As Rinpoche once said, first you get the wisdom; then you get the crazy. The idea is that there is no boundary to the energy of egolessness and that whatever is called for in a situation, even if the means are extremely unconventional, will be used to help beings who are suffering in samsara, the endless cycle of confused existence. Rinpoche himself became known as one of the foremost crazy wisdom teachers in the West.

At this time at Surmang, Khenpo Gangshar insisted that it was time to break down the barriers between the monastic and the lay communities and that everyone should work together to understand the Buddha's message of compassion, so that hopefully they would be able to change the attitude and the intentions of the Chinese. He held meetings with everyone in the neighboring area, bringing people together from all of the monastic and lay communities. This was an outrageous thing to do in Tibet, where everything was so stratified and there was such a big divide between monastic and lay life. Khenpo gave teachings to everyone. He allowed women to come into the monastery for these teachings, which was unheard of. He also went and visited many monks in solitary retreat and told them that, during this time, they should come out of retreat, return to their monasteries and villages, and work with others. He told them that in their hearts they could remain in retreat but that their help was needed in the world.

In spite of the chaos of the time, construction went forward with the shedra, and the Khenpo worked closely with Rinpoche so that he was able to complete his studies and take the examination to become a khenpo himself. This was very meaningful for my husband; even though the times were so dire, he wanted to go forward with this project and with his own education.

Then, they heard that Jamgon Kongtrul had left Sechen and gone into hiding. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Chinese would not be dissuaded. There were reports of many more monasteries being invaded, sacked, or completely destroyed. Surmang was spared for some months and Rinpoche waited and waited, not wanting to disappoint anyone or leave anyone behind, but eventually it became clear that for his own safety, he too would have to go into hiding. He left Surmang, not really knowing but feeling that it was for the last time. His parting with his mother was especially poignant. He never saw her again.

He spent some time in retreat and also gave teachings at another monastery some days away from Surmang, performing the Rinchen Terdzo for the second and last time in Tibet. At the very end of the empowerment -- which they shortened because of the political crisis, so that it could be completed in three months -- he learned that Jamgon Kongtrul had been captured by the Chinese. Then, while in retreat, Rinpoche learned that Surmang Dutsi Tel had been sacked. The tomb of the Tenth Trungpa had been opened by the Chinese and the remains spread around the courtyard. Rinpoche's bursar, who was at Surmang at the time, gathered and cremated the remains and brought them to Rinpoche in a reliquary box. The bursar also carried the news that Surmang had largely been destroyed and that there was a price on Rinpoche's head. In the end, Rinpoche had no choice but to leave for India. Before his departure, he heard that his mother and other members of his family had gone to a small, very remote monastery, and they sent word that they were safe. His mother wrote and told him not to worry about her. He should go.

So he set off for India, a trip that would last ten months and take him over many of the highest passes in the Himalayas. When word got out that he was leaving, many joined his party. He had hoped to travel with a small group, but in the end close to two hundred Tibetans joined him. Akong was one of the party, as were several other young rinpoches. They walked out of Tibet, leaving in April 1959.

When the snow was very deep going over the passes, the largest, most burly monks in the party would go ahead and throw their bodies in the snow to make a pathway for the others. When one group tired, a second group of men would take over this task. At times they had to cross fast-flowing rivers on rickety hand-built bridges, one by one.

They took a circuitous route, to avoid the main roads used by the Chinese and the areas of greatest Chinese occupation. Often they traveled at night, especially if they had to cross a highway. Their journey was amazingly successful, especially considering the number in the party, and they avoided any encounters with the Chinese until the very end. Several times, they made camp for a few days of rest and meditation at Rinpoche's urging. He wanted people to keep up their strength as much as possible and not to lose contact with their meditative insight. When the path ahead was uncertain, Rinpoche would often use forms of Tibetan divination, in which he was trained, to decide which way they should go.

After many months of travel, the party, which had grown now to almost three hundred, reached the wide, swiftly running Brahmaputra River in the southern part of Tibet. There were only a few crossing points. Some of the monks fashioned boats made of yak skins to get them across, and they chose a crossing that was just outside of a small village. They hid in bushes around the village during the day, and on the night of December 15, 1959, under a full moon, they set out to cross.

Villagers, however, had alerted the Chinese that there was a group of Tibetans hiding near the town who might attempt to cross the river, and when Rinpoche and the first party had just made it across and the boatmen were about to go back for the next group, the Chinese attacked. Of the three hundred in the party, only a few dozen escaped and continued on. The remainder were captured, and many were shot. The group of those who successfully escaped traveled for another month through southern Tibet. They had almost run out of food and at the end had to boil leather to eat. They saved a small amount of barley flour for Rinpoche so that he would not have to eat these provisions. Toward the end, they passed through valleys where bananas were growing on trees along the side of the path, but not knowing what a banana was, they didn't eat them. On January 17, 1960, they crossed the border into India.

Rinpoche spent nearly four years in India, where he encountered a world vastly different from Tibet. He had grown up in an essentially medieval culture, and a very unusual one at that. It was one of the very few places on earth, at least in the twentieth century, where spirituality was uppermost in the minds and hearts of almost the entire population. Tibet was certainly not an idyllic society. Rinpoche often said that there was it great deal of corruption in Tibet, and that this was a contributing factor in its occupation by the communist Chinese. At the same time, he loved the land and the people, and he was completely immersed in a Buddhist world there.

In Tibet, he had been a very special and privileged person. In India, the Tibetans were refugees and were not generally treated very well, although kindness was extended to them by the Indian government and many individuals living in India. However, Rinpoche was no longer a person of high status, as he had been. He told me that, not long after arriving in India, he was invited to an English garden party. The hostess was passing around a tray of cucumber sandwiches, which she offered first to Rinpoche. He took the whole tray, thinking that she had made a nice lunch for him. Later, he was quite embarrassed by this.

Many of the Tibetan refugees ended up in camps. He stayed in the camps for a short time, but then he was able to relocate to Kalimpong, which was close to the seat that His Holiness the Karmapa established in Sikkim after escaping from Tibet. While he was in Kalimpong, Rinpoche studied thangka painting, and he produced beautiful paintings of Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, as well as other subjects. Later, he was able to bring these paintings with him to the West, and one of them hangs in my house today. He became friends with Tendzin Rongae, a wonderful thangka painter who had also recently arrived from Tibet and helped Rinpoche with his painting. Rinpoche became close to the entire Rongae family. While in Kalimpong, he learned that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had also recently entered India and was living a few miles away, about an hour away by foot. Rinpoche used to walk over to see Khyentse Rinpoche and to receive teachings from him. Dilgo Khyentse was over six feet tall, very unusual for a Tibetan, and he had enormous warmth and presence. During this time, Rinpoche became friends with Khyentse Rinpoche's nephew Ato Rinpoche.

India is a significant place for Tibetans because it was the home of the Buddha and of many of the great teachers whose works are studied in Tibet. One could say that India is for Tibetans what the Middle East is for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. There are many Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. Rinpoche was able to visit Bodhgaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and other important sites.

In India, Rinpoche was also exposed to many non-Buddhist cultures for the first time. He came to love Indian food and to appreciate many things about the Indian culture. He encountered people from all over the world there. In particular, he met several English Buddhists who were extremely kind and helpful to him. Freda Bedi was one of these. She was an Englishwoman who had married an Indian, Baba Bedi. She worked for the Central Social Welfare Board of the Indian government helping Tibetan refugees, and she was so affected by her involvement with the Tibetans that she became a Buddhist herself. After her husband's death, she was one of the first Westerners to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun.

Rinpoche met her at the refugee camp in Bir, and she formed an immediate bond with him. From the earliest contacts he had with Westerners, he shone out like a light or a beacon to them. Lama Govinda, a Westerner and an early writer about Tibetan Buddhism, reported this quality. Lama Govinda met Rinpoche in northern India, just after Rinpoche's escape from Tibet. Many Tibetan refugees stayed at Lama Govinda's house in the Himalayas on their way south, and he said that Trungpa Rinpoche was the brightest of them all.

Freda Bedi helped Rinpoche resettle in Kalimpong, and later she asked him to help her establish a school to train young Tibetan monks, the Young Lamas Home School, in New Delhi, which moved to Dalhousie after about a year. He was delighted to do this, and with the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche became the spiritual advisor to the young monks at the school.

This was the first time that Rinpoche had ever lived in a secular society, and although at first he found it quite strange, he soon took to it. He went to meetings of a British women's club so that he could hear the poetry of T. S. Eliot read, and he used to go to the cinema in New Delhi. On his way out of Tibet, close to the border with India, he was exposed to alcoholic beverages for the first time. In one of the villages where they stopped, you couldn't drink the water, and everyone drank a kind of Tibetan beer. He had been hesitant to imbibe any alcohol since it was a violation of his monastic vows, but once he gave in, he enjoyed the experience, and in India he started to drink occasionally, though not openly. Tendzin Rongae and Rinpoche liked to get together and drink from time to time.

During that night, in compliance with the request of the priests in my dormitory, I delivered a sermon on the ten Buddhist virtues, which seemed to please them greatly. They confessed to me that, priests as they were, they found no interest in the theoretical and dry expositions of Buddha’s teachings to which they had been used to listen, but that my delivery was so easy and pleasing that it aroused in them a real zest for Buddhism. This fact is a sad commentary on the ignorance of the average Tibetan priests.

I learned subsequently, however, that the priests in this temple were very rigid in their conduct, except in the habit of drinking. With regard to this latter an amusing story is told. One day the Dalai Lama of Lhasa met with the Grand Lama of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. In the course of conversation, the former said he was very sorry that his priests were addicted to the use of tobacco. Panchen Rinpoche sympathised, but stated that he was no less sorry that his own priests were exceedingly partial to alcoholic drinks. They then discussed which of the two luxuries was the more sinful, and also whether or not some effective measures could be taken to prevent these[253] vicious habits. But even their great influence could do nothing, and the vicious practices were open secrets. A curious rule was however enacted in order to prevent the habit of drinking. Every priest returning from the street was bound to present himself before the priestly guard at the gate of the temple, who examined his breath, any disclosure of his drunkenness being followed by an immediate punishment. Some impudent priests often attempted to conceal their inebriation by eating a good deal of garlic, the strong smell of which impregnated their breath and thus might prevent detection.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

On the way out of Tibet, Rinpoche had fallen in love with a young Tibetan nun, Konchok Paldron, who was part of the escape party. He became clandestinely involved with her while he was in India. She was living in the refugee camp in Bir. She visited him at the Young Lamas Home School, and they took a mattress up on the roof of the building, where they spent the night together. She became pregnant and gave birth to Rinpoche's eldest son, Osel Rangdrol Mukpo, a short time before Rinpoche left for England. When she was pregnant, she made a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, and their son was born there. She could no longer be a nun, so after Osel was born, she worked as a road laborer to support herself for some time. Later, she married and had another child.

Around this time, Rinpoche received a Spaulding Scholarship to attend Oxford University. This had come through the intercession of Freda Bedi and John Driver, an Englishman who tutored Rinpoche in the English language in India and helped him with his studies later at Oxford. The Tibet Society in the United Kingdom had also helped him to get the scholarship. To go to England, Rinpoche needed the permission of the Dalai Lama's government. They would never have allowed him to leave if they had known about his sexual indiscretion, nor do I think it would have gone over very well with the Tibet Society or his English friends in New Delhi. He and Konchok Paldron kept their relationship a secret, and it was a long time before anyone knew that Rinpoche was the father of her child. This caused him a great deal of pain, although I also think that he hadn't yet entirely faced up to the implications of the direction he was going in his relationships with women. At that time, in spite of the inconsistencies in his behavior, he still seemed to think that he could make life work for himself as a monk. Rinpoche continued to stay in touch with Konchok Paldron and his son Osel, and a few years later, he returned to see them and to make arrangements for his son to come to England.

Rinpoche sailed from Bombay for England early in 1963, on the P&O Line, accompanied by his close friend Akong, who was to be a helper and companion to him at Oxford. Rinpoche had been working very hard on his English, but when he left India, he was still struggling with the language, speaking what would be called a form of pidgin English. When Rinpoche and Akong docked in England, they were welcomed by members of the Tibet Society, and before his studies started at Oxford in the fall, Rinpoche spent time in London, where he met many of the most prominent members of the English Buddhist community. He was invited to give several talks at the Buddhist Society, and he attended a kind of summer camp they sponsored each year, where he gave a number of lectures.

While still in Tibet, Rinpoche was fascinated by any Western objects that he saw. He received a watch as a gift when he was a teenager, and he had taken it completely apart to see, literally, what made it tick. He couldn't get it to work when he put it back together. Later, when he was given a clock that chimed, he took that apart as well, to discover what mistakes he had made the first time. He was successful putting the clock -- and then the watch -- back together so that they both kept time. He said of his arrival in England: "Coming to the Western world, I encountered the makers of the clocks, big and small, and the makers of other machines that do wondrous things -- such as airplanes and motor cars. It turned out that there was not so much wisdom in the West, but there was lots of knowledge."1 That, I think, was one of his dominant impressions of England: the technology and the knowledge about how things work in the world were very impressive, but there was not so much interest in a deeper spiritual understanding. There was, however, quite a lot of fascination with Eastern spirituality.

In England, among some people, Rinpoche found himself the object of that fascination. It was almost as though he were an exotic species of bird. He said that he found it very strange to be looked at as though he were a biological oddity rather than a human being. I think this was his first inkling that there might have to be major changes in his life if he wanted to break through the cultural distance and the polite veneer.

There was also quite a distinction between the older generation of English Buddhists Rinpoche met, who were prim and proper and highly philosophical, and the younger generation, who were part of the broad exploration and revolution in thinking that was spreading like a virus through Western youth in the mid-1960s. The young English students were certainly less extreme in their counterculture than those in America, but young people in Great Britain were also questioning many aspects of their society. Rinpoche found this quite alluring from early on. He was brought to England by the older, somewhat stodgy generation, but they weren't going to be able to corral him for long.

When he went up to Oxford, he had quite a challenge trying to bring his English up to speed so that he could understand the lectures and the books he was given to read. Rinpoche wanted to learn as much as he could about English history, philosophy, religion, and politics, but it was pretty tough going for him at the beginning. John Driver, whom he had met in India and who had been instrumental in bringing him to England, returned to England and helped Rinpoche a great deal with his lessons, and Rinpoche never forgot this kindness. In the evenings, Rinpoche attended classes in the town of Oxford to improve his English. Years later, he still remembered how his teacher had made the class say words over and over, to improve their elocution, such as "policeman, policeman, policeman." Rinpoche proved himself a brilliant student of the English language. By the time he left England for America, his English vocabulary exceeded that of many of his students.

At Oxford Rinpoche was befriended by the Jesuits, who thought that his tremendous enthusiasm for learning about the Christian religion made him a good candidate for conversion. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but Rinpoche enjoyed their company and felt that here at least he had found Westerners who had some understanding of a wisdom tradition, even though it was not his own.

When he first arrived in England, he was still haunted by memories of the atrocities he had witnessed in Tibet and by the sadness of losing his country. At this point, he had no idea what had happened to many of his teachers, compatriots, and members of his family. He didn't know if he would ever find out what happened to them or be able to return to Tibet. He felt it was unlikely. A way of life, a whole culture, was gone, as far as he knew, except for the remnants that survived in India. Rinpoche wanted to make sure that the wisdom of that culture was not lost, so his commitment to the Buddhist teachings and to bringing them to the West was beyond, I think, what we can imagine.

At first, he tried to hold onto what he sometimes called "Tibetanness." As much as he was fascinated by Western culture, he also could see how materialistic it was and how lacking in some of the values that he held most dear. For quite a while, he tried to befriend Westerners while holding onto his cultural identity. He felt this was being loyal, true to his heritage. But then he began to realize that it was only by going much further into the ways of the West that he would be able to communicate what he knew. He became determined to let go of the trappings of the past and to embrace the Western approach to life in order to preserve the wisdom of his heritage, paradoxical as that might seem.

This transition was not entirely gloomy or forced, but for a period of time it was very painful for him because he had left so much behind in Tibet, and now he was giving up even more. At the same time, he was drawn to the West, and he remembered things that Jamgon Kongtrul had said to him the last time they were together in Tibet. His guru had told him that he thought Rinpoche would go to the West, and that he would find people there who would remind him of the sanity and soft heart embodied in his teachers. He also told him that in India, the Buddha was born a prince and became a monk, but that in the West, a monk might have to become a prince. Rinpoche took this to mean that a secular approach to Buddhism might be the best way to proceed in the West.

I think that one of the most painful things for him was that he and Akong saw this so differently. The more Rinpoche was attracted to a Western way of life, the more Akong wanted to preserve the Tibetan style and culture. More fundamentally, Rinpoche started to make deep connections with Westerners, especially some of the younger students who made their way to him. He went beyond viewing them as a foreign species or as barbarians. Many Westerners were also looking at him that way, but he found the ones that weren't. They were the ones that reminded him of his teachers. They were the ones he wanted to spend time with. Akong couldn't get past those cultural barriers, nor did he seem to want to, At least, that is how Rinpoche came to see it. Even before they came up to Samye Ling, there was a huge divide between them. Rinpoche kept a diary in Tibetan during this period, and he wrote about these things.

Rinpoche found that most of the English Buddhists kept a certain distance from him because he was a monk. This made him an even stranger being in their eyes, different from them by yet another degree. They would probably have treated a Christian monk this way as well. However, while this kind of deference was comfortable for a lot of the other Tibetans, including Akong, Rinpoche was not interested in maintaining that distance. For many, it was quite nice to be treated as a special person again, even if you were regarded as a representative of an exotic species.

Rinpoche came from a tradition where wisdom is awakened through an intimate and direct transmission between the teacher and the student. He began to see that in order to communicate the depth of the teachings, he had to build such truly intimate relationships with Western students. Otherwise, he might be able to give little blessings, perform ceremonies that Westerners would find exotic, and give teachings that they would find fascinating, but he wouldn't be able to make a real dent in their mentality or their understanding. What they would retain would be superficial, and quite possibly much of the depth of his tradition would be lost to future generations. Being treated with a diffident respect might be more comfortable and lucrative, but it wasn't worth anything to him if he couldn't transmit what he knew and if he didn't connect with students with whom he could work.

Rinpoche also saw that he wouldn't be able to work with anyone or help people in any way if he didn't understand Western culture and the Western mind from the inside out. Of course, essentially there is no difference between the mind of a Western practitioner and the mind of an Eastern practitioner. But there are a lot of cultural trappings covering over the basic mind, the basic intelligence, which one has to penetrate if one is going to truly communicate with others. Rinpoche knew that he was taking a huge risk; he didn't always know how to do it and he wasn't always skillful, but he was prepared to jump in and make the effort.

When he and Akong started Samye Ling, Rinpoche wanted to call it a meditation center, not a Tibetan Buddhist center -- precisely so that people wouldn't view it as something exotic. The two of them were already on quite bad terms when the center opened, and it only got worse. One might wonder why they stayed together throughout those difficult years. I don't know exactly what the reason was for Akong. I think perhaps he hoped that Rinpoche would come to his senses. They certainly had had a deep friendship. For his part, Rinpoche always displayed an amazing ability to assimilate things and to move forward while still remaining loyal to the past. Even as a young child, he learned so quickly that it astounded people around him. That was true in his encounter with the West as well. He witnessed things, he integrated them, and he moved on to the next challenge, the next frontier. At the same time, he never gave up on anyone or anything in his life. He was grateful to Akong for having worked to support him in England and for having been his dear friend when he had had no others. They had shared things that no one else would ever understand, such as life in Tibet before the Chinese invasion and the difficulties of the escape and coming to a new world. So it was painful to grow apart.

When I met Rinpoche, even though many things in his relationships with Akong and many of his English students seemed far beyond salvaging, he was still thinking about how he could bring people along. Although there was tremendous disagreement and tension between Akong and himself, Rinpoche thought they should be able to work it out.

From his point of view, he wasn't abandoning the Tibetan culture or the Buddhist tradition of Tibet. He wanted to bring it all along. But he also wanted to reach out to find a new way to integrate the past with the present. He saw that this would create a genuine meeting point for the teachings to take root in the West.

In 1968, when he returned to India and did his retreat at Taktsang, it was everything that had come before, up to that point, that allowed him to find the Sadhana of Mahamudra, the terma teachings that would set the tone for the future. He was already well into the transformation that would make him the powerful figure he became in the transmission of Buddhism to the West. In a sense, it was the last gesture, the end of a process, when he gave up his robes, although it was also the beginning.

It was just at that point that I met him, as all of this that had been unfolding in a more internal way began to play itself out on a bigger stage. I think that no one, including Rinpoche, could have predicted what was to come.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:22 am

Part 1 of 2


January 4, 1970, the day after our wedding: When my mother recovered somewhat from the shock of hearing the news of our marriage, she moved quickly. She called relatives and friends to ask them to help her get the marriage annulled. She also phoned us the next morning, in a fairly hysterical state. I wrote in my diary, "Mummy said she would turn the press against Ami (my special name for Rinpoche), and we'd be arrested in England." This did not prove to be true, but it was a worrisome threat.

My aunt and uncle also phoned that morning, and they arranged to meet us for lunch that day. My mother had asked my Aunt Veronica and Uncle Michael to drive up to Edinburgh from their home in Northumberland, which was only an hour or two away. She wanted them to find out more about what was happening and to see if they could persuade me to give up the marriage. They drove up to our hotel in their big brown Bentley, and Rinpoche and I got in the back seat. My aunt and uncle were in the front, and they proceeded to have an awful fight about how to get to the hotel where we were going to have drinks. In the middle of this, my aunt turned to me and said, "You know, marriage isn't easy under the best of circumstances. I don't know how you can expect this to work out."

My uncle ordered drinks for us at the bar. Rinpoche had whiskey, and given the circumstances, he drank a fair amount. My uncle tried to open a conversation with him, saying, "Well, now, do tell me about yourself. When did you become a priest?" Rinpoche answered, "Oh, I was a year old." Of course, this was incomprehensible to my uncle, and he began to sputter. He didn't know where to begin to get a handle on the whole situation. The conversation degenerated from there, and he and Rinpoche proceeded to get drunk. My uncle started yelling at him, calling him a cradle robber and a baby snatcher.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, my uncle looked across the street and said in his most arch English accent, "Well, there's a Chinese restaurant. That looks appropriate! Let's eat there." We all got up and walked across the street, which was not that easy for Rinpoche, who was still using a walker after his accident. My uncle seemed to have no idea that going to a Chinese restaurant would not necessarily be the most pleasant experience for a Tibetan. However, Rinpoche loved Chinese food and had no particular animosity toward the Chinese people as a whole. Nevertheless, my uncle's lack of sensitivity struck me as a reflection of his narrow-mindedness. To my uncle, one Oriental was the same as another regardless of whether they were Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, or Tibetan.

After we sat down at the restaurant, my uncle started yelling at the waiter, "Boy, boy, come over here." When the waiter came along, my uncle said, "Bring something Chinese!" The waiter said, "I'm very happy to bring you a menu, sir;' to which my uncle replied, "Just bring something Chinese. Anything Chinese. It's all the same anyway." Not surprisingly, nothing was resolved at dinner. Toward the end of the meal, my uncle said to Rinpoche, "Well, you'd better go to America. You'll do well in America, because anything goes there."

After this painful evening with my aunt and uncle, Rinpoche and I felt quite alienated from my family, and we thought about driving to Samye Ling the next day. \We had already decided that we would not be going back to the ugly scene at Garwald House.) However, the next morning, Tessa and her boyfriend Roderick arrived at our hotel. They had traveled to Samye Ling the day after the wedding, where they had spent the night. They told us that people there were having a terribly difficult time accepting the marriage and that we shouldn't return right away. We decided to take a short honeymoon to Findhorn, a spiritual community in northern Scotland. We invited Roderick and my sister to drive up with us. That day we drove all the way to Inverness, which was a beautiful drive through the landscape of northern Scotland, much of which reminded Rinpoche of Tibet. I remember sitting in the car as we went through the highlands, staring at Rinpoche, thinking, "I can't believe I'm married to you. This is amazing. I can't believe this has happened." I felt like the luckiest person in the world, even though the situation definitely had taken some bizarre twists and turns.

The Findhorn community is famous for growing huge vegetables in the rocky highland soil and for talking to the fairies. It was started by Peter Caddy and his wife Eileen, who greeted us when we arrived. Rinpoche and I were given a nicely appointed trailer, and Tessa and her boyfriend also stayed on the property. It was a brief but delightful honeymoon. We took walks around the property, and Peter Caddy showed us artwork done by people there, which had something to do with extraterrestrials.

While we were there, I consulted the I Ching, and I got "The Marrying Maiden," with the first line a changing line, which mentions "the lame man who is able to tread." I found this amusing, thinking of it literally as referring to Rinpoche and his difficulties walking. The line said that undertakings would bring good fortune.

During our time at Findhorn, I was introduced to Rinpoche's custom of waking up in the middle of the night wanting something to eat. He had this habit for years, for most of his life in the West, in fact. While we were at Findhorn, I got up every night and made him a sandwich.

We also visited an ancient Benedictine monastery nearby, Pluscarden Priory. After Rinpoche mentioned that he was a Tibetan lama, the monks were very interested in him, and they gave us a complete tour of the facilities. We attended services there and had an interview with the prior. Rinpoche particularly enjoyed the Gregorian chanting used in the service, as well as the sweet-smelling incense, and he purchased some to take back to Samye Ling. He felt the monks were following a valid contemplative tradition there and that they were practicing the heart of Christianity. He was quite impressed by their contemplative lifestyle and was inspired to see people practicing an authentic Christian monastic tradition.

At the priory, Rinpoche talked to the monks about his relationship with Thomas Merton, whom he had met in India in 1968, a short time before Father Merton's sudden death. They had drinks together in a bar in Calcutta and were quite taken with one another. Merton commented in the journal he kept at the time, "Chogyam Trungpa is a completely marvelous person. Young, natural, without front or artifice, deep, awake, wise. I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of each other." Rinpoche, looking back years later on their meeting, said of it, "I had the feeling that I was meeting an old friend, a genuine friend. In fact, we planned to work on a book containing selections from the sacred writings of Christianity and Buddhism. . .. He was the first genuine person I met from the West."1

After our visit to Pluscarden, Rinpoche and I discussed the Christian contemplative tradition. I think it was the first time we ever talked about the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism. We joked that our children could become Christians as their rebellion against their parents. I asked Rinpoche, "What would you do if one of our sons said he wanted to become a Christian priest?" And he said, "I would encourage him to become the best Christian priest that ever existed; he would have to do, it completely, fully." He certainly didn't feel that he had cornered the market on wisdom. He appreciated the wisdom and discipline in other traditions. I didn't have a very good impression of the Christian faith, based on my own repressive experiences, but he helped me to see that there was more to it than the conventional approach.

Our time at Findhorn came to an end all too quickly; and we reluctantly resolved to go to Samye Ling, not knowing what to expect. When we arrived there, we were pleasantly surprised to find that a very nice bedroom had been prepared for us. An elaborate thangka of the Buddha had been hung in our room, filling an entire wall. It was a gift to Rinpoche from the queen of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang, when he visited there in 1968. Having this magnificent painting in our bedroom gave me a feeling of acceptance. One of the young monks living at Samye Ling, Samten, presented us with the traditional Tibetan offering of white scarves, or khatas, and talked about the positive significance of our marriage. Superficially at least, there was a sense of being welcomed.

Although we tried to settle in at Samye Ling, almost immediately we began making plans for our departure. Rinpoche gave some thought to returning to live in Asia since things had become so difficult in Scotland. He had me write to a university in Hong Kong, asking if they had a teaching position for him. They wrote back and said that if he could teach Tibetan, they would like him to join the faculty. I convinced him, however, that this was not the direction we should go. He also had been talking about making a visit to America, to do a lecture tour and to receive additional medical care there. Several close students who had left Samye Ling were in the United States looking for land for a meditation center on the East Coast. I encouraged him to think about going to America as soon as possible.

We stayed at Samye Ling for about two-and-a-half months. While we were there, I took Tibetan lessons with one of the monks, Phende Rinpoche, and studied thangka painting with Sherab Palden Beru. He was always very warm toward me, and he adored Rinpoche. He had some initial difficulty with the idea of our marriage, but after he adjusted, he was very kind to both of us. Rinpoche spent most of his time in our room, although occasionally he would come down to the shrine room during the pujas, or religious services. During this period, he sometimes wore monks' robes, tied with a yellow sash to indicate that he was a married lama. I learned to help him dress. Because of the accident, he needed my help. Other times, he wore Western-style dress, men's trousers with a blue button-down shirt and a maroon cashmere sweater. In that era, even his Western clothing often had a little bit of monastic feeling. He loved to wear a turtleneck that was the color of a monk's saffron robe.

During this period, Rinpoche still had to wear a caliper, or a brace, for his left foot and lower leg, which I used to help him put on. When we were first married, he used a walker, but he soon graduated to a walking stick, and eventually he was able to walk just with the caliper. In the long run, he didn't even need that, although he always had orthopedic shoes specially made for him.

Akong would not allow Rinpoche to lecture at Samye Ling. It seemed to be a, control issue. Rinpoche, however, did travel to other parts of Britain to teach. Once he was invited to speak at Bristol University. We stayed the night with an Indian family who was hosting the talk. Another time, we went down to Cambridge for Rinpoche to give a talk. We visited Ato Rinpoche and Alithea while we were there. Since meeting in India, Trungpa Rinpoche and Ato Rinpoche had remained close colleagues and friends. Perhaps because Ato Rinpoche had experienced obstacles to his marrying an Englishwoman, he and his wife were very understanding of our situation.

Since Rinpoche could not give talks· or group teachings at Samye Ling, most of his personal contact with students was in the form of private interviews, which were held in our room. He often set aside several hours a day for interviews. During that time, I practiced meditation, worked on my thangka painting, or handled Rinpoche's correspondence for him. We were preparing for the celebration of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, which would occur that year in early February, and I helped address New Year's cards for Rinpoche. Akong even gave me a typewriter and a place to work. A postcard came from a Mr. Karl Usow in Boulder, Colorado, inviting Rinpoche to visit there and teach at the University of Colorado. We both liked the mountains shown on the front of the card, and Rinpoche said it reminded him of the mountains in Tibet. I wrote back to Karl on Rinpoche's behalf, saying that we would try to come to Colorado for a visit.

One morning at Samye Ling, Rinpoche's interviews went on much longer than expected. Finally, I returned to our room to see what was up. I walked in on him passionately embracing a young woman. I was devastated. I locked myself in our bathroom and sat on the floor crying for hours. I didn't know what to do. I wondered if! should leave Rinpoche. He kept knocking on the bathroom door, but I repeatedly told him to go away.

After several hours, I came out, and we talked. Rinpoche was very sweet. He didn't seem to be avoiding or concealing anything, neither did he seem embarrassed. In some respects, it was an absolutely intimate and direct moment. He said that our connection was very deep and important to him. He told me openly that he expected that he was going to have intimate relationships with some of his female students, but that it didn't mean there was a problem with our relationship. Rinpoche said that in fact it was only because he had such trust in our relationship that he felt it would be possible for him to have these other relationships.

This is a very personal example, from my own life, of Rinpoche's truthfulness. He never lied to me about what he was doing. He was quite willing to talk about what had happened. The communication was so direct and real that I felt I could relax, and I started to let go of my conventional reference points. Rinpoche and I were deeply in love, and I didn't feel that he was using another relationship to blackmail me emotionally in some way.

On a fundamental level, Rinpoche was the most loyal husband I can imagine. In fact, our relationship went much deeper than many conventional marriages. My heart connection with him went far beyond the issue of sexuality, and I knew this from these very early times. As time went on, I felt that many relative difficulties were not fundamental problems -- if I let myself feel that deeper connection.

Although I had the formality of marriage with Rinpoche, my union with him was unique. We called it marriage, whatever it was, but Rinpoche was much too big a personality to trap into a monogamous relationship. It just couldn't be. Rinpoche was not an ordinary husband. He was not an ordinary man. I couldn't be possessive of him. I know that this may be difficult for people to accept, but it is my experience.

His life was dedicated to working with other people and their state of mind. In answering a letter from a student in 1971, he wrote: "I work with people -- that seems to be my reason for existence."2 I came to feel that if that sometimes carried over into sexual intimacy, that was okay. I never felt these relationships were an exploitation of his students. It was a way for him to create further intimacy with people. From a broad perspective, I came to realize that Rinpoche definitely was not here on this earth solely to be my sexual partner. It was not always easy or pleasant for me to accept this, but it was really okay.

In Rinpoche's monastery, the monks did a chant invoking the incarnations of the Trungpas, of which Rinpoche was the eleventh. Rinpoche's students in the West now do this chant as well. There is one stanza for each new Trungpa. In the stanza for the Eleventh Trungpa -- my husband -- he is compared to the Mad Yogi of Bhutan, a revered teacher who lived in the nineteenth century. He was famous both for the depth of his wisdom and for being very wild-drunken and bawdy. This was a very unusual reference because the other Trungpas were generally saintly monks, quite reserved in their behavior. This lineage supplication was written when Rinpoche was about ten years old, so it must somehow have been obvious to the revered lama who wrote this text that this Trungpa would be an unconventional person, another mad yogi.

In fact, Rinpoche's sexual experiences began before he left Tibet. A little while after we were married, I had a dream that he had a daughter in Tibet. I woke up and I said, "I had this ridiculous dream." "Oh," he said when I told him the dream, "It might be true." Then he told me about a night he spent with a Tibetan princess. He was in a procession with a beautiful princess from an outlying area, and he became infatuated with her. He managed to get close to her and suggested that she climb in through his window that night. She did, and they slept together. Before leaving Tibet, Rinpoche saw her again at some public event and she was clearly pregnant. So he might have had a daughter somewhere in Tibet.

As much as I appreciated my husband, I wasn't always accepting of his behavior. When we were first married, Rinpoche told me that it was normal for Tibetan men to beat their wives. I told him this was barbaric, but he said that it was just common practice. In the first few months of our marriage, he tried -- not very convincingly -- to slap me a couple of times when we were arguing. I said to him, "What do you think you're doing?" And he said to me, "This is just what Tibetans do." I felt that this was definitely not okay. I waited until he was asleep one day, and I took his walking stick and began hitting him as hard as I could. He woke up, and he was quite shocked, and he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "This is just what Western women do." He got the message, and it was never an issue again.

If you think about it, Rinpoche had no idea how to be a husband. He went to live in a monastery when he was thirteen months old, and although his mother came and stayed nearby until he was five, he had virtually no experience of family life. His role models were his gurus, and he had great examples in that area. He grew up as a monk, a student, and a Buddhist teacher, but he had to learn what it meant to be a householder, a husband, and a father.

In fact, at the time that we married, Rinpoche's seven-year-old son, Osel Mukpo, was living at Samye Ling. When Rinpoche visited India and Bhutan in 1968, he told Konchokla, Osel's mother, that he wanted to bring their son back to Scotland to live with him. It took a while to arrange this, but eventually he was able to come over. The first time I saw Osel at Samye Ling, I was struck by his physical beauty and small stature, the latter probably a result of malnutrition in India. He was very shy and spoke only Tibetan at the time. I remember him going off to his first day in kindergarten in a jeep with a local Scottish fellow, Mr. McTaggert. This beautiful, small, and very shy child was sobbing as the car left.

Osel arrived in England around the time of Rinpoche's accident. They had a very affectionate relationship, although Osel was shy around his father, understandably so. Rinpoche had asked the monks to look after his son while he was recuperating at Garwald House, since he was in no position to personally care for his son. When we arrived at Samye Ling after the wedding, Osel was living in the monks' quarters. In addition to attending the local school, he was being tutored in literary Tibetan by Akong and the other monks. They were apparently very rough with him. It seemed to be some sort of archaic method of Tibetan education.

Soon after I married Rinpoche, Osel had a high fever, and the monks put him to bed with no pajama top on. I felt that this was not the proper thing to do, so I asked one of the monks to put a top on him. The monk replied, "Oh no, it's good ifhe's cold. He'll get rid of the fever quickly." At that point, I said, "This is enough," and I got an extra mattress and moved him into our bedroom with us. He stayed in our room with us until we left for America.

In general, Rinpoche and I were very isolated from others during this period. Few of Rinpoche's close students remained at Samye Ling. Josie Wechsler, the English nun, was devoted to Rinpoche, and a few other close students were still around. A few friends would occasionally visit or invite us over, such as Ato Rinpoche and Alithea. Stash and Amalie lived nearby; and we would get together with them sometimes. Maggie Russell, whom Rinpoche had wanted to marry, came to visit once. I thought it was great that she had her own car. We spent a great deal of time alone, however, and there was a terrible underlying atmosphere of aggression toward us at Samye Ling.

During this time, Rinpoche's relationship with Akong continued to degenerate. In addition to their disagreement over the presentation of Buddhism in the West, there were other points of contention. Rinpoche was quite disappointed with how Akong related to the mental illness of one of the young monks at Samye Ling. He had to be hospitalized because of a nervous breakdown. Rinpoche felt that, rather than working with this person, Akong's main concern seemed to be to hide the situation from everyone. Rinpoche and I went to visit this monk in the mental hospital.

Akong was terribly mean to me. He put me on the work schedule to do dinner dishes almost every night. If he didn't like the way I did the dishes, he would knock on the bedroom door and tell me to come down and do them again. It felt like a humiliation tactic. This, of course, added to the tension that was building between Rinpoche and Akong.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:58 am

Part 2 of 2

Akong insisted that Rinpoche should come down for meals rather than eating in our room. Rinpoche often preferred to spend time alone while he was recovering from his accident. He was going through a lot of personal trauma -- much of which had to do with his relationship with Akong. It was not very pleasant for him to come downstairs, as you can imagine. He also didn't keep normal hours -- which was true throughout much of his life. Often he was not awake when dinner was being served, but he would be hungry late at night. If I came to a meal, Akong would not allow me to take a plate upstairs to Rinpoche. Akong used to say, "He can't have food if he doesn't come down and get it." Rinpoche absolutely refused to give in to this kind of intimidation. Eventually, I got an electric frying pan and started to cook for Rinpoche in our bedroom. I knew almost nothing about cooking, but I learned how to cook meat for him in the frying pan. Although many Buddhists, especially in Southeast Asia, are vegetarian, Buddhists in Tibet could not have survived without meat in their diet. Rinpoche was always a meat eater, and I gave up my somewhat idealistic approach to diet when I married him.

It is said that if we eat evil food, if we consume the flesh and blood of beings who were once our mother or our father, we will, in a future life, take birth in the hell of Screaming, which, of the eighteen, is one of the hot hells. To the extent that we once consumed their flesh, so now red-hot clubs of iron will be forced into our mouths, burning our vital organs and emerging from our lower parts. We will have the experience of endless pain. And even when we are born again in this world, for five hundred lives we will take birth in monstrous and devouring forms. [4] We will become demons, ogres, and executioners. It is said too that we will be born countless times among the outcasts, as butchers, fishermen, and dyers, or as carnivorous beasts thirsting for blood: lions, tigers, leopards, bears, venomous snakes, wolves, foxes, cats, eagles, and hawks. It is clear therefore that, for the gaining of high rebirth in divine or human form, and thus for progress on the path to freedom, the eating of meat constitutes a major obstacle.

Most especially, we have been taught that the primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta. Bodhichitta in turn arises from the roots of compassion and is the final consummation of the skillful means of the six paramitas. It is stated in the tantra The Perfect Enlightenment of Bhagavan Vairochana: [5] "The primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta, which arises from the roots of compassion and is the fulfillment of the entire scope of skillful means." It is therefore said that one of the greatest obstacles to the birth of bodhichitta in our minds is our craving for meat. For if great compassion has not arisen in our minds, the foundation of bodhichitta is not firm. And if bodhichitta is not firm, we may well claim a hundred times that we are of the Mahayana, but the truth is that we are not; we are not Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle. From this it should be understood that the inability to eliminate the desire for meat is an impediment to the attainment of omniscience. For this reason, all those who practice the Dharma -- and indeed everyone -- should strive, to the best of their ability, to forsake this evil food, the flesh of their parents.

Some people will object that it is said in the teachings that one only encounters the karmic result of actions that one has actually committed; no result accrues from actions not performed. In accordance with the law of karma, therefore, if one eats the meat of animals that one has not seen to have been killed for one's consumption, if one receives no report that they have been killed for that purpose, and if one has no suspicion that they might have been so killed, no fault is incurred. "It's quite all right," they will say. "We had no hand in the killing of this sheep (or whatever other animal may be concerned). We can be sure therefore that the karma of killing will not ripen upon us; it will ripen on the killers."

This argument needs to be examined closely. Let us imagine that there is a homestead in the vicinity of a large monastery where the monks eat meat. The inhabitants of the homestead calculate that if they kill a sheep and sell its best meat in spring to the monastic community, they will make a profit on the sheep since they will keep its tripe and offal, head, legs, and hide for themselves. And the monks, knowing full well that the sheep has been slaughtered and its meat preserved, will come and buy it. The following year, the family will kill more sheep and sell the meat. And if they make a good living out of it, when the next year arrives, there will be a hundred times more animals slaughtered, and the family will get rich. Thus by trying to enrich themselves through the killing of sheep, they become butchers. They will teach this trade to their children and their grandchildren and all those close to them. And even if they do not actively teach it to others, other people will see their wicked work. They in turn will become butchers doing acts of dreadful evil, and they will set in motion a great stream of negativity that will persist until the ending of samsara. Now all this has happened for one reason only: the monastic community and others eat meat. Who therefore behaves in a more consistently evil manner than they?

If there is no meat eater, there will be no animal killer -- just as in Nepal and India, there are no tea merchants because nobody drinks tea there.6 The meat eater participates in the evil action of the animal killer. And since the meat eater's action is negative, it is quite mistaken to claim that its fully ripened effect will not be negative also. The Buddha has defined as evil any action that directly or indirectly brings harm to beings. And since what he says is true, it is clear that the eating of meat most certainly involves more injury to beings than the consumption of any other food. For this reason, the Kalachakra-tantra and its commentary both declare that, of the meat eater and the animal slayer, it is the former that has the greater sin. This being so, those who still contend that the fault of meat eaters is not so severe, or that they are not as guilty as the butcher, or indeed that they are entirely innocent, are being extremely rash. But right or wrong, why must they have such eating habits? My own belief is that they would be far better off if they could only rid themselves of their dependency.

Again, let us consider the case of a small monastery where the monks are poor and have no money, or else are thrifty and tight-fisted, or else are followers of the ancient Kadampa lineage, consuming only the three white foods. It would never even cross the minds of the lay people living nearby that they might kill animals so as to supply the monks with meat. It is said moreover that the mark of a virtuous action is that it brings direct or indirect benefit both to oneself and others. I believe therefore that if one wishes to commit oneself to an ongoing habit of goodness, there is nothing better than the resolve to abstain from meat. Those few monks who do actually have compassion should keep this in their hearts!

When a lama who eats meat goes on his summer or autumn alms tour, all his faithful benefactors think how fortunate they are that he will visit their house. "He's not just any old lama," they say. "He's an incarnate tulku! We must make him a good meal." Being aware of his eating habits, they slaughter a sheep and offer him the best cuts. The benefactors, for their part, make do with the entrails and think to themselves that the sheep came to a good end. How fortunate to be killed for the lama's dinner! And they tell each other it was right to put the sheep to death and that the sheep was really one of the lucky ones. But when it comes to their next life, the killers will find out how lucky they are!

By contrast, when the visiting lama does not eat meat, not only do the benefactors kill no animals, they hide whatever meat they have and go the whole day without it. They eat other food instead, sweet potatoes, for instance, curd and so on, so that both lama and benefactor keep themselves pure and unstained by negativity-while the sheep, for its part, stays alive and well! Let us pray that all lamas behave like this. For if they display wrong actions, other lamas and incarnations who follow after them will imitate them, and the net result will be that in summer and autumn, lamas and benefactors will join forces in planting the seeds of evil action at the very moment when they turn the wheel of Dharma! Bad for themselves and bad for others, this is the source of nothing but suffering in this life and the next. What else can one say but lama konchok khyen, "O Lama and the Three Jewels, think of us!"?

Then there are other people who say, "Je Tsongkhapa and his heart sons, and other learned and accomplished masters of the past, have taught, on the strength of quotations from the scriptures, that according to the vows of Pratimoksha one is allowed to eat meat that is pure in the three ways. But nowadays," they continue, "benighted Dharma practitioners, hermits and the like, talk a lot of nonsense about this and forbid the eating of meat. They are black demons, trying to deprive the monks of their food. On the contrary, it is by eating meat that the monks keep up their strength, the better to practice the Dharma. And anyway, if the sangha were not supported in this way, it would be as if their share of food were being given to butchers and ordinary people instead-which would be an extremely vicious and inconsiderate state of affairs. In any case," they conclude, "however many times people say that meat should not be eaten, the fact is that if monks and nuns are not allowed to eat meat (unstained by negativity), it follows that ordinary people should not be allowed to eat it either. And there are many good reasons for allowing Dharma practitioners to eat meat."

People who talk like this not only eat meat on their own account; they also advocate it in formal exposition and in private conversation. It is as if demons were advising them on what to eat. For all the Buddhas of the past have declared with one voice that it is on the basis of Pratimoksha that one must cultivate bodhichitta, the characteristic attitude of the Mahayana. By training in the causal vehicle of the paramitas and thence in the resultant vehicle of the Vajrayana, one must at length become the vajra holder of all three vows. Accordingly, we who practice the Dharma now, by following and serving our teachers, first take the vows of Pratimoksha, and then by gradual degrees we exercise our minds in bodhichitta, aiming for the practices of Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Path and Fruit, Pacification, and Cho. But even if we do not manage to get this far, I think that there is no one who, having taken refuge and bodhichitta, does not renew the associated vows every day.

If people take the vow early in the morning, in the presence of the Buddhas and their teacher, to cultivate bodhichitta both in aspiration and action, pledging themselves to the ways of the Bodhisattvas; and if, by the afternoon, they are harming beings-not of course directly but nevertheless indirectly-by saying that it is permissible to eat meat (consciously ignoring what the Buddha has repeatedly taught in the context of the Bodhisattva precepts-that meat, the outcome of harm done to others, should not be consumed), it can only mean that, gorged on meat, such people have lost their wits and are babbling in delirium. For this cannot be the view of a sane person. What a wonderful contrast if instead they can honestly say, "I am practicing the teachings of the sutras and the tantras, and I am sure that my conduct is unstained by faults."

Now, from the point of view of any of the three vows, when there is an important need and benefit for others and oneself, there are many special permissions that allow what is normally proscribed. [7] But it is a mistake to think that such dispensations are granted easily, without specific need. It may be objected that Khedrup Rinpoche taught, on the basis of reasoning and scripture, that it is permissible to eat meat that is pure in the threefold way. And people will no doubt refer to his book The Outline if the Three Vows and tell us to study it.

To be sure, we should attend to this matter with intelligence and care. There is not a single syllable of the Buddha's scriptures that the lord Khedrup has overlooked. He took them all to himself as personal instructions. He demonstrated by reasoning and scripture that the sutras and the tantras are in perfect harmony and mutually support each other, thus presenting the whole range of the Buddha's teaching as a coherent path. But when on one occasion, he said that for someone who has taken the Bodhisattva vow, the teaching of the Lankavatara-sutra [8] does not contradict the Pratimoksha precepts (which sanction the consumption of fish and the flesh of cloven-hoofed animals), he was merely presenting the view of those who said that to eat with desire the kind of meat prohibited in the Pratimoksha was allowed to people who had taken the Mantrayana vows. This view, however, he went on to refute.

Indeed, the eating of meat has never been permitted for those who have taken the Bodhisattva vows. On the contrary, it is clearly said that for them the consumption of meat is forbidden. This being so, those who are addicted to meat and who shift the burden of responsibility onto Lord Tsongkhapa, his heart son Khedrup, and other teachers of the past, by claiming that they allowed it, are very far from compassion, the mental soil in which the aspiration to supreme enlightenment is cultivated. They have no karmic connection with the Bodhisatttva precepts, high, medium, or low. So let them go ahead and say what they like-that they are eating meat because they are Shravakas or because they are tantrikas. And we will see what happens to them in the end!

Some people may object that, although meat eating is indeed wrong, the texts of both sutra and tantra say that if one recites the name of the Buddhas or certain mantras and dharanis, or if one performs a short meditation on the yidam deity together with the recitation of the mantra, the fault is purified. No wrong action is thus performed. Moreover, they say, if one does all this while concentrating on the slaughtered animal, the latter will be benefited and may even be considered fortunate, karmically speaking. Granted, they continue, when ordinary people kill goats, sheep, and yaks and eat their flesh with the blood still warm, their actions are wholly wrong. But when Dharma practitioners eat meat, and when they recite over it the words of the Buddha, charged with blessings as these are, the animal itself is greatly benefited. Therefore, they conclude, it is fine to eat meat, provided one does not have an excessive craving for it. And they also excuse themselves by saying that people and circumstances practically oblige them to eat meat.

But such people are to consider as follows-then they will understand. In the past, the compassionate Buddha said in the first turning of the wheel of Dharma that negative actions should be avoided, virtuous actions should be performed, and at all times one should have a good, kind heart. The Buddha did not, as part of his original teachings, say that Dharma practitioners could and should eat meat. He gave no guarantee that by the recitation of his words (mantras and so on) meat eaters might be preserved from evil. It is best therefore to refrain completely from eating meat.

Why then did the Buddha speak about the possibility of purifying the evils involved in the killing of animals for meat, in the consumption of meat, and other negativities? In fact, he was referring to the negative actions accumulated in one's past lives, from beginningless samsara till the present, while one was sunk in ignorance. Even more, he was alluding to the actions performed earlier in one's present existence, when one had no other means of sustenance or was overpowered and oppressed by ignorance, craving, and aversion. But now, if one recognizes one's evil behavior for what it is; if one confesses it with a regret as powerful as if one had just swallowed deadly poison; and if one has a strong purpose of amendment, vowing never to repeat one's mistake even at the cost of one's life; if one recites the names of the Buddhas, mantras, and dharanis, and if one makes tsa-tsas, performs circumambulations, and so on (which, of the four strengths of confession, is the "strength of remedial practice")-one's evil actions will indeed be purified. This is the teaching. [9]

The Buddha said time and time again in the sutras such things as: "My followers should give up all evil actions that directly or indirectly injure others." One may disregard his words; one may consciously lead others to commit evil in provisioning oneself with meat. One may think, "There are always skillful means in the sutras and tantras that counteract the evil so that I shall still be pure of stain." And one can let oneself off the hook by telling oneself that there are substances to be placed into the animals' mouths and words that can be whispered in their ears and impressed upon their minds so that they will not remain in the lower realms. But to do all this reveals a complete failure to grasp the meaning of the Buddha's teaching. It is a perversion of the Dharma. To behave in this way is to act like the Chinese Muslims10 who are outside the Dharma. For their clerics say that a great sin is committed if other people kill sentient beings but that if they do the killing, there is no sin. And since, they say, the slain creatures have thus encountered their religion, it will be better for them in the future. I have heard that these clerics take sheep by the neck and kill them by cutting off their heads. If this is true, there is absolutely no difference, in action and in intention, between such people and the kind of Buddhists we have just been describing. Henceforth, therefore, those who wish to eat meat should, in addition to their earlier justifications, take a few lessons from the Muslim clerics and study their tradition! They might learn a thing or two! Perhaps it will do them good and they will escape defilement!

Just look how a cat behaves. It catches a mouse and is thrilled, thinking that it is going to kill it. But then, almost as if taking pity on the mouse, the cat lets it go and plays with it-although this is certainly no game. Later, after amusing itself for a long time, it takes the mouse in its mouth, carries it off into a comer, and devours it. This is exactly what some Dharma practitioners do! They pretend to have compassion for the goat or sheep that is about to be killed, praying for it and reciting lots of mani mantras. Then, when the animal is killed and its flesh cooked, they take it away with them to some private place where no one can see them, and they gobble it down ravenously. Lots of people do this kind of thing. I heard once about a cat that had caught a mouse and was carrying it off. But then the cat thought to play with it. When it let the mouse go, the mouse escaped and hid under an upturned basket lying nearby. The cat sat there looking under the basket, mewing softly, all sweetness and compassion. But when the mouse ran still deeper into its hiding place, the cat got all upset, looking up and down. Everyone around just burst out laughing! This is just how some modern Dharma practitioners behave! They put on a show of compassion and recite lots of manis as the sheep is being killed. But if the moment of death is long in coming, they get fretful and agitated. Whenever I am confronted with such a farce, I think that not only the Buddhas in the ultimate expanse must be laughing, but ordinary people in the world must be very amused too, when they hear about the antics of certain Dharma practitioners! Even so, if people do generate some sort of compassion and recite mantras, I do in fact think that it is of some benefit to them, even if it is not much use to the dead animal!

This whole question may be summed up by saying that, for good and compassionate practitioners of Dharma, the question as to whether one is stained or unstained by negativities is quite irrelevant. Sincere practitioners feel a natural, visceral compassion for the slaughtered goats and sheep as if they were their old mothers. They will have nothing to do with killing them for the sake of meat. On the contrary, they save life eagerly; they ransom animals set aside for slaughter and release them. Otherwise, it is like trying to punch someone who is not there. Showing compassion for animals after they have been killed and the meat is being eaten-reciting mantras for the animal's sake-is nothing but a silly game. The people who do this kind of thing may appear fine and sympathetic in the eyes of the ignorant, but when you look closely, there is nothing to recommend their conduct, either in action or intent. If people t"vist the meaning of the Buddha's words and act evilly as we have described, this is not the fault of the Buddha's teaching. It is rather that the immaculate doctrine has been distorted by the actions and intentions of others-with the result that it becomes indistinguishable from the teachings of non-Buddhist heathens. If only we could all act in such a way that this does not happen!

Generally speaking, the Buddha's doctrine naturally makes for the welfare and happiness of beings. As it is said in the prayer, "May the Buddha's doctrine, source of every joy and benefit, remain for long!" Consequently, if human beings and animals living in the vicinity of those who say they are Buddhists coexist in happiness and peace, it is a sign that the Buddha's teachings are present. But if the reverse happens and there is harm and strife, this shows that there is no doctrine near. Nowadays, however, on the pretext of collecting for the monastic community, certain monks inflict great hardship on the villages and their inhabitants, whether human or animal. [11] It is heartbreaking to see. But here, I'd better not say too much. Anyway, nobody will listen. What is more, if I point out the personal faults of Dharma practitioners in high places, they mostly respond "vith angry words. And there is a danger that those who really are powerful might catch me and cut my mouth apart "vith a knife. So I'd better watch my step. In any case, people who are really sincere and compassionate vvill be helped by even the little I have said. On the other hand, no matter how much one speaks to people who are destitute of moral conscience and a sense of propriety, the result will be nothing but trouble for the speaker. In which case, as the proverb goes, "Shut your mouth is the best advice."

Our Teacher, great in compassion and skillful means, made a first rule about meat eating for the Shravakas who had taken Pratimoksha vows, specifying that the flesh of one-hoofed animals (horses, donkeys, and so forth), as distinct from the meat of cloven-hoofed animals (yaks, cows, and sheep), was not to be eaten. Later, he made another rule saying that, apart from meat that is pure in the three ways, all flesh products are proscribed. And then, in connection with the bodhichitta vow, and considering that there is not a single being who has not been our kind parent, he forbade the consumption of any kind of meat whatsoever, including the flesh of animals that have died of natural causes. It was said by the Kadampa teachers of old that the first two rules, formulated in the Pratimoksha context, were taught in the beginning for the sake of those who had an intense craving for meat. The Buddha knew that if the consumption of meat were totally prohibited from the start, such people would be unable to embrace the Buddhist teachings. Once they had entered the Dharma, however, and as their minds had been refined-and of course for the Bodhisattvas-the Buddha set forth the principle of total abstinence from meat. What the Kadampas said is very true. When the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma of the great vehicle, many Shravakas elevated their minds, and many of them generated bodhichitta, the supreme mind of enlightenment. They then abstained from the consumption of flesh. Consequently it is a mistake to think that all the Shravakas were meat eaters.

The great being, the second Buddha, Lord Tsongkhapa, says repeatedly in his collected writings, and proves his words with reasoning and quotations from the scriptures, that if one understands the line of demarcation between what is permitted and what is proscribed, one will understand that the sutras and the tantras all speak with a single voice. In the context of the three vows, he explains that specific need takes precedence over prohibition. Therefore, if there is good reason for it, and in order to benefit greatly both oneself and others, it is permissible not to abstain from meat and other sense objects such as alcohol and a consort, but rather to enjoy them as an ornament of ultimate reality. But this does not mean that one is allowed to enjoy such things in the ordinary way and in the absence of perfect justification. As Lord Khedrup says in his Outline of the Three Vows, "All those who generate the mind of supreme enlightenment, Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle-how wonderful it would be if they abstained from every kind of meat. Even at the Pratimoksha level, except for meat that is pure in the three ways, no meat eating is permitted. Even in one's dreams one should never claim, because one craves for it, that meat eating is permissible."

These days, however, one only ever sees the meat of animals that have been slaughtered for food. It's rare indeed to come across meat that is pure in the three ways. And rarer still are the practitioners who have no desire for it. It would surely be better, therefore, if the loudmouths who go trumpeting the acceptability of meat eating were to reflect instead upon the measure of their faults!

Not only is the eating of large quantities of meat bad for one in the long term (for one's future lives); it is an obvious fact that, even in the present life, there are many who perish due to the toxins that meat may contain. Many times do we see and hear that when Dharma practitioners tell their benefactors that they need some meat, the latter go off and kill a sheep. And when the bursars in the monasteries say that they have big festivals coming, twenty or thirty sheep are bought from the nomads and are slaughtered in the autumn. This is a common occurrence in monasteries large and small. The result is that when one goes on pilgrimage to a monastery, intending to make offerings and pay one's respects, one is confronted by the spectacle of stacks of carcasses, before one has even seen the images of the enlightened beings. Now if this does not deserve to be called "wrong livelihood," then tell me what does! You "Dharma practitioners" who fail to see the direct and indirect injury done to the lives of goats and sheep, are you blind? Is there something wrong with your eyes? And if you are not blind, don't try to pretend that you don't know anything about it!

-- Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining From Meat (Excerpt), by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol

To take care of Rinpoche's needs, I sometimes would steal food from downstairs. Akong kept the pantry locked, and he kept the keys with him. I would hide in the kitchen and wait for Akong to unlock the door to the pantry, which was a long narrow room. When Akong would walk to the back of the pantry, I would run in, grab things off the shelves, and take them upstairs to our bedroom. Sometimes Rinpoche and I would go into town to shop. If we could get a beef tongue, which he particularly enjoyed, I would boil it for him in the room.

Things between Rinpoche and Akong reached a point where they were barely speaking to one another. One day some major donors were coming to Samye Ling. Rinpoche was very turned off to the idea that Akong was putting on a fake front for these wealthy people so that they would give money. He didn't feel that genuine, spirituality was being practiced at Samye Ling at that point, and he thought that under the surface the whole situation was corrupt. Just before the donors arrived, while Akong was downstairs waiting to greet them, Rinpoche went into Akong's bedroom upstairs and completely destroyed Akong's personal shrine with his walking stick. Then he went and urinated all over the top of the stairwell, after which he lay down and passed out at the top of the stairs. He had had a lot to drink that afternoon, perhaps to work himself up to doing this. The whole event was extremely shocking, to me and everyone else there. But at the same time, because we had been treated terribly by Akong, I felt okay about it. Akong's way of controlling the situation was to use passive aggression. In his mind, there was always a good reason why he did this to us or that to us. It was very hard to get through to him.

Rinpoche didn't explain his actions to me, but I personally felt that destroying Akong's shrine and then making a big stink, literally, was Rinpoche's way of sending a message to Akong that he couldn't ignore. The sacredness of the situation there was being destroyed and the atmosphere was rotten for us at that point. Looking back now, I think that Rinpoche was willing to go to extreme ends to expose the hypocrisy he saw. Based on other things he said about Akong, I feel that Rinpoche was trying to wake him up. Of course I can't speak for Rinpoche and I don't know what was going on in his mind, but that was definitely the feeling that I had about it at the time.

Rinpoche's behavior was at times outrageous. I think this was probably the first time I had seen this side of him so graphically displayed. On the one hand, he was absolutely brilliant. On the other hand, his behavior could be so unconventional that he seemed rather crazy at times. It was like two sides of a coin: brilliant, or wise, on one side; unfathomable, or crazy from a conventional viewpoint, on the other. Of course, there's crazy and then there's crazy. As far as I'm concerned, in my entire association with him, he never did anything to harm another human being. He used to use the term "idiot compassion" to refer to being kind to someone when something more drastic was called for. He was never guilty of that! At times, he could be black and wrathful, but it was always with the agenda of waking people up. He would push people so that they would recognize their self-deception. His mind and actions were fearless and often quite fathomless. There were certain times when it was difficult to understand the motive behind his actions. Those things usually became clarified for me, and I think often for others, with time.

The situation at Samye Ling was becoming unbearably claustrophobic for us, to say the least. One morning Rinpoche suggested that we go to Glasgow to have a holiday and escape the dark atmosphere at the center. We checked into a nice hotel there and had a lovely time. Every night we would eat in the steak house nearby, which was a real treat for us compared to scrounging food at Samye Ling. When it came time to pay the bill, we realized that we didn't have enough money with us, so we had to go to the bank. The people at the hotel were very nice about this. We took a taxi to the bank. When I checked our balance, I was shocked that there was so little money in the account. I realized that we had forgotten to deposit one of Rinpoche's royalty checks for Born in Tibet, so there actually wasn't enough in the account to pay our hotel bill. We decided to take a taxi all the way back to Samye Ling, which was more than an hour's drive. The plan was that I would get the check, deposit it in our bank in Lockerbie, and wire the money to the hotel. Unfortunately, we didn't phone the hotel to let them know what we were doing. It never occurred to either of us that this would be a problem. I don't know if Rinpoche fully understood how the banking system worked in England, since most of his finances had been handled by Akong. For my part, I was a naive teenager.

By the time we reached the bank in Lockerbie with the check, the bank was closed. So we went back to Samye Ling for the night. The next morning, I took a taxi with Rinpoche into town. We deposited the check, and I wired the money. Then we went to the pub for lunch. We were there eating lunch when the Glasgow police arrived and arrested us for not having paid the hotel bill. We were put in the back of a black Mariah and driven to Glasgow.

They took mug shots of us at the police station. Rinpoche refused to let me call anyone about what had happened. He knew that Akong would use this event to humiliate us and fuel his view that Rinpoche had gone off the deep end. After the police booked us, we were put in jail. We had to spend the night in separate cells, filthy cold jail cells with ratty blankets and a broken toilet seat in the corner. I begged to be with Rinpoche, but the jailer said that I couldn't be in the same cell with him. He had only recently recovered from the complications of his accident, and I feared that he would become ill again because of the cold. Finally, the jailer agreed to give him some of my blankets.

The jailer asked me about my background and where I had been to school. I told him that I had gone to Benenden, and he said, "I've heard of Benenden." Then he said, "Why have I heard of Benenden?" And I said, "Probably because Princess Anne went there." And he replied, "Yes, that's right." It was hard for him to believe that an English girl who'd been at school with Princess Anne was being held overnight for not paying her hotel bill.

It was a bleak, bleak night, an absolute low point. It seemed that no matter what we did at this time, we were going to encounter terrible difficulties. The next morning we were taken to court. After I explained to the magistrate what had happened, he released us. We went back to Samye Ling, and no one ever knew about our night in jail. It would have been just the confirmation that Akong needed to reinforce his opinion of Rinpoche and me. The next day we received a telegram saying that all charges had been dropped because the hotel had received the money. So there were no lasting repercussions.

However, at this point, we realized that we needed to get out of Britain as soon as possible. During this period, Rinpoche would sometimes wake up in the night, experiencing some sort of panic. I actually don't know if it was panic exactly. He would wake up and he couldn't breathe. Sometimes, he would seem to be in another realm, I would almost say, and I would sort of have to bring him back by talking to him and insisting that he come back and listen to me. He told me that I was able to provide ground for him, which helped him to stay on the earth, somewhat literally. I don't want to psychoanalyze Rinpoche, but I think this was a very difficult period for him, in many ways. It was a momentous decision to leave behind his Tibetan identity and to strike out in the world. I think he was absolutely fraught with loneliness and sometimes with despair. At this point he didn't know how well things would go in America. He didn't know what was going to happen. To me, Rinpoche was the ultimate warrior. He was willing to jump off the edge of the cliff, not knowing where he would land.

On the other hand, he also had tremendous dedication to his world. Even though others might abandon him, he never wanted to abandon anyone else. For quite a while, even though it had been such a bad scene in Scotland, Rinpoche continued to talk about returning to Great Britain after the lecture tour in America. He had incredible loyalty to people there, even to Akong, whom he hoped would eventually open up to Westerners and come to appreciate the way in which Rinpoche wanted to live and teach. I, however, was convinced that we should leave for good. I told him that we weren't coming back. I was quite vocal about this, saying that the scene in Scotland was not a healthy situation for us. After our night in jail, Rinpoche didn't resist at ill. He consulted the I Ching, using yarrow sticks, which is the traditional method, and it indicated that "it furthers one to cross the big water." This was the turning point for us.

Years later, at a public event, he made a spontaneous toast to me, thanking me for helping us to get out of Great Britain: "You have cheered me up many times. In the past, I have gone through all kinds of depressing occasions and dungeons and an unspeakably unliberated world, pure and simple, a world that was not purified at ill. We went through that together, with you leading the way ahead of me. I appreciate that very much. You are an extremely brave lady, I must say. Such an extremely kind lady and an extremely resourceful lady as well, she managed to get us to this goddamned place called America!"3

Unfortunately, there were still obstacles to our departure. Earlier, Rinpoche had obtained a multiple entry visa to the United States. While we were making our final plans, we went to the American consulate in Glasgow to get information. When Rinpoche presented his British passport at the desk, the person behind the counter took it and stamped a huge "cancelled" across the visa. We were shocked. We discovered that Christopher Woodman had been to the consulate and told them dreadful stories, saying that Rinpoche was unfit to go to the United States.

Ever since our marriage, Rinpoche's relationship with Christopher and his wife Pamela had degenerated. After the wedding, we never went back to Garwald House, and we had barely seen the Woodmans. It seemed that Christopher and Pamela were jealous of the intimacy between Rinpoche and me. Also, Christopher in particular seemed to have developed tremendous anger and what seemed like a complex about controlling Rinpoche or reforming him. Rinpoche said that in part it was the result of the confusion generated by his falling-out with Akong, which forced students to take sides in this dharmic controversy. However, he also referred to it as a problem that sometimes arose for students in relating to their teacher, a phenomenon that he described as "hunting the guru." He had witnessed this personally in Tibet, when some of Jamgon Kongtrul's main students decided that their guru needed to be reformed. Rinpoche wrote about this in the first epilogue to Born in Tibet, which he wrote soon after we left Scotland for North America. He said there:

When a guru makes a great change in his life, it is often an opening for great chaos among the pupils who regard him as an object of security. Very few are able to go along with the change .... My marriage to my wife Diana took place in January 1970. This brought a ... reaction among the more possessive followers who regarded their guru as "lover." They began what may be called "hunting the guru." When this occurs the person is no longer open to teaching. The ego game is so strong that everything nourishes it and the person wants only to manipulate, so that in a sense he kills the guru with his own ignorance.

This situation reminded me of the time when Jamgon Kongtrul's disciples tried, with the best of intentions, to reinterpret with their scholarly research Jamgon Kongtrul's own words in order to show him their real meaning. They attempted to help him out with tremendous violence and feelings of superiority. This Ignorance of one's real purpose can be called the basic twist of ego.4

Christopher Woodman seemed to be "hunting" Rinpoche in this way. He convinced himself that Rinpoche should not be allowed to go to America. His stated purpose for containing him was that he seemed to think that Rinpoche was a disturbed individual who needed to remain in England. I think, in fact, that Christopher was very frightened about losing Rinpoche. However, his attempts to hold onto Rinpoche only drove a wedge between them. Later there would be further repercussions. For the time being, we had to decide what to do now that Rinpoche's visa had been cancelled.

Without him having a valid visa, we weren't sure that we could get into the United States, but Rinpoche still wanted to book tickets to New York He thought we might be able to gain admission. So we decided to proceed with our plans to leave.

However, we needed money for the tickets. We barely had enough to cover a few nights in a hotel in Glasgow. How could we possibly come up with the money to travel to America? Having no other choice, we decided to go to Akong and ask him to please give us the money for our plane tickets. I volunteered to approach Akong on our behalf, as he and Rinpoche were barely able to be together in the same room at this time.

Although Rinpoche's activities generated most of the income at Samye Ling, Akong kept complete control of the finances, and he gave Rinpoche almost no money for his personal account. Akong refused to give us the money, but he said that he would "loan" us the funds for the tickets if Rinpoche would sign over the seals of his lineage. These were the official marks of Rinpoche's position in Tibet. There were seven seals, some of them dating back centuries. Among them were two seals that were given to one of the early Trungpas by the emperor of China. Leaving them behind was like being stripped of his authority. Certainly, this was the message that Akong seemed to be sending, although ultimately Rinpoche's authority had nothing to do with any outer trappings. Akong also demanded that Rinpoche leave behind other religious treasures that he had carried with him from his monastery in Surmang. They included a gold statue of a protector, or mahakala, that was very precious to him, small statues of Milarepa and Padmasambhava, and other important relics. He had been able to bring only these few small but significant objects from Tibet, and now Akong demanded that we leave many of them at Samye Ling. We convinced him to let us bring some of these along with us, but all others had to remain with him. When you consider that the vast majority of the art and religious treasures at Rinpoche's monastery had been destroyed, it was quite devastating for Rinpoche to be asked to leave behind the last few things that connected him to Surmang. Akong was not even from the Surmang monastery, so for him to take control of the Surmang seals and treasures was quite outrageous.

I was so upset that I called my uncle -- the same uncle who took us out for lunch after we married -- and told him this terrible thing was happening. He was completely unhelpful and unsupportive. He was a lawyer, so I'd been hoping that he might give us some assistance, but he just said, "Too bad for you." So Rinpoche left the seals from the Surmang monastery with Akong, and we used the money to get our tickets. It was not until 1975 that we were able to recover them.

Even though the situation was so negative and circumstances seemed so difficult, Rinpoche had a sense of promise about what was to come. As he w-rote later, "I do not believe that there is a divine Providence as such, but the situation of karma and the wildness of Khenpo Gangshar and Jamgon Kongtrul directed me to cross the Atlantic with my wife in the spring of 1970."5

As we made preparations to leave, we secured a promise from Akong to take care of Rinpoche's son until we were able to send for him. Osel did not have a British passport, and with our visa difficulties, we could not bring him with us. As well, we had no money for a third ticket. I wish that he had been able to accompany us, as there were terrible difficulties bringing him over later on.

Finally, in early March 1970, the day arrived for us to depart. We had only been at Samye Ling for a little more than two months, but it seemed an eternity. In the taxi on the way to Prestwick Airport, for some reason that I absolutely could not fathom, Rinpoche decided that he wanted to stop off at the pub in Langholm, very close to Samye Ling, for lunch. I was completely. beside myself because there were only two flights a week to New York from Glasgow. He got mad at me for harassing him, so I gave in. Of course, with our luck, we got all the way to Prestwick and missed the flight. We had to go back to Samye Ling for four more days. However, we made it on the next flight. Looking back on it, I think that perhaps Rinpoche realized, more than I did, that in leaving Great Britain, he was saying his final goodbye to an important part of his life. He was saying goodbye to Akong, who had been his heart companion in the escape. from Tibet. He was saying goodbye to England, where he had mastered the English language, made many discoveries about Westerners and their relationship to mind, and made his first connection with Western students. So he took his time in leaving, frustrating as that was for me.

Rinpoche left Scotland with a ritual dagger, called a phurba, strapped to his midsection with a long scarf. A phurba is supposed to cut through obstacles and assassinate ego on the spot.

This was one of the treasures from his monastery in Tibet that Rinpoche refused to surrender to Akong. He left Great Britain with at least this one piece of his heritage intact. It had belonged to the founder of Buddhism in Tibet, Padmasambhava. Rinpoche often carried it on his body in those days, almost as if it gave him the strength and protection that he needed to make this change in his life. It being a very different era, it didn't set off any metal detectors or alarms at the airport.

On the plane we were both very cheerful and, as Rinpoche wrote later, "We talked of conquering the American continent, and we were filled with a kind of constant humor."6 We flew into New York, hoping to enter the United States, but we were told that without the proper visas we wouldn't be admitted. However, since we were both British citizens, we were allowed to continue on to Canada. We took a flight to Toronto. We had finally arrived in the New World.

Looking back on the dreadful times we endured in Great Britain, part of me would like to forget about the whole thing and that part of me says, "Why tell people about these black times?" But then I remember what Rinpoche said about this. As my husband wrote, just a few months after we left:

Upon being asked to do an epilogue for the new edition of Born in Tibet, I began to think about the nature of these last years. Their most outstanding quality has been the strength of the teachings, which have been a constant source of inspiration during this time in India, Britain, and America.

Adapting to these new ways of life after the colorful and simple quality of Tibet, where people were so in touch with their natural environment, has been truly a great adventure. It has been made possible by the continually active presence of Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen and Khenpo Gangshar, my teachers. They taught me about a basic sanity that has nothing to do with time. and place. They taught about the neurotic aspects of the mind and the confusion in political, social and other structures of life, which are universal. I have seen many fellow Tibetans as well as Westerners drawn into these problems.7

So in fact, I realize that it's very important to remember what happened in the last days at Samye Ling, because it was such an important lesson. It is a constant reminder to me of the pitfalls of spiritual practice.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sun Jul 28, 2019 2:53 am


Although we hadn't managed to get into the United States, we were excited about arriving in North America. Leaving the Toronto airport in a taxi, we noticed immediately that it was completely different from Great Britain. I was in awe of the place. The highways were huge, the cars were huge, everything seemed speeded up and larger than life. The taxi drove us to a seedy hotel, which was all we could afford, where we spent the night. The next. morning we wanted something to eat, so we went out to find a market. We found our way to a supermarket, and we were completely overwhelmed by the place. They didn't have stores like this in England. The employees in the store seemed so nice. They said things like, "Hello, can I help you?" "Did you find everything you were looking for?" and "Have a nice day." This approach seemed superficial to me. This would never have happened in England. I was amazed by the hugeness and the slickness of everything in the store. There were rows and rows of vegetables, frozen foods, cookies, and toilet paper, and in the meat section there were enormous cuts of beef and pork. Rinpoche picked out a big raw steak, and I got a frozen cake with lots of frosting. We took our purchases" back to the hotel, and we sat on our bed eating these huge, rich pieces of food.

The next day Rinpoche contacted a local Buddhist organization in Toronto. He explained that he was a Tibetan lama who had arrived in Toronto with nowhere to live. Originally, we had hoped to stay with Karma Thinley, a Tibetan teacher who had been living in Canada for several years. He had visited Rinpoche in Scotland, and they were quite friendly. However, he was away at the time.

We had no place to live, and we couldn't afford to continue staying in hotels. We. phoned Fran Lewis and Kesang, two of Rinpoche's students who were now living in Vermont, for advice. They had recently found a piece of land that was going to be Rinpoche's first meditation center in the United States. They suggested we go to Montreal, which was only a few hours' drive from Vermont. It would be much easier for them to come up and visit us there. They were already looking for an immigration lawyer to work on our case and hoped that it would only be a few weeks before we could enter the United States.

We had barely enough money to purchase train tickets, and we took a night train to Montreal. When we got there, the Buddhist Society put us in touch with a Korean monk, Samu Kim, who invited us to stay with him and his wife. She was a Westerner, but she was an excellent Korean cook, and we had some great meals with them. They had a little baby boy named Maji, which I believe means" offering to the Buddha" in Korean. At first, we got along quite well with them. Then, one night Rinpoche and Samu stayed up drinking, and the next day, Samu asked us to leave. I don't know exactly what happened. Samu said to Rinpoche, "You look like a buddha, but you're just an ordinary man. You look the story, you walk the story, but you're not the real thing. You can't stay here any longer." It felt like a hangover from the energy in Scotland.

The situation with Buddhism in Canada was similar to what we would find in the United States. There were a number of well-established Mahayana Buddhist communities in the major cities, but most of them were made up of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians originally from China, Japan, and Korea, for whom Buddhism was the dominant religion and the culture they had grown up with. It was quite a conservative scene, not one that Rinpoche was attracted to. Perhaps it was not so surprising that our first encounter ended on a sour note.

After we left Samu's house, we found a small furnished studio apartment for twenty-four dollars a week and another three dollars a week for the television. To come up with the first week's rent, I went through the pockets of Rinpoche's suits, and we paid most of the rent in change.

Eventually, we started to receive some support from Rinpoche's students in the United States, but in the beginning we were very poor and living mainly on rice. We had a big rice pot, and sometimes we would have enough money to buy a little meat or chicken to add to the rice. One day I spent seven dollars on food at the grocery store, and Rinpoche was upset that I'd spent so much money. Another day I went out to a market in Montreal to buy meat for dinner. I walked past a stall where they sold live pigeons to take home for dinner. They would kill the bird for you on the spot. There was only one left that day, and I felt so sorry for the poor thing that I spent all our money to buy it. When I got home, Rinpoche said, "What's for dinner?" And I said, "Well, I spent all our money on this pigeon." He was very nice about it. We put the pigeon out the window, and we just had rice for dinner that night.

Sometimes we walked around Montreal. However, Rinpoche was still using a walking stick and it was difficult for him to get around. So I used to do most of the food shopping, and we stayed in the apartment a lot. Rinpoche and I slept on a big foldout couch, and we watched a lot of television. We watched Pajama Party and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Our apartment was above a bakery, and Rinpoche would go down and visit with the French baker in the basement. He and Rinpoche liked each other a lot, and they used to drink whiskey together. Sometimes, the baker would give us a loaf of bread. We were so poor that this was really a treat.

There was a gay couple in the building who we used to hang out with sometimes. They took a lot of mescaline, and occasionally we would trip with them. I don't remember this as very significant. Later, Rinpoche became adamantly opposed to the recreational use of drugs, but at this point, he seemed to enjoy experimenting.

For the first time in my life -- because I had led such a sheltered life growing up -- I had to do laundry. Early on, not knowing any better, I put Rinpoche's cashmere sweater and silk shirts in the washer and dryer. Everything shrank terribly, and he was unable to wear them after that, but he was so sweet about it. When I brought his sweater back, he said, "That's all right, sweetheart. We'll save it for our first child."

As soon as we got our apartment in Montreal, Rinpoche cheered up. There was much more openness in the atmosphere, and he seemed inspired. Michael Aronowitz, a high-powered immigration lawyer in New York, was working on our case, and we were confident that we were going to be able to get into the United States. It was just a question of going through the red tape to get the visas. Rinpoche was optimistic about the future. In Montreal, we bought some 3-D postcards that were popular at that time. When you moved them back and forth, the scenes on the cards would change, and Rinpoche said, "One day we're going to be able to afford our own house, and we'll have one whole wall wallpapered in this 3-D stuff!"

His students started to come up and visit us from Vermont. Kesang and Fran came almost every week, and they often brought us some money to get by on. Joanne Newman, a new student who generously helped to finance the land for the meditation center, also came up to meet Rinpoche. They gave us news of how the center was coming along. They had decided to throw the I Ching to find a name for it. The I Ching talked about treading on the tail of the tiger, so with Rinpoche's blessing, they gave the center the name "Tail of the Tiger." Rinpoche was very excited to hear all the developments at "Tail," as we called it.

We also met Cyrus Crane in Montreal. He was about seventy at the time, one of Rinpoche's oldest students, chronologically speaking. He was a wonderful old man with long white hair. During his first meditation interview, he said, "Rinpoche, I need some advice. First, I did the Mahamudra and then I did the maha ati [advanced practices that take years to accomplish]. Now that I've done both of those, what should I do next?" Rinpoche told him, "I'm going to teach you to meditate."

While we were in Montreal, Rinpoche gave several public talks at Concordia University. We connected with a few people there. I remember meeting Judy Gault, who remains a very committed Buddhist. She and several other women started to hang around with us. We were also introduced in Montreal to Tindale Martin, a Western Zen teacher who had a small Zen center. He had spent time in Japan and was rather arrogant, but he was quite nice to us. His wife, Gisela, was a belly dancer. She supported the family with her exotic dancing, and we went to the club to see her dance once. The next year, Tindale invited Rinpoche to teach a weekend program at his center.

In the United States, Rinpoche would encounter other Western teachers like Tindale, people with some exposure to a genuine Buddhist tradition but lacking in their training or understanding. In fact, there were a number of rather odd misconceptions about Buddhism that were being fostered. There was a certain kind of Zen that was popular at this time -- well intentioned but often quite conceptual, not grounded in enough practice or experience. One of the problems was that there were so few Asian teachers able to comprehend Western culture and able to transmit their understanding to Westerners. In some sense, it was similar to the obstacles we had already encountered in Great Britain. Many Asian teachers were intimidated by Western students. The cultural barrier seemed so high that the teacher and the students couldn't cross that divide. In America, however, the situation was ripe for a breakthrough, and indeed we were to discover that some teachers -- such as Suzuki Roshi in California -- were already pioneering a new approach, one based on eye-level communication.

At the end of April, we received word that our visas were coming. Kesang drove up from Vermont to pick us up. We packed up our belongings, which were few at that time, and on May 1, 1970, we crossed into the United States. A whole new future was opening for us, and when we hit the United States, there was not even a hint of the bleakness or depression that had dominated our lives for so many months. It was like a huge wind of fresh air was dispelling the last few clouds in the sky. Tail of the Tiger was an old farmhouse with a barn next to it, located on more than four hundred acres of land in northern Vermont near Barnet, which is close to St. Johnsbury. Kesang and Fran were living there, as well as Joanne Newman and Richard Arthure. He was another of Rinpoche's close students from England and the editor of Meditation in Action. The day we arrived at Tail there were just a few people there, but the scene grew quickly as people from all over the East Coast started coming up to visit. At that time Tail of the Tiger was unique; there were no comparable Buddhist centers in New England.

The main house at Tail was small, with a living room and kitchen on the main floor and several tiny bedrooms. Upstairs, on the third floor, a somewhat larger room was turned into a meditation hall. Rinpoche and I were given one of the rooms on the main floor as our bedroom, in the back. Our bed was just a mattress on the floor. Most of the people who came around in that era, both men and women, had long hair and were sort of grungy. I continued to wear the hippie caftans I had brought from England, but I added peasant blouses, flowing skirts, and the occasional short skirt to my attire. At the beginning, Rinpoche's dress was noticeably more conservative than his students. He liked to wear an ascot with a silk shirt, for example. After a little while, however, he changed his dress a bit to go along with what other people were wearing. A few weeks after we arrived in America, we were on the West Coast and spent a day in Mexico. Rinpoche bought some embroidered Mexican shirts, and he used to wear those. He also got into a flannel shirt phase for a while.

There was group sitting meditation in the shrine room upstairs every morning. I often sat with people, although some mornings I would sleep in with Rinpoche. There were a lot of late nights. In the evenings, people would gather in the living room, and Rinpoche and I would hang out with people for hours. Sometimes he would just talk with people; sometimes he would give a short lecture in the evening. The activity would go on late into the night. Up to this point, to some extent, I had had Rinpoche to myself, and I had done everything for him -- cooking his meals, washing his clothes, making appointments for him, and so forth. It was an adjustment to have so many people around all the time and to have to share him with everyone.

One night I was tired of the group scene, and I decided to retire early. I thought Rinpoche should come with me. I tried to convince him to come to bed. He was in the living room talking to people about Padmasambhava bringing the teachings to Tibet. I said, "You've got to stop teaching. Please come to bed." He responded, "I'll be right there, sweetheart." I don't know how many times we must have repeated that exchange over the years! Of course, it was hours before he went to sleep. Although I sometimes missed the time we had had alone together, I was fundamentally very happy to be there -- with him and everybody else -- and delighted to see him able to expand and relax so much. He was really launching his campaign on the American soil.

Rinpoche was so inspired. Everyone we met in America had such open minds in those days, and they were eager to learn. Because of the openness and inquisitiveness of the new students, I think that Rinpoche felt that he could truly communicate with people. There was an immediate magnetism between him and the people who came to Tail. He didn't sit around spouting things he knew; his way of teaching was to connect on a heartfelt level with everybody in the room, whatever their state of mind was. That started from the very early times. People felt immediately drawn in and connected to him, and he felt the same way about them. He was extremely perceptive about where people were at. Some years later, he addressed a group of his students, reflecting back on these early days. He said:

As we all remember, each one of you had a chance to come to the dharma in your own various ways. In many cases, before we began working together, your situations were rather desperate. Some of you were struggling more than others, or suffering more than others, but each of you had your own style of manifesting your struggle and your pain. You each manifested your own kind of contortions, hunched-over-ness and jumpiness.1

You actually could see all of this manifested in the shrine room. Rinpoche didn't give people much direction in their meditation practice at that time. I think he wanted to let people hang out in the space a little bit. He realized that you couldn't take people from the extreme of casualness they were familiar with to a perfect situation of discipline without allowing some transitional space in the middle. In England, he had seen that when you try to impose discipline on people who have no background in the tradition, a lot of people end up imitating the discipline and confusing rigid behavior with meditative accomplishment. He was not interested in making that mistake twice.

So he just told people to sit, with no agenda whatsoever. Because he gave so little direction, the scene in the shrine room sometimes appeared quite sloppy and contorted to an external observer. People would begin their hour of sitting meditation with upright posture and legs carefully crossed. As the hour progressed, they would begin to squirm, hunch over, and change position. Some would get sleepy and fold up their knees so that they could put their head on their knees and sleep. The occasional person would actually lie down in the shrine room. Yet, behind all that disarray, people's minds and hearts were being brought to the cushion, brought to the dharma -- and that was what Rinpoche was going for at that time. He wanted to tap the brilliant minds he was encountering, and later, he knew that he would be able to straighten out their bodies -- literally.

Often, Rinpoche also worked with people through his sense of humor, which was quite boyish at times, almost what you would call childish, but very magnetic. Once, during morning meditation practice at Tail, he came into the room and walked up to the front, where he sat facing people for several minutes. He was carrying a small paper bag, which he set down next to himself. It began to vibrate and emit strange clicking sounds. These continued for a while and then came to a stop. Rinpoche exited from the shrine hall, leaving the bag behind. After he departed, of course, people couldn't resist opening the sack. Inside there was a child's windup toy, a set of chattering teeth. It was such a perfect image of how the mind chatters on while you are meditating. At the same time, it was purely a joke, something that made people laugh and delighted them. This was characteristic of how he worked with people: the double entendre that might have been coincidence -- or was it?

The first few weeks after our arrival in America is a blur of people, activity, and energy in my mind. However, I have one extremely vivid, rather peculiar memory. I was in bed with Rinpoche, and light was streaming into our room. He often used to sleep late in the morning. I was lying next to him, looking at him. I noticed that he had one single hair in the middle of his chest, which was quite long. I lay there looking and looking at this hair, and finally, I thought, "I've got to pull it out." I reached over and yanked the hair out of his chest. From a dead sleep, he woke up and tried to punch me in the face. Then we both collapsed in laughter.

Another time, when we were alone in bed, I was feeling romantic, and I said to him, "I love you more than anyone in the whole world!" He replied, proudly, "I really love you too. I love you second best of anything in the world." I said, "What do you mean, 'second best'?" Then he replied, "First I love my guru, and my guru is the buddhadharma. I'll always love the dharma more than anything else. But you'll always be the thing I love second best. My first commitment isn't to being a family man, but to propagating the Buddhist teachings. This is the point of my life. Hopefully the two things can work together." Even in matters of the heart, he was uncompromisingly honest.

One of the themes that arises from this early period is seeing how much a person may have to give up, in terms of personal happiness or fulfillment, when one's life is dedicated to helping others on such a big scale. Many people contributed to bringing Buddhism to America, and many of them made enormous personal sacrifices in order for Buddhism to take root as a genuine practice lineage in this country. When Rinpoche said that his first commitment was not to our relationship or to his family, I don't think he was being melodramatic. Essentially, he was describing what was a choiceless situation for him. At that point, I think that I already understood this, although it wasn't always easy to accept. Sometimes I just wanted to be with him and, beginning in this era, often it wasn't possible. At times, there was definitely a conflict between my desire to have some domestic privacy and his desire to be available to people twenty-four hours a day.

While we were staying at Tail of the Tiger, I had my own domestic drama. Very unexpectedly, my mother showed up in Barnet for a visit. Richard Arthure came and informed me, "Your mother is staying at an inn in Barnet, and she wants to see you." She refused to come to Tail of the Tiger because she still had not accepted my marriage to Rinpoche and wouldn't have anything to do with him. Rinpoche was worried that she would try to abduct me. However, I felt that I must go to see her. It was the first time I'd seen my mother since my marriage to Rinpoche. We'd had hysterical phone calls in Scotland, but she had refused to visit me at Samye Ling.

That evening Richard drove me to the inn. Rinpoche wanted him to stay with me. My mother was ranting and raving, and she said to Richard, "I want to know why my daughter has run away with this half-Indian, half-Chinese, half-Tibetan." Richard replied in his most proper English voice, "I can assure you, Mrs. Pybus, he's full-blooded Tibetan." This did not seem to help.

My mother insisted that I spend the night at the inn with her. I finally agreed, so Richard left me there with her. I asked him to tell Rinpoche not to worry, that I'd be back in the morning. My mother and I really had nothing civil to say to one another at this time, so shortly after Richard left, we went to sleep. Mother was in a room with two double beds. She said that there was no bedding for the second mattress and that I would have to sleep in the bed with her. I remember lying there awake and absolutely frozen in the bed. I slipped out around 5:30 in the morning and walked back to Tail of the Tiger. As I came around the bend in the road that led up to the farmhouse at Tail, I could see Rinpoche sitting in a rocking chair on the porch. He was so worried that he'd stayed up all night waiting for me. After that my mother left. Next she was going to northern India, where a private detective had tracked my sister. Tessa was living at this time in a hill station in the mountains as a hippie. (Tessa told me later how Mother hiked into the mountains to find her, carrying a bag full of bras to give my sister.) My mother had lost both of her daughters within one year. It was quite sad, but I didn't feel anything for her at the time. She was unable to appreciate anything about my life, and I didn't want to have anything to do with her.

Although we had been forced to leave the seals of the Trungpas ill. Scotland, Rinpoche had been able to bring a number of his paintings with him. In their own way, these were also treasures. They were done in the style of Tibetan thangka paintings, but like so many things that he did, they were both traditional and unusual. One of them was a painting of an important female protector of the Buddhist teachings, Ekajati, from the Nyingma tradition. It was a painting just of her head, which is what made it so unusual. Ekajati is a fierce protector with one eye, one fang, and one breast. Otherwise she is anatomically like a human being: two arms, two legs, and so forth. According to the traditional belief, she is the leader or chief of the mamas, who are a band of wrathful female spirits or energies who control the forces of war and peace, sickness and health. She is an extremely powerful lady. When I first spent time with Rinpoche, he was writing poetry to her, and he had this painting on the wall of his bedroom at Garwald House. He felt that in part it was invoking her energy that helped him to survive those dark times. When we moved to Colorado a few months later, Rinpoche decided to leave the painting of Ekajati at Tail of the Tiger and to make her the protector of the center. He wrote a chant to Ekajati, which he asked the practitioners there to recite at the end of their evening meditation practice. Rinpoche also left his painting of Padmasambhava at Tail of the Tiger. In this way, he began to plant the energy of his heritage in the American soil.

Even though this early time was quite formless and the atmosphere at Tail was almost like a hippie commune, Rinpoche was already subtly beginning to mold the situation. Over a relatively short period of time, perhaps a year, the atmosphere changed radically, and more discipline was introduced. Things began to tighten up. In the long run, Tail of the Tiger took on the feeling of a lay monastery where the residents were expected to follow a strict discipline of practice and study. But there were just the barest hints of this during the early days.

At the end of May, Rinpoche and I left on his first teaching tour in America. The people at Tail were putting together a series of summer seminars to begin in mid-July. We had about six weeks before the seminars would start, so we set out to see part of the country. Our first stop was New York City. We stayed with Jean-Claude van Itallie, a playwright best known at that time for his hit play America Hurrah. He was a friend of Kesang's who had first met Rinpoche at Samye Ling. Jean-Claude arranged for Rinpoche to give a talk at the Actors Workshop, where many avant-garde theater people congregated.

New York was amazing for us. It was so different from the European cities we both knew. We had a fabulous time touring around the city and meeting all kinds of people whom Jean-Claude introduced us to. This was the beginning of Rinpoche's very fertile relationship with Jean-Claude and more generally with Western artists. He was very taken with the experimental theater scene in New York. Rinpoche told Jean-Claude about his training in monastic dance in Tibet, and they began discussing ways that they could work together in the area of theater. Soon after this, Rinpoche began writing plays, a number of which were later staged in Boulder, Colorado,. and other locations.

While we were in New York, Mary -- whom Rinpoche had called the morning after we were married -- came to visit for a few days. I don't know where she and Rinpoche met, but they remained friends over many years, and he corresponded with her until his death. She lived in Wales with her husband and a number of children, and she was quite settled compared to most people we knew at that time. I related to her a bit like an aunt or another mother. While she was visiting, she gave me cooking lessons. I was trying to make meals for everyone at the apartment in New York, but I found it overwhelming to cook for a group. The only training I had in cooking came from occasionally helping Mrs. Wills make a cake when I was six years old. After Mary arrived and saw the trouble I was having, she walked me through the steps of how you make a meal and how you get it out on the table. I remember telling her that I didn't know how to cope with all the chaos in the kitchen. Her help was invaluable.

From New York, we flew to San Francisco, where Sam and Hazel Bercholz met us at the airport. Sam had recently started Shambhala Publications, and the first book he had published was the American edition of Meditation in Action. While he was still in Great Britain, Rinpoche had been fascinated to learn that someone in America had a company named after the kingdom of Shambhala, and he was delighted that this company , wanted to publish an edition of his book. Shambhala is an ancient mythical kingdom in Asia, with which the advanced Vajrayana Buddhist teachings of the Kalachakra Tantra are associated. Rinpoche had received many teachings on Shambhala in Tibet. In fact, when he was escaping from the country, he had been writing a book about Shambhala, which unfortunately was lost during the journey. Meeting his publisher was high on Rinpoche's list of things to do in America. For his part, Mr. Bercholz was quite anxious to meet the Tibetan lama whose book he had published.

Sam had a large presence and a warmth that we immediately connected with. His wife, Hazel, had been a dancer and was now the main graphic designer for the publishing company. They were absolutely welcoming of us, and in fact, Sam had arranged for Rinpoche to give several public talks and meet with interested students while we were in the Bay Area. Sam had cofounded Shambhala Publications with Michael Fagan, a rather tall, angular, and very intelligent man, and we stayed in Oakland with Michael and his wife Joanne during this visit.

One afternoon, we were taking an afternoon rest, and we made love in our bedroom at the Fagans'. The room had a sort of Elizabethan feeling, with a large purple wall hanging. We were not planning to have a child at that time. However, we were only using the rhythm method for birth control, and as we were making love, I had a definite feeling of someone else being in the room with us. I believe we conceived our first son, Taggie, that afternoon.

After spending a week in northern California, we flew to Los Angeles where Rinpoche had a speaking engagement arranged by students of J. Krishnamurti. The sponsors of the talk, I believe, had been members of the Theosophical Society but had now formed their own organization. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York at the end of the nineteenth, century by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott. It fostered a great deal of public awareness of Buddhism in the West, but it also gave rise to many misconceptions, especially about the nature of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular due to Madame Blavatsky's spiritualist "communiques" from supposed Indian and Tibetan Masters. Members of the Society discovered Krishnamurti when he was a young man in India and tried to raise him as their great find, a great mahatma or spiritual master. Krishnamurti reacted against the mysteries of the Theosophists and began promoting a much more genuine investigation of spirituality and how to lead a sane life.

Krishnamurti was not in favor of organized religion, and he was quite an anti-teacher or anti-guru, calling on people instead to rely purely on themselves and to separate wisdom from the trappings of any tradition. Although Rinpoche respected many of Krishnamurti's ideas, he felt that Krishnamurti's rejection of the role of the teacher was too extreme. Rinpoche himself spoke out against charlatan teachers, but he believed in the importance of a genuine student-teacher relationship as the basis for developing non-ego and compassion on the Buddhist path. Rinpoche told me that he thought that perhaps Krishnamurti never met his teacher. He liked the man very much. A few years after this trip to Los Angeles, Rinpoche and Krishnamurti lectured together and had a dialogue at some event. Rinpoche commented that Krishnamurti's presence on stage was very dramatic and contrasted noticeably with his shy off-stage presence. In Rinpoche's case, there was no difference between being on- and off-stage.

The afternoon we arrived in Los Angeles, we were taken somewhere outside the city to a motel along a river. After we checked in, we had several hours to relax before Rinpoche was to give his talk to Krishnamurti's students. Rinpoche got completely drunk in the motel room, and I was freaking out because I couldn't imagine how he was going to give a lecture in a few hours. Somehow, he often managed to get drunk -- almost strategically it seemed -- when he had to talk to a group of people who were tripped out or who had extreme expectations. These people definitely fell into that category, beyond anything else we experienced in California.

I managed to get him on his feet and into the car, and I sat with him on the stage at the lecture hall. He was really four sheets to the wind. Some of the people in the audience seemed to have the Theosophical fascination with the magic and mystery of Tibet, while others seemed preoccupied with debunking any guru who might address them. People asked Rinpoche why he ate meat, why he didn't wear robes, and if he was a Buddhist. It seemed a bit ridiculous to ask a Tibetan teacher if he was a Buddhist. I felt that they were quite rude. They also wanted to know about things like psychic visions, ghosts, and astral projection. In general, they seemed extremely preoccupied with exotica and with external norms of behavior and not that interested in anything as mundane as the practice of meditation. These were exactly the kinds of misconceptions about spirituality that Rinpoche was trying to expose, so it was rather predictable that he would disappoint them and confound them with his behavior.

In fact, Rinpoche didn't respond to people, so I started answering questions for him. A woman in the audience started complaining that I shouldn't speak for him. In fact, as disciples of Krishnamurti, they didn't believe in gurus, so in a sense Rinpoche was responding to their beliefs by manifesting as the "anti-guru." They didn't seem to like this, however!

I felt that the whole thing didn't go well. At the end of the evening, the organizers gave us an envelope containing an honorarium and sent us on our way. When we opened the envelope in the taxi, we realized that it wasn't enough to cover even our lodging. There had been hundreds of people at the talk. I said to Rinpoche, "We've got to go back and ask for some money for the motel." Interestingly enough, he had sobered up completely as soon as we left the talk. He said no, we absolutely couldn't do that.

After the disastrous talk, we had a free day before flying back to San Francisco, so we took a bus into Mexico, where Rinpoche bought his Mexican shirts. The next day we returned to northern California for several more weeks. I think that Rinpoche accomplished a lot of important research on this trip. We encountered many spiritual seekers who he described as "free-style people indulging themselves in confused spiritual pursuits." In California, he witnessed some of the most extreme manifestations of the American counterculture at this time. There were hippies and Hare Krishnas roaming around Haight-Ashbury like strange lost tribes, political dissidents protesting in Berkeley and San Francisco, people at every talk who were into every imaginable spiritual trip. The scene in California was looser yet more extreme than on the East Coast, where there was still a hard edge of intellect. That was much harder to find in the West. In California, everything was "groovy, man." I think that it was while we were in the Bay Area that Rinpoche coined the phrase "cutting through spiritual materialism," which became the title of his best-selling book published in 1973. If he didn't use the phrase then, at least he was formulating the idea behind it. As he said sometime later: "Coming to this country was an interesting encounter .... A lot of people had already become professional spiritual supermarket shoppers, and some were still trying to become so."2 At the same time, in general, he didn't seem too put off or upset by most of the people he met. In fact, he felt that people's fascination was ripe to be punctured and that there were possibilities for authentic spirituality to flourish in America, even in California!

We spent several days with Tarthang Tulku, another Tibetan teacher, who had been in the United States for about a year. He had a small house in Berkeley where he lived and conducted sessions with his students. Eventually, he purchased a center in a beautiful area of Berkeley Hills. Tarthang and Rinpoche were quite friendly, and in later years, they talked about going on vacation together in Mexico, although that never happened. Tarthang was beginning to think about bringing Western psychology into his presentation of the Buddhist teachings. That was very interesting for Rinpoche, since he too had begun to use some of the language and ideas from Western psychology to present teachings on the nature of mind and development of ego. Their approaches were quite distinct, but there was some common understanding. Tarthang extended a great deal of hospitality to Rinpoche and me at this time, and we were grateful for his generosity. We stayed with him several times when we made visits to the Bay Area.

While we were in California, Rinpoche also had a remarkable visit with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, the founder of San Francisco Zen Center. Suzuki Roshi had been in America for more than ten years, and a large community of practitioners had grown up around him. He had an extraordinary effect on Buddhism in America. One would have to call him the true grandfather of the Practice Lineage in this country.

Sam Bercholz arranged for us to travel to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Roshi's rural practice center near Big Sur. We spent several days there. There was an instant' connection between Rinpoche and Suzuki Roshi. Roshi toured us around Tassajara, which he was justly proud of. It was a magnificent setting, with. cabins set into the hillside, a beautiful shrine room, and wonderful hot springs that we, enjoyed during our stay. In meeting Roshi, Rinpoche said that he had met his first real spiritual friend in America. He asked Roshi how he taught meditation practice to his-students, and Roshi said that he had decided to have all of his students count their breaths during meditation, which he described as "Bodhidharma style." Bodhidharma is considered to be the father of. Zen in China. Like Padmasamhhava in Tibet, he was unconventional and could be very wrathful.

Rinpoche was quite affected by seeing how Roshi was teaching meditation, especially the emphasis on group practice at Tassajara. As I've mentioned, Rinpoche was already presenting the discipline of sitting meditation as the main practice for his students. From his experiences in England, he had realized the danger of Westerners getting tripped out and confused by the tantric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. He had encouraged some students in England to do prostrations, the traditional entrance to Buddhist practice in Tibet. As soon as we came to America, however, he stopped giving that practice. Later he asked almost all of his students from England to repeat their prostrations, after they were well grounded in meditation.

The instruction Rinpoche had been giving since we arrived in America was telling people to sit without much technique at all. He felt, initially at least, that any technique could be perverted or misunderstood, especially in the Western culture with its fascinations. At the beginning, he said: Just sit, don't count your breaths, don't label your thoughts, don't do anything. Just sit. Later he began to refine the technique.3 His discussions with Roshi about sitting practice and his observation of the environment at Tassajara played an important part in how his presentation of meditation evolved. Soon after our first visit, Rinpoche arranged for some of his senior students to practice at San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center so that they would have an appreciation for the approach to sitting meditation that Roshi stressed. Several students from the Zen center were also invited to conduct the first meditation intensives at Tail of the Tiger, daylong sittings that Rinpoche called nyinthuns.

Rinpoche was also quite taken by certain aspects of the Japanese aesthetic. In later years, when other Tibetan teachers taught at our centers, they often commented that the meditation hall had a Japanese feeling. The colors Rinpoche used were definitely Tibetan: Chinese vermilion red, bright yellow and orange, intense blues, and gold. However, the shrines he designed for his centers were quite unlike those in a Tibetan shrine hall. Traditionally, Tibetan shrines have many offerings and other objects on them, and there are lots of statues and paintings around them. From some point of view, you might almost say they're cluttered. Rinpoche designed a very simple shrine on which there were seven offering bowls filled with pure water. In the center of the shrine a crystal ball was placed, representing the open nature of mind.

Rinpoche also became fond of Japanese incense, and it was used exclusively in his centers for many years. It has a much more subtle scent than Tibetan incense. He also used Japanese gongs in the meditation hall to signal the beginning and the end o£ practice sessions. In addition to the sitting practice of meditation, Rinpoche introduced walking meditation, and some aspects of that practice I believe he took from the Zen model.

However, what was most important about this first meeting was the heart connection between Rinpoche and Roshi. After we left, Rinpoche said that Suzuki Roshi was the first person he met in America who reminded him of his own teacher, Jamgon Kongtrul. Rinpoche had Roshi's picture put on the shrines at all of his centers in America, along with the photograph of Jamgon Kongtrul, representing the Tibetan lineage. In this way, he honored Roshi as one of the lineage fathers in America. We would see more of him in future visits to California, although, tragically, he died from liver cancer in December of 1971, soon after we met him. In the short time they knew one another, he and Rinpoche made grand plans. It was partially Suzuki Roshi's inspiration that led in 1974 to the foundation of the Naropa Institute, a university based on the Buddhist contemplative traditions and Western scholarship as well. Rinpoche's work with psychology also went in new directions due to his conversations with Suzuki Roshi about the need for a Buddhistinspired therapeutic community.

In addition to his publishing company, Sam Bercholz had started a metaphysical bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. We visited there several times during the month we were in California. Rinpoche was impressed with all the scholarly Buddhist books that Sam had there, as well as more popular tides. The bookstore was a hangout for anyone involved with the spiritual scene, and we saw posters advertising Rinpoche's public talks on the bulletin board there. Sam and Rinpoche began planning many new books, and Shambhala Publications became Rinpoche's exclusive publisher in America. Over the course of the visit, we became close friends with Sam and Hazel. The Bercholzes introduced us to many people during our stay, a number of whom became Rinpoche's students. By the time we left, asangha, or Buddhist community, was beginning to form in northern California, and Rinpoche promised to return soon and to send some of his senior students from Tail to teach in Berkeley and San Francisco.

Before we left California, I went to have a pregnancy test because I had missed my period. Rinpoche took me to see an obstetrician on Market Street in San Francisco. After the doctor read the results of the test, he called Rinpoche and me into his office and told us that it was positive. Rinpoche looked shell-shocked when he heard the news. I was also somewhat overwhelmed, being only sixteen at the time. Later, when he reflected back on this moment, he said, "It felt very clean-cut to fall in love and be with my wife. But then, when I first heard a San Francisco doctor say, 'Congratulations. The test is positive; I didn't know what to think. I felt that I'd been pulled down, made into a part of the world in an entirely new way, that the ship had dropped its anchor."4 In the hippie era, we used to talk about being brought down, or things being "a downer, man." Rinpoche, however, talked about being brought down to earth, or being grounded, as a very positive thing. I think he related to our marriage in that way.

I asked the obstetrician if it would be okay for me to ride horses during the pregnancy, as this had been an important discipline in my life and I was hoping to start riding again soon. The doctor said, "If you couldn't ride when you were pregnant, you would look outside the window and see women riding all up and down Market Street" -- implying that riding would have been used as a method to end unwanted pregnancies.

On our way back to Tail we stopped off in New York for the weekend. Rinpoche gave several public talks, one entitled "Meditation in Action" and another called "Tibetan Alchemy." It was now early July, and his seminars at Tail of the Tiger were due to start in another week. Even now, a mere two months after arriving in the United States, everywhere Rinpoche went he attracted new students. When we came back through New York, there were many more people around all the time. An important and absolutely chance meeting was running into the poet Allen Ginsberg. Allen was with his father, who was quite old and in poor health, and they were trying to hail a taxicab, the same cab we thought we were hailing.We were with someone, perhaps Richard Arthure, who introduced us to Allen. When he learned who Rinpoche was, Allen held his hangs in anjali (hands at the heart in a gesture of respect or reverence), bowed, and said "OM VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM," which is the mantra of Padmasambhava, the syllables that invoke the essence of his energy. We all decided to share the cab. After dropping off Allen's father, we went to Allen's place, where he and Rinpoche talked for hours about poetry, Buddhism, politics, sex -- everything. They wrote poetry together that night, and it was the beginning of a deep dharmic and poetic friendship. Later, when they knew each other better, Allen asked Rinpoche what he thought of being greeted by Padmasambhava's mantra:. Rinpoche told him that at the time he had wondered whether Allen understood what he was saying.

Rinpoche had started writing poetry in English while he was in England. He had studied English poetry at Oxford, and his early poems tended to be more formal, with allusions to Christian themes and Greek mythology as well as to Buddhist deities. He also had encountered Japanese haiku in India, which had given him a different idea, a sense of how one might compose poetry that was a more direct reflection of the mind. This was similar to the training he had received from his guru in Tibet in composing dohas, or spontaneous songs of spiritual realization. Allen introduced Rinpoche to the possibility of even greater freedom of expression and a kind of poetry that was as fresh, wild, and evocative as our experience of America. It was the first chapter in a long and important association with American poets and poetics, which had its intense ups and downs.

Interestingly enough, this was not the first time that Rinpoche and Allen had met. After Rinpoche's death, while going through photographs from a visit to India in the early sixties, Allen saw a picture of himself taken at the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie. A young monk was showing him around. He looked closely at the photograph and realized that it was Rinpoche who had taken him on that tour, ten years before they met in New York. Neither one of them realized this when they ran across each other in America.

After our weekend in New York, we headed back to Tail of the Tiger, where more and more students were arriving every day. John Baker and Marvin Casper showed up around this time. They became close friends of ours and close students of Rinpoche's. They ended up living in our house when we moved to Colorado later that year. Later, they became the editors of Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and the Myth of Freedom. Students from cities and universities an over the East Coast began appearing at Tail. There was, for example, a group from Brandeis University who started coming to Tail for seminars.

Rinpoche was scheduled to teach a long seminar on the Jewel Ornament of Liberation, an important book by Gampopa, one of the forefathers of Rinpoche's Tibetan lineage, and then he was to give another long seminar on the life and teachings of Milarepa. The people at Tail were expecting a hundred or more participants. I was looking forward to these seminars, which were to take place outdoors in a big white tent in a field behind the barn at Tail. I was experiencing morning sickness, but other than that, I was feeling well, and I was quite happy to be pregnant.

Just a day or two before the first seminar was scheduled to begin, I dreamt that Rinpoche's son, Osel, was being held captive in England by Christopher Woodman and his wife Pamela. In the dream, Osel was trapped there, and they wouldn't let him go. In fact, we knew that Osel had been staying with the Woodmans. Akong had gone on a trip to India, and he thought that while he was away, they could provide a better environment for Osel than he would have staying at Samye Ling. He had asked the Woodmans to take care of Osel without asking our permission first. Given the dreadful relationship that we had with Christopher and Pamela, this made us very nervous, but there was nothing we could do. As far as we knew, everything was all right. We had been making plans to bring Osel over as soon as things felt settled, perhaps at the end of the summer.

When I woke up, I told Rinpoche about the dream, and he was quite alarmed. He said, "You have to get on a plane right away and go get him." I said, "Oh, I think it's nothing," but he said, "No, you have to go today." Rinpoche trusted my dream life, and in fact, all my life I've had dreams that turn out to be significant. He had me phone the Woodmans to tell them that I was coming to get Osel, and they seemed to be fine with it. Then, he booked a ticket for me from Boston to Glasgow. He couldn't accompany me because he had to teach. I was going to stay a night or two in Scotland, and then Osel and I would travel back to be with Rinpoche at Tail of the Tiger.

I flew overnight to Prestwick Airport in Scotland, the same airport from which we'd left Scotland in early March. It wasn't very pleasant to go back there. I took a taxi from Prestwick to the Woodmans' place, Garwald House. I arrived in Glasgow early in the morning, and it was overcast, cold, and misty. The drive south toward Samye Ling was surrealistic. There were wisps of curling mist, and it was so foggy that you could hardly see the road ahead. After we had gone through Lockerbie, about two hours south of Glasgow, as we got closer to Garwald it got darker and more overcast, and there started to be dead animals on the road. First, it was just a dead little bird. Further on, I saw a dead cat. Then there was a dead dog in the road. After we came through Eskdalemuir -- which is quite close to Garwald -- there was a dead sheep. I know this stretches the imagination, but it actually happened. There was this roadkill gradually progressing in size between Lockerbie and Garwald House, and toward the end of the drive, both the cabbie and I were getting spooked. Just before the turnoff to Garwald House, there was a dead cow on the road. The whole scene was like a cross between Stephen King and Monty Python, and quite creepy. Somehow with the combination of the dream and all of these dead animals, I began to feel very strange. However, there was nothing to be done about it, so we continued down the long driveway to Garwald House.

Because the relationship with the Woodmans had turned so negative in the last months that we were in Britain, I was apprehensive about how they might greet me. I asked the taxi to wait while I went in. I only expected to be there for a short time. Sitting in the living room and drinking tea with the Woodmans, everything seemed very friendly and nice, and I thought, "I'm being ridiculous. Everything's fine. I've cranked up this whole thing." Osel came in and he looked good, very relaxed and healthy. He seemed well cared for and he looked like he was enjoying himself there. I gave him a big hug and then told him, "We're going to America to see Daddy." He seemed quite excited. After maybe half an hour, we got ready to leave.

I gathered up Osel's things, we, said goodbye to the Woodmans, and we started to get in the taxi. Before the door closed, unexpectedly, Pamela ran over to the cab, sobbing. Her whole face had changed radically. It was contorted by what seemed to me a combination of rage and pain. She leapt into the car and physically wrenched Osel out, saying, "You can't have him." He looked completely overwhelmed and panicked. I can't imagine what this conflict was like for him.

She took Osel back into the house. I went in to reason with her, and I said, "This is terrible. You have to let him go. You aren't his guardians. His father wants Osel to come to America." But she was adamant, saying, "I can't let you have him. You haven't made enough of a relationship with him. He should stay here longer. I'm not going to let him go." She was crying, completely upset and unmoving.

I took the taxi back to Lockerbie and checked into a hotel there. I phoned Rinpoche, and he told me to contact a lawyer. To tell you the truth, he didn't seem that surprised that this had happened. I phoned a lawyer in Glasgow by the name of Maurice Maurissey, who agreed to help us. The next day, I met with him and we went to Social Services to get things sorted out. We discovered that the Woodmans had also been there. From what we could tell, they seemed to have painted a picture of Rinpoche as some kind of demonic person. They said that he drank too much, which may have been true, but in other respects the characterization was unrecognizable to me. It was like a replay of the earlier visa problems with Christopher. If the Woodmans couldn't have Rinpoche in England with them anymore, it seemed that they were going to hold onto his son. The people at Social Services told me that Osel wouldn't be released to us until there had been a home study in the United States. It was quite a mess.

I ended up staying in England for many months trying to get the whole thing sorted out. I kept thinking that it would just be a few more days, a few more weeks, and then Osel would be able to be with us. I had to go through several hearings with Maurice, trying to arrange to have Osel released to me. Eventually, we arranged for him to leave the Woodmans and go to the Pestalozzi Village in the south of England. We knew that Osel would be in a good setting there while we worked out the legal problems.

The Pestalozzi Village was established after World War II to care for orphans and refugees displaced by the war. In the 1960s, they began taking in Tibetan refugees, followed by refugees from other Asian and African nations. The first Pestalozzi Village was in Switzerland. The one in England was established somewhat later. They had different houses where residents of a particular nationality lived, and they provided an excellent education and loving care for the children there. There was a housemother and housefather for every residence. Osel was able to be with other Tibetans where he could speak his own language. Tibetan was still his main language at that time. Once Osel moved to the Pestalozzi Village, I was able to visit him regularly, and I would go down to see him as often as I could.

It took months to make these arrangements, and I stayed most of the time in London in Beauchamp Place with Francesca Fremantle, who generously shared her flat with me. She was a close student of Rinpoche's from Samye Ling who later spent time in the United States and taught at the University of Colorado and Naropa Institute. She and Rinpoche worked together on the translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. She's quite a brilliant scholar. She was incredibly kind to me during this difficult period.

Early in the fall, after his seminars were done at Tail of the Tiger, Rinpoche flew over for about a week. I was so glad to see him. He sometimes liked to cook, often quite unusual creations, and he cooked dinner one night at Francesca's. His peanut butter and lemonade soup would be a good example of his unconventional cuisine. In London, he cooked roast chicken basted in liquid vitamins for Francesca and me. I told him this was disgusting; he said I was too conservative in my thinking and simply needed to open my mind.

We visited Osel together at the Pestalozzi Village while Rinpoche was in England. The Woodmans had told Osel frightful stories about Rinpoche, so at that time, Osel was quite afraid of his father. It was heartbreaking. At the end of the week, Rinpoche flew directly from London to Denver, Colorado. He was moving to Boulder to begin teaching at the University of Colorado, and I was to join him as soon as I was able. We still hoped that I would be bringing Osel with me. Rinpoche was quite worried about his son, and he was very grateful that I was willing to stay and work on the situation. This was another example of how he sacrificed the concerns of his personal life for his commitment to presenting Buddhism in America. It was truly difficult for him to leave with nothing resolved, but he felt that he had to honor his teaching commitments.

While I was in London, I was often worried that I would bump into my mother on the streets. I was showing quite pregnant by this time, and I knew she would disapprove. I had had no communication with her since she had surprised me at Tail of the Tiger in May. Francesca lived not far from Harrods, and I frequently thought about going there. They sold a game pie in the food halls there that I had a craving for. Finally, I decided to go and buy one. My mother often shopped at Harrods, so when I went in, I looked all over to be sure she wasn't there, and I got a sort of adrenaline rush.

Eventually, somebody told my mother I was in London, and she phoned me at Francesca's. I had just this one phone call with her, in which she said to me, "Diana, I hope the child in your womb does not do to you what you have done to me," and she hung up the phone. That was the sum total of our communication.

Finally, around the end of December, it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to bring Osel back to the United States with me. I was now more than six months' pregnant and wouldn't be allowed to travel on an airplane that much longer. I wanted to be with Rinpoche in Colorado to have the baby. I left England with a heavy sense of regret at leaving Osel and took a flight to Denver. It was not until 1972 that he was able to join us in America.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:44 am


When Rinpoche arrived in Colorado in the fall, his students rented a small cabin for him in the mountains above Boulder, near an old mining town called Gold Hill. It was quite spartan, almost what you would call a stone hut. There was no indoor plumbing, just an outhouse. Rinpoche hadn't lived in a place like this since he'd left Tibet more than ten years ago. People may have thought a Tibetan lama would be more comfortable in a simple mountain setting. This might have been more a reflection of his students' hippie aspirations than an accurate reading of who he was at this point. On the other hand, it was by no. means a hovel, and he told me that he enjoyed himself there. The house was on a beautiful piece of property, with a view of the Continental Divide in the distance. It was owned by a family that had spent years in the foreign service in Asia. This was their summerhouse, which they named Gunung Mas, which is Burmese, I believe.

Before I joined Rinpoche, he moved into a larger house much closer to town. It was still a little ways into the mountains, about a ten-minute drive out of Boulder, in Four Mile Canyon. With the baby coming, he felt that we needed a better house for the family.

Rinpoche was quite proud that he was providing a home for us. Before I got there, John Baker and Marvin Casper took the train from Vermont to Boulder with all our belongings. Everything we owned fit in the allowed baggage on the train. In a phone call with John, I insisted that he take my pet goldfish on the train with him. In some areas, I behaved just like a spoiled teenager in those days. After all, I was barely seventeen. John always swore that he took the fish with him and that it died on the train, but I had my doubts.

When I arrived in Denver, Karl Usow picked me up at the airport in a Volkswagen bus. Karl was a professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado; he, along with another professor, John Visvader, had sent the postcard to Scotland inviting Rinpoche to teach at the university. He had a big moustache, and his hair was over his ears, which was actually short for those days.

Colorado was in the heart of the West, with its rough and rugged frontier feeling. I saw people with cowboy hats and boots in the airport while I was waiting to get my luggage. It was certainly a different atmosphere from either the East or the West Coast. Coming to Colorado was the beginning of another whole adventure -- one that would leave a huge mark on our lives.

I was excited to be in Boulder and to have my own house. The new house was a large, two-story, fairly modern structure, what is called a "raised ranch." It was set slightly below the road that wound up the canyon, and Four Mile Creek ran in front of the house. There were poplar trees and evergreens growing around the property. Rinpoche and I had a sitting room and bedroom on the first floor, while John and Marvin lived upstairs. The living room, which was also upstairs, had been transformed into a shrine room where the community gathered to practice meditation.

Rinpoche had designed raised platforms for people to sit on. Several students built the wooden frames to hold single-bed mattresses. The frames were painted orange with gold leafing on them and were raised a few inches off the ground. Then Tibetan carpets were placed on top of the mattresses, and people sat on those. This was before Rinpoche adopted the use of meditation cushions, zafus and zabutons, from the Japanese Zen tradition. Rinpoche often sat and meditated with people in the evening.

By the time I arrived, a substantial scene had developed around Rinpoche in Boulder. Most of these people were not from Colorado. They were arriving from the East and West coasts, as well as from the Midwest. Some people flew in, but in those days, it was more than likely that someone would arrive in an old car with· belongings strapped to the roof. Some people hitchhiked into town. Some took the bus. All of them seemed to converge on our house. There were people there morning, noon, and night.

People would often crash in our sitting, room, which was all right with me if it was just for a night or two. Then one of Rinpoche's students brought his sleeping bag and stayed for a couple of weeks, and then his wife and children arrived and they were all camping out there. Finally I told him that they had to move out and get their own place. This wasn't the only time I felt the need for more privacy and kicked people out. When this happened, people often had very little sympathy for me. They related to me like I was this terrible woman that the guru just happened to be married to. It didn't seem to occur to people that this house was also our home and that there might be boundaries to how much we -- or at least I -- wanted to share the space with people.

In this instance, Rinpoche's student had a complete freak-out. He told me that I had no understanding of Buddhism, that the guru's house was his house too, and that he was always welcome in the guru's house. I told him, "Well, you can think what you want about your religion, but I'm calling the police if you're not out in twenty-four hours." The whole family left, obviously.

Even our bedroom was not always off-limits to people. There was a woman who liked to meditate in the room when we were sleeping. She would sneak in during the night, and when we woke up, she would be there on a cushion meditating in the corner. Rinpoche would lean over in bed and whisper to me, "She's in here again. Get her out of here."

God, those were really the days. It was a wonderful era, though. Anything seemed possible. It was around this time that it dawned on me that Rinpoche was going to create something magnificent. All of us, I think, began to realize that his influence was going to be enormous, on a grand scale. It seemed unstoppable. He was so much vaster than anybody else I have ever met. I began to see Rinpoche as a mahasiddha, someone who outwardly may live an ordinary, secular life but whose every action is an expression of ultimate sanity, or wakefulness, and compassion. I don't even think it had to do with him choosing to live his life this way. The essence of his being was on a different plane than most other human beings, including most of the other Tibetan teachers. There were absolutely no boundaries to his compassion and his desire to present the teachings. His passion and his role in this lifetime were to present Buddhism in the West, and he put up no barriers between himself and others. He didn't keep any little dim corner for himself at all. Many people give of themselves, but almost all of us reserve a pocket of privacy, some part of our personal life that we don't want to share. Rinpoche kept nothing for himself.

People freely flowed through the house. Even though the scene was sometimes crazy and intense, I enjoyed it most of the time, especially in the two months before our child was born. In the evenings, the house would· fill up with people, and I would sometimes cook dinner for everyone. There might be twenty or thirty people for dinner. I would make a big roast or a pot of stew, and we would all sit around and eat together in the kitchen.

During this time, Rinpoche's relationships with people were so immediate and informal that his students had the sense that they· could hang out with him all the time. To some extent that was true. Just before our son was born, one student who was at the house a lot asked to speak privately with Rinpoche, and she was really concerned. She said to him, "Now you're going to have a child, and you're not going to love us anymore." He reassured her that this was not the case.

A group of people who called themselves the Pygmies discovered Rinpoche and started to hang out at the house. They had a commune east of Boulder, and their motto was, "We're bodhisattvas, and we live on East Arapahoe." They were long-haired and unkempt, and they lived in tents most of the year, which wasn't all that unusual for those times. There were a lot of people living pseudo-tribal lifestyles in those days. I don't know how the Pygmies lived in the winter, but they seemed quite cheerful in all kinds of weather. Some of them pitched their tents around the house for a while, as I remember. I became good friends with a number of them.

People indulged in some interesting eccentricities in those days. Marvin Casper, who was living in the house, went through a phase where he didn't like to shower. Marvin had a theory that Westerners bathed too much. Marvin was a bit odd but very lovable. He liked to eat Wheatena and peas with mayonnaise on them. He often didn't wash the bowls he ate out of, putting them back in the cupboard dirty. When I inquired about this, he said that there was no reason to wash his dishes because he was just going to use them again. From this time onward, there were always people living with us who helped Rinpoche with his work. In that era, it was Marvin and John, but it was a lot of different people over the years.

Rinpoche did business at the house, as he had no outside office in those early days. He was making plans to write books, make movies, open meditation. centers. He was writing poetry, writing plays, taking photographs, giving a talk every other night of the week: He was planning to go back and forth from Boulder to Vermont several times a year, and there were requests from people all over the country for him to come and teach. There was endless activity, and he involved his students in every aspect of making and carrying out these plans.

When you think about the raw material that he had, it's quite amazing that he trusted these people -- all of us -- to help him spread the buddhadharma in America. In fact, this was a very important way that he worked with people and trained them. I say that from my own experience. I learned so much from him, from everything he did and. everything we did together. He gave me such confidence about who I was and what I could do. At the same time that he would build you up, he would also call forth the most genuine part of yourself, and he wore down the problematic parts. But he never did this by belittling you. He was very skillful that way. The only problem was that sometimes people lost track of the fact that they still had a lot of work to do on themselves. Living in his world, you sometimes felt that you had accomplished the whole thing on the spot.

If you mean impromptu drama then that means to make it up on the spot. (https://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_makin ... ama_called)

He doesn't know what he is going to say and is trying to make it up on the spot. (https://books.google.com/books?id=QtmGS ... 22&f=false)

Was the meaning there all along or did they make it up on the spot? (https://books.google.com/books?id=vPI7x ... 22&f=false)

When you find yourself in that situation, you will make it up on the spot (https://books.google.com/books?id=TFXm2 ... 22&f=false)

Mammon was a god before Jesus' sermon in which he didn't make it up on the spot. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AMammon)

Do you really just make it up on the spot? (https://www.activemelody.com/improvisin ... -its-done/)

Movement can also be improvised, meaning that the dancers make it up "on the spot" (https://www.elementsofdance.org/action.html)

If you don't know an answer, a fact, a statistic, then … make it up on the spot. (https://www.activistfacts.com/person/3370-paul-watson/)

From some point of view, you had, but then there's always the path. We all have that to work on.

Rinpoche would give private meditation interviews in a little room on the top floor of the house. Later, it became my son's bedroom. There were two chairs and a side table in the room. Although there were many informal scenes and a lot of hanging out around the house, Rinpoche always stressed the importance of these formal meetings with students, to discuss their meditation practice and their lives. I think that all of his students had private interviews with him during the first few years he taught in America. In the interview situation, at least in terms of my own experience, Rinpoche completely connected with the other person in a way that was frighteningly direct. Anyone who expected the interview to be an extension of the informal space around the house was in for a big surprise. One felt absolutely on the spot. His ability to connect with the deepest part of a person was uncanny.

Rinpoche had several people who helped him schedule his meetings and interviews. I had done a lot of this in Scotland, but in general I was no longer involved once we arrived in the United States. Kesang, Fran, Marvin, and John all helped out, and as more and more people came, Rinpoche asked other students -- new faces in Boulder -- to participate in this way.

Many people who came for interviews were members of the Buddhist community that was forming in Boulder. Others were spiritual seekers passing through town or students of other teachers who had heard about the Tibetan in the mountains outside of Boulder. Two long-haired American Hindu guys, Krishna and Narayana, came for interviews during this period. They were close students of Swami Satchidananda in Los Angeles, although originally they were from the East Coast. After Narayana's initial interview, he wrote to Rinpoche,

I have met many saints and teachers, but only one had the ability to change my state· to a noticeable degree just through darshan [being in the teacher's presence]. Swami Satchidananda was the one, but now you are the other. I am telling you this because I realize that it was a significant encounter and one that may have bearing on how I approach life and spirituality.1

You never knew in those days who someone might become. Years later, in 1976, Rinpoche would appoint Narayana (also known as Thomas Rich) as his Vajra Regent, his dharma heir. Long-haired Hindus might transform into Buddhist businessmen; hippie girls might become university professors.

For many of those meeting Rinpoche for the first time, their initial interview brought a shocking realization, not unlike what Narayana described. Many, many people felt drawn to him in a way they could not explain. During these early years, he was gathering many heart disciples, people with a deep karmic connection who would remain with him throughout his life. They somehow found their way to him and he to them. It was an amazing process, an amazing time.

It was not, however, an overly solemn period. Rinpoche remained impish and always ready for a good joke. Bhagwan Dass, an American who fashioned himself as a Hindu yogi or sadhu, showed up at the house one day. He had spent a long time in India with Ram Dass, also known as Richard Alpert, the Harvard professor who was converted by psychedelic experiences to the life of a Hindu sannyasin and who wrote the classic Be Here Now. (At this time, we had not yet met Ram Dass.) I was sitting in the kitchen at Four Mile Canyon, and in walked Bhagwan Dass, this tall person with unbelievably long matted hair, dressed entirely in white. He said to me, "Where's the guru? I want to meet the guru. I have an interview with the guru."

I said, "Well, he's upstairs."

He responded, "I was just up there, and that fellow sent me back down here."

I asked him, "Did he, by any chance, have suspenders and a shirt on?"

"Yes," he said. I suggested that he go back up there. Apparently he had wandered upstairs and asked Rinpoche "Where's. the guru?" and Rinpoche had replied, "I don't know."

In addition to all the other activities at the house, we sometimes had parties, some of which got pretty wild. I think that Rinpoche found it interesting to. socialize with people in this way. During this period, Rinpoche was on a steep learning curve. It was often a wild ride for him and everyone else. He liked to get right out on the edge with people and see what would happen. It was a very creative space for him. I think he regarded it as a kind of research. Although the whole scene may sometimes have seemed merely chaotic and totally unplanned, Rinpoche was not just hanging out with people in a random fashion. As he said later,

On my arrival in the United States of America, I was met by lots of psychologists and students of psychology; ex-Hindus, ex-Christians and ex-Americans of all kinds .... At the beginning, when I first arrived in the U.S.A., I was trying to find students' so-called trips and trying to push a little bit of salt and pepper into their lives and see how they handled that. They handled that little dash of salt and pepper okay. They understood it, but they would still maintain their particular trips. So then I put more of a dash of salt and pepper into their lives and further. spice ... experimenting with how to bring up so-called American students. It's quite interesting, almost scientific. You bring up your rat in your cage and you feed it with corn or rice or oats and you give it a little bit of drugs and maybe occasionally you inject it and see how it reacts, how it works with it. I'm sorry, maybe this is not the best way of describing this -- but it was some kind of experimentation as to how those particular animals called Americans and this particular animal called a Tibetan Buddhist can actually work together. And it worked fine; it worked beautifully.2

Rinpoche also saw himself as part of the experiment, as part of what was being worked on. Throughout this whole period, what I think drove much of the activity was a kind of electric passion or connection between Rinpoche and his students.

Soon after I arrived in Boulder, in February of 1971, there was a party to celebrate Rinpoche's birthday. Rinpoche wore his black high-necked chuba, which had gold piping on the collar and Tibetan buttons. He looked quite handsome in it. There was a snowstorm that night, and people came in and left their jackets and boots on the floor just outside the kitchen. At some point in the evening, Rinpoche was in the kitchen showing off all the gadgets we had. He was very proud of the sprayer th-at was attached to the sink. It was on a long flexible black pipe that pulled out of the sink, and we used it to spray the dishes and clean the sink. He said, "Look, I have all these modern conveniences for my family now."

I was a few weeks away from giving birth, so I went to bed quite early. Apparently, a while later, Rinpoche turned on the water in the sink and starting experimenting with the sprayer. He started with cups and glasses on the counter; then he moved on to the people around him in the kitchen. First, it was just a playful burst of water that caught someone on the shoulder, then someone else in the face. Then, he turned the water on full force and began directing the. sprayer at everything within his reach. By the end, everybody's coats and boots were soaked from all the water, which spread out across the kitchen floor into the entryway. Finally, Rinpoche himself became a victim of his own prank. As the floor became slippery, he fell down in a puddle at his feet, which delighted him as much as anything else.

Although I missed most of the action that evening, I was certainly privy to similar occasions throughout the years. Sometimes these situations would remind me of the scenes in movies that turn into food fights or brawls. There's something both repulsive and attractive about those scenes. I remember a movie where a man and woman start feeding each other food out of the refrigerator, and they end up on the floor in front of the icebox, with their clothes off smearing food on one another's bodies. Most of us are willing voyeurs for such an outrageous scene in a film, but we are less ready to pursue such activities in real life. Yet there's a kind of longing for that freedom. Rinpoche had an amazing ability to take an individual or an entire group of people into those spaces, and not just as an opportunity to indulge in some fantasy. There was a way in which he invited you to unleash who you really are -- and then to see the utter transparency and ordinariness of that. It didn't have to be as literal or crude as a water fight -- although it could be. But it might also be inviting you to compose poetry with him, or cooking dinner for him, or just what you felt from a touch of his hand on your shoulder. It could be funny or very sad. It was like going through a mirror into your own mind.

When I arrived in Boulder, Rinpoche was lecturing several nights a week at the Wesley Foundation, a church on Twenty-Eighth Street and Folsom. His evening talks were in addition to classes that he was teaching once or twice a week at the University of Colorado. About a hundred people would usually attend the evening talks, although the crowd grew as the weeks went on. Around this time, some students rented a house, where. a number of them lived. It had a little shrine hall in the garage, and many people started practicing there, instead of in our living room. Rinpoche did a shrine blessing there and named the house Anitya Bhavan, "house of impermanence." I think he knew the scene was going to quickly outgrow that space.

Indeed, the scene was growing exponentially, new people arriving every week from all parts of the United States. Before and after his talks, there would be people milling around outside the hall where the lectures took place. On the one hand, Rinpoche wanted people to meditate before his talks began, but on the other hand, he and his students were building a Buddhist culture. I think he knew that this social scene was an important part of building that world. Also, he did not want to always be at the center of the scene. He talked about the importance of a teacher being slightly eccentric, in the sense of off center, saying that an overly centralized situation would not encourage the students to develop their own strength and understanding.

After some period of hanging out, people would slowly filter into the room and find a place to sit on the floor. Finally, Rinpoche would arrive and slowly make his way along the. edge of the audience to the stage. The Wesley Foundation was a modern building, and it had two walls of stained glass, which met at an angle in the middle. From the outside, this looked something like a bird's open beak. Inside, Rinpoche sat in front of the walls of stained glass.

Many of these talks were incorporated into his first genuinely American book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, which was published in 1973. I was so impressed by how spacious yet charged the atmosphere was at these talks and how delighted and relaxed Rinpoche seemed to be. There was a sense that he had really arrived. He was home. After the main part of the talk, there was always a long question-and-answer period, and many of the exchanges were both brilliant and intimate. There was still the occasional off-the-wall question, usually from a newcomer, about whether the Tibetans were related to the people who built Stonehenge, or something like that. By and large, however, students were sharpening and focusing their minds, and the discussions that took place were part of that process of developing intellect. People may have looked a bit ragged at that time, but you could tell that they were jewels in the rough. All of this was going on during the last two months of my pregnancy. In fact, Rinpoche gave a talk the night before I gave birth, and he gave another in this series just a few days after our son was born.

To prepare for the birth of our child, just like any other young couple, Rinpoche and I went to Denver together to take birthing classes. Rinpoche was very supportive and involved. He came to almost all the classes. We had decided that we wanted to use natural childbirth, which was a relatively new, progressive trend in those days. Dr. Robert Bradley, who founded the Bradley method of natural childbirth, was in Denver, so we signed up for his course. Dr. Bradley preached that childbirth should be painless. He said that if you had the proper training, you wouldn't have any pain at all. Rinpoche and I were convinced that this must be true.

My son was due at the end of February, but he came almost two weeks late. On the night of March 8, Rinpoche returned after giving a lecture at the Wesley Foundation, and we both went to bed. I was awakened by pain, and after lying in bed awake for some time, I woke Rinpoche up and I said, "There's something wrong with me. I'm having a lot of pains. Do you think I'm in labor?" He responded, "Oh no, Dr. Bradley said that childbirth isn't painful. I'm sure it will pass." I sat up for a while waiting for the pains to subside, but in fact they were growing more and more intense. For some reason, we were convinced that I wasn't in labor. We were both so naive about this, Rinpoche with his monastic background and me with my alienated English upbringing. Finally, I got into a hot bath, which I thought might alleviate the pain. I never drank at this point in my life, but I had a couple of shots of Johnnie Walker that night, hoping it might help.

Very early in the morning, around six o'clock, I went upstairs to John Baker's room and knocked on his door. I said, "John, I think there's something wrong with me. I think something's terribly the matter." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well I'm getting these pains, and they're coming every five minutes." Within three minutes, I would say, he was up and had his clothes on and the car keys in his hand, and he told me, "Okay, we're going to the hospital." He drove me as fast as he could to Dr. Bradley's office in Denver. I was already six centimeters dilated at that point. They took me over to Porter Memorial Hospital, which was a Seventh-day Adventist hospital, and put me in the labor room there. After John got me checked in, he phoned the house and asked someone to bring Rinpoche down right away.

Stephen Butterfield, a former student, recounted in a memoir:

Tenzin offered to explain his behavior at a meeting which I attended. Like all of his talks, this was considered a teaching of dharma, and donations were solicited and expected. So I paid him $35.00 to hear his explanation. In response to close questioning by students, he first swore us to secrecy (family secrets again), and then said that Trungpa had requested him to be tested for HIV in the early 1980s and told him to keep quiet about the positive result. Tendzin had asked Trungpa what he should do if students wanted to have sex with him, and Trungpa's reply was that as long as he did his Vajrayana purification practices, it did not matter, because they would not get the disease. Tendzin's answer, in short, was that he had obeyed the guru.[21]

-- Osel Tendzin [Thomas Rich], by Wikipedia

For about half a year in 1980, I went to live in Rajpur, across the street from Sakya Trinzin. I asked him for teachings on my meditation practice and he convinced me he had a vision of him and me yab yum and that it was important for him to act on it with me. Not only was it the most pathetic sex act of my entire life, it was such a total farce. It was about as enlightening as a mosquito bite, less even, if that's possible. And when it seemed impossible that he could get beyond his Ganesh sized belly to have sex, I offered him oral gratification. He was worried that would get me pregnant.

-- Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher, The Writings of Am Learning

While I was lying there alone, I remember feeling quite afraid. During the latter phases of my pregnancy, it had been haunting me that I had no idea what to do with a baby. There was a forty-year-old woman in one of my childbirth classes who was having her fifth child. I asked her, "What do you do with a baby?" She answered, "Oh, you just change them when they're dirty, feed them when they're hungry, and hold them when they cry."

I was somewhat overwhelmed by the prospect of motherhood. I was so young and I had no helpful reference points from my past to prepare me for motherhood. I had never been around infants, and the only sort of mothering I'd known was my own mother's. I knew that I didn't want to repeat what she'd done. I was afraid that I would be an inadequate parent. There were very few women who had children in the Buddhist sangha at that time, so I didn't know who to turn to. All those anxieties came up as I was lying there alone in labor.

When Rinpoche arrived, I was well into transition. Dr. Bradley soon came into the room. When I was ten centimeters dilated, I wanted to push the baby out, and I felt that the best way. to do this was to put my feet up on the end of the bed and push. Dr. Bradley told me that this was not the proper thing to do. He said that I should squat down and grab my knees and push the baby out in that position. He had been studying how some aboriginal tribes gave birth, I think. I tried to do this, but I felt that I couldn't get any leverage. He stood there in the room and wouldn't let me do what I wanted. This must have gone on for an hour and 'a half. Finally, he stepped out, at which point, I immediately climbed back onto the bed, put my feet up against the end of the bed and pushed. The baby crowned, I was taken to the delivery room, and my son was born shortly thereafter.

Rinpoche was surprised that our first child was a son. There's a rather chauvinistic Tibetan tradition that if a lama marries and the first child is a daughter, this proves that he made a mistake in disrobing. If the first child is a son, it was the right decision. Rinpoche was convinced we were having a daughter. He didn't think our marriage was a mistake, but he didn't expect to get any breaks, as far as these beliefs were concerned. We hadn't even picked out a name for a boy. We were going to call our daughter Dechen, which means "Great Bliss." However, Rinpoche quickly came up with a name for our son. At Rinpoche's suggestion, we named him Tagtrug, which means "tiger cub." The next week, Rinpoche wrote to the Dalai Lama and asked His Holiness for a name for our son. The Dalai Lama named him Tendzin Lhawang, which means "holder of the teachings, divine Lord." So his legal name was Tendzin Lhawang Tagtrug David Mukpo. We called him simply Taggie.

Taggie was born around seven in the evening. He was quite gray when he came out, and I wondered if that was because it took so long to push him out. After the birth, Dr. Bradley -- who was very interested in Rinpoche because he was a Tibetan lama -- wanted to talk to him about reincarnation, but Rinpoche wouldn't engage in the conversation. He felt that the doctor had mistreated me, and he was not enchanted with his personality.

A while later, the nurses took Taggie to the nursery. At that time, they didn't let the baby stay in the room with the mother that much. Then, at some point, Rinpoche went home so that I could get some rest. In the middle of the night, they brought Taggie to me, to nurse. I remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of this child. I picked up the telephone to call Rinpoche to tell him how wonderful our child was. Rinpoche told me that he too was very excited about the birth of our son, and he read me a poem he'd written that night:

There was a crescendo of energy at the birth of Tagtrug.
Vajrapani flies in the space --
The action of tiger's leap bridges the valley.3

While we were on the phone, the nurse came running in and took Taggie away from me. She said that I couldn't be on the phone when the baby was in the room. She said he could pick up bacteria from the telephone. This was ridiculous, but I didn't know enough at the time to argue with her. I went to sleep missing my child. The next morning I got up and went to look at Taggie in the nursery. I felt such a maternal instinct that I decided I wanted to take him home immediately. I phoned Rinpoche and John and asked them to pick me up. When they arrived, I discharged myself from the hospital, and we took Taggie home.

Back at Four Mile Canyon, the situation was chaotic. Sam Bercholz was there visiting from California, and Kesang and other people were in the kitchen. They popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the birth of the baby. Unfortunately, the cork almost hit him in the head. After a little while, I decided to retire with Taggie to the bedroom.

Rinpoche was having more and more intense sessions with his students in the evenings. While earlier I would have joined him in these sessions, as my pregnancy advanced, my interest in the group scene decreased, especially late at night. Now, with my newborn son, I had less than no interest. This particularly didn't seem like the night for it, as far as I was concerned. I would have liked to have time alone with Rinpoche and the baby, and I felt incredibly invaded with all the people in the house. These scenes continued almost every night after Taggie and I came home. I found that I couldn't get enough sleep because there was so much noise. The baby was being woken up many extra times a night.

A few nights after Taggie was born, Rinpoche was sitting around the kitchen table with some students listening to reel-to-reel tapes of his talks, which they were discussing. At this time Sam Bercholz had already been talking with Rinpoche about editing his talks into a book, and Rinpoche and some of his close students were starting to go through the talks to determine what material might work in a book. The volume on the tape recorder was turned up quite loud, and they weren't being very quiet themselves. I couldn't sleep and I kept going in and saying, "Please try to be a little bit quieter. Please try to be quieter." It would quiet down a little bit, but then it would start up again. Finally, I marched into the room and snapped the tape reel in two with my bare hands. That put an end to it, at least for that night.

There were many times that I would complain to Rinpoche that I wanted more time alone with him. He would say to me, "Don't you like people?" And I would answer him, "Well, yes, I like people, but not as much as you do." When I complained to him that we didn't have enough time together, he would say to me, "Do you want to have a suburb-ian marriage? That would be terrible!" Well, there was no chance of that.

Sometimes during this era I would take drastic measures to get time with him. On Easter Sunday, I announced to everyone at the house that I had prepared an egg-hunt in the yard, and they all went outside to look for the eggs. Then I locked the doors and the windows, so that no one could get back in. Rinpoche asked me what was going on, and I just said, "Now you're mine!"

To me, one particular occasion marks the change in my life that came with the birth of my first child. When Taggie was only two weeks old, Rinpoche left for several days to investigate buying a piece of land in the mountains above Fort Collins. Before this, I almost always accompanied him when he traveled, and it was quite a shock when I realized that I was going to stay behind. Rinpoche would have welcomed my company, but tramping around in the snow in the Rocky Mountains in March with an infant made no sense. So I decided to stay home with Taggie. However, I felt abandoned and somewhat afraid of being home alone with the baby. When Rinpoche left, I was crying, sobbing actually. The house had been full of people ever since I'd arrived in Boulder. Now, for the first time, it was empty. A few people came by to visit and help out, but I was alone most of the time.

When Rinpoche came back, he said, "We're going to buy some land," and he was really happy about it. I was really happy to see him. I had no idea how significant it was that Rinpoche had located this land. The land he had discovered became the future home of the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, now renamed Shambhala Mountain Center. In his mind, establishing a rural practice center in Colorado was a crucial step. He wanted a place in the western United States, similar to Tail of the Tiger in the east, where he could teach intensive seminars outside of the speed and confusion of the city. He also wanted a center with a lot of land where his students could do intensive group practice as well as solitary retreats. Later, he talked about the establishment of Rocky Mountain Dharma Center as the key to making meditation the foundation of his students' experience.

Rinpoche had great faith in the students from those early days. He always saw their workability. He invited the Pygmies to move to RMDC and help settle the land, because he could see their strength and their resilience. They were used to difficult living situations without many amenities, so they took to the land quite easily. They built a number of houses there, some of them quite strange, idiosyncratic constructions that are still there. They weren't great meditators at that time, but many of them have become so. In part, this is because he believed in them. He saw so much potential in everyone.

Finding the land for RMDC in my mind marks the end of our first year in North America, the first of seventeen years we spent together on this continent. In 1969, while still in England, Rinpoche wrote a poem, "In the North of the Sky," that expresses what coming to America was all about for him. As he said about himself there, "Here comes Chogyam disguised as a hailstorm."

I know my destiny. There will come a day when my name will recall the memory of something formidable—a crisis the like of which has never been known on earth, the memory of the most profound clash of consciences, and the passing of a sentence upon all that which theretofore had been believed, exacted, and hallowed. I am not a man, I am dynamite. And with it all there is nought of the founder of a religion in me. Religions are matters for the mob; after coming in contact with a religious man, I always feel that I must wash my hands.... I require no "believers," it is my opinion that I am too full of malice to believe even in myself; I never address myself to masses. I am horribly frightened that one day I shall be pronounced "holy." You will understand why I publish this book beforehand—it is to prevent people from wronging me. I refuse to be a saint; I would rather be a clown. Maybe I am a clown. And I am notwithstanding, or rather not notwithstanding, the mouthpiece of truth; for nothing more blown-out with falsehood has ever existed, than a saint. But my truth is terrible: for hitherto lies have been called truth. The Transvaluation of all Values, this is my formula for mankind's greatest step towards coming to its senses—a step which in me became flesh and genius. My destiny ordained that I should be the first decent human being, and that I should feel myself opposed to the falsehood of millenniums. I was the first to discover truth, and for the simple reason that I was the first who became conscious of falsehood as falsehood—that is to say, I smelt it as such. My genius resides in my nostrils. I contradict as no one has contradicted hitherto, and am nevertheless the reverse of a negative spirit. I am the harbinger of joy, the like of which has never existed before; I have discovered tasks of such lofty greatness that, until my time, no one had any idea of such things. Mankind can begin to have fresh hopes, only now that I have lived. Thus, I am necessarily a man of Fate. For when Truth enters the lists against the falsehood of ages, shocks are bound to ensue, and a spell of earthquakes, followed by the transposition of hills and valleys, such as the world has never yet imagined even in its dreams. The concept "politics" then becomes elevated entirely to the sphere of spiritual warfare. All the mighty realms of the ancient order of society are blown into space—for they are all based on falsehood: there will be wars, the like of which have never been seen on earth before. Only from my time and after me will politics on a large scale exist on earth.

-- Ecce Homo (Nietzsche's Autobiography), by Friedrich Nietzsche

Indeed, our first year in America was a whirlwind; a kind of spiritual storm that was gathering energy as it moved across the country. Like so many things I experienced in my life with him, it was a time that was both magnificent and sometimes lonely. I felt part of his world, absolutely, but I also had to begin to come to terms with my life separate from him. It was not always easy to be the guru's wife. But I must say, it was rarely boring.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:44 am

Part 1 of 2


Taggie was a very easy baby. In fact, had he not been my first child, I think I might have worried because he so rarely cried. You could do almost anything with him, take him anywhere, and he didn't complain unless he was hungry. He would go right back to sleep after I fed him or rest passively in his crib. Later, when we discovered that he had so many problems, I wished I had known what to look for earlier.

When the baby was around two months old, in May of 1971, we all went to California together. We visited Suzuki Roshi again, this time at San Francisco Zen Center on Page Street. We had tea with Roshi and his wife Okusan in the garden as SFZC, and Roshi did a special ceremony for Taggie. He bestowed on him the Japanese name Toronoko-san, which means "tiger cub" in Japanese. During our second visit to California, we also met Alan Watts, and Rinpoche gave a seminar on Alan's houseboat in Sausalito. Alan had converted part of the boat into a shrine hall where his students came to meditate. He would sit up in front in brown robes while people chanted, and then he would give his talk. The scene there felt strange to me, somewhat of a Westerner's kooky approach to Buddhism. Rinpoche, however, was quite fond of Alan and appreciated him for having laid the ground for the further introduction of Buddhism in America by popularizing Zen during the sixties.

John Baker came on the trip to California with us. One day John was driving us somewhere in Oakland, and he said to Rinpoche, "Could you tell me something about mindfulness in the Hinayana?" He said that right as he drove through a red light, and we had a car accident. Rinpoche ended up with a few broken ribs, but fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

When we left the Bay Area, we drove down the coast to spend several days at Tassajara, where we had had such a lovely visit with Roshi the year before. While we were there, Rinpoche received a letter, hand delivered by one of his students, from His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of Rinpoche's lineage. His Holiness said that he had recognized Taggie as a tulku, the reincarnation of one of his own teachers, Surmang Tenga Rinpoche. The night the letter arrived, Taggie cried all night, which was very, very unusual for him.

It was a great honor that our child was being recognized as an important Buddhist teacher. This announcement signaled some measure of acceptance from the head of the lineage -- who had not been especially happy when Rinpoche gave up his robes and married me. Still, we knew that this appointment would bring with it a heavy burden of expectation from the Tibetan hierarchy. Earlier, I described Rinpoche's education and upbringing in Tibet. This was the normally accepted pattern for raising a young tulku. Although everything in Tibet had been disrupted by the Chinese occupation, many of the Tibetan teachers who succeeded in escaping were establishing monasteries in India and other countries bordering Tibet. As much as they could, they were reinstating the traditional approach to educating young lamas. In fact, His Holiness Karmapa had established his monastery in Sikkim and was training many young teachers there. There would be pressure on Rinpoche and me to send Taggie over to be educated, as soon as he was old enough to go. The Tibetans believe that if a tulku is not recognized, enthroned, and properly educated, he will develop mental illness, a kind of tulku's disease, because he is not fulfilling the role that is intended for him and for which he presumably came back and took rebirth.

Rinpoche didn't want to send Taggie back to India for training. Because he felt so strongly that the future of Buddhism lay in the West, he thought it would be better if his children were educated here. From his own experience at Oxford, he had tremendous respect and appreciation for the Western educational system. He also didn't want to recreate the loneliness of his monastic childhood for his own children. As well, he wanted to play a personal role in their upbringing, not only as the children's father, but by providing whatever spiritual guidance his children might need. So he wanted Taggie to remain with us. Then, at a later date his son could receive further training in Asia. As Taggie's mother, naturally wanted him to stay at home with us. With all of these issues and feelings, it's no wonder that Taggie cried all night after we received the letter!

From Tassajara, we continued down the coast to Los Angeles, where Rinpoche taught a seminar entitled the "Battle of Ego." He began to attract committed students in L.A. We spent time with Baird Bryant and Johanna Demetrakas, two filmmakers with whom Rinpoche made a close connection. Rinpoche was in the early stages of making a film about the life of Milarepa, in which he wanted to try out an approach to filmmaking that involved applying concepts from the tantric or Vajrayana school of Buddhism in which he was trained. He was interested in applying a tantric framework called the Five Buddha Families to making a film.

The Five Buddha Families -- buddha, vajra, karma, padma, and ratna -- refer to five distinct styles of both enlightened and confused behavior. Each "family" has both a sane and a neurotic manifestation. I During the early seventies, Rinpoche used this paradigm in much of his work, not only as it applied to art but also in understanding human psychology. In terms of filmmaking, he felt that how a scene is shot can capture or convey the energy of any of the five families. The camera could look at the same situation from five different angles and convey five different interpretations or insights. The idea of working with the qualities of the buddha families in their art was intriguing to Johanna and Baird, as it was to many other artists Rinpoche would meet.

In 1973 Johanna and Baird would travel with Rinpoche to Stockholm, Sweden, to film some magnificent thangkas of Milarepa's life housed in ,the Museum Ethnographia. He intended to use the footage of these thangkas in his film, but because of a problem with the camera lens, the footage they shot was out of focus, and largely due to this obstacle, the movie was never completed.

While we were in Los Angeles, we were invited to have dinner with Krishna and Narayana at the Integral Yoga Institute, or the IYI as they called it which was Swami Satchidananda's center. Rinpoche was excited about going to the IYI for dinner because he liked Indian food so much. They served us an excellent Indian vegetarian meal. After meeting Krishna and Narayana in Boulder earlier that year, Rinpoche had become interested in getting to know them, better, particularly Narayana. Narayana came to dinner in a red velvet shirt. I was impressed by his charisma. He was warm and outgoing and seemed quite intelligent. Shortly after our visit, Narayana and his girlfriend, Lila, along with Krishna and his new girlfriend, Helen, joined our community. Rinpoche asked them to move to Tail of the Tiger, which they did that summer. On their way there, they drove through New York to get Swamiji's blessing, which was freely given, and headed on up to Tail. They got a house in Kirby, Vermont, where they started the Trikaya Bakery. Lila was pregnant at the time with their first child. She and Narayana were married at Tail.

Now that I had the responsibilities of motherhood, I stayed home more of the time when Rinpoche traveled. Over the next few years, he crisscrossed America I don't know how many times. I can't count the number of days a year he was on the road traveling and teaching. When he was in Boulder, there was still a beehive of activity at the Four Mile Canyon house. In spite of the chaos that was a feature of our lives, this was a truly magical time in my life and marriage with Rinpoche. We were very close during these years. It was a time full of hope and promise, and I remember this as a particularly happy chapter in our life together.

There was something energizing about the chaos, in fact. Rinpoche was so expansive in its midst, and we had a lot of fun together during this era. In spite of all the people around all the time, it was quite intimate in a way. The community was still small, relatively speaking, and I rather liked it that so much occurred at our house. I enjoyed having Rinpoche at home a lot, even though he brought so much activity in his wake. I could always go to bed when I got sick of it. There were obvious frustrations -- the house was a mess and we had almost no privacy -- but it was a very relaxed time. I was experiencing my own sense of exhilaration and relief that I'd gotten out of the English situation and away from my mother. I was riding on the freedom high and the fact that I had this wonderful relationship, a wonderful life. Having a child was also fulfilling for me. We had left behind the black era completely. I couldn't imagine my life being any other way.

In tantric Buddhism, there is a whole pantheon of deities that practitioners visualize as part of their meditation practice. Some of these have a rather normal anthropomorphic form: two arms and legs, one head, two eyes, two ears, and so forth. However, some of the Vajrayana deities have multiple arms and legs, a number of heads, and many eyes that see in all directions. This is connected with the accomplishment of compassion or the bodhisattva's skillful means. Avalokiteshvara, for example, the buddha of compassion, is sometimes depicted as having a thousand arms and a thousand eyes, to convey his untiring and remarkable efforts to alleviate the suffering of beings. Beginning in this era, Rinpoche seemed to take on this quality of all-accomplishing, all-seeing superhuman activity. The multifaceted way he worked with people was remarkable. He seemed to have hundreds of conversations about all kinds' of things going on with all kinds of people all the time. If I tried to describe all of these relationships to you or tried to tell you about everything he was doing, even in one month, it would take up hundreds of pages. At the same time, being with him, it often seemed as though nothing was happening. There was a way in which he was absolutely open and spacious in the midst of all of this activity; and you never felt that he was distracted when he was with you. When he was talking to you, you always felt that you had his complete attention. I think that is one reason that I was able to tolerate the chaos and all these people so intimately involved in our life. I didn't feel that they were stealing him away from me. He was very much there for me, when he was there!

On the other hand, we both began to acknowledge that if we wanted to have time alone together, it was not going to happen at our house in Boulder or on his teaching tours. So we began to take vacations, or holidays, as Rinpoche preferred to call them, which was time set aside for the family. Occasionally, someone would come along to help out, but in the early days, it would just be Rinpoche, me, and our child, or our children, as it became quite soon.

The first vacation I can remember us taking was to New Mexico in 1971 when Taggie was an infant. I now had a driver's license and I drove the three of us to Santa Fe. On the way down, we spent the night somewhere in the mountains of southern Colorado in a motel. We went to a cowboy cafe for breakfast, and Rinpoche wore his Stetson hat. Then we drove on into New Mexico. We had rented a. small trailer, which was located in the landlord's backyard behind the main house. Rinpoche helped out a lot with Taggie while we were there. He used to put Taggie in bed with us, and he was very sweet with him. He would watch him when I had a bath and call me if he cried. One time, I left Rinpoche alone with Taggie to go to the grocery store, and he figured out how to change diapers with one hand, but he got irritated that Taggie would squirm. Rinpoche also tried out his theories of insect control in New Mexico. He didn't want to kill the ants that invaded our trailer, so he put little lines of Ajax cleanser in front of the glasses and the plates, because he thought the ants wouldn't cross the Ajax. Actually, it did work.

We liked to walk around the plaza in downtown Santa Fe and look at the things for sale. Most of the vendors were Native Americans who had pottery, jewelry, and other items laid out on blankets or a table on the wide sidewalks along the sides of the square. Rinpoche bought me some silver and turquoise jewelry while we were there. He commented that the Native Americans looked a lot like Tibetans, and we talked about the magic in the Native American culture and his appreciation for that. We visited a number of pueblos in the surrounding area during our visit.

We both loved the spicy Mexican food in Santa Fe. One night we wanted to eat in an expensive restaurant in Santa Fe, which was still something quite rare for us because we didn't have very much money. Rinpoche insisted that we splurge. We dressed nicely and made a late reservation for a romantic dinner. The restaurant was completely done up in red velvet, and it seemed to be a very exclusive place, a place of fine dining. We were served an elegant meal, and everything was beautifully presented. In the middle of the meal, Rinpoche picked up his baked potato in his hand and bit into it. I said, "What are you doing? This is really, really embarrassing." He replied offhandedly, "Oh, Prince Philip would do something like this."

Altogether, he felt very connected with the land in the Santa Fe area and the Native American traditions. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and we planned to return the next year. On the drive home, Rinpoche commented that we should have named our first son "Gesar," after the Tibetan warrior king. I told him not to worry, that we could give that name to our next son.

After we got back to Boulder, Rinpoche took off on another teaching tour, and I was left at home. John Baker went with Rinpoche, and Marvin Casper was away somewhere else. At this time, P.D., another senior student, was also staying in the house with us. While Rinpoche was away, P.D. started to lose touch with reality and ultimately had a psychotic episode, which I had to deal with on my own.

When the two of us went to the supermarket together, P.D. picked out a huge raw ham and an industrial-sized package of coffee filters. Nobody in the household drank coffee, so I found this odd, but I didn't think too much about it. That night, after I went to bed, P.D. came into my bedroom in a manic state. I felt threatened by his tone of voice and his erratic movements and comments. I had the baby and I didn't want him in my room, so I got him to leave, and then I put the dresser in front of my bedroom door. He banged on the door for a while and tried to push his way in. This went on for a few nights. Every night he would try to break into the bedroom, and I kept myself barricaded in. Then, one morning when I got up and moved the dresser, I looked around the house but P.D. was nowhere around. I got the baby up and dressed to go out shopping. When I went out to the car, I found P.D. walking naked down the road in front of our house at Four Mile Canyon. I convinced him to come back inside and get some clothes on.

At that point, I phoned Rinpoche and told him that we had to deal with this issue as soon as possible. The night that Rinpoche got home, there was a party at the house to welcome him back. As always, a lot of people showed up to hang out with Rinpoche. During the evening, P.D.'s behavior disintegrated, and it was obvious that he "needed help. After observing him for a while, Rinpoche said, "I think we have to take him down to the hospital." So John Baker took our disturbed friend in one car, and I drove Rinpoche in the other. We went down the canyon to Boulder Memorial Hospital at the end of Mapleton Avenue. At this point, it was about two in the morning.

P.D. and John Baker had arrived ahead of us, and we joined them in the waiting room. The psychiatrist on duty came over to where we were all sitting, and before anyone could say anything, P.D. announced, "Here is Mr. Mukpo. I've come to commit him." Rinpoche replied, "Actually, P.D., I've come to commit you." Confusion ensued, with P.D. insisting that Rinpoche was the prospective patient. Finally, the psychiatrist said, "I want everybody to be quiet. I'm going to ask a third party who has come to commit whom." Shortly thereafter" P.D. was admitted to the hospital. There were a lot of wild times, but this one stands out for me because I had to deal with much of the situation alone. To me, it signified how vulnerable and somewhat abandoned I felt at times when Rinpoche was away.

Later I encountered Kunga repeatedly, and we became friends. He continued to teach, and in 1971 Rinpoche told me to start teaching as well. But Kunga was the star. Until one day when he had been in San Francisco teaching, we received word that he had had a mental breakdown of some sort. The report was that he had tried to have sex inappropriately with a woman, had somehow gotten himself stabbed in the leg by someone unnamed, had been running down streets naked, and more. Rinpoche sent some students to San Francisco to bring him back, which they did. At that time Marvin Casper and I were living with Rinpoche in a house just outside Boulder, Colorado in Four-Mile Canyon. It was to this house that Kunga was transported, and for a few weeks I watched and participated as Rinpoche worked with Kunga. Eventually, he was committed for a few weeks to Boulder Psychiatric Institute. After that he calmed down and, more or less, recovered, but never again did he hold the position of prominence he had prior to his “break.”

-- My Love for Kunga Dawa [Richard Arthure], by John Baker

That summer, we went to Allen's Park, which is a small town near Rocky Mountain National Park, about an hour north of Boulder. Rinpoche conducted a major seminar there on the six states of bardo, teachings connected with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. We stayed in a small log cabin next to the main lodge at the conference facility in Allen's Park, and Rinpoche taught in an outdoor tent. By now, there were around three hundred students attending his major seminars in Colorado. The tent was packed.

Rinpoche explained to me that his lineage and his monastery in Tibet were particularly associated with practicing and propagating the bardo teachings, and during 1971 he gave three seminars on material related to this. Although he had people practicing a basic form of sitting meditation, his lectures in these early years imparted some of the most advanced teachings from his lineage. I think that most of us understood about 2 percent of what he was presenting at that time. Some of the material was incorporated over the next few years into the study material for students interested in Buddhist psychology, and some of it was used in Rinpoche's commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which he translated with Francesca Fremantle. However, a great deal of it was simply being planted in people's subconscious, I think, so that much later they would come back to these lectures and begin to unravel the profundity of what he was presenting. After he died, the talks from this program were incorporated in a posthumous book, Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos, edited by one of his senior students and primary editors, Judith Lief.

At the end of the summer, we went out to Tail for a month. We rented a house near Harvey's Lake, a five-minute drive from Tail of the Tiger, and Francesca Fremantle stayed there with us. Rinpoche taught a seminar entitled "Work, Sex, and Money," and then he gave another lecture series on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which he and Francesca were just starting to translate. She edited much of the material from his talks at Tail for the commentary in that book.

There was a huge group scene at Tail, but at the house we could get away from it and have time together as a family. Rinpoche was drinking a lot at the talks. One would have to say that his drinking was a regular feature of our lives. At that time, I didn't see it as a problem. Had Rinpoche remained in Tibet or the Tibetan diaspora in India, the ground would have been laid for him to present the Buddhist teachings. There was a traditional format there and a basic understanding to accommodate whatever he might want to present. Instead, he struck out into completely foreign territory. I feel that in presenting the Buddhist teachings in the West, alcohol was one of the vehicles that he employed. He told me that it helped to ground him and allowed him to communicate. Without it, I don't know if he would have taught with such outrageous directness and expansiveness. In tantric Buddhism, amrita, or blessed alcohol, represents turning poison into nectar or inspiration. It is the idea that you do not reject any situation or state of mind in your life, but you use the most extreme or negative things as fuel to transform the ignorance of ego into wakefulness. I think Rinpoche did use his drinking in that way, which I know is a controversial thing to say.2 On the other hand, I certainly acknowledge that, over time, alcohol was very destructive to his body. But that was not a question at that time, and in those days I didn't have an issue with his drinking.

And there is the drinking. We all know about alcohol because we use so much of it. Rinpoche drinks to the point where it is obvious to the community. It has figured in several incidents.

"Alcohol is the drug of choice at Naropa," said the Village Voice in an article on the school last fall. "With Alcohol, Rinpoche has said, you relate to the earth." And the Voice added "Or at least the linoleum around the toilet bowl."

We have arrived at a native intelligence about alcohol. We know that it contains a false wisdom.

-- The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, With a Copious Collection of Germane Documents Assembled by the Author, by Tom Clark

I was often Rinpoche's chauffeur to and from his talks. One night, he was quite drunk by the time we got into the car at Tail to come home. I parked in front by the house at Harvey's Lake, and he opened his door, stepped out, and just disappeared. When I got out, I realized that I had parked right next to a ditch on the property. Rinpoche was completely relaxed because of how much he had drunk, so luckily he was uninjured. I helped him scramble out of the ditch.

Another time at Harvey's Lake, one night after dinner, he drank until he sort of passed out on the hardwood floor in the living room. I didn't want to leave him there for the night, and I didn't want to sleep by myself, so I tried to figure out how to get him to bed. I found a large Indian blanket, I rolled him onto it, and I dragged him on the blanket down the hardwood corridor. He was quite heavy, so this wasn't all that easy to do. When I got to the bedroom, just when I was trying to figure out how to get him from the blanket to the bed, he started laughing, got up, and walked really fast back into the living room, where he lay back down and appeared to pass out again.

We often ate with people at Tail, but sometimes we would have a family dinner at the house. Rinpoche always liked meat for dinner. One night I worked really hard preparing a leg of lamb. He got impatient waiting for dinner to be served, and he said to me, "This is ridiculous. This whole cooking and eating thing doesn't make sense. You spend so much time cooking dinner, when it takes so little time to, eat it." I went out into the garden to pick some vegetables to go with dinner. When I came back, the leg of lamb -- which had been sitting on the table ready to carve -- had bite marks where big chunks of meat had been taken out of it. Rinpoche had just picked it up and eaten his dinner off the bone.

That summer, we spent time with Narayana, Lila, Krishna, and Helen at their house in Kirby, just outside of Barnet. Lila went into labor in September while we were staying at Harvey's Lake, and we went over to the house to witness the birth. Narayana was going to deliver the baby himself, but Lila had a terrible labor and ended up being driven to the hospital in St. Johnsbury, where she gave birth to their son Vajra. After that, Lila and I used to spend time together with our children. Rinpoche did a child blessing ceremony at Tail, and I remember Lila bringing Vajra to be blessed when he was just a tiny baby.

That fall when we left Vermont, I went with Taggie to England to visit Osel at the Pestalozzi Village. We were still waiting for the home visit from the Social Services people in Boulder. We didn't seem to be able to speed things up at all, which was quite frustrating. While I was in England, Rinpoche traveled to Canada to teach. I believe it was the first time he'd been back since arriving in the United States. He was scheduled to give seminars in both Montreal and Toronto. He kept phoning me in England to ask about Osel and to say how much he missed me. In Toronto, he gave a seminar at the home of one of his students, Beverly Webster, a very elegant woman who later became his executive secretary. While he was there, he met with Kalu Rinpoche, a venerable Tibetan teacher then in his mid-sixties, whom Rinpoche admired very much.

Suzuki Roshi had been quite ill and jaundiced that fall, but the cause, of his symptoms had not been diagnosed. Rinpoche always wanted to have news of what was happening with Roshi. One of Rinpoche's close students at this time, Bob Halpern, had been a student at San Francisco Zen Center for a long time before he joined us in Boulder. Bob went with Rinpoche on the trip to Canada, and Fran and Kesang also traveled with him. The night that Kalu Rinpoche visited, after he left, Kesang came to Rinpoche with the news that Roshi had been diagnosed with liver cancer, which was a terminal condition.

Before she finished telling him the news, he started weeping. Later, Bob told me that Rinpoche was screaming in agony, as though he were in the midst of death throes. Bob said that his tears actually turned red with blood, which fell on Beverly's snow-white carpet. After a long time, when he finally stopped, he said to Bob, "Go out first thing in the morning. I'll be there in a few days." He had his last visit with Roshi at San Francisco Zen Center a short time before Roshi's death; Rinpoche returned there for Roshi's funeral in December. During the ceremony, he went up to offer a khata, a Tibetan ceremonial white scarf. With one hand, he unfurled the scarf and it hung in the air and then draped perfectly, beautifully, over the casket at the same time that he uttered a piercing cry. After the funeral, he was asked to give a talk to everyone assembled at the Zen center, and during his remarks, he broke down in tears. Some people said that it helped them to recognize and express their own grief.

Do you remember at the funeral? Well first all these honchos from Japan and America one after another with red robes - the vice abbot of Eiheiji or whatever went by his casket and [Trungpa] Rinpoche walked up heaving in agony with the Tibetan white scarf and kept trying to put the scarf on him and he wouldn't go and it kept flipping off the casket and he was heaving with emotion and Okusan broke into tears who had been so composed through the ceremony and afterwards she in a hurried way ran upstairs to get his walking stick that he'd last used and came down into the hallway and gave it to Rinpoche.

-- Interviews: Bob Halpern cuke page, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, by David Chadwick

Rinpoche was so moved by Roshi's life and example and so saddened by his death. I believe that it spurred him on to implement the plans that they had made. He pushed forward the Maitri Project, which involved starting a therapeutic community for people with mental problems. Maitri means "loving kindness" in Sanskrit. The Maitri facility opened in Elizabethtown, New York, in the fall of 1973, and moved to land in Wingdale, New York, donated by Lex and Sheila Hixon in early 1974. The Naropa Institute, based on another of their joint inspirations, was inaugurated in the summer of 1974.

The end of 1971 was also an important time for another dharmic relationship in Rinpoche's life. In December, he spent another week at Tail teaching while I remained in Boulder. At that time, he met privately with Narayana and asked him to become his Vajra Regent and dharma heir, the primary inheritor of his spiritual lineage. In Rinpoche's tradition, the continuity of the teachings from one generation to the next is expressed through the teacher's handing down the oral teachings and the responsibility for maintaining the purity of the teachings to one or more dharma heirs. There is usually a primary dharma heir, as well as potentially many secondary heirs. In some situations, usually when a teacher has an established organization, he gives the position of regent to one student, who is expected to act on behalf of the teacher and the lineage after the teacher's death, until, in the case of many tulku lineages in Tibet, the teacher's next incarnation is old enough to assume his or her position. This idea of a regent who assumes power between one generation and the next has also been used in many monarchies, so regency is not purely an Asian concept.

For Rinpoche, it was extremely important to give the complete teachings of his lineage to a Westerner. In fact, I think he felt that he was giving many unique transmissions to his Western students, and he did not want them to feel that they were playing second fiddle to the Tibetans. So this appointment was a very important step. It showed that a Westerner could be trusted with the complete teachings and with the responsibility for the future of those teachings.

Rinpoche told Narayana to make plans to move to Boulder, so that Rinpoche could work closely with him, observing him and giving him proper training. Rinpoche had already told me that he was planning to do this. He often shared these kinds of plans and decisions with me. He would say, "This is a great person. I've brought him (or her) in. This is what he can do, and this is where we're going with it." Rinpoche asked Narayana to keep this future appointment secret for the time being. Rinpoche did not feel it was time yet to make this appointment public. With Rinpoche's permission, however, Narayana told his wife, his heart friend Krishna, and Helen. Indeed, this choice would have many implications for the future. I felt that Narayana was an excellent choice, although I didn't have Rinpoche's insight into his character. I thought he was quite charismatic and he had a special quality, a kind of intensity and brightness that were unique.

Our life was affected directly in another way by Rinpoche's visit to Tail that December. Another child came into our lives at this time. One of Rinpoche's students living on the East Coast, Eileen, was having serious psychological problems. She was a friend as well as a member of the sangha. She was so affected by her own psychological crisis that she couldn't care properly for her daughter Felicity, who was around seven. Felicity had been in a boarding school in New England, but she was very unhappy there. Eileen came to Tail of the Tiger with Felicity in tow when Rinpoche was there. She said that she couldn't handle her child any longer, and she was looking for someone to take her for a while. Rinpoche called and told me that he felt terrible about the situation. I suggested that we take Felicity, but he thought it would be too much for us to handle. Then Felicity gave Rinpoche a drawing she had made for him, and he was so touched by the gesture that he decided to bring her home with him. She joined our household for about a year.

During Taggie's first year, he was extremely uncomplicated. His motor development was quite advanced. He was sitting up and rolling over on his own at four months old. All the physical milestones were early, in fact. He was running around on his first birthday, in March 1972. However, I felt some concern when I talked with George Marshall, a student of Rinpoche's, when Taggie was fifteen months old. Adam, George's son, was the same age, and George told me how well Adam could talk. I thought to myself, "Oh, my child is a little slow in his speech development." Taggie did develop some speech, but often he just repeated what you said to him. He rarely vocalized anything on his own. He would repeat "doggie-dog" after me, for example, but he rarely would point at a dog and say, "doggie-dog" without prompting. However, he was my first child and I didn't know what to expect, so I didn't worry that much.

In the summer of 1972, Rinpoche and I went to Rocky Mountain Dharma Center for several weeks. It was to be the first time Rinpoche would teach a seminar there. For the summer, campgrounds were established for people attending the program, and a large tent was erected in a field, where Rinpoche would give his talks. I drove us up to "the Land," as we called it then. We had a Volkswagen Carmen Ghia at that time. As we were driving through the mountains, Rinpoche said to me, "Very soon we're going to be driving here in a Mercedes." I responded, "You know, you always have these terribly big plans." I wasn't convinced much would come of this. Sure enough, within a few years, we were driving to RMDC in a Mercedes, and Rinpoche reminded me about that conversation, as if to say, "See!"

As time progressed, our family finances became more stable. Rinpoche was able to take a salary for his work, and most of the time -- but not always -- he got paid. Our living situation remained modest for a number of years, and when we began to live in a more ostentatious way, it actually was not that we were spending huge amounts of money, but that we were using our rather modest mean~ and those of the organization to create an apparent manifestation of wealth. I am not saying that we remained terribly poor, by any means, but we were really living with what would be a comfortable middle-class income, most of the time. Sometimes, throughout our life together and up until the very end, there was no money and we were scrounging for the money to buy groceries. Most of the time, we were fine. On an inner -- nonmaterialistically based-level, Rinpoche was the wealthiest person I have ever known, but he wasn't the richest, in terms of financial assets. So, for example, when we got a Mercedes it was a used car. We never had a fleet of Mercedes or anything like that. We managed to keep up one slightly tattered vehicle for him at a time.

That summer we stayed in a little A-frame called Aloka, which means "light" in Sanskrit. Earlier that year, while we were at Tail, I had had a dream in which a being appeared to me and said, "Please give me a place in your body." I replied, "Yes, I will." While we were at RMDC, I conceived our second son, Gesar. He was the only one of my children who was planned, so to speak.

While I was pregnant with Gesar and we had both Taggie and Felicity at home with us, we received word that there would finally be a visit from Social Services in Boulder to establish whether we had a fit home for Osel. I had the house spotlessly clean when a man came to do the evaluation. He was a bit taken aback by how young I was, and when he saw that there were already two children in the home and that I was pregnant with a third, he questioned whether we could really handle another child. I was indignant. "Do my children look dirty? Do they look uncared for?" I guess that in the end we impressed him as being suitable parents for Osel, because not long after this we heard that Osel could come and live with us. Once again, Rinpoche's teaching schedule made it impossible for him to travel to England at the specified time, so once again I made the journey in the middle of a pregnancy to bring Osel home. This time, the outcome was as we had hoped. I picked him and his belongings up at the Pestalozzi Village, and we drove to London where we spent the night before flying to Denver.

To celebrate Osel's arrival and to help with his process of acclimatizing to family life and life in America altogether, Rinpoche and I decided to take another vacation to New Mexico before starting Osel in school. We decided to leave Felicity with friends in Boulder, and the four of us -- Rinpoche, Osel, Taggie, and I -- headed off to Santa Fe. For a few days, we stayed in the little trailer we'd had the year before, and then we moved in with Allen Ginsberg and a friend of his.

Just a few years ago, Osel -- who is now known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the head of the Shambhala network of meditation centers -- shared with me jokingly how he felt as a child during this period. Apparently, when I told him we were going to take a family vacation alone, he was struck by anxiety. He thought to himself, "Oh no, nobody else is coming?" Rinpoche and I may have been somewhat overwhelming for him, and our unconventional, albeit cheerful, life was something he was not yet fully accustomed to. We thought it was so generous of us to take this trip, a great idea, at the time! He was probably relieved when we decided to stay with other people.

Allen Ginsberg suggested that we join him at David Padua's house, a friend in Santa Fe who had an adobe home near the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Allen was staying there with his boyfriend Peter Orlovsky. During this vacation, it was pretty clear to me that Allen had a big crush on Rinpoche, and that he was a little jealous of me. When I went horseback riding with him one day, he made a number of sarcastic remarks that seemed out of place. I was surprised that he was mean to me. Allen probably imagined that, as Rinpoche's wife, I stood in the way of his having a relationship with the guru. Rinpoche was a beautiful young man at that time, just Allen's type. However, Rinpoche was not interested in men in that way. On the other hand, he and Allen had a lot to discuss in other areas. They were already making plans to launch a poetry school as part of the much bigger plans that Rinpoche had in mind for a Buddhist university.

Earlier that year, Allen had invited several poets to Boulder for a poetry reading. Gary Snyder, Robert Bly, and Nanao Sasaki were invited to read poetry with Allen Ginsberg and Rinpoche. In addition to his own poetry, Allen read some of Rinpoche's poems from a recently published book, Mudra, which included many of the early poems Rinpoche had written, in England in the sixties. The evening ended rather disastrously after Rinpoche put a large Japanese gong over his head while Robert Bly was reading a serious and significant poem. Rinpoche did a number of things to disrupt Bly's reading, actually. Gary Snyder and Robert Bly interpreted Rinpoche's behavior as rude and drunken. I guess it was, but from his point of view, their behavior was arrogant and bombastic, and he felt that humor was needed to lighten up the space. Allen took this controversy remarkably in stride, and managed to remain friends with all involved. Snyder and Bly, however, wanted nothing further to do with Rinpoche, and as far as I know, he had no regrets on his side.

Let us first briefly consider two prior episodes that occurred on the "Trungpa scene" in Boulder. They will help us understand Trungpa better.

The first was a benefit poetry reading for Trungpa's Karma Dzong Meditation Center, held at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus, May 6, 1972. Poets on hand included Ginsberg, Robert Bly, and Gary Snyder. Trungpa, acting as self-appointed emcee, was in his cups. During the reading, he upstaged the poets with his humorous antics, and at the end, he "apologized" for the poets in a muddled, patronizing speech ("I'm sure they don't mean what they said.") The evening ended with Trungpa drunk and truculent, yelling and beating on a big gong.

"If you think I'm doing this because I'm drunk," Trungpa told Ginsberg during the evening, "you're making a big mistake."

Ginsberg, already a great admirer of the young Tibetan master, was genuinely puzzled. "Is this just you," he asked, "or is this a traditional manner, or what?"

"I come from a long line of eccentric Buddhists," the eleventh Trungpa explained.

Ginsberg subsequently defended Trungpa for taking over the poetry reading.

But Gary Snyder, a longtime student of Zen, and Robert Bly, once a crazy-wisdom disciple at Samye-Ling, were offended by Trungpa's behavior -- Bly, as it was to turn out, quite seriously....

Unlike other Naropa faculty members, many Kerouac School poets have showed resentment when their paychecks were "loaned" back to the Institute without their having been asked.

In 1978, Ginsberg's pal, Gregory Corso, took out his resentment against the conservative Naropa administration by trashing his faculty apartment at the end of the summer session. This demonstration of Corso's own brand of crazy wisdom proved to be too much for the administration, which hasn't invited him back.

-- The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, With a Copious Collection of Germane Documents Assembled by the Author, by Tom Clark

Allen was an amazing human being in that way. As outrageous as he was and as much as he flaunted his sexuality and his politics, he was also a peacemaker and, except when he viewed me as a rival that one time, he was one of the most gentle, kind people I have ever known. It seemed to me that, sexual politics aside, he loved Rinpoche without hesitation, and as a student he was very devoted. He never seemed to doubt that what Rinpoche was doing was for the good of everyone involved -- even when it created difficulties for Allen in his relationships with other poets. He saw Rinpoche as a complete representative of the crazy wisdom lineage, and he took the crazy with the wisdom, with no questions asked.

While we were in New Mexico, Rinpoche killed a scorpion that we found in the boys' bedroom. It was the only time I ever saw Rinpoche kill anything. Rinpoche squashed it and flushed it down the sink. He felt badly about this, but he didn't want the boys to get bitten. While we were there, we also got our first big message that something was not right with Taggie. One morning, Taggie woke up early. He came and climbed into bed with me and put his hands on my chest. As I started to wake up, I saw that my chest was covered in blood. I soon realized that Taggie had cuts all over his hands. Somewhere in the. house, he had found pieces of broken glass and had been playing with them. I completely freaked out, but Rinpoche's response was very practical. He said that we should clean up his cuts and put socks on his hands. We did that, and he was okay. But it was very unsettling. Taggie's relationship with pain was never like a normal child's. A normal kid would cut himself once and cry, but Taggie kept playing with the glass. But we still weren't sure what it meant at this time.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:59 pm

Part 2 of 2

When we got back to Boulder, we settled into a kind of routine, to the extent that our lives were ever routine, with me taking care of the three children in the household, and Rinpoche putting most of his time into teaching and the many other projects he had going. He lectured at the University of Colorado several times a week, and he traveled to both coasts to teach, as well as making side trips to many new places like Minneapolis and Topeka, Kansas. He also gave a number of seminars in Boulder over the next six months, and he had special meetings and led workshops for people involved in psychology, film, and theater. In the spring of 1973, he and his students in Boulder were going to host a seminar on the Milarepa film project, as well as two other week-long conferences, one on the Maitri approach to psychology (involving the Five Buddha Families and other concepts) and a ten-day conference sponsored by the Mudra theater group, which was working with exercises that Rinpoche was developing out of his own experiences with monastic dance in Tibet. The theater conference was being partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which Jean-Claude van Itallie had obtained. He invited a number of prominent theater people to the conference in Boulder, including Robert Wilson, the eminent American artist and playwright, and his group of actors, as well as many others. There was a tremendous amount of work to prepare for all of this. And these are just a few highlights of what Rinpoche was doing at this time, just the tip of the-iceberg.

Rinpoche was incorporating facets of the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition into his presentation of secular disciplines such as film, theater, and psychology; later he would expand into many other areas as well. This weaving together of the secular and the sacred was characteristic of how he taught. Even in Great Britain he had had this tendency. In the 1960s he had already recognized that he was going to work with both the secular and the spiritual as indivisible aspects of his teaching. In the diary that he kept at that time, he wrote:

There are many people who are more learned than I and more elevated in their wisdom. However, I have never made a separation between the spiritual and the worldly. If you understand the ultimate aspect of the dharma, this is the ultimate aspect of the world. And if you should cultivate the ultimate aspect of the world, this should be in harmony with the dharma. I am alone in presenting the tradition of thinking this way.3

In December 1972, Rinpoche spent ten days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, near Yellowstone National Park, teaching a seminar on crazy wisdom. Several of his students had bought a hotel there and were renovating it, planning to operate it as a tourist hotel called the Snow Lion Inn. In his seminar he presented an in-depth examination of the life of Padmasambhava and how his teachings and many manifestations were applicable to the present day as well as to the Tibetan medieval world of the eighth century. We all went to Tail of the Tiger for the Christmas holidays that year, where Rinpoche gave another crazy wisdom seminar. The teachings were magnificent, very much the heart's blood of his lineage. He had been waiting so long to present this material. After his death, these two seminars were edited into the book Crazy Wisdom.

Although I supported Rinpoche in whatever he felt he needed to do at this time, his lack of everyday involvement in our household was not ideal for our young family. When you have young children, I think almost everyone goes through a period that seems completely insane, and this was the era we were in during the early seventies, especially since we had so many children join our family so quickly. At this time, I was not even twenty years old. We didn't have much money for babysitters, and Rinpoche thought it was odd and somewhat degrading to hire people as domestic help. In Tibet, people served a teacher out of devotion rather than for money. It wasn't that Rinpoche was miserly, but he really felt that this kind of master-servant relationship was not healthy when it was purely a financial deal. He hoped that his students would help us out, and many of them did. I found, however, that by and large people didn't appreciate the difficulties of our domestic situation. Nevertheless, we made do as best we could.

Osel was trying to adjust to life in America and found school very challenging. Felicity was spaced out and often depressed and needing cheering up, and Taggie was becoming a real handful. I would get phone calls from the neighbors at five in the morning to tell me that Taggie was running around somewhere. While the rest of the household was still sleeping, Taggie would get out of his crib and go off for an adventure by himself in the neighborhood. One time, I found him playing on the roof of the garage of the Four Mile Canyon house. I remember trying to lure him away from the edge with jelly beans, holding them in my open palm and saying, "Candies, candies." Eventually I realized that I had to put an intercom in his room, and later I had to put a hook on the outside of the door. I felt terrible about locking him into his bedroom at night, but it seemed to be the only way to keep him safe. Once, when I was quite pregnant with Gesar, he slipped out of the house when I had taken my eyes off him for just a minute. I turned around and he was gone. He had on a little yellow, black, and red striped sweater, and I rushed frantically out of the house to see if I could spot him in the yard. Finally, I spied him in his bright-colored sweater across the highway halfway up a mountain. I had to climb the mountain in my pregnant state and carry him down. He was becoming difficult to care for.

Osel came into an already chaotic home situation, and in retrospect I feel that I was not a very good mother to him during these years. He was trying to adjust to America and to learn English, and on top of that, we found out later that he had a learning disability that exacerbated his problems. It took years to sort all of this out. When Osel was having trouble with math in school, for example, I would review his multiplication tables with him over and over. The next day, he would fail his math test, and I would become quite exasperated. He was incredibly shy, which made it more difficult for me to communicate with him. I was only nineteen at this point, and coping with three children -- each of whom had unique difficulties that needed attending to -- proved difficult. I was often frustrated.

Rinpoche was away a great deal of the time, and when he was in town he had so much going on that he was rarely home. There was still a lot of activity at the house, but in late 1971 we had acquired space for a meditation center in downtown Boulder, at 1111 Pearl Street, on what would later become the Boulder Mall. There was a meditation hall that could hold about a hundred people, several meeting rooms, and a suite of offices. Rinpoche gave the name Karma Dzong to the new center, which means "fortress of action," or it could also mean "fortress of the Karma Kagyu lineage." Rinpoche's students paid membership dues to cover the rent on this space. Although the hordes would still descend on the house from time to time, now much of the community activity was centered around Karma Dzong. So I was frequently home alone with the kids, even when Rinpoche was in town. Although this was a difficult adjustment, I also found that I enjoyed the space. I began to have more sense of my own life, apart from the scene that surrounded our life together.

However, I didn't have enough help with the children. Rinpoche and I talked about all this many times, and he tried to help find solutions. He continued to ask some of his students to provide assistance at the house. However, they were much more interested in being with him than in spending time with the children and me. Also, there weren't many people in our community at that time who had children. Rinpoche's students, many of them young people in their twenties, couldn't relate to what I was going through at all. There were a few mothers who were sympathetic, but they had their own families to care for. A few other people stepped forward and offered to help. However, sometimes, if I asked for someone's help, he or she would criticize me, saying that I should be doing a better job on my own. This didn't help the situation at all.

I wished that Rinpoche had more time for the family, and I think that he would have liked that too. He enjoyed those times that we were together as a family, on our vacations and such. But in general he was not that involved day to day. He had warned me this would be the case when we were first at Tail of the Tiger. Everything else came second to the dharma in his life. His mission, as I guess you might call it, was to bring the Buddhist teachings to America and to make sure that they flourished here, and he sacrificed much personal happiness for that. Unfortunately, his family suffered as well. On the other hand, he loved all of us tremendously, and he tried to be there for us as much as he could be. Whenever anyone in the family was having an acute problem, he would make time to attend to that. However, he couldn't do much to improve the overall quality of our family life during this era.

In the very early days, when we were still at Samye Ling, he once said to me, "I wish I were someone like Einstein." I asked him, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I wish I was one of those people who was so into something that I would get up in the morning and I would have a mission, something to do that was really driving me." Well, as they say, you should be careful what you wish for! He certainly became one of those people.

Luckily, with everything else that was going on, I had a very straightforward pregnancy with Gesar. I hardly had morning sickness or nausea throughout the pregnancy, which was good, because I didn't have time for it. By the time I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I was ready for this pregnancy to end. I wanted to get on with it. Hoping to induce labor, I went riding when I was enormous. When that didn't jump-start my labor, I came home and drank a glass of castor oil mixed in orange juice. (Somehow I knew that castor oil can cause contractions of the uterus.) Undoubtedly, it was an irresponsible thing to do. My water broke soon after that. I was admitted to Community Hospital in Boulder, and my doctor, Dr. Brown, was quite upset when I told him what I had done.

Although my water had broken, my labor didn't progress. They held me in the hospital, and after twenty-four hours, they began to administer Pitocin to induce labor. Dr. Brown had to leave unexpectedly, and I was left with another doctor. After I had contractions for twelve hours, he told me that he had surgery at 7 A.M., which was a few hours away, and that in hadn't had the baby by 5 A.M., he was going to do a C-section.

Quite a large group of sangha members was hanging out in Community Hospital, camped out in the waiting room, waiting for the child to be born. They were calculating the baby's astrological aspects while I was having contractions. Different people kept coming into my labor room, saying, "If you hold off just another half hour, the moon will be in the tenth house" and things like that. When Gesar was finally born, he was a triple Taurus. Rinpoche was with me the whole time. I was in an enormous amount of pain, the kind of pain where you don't know where the center or the focus of the pain is. They tried to give me a spinal injection of anesthesia, but it didn't work. The pain just kept going and going and going. Rinpoche was a fabulous labor coach, it turned out. He seemed . to know exactly how I was experiencing the pain, and he advised me on how to get through each contraction.

Gesar was finally born early in the morning on April 26. He came out with a full head of black hair and long fingernails. When they opened his mouth to suction him, I said to the doctor, "He has teeth!" The doctor said, "No, he doesn't have teeth." The doctor was fed up with me at that point because the whole thing had gone on forever. He said, "He doesn't have teeth. I've delivered thousands of babies, and babies aren't born with teeth." I started to have a panic attack, because I thought that if he had teeth, he might have a deformity. So I insisted, "No, he has teeth!" He said, "Listen, you need a cup of tea. You're English, and that will help. I'm going to show you the baby now, and the baby doesn't have teeth." Then he exclaimed, "Wait a minute. He's got teeth!" He had two pointed teeth that looked like fangs.

Gesar emerged as a strong personality in all respects. We gave him the name Gesar Tsewang· Arthur Mukpo. According to Rinpoche, King Gesar of Tibet was the first Mukpo, and he is regarded as a great warrior-protector of the Tibetan people. Tsewang means "lord of life." We added Arthur for King Arthur, another regal warrior king. Gesar was a little dynamo from the beginning. They removed his teeth in the hospital, because they were loose. Two months later he was teething again. He grew several teeth on the bottom, and they were also an odd set of teeth, so he was in the dentist's chair at two months old. Then, he didn't have center teeth on the bottom until his permanent teeth came in. The dentist put in a spacer to hold his back teeth· in the proper position and prevent them from filling in the front. As a toddler, Gesar used to bite other kids sometimes, and you could always tell if it was Gesar because you could see the mark of the spacer.

When Gesar was an infant, we were still living at Four Mile Canyon. When he was just a few days old and we were just back from the hospital, I put him in his bassinette and went to take a hot bath. Taggie came into the bathroom while I was in the tub, and I asked him, "How is Gesar?" And Taggie said, "Gesar is good. He's eating candies." I jumped out of the bath and ran into the other room. Taggie had stuffed lots of candies into Gesar's mouth, which I had to fish out. Another time, Taggie fed Gesar a container of blue shoe polish with a spoon. I became a rather frequent visitor to the emergency room.

As a baby, Gesar slept in the room with us. Rinpoche said that Tibetans would never have a separate bed for the baby, but I always thought we should have the baby in a bassinette or a crib. When Gesar was just a few days old, I put him to bed in his crib with a windup mobile. Whenever the mobile stopped moving, Gesar would start screaming. This continued until around two A.M., when Rinpoche insisted that we put him in bed with us. He said that if Gesar were in the middle, between us, he would be content and fall asleep. I told Rinpoche that I was afraid one of us would roll over on him in our sleep. Rinpoche said, "A father's instinct would never allow this." I gave in. About two hours later, I awoke to small muffled cries. In his sleep, Rinpoche had rolled on top of Gesar and was basically suffocating him. I started screaming to wake Rinpoche up, "Get off him! Get off him!" After that, if I put Gesar in bed with us, he slept on my side of the bed.

Gesar took to solid food very early, around three or four months old. At one point, I told Rinpoche that I didn't know when to stop feeding him, because Gesar would take everything I gave him. He never closed his mouth to refuse food, like Taggie did. So Rinpoche suggested, "Let's stage an experiment. Let's feed him and see how much he'll eat." Gesar sat in his infant chair, and Rinpoche and I fed him two bananas, a bowl of yogurt, and two pots of meat. We kept feeding him, and he ate until he threw up!

Gesar walked when he was eight months old, and he was an extremely active little boy. I remember thinking of him as a mindless body that destroyed my house. At age three and a half, Taggie began having seizures, but before that point, Taggie was actually much more in touch with the things around him than he was later, and he did talk a little bit. He was very fond of his brother and liked to take care of him. When Gesar was one and Taggie was three, they accidentally walked in on us making love. They stood at the door for a while staring at us, hand in hand. At a certain point, Taggie said, "Gesar, you can't be here. Go back to bed."

Two weeks after Gesar was born, Rinpoche and I took the two youngest boys with us to California. We stayed in the Bay Area for several weeks while Rinpoche taught a seminar on "The Nine Yanas of Tibetan Buddhism," which was the basis for a book entitled the Lion's Roar, published in 1992. Rinpoche was preparing to teach the first Vajradhatu Seminary in the fall of 1973, a three-month intensive program, during which he was going to make a formal transmission of the Vajrayana teachings to his most senior students. He saw this as a crucial step in the full transmission of Buddhism to the West, and he was thinking a great deal about the proper way to introduce this material. It was not just going to be an intellectual presentation, but he wanted to enter his students into the full practice and study of Vajrayana, which brings with it a heavy burden of responsibility for both the students and the teacher. He was acutely aware that if this were not properly done, if he failed to plant the true heart of Vajrayana in his students, it would be catastrophic for the future of his work altogether.

In preparation for the presentation at the seminary in the fall, he had decided to teach a more in-depth public seminar on the different stages of the Buddhist path. This was the "Nine Yanas" lecture series given in May 1973 in San Francisco. Rinpoche's students rented a small bungalow for us in a modest neighborhood in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco. I tried to attend most of the talks, but much of my time was consumed with caring for Taggie and the baby.

In early 1973, Krishna and his family had made the move to Boulder at Rinpoche's request. At that time, Rinpoche established Vajradhatu, which means "indestructible space," as the umbrella organization for all of his meditation centers and his work in the United States. He appointed a board of directors that included Marvin Casper, Fran Lewis, Krishna (also known as Ken Green), and several. others. Rinpoche wanted to overcome territorial struggles between the two power centers of his work: Tail of the Tiger in Vermont and Karma Dzong in Boulder. Not long after this, Narayana (who was now going by his given name, Thomas Rich) also moved to Boulder and joined the board. Rinpoche wanted to make Boulder the national headquarters of what he envisioned would become a large organization made up of many centers around the country. Vajradhatu and its board were set up to oversee the activities of all of the centers and the expansion of the spiritual empire, of sorts, that Rinpoche was creating. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism was published in 1973, and sales of the book were taking off. It came onto the spiritual scene in America at just the right time to spark tremendous interest. It sold more than a hundred thousand copies in the first two years, which was a lot of books for that time. It spoke to the counterculture of that era in a direct, intimate way. More and more people came to hear Rinpoche speak. When Rinpoche gave a public talk in San Francisco during our visit in 1973, more than five hundred people attended. Within a year, there would be more like fifteen hundred in the audience.

Once again, all of these developments brought energy and chaos into our domestic life. Rinpoche had invited several members of the board to come to California with him, including Marvin, Tom, and Ken. A quorum of the board of directors was having spontaneous meetings in our dining room in Berkeley every other day and night, and the house was filled with a kind of backroom, smoky, corporate power-politics energy. The scene during this era was a bit like our version of scenes from the reality show The Apprentice. All of these guys -- and it was definitely a huge preponderance of male energy -- were learning how to be spiritual corporate types under Rinpoche's tutelage.

Starting around this time, Rinpoche began to experiment with the corporate model to see if it could be adapted as the framework for organizing the Buddhist world in America. This energy was certainly an antidote to the energy of hippiedom. Rinpoche had already put forward the idea to his students that they should view themselves as yogi householders rather than as monks and nuns. He definitely felt that a secular model was the way to go in America. Beyond that, he needed a structure for what was emerging as a large and complex spiritual organism with many arms and legs. As he brought new people onto the board, each one was given areas of responsibility. The growing staff at Karma Dzong was organized into departments, with each employee reporting to a department head who reported to a member of the board. Some of the plans for this structure were hatched in our little house in Berkeley. The group literally met around the dining room table a lot of the time. I found that I didn't want or need a seat at that table, and I watched this emerging organization with interest and some bemusement. Energy was really high during this visit.

Before going back to Boulder, we passed through Los Angeles, where Rinpoche gave a weekend seminar, and then we headed down to Acapulco for a few weeks of vacation. Gesar was only about six weeks old at this time, so it was quite adventurous of us. My sister, Tessa, was now living in Boulder, and she came along on the trip. We were invited to Mexico by Marty Franco, a student from Mexico, who paid all the expenses. She had a mariachi band meet us at the airport, and she arranged for us to stay in a diplomat's apartment, which came with maids. The maids cooked three meals a day for us. The first night they served us a cold beetroot soup, which no one liked except Rinpoche. He drank everybody's soup, and the next day his bowel movement was absolutely red and he was afraid that he had blood in his stool. I don't think he'd ever eaten beets before. The maids decided we really liked the soup, so they started making it every other night for dinner, and every time it was served, Rinpoche would drink all the soup. After a few of these meals, he finally said, "I can't drink this stuff anymore." There was a potted palm tree in the hall, planted in a hollowed-out elephant's foot, and we decided to pour the soup in the soil. Rinpoche didn't want to hurt the maids' feelings. However, they came in to clear the soup bowls just as we were pouring it out; we were never given that soup again.

There was a swimming pool in the apartment complex, and I gave Rinpoche swimming lessons while we were there. He was absolutely terrified of water. (Tibetans have no tradition of swimming at all. However, it distressed him that he couldn't swim, and he wanted to overcome his fear.) So every day we'd go into the pool together. I would hold his neck while trying to teach him to float on his back. I would tell him to relax, because he would completely tense up in the water. If I let go of his neck, suddenly he would sink. Finally, we got him a huge inner tube, so that he could enjoy being in the water and maneuver around the pool.

Our apartment had a balcony with a narrow railing that looked out over the pool. At night, Rinpoche liked to sit on the balcony and try to hit the swimming pool with melons from the fruit bowl. He usually missed, so in the morning there would be squashed melons around the sides of the pool as well as floating in the water. Eventually, the superintendent figured out who was doing this. They didn't kick us out; they just told us that we couldn't throw melons anymore.

Rinpoche also went parasailing in Acapulco.You are taken out on the ocean in a speedboat, with a parachute strapped to your body, and as the boat speeds up you're lifted into the air. I was so frightened for him that I couldn't watch. With his paralysis, I thought this was an absolutely insane thing to do. A week before a tourist had been killed parasailing. I went into the bedroom and closed all the curtains so I wouldn't catch sight of him. Apparently, when the sail brought him down in the water, he started to sink, so all these people had to swim out and save him from drowning.

While we were in Acapulco, Rinpoche wanted to take me to a tailor to have a suit made. The dress code was beginning to change in that era, and my hippie clothes no longer fit the visualization. Rinpoche thought that we should get a pale blue suit made for me, like the one that the Pan Am stewardesses wore. He thought that would be the perfect outfit for me.

Some days, we would sit and watch the cliff divers at the beach. We spent a lot of time at the beach, and Rinpoche got a dark tan. One day, when we were walking around town, an American woman came up and started talking to him in broken Spanish. He let her go on for a while, but eventually he said, "Madam, you can speak English if you want." I think she was taken aback by his proper English accent. Rinpoche also liked to go to the local market where you could bargain over the price of things. While we were in Acapulco, we took a side trip up to Tasco, where all the Mexican silver was made. It was quite a nice trip for all of us.

That summer there were further seminars at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center (RMDC). He gave another seminar on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was attended by about four hundred students. His second seminar there that summer was entitled "The Energy of Discipline," again perhaps in preparation for the seminary. At RMDC, they had purchased a small used trailer for Rinpoche to live in. They put it on a hillside that overlooked the tent where he gave his talks. It was a tiny place with a cramped living room and kitchen combined and a small bedroom in the back, barely big enough to fit our bed. It got quite hot in there in the summer, but Rinpoche loved it. They built a deck out the front door where he could sit and look at the mountains in the distance , and he also liked to sit out back behind the trailer, under some small pine trees. He was still waking up in the middle of the night and asking for a snack, and during this era he became fond of cold Spam and tomatoes on French bread. He called this "food-o," a pun on the Japanese bodhisattva, Fudo.

That year a house was purchased for us in Vermont, about ten minutes from Tail, and we went out to stay there for two weeks at the end of the summer. Rinpoche gave it the name Bhumipali Bhavan, which means the "place of the female earth protector." Rinpoche told me that it was named for me and was to be my house, and I have always thought of it that way. It was an old Vermont farmhouse with a spacious kitchen, dining room, and large living room on the main floor and four bedrooms upstairs. There was plenty of room for the whole family there. Rinpoche taught a seminar on "The True Nature of Devotion," and a second one entitled "The Question of Reality," in which he compared the Buddhist teachings to the teachings of Don Juan, which were popularized by Carlos Castaneda in that era. Some of his students were interested in the Don Juan books, and Rinpoche indicated that there was some sanity in them, along with a lot of confused ideas.

"What is death, don Juan?"

"I don't know," he said, smiling.

"I mean, how would you describe death? I want your opinions. I think everybody has definite opinions about death."

I don't know what you're talking about.

I had the Tibetan Book of the Dead in the trunk of my car. It occurred to me to use it as a topic of conversation, since it dealt with death. I said I was going to read it to him and began to get up. He made me sit down and went out and got the book himself.

"The morning is a bad time for sorcerers," he said as an explanation for my having to stay put.

"You're too weak to leave my room. Inside here you are protected. If you were to wander off now, chances are that you would find a terrible disaster. An ally could kill you on the road or in the bush, and later on when they found your body they would say that you had either died mysteriously or had an accident."

I was in no position or mood to question his decisions, so I stayed put nearly all morning reading and explaining some parts of the book to him. He listened attentively and did not interrupt me at all. Twice I had to stop for short periods of time while he brought some water and food, but as soon as he was free again he urged me to continue reading. He seemed to be very interested.  

When I finished he looked at me.

"I don't understand why those people talk about death as if death were like life," he said softly.

"Maybe that's the way they understand it. Do you think the Tibetans see?"

"Hardly. When a man learns to see, not a single thing he knows prevails. Not a single one. If the Tibetans could see they could tell right away that not a single thing is any longer the same. Once we see, nothing is known; nothing remains as we used to know it when we didn't see."

"Perhaps, don Juan, seeing is not the same for everyone."

"True. It's not the same. Still, that does not mean that the meanings of life prevail. When one learns to see, not a single thing is the same."

"Tibetans obviously think that death is like life. What do you think death is like, yourself?" I asked.

"I don't think death is like anything and I think the Tibetans must be talking about something else. At any rate, what they're talking about is not death."

"What do you think they're talking about?"

"Maybe you can tell me that. You're the one who reads."

I tried to say something else but he began to laugh.

"Perhaps the Tibetans really see," don Juan went on, "in which case they must have realized that what they see makes no sense at all and they wrote that bunch of crap because it doesn't make any difference to them; in which case what they wrote is not crap at all."

"I really don't care about what the Tibetans have to say," I said, "but I certainly care about what you have to say. I would like to hear what you think about death."

He stared at me for an instant and then giggled. He opened his eyes and raised his eyebrows in a comical gesture of surprise.

"Death is a whorl," he said. "Death is the face of the ally; death is a shiny cloud over the horizon; death is the whisper of Mescalito in your ears; death is the toothless mouth of the guardian; death is Genaro sitting on his head; death is me talking; death is you and your writing pad; death is nothing. Nothing! It is here yet it isn't here at all."

Don Juan laughed with great delight. His laughter was like a song, it had a sort of dancing rhythm.

"I make no sense, huh?" don Juan said. "I cannot tell you what death is like."

-- A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

Ram Dass attended this seminar, having connected with Rinpoche in Boulder earlier that year. Rinpoche teased him a lot during the talks. At one point during a talk, he had Ram Dass sit at his feet, and he dropped the ashes from his cigarette onto his head. Ram Dass was quite into the outer purity approach: wearing white, eating special food, and doing purifications of the body. So perhaps Rinpoche was making a statement to him about innate purity.

In one of the most vivid dreams, I lived in a nunnery on a large white lake in Tibet… in a large room dominated by a huge white statue of a Buddha… people from a nearby village raised the money to build a white facade to the cave…. Rinpoche was going to marry a white girl…. We undertook other commando operations with odd code names: Operation Awake, Operation Blue Pancake, Operation Secret Mind, and Operation Snow White…. The women who [served] in the rest of the house wore white aprons with very ostentatious white shoulders over a black dress….. In Boulder a large white mansion on Mapleton Hill, about six blocks from our house, was rented for [H.H. Karmapa].…. I had a white Mercedes at the time, which I loaned to the dharmadhatu for His Holiness's use during the visit…. Rinpoche and I were both dressed in white….[Rinpoche] insisted that we should only have white towels in the bathroom. His philosophy was that with white towels you could see if they were dirty. Rinpoche himself didn't like to shower, but he insisted that we had to have these pristine white towels….. We started out wearing simple white clothing, somewhat like being on stage in our pajamas. This signified our basic human nakedness, which was adorned progressively throughout the course of the enthronement….. Rinpoche was given a white naval peaked cap, and His Holiness blessed a small white gold tiara inlaid with diamonds for me (a gift from Rinpoche)…. I noticed how beautiful the purkhang was, ornamented with its gold designs and with the Mukpo colors: brilliant white, bright red and orange, and deep blue….. A white cloud in the shape of an Ashe appeared.

-- Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa, by Diana J. Mukpo with Carolyn Rose Gimian

In any case, their interactions were quite playful and fun to observe. Ram Dass was taken with Rinpoche in that era, and they were making plans to teach together. His long-haired Hindu persona was a contrast to the approach now developing within the community. We were starting to wear more conservative dress at that time, not yet suits and ties, but the bare-chested men were putting on shirts, and the madras and paisley were disappearing.

Then in the summer of 1974 I was at Naropa Institute teaching a course in the Bhagavad Gita, a course for which I felt Maharaj-ji was giving his blessings. There at Naropa I was part of a whole other scene, because Trungpa Rinpoche represents a different lineage. I found myself floundering a little bit because my own tradition was so amorphous compared to the tightness of the Tibetan tradition. Trungpa and I did a few television shows together. We did one about lineages and I felt bankrupt. I had Maharaj-ji's transmission of love and service but I knew nothing about his history. I didn't know how to talk about what came through me in terms of a formal lineage. I was also getting caught in more worldly play, and I felt more and more depressed and hypocritical. So by the end of the summer I decided to return to India. I didn't know what I'd find, but I'd go anyway. I knew I was different than I was ten years before, but I was still not cooked, and what we owe each other is to get cooked.

-- Grist for the Mill, by Ram Dass

At the end of September, Rinpoche went off to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the first seminary was being held at the Snow Lion Inn. There were less than one hundred students accepted for the seminary, because Rinpoche wanted to be sure that he had a small group to whom he could impart these teachings very intimately the first time. There were many qualified people, but he took less than half of those who applied. It was important to him to have the right group and the right chemistry among the students and with him. Everybody lived in the lodge, and there was a schedule for everybody to help with cooking, cleaning, and other chores. The program was divided into three sections: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Each section was further subdivided into a practice period and a period of study, during which the students attended discussion groups and took courses from student-instructors during the day and attended Rinpoche's talks in the late afternoon or evening.

The seminary began with a week of sitting meditation. Everyone was expected to sit from seven A.M. until eight or nine o'clock at night, with breaks for meals and chores. Rinpoche gave one orientation talk, and then left for the week while people meditated. He went right back out on the road and gave talks in Boston while people were practicing at the seminary. He wanted them to really clear the decks, so to speak, by sitting for a week before study commenced.

When the seminary started, I was left back in Boulder with Osel, Taggie, and Gesar. Felicity had gone to live with her grandmother by this time. I was going for the Vajrayana portion of the program at the end of November, but I just couldn't take the children there for the whole three months. I celebrated my twentieth birthday on October 8, and I felt so lonely. This was the first time Rinpoche had been away for my birthday since we were married. He had celebrated my birthday each year with a special dinner, a gift, or a small party, which was really important to me, especially after the way my mother often ignored these events during my childhood. Some friends organized a small party, but I was still missing him. I went to my birthday party telling myself that I would have a good time. After everyone arrived, the host said that Rinpoche had sent a present for me and that it was in the closet. With much urging, I opened the closet door, and out he came. He had come back for my birthday.

He stayed a night or two and then went back to the seminary. I joined him there with the two youngest boys about a month later, just before he began presenting the Vajrayana teachings. This was such a significant event for Rinpoche. There were many reasons why he might not have gone ahead with this. For one thing, although there was a great deal of interest in Eastern religion at this time, there was also tremendous naivete and spiritual materialism in the United States. Many people saw Tibetan Buddhism as a set of magical and esoteric teachings and as a way to gain instant -- or at least quick -- enlightenment. There was much misunderstanding about what genuine spirituality is in the Buddhist tradition. Teachers like Suzuki Roshi had laid the ground for a true understanding of Mahayana Buddhism and had begun to teach the importance of practicing the teachings through meditation and applying them through the discipline of everyday life. However, there were still huge areas of misunderstanding.

Rinpoche had been working extremely hard to plow what he saw as fertile but confused ground, planting the genuine seeds of dharma in the American soil. During the three years that he had been in the country -- and it had only been three years -- his students had transformed themselves in many ways. He always attracted an incredibly intelligent bunch, and he nurtured that intelligence and encouraged a degree of cynicism and doubt to cut through the fascination with spirituality as a gadget or a toy. However, he also had to work with the ingrained individualism of the culture, which was both a strength and an obstacle to understanding the nature of a real devotional relationship between teacher and student. There has to be a degree of giving in or surrendering one's hard edge of egotism; otherwise, the Vajrayana teachings in particular can be perverted into egomania or misconstrued as purely an intellectual, or mind, game.

When people see photographs or videos from the very early days, what they are shocked· by is how disheveled, underdressed, and hairy everybody was. In fact, that was a relatively small obstacle. The real question was whether Rinpoche could actually penetrate past the shell, the veneer, that people were presenting. Could he get to the heart of the matter with them? It was still an open question for him after all this time.

He gave twenty talks in the first part of the seminary, in which he presented the Hinayana and the Mahayana aspects of the Buddhist path. People weren't sitting as much as he would have liked; they were partying a bit too much, but generally he was pleased with people's attitude and openness. He felt that people were ready and receptive for him to launch into the presentation of Vajrayana. This was a detailed but also very deep presentation of the path of tantra. He was pouring information into people, but much more than that, he was pouring his heart and the heart of his tradition into the minds and hearts of the students. Once he started, he was so inspired that his talks grew longer and longer. He himself was studying the teachings of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, his root teacher's predecessor, as the basis for his presentation, and he was so animated and excited to be able to share this material with people.

About halfway through the Vajrayana section of the seminary, just as he was reaching a crescendo in the presentation of the material, as he began to describe the parts of the path that were central to the practices that his students would soon begin to practice -- just at that point, there was a disastrous incident. One afternoon, Rinpoche was so inspired that he talked for several hours without giving us any kind of a break. He seemed ready to continue lecturing on into the night. People began to get restless and fidgety. Usually the talks took place before dinner, and people were getting hungry. Their appetite for Rinpoche and the teachings, which had seemed insatiable for so long, was now overridden by their appetite for dinner. People were, I think, a bit overwhelmed by what Rinpoche was presenting, so their restlessness in part reflected their inability to take it all in. He went beyond anyone's idea of what was acceptable, conventional, in terms of how long he talked. Finally, someone suggested taking a break and continuing the next day. Then one of Rinpoche's closest students, who was a member of the board and someone we were very close to, suggested to Rinpoche that they vote on whether to continue or to stop for the night.

He could not have made a worse suggestion. The idea that the timing of the inaugural presentation in America of the essence of Rinpoche's lineage was going to be decided by a vote, by democratic process, was antithetical to the understanding of devotion that Rinpoche had been trying to foster in his students. It suggested to him that perhaps they hadn't heard a word he had said. When the students applied and were accepted to the seminary, it was like becoming engaged, in a spiritual sense. It wasn't a casual invitation. Presenting the Vajrayana teachings was, for Rinpoche, like getting married to these students. They were mutually about to embark on a relationship that would last throughout the rest of their lives and hopefully one that would be transformative for everyone involved. Essentially, he and the students were at the altar, in the middle of a wedding ceremony. When they decided to take a vote, he was about to present the ring, kiss the bride, and say, "I do." They were asking him to stop the ceremony in midstream.

He asked them to repeat what had been said. Someone else said, "Let's vote." He threw down the microphone and walked out of the hall. As he strode out, someone said, "Rinpoche, come back. He doesn't speak for all of us." It was too late. The air was black. He was never coming back. People sensed that immediately.

Rinpoche had been waiting ever since he came to the West to make this presentation. America had been waiting centuries for these teachings. But the students couldn't wait to have their dinner. It was over.

It seemed that way for several days. I have never seen him angrier. People were devastated. A huge black space hung over the seminary. Slowly, there was an outpouring of people's love and dedication to what was happening there. The students supplicated Rinpoche to continue. In the end, he saw, I guess, that there was ground to go forward, without compromise. Four days later he started to teach again, and this time, people were ready to hear what he was presenting, with no strings attached, no boundaries. He went forward and completed the presentation, and it was beyond magnificent. These were really unspeakably brilliant teachings.

What was so interesting was that when he got over his anger, he was completely over it. There was no hangover. Of course, people never forgot that lesson, and news of what had happened spread throughout the sangha. In a way, it completely changed the tenor of the space in which he taught from then· on. It wasn't a game. It wasn't a party. This was real.

During the last days of the seminary, we received the sad news that Alan Watts had died suddenly of a heart attack in California. The next day Rinpoche and I were alone, sitting together in our room. We both turned to each other at the same time and said, "Alan Watts." We felt him go through the room at the same instant. I'm sure his consciousness passed through.

At the end of the seminary, just a day or so before we were preparing to return to Boulder, Rinpoche said to me, "You know, I might die soon." I said to him, "What do you mean?" He responded, "Well, now that I've finished the seminary, I've taught everything I have to teach. There's nothing left for me to present. So I might die soon." He'd been in the United States for just three years. Now, he was saying that he'd done all he could. I told him, "That can't possibly be true. There must be something more." He paused for a minute, and then he said, "Yes, well, I have been having dreams about being a general. I had one last night. I was a general and I was leading the troops in battle. That was fantastic." Then he said, "I'd love to be a general." Finally, he said, "I guess if I could become a king and rule a nation, then I would have something to live for!"

This was one of those times when I realized that I did not know at all what to expect from Rinpoche. Ultimately, I don't think anybody did. You could never apply the same logic to Rinpoche that you could to other human beings. When you're very close to somebody, you presume that when a situation comes up, you can predict how this person is going to react. With Rinpoche, you never really knew, because he was operating in such a vast space compared to ordinary people. I wondered what to expect from him in the future. Clearly, it would be something out of the ordinary.
Site Admin
Posts: 33483
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Religion and Cults

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests