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 » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:19 pm


I first met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Diana Mukpo in 1970, soon after they arrived in the United States. I had recently published the American edition of Rinpoche's book Meditation in Action and had invited him to the San Francisco Bay area to teach and promote his book. I was very much looking forward to meeting him in person. At thirty-one, Trungpa was already a revered Tibetan Buddhist master, but he was not yet well known in this country.

In those days, I had little idea of the impact this meeting would have on my life, both personally and professionally. My relationship with Rinpoche was one that gradually evolved from the traditional rituals of publisher to author into the spontaneity of a profound friendship. Then at some point I realized that he was no ordinary person but someone who fully embodied the teachings of the Buddha. At that point our relationship changed and I formally became his student. If one put aside or suspended habitual conceptions, it was clear that Rinpoche was the most extraordinary person, specifically his unwavering dedication to benefit others at his own expense. He always considered other people and beings (including animals) before his own comfort.

In all the seventeen years I knew him I never saw him do anything that was just for himself. Rinpoche was a person you could never pin down -- he was a man who possessed an infinite variety of faces, totally in and of the moment.

In the future there will likely be many more memoirs and biographies published by various people who were associated with Trungpa Rinpoche, as well as those who will feel inspired to study him from a distance. This book sets the proper tone and context for any books that might follow by telling the story in an uplifted manner, and without holding back seemingly unpleasant details. Diana Mukpo's fearlessness and candor, the very qualities that Rinpoche so appreciated in her, are abundantly present throughout. She has done a great service to her husband and to the vast array of his students -- not only for those who met him, but for those that will meet and be inspired by him through his teachings, and now, through this book.

In my view, the history of Chogyam Trungpa in the West is analogous to that of the eighth-century Indian Buddhist master Padmasambhava, who was principally responsible for bringing the complete teachings of Buddhism to Tibet. Likewise, Chogyam Trungpa is arguably the most important figure in the transmission of Buddhism to the West -- through his activity, speech, and writing, the power and compassion of the Buddhist path of enlightenment have been clearly presented.

I once heard Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche describe his "family business" as "caring for others." During his lifetime, Chogyam Trungpa presented himself in many different forms: as a monk, a married man and father, a crazy wisdom yogi, a university founder, an artist, a monarch, and so on. In Sanskrit, a man like Trungpa Rinpoche is described as a mahasiddha -- one who not only has achieved great accomplishments through practice, study, and realization, but who has also transcended the bounds of ordinary social expectation or behavior. In the Buddhist tantric tradition, a mahasiddha is an individual that manifests in order to reveal the ultimate truth for the benefit of anyone he or she encounters, through their activity, through their speech, and through the profundity of their mindstream. It is said that it doesn't matter if the person meeting the mahasiddha is attracted or repelled. In the Indian tradition of Tantric Buddhism, there are many accounts of these iconoclastic masters called mahasiddhas. The most well-known have been collected in The Lives of the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas, an assemblage of life stories both revered and studied by Tibetan scholars and practitioners. Many of the great teachers of Tibet are considered to be emanation rebirths of these mahasiddhas. In fact, Trungpa Rinpoche is traditionally considered to be an emanation of the mahasiddha Dombi-Heruka. The biographies of these mahasiddhas present extraordinary examples of enlightened behavior that not only transcend duality, but also avoid the ordinary norms of materialism with activities that might seem, to the uninitiated, both outrageous and miraculous.

Even though Padmasambhava and the mahasiddhas lived at another time, in another place, if one understands the timeless realities and truths of their essential natures, one can also realize that it's entirely possible for such beings to exist in different cultural contexts. It is my belief that Trungpa Rinpoche is one of the great mahasiddhas of our time. Like the mahasiddhas of the past, he transcended the ordinary bounds of social convention, sometimes employing outrageously innovative means to encourage others to realize fearlessness, compassion, and ultimately complete enlightenment.

The Buddhist teachings emphasize that we should not look outside of ourselves to discover the truth. I often heard Chogyam Trungpa repeat this point to his students, urging us not to look to him or any spiritual teacher as a savior. The seventeen years that Trungpa Rinpoche taught in North America were like a golden age. What he was able to accomplish and inspire others to accomplish was completely magical. His love of life and honesty about the human condition provided fertile ground to plant the seeds of Buddha dharma.

This book can inspire one to be a decent human being in whatever one does and not become bound by cultural and social conformity. Rinpoche was true to himself and to his tradition. Because he was an honest person who didn't hide anything, the details of his life were not off-limits to his students. There was no wizard behind a curtain. If you want to know something about the man, this is the book to read -- his day-to-day life was the core of his teachings, the display of his enlightened activity. Rinpoche's transcendent qualities of compassion and wisdom will, over time, be appreciated as his major contributions to our society. Those qualities are illustrated in this book.

Thank you, Diana Mukpo.

Samuel Bercholz
Wesak Day, 2006
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Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:34 pm


It is said that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This is certainly one of those times. Looking at Chogyam Trungpa's life is like looking into a cloudless night sky. It is impossible to count the stars; impossible to name them all; impossible to describe all the possible constellations. So this book does not try to tell the life, but one life of many. In this case, perhaps, the advantage is that the storyteller is the Moon, who reflects the light of the Sun rather well. It seems that way, at least, to me.

Diana Mukpo and I began work on this project in late 1998. It took us almost eight years to complete. The manuscript is based on more than a hundred hours of taped conversations, which took place in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Wellington, Ocala, and West Palm Beach, Florida. Additionally, Diana Mukpo recorded a number of reminiscences on microcassettes. To verify dates, places, and occurrences described here, we drew heavily on both published and unpublished teachings by Chogyam Trungpa. Unpublished material in the Shambhala Archives was an important source of information, as were issues of the Vajradhatu Sun. We also relied on eyewitness and second-party accounts offered to us. We thank all those who have offered information and helped us to solve various puzzles. Where there have been disagreements or discrepancies, we have relied on the author, Diana Mukpo, as the principal witness. For errors of fact or omission, we apologize.

We have not "composited" any characters knowingly. However, in a few cases we have knowingly changed or omitted names. We regret that we could not include or name hundreds of people who played important roles in Chogyam Trungpa's life.

Many people contributed to this book. Again, it is impossible to name them all. Thanks to all of the members of the Mukpo, Levy, Pybus, and Gimian families who appear in this book and were supportive in so many, many ways.

We would like to thank our agent, Joe Spieler. Melvin McLeod, editor of The Shambhala Sun, convinced us to show him an early draft of the manuscript and published two articles based on the material. We might never have finished the book if he hadn't had this inspiration. Thanks also to Trish Rohrer for editorial help with the second article. My husband, James Gimian, helped me through many rough times and spots with this book, and I cannot thank him enough. I would also like to thank my father, Edward Rose, who taught me much about reading, writing, and listening that was helpful in preparing this manuscript. Tessa Pybus provided information about her mother Elizabeth Pybus and other events in the book. Larry Mermelstein and Walter Fordham read the book carefully and made many helpful comments. For their general support and love, in addition to those already mentioned, we thank Lisa, Winnie, Jenny, Amy, and Rosie.

Eden Steinberg, our editor at Shambhala Publications, has been remarkable to work with. Thanks also to Sam Bercholz, Peter Turner, Jonathan Green, Hazel Bercholz, Kendra Crossen Burroughs, Steve Dyer, Julie Saidenberg, Ben Gleason, and Art McCabe for their support and contributions.

We would like to thank all those who read and commented on the manuscript in draft and penultimate form. In addition to those already named, thanks to Rudy Wurlitzer; he has been supportive in so many ways. Thanks also to Michael Herr, Pema Chodron, Steve Silberman, Andrea Mcquillin, Liza Matthews, Gail Flynn, Dierdre Stubbert, Jane Carpenter, Fabrice Midal, Larry Shainberg, Art McCabe, Bill Turpin, Lindsay Brown, and Barry Boyce. At the time that this is being written, a number of other people are reading the manuscript, and we thank them in advance for their input. We are also grateful to the photographers whose work appears here, including Andrea Roth, Blair Hanson, George Holmes, Tharpa Chotron, and others as yet unidentified. We also thank the Spanish Riding School for permission to reproduce a photograph of Diana Mukpo riding at the school, and we offer our profound thanks to the Shambhala Archives both for access to their photo collection and for their efforts to preserve these images.

For the privilege of having known Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and having served him, we offer profound thanks. For the opportunity to share in writing this book, we offer a deep Shambhala bow to him and to one another.

[quote]By the confidence of the golden sun of the Great East
May the lotus garden of the Rigden's wisdom bloom.
May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled.
May all beings enjoy profound brilliant glory.[/b]
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Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 12:33 am



1. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected "Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. 1 (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), p. 265.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected "Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. 7 (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), pp. 299-300.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, from a letter to Bob Copley, October 31, 1969, unpublished.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom if Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), pp. 73-74.


1. From an address to the Naropa Institute Conference on Christian and Buddhist Meditation, August 9, 1983, as quoted in Speaking in Silence: Christians and Buddhist on the Contemplative Way, ed. Susan Walker (Halifax: Vajradhatu Publications, 2005).

2. Chogyam Trungpa, letter, unpublished.

3. Chogyam Trungpa, True Command: The Teachings if the Dorje Kasung, vol. I (Halifax: Trident Publications, 2003), pp. 138-139.

4. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected "Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. I (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), pp. 282-283.

5. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. I (Boston: Shambhala Publications., 2004), p. 283.

6. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. I (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), p. 266.

7. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. I (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), p. 279.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, in "Ten Years in America," Vajradhatu Sun special issue, 1980.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, "Tenth Anniversary Dharma Celebration," Vajradhatu Sun 3, no. 3 (February-March 1981).

3. The approach to the sitting practice of meditation that Chogyam Trungpa taught was always based on the highest teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Because he emphasized the simplicity and formless aspects of the practice, sometimes people thought that his approach was elementary. In fact, he taught his students the technique of mixing mind and space by placing an emphasis on the outbreath. He taught his students to go out with the outbreath, as he often described it, and then to allow a gap. The inbreath, he said, would happen naturally, without any emphasis. This approach was expansive and encouraged one to develop a broad sense of the environment. He further emphasized the openness to space by having his students sit with their eyes open, facing the central shrine rather than facing the wall or otherwise closing themselves in. While in the beginning he allowed a loose approach to the physical or bodily aspects of the practice, he slowly introduced more discipline, with particular emphasis on good posture, which he termed good "head and shoulders." Rinpoche always stressed the importance of receiving personal meditation instruction from someone trained in the discipline.

4. Chogyam Trungpa, "Opening Talk: Alaya Preschool," March 1978. Boulder, Colo., unpublished.


1. Thomas Rich, in "Ten Years in America," Vajradhatu Sun special issue, 1980.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, "Vajracarya's Birthday Address," Vajradhatu Sun 1, no. 4 (April-May 1979).

3. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


1. 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. The buddha family relates to spaciousness or openness on the one hand and ignorance on the other. It is associated with the color white, and its symbol is the wheel. It is connected with the element of space, which is considered to be the fifth element in the Tibetan Buddhist view. Vajra energy is connected with intellectual penetration or precision, on one side, and with the cutting quality of anger and aggression on the other. Its element is water, its color is blue, and the symbol for vajra is the tantric scepter, which itself is called a vajra, or dorje in Tibetan. Karma, which simply means action, is connected with appropriate action and spontaneously fulfilling one's endeavors on the enlightened side and with jealousy, or competitiveness, on the other. It is associated with the color green, with the element of wind, and the symbol of karma is a sword. Padma, which literally means lotus, is connected with communication, discrimination, and compassion in its sane embodiment and with neurotic grasping and unbridled passion in its neurotic form. The symbol for padma is the lotus itself, it is connected with the color red, and its element is fire. Finally, there is the ratna family. Ratna means jewel, and the jewel is the symbol of this family. It represents enriching and equanimity, appreciating all situations, or on the other hand its neurotic side is a sense of poverty and envy, coveting what others have. It is connected with the element of earth and the color yellow.

2. Rinpoche wrote an article about his view of a proper relationship to alcohol and drinking. "Alcohol as Medicine or Poison" can be found in The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, volume 3, pages 456-460. Here are a few excerpts that give some sense of his view of the problematic as well as the positive possibilities connected with drinking. He had much more to say about this, and for those interested, I would recommend reading the whole article.

There seems to be something wrong with an approach to alcohol that is based entirely on morality or social propriety. The scruples implied have solely to do with the external effect of one's drinking. The real effect of alcohol is not considered, but only its impact on the social format .... It seems that alcohol is a weak poison which is capable of being transmuted into medicine .... Nevertheless, alcohol can as easily be a death potion as a medicine. The sense of joviality and heartiness can seduce us to relinquish our awareness. But fortunately there is also a subtle depression that goes with drinking .... Psychologically, intoxication with alcohol is a process of coming down, rather than, as with the other substances [such as LSD, marijuana, and opium], of going up into space. Whether alcohol is to be a poison or a medicine depends on one's awareness while drinking. Conscious drinking -- remaining aware of one's state of mind -- transmutes the effect of alcohol.

3. Chogyam Trungpa, diary entry, unpublished, translated from the Tibetan by John Rockwell.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), p. 38.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, excerpt from "Wait and Think," in The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. 7 (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), pp. 395-396.


1. A horse's height is measured in hands, which each represent four inches. A sixteen three hand horse would measure 16 x 4 inches plus three inches for a total of 67 inches. The measurement is from the ground to the highest point of the withers -- the bone that arches at the base of the horse's neck.

2. The title "His Holiness" is usually reserved for the head of one of the major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Although Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was not the formal head of a lineage, Rinpoche felt that he was a man of such realization and presence that he should be called by this title. For this reason, I have kept this title and used it frequently in the manuscript to refer to Khyentse Rinpoche, although I know that some of his students would not agree that it is accurate. Nevertheless, it reflects my own feeling about his extraordinary qualities, as well as what Rinpoche instructed us.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), p. 100.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

3. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


1. Elizabeth Pybus, letter to Chogyam Trungpa, 1977, unpublished.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, letter to Diana Mukpo, 1977, unpublished.

3· Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), p. 110.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Court Vision, unpublished manuscript.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), pp. 140-141. (The version presented here is an earlier version of the book, before the reference to LSD was removed.)

3. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. 7 (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004), pp. 515-518.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Kalapa Assembly Transcripts (Boulder: Vajradhatu Publications, 1979), pp. 77-79.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, "He Raised the Dharma Victory Banner in All Directions," Vajradhatu Sun 4, no. 2 (December 1981-January 1982): I.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, "Shambhala Anthem," in Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999), p. 207.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, vol. 7, p. 258.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

3. Diana Mukpo, poem, unpublished.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, excerpt, spiritual will, 1984, unpublished.

2. Robert Burns, "The Winter It Is Past," 1788.
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