The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perks

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.

The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perks

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:39 am

The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant
by John Riley Perks
© 2004 by John Riley Perks





"His Holiness said that you are a pioneer."
Somewhat surprised, I responded, "What happened to the idiot servant?"
"Oh, that too," he answered, laughing.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1-Black Birth
Chapter 2-Illusions of America
Commentary Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3-The First Seminary
Commentary Chapter 3
Chapter 4-Turnaround Retreat
Commentary Chapter 4
Chapter 5-Dreaming My Reinvention Away
Commentary Chapter 5
Chapter 6-Promised Land
Commentary Chapter 6
Chapter 7-The Court
Commentary Chapter 7
Chapter 8-Dreaming Reality
Commentary Chapter 8
Chapter 9-Images
Commentary Chapter 9
Chapter 10-The Last Journey
Commentary Chapter 10
Chapter 11-Hello, Goodbye, Hello
Commentary Chapter 11
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:40 am


To describe how this book evolved would require several volumes of narrative-combining those who were for and those who were against its publication. The original drafts were all handwritten in school exercise books two years after Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's death in 1987. Some of the early drafts seem to have survived, although I hear from reliable sources that the original manuscripts were all destroyed.

This present book could not have been produced without the constant effort, enthusiasm, and dedication of my closest students. Even at times when I, myself, grew tired of the constant revisions, my students insisted on extracting the exact details of my relationship with my teachers. I would like to thank Margaret Junge for her tenacity and diligence. I also appreciate William Burns for his friendship and steadfastness. Both Peg and Bill worked unstintingly to transcribe the original manuscript from written form into the computer. I am also very grateful to Julia Gray for her intuitiveness, dedication, and devotion. Julia spent every Monday for a year with me working on the manuscript, often making revisions and suggestions in the text which were invaluable. I also appreciate Ralph Quinlan-Forde for enthusiasm and entrepreneurship early in the project, and Laura Witt for her sharp intellect. Also, to Michael Billingsley, Donnalee Dermady­Minney, Kathleen Pew, Vale Burns, Suzanne Moran, and Cecelia Blair for their continued questions and interest go my thanks.

There are many dharma brothers and sisters mentioned in this book, all of whom I would like to thank for their comradeship and inspiration on the path. For purposes of privacy, I have changed the names of some of the people in the book. I particularly wish to thank Max King, Mipham Halpern, Neal Greenberg, Ron Barnstone, Walter and Joanne Fordham, Bob and Shari Vogler, Dr. Mitchell Levy, Sara Coleman, Jeanne Riordan, Betsy Sharp, Judith Smith, William Gilkeson, James and Carolyn Gimian, Dr. James Green, Dr. George Marshall, Debby Kruck, Michael Root, Gerry Haase, Martin Janowitz, Thomas Ryken, Jan Watson, Dennis Southward, Hudson Shotwell, Sergeant Major Grant MacLean, and Captain David Rohn.

Further, I am indebted to my dharma brothers Douglas J. Penick, for his unending love and kindness to me over many years of hardship; Kidder Smith, for his continual support of Celtic Buddhism; and Kobutsu Malone Roshi, the mad death row Zen chaplain, for his comradeship always.

Sophie Octavia Perks, my daughter, who following in the family tradition became an attendant to Khandro Rinpoche, is an ongoing inspiration. And, finally, to Nora Riley Perks, my wife, for her consistent dedication in always asking the right questions and her unending care and personal love for both me and this dif­ficult time-consuming project, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks. To all others who helped or hindered and thus ultimately helped form the contents, thank you.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:41 am


by Douglas Penick Throughout almost all human history, we have learned how to live and how to produce the things we need to live from our relationship with a teacher. Initially, this teacher was a parent and, depending on the culture, the things that were taught were often circumscribed by gender. Cooking, pottery making weaving, some shamanic traditions, and so forth were usually, passed from mother to daughter. Warriorship, hunting, farming, and priest-craft passed from father to son.

Part of this education is not just learning the necessary method or technique to achieve a desired result, but actually acquiring the inner sense or feeling of the entire activity. Transmission of this inner sense is the essence of the teaching and distinguishes mechanical, repetitive labor from work that is alive.

This transmission cannot exactly be taught directly but arises from hard work and from the relationship, the devotion, and the love shared by teacher and student. Transmission may be a product of accumulation, but it often becomes manifest in one particular moment when it becomes clear to both teacher and student that it has occurred. A lovely example of such a moment was recounted by the renowned Santa Clara potter, Margaret Tafoya. Margaret's mother, SaraFina, was, in addition to being a farmer, cook, seamstress, mother, and midwife, a potter famed for her large storage jars and for the beauty of form and polish in all her work. She also realized that selling pottery could become a major aid in her family's survival, and made many innovations to appeal to the tastes of tourists and galleries in northern New Mexico.

In addition to requiring their help in tending to all the many other household needs, SaraFina taught her children to make pottery. Year in, year out, they assisted her in all the arduous aspects of this art. SaraFina was insistent on the highest standards in preparing clay, forming, sanding, decorating, polishing, and firing. This method of pottery making was without any kind of mechanical aid; there were no wheels and no kilns.

One day, her duties as a midwife required that SaraFina stop working on a large pot. Three or four layers of coils were .still lacking. Margaret watched as the pot dried in the air and realized that soon it would not be possible to complete it. She asked her father if she should do so. Fearing SaraFina's temper, he replied that she could, but that she should not say he had approved. With considerable trepidation, Margaret completed the pot. When her mother returned, she examined the piece carefully. She looked at her daughter and said: "You did exactly what I would do. Thank the Lord you can do it," and she kissed her. Margaret Tafoya, even near the end of her long life, remembered the exact date and time when this occurred: 9 p.m., October 4, 1926. (Margaret Tafoya, M. & L., Blair, Schiffer Publishing, 1986. p. 98)

In most spiritual traditions and in many secular ones, it is simply not possible for the student to receive such transmission without unswerving devotion and endless, dogged hard work. Tran mission can only be received with one's entire being, and this cannot happen in the absence of complete devotion and surrender.

This aspect of transmission is most explicit in the many Hindu and all Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. The literature there is full of teachers who inflicted extensive and often seemingly crazy demands on their followers, and of students who wavered and persisted and wavered and persisted in following their teachers' commands. Often, the student would lose heart and sometimes, overwhelmed by the sheer pointlessness of it all, would reach the point of suicide. But in giving up one's ambitions completely, it is finally possible for transmission to take place.

The student always frames this goal in terms of his or her own experiences and desires. But if the student is fortunate, he or she will find an authentic teacher and if so, this notion will be uprooted and vaporized.

In the West, this kind of path seems disagreeably at variance with our facile sense of individual free will. Even for those who have undertaken such a journey, there often remains the hope that having endured rigors and austerities, one will attain some kind of realization or enlightenment and thenceforth be able to do and teach as one wishes. This is not so. The path of devotion is unending, and having met the mind of one's teacher nakedly, whether briefly or completely, there is only further devotion and further surrender. One's life continues to unfold in the light of that.

As Ven. Trungpa Rinpoche stated, "The guru is the representative of the phenomenal world." Thus there is never a moment of an action or an accomplishment where one does not see the footprint or the smile or the sneer of one's teacher. And this is a source of great challenge and great joy.

Ven. Seonaidh Perks has written a superb and vivid account of his journey with the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche that is unsparing and true. Trungpa Rinpoche came to the West in the late sixties and resided in the U.K. and the U.S. for the rest of his life. No other Buddhist teacher has embraced the culture of the West so extensively and entered the lives of his students so completely.

The Vidyadhara would actually do anything to communicate the awakened state on the spot and was tirelessly inventive in finding new forms to this end. Ven. Seonaidh Perks played a crucial role in the creation of many of the Vidyadhara's institutions, and his story of their mutual dance is hilarious, wild, shocking, and poignant. This book is a rare thing. It presents a relationship that is more intimate than sex, more risky than battle. Perks gives us a vast fermentation of love, not limited by convention and not ended by any notion of result.

Douglas Penick
Chodzin Paden
Magyel Pomra Sayi Dakpo
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:42 am


This is a story about transformation from mindlessness and unconsciousness to the realization of how mind functions in all its aspects, and the implications of that realization in everyday life situations. It is also a story about an enlightened teacher and a student who was completely ignorant. During that relationship Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said at different times, "You should write about how we worked together."

"You mean how we created the Court and military?" I inquired.

"No," he replied, "How our minds work together."

"That sounds like a huge task," was my observation.

"Just keep it simple," he advised.

"When should I do this?" I inquired further.

"When you have the time," came the answer.

It is important that the reader have some knowledge of my state of mind before and during my years with Rinpoche. While at the time I had no understanding of my mental constructs, looking back from my present perspective I can offer the following summary. I have labeled myself an idiot. From the point of view of enlightened or realized mind this is certainly so. All beings are attached to their personal karma. Karma is action, the working of cause and effect whereby positive actions produce happiness and negative actions produce suffering. Personal karma means that you are born into a family and you take on the karma of that family. You take on the karma of the town, the state, and the country in which you were born. Then you take on the karma of the training you receive at various educational establishments. Even if you rebel against all of this, you take on the karma of the rebel.

For instance, a British karma could be one of having a stiff upper lip in all situations, which means that when catastrophes are occurring you say nothing is happening or "Let's have another cup of tea." While historically this is portrayed as being heroic, it is actually quite stupid, because it negates reality at the most basic level.

One cannot blame people for this. It is simply the way that karma operates. A pig is ignorant and symbolizes ignorance in Buddhism. But one can't blame the pig for being a pig, as that is its nature. Similarly, it is the nature of human beings to be attached to their karma, their emotions, and their habitual pat­terns. In this scenario there is no notion of enlightenment or realization to interrupt the cyclical patterns, and there is no reason for one to feel guilty or blame others.

From the historical point of view, I was born in Kent, England, in the year 1934. My father was a band master and a music teacher. My mother was his housekeeper but she was also a practical nurse. Both of my parents had been married three times each and had children from these various marriages before their love affair produced me and my two sisters. They were never married and lived together for twelve years including the beginning and end of World War II. My father was in World War I as a stretcher bearer. The mental anguish that he and many suffered during that conflict was immeasurable. My mother was a spiritualist -- driven there as refuge from the constant insanity of war and poverty.

This was the family karma that I inherited. I also received tremendous love and adoration from both my parents even though they were living in a dark period of warfare and violence. Like everyone else I was conditioned early on in traditional English values, education, and culture. When the war came I fought to survive, as was required of all intrepid, resilient Englishmen. And I fought to survive to be John Perks. I put extreme effort into maintaining my "own-ness." My only thought was how to maintain myself. I had no understanding of the feelings of others. I just reacted to their emotional displays and cov­ered myself the best way that I could in order to maintain my ego. If, for instance, a person in authority was angry with me I found ways to please him or, alternatively, to go behind his back to create subterfuge and outmaneuver him. If a person in authority displayed love toward me I would endeavor to please him so that the love situation would continue.

Concerning the phenomenal world I had no understanding at all. I simply attached myself to the pleasure or pain that it gave me. Either it pleased me by being sunny and smelling like roses or depressed me by being froggy, dull, and smelling of manure. My own-ness and my self-ness had to survive above everything, and I would do anything-literally anything-to maintain my "self."

Trungpa Rinpoche used to say that I was very self-reliant. I took pride in that until I discovered what it meant. Then I took another pride in it. From the mental point of view I was at the mercy of my emotions. To complicate this further, when emotions were displayed in the English society in which I had been living, one was punished. So I became a kind of secret agent, hiding my emotions, or else became a renegade.

Being at the mercy of emotions is like being imprisoned by passion, aggression, ignorance, or depression. Ironically, when you're imprisoned that way you don't recognize it. You have no knowledge of "I." It is just a state that you are in. It feels very bad and painful but you don't know that there is any other alternative. Perhaps on a sunny day you might feel better, but then when it rains you retreat back to. your habitual pattern of passion, aggression, ignorance, or depression.

Thoughts flow through our minds in an unending stream, rather like shingles on a roof that overlap each other. I considered these thoughts to be reality, whether they were created by emotion or just popped up out of the blue, like bogeymen. The world was a very fearsome place for a mind such as mine.

Today, we live in a society that feels that the best way to handle people's ignorance is to punish them, eliminate them, or medicate them. That is because having to deal with another person in an open, nonjudgmental manner requires extreme mindfulness and attention. One would have to become selfless and totally open. Few people undertake this, as it is painful to have to give up one's self Yet everywhere people are seeking that state of open, compassionate love for each other. That is why Buddha and Jesus are revered by so many. They are examples of the infinite compassion for all beings that so many of us strive for. The obstacles to that attainment are peoples' possessiveness and attachment to maintaining their self-identity and their ignorance in seeing this.

Ignorance, with which I am personally very familiar, does not understand enlightened mind. Ignorance just operates to maintain "self," rather like the pig, head down, turning over the sod under its nose. It doesn't look around, it only knows "piggy-ness." It's not that the pig is not beautiful. The pig is supremely beautiful and supremely intelligent in maintaining its "piggy-ness," but it also suffers enormously because of its habitual karma and its attachment to the unending display of emotions or neuroses which it sees as reality. Even in making love to its partner the pig will suffer. It may be a tremendously successful lover but be unable to receive love. That is, the piggy wants to control even that aspect of his or her world. Receiving love might be extremely painful because it would have to give up a particular notion of self. In the union of masculine and feminine, selflessness can be experienced only if the predetermined states can be surrendered. Such a love never occurred to me. I was somewhat like a bull in rut. My only interest was in my own persona and presenting it in such a way that it could receive the adulation it required. This is an explanation of my mind and how it operated at the time I met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's mind was one of boundless infinite compassion for all beings. It became this way through his many lifetimes of meditation practice and also through the love, compassion, and training from his teachers. He was born into a lineage and a society where these attributes were regarded as he supreme treasure. While he was not born as an enlightened being he attained enlightenment as a gradual process of his training with his teachers.

Such a compassionate mind is not attached to any notion of self but is totally dedicated to the benefit of all beings. From the point of view of a pig-mind it is very difficult to understand the mind of an enlightened person. In the beginning the pig-mind might become alarmed that it can find no habitual pattern in the enlightened mind to manipulate for its own benefit. Then it might conceive from its own point of view that the enlightened mind is crazy, because the pig-mind is unable to obtain the power that enlightened mind displays. At that point it might give up and become confused again in all types of illusions. Seeking some type of ground it may see these illusions as reality -- whether they manifest as visions or spiritual accomplishments -- and again may cling to the new concept and try to make a reality out of it.

The actual reality of enlightenment is beyond ordinary description. From the point of view of my mind at the initial meeting with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I was convinced that I could attain such a state by scheming or by personal manipulation. Needless to say, I failed in that endeavor. That failure produced the attributes in my mind of both hopelessness and negation, thinking that the whole thing was crazy in the first place. Those obstacles had to be worked through.

The attachments and clingings of my mind were undermined by the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in ordinary daily situations. He continually disarranged my personal egotistic reality and sense of self. Additionally, I was engaged in the meditative activities of shamatha vipashyana, ngondro, and the Vajrayogini sadhana. Vajrayogini is called the sadhana of the Coemergent Mother-meaning the union of samsara and nirvana. This was a situation of being in the middle of a sandwich with the guru on one side, the yidam or deity on the other side, and myself as the ham in the middle. The whole thing was driven together by a diamond nail that can never be removed.

The stories in this book are told from my unrealized point of view. From the realized point of view something else was happening. I was being given what I wanted, which was to become enlightened. But that enlightenment meant having an open, compassionate heart. I could not "get it" by any other way than giving up self. I fought tooth and nail against the very state that I sought because I was terrified of the notion of emptiness and no self. In these stories I appear a fool, which is what I was. I remain continually in awe of the realizations and compassion of my three teachers: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and His Holiness, the sixteenth Karmapa. I am also totally indebted to my sangha brothers and sisters who were fellow students of these teachers and engaged in their own paths toward enlightenment. I am more than indebted to my own students for forcing me to explain what happened in minute and painful detail. And I am in awe of their heroism and determination to also seek realization, even though their teacher is an idiot.

Perhaps if you yourself are a seeker, or are on the path to true complete enlightenment, these stories might give you some comfort. If a total idiot could become a realized person, even though he himself has not attained true complete enlightenment, then such an endeavor should be easier for you. Also, you could think of us as being comrades-in-arms, united in transforming passion, aggression, ignorance, depression, and illusion into enlightened mind. We could, you could, create or work toward a world that displays the compassionate reality for all beings which is the heart of Buddha, the heart of Jesus, and the heart of many teachers throughout history and who still exist in the world today. We could create an enlightened world for all beings.

If I had only one wish it would be that you never give up on your devotion to the enlightened state, no matter what personal sufferings you might experience. It need not matter if you are a murderer, thief, liar, terrorist, bank manager, housewife, Buddhist teacher, electrician, blacksmith, or someone without vocation in your journey in this impermanent realm. May you meet the heart of true, complete enlightenment, surrender your self-ness to it, and experience the total pain, total suffering, total joy, and total compassion of that state.

Whatever confusion is displayed within these pages is the confusion of the author. Whatever realization emanates is the realization of the teacher. The union of these two is the mutual love affair that is the basis of Buddha's lineage.

Seonaidh Riley Perks
Vermont, 2003
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:45 am

Chapter 1: Black Birth


The feet came out first. There was a question as to whose feet, since they were blue-black because of the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck. Also because, days before, the mother had picked up an exposed electrical cable and received an instant shock. She had felt the baby turn in her body from head down to feet down. And because there was the Indian woman next door in the semi-detached house who had committed suicide. Because the almost black child was put into hot water and then cold water to stimulate breath, there was some question as to its identity­ my identity.

Later, as a child, hearing the story of my birth made perfect sense to me. Since I was born dead the spirit of the Indian woman had entered my body. I was born male but I felt female. I would often dress in my mother's clothes, putting on her make-up and perfumes, her stockings and her underpants. I had a great fear of electricity and the idea of electrocution in the electric chair was supremely horrible. The blue-blackness of the body made Celtic sense, as a reminder of the pigments used by the island warriors of pre-Christian times. Later, a Chinese doctor took my pulse and clapped his hands over his mouth, exclaiming, "Birth, no breath!" Gasping was a common feature of my breathing.

Even before I began school I suspected there was something disturbingly different about me. I saw things differently from other children. Colors were all mixed up for me and I could not identify colors with the right names when asked. I would say the name of the first color that came into my head. Everyone would laugh because they thought I was joking. But in actual fact I really did not know. Or was it that the colors did not appear to me as they did to other children? Then there was the light that emanated from life forms. Dogs, cats, people, rabbits, birds, and bugs seemed to have lights coming from their bodies. My judgment of distances expanded and receded sometimes during the day. Almost always at night my bedroom would become very large. Then the room would shrink so small that the ceiling was just inches above my head, with the window becoming the size of a postage stamp. Then everything would expand, with the ceiling suddenly forty feet above me and the window now the size of a shopping mall window. I would close my eyes when this happened, but the blackness behind my eyelids would continue to alternate between small and vast. There was no escape and the world became very jelly-like, shimmering, and wobbly. Sometimes it was difficult for me to tell living beings from dead ghost beings. I was always scared and anxious, as there was no one to tell all this to and I was afraid of being sent away to a place for crazy kids.

As a young boy with an active imagination I fabricated fantastic story after story about myself. The most famous one was my insistence that my father was a sheriff in Texas. I had a tin pin-on star to prove it and I fought any boy who tried to dispute my myth. My real father was someone like Gene Autry or Roy Roger not the man who cried and shook and hid under the kitchen table when the bombs fell. Not the man who lay soaking in sweat, trembling from malaria that he had contracted in India during the First World War. Not the man who chain-smoked Players and Craven A cigarettes, his fingers stained brown, who washed his black hair in spinach juice, who looked at me from a great distance. Who, as my mother said, was not a real soldier but a bandsman stretcher-bearer picking up the dead and mutilated bodies from Gallipoli to Flanders. A mustard-gassed living ghost who never smiled or played. His only refuge was music, which he taught to homeless boys. Conducting in his black uniform, he became alive in the vibrating sounds of quavers and semiquavers, in notes that I was unable to decipher. One time he tried to teach me the cornet, but my lips broke out in raw cold sores and the hollowness returned between us.

He had lived in a World War I trench, cooking his breakfast of bacon and eggs in a tin pot, and then making his tea out of the bacon tasting water. Born in 1888, he was a living ghost by the time of my birth in 1934. Suffering and unable to die, he was terrified by the prospect of having to live through another war. The only story he told me of his childhood happened before he entered the Army at the age of fourteen. His father, who had worked at the Birmingham Firearms factory, had been very concerned that my father was too small for his age. He filled my father's boots with horse manure and made him put them on and stand in a closet to see if he would grow. Everyone said my father had green eyes like my mother's, but to me they looked brown. He hardly ever spoke to me and never hit me. His last and only gift to me was a set of lead toy soldiers in full military uniforms of the Coldstream Guard's Band, frozen with their instruments of silent sound.

My mother was a Wicca spiritual healer and practical nurse. My grandmother, who was a nurse physician, would take my mother along on her rounds. One of the stories my mother liked to tell of her childhood travels with my grandmother was about the death of Freedom. Freedom was the first name of an old woman of the village who lived in a cottage where the animals still lived in the bottom half of the house, providing winter heat for the humans who lived upstairs. Word had come that Freedom was dying and my grandmother and mother went to the house where the old woman now lived alone with a cow. They climbed the ladder and found Freedom lying on her straw-mattress bed, her breathing shallow and her consciousness coming and going. My grandmother told my mother to stay with Freedom and to lay her out after she died. This entailed plugging her anus and vagina with cotton and tying closed her mouth. Then my grandmother left to visit another patient.

It was night and although it was not my mother's first experience with death, it was her first time of being alone with a dying person. She was terrified. The wind blew out the kerosene lamp. My mother clung to Freedom's hand, asking and praying for her not to die before my grandmother returned. The cow below made sounds like demons ascending the ladder and with the labored breathing and twitching of Freedom, the screeching of owls, the yelling of night hawks, and the house moving in the night wind, my mother was near to fainting.

It was at least two hours before my grandmother returned to find my frightened mother still grasping Freedom's hand. Lighting the lamp and inspecting Freedom, my grandmother exclaimed in a sharp tone, "Dolly, Freedom is dead. Go and get the Vicar's dining room table leaf and we will lay her out." I can always see my mother as a fourteen-year-old girl terrified and beset by spirits, yet crossing the village alone at night to return with the table leaf under her arm to lay out the dead Freedom. It was this story and her act of bravery that always inspired me to go beyond my fears. Even at an early age I admired her willingness to tell me this story, not only of her bravery, but of her fears in handling the beings and spirits that surrounded her.

It was the autumn of 1939 and the rumors of war were in everybody's conversation. I was just beginning to attend classes at the local grammar school and my father would often pick me up in the afternoon. He would put me on the saddle of his bicycle and push it home, walking beside me. I remember asking him, "What's war?" He said, "It's like when two people get angry with each other and they start to fight." And I said, "Does that mean German people and English people will fight?" And, he said, "Yes."

On September the third at 11:15 in the morning I stood on the apple tree stump in our back garden in the town of Sidcup, County of Kent, some twenty miles south of London. My father had the wireless radio hooked up outside so we could all hear the Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, speak. I remember him saying we were at war. The adults were very serious and many began to cry. Then the sirens sounded and the children, alarmed at the wailing sound, cried also. I was five and my childhood of war had started.

The announcement of war helped relieve the tension. The adults were now preoccupied with survival and the war effort. My father took action and dug a great pit in our back yard. In the yellow clay we piled up sod bags and he put corrugated tin on top to make a roof. It was a replica of his trench in France during World War I. He made bunks for us. It looked great and we played war, killing Germans. Then, about a week after construction, it rained very heavily and the fortification became a water hole with bunk beds floating in it. The very next night a soaked, mud-splattered policeman came knocking at the back door. Apparently, one of our window blinds had showed some light and he had crossed our garden, only to fall into the water-filled bunker. My mother dried him off by the kitchen stove while he drank the ritual cup of tea.

The next shelter we had was a steel table about the size of a king bed inside the house. We all slept on the mattress beneath it with our gas masks next to us. My parents' thought was that if the house fell on top of us during a bombing raid someone would be able to dig us out. At that time, unknown to me or my sisters, my mother had a stash of cyanide she planned to give us if we became trapped in rubble or suffered from gas exposure. We all expected the Nazis to invade and my parents made petrol bombs to throw at the Germans.

There was a Jewish man who lived across our road who cried in our kit hen. He used to play the violin with my father. He had a bald head and always wore velvet slippers. He was given tea. The home guard played war with an old Bren gun-carrier track tank. They threw chalk bags at each other. We picked them up and threw them too. We filled sandbags to pile in our front gate. We stuck tape over all the windows. My stepbrother, Charlie, came back from Dunkirk, his uniform torn and stained. He smelled of whiskey. He cried in our kitchen. He told us that Nappy, my father's music stu­dent and our lodger, had been killed in the sea off the coast of France. Charlie continued to cry, snapping the hammer on his empty service pistol over and over again. He was given tea. I began to associate drinking tea with times of crisis. Every time somebody sang "Polly put the kettle on," I would tremble with anxiety.

In one bombing raid the entire front of our house, all three stories, was destroyed. We had a large canvas draped over the house front while it was rebuilt. I had to be evacuated and was sent on my own to Cornwall. My mother took me to the train station with my gas mask and a luggage label tied to my collar. She said goodbye.

In Cornwall I was housed with three other evacuees. Two were teenage girls from London and then there was Freddy, a boy of seven like myself. He had fleas. One afternoon he and I were playing on a bridge, throwing sticks into the brook on one side and then running swiftly across to see them whirl out from under on the other side. I saw the lorry coming across the bridge, but Freddy did not and it ran him down. Some soldiers coming by took me home. This was the first time I had ever seen someone die. It was fast.

After Freddy died I slept in the same room with the girls. We would play Truth, Dare, and Promises. I would always choose Dare and lose. They would rub my penis to make it hard and then dare me to put it into their vaginas. I always did and was puzzled why they liked it so much. Although my penis got hard I had no orgasm or sperm.

Every night I walked to the post office with the hope of getting a letter from my mother, but they were few and far between. Although I was now school age, my early classroom encounters in Cornwall were a series of escapes or ejections. I was kicked out of one institution for breaking another boy's arm while playing King of the Castle. I ran away time and time again and got the cane time and time again. In yet another school I set fire to the wastepaper basket under the teacher's desk in which were all the class records. Their charred remains freed me to be sent back home to Sidcup.

I was then sent to my Aunt Lil's house near Portsmouth. One early morning we were picking mushrooms in the field when, with a loud roar, three German bombers came over not more than five hundred feet above the ground. They were so close I could see the men in the glass nosecones and the big black crosses on the wings of the planes. We ran as the ground around us spurted up clods of earth. At full gallop I jumped into a ditch of stinging nettles. The roar of the engines was so loud I couldn't even hear the noise of the machine guns. Moments later the planes were gone and no one was hurt.

There was a German prison camp near Aunt Lil's house and two of the prisoners, Kurt and Carl, would come over to the farm to help. Carl liked to kill things and he pleaded with my aunt to let him kill the unwanted kittens from the barn cat's litter. I watched, fascinated, as he strangled each one with his hands and threw the bodies on the manure pile. Kurt made me a wooden air­plane and gave me rides on his back. He cried when I came to the camp to say goodbye, taking my hand through the barbed wire fence and kissing it. I was returning home. I had no tea for him.

The war had scattered our family in all directions. My mother was still in Sidcup, driving a fire truck for the town. My sister was in the Land Army, stationed on a farm at some distance away. My father was in Devon, helping to care for the homeless boys he taught, all of whom had been evacuated there. We had a young woman in her early twenties as a lodger and occasionally a couple of billeted soldiers from Canada, Australia, and even Egypt.

Food and supplies were in short supply and my mother readily agreed that I become the family provider by stealing. I imagined myself as Dick Turpin, the highwayman. I raided, I stole. At night I took a sack and crept into a farmer's yard, outwitted the dog, and stuffed four chickens from the pen into my sack. I took them home to my approving mother. I stole coal from the train cars at the railway station. During the night air raids, when every­one was in the shelters, I entered the empty, unlocked houses. I stole odd things that would not be missed: knives, forks, food, soap, door mats, kettles, flower pots, jam, hair brushes, sugar tongs, napkins, towels-just one of each thing. It was the excitement of being a shadow, ghost-like. John the Phantom, moving unseen through their empty world. I could imagine them returning home, saying, "Where did I put that comb, that empty box of pins?" Then the objects would become forgotten, like the sock lost in the washing machine.

The Phantom hid in the clothes washer in the bathroom to watch the young woman lodger in our house undress for a bath. There was a small window in the top-filled washer from which I intended to peek out. I heard her come into the bathroom and run the water. I listened with held breath to the unfastening of clothes. I was just about to raise my eyes to the window when a thought struck me. What if she saw my eyes in the washer window? How could I explain why I was in the washing machine? I struggled with logical explanations. "Well, Miss, I was looking for a lost sock." Who would believe that? I couldn't think of anything plausible, so I just hid in the bottom, trapped in my own adventure, listening to the splashing of water, until she dressed and left. Then I lifted the lid and vanished.

During this time I began attending the Sidcup Elementary Modern School for Boys in my home county of Kent. The English schools had a form system where the first year you entered into either Form One-A, One-B, One-C, or One-D, depending on the assessment of intelligence. For those of questionable mental capacity there was Form One-X. Based on my behavior and general strangeness, this is where I was assigned. In part it was because of the big mistake I made of telling a teacher at school about my dreams and visions. On and off for years I had had these glimpses of other worlds that I considered to be as real as everyday existence. The school authorities wanted to send me to a doctor, but my mother would have none of it. Then they tried to beat it out of me, but I responded with either lies or silence until they gave up.

Form One-X was quite a relief for me, as we were expected to be crazy. There was Nutty Herman, who drank ink, Philip the Clubfoot, and Plug Fenton, who had holes in his shoes from riding a bike without pedals. We had William the No-Sight, whose glasses were as thick as bottle bottoms, and Michael the Butcher, who pulled the heads off of birds and flowers, mice and bugs. There was James, whose mouth was so full of saliva it overflowed his chin, covering his shirt with stains, and Charlie the Trembler, whose head twitched and hands shook. Filling out Form One-X was Smitty, who was fat, Hamish, who was from Scotland, Jimmy Big Cock, Paul, who was strapped into a wheelchair, Cassidy, from Ireland, and me, John the Silent, who had decided not to talk to adults.

Being in Form One-X was like finding my family. They were like me. We were an outcast clan of the other school forms. Mr. Jones from Wales was our main teacher, and we all knew some­thing was wrong with him because he was not in the war. Mr. Jones was exiled to Form One-X, and because it was assumed we could not learn the regular curriculum, he developed his own. He had that singsong Welsh voice and he read us lots of stories: Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Harold: Last of the Saxon Kings, The White Company, Arthur, and Boudicca, Queen of the lceni. Time and again we would get Mr. Jones to tell us the tribal stories and myths.

All of us young boys in Form One-X became real Celts and Boudicca was our Goddess. We never worshipped God because he was a male and for us all the tribal gods were women. We built a shrine to Boudicca in the woods and would paint ourselves blue. Blue was the Celtic bond in our tribe, and we would always wear something blue -- blue tie, blue socks, blue shirt, whatever. Crazy Herman used to drink all our blue ink with the hope that it would turn his skin permanently blue. We were all surprised when it did not. But that did not stop us from experimenting.

Half the day we would have classes and the other half we would do something useful like work in the garden or polish floors. Mr. Jones trooped around the school with us on our after­noon jobs as we swept the school halls, mopped the bathrooms, and dug, weeded, and planted the school gardens. We took turns pushing Paul in his wheelchair, which became a chariot for us, the "One-X Celts." The other forms were the Romans, marching from class to class in double columns at the sound of the period bell. We were ragtag, skipping, hopping, slouching, and hobbling along with Paul in the chariot, with our mops and brooms as swords and spears. We shot spitballs at the Romans as they marched past and thumbed our noses at the administration.

We often made tea for the teachers as part of our duties. One day my pal, Plug, pissed into the tea water to see if the dumb Romans would notice. They didn't! They thought it tasted just fine, even special! After that discovery we all excitedly took turns until we came to Wally. Wally was part gypsy and I suspect he had really strong and exotic pee. When the administration began to investigate the school water supply, it was getting too dose to home, so we stopped. We knew they thought we were dumb, and it never occurred to them to wonder what we thought about them. In fact, all of us in Form One-X figured out very quickly that if the teachers thought we were crazy by the way we acted we would be free from their regimentation. Outside of our group we were viewed as crazy. Within the group we accepted each other with our individual oddities.

Once the Head Master, retired army officer, came to our class and was pleased that we were learning so much about history. He told us a story about how great the Roman army was because it brought law and order to Britain. We could not believe our ears. We sat frozen in silence. He must have thought we were enthralled, because he went on for hours about Roman accomplishments. And at the end he said, "Boys, you are doing so well that you will soon be out of here and into the regular forms."

That was it. We had an emergency meeting down at the end of the playing field.

"We have to go underground," said Cassidy, the Irish boy, "just like the IRA."

"No, no!" said Plug. "They're just a bunch of murderers." We all looked at each other in desperation.

"Why don't we just act more like ourselves?" suggested crazy Herman.

That was it! We all turned to look with new admiration at Herman. He saved the tribe that day with his brilliant idea. Later we lost him. This happened when the woodworking teacher, who bullied everyone, hit him about the head in a rage and Herman lashed back. Other teachers came running in and dragged Herman off to the Head Master's room.

We did not see him again until the next morning when the whole school assembled in the hall for the daily singing of school songs, hymns, and Roman anthems. The song we liked best was Blake's "And Did His Feet in Ancient Times." Most of the words were tribal until the God part. After hymns there would be announcements and then punishments, which could mean any­thing from having your name read out loud to being called up in front of the whole school. This day two teachers marched Herman into assembly. Between them a stool was set up on the stage. Herman faced the school while the charges were read out. We were in the front row. He looked at us. I remember the pain and anguish in his terrified eyes. Then an amazing thing happened. Seeing us, his heart-brothers, he winked.

It was the bravery of a true Celtic warrior that winked. After that they dragged him over to the stool, took down his trousers, and gave him twelve cuts of the cane -- one for each Fucking Apostle. Toward the end he sobbed uncontrollably. We flinched at each stroke. We never saw Herman again after the caning but we heard they sent him to a school for boys on a training ship. We imagined him chained to the oars in a Roman galley. But we had learned our lesson. Never hit a Roman on his turf and never let them know what is going on.

Form One-X graduated to Form Two-X, and the tales told by Mr. Jones of the historical figures Nelson, Wellington, and Drake subdued the Celtic wildness. The sun of the British Empire rose in my mind. There were Churchill's stories of his adventures in the Boer War. And here he was, still alive, nonchalantly smoking his cigar in the face of the hysterical and demonic Hitler. I was ready to fight on the beaches as we changed from wild Celts to the Thin Red Line. Paul in his wheelchair became the artillery. We patrolled with wooden rifles, our bare bayonets glinting before the enemy-the nose-picking, stupid, dirty, Nazi horde. It was just us, defending all that was good, all that was English, all that was fair play, all that was clean. As we marched along we would sing:

Goebels he only had one ball
Goering had two but very small
Himmler had something similar
But poor old Hitler had no balls at all!

For Christmas of 1944 my mother took us to London on Boxing Day to see the stage show Peter Pan and afterwards, as a special treat, we went to a Chinese restaurant. I clearly remember walking into the entrance of the restaurant with its unfamiliar smells and sounds and looking up at a large golden statue of the Buddha, who looked back at me smiling. There was something quite shocking about that encounter, and while eating I kept looking around to see if he was watching me.

A plague of measles and pneumonia struck many of the children at our school. From my bedroom window I looked across the street to the bedroom of Alice Green with whom I was distantly in love. She contracted pneumonia and within a week had died. The curtains were drawn and I visualized her lying waxen-like upon her deathbed. I too became ill with both measles and pneumonia. I heard the doctor talking to my mother in the hallway and he said, "If his breathing becomes labored, call me right away." I think they were expecting me to die. The curtains of my room were open and I remember looking into the sky at the sunrise and being somewhat delirious with fever. I imagined the golden Chinese Buddha appearing in the sky and coming down toward me and entering my heart. The fever broke and gradually I recovered. From then on I was always attracted to images of the Buddha.

Toward the end of the war I hardly ever went to school, but I read constantly. Even now I can hear my mother saying, "John, get your nose out of that book." I thought that escape was possible within books. Perhaps I could be like Allen Quartermain with my Lee-Enfield rifle, strolling unafraid through the snake­infested jungles where even the natives were afraid to go. Or perhaps like one of the endless array of Victorian writers who trekked, hiked, climbed, or hacked their way through impenetrable wilderness, bringing afternoon tea, cricket, morals, manners, arid stiff upper lips to unenlightened barbarous tribes. Or a white-skinned, blonde Tarzan, with only a knife, knowing more than even the black natives. Taking tea would never be a problem because he was an English lord. In turn I reveled in becoming Hornblower, Alfred, Mallory, Scott of the Antarctic, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, and Ulysses. Sometimes I was Hawkeye, with my rifle and my two trusted Indian servants, in the American wilderness.

My stealing stopped. I took a test at school in the last part of my second year. The masters were astounded by the results. I was Mr. Jones's success story. I was put into Form Three-B. Being English instead of a Celt had paid off. Relentlessly I set to work. I read all the required books by the end of the year. I was top in exams of Form Three-B. In my last year I was put into Form Four-A and never saw the boys in Form One-X again. I watched Lawrence Olivier in the film Henry V with the fullness of pride that I was English. A great Union Jack hung on one wall in my room. The cross of St. George the Dragon Slayer hung on the other. I carried it to London for the Victory Over Europe parade. Vera Lynn sang "We'll Meet Again."

At fourteen I left school, worked for a while at the K. B. Radio factory in Foots Cray, and then became a commie waiter at the Savoy Hotel. At fifteen I was a bar boy at the University Club in London and saw Churchill puffing on his signature cigar. I signed papers to join the Royal Navy but was rejected because of my color blindness. Somewhat disappointed, I applied to the Merchant Navy and the P & 0 Line, which would train me to be a steward.

By coincidence my mother wrote me at this time, offering to pay my way to the United States and also that of my older step­sister, Mickey. Some years earlier my mother had married an American sailor and had left for America with my two younger sisters. My father, at the age of sixty-four, ran away with a twenty-­ two-year-old woman to a cottage by the sea. I, alone as usual, filled out the emigration forms at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square and decided that whichever papers came through first would decide whether I entered the Merchant Navy or journeyed to America.

The American papers came first, by post. We were to sail aboard the USS America from Southampton the first week of March, 1950. Our old house in Sidcup was sold and in the back garden I built a bonfire with a wooden toy ship on top. I lined up the lead soldiers of the Coldstream Guard's Band, formally saluted them, and lit the fire. The blue baby, the Indian woman, the mental retard, Form One-X, my father, the Celts, and the war all went up in flames. I left the ashes. From the tourist deck of the USS America, I took the acceptance papers from the Merchant Navy's P & O Training School and dropped them into the expanding gap between ship and dock. They fluttered into the oily waters. Within a week I would be sixteen, English, and in America.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:48 am

Chapter 2: Illusions of America


The crossing was rough. The ship plowed through a March storm of sixty-foot breaking waves. Most of the passengers were seasick and there were buckets in all the cabin-ways. The crew was constantly mopping up vomit. But me, I was in my realm, the open sea. I ate every meal and purchased a two-pound box of Whitman chocolates and ate all of that too. Food went through me like air. As thin as a rail, I was six feet and 135 pounds.

After the storm the ship crept past the Statue of Liberty into a gray, ice-filled New York harbor. Most of the passengers had come as emigrants or refugees. Me? I came as John, the English Adventurer, expecting to see John Wayne striding the wooden sidewalks of New York with horses and wagons rumbling by. Instead I was met with deep concrete canyons occupied by blowing garbage and yellow cabs.

In the 101st Street East Side apartment where we lived every­one spoke Italian. On Sundays, with me dressed in my English tweeds, we ate great feasts of pasta. I was introduced to Maria, also sixteen, who had a body that would put Venus to shame. Her uncle, Jimmy the Bandit, jealously guarded her, so I could only look at her from a distance, while stuffing my mouth with her mother's spaghetti. Her skin was so olive it almost made me faint.

It quickly dawned on me that if I wanted to have something like Maria I would need to be successful at some type of work. Within the period of a few years I became in rapid succession a Western Union messenger, a shipping clerk, a gas stove repairman, a telephone receptionist, a watch repair apprentice, a magazine salesman, a footman for Jock Whitney, and a waiter at the 21 Club. All of this was great experience but I was not impressing Maria and I was getting restless, so I thought I would head out West.

I purchased a 30-30 lever-action Winchester Saddle Ring carbine, a pair of Acme cowboy boots, and an outfit of roebuck jeans and jacket. I purchased a bus ticket to Las Vegas, Nevada, and practiced saying "Howdy" in my best western movie imitation. I burned my English tweeds and set off on a Greyhound, eating chili with beans at every bus stop we pulled up to. Along the way I actively imagined my new persona.

I decided to change my name to Chris Scott, who was surely a distant relative of Randolph Scott. I was born in Bitter Creek, Wyoming, and was sent to England for schooling because we were relatives of Scott of the Antarctic exploration. It all sounded quite airtight to me and surely would impress any Maria I met. Not leaving anything to chance, I purchased an authentic Indian beaded thunderbird necklace. I figured if I ran into any redskins they would most certainly recognize me as a long-lost brother and invite me to marry the chief's beautiful daughter, Maria.

Las Vegas was not impressed with me when I finally got off the Greyhound bus five days later. I spent the night at the Salvation Army shelter and headed out for a real cow town; Mesquite. Arriving, I slung my kit bag and carbine over my back and swaggered, John Wayne style, into the adobe cafe. With my last silver dollar I ordered chili and beans and in a loud voice, with my best Texas accent, put out the offer, "Does anyone around here need any horses broke?"

In a masterful stroke I flipped the Bull Durham tobacco tag so it hung out of the top of my denim jacket pocket and turned around on the swivel counter seat to face the breakfast-eating crowd. Nobody reacted except the waitress, who backed away from me and retreated into the kitchen. From behind the swinging door I heard laughter, which temporarily punched a hole in my act. I rallied, however, and picked up my gear and headed out the door.

I had not gone far up the sand street before the waitress came running after me, grabbed my sleeve, and said, "Sonny, try Harley at the gas station; he needs help." My first impulse was to keep going on to St. George, Utah. Sonny, indeed! A gas station attendant! Not for Chris Scott of Bitter Creek. At that time I was near the gas station, so I thought, Well, what the hell. I found Harley, a man in mechanics' overalls. He said, "Well, I need someone to feed my cattle in the feed lot, back of the garage. Can you ride a horse?" He looked at me with curiosity.

"You bet," I answered, with a confidence born of imagination.

"Well," he said, hesitantly, "You can sleep in the garage and I'll pay you three dollars a day. Okay?"

"You bet," I answered.

"There's a saddle and bridle on the fence over there. Saddle up the black in the corral and I'll take you over to the feed lot."

I walked over to the fence, slung the saddle across my back in Randolph Scott style, took the bridle in my left hand, opened the gate, and for the next hour chased the black horse all over the corral. Then I heard a loud whistle and the horse headed for Harley and the two men who had come to watch the display.

"Hey kid," said one, "bring that saddle over here." I did just that.

"You might need a blanket," said another.

I was just about to answer that I was not cold when he flung it across the horse's back. They put on the saddle and bridle. "Kind of rusty, ain't you, kid," chuckled one. "Here," said Harley, and he handed me the reins. What happened next should have worked, as I had seen it in the movies enough times. I put my left foot in the stirrup, my hand on the saddle horn, and was about to pull myself up into the saddle when the horse put his hoof on the toe of my right boot. I could not remove my left foot from the stirrup and the horse would not move his hoof from my foot. The three guys were rolling around with laughter. To make matters worse, I let go and fell backward on the ground, my foot still in the stirrup and the other still pinned under the horse's hoof. This produced more convulsive laughter.

Harley let me stay and paid me three dollars a day to entertain everyone. After that I got a job on a ranch in Nebraska where I lived in a real bunkhouse with three other hands and earned four dollars a day with food. But after six months I got fired for shooting the ears off one of a team of horses, which happened this way.

It was in the fall and flocks of ducks were migrating south over the Nebraska cornfields. Chuck, one of the hands, pulled up to me in a manure spreader with a team of horses. "Quick, Chris," he yelled at me, shoving a 10-gauge shotgun into my hands. "Get in the back; there's a flock of birds in the top field." I jumped into the empty manure spreader and Chuck whipped up the horses and headed for the field.

Unfortunately, he had the spreader wagon in gear, which meant the chain floor used to move the manure to the back of the wagon into the whirling arms of the spreader was running under my feet. I had to keep hopping up and down in the back to avoid getting caught up in the tracks. Chuck was so excited he didn't hear me yell to stop. The sky was thick with low flying ducks. "Shoot! Shoot!" yelled Chuck, as I fell back into the wagon. I tried to aim the gun into the air and pulled the trigger.

We both saw the left-side horse's ears disappear in smoke. Chuck managed to stop the horses about a mile down the road. After a chewing out by the boss I decided I'd had enough of Western life. I got a suit at the Salvation Army store in Omaha, burned my cowboy outfit, sold my Winchester, and headed back east to settle down.

Because of my farming and ranching experience out west I secured a job as a farming instructor in a state school for retarded young adults. I was back in Form One-X, except now I was the teacher or, as it turned out, the "Farming Gang Boss." It was more like a prison than school, even though it was called a state training school. The farming department had about 100 Holstein cows and extensive fields of market-garden vegetables, from tomatoes to spinach.

I was given a gang of about fifteen teenagers who would have fit very well into Form One-X, and I took them out into the fields to weed, pick, hoe, dig, rake, burn brush, or whatever was needed or invented to keep us occupied. It was my first decent job and I felt like finally I was someone. I was twenty and could look forward to all kinds of health plans, insurance, and a retirement package.

Now that I had a good job, a wife was needed to complete the picture. I successfully courted a young secretary by the name of Helen who worked at the local school. We planned to be married in June. With our combined wages we rented a small house near the training school and furnished it on the hire-purchase plan. I made no attempt to sleep with Helen because this was the woman I was going to marry and that meant purity beyond mere sexual lust.

It was a grand wedding. The church was filled with flowers, tuxedos, and white gowns. A singer sang I Love You Truly from the church balcony and I was in wedded, blissful heaven. There were champagne, toasts, and the wedding cake with the effigies of Helen and me on top of three tiers held up by three columns. The bride threw the flower bouquet and we were off on our honeymoon to New York City. That night we tried to make love, but when I came to touching her vagina she cried and ran from the room. Honeymoon jitters, I said to myself. Be patient, be calm, be kind. Remember, this is the pure love of your life.
After a year, wedded bliss had turned to wedded hell. We still had not consummated our wedding -- no sex. We went to counselors, psychiatrists, and fortune-tellers, all of no help. Finally, I sold the furniture, quit my job, and left forever. I went to New York and got a job as a summer camp counselor at University Settlement Camp in Beacon, New York. I had sworn off marriage for the rest of my life when I met Ruth, a young, intelligent, beautiful Jewish girl. I say girl because she was only seventeen at the time and I had just turned twenty-one. I fell deeply in love.

A court somewhere in Georgia annulled my marriage to Helen and I asked Ruth to marry me. She refused on the grounds that while she felt I was wildly romantic she did not think I would make a reliable or stable husband or future father. I was heartbroken-devastated. I went to New York City and got a job as a group worker at University Settlement House. Still devastated and depressed by the rejection of Ruth, I became very drunk one night and cut my wrists in desperation. But, being in the state of intoxication, I rolled over onto my wrists and woke up in the morning to find the pressure had stopped the bleeding. My recovery was slow, but in any case I was determined that one day I would marry Ruth.

I registered and took art classes at the Art Students League and Columbia University. One of the professors at Columbia said if I really wanted to learn to draw as well as Leonardo DaVinci, I should get a job at a mortuary and draw dissected bodies. Taking him upon his word, I got a job dissecting aortas from cadavers at St. Vincent's Hospital. One day a doctor came into the mortuary and asked me if I knew anything about pumps. I said I did and he asked if I would help them fix their pump. It happened to be one of the first heart­ lung machines, whereupon I was offered a position as a surgical technician with his team of doctors and nurses. It was there that I met and later married Sylvia, a young nurse from Britain. Ruth, I heard, married a Jewish doctor by the name of Joe.

Sylvia and I returned to England and settled in Devon. She had a nursing job at the Exeter General Hospital and I secured a position at St. Loyes College for the disabled, where I was the preliminary training instructor. In addition to work, I began to attend art school part time, which eventually became two years of full-time enrollment.

One fine spring day I received a telephone call from Ruth informing me that she had divorced Joe and that she was coming that early summer to stay in Paris. I quickly obtained a scholarship to study art in Paris that summer. Sylvia was not included in the plans.

Ruth and I met in Paris and began a torrid love affair. We were unable to let go of each other, even for a second, and knew we had to be together forever. In the midst of our passion Sylvia showed up at the hotel, having tracked me down. There was a tremendous row, with anger, accusation, and tears. Because I could hardly afford to eat in those days, I was quite faint from the buffeting of the emotional storm. Somehow, though, the whole turmoil only served to bring Ruth and me closer together.

Before Ruth returned to America to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois, we decided to live together. I was to follow her in two months after I had acquired a divorce from Sylvia. Ruth was four months pregnant with our first child when we were married in Greenwich, Connecticut. Ruth's parents were not at all happy about her daughter marrying outside of the Jewish faith-least of all to a ne'er-do-well like me without any prospects of a job. However, I was always one for grand ideas.

After a year of graduate school, Ruth and I decided to start our own school on the east coast of America. I borrowed some money and bought a car to take her and our newborn daughter to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The following summer we started a summer camp for exceptional children in Elizabethtown.

The camp was well attended and Ruth and I considered it a success. The second summer's program was winding down when we received an invitation to attend a cocktail party given by some educators in Lake Placid, New York. I was having a conversation with a gentleman from Rhode Island who worked in the correctional system there. It was the early 1960s, and a lot of teenagers were getting arrested for smoking marijuana. When I asked him what it cost the state to house these young people he replied that it was about eleven thousand dollars per year. I rashly said, "Okay, I could do it for six." Immediately he said, "If you can, I will send you five people next fall."

Ruth and I borrowed money from a rich friend and purchased a 600-acre farm in Paradox, New York. It was nestled in a picturesque valley with a barn and old farmhouse. We contracted with Connecticut and New York, in addition to Rhode Island, and that fall we started Highland Community Residential School. We had thirty students and ten teachers. Everybody worked on the farm in the morning and in the afternoon we had academic schoolwork. We trained the students specifically to pass the New York State Equivalency High School Exam. During this hectic turmoil of establishing a school, Ruth, who had been pregnant, gave birth to our second daughter.

While this outline seems somewhat conventional, my fantasies about reality continued to display eccentricities. Warfare in particular -- or wars -- were a continual fascination of mine. We played out this fascination under the guise of teaching history. This was something akin to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. We divided the school and staff into two groups and over several days we acted out the Roman Celtic wars. In these wars the Celts always won. We also reenacted the Roman and Greek wars -­ again the Romans were soundly defeated.

One Saturday we bused the entire student body to Ticonderoga to see Charlton Heston in the movie Khartoum. Inspired, we spent the next day reconstructing an old cabin on the property with which to play out the story of the beleaguered Khartoum. The majority of the students acted as the fanatical Mahdi hoard, dressed in white sheets and bearing spears. I, as Gordon himself, was holed up in the derelict cabin with a few hardy students, a meager food supply, and two six-pounder muzzle-loading cannons. These cannons were loaded with gun powder and steel wool so that when they were fired at night a shower of hot metal sparks would shoot out about 50 yards all around.

Sure enough, that very night, sounds were heard in the large field that stretched before us. I ordered the gunners to stand by. When the sounds grew even louder I gave the order, "Open fire." The cannons roared out, sending flaming steel wool across the fields. Through the night air we could hear the Mahdi's fanatical hoard screaming as they ran off with burning sheets.

The next day the student "horde" was seen reforming itself under the command of two of the resident teaching staff. They had acquired new sheets during the night and had constructed a battering ram from a telegraph pole on a set of wagon wheels. The sheeted horde made their approach across the field and began to beat down the door of the cabin while we threw gunpowder­ loaded tennis ball bombs in amongst them. They finally withdrew, but we knew that we could not sustain another assault.

That night my soldiers and I snuck down to the barn and located several buckets into which we poured cow manure and a few dead rats. This was our last hope. The plan was to retreat to the rafters when the Mahdi hoards invaded the cabin, pour the offal on them, and then surrender.

Sure enough, they attacked that morning and managed to throw an explosive devise into our ammunition box-which sent rockets and fireworks exploding within the cabin. We rushed into the rafters and hauled up our buckets. The maddened yelling and screaming mob of Mahdis swarmed into the cabin, whereupon they were drenched in cow shit and dead rats. Screaming, they ran out and my lads and I nobly surrendered.

The wars escalated and our equipment and props improved dramatically. Two U.S. Naval whaleboats were donated to the school, which we immediately rigged with four-pounder bow guns and one-pounder swivel guns. Our seamstresses and tailors fabricated 18th-century Royal Navy uniforms for the students and teachers. We purchased cutlasses, pikes, and muskets and set forth to retake the colonies for King George. We took part in reenactment battles at Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Fort William Henry.

While this was a coed school, the boys were the main participants in the Royal Navy reenactments. The girls, feeling a bit left out, requested an all-girl trip on Lake Champlain in the whale­boats -- to which I agreed. It was a warm September day when we set off down the lake with the girls sweating at the oars, singing "Row, My Bully Girls, Row." They then stripped off their shirts and I stood at the tiller looking down at these bare-breasted Amazons pulling away as a cloud of red Monarch butterflies engulfed us. The boat was white on the outside and red on the inside. The autumn colors on the shore glided by. The sky was cloudless and there was the hum of an occasional dragonfly. The sound of the oars squeaked rhythmically in the oarlocks. The fantasy was complete and the environment cooperative. If realized in the moment, the mythology of the situation could have been seen as an omen of past, present, and future -- on the spot.

I COULD REINVENT MYSELF from one second to another without hesitation and could be completely immersed in whatever fantasy reality it was that was created -- whether it was a house, children, marriage, school, being an artist, a teacher, a cowboy, or a naval officer. Each could b accounted for without any real sense of reality.

But the interactive emotional reality of people surrounding me swelled and exploded. The fantasy of my living happily ever after with Ruth ended because of my infidelity. We had terrible fights and we decided that I should leave. As I left our dream house forever, Ruth in a fit of rage shouted, ''And take this with you!" She threw a statue of the Buddha at me and it hit the door­post next to my head. I picked it up and vanished. She found security in a seemingly more stable Joe and married him, and through the law courts, acquired custody of my daughters and ownership of the property. I was devastated. I wanted to kill myself. I was engulfed in depression for two years -- my fantasies having failed me, or me having failed my fantasies. Then I met Chogyam Trungpa [1] Rinpoche. [2]



1 During the 1974 Seminary, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche explained, "The word Trungpa is an honorific term, which literally means 'attendant.' Ideally when somebody serves their guru twenty-four hours a day. they begin to get some glimpse of the workings of his mind. They begin to get messages and reminders of awareness and things like that. So the best way to develop is to be the guru's servant. That's the tradition.''

2 Rinpoche means "greatly precious"; a title given to especially qualified masters.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:49 am

Chapters 1 and 2: Commentary

In my early life I learned to relate to everything in terms of war. World War II had made it clear to me that in order to defend myself I needed to have some type of a weapon close at hand. These were almost always guns. I lived out my fantasies of my wartime experiences in reading biographies and histories of different world conflicts.

I saw my relationships with others in terms of domination or submission. When challenged on any issue I would resort to outrage and anger. I had very little or no insight into my own behavioral patterns. In my world, I came first. Its not that I didn't try to please others in order to get what I wanted, but there was no real realization of other people or their suffering or their struggles. It was only me. My path was to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

I, like everyone else, had redeeming qualities. I could be kind and generous. And although I had built a fairly secure shield against pain around myself, there were times that this shield could be penetrated by the intense suffering of others. But rather than investigating this pain I would turn to depression with feelings of hopelessness and nihilism. I can remember from early on thinking that God didn't give a shit, so why should I.

At times I had altruistic feelings of wanting to change the world and the society. I wanted things to be better. But I was not inclined to start with myself, and all my attempts to change things brought more chaos and more confusion, and more bewilderment and more depression.

My reality consisted of being caught in the realm of ignorance and bewilderment which was essentially quite painful. In order to escape or to try to escape the pain I went from one situation to another, hoping that the next event or person or situation would somehow solve the basic problem and alleviate the pain.

I had the idea from very early on in my life that what was required of me was to have a good job, find a good wife, have a good house, and live happily ever after. This was reinforced by the society I was born into. My whole culture with its pop music about love and marriage perpetuated this type of living happily ever after. The problem was that the idea didn't match the reality. However, it did not occur to me to give up and it was a lot easier to blame others for my failures.

I wanted to be good, which in my mind meant true, pure, chaste, moral -- and above all I wanted to be loved. I felt that if I could attain these things, I could be loved. But these things were in direct conflict with my real desires and passions. And I had no idea of how to integrate these conflicts. I also had no idea of how to integrate my spiritual and temporal life. I lived by a list of things that were good and a list of things that were bad. There might have been gray areas but these remained virtually unexplored.

It's interesting perhaps to look at the mythology involved in one's life. There is a certain karma attached to any birth. In my case it was a traumatic birth; the colors black and blue; the Indian woman in the semi-detached house who committed suicide; the extremes of hot and cold water; color blindness; not being sure of one's gender; having visions; and being labeled as retarded. In a very strange way it made me, later on, a good candidate for Buddhist vajrayana [3] practices. From that point of view it's interesting to look at one's so-called negative personality traits as perhaps being pathways to further wisdom.



3 Vajrayana, Sanskrit for "Diamond Vehicle"; a school of Buddhism which was practiced in Northern India during the middle of the first millennium. Enlightenment in Vajrayana is the realization of non-duality.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:52 am

Chapter 3: The First Seminary


The first moment I ever saw Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I felt an overwhelming connection to him, which was both baffling and inexplicable. He had a Buddhist center in New England which was really just a farmhouse and barn. There was also a big army tent set up in which Rinpoche gave talks and the students did meditation practice. Rinpoche was going to give three talks over the weekend about a Tibetan Buddhist farmer called Marpa. A friend of mine, George, who looked and acted like Michael Caine, had told me that he had been out drinking with Rinpoche and thought he was a great guy. He mentioned that Rinpoche had been in a car accident and was a cripple as a result. People called Rinpoche "Rimp the Gimp," which he did not seem to mind.

I had driven up to the Buddhist farm and signed up for the weekend. Equipped with my sleeping bag, I planned to sleep out in the fields. The center had a meeting on that first morning, as it was the custom to assign jobs. I volunteered to wash dishes and repair the gravel driveway coming into the farm. As I was fixing the holes in a bend of the road an old battered car came along, and there, sitting in the backseat, was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He had on blue bib overalls and a plaid shirt. He was brown with long jet-black hair, a round face with beautiful brown eyes, and a smile like the Buddha himself. He gave me a wave of his hand. It was as if I had been struck by warm electrical energy. I was immediately attracted to his presence and was determined to speak to him.

I finished my chores and did my meditation, of which I was kind of proud because I had sat for a whole hour, entertaining myself with remembering all the movies I had seen. In the evening I went to Rinpoche's talk about Marpa. [4] Rinpoche came into the tent supported by one of the students as he limped toward the chair in which he was seated to give the talk. I could not understand a thing that he was saying about this chap Marpa. In fact, it seemed to me that Marpa was not a real farmer but a translator who was treating one of the farmhands, Milarepa, [5] very badly by having him build silos all over the farm.

On looking back, if I had tuned in a little, I would have found the spirits were rolling around in the grass laughing their heads off at what they saw in store for me. Rinpoche mesmerized me. After the talk, I approached him, looked straight into his eyes, and said, "I want an interview with you." I was looking at an open plain with a giant sun rising in it and thousands of birds flying in a blue sky. He said something like, "We will see," and as I walked away I asked myself, "Johnny, what the fuck was that?"

That night I drank a bottle of vodka with a chap named Tom Rich, [6] who was a baker, and his pal Ken. I got so drunk that I was seeing double, so I got up and started off for my car, a small white Opel two-seater. The wind was coming up and storm clouds were moving in from the west. I dragged out my sleeping bag and looked around for a place to sleep. Not twenty feet away I saw a tent with the door flaps blowing open and inside was a naked girl starting to get into her sleeping bag. I crawled into her tent and without a word kissed her and she kissed me back with passion and energy.

At this point I was not sure what world I was in, but I went ahead anyway. It was beginning to thunder and the lightning was flashing. Then it started to pour. I took off my clothes in a hurry and this spirit-woman helped me with them. I took her hand and led her out into the storm, and we lay down in the tall grass and started to make love. It was like making love to the earth itself. When lightning flashed I could see only parts of her body. Her nipples were hard and rigid and I drank the juice of her body, which was salty and mixed with rain. I had my tongue deep inside her, and between the rolling thunder I heard her moan. We went on until the storm passed.

She went back to her abandoned shelter and I struggled over to my car, crawled under it, and went to sleep. I woke at daylight and banged my head on the car exhaust pipe. Surprisingly, I did not have a hangover.

There on the ground were my clothes in a neat pile. "That was some dream," I thought, but then looked at myself and saw that I was nude. I never take my clothes off when I sleep outdoors! As I was dressing I also realized there was not a single bug bite on me: Then paranoia hit me. Was this girl real? There was no way I could recognize her except for an erect nipple.

Nobody was looking at me. and the Buddhists were getting ready to do their holy trip, so I joined in and went along. Intently I looked at every woman for a reaction but not a one even looked familiar.

George and I were sent over to Rinpoche's house to build a doorway from his bedroom to the outside balcony. While George and I worked on it I said o him, ''I'm going to be Rinpoche's butler. He needs a butler." I had never been a butler, although I was a footman in England when I was fourteen and I worked later as a bar boy at the University Club in London. George responded with an assessing look. "Why not," he said. "You will have to get an interview with Rinpoche. They know you were Head Master at a school for wayward kids and they think you have money." George was talking about Rinpoche's students who were the administrators. "Go and speak with Marv. He's Rinpoche's secretary."

After lunch everyone was sitting around on the lawn relaxing and talking about meditation and Buddhism and Marpa's farm. Marv strolled over toward me. "I'm going to talk this guy into get­ting me an interview with Rinpoche," I thought. He came over.

"Hi John. I hope it's alright to call you John?"

"Fine," I answered.

"Would you like to have an interview with Rinpoche?" It blew my mind.

"Sure, that would be great."

"Well, let's say this afternoon during meditation period."

"Great, I'll be there."

I stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to Rinpoche's office. I had been there bout an hour trying to read a Buddhist book but I couldn't understand it at all. When people passed I read intently, pretending to be a good student. When I got bored even of pretending, I began to read the bulletin board. There was a list of students going to a seminary with Rinpoche. I'll be on that list, I said to myself. I'm going.

At that moment Marv appeared and took me up the creaking stairs to Rinpoche's room. Opening the door there he was, seated on a chair. There was a pillow on the floor. Marv motioned for me to sit on it and then he left and I was alone with Rinpoche. At last! Then there was silence. We looked at each other. I was slightly embarrassed and turned my eyes away. My heart was racing and I tried desperately to calm myself down. Then he said, "We have heard of you."

"I've heard of you," I laughingly replied.

He smiled, saying, "Welcome to the family." His warmth engulfed my body.

"Thank you, sir," I said somewhat feebly, but feeling more relaxed.

"What are you doing now?"


I watched the dust specs dancing in the light of the sun. Then he said, "Would you like to go to Wyoming? We are having a small get-together there."

"Oh, the seminary."


"Well, I'd love to go, sir."

"Okay. Speak to Marv about the details."

I stood up and we shook hands. "Welcome, Johnny." As I left the room I noticed that someone had drawn a spider on the wall. In a bit of a daze, I walked down the stairs to the outside and a woman approached me. She had brown eyes and a harelip. She looked at me and said that it was wonderful last night and "Thank you so much." We kissed and she walked away.

At that time I was living on a boat in Camden, Maine. After my meeting with Rinpoche I drove back to Camden to get my gear for the trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the first seminary was to be held. There would be seventy students living in a rented hotel. for three months. Notably, among the students was Alan Ginsberg. George, my friend, was also going and we would be roommates. He had his doctorate in psychology and was teaching at a university in Montreal.

When I arrived in Jackson Hole three days later, I found George already there. We got ourselves set up in the ski cabin. I slept on the main floor and George slept in a loft above me. Rinpoche was in Sweden and would arrive in two weeks. The first part of the seminary was a sixteen-day meditation period. We were to meditate every day for ten hours. Since I had meditated only a couple of times, and then for only an hour or so, I wasn't thrilled about meditating for ten hours at a stretch. Ten hours a day for sixteen days seemed a bit daunting to me. But when I looked at the other students, most of whom had been students of Rinpoche's for at least a year and who had done some serious sitting meditation time, I figured I could do it too. The students ranged in ages from twenty to fifty and they were teachers, doctors, students, artists, poets, secretaries, and administrators from Rinpoche's Buddhist Centers in Vermont and Colorado.

I decided that my tactic for making it through the meditation periods would be to pretend I was "still hunting." This was a hunting technique that required you to sit for hours without the slightest movement. If you did move, you did it in ultra­slow motion. It might take several minutes to move your head to look in the direction of a sound. When I hunted deer in the Adirondacks, I figure it took me about forty hours of sitting still to bag a deer. Hunting in New Jersey or Pennsylvania wasn't nearly as tedious-about four or five hours of sitting per deer.

I went through the same routine every day. Eat, sleep, sit. Sit, eat, sleep. I mentally went through all the old movies I remembered and all my old romances. I made up new romances, sexual fantasies, food fantasies, and career fantasies-whatever I could to entertain myself. Slowly I ran out of material and got fits of what the meditation instructors called "hot boredom'' and "cool boredom." It was just plain old boredom to me. The walking meditation periods proved a little more interesting. There was a young Jewish girl who, to the delight of all the men, wiggled her ass as she walked. But soon I was bored even with her ass.

One day I discovered a case of escargot in the food closet. Each night, after the last sitting at 10:30, George and I would invite people over for escargot parties. What I really wanted was to find a woman to sleep with, but everyone seemed paired off or serious about the meditation practice. Everyone, except the administrators, sat for the first sixteen days. We used one of the hotel's cafeterias as the shrine room, and you could watch the cable car go to the top of the mountain. Occasionally, I could spot a moose on the hillside. Up down, up down, up down, up down, down up went the cable car. My mind was running on empty.

Then one afternoon there was a commotion by a window in the shrine room. We all looked and there was Rinpoche making faces through the window. Everyone laughed and I renewed my empty mind with the exciting expectation of spending time with my savior, father, best friend, ultimate mother, and teacher of my enlightenment. My Guru!

The last two days of sitting I spent planning for my eventual enlightenment. Hooray! It shouldn't take too long, I thought. I figured I could probably reach enlightenment in about two years and then I wouldn't have to spend all this time sitting around doing nothing. would be famous. People would say, "There goes John Perks. He's enlightened. And he did it so quickly!" I imagined this light coming from my head and wondered if it would radiate like a street lamp at night. Perhaps I'd have to wear a hood when I went out. I mused that this was the reason monks wore robes with hoods-in case they got enlightened.

Well, it seemed possible and exciting. The teaching session of the seminary was about to start. It was to be called the "Hinayana-Mahayana'' [7] section. The next section would be the Vajrayana. These were the three great vehicles of Buddhism-like Ford, Chevy, and Mazarati.

There were still sitting periods during the day. Then after supper, around eight or nine, Rinpoche would talk on a different subject. Everybody would get dressed up in their best clothes and go to the shrine room and wait for Rinpoche to show up. It was quite a fashion show. We all wanted Rinpoche to notice us, to acknowledge our potential for enlightenment. One look from Rinpoche was a treasure. He radiated a flash of gentleness, warmth, love, and joy in one look, one smile. All I had to do was plan to catch Rinpoche for myself and then I would have a constant supply of all that gentleness and love.

We always knew Rinpoche was coming when one of the administrators, his close students, came in to set up the incense and check the sound system. The administrators were close to Rinpoche, and I hated those fuckers. Whenever I saw them a gulf of hatred would well up in me. They were a pain in the ass now, but once I had stolen Rinpoche for myself their "generator of love" would be cut off from their circuits and plugged into mine.

I carefully kept these thoughts of hatred to myself, although I intuitively knew Rinpoche could read us all and I occasionally caught him watching me. Rinpoche not only read us but he had plans of his own for us. I had no idea how he read us and what he saw. But I had faith in that golden time when my complete and total enlightenment would occur and all would become clear in a flash of brilliant light.

Rinpoche's talks started with meditation instruction. I had already received instruction from one of the administrators, but Rinpoche's instruction was quite detailed and I found I had not been meditating all the time. No sweat, I thought. I can patch that up with a Band-Aid here and there. The talks progressed and I made notes in my loose-leaf folder. I studied the material on the eight stages of consciousness, mindfulness of body, livelihood, effort, mind, and then my favorite-"Art in Everyday Life". They were great talks.

Suddenly, while everything seemed to be going so well, a bombshell fell on my journey to enlightenment-the discovery of Tathagatagarbha. [8] I could hardly say it, let alone understand it. The conviction of my enlightenment began to dim and I was completely thrown just by the words: tagjor, dunpa, tsondru, migme-kyi-nyingje, and then some fellow called Sam Bhogakaya and the Bhumis. It sounded like an Indian rock group.

"Choje-Yangdag, tsondru, shunyata, Sosoyangdagpak-Rigpa. Any questions?" Rinpoche would ask and twenty hands would shoot up. I mean, these guys actually understood this gibberish.

I was in love with Rinpoche but I saw that I was never going to be able to understand this stuff. It just didn't make sense to me. These guys were talking about how the mind works. I mean, I already understood how the mind works-you eat, sleep, go to the movies, fuck, drive, get money, and do it all over again and everything's fine. I began to see Buddhism as an Asian way to brainwash us into ... into what? Something unimaginable, to my mind.

What could it be that Rinpoche wanted? Maybe he was just kind. The talks began to drag me down. Paramitas, madhyamika, soso tharpa, hayagriva, akyasangha, samantabhadra, sravakayana, shunyata, utpattikrama. I was going down fast. Even Sara, the young Jewish sexpot, was clicking along and asking questions like "Is that just the quality of greater transmutation in Maha and the Anu or is that way of working with the Bhindu somehow related to further transmutation or deeper transmutation?" I was sunk. I started to scribble in my notebook. The path to my enlightenment began to look like a damn long hike.

Rinpoche had inexhaustible energy. The talks lasted from ten at night to two or three in the morning. This was fast becoming worse than sitting meditation. We started having the talks before we had supper, and then we didn't eat until the wee hours of the morning. Then a miracle happened. One night Rinpoche was really into one particular talk. It got to be around eleven p.m. and people were getting tired. We had been sitting for ten hours that day and I was bone tired four hours ago. Then the guy behind me interrupted and asked, "Rinpoche. Could we take a break and have something to eat and talk later?"

"I second that," shouted someone else across the room.

"What!?" Rinpoche asked, astonished.

"We would like to take a break," they answered, and personally I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. Suddenly, like a lightening strike, Rinpoche got up, slammed down the microphone, knocked over his chair, and stormed out of the room. We were all shocked. It happened so fast that everyone was astonished. You could hear a pin drop in the room, it was so quiet. Some people ran out after Trungpa, yelling for him to come back.

"What happened?" I asked George. "Is the seminary over?"

"I have no idea," George said.

We went down to Rinpoche's room. People were outside his door pleading for him to come back and he wasn't saying much. Rather than sit around, I decided to do something practical, so I went off to the kitchen and got some food to take to Rinpoche and the other people. I came back into the room with the food and Rinpoche looked at me and said, "Thank you." I melted at his appreciation. Suddenly I realized, Of course, this is what I can do. It was the vision I had back in Vermont of being his butler coming true. I could make myself useful. I could cook, clean, even wash dishes, which the others hated to do. But washing dishes seemed better than listening to Sam Bhogakaya and the Bhumis. I could serve. I could serve Rinpoche. The dummy that wanted to take a break saved me.

So I volunteered to do all the dirty work. The jobs nobody wanted, I did-sweep, mop, wash, scrub, iron, and cook. I was in hog heaven peeling a mountain of potatoes. And Rinpoche said, "Thank you. Thank you, Johnny." I settled into a routine. I worked at my chores in the morning. In the afternoon I some­times ventured out with one of the female students to enjoy a hot pool that I had found in the mountains and a bottle of wine. Everyone was studying and practicing for long hours and we all felt inclined to take breaks. I didn't mind meditating on my schedule but it was getting excessive. I thought, It's not a bad life, this part of dharma, [9] as long as you don't have to meditate for unreasonably long hours.

As for the studying, my mind still could not grasp the fundamental concepts. I could, however, feel holy or special. Looking at the statue of the Buddha and then looking at myself, I thought, Paint me gold and nobody would know the difference. I bet I would look good in robes and I bet I could attract more pussy wearing them. It was really great. I had found my niche in the Buddhist community, the sangha. I was the housekeeper, a job no one else wanted.

Loving the contemplative life was going to be my lifestyle: a small bowl of rice, a gallon of sake, some humble robes, and lots of pussy. Rinpoche did a refuge vow for me, since another chap and I were the only non-Buddhist students at the seminary. The refuge vow is where you take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha and you become a Buddhist. Rinpoche gave me the name Yeshe Tungpa, which he tells me means "Trumpeter of Wisdom." Wow! I am the trumpeter of wisdom! I look in the mirror and say the name, "Trumpeter of Wisdom." This must mean I can play in Sam's band. I can see the billing at the Enlightenment Theater: Sam Bhogakaya and the Bhumis, starring john Perks, the Trumpeter of Wisdom.

Sound drums and trumpets, farewell sour annoy,
For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy ...
Tra Tra Pa Par du du da da tra boom.

If, at the time, I had made a list of my goals, they would have been the following:

1. There was no bullshit about helping other people. Fuck them! I loved Rinpoche. I wanted to be like him and I wanted his knowledge and power. In short, I wanted to become enlightened at any cost.

2. When I was enlightened I would obtain anything and any­one I wanted.

3. Do this in the shortest time possible-without hassles!

Rinpoche lived down the road from the Jackson Hole ski resort in a rented cabin with a young girl from South America. She had a great body, but I felt I should not make a move on her because she was Rinpoche's woman and it might ruin my chances of enlightenment. I was invited to dinner at the cabin. Tom Rich and Ken Green would be cooking with some of the other students, so I took my time with my dress-leather buckskin fringed shirt, navy blue pants, mountain climbing boots, and my Navaho concho belt. An Irishman who had gone native-Hindu, Baghavan Das, was invited as well. He had dreadlocks down to his waist, all yellow and matted like an old rug. Baghavan Das wore his Indian robe outfit, and I drove him down in my small white Opel sports car over the ice-covered road between the high banks of snow.

When we got to the cabin the main room had been cleared of furniture and now was set with a long row of six-foot folding tables and chairs in the manner of a banquet hall with tablecloths, dishes, glasses, and cutlery. I was seated in the middle of the table, opposite Rinpoche's dark-haired consort. The food was passed family style. Everything seemed quite normal for a while. Rinpoche began plying Baghavan Das with drinks. Baghavan Das was crying about the death of his teacher in India and Rinpoche kept giving him more sake. Totally inebriated, Baghavan Das fell backward from his chair, and like the Titanic going down, he hit the floor with a thump. I rushed over to pick him up.

"Put him in here," said Rinpoche, opening a door to a small room. Tom Rich and I dragged the unconscious Baghavan Das into the room.

"Get some scissors, Johnny," commanded Rinpoche.

I hunted about and came back with some scissors. Rinpoche took the scissors and tried to cut through Baghavan Das's dreadlocks. But the stuff was so thick the scissors wouldn't make a dent.

"A knife!" exclaimed Rinpoche.

I rushed to the kitchen and brought back a carving knife to Rinpoche's waiting hand. He bent over the unconscious head like a laborer, sawing through the heavy hair. I ran back to the kitchen with a whetstone to sharpen more knives that were picked up by eager hands to pass to Rinpoche. Finally, the Irish-American Hindu was shorn of the cordage, which was unceremoniously burned in the fireplace. I had a feeling he would look better with­out that mat on his head. We all returned to dinner, leaving the unsuspecting sleeping Baghavan Das in the closet.

Rinpoche picked up a large pomegranate in his right hand and spoke across the table to me. "Open your mouth." Half drunk, I did as I was asked.

"Wider," said Rinpoche.

I opened wide, expecting him to throw the pomegranate in. Instead, he squeezed it and a stream of juice arched four feet across the table and into my mouth and I gulped it down. That's quite a trick, I thought. Someone threw a spoonful of pumpkin pie at Bob Halpern sitting next to me. It hit him in the face and in no time the fight was on. Food was flying all over the room, tables were overturned to form barricades. The air was thick with edible missiles. We were all covered with food. It was on the walls and ceiling, dripping from the light fixtures. Somehow Rinpoche was sitting in the middle of the room quite untouched, just calmly drinking sake. That's quite a trick, I thought.

Later, I was quite surprised to find out that in the Hindu tradition, it is customary to cut one's hair off on the death of one's teacher. Baghavan Das showed up in the shrine room several days later wearing a gray suit with white shirt and tie. Everybody applauded.



4 Marpa the translator, 1012-97; renowned Tibetan yogi; student of Naropa; devoted himself to bringing texts from India and translating them into Tibetan. He was a farmer and was the root guru of Milarepa.

5 Milarepa, 1025-1135, was the most famous Buddhist saint of Tiber. Milarepa became Marpa's student at the age of thirty-eight-seeking his root guru to purify his karma. He attended Marpa in the role of a servant. Marpa subjected Milarepa to extraordinarily harsh training such as having Milarepa build towers our of stone one after the other on Marpa's command only to have to rake them down and assemble them somewhere else. Marpa initially also refused to give Milarepa teachings. The work and treatment by Marpa caused Milarepa such despair he fled twice and was near suicidal. After many years, Marpa provided teachings, including transmitting the teachings of Naropa, and he prepared Milarepa for a life of solitude. Milarepa lived for many years in seclusion in mountain caves in the Himalayas. Milarepa became the root guru of Gampopa.

6 Tom Rich was later to become the Vajra Regent, Osel Tendzin, Chogyam Trungpa's dharma heir and Regent of the Trungpa lineage.

7 Hinayana, Sanskrit for "Small Vehicle" is one of the two general divisions of Buddhism. Practitioners of this school are motivated to become liberated from conditioned existence known as samsara.

Mahayana, Sanskrit for "Great Vehicle." While Hinayana practitioners seek personal liberation, Mahayana practitioners seek enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

8 Tathagatagarbha is buddha-nature. All beings possess buddha-nature, and therefore it is possible for everyone to attain enlightenment. A well-known saying is, "even a worm can become a Buddha."

9 Dharma-Buddhist teachings.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:53 am

Chapter 3: Commentary

Here I was again alone in the world -- my personal possessions being reduced to a pick-up truck and a 38-foot schooner moored in Camden, Maine. I felt everything in my life up to this point had been a total failure. My attempts at marriage and family life had ended in disaster.

This was the period in the late 60s and early 70s when people were reading the Carlos Castaneda books about Don Juan. And there was a resurgent interest in Native American shamanistic practices. I had the feeling that if I could obtain the kind of power that was being talked about in the Castaneda books I could somehow solve all of my problems.

I saw Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as being like Don Juan. So I literally threw myself into the center of Rinpoche's world and to my delight he accepted me. It is said that the chances of finding and being accepted by an enlightened teacher are equal to somebody. throwing into the ocean a life buoy and by some happenstance a tur­tle coming to the surface for air and putting his head through that drifting life buoy. That event would be one's chances of finding such a situation.

But in the beginning I was only attracted to the power that I thought Rinpoche would impart to me. I saw enlightenment as a trick of magic -- for the benefit of myself and maybe then for others of my choosing. My personal karmic mythology was still very much at work. I was attracted to Rinpoche but bewildered about what was really going on and constantly trying to put it in the framework of my logic and projections. Nevertheless, my fascination and attraction to the weirdness of the situations led me onward.

I spent a great deal of time alone with Rinpoche at the first Seminary, which was quite ordinary in some sense. We sat in a room together while he worked. He seemed to be able to work on several projects at the same time. I was touched when he made me a cup of tea. His movements were very deliberate and precise. I was impressed by that. He did not ask me a lot of questions about my personal life. Sometimes he would ask me if I had visited a certain place in England or Scotland. He asked me the year I had been born and, actually, that was about it. I felt a sense of relaxed anticipation in his presence. It seemed to be the courtship phase of a love affair.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, by John Riley Perk

Postby admin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:59 am

Chapter 4: Turnaround Retreat


The motorcar stood on the black tarmac road, its rubber feet fat with air bulging into the granite curbstones. The autumn leaves were thick upon the sidewalk, piled like overlapping, dry snake scales crunching under foot. The death of leaves-it was that time of year hated by my mother in her Celtic Wicca gloom for its feeling and smell of a muddy river bottom or the ring around a bathtub. The life had gone out of summer but I was alive, full of joy, expectant, smelling the air of adventure. A journey was commencing to what I understood as the undiscovered country of enlightenment. The car stood there waiting for me, its innards stuffed to the gills with supplies: food, clothing, Buddhist paraphernalia, alcohol, books, pens, paper dips, cooking pots, guns, swords, and pictures. In short, everything we would need -- I would need -- on my journey.

I was the Chosen One. I was going to become enlightened! Glorious sun. Son of sun. Magnificent. Stupendous. Pregnant with the hope of spring in the death of summer. I was in love with my teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and he had chosen me to be his attendant for a year of retreat in the western mountains of Massachusetts. Just me and him. Well, almost; there would also be Max; the cook. But everyone knew I was in charge. After all, I was English and Max was Chinese. Look at the facts. What more was there to say? He was a lickspit, the less perfectly formed twin of a double monster. I was already Rinpoche's butler and I had the black coat and pinstriped pants to prove it. Again the hope of enlightenment rose in me like the rising sun.. Oblivious to the sadness of the others around me, who were losing their teacher for a year, the Joseph coat fit me like a glove and I was blissful in its multicoloredness.

The plan was simple enough. One of Rinpoche's students, Jean-Claude Van Itallie, had a farmhouse in Charlemont, Massachusetts. I, Rinpoche, Max, and their respective dogs, Ganesh and Myson, would stay on retreat at the farm for about nine or ten months. I was to be Rinpoche's attendant, which meant his secretary, his dresser, his doctor, his nurse, his brother, his driver, his entertainment, his spiritual other, his bodyguard, and essentially his Enkidu or constant companion. Max would cook.

Enlightenment was certain.

I went ahead to organize the farmhouse before Rinpoche's arrival. For two weeks I worked hard cleaning and organizing the farmhouse. The last task was to put away Rinpoche's clothes, which had arrived from Karme Choling [10] that very afternoon. I took them up to his bedroom and opened the closet to hang them up. A shower of rice sprayed down upon me. I stood there stunned until it stopped. Then my startled mind grasped the answer. Mice! Mice had stashed rice up in the attic and it had fallen through the closet ceiling when I had opened the door. I turned on the closet light and checked the ceiling for cracks. It was seamless and without any cracks, so I checked the freshly painted walls. No cracks. I ran my hands over them and tapped them with my knuckle. Nothing. Not even a hairline crack in the plaster. "Someone is playing a trick on me," I thought. "Perhaps a plastic bag full of rice was taped to the ceiling so that when I opened the door rice fell out on me." I checked the door, the floor, the walls, the ceiling. I ran up to the attic. Nothing. No bag, no tape, no string, nothing. My mind began to panic. Better have a cup of tea.

I went down to the kitchen and asked myself if I was alone in the house. I made the tea, drank it, and then ran back up to the bedroom closet to double-check every theory I could think of. There was nothing. Nothing! There was just the rice on the floor. About two cupfuls. I listened. Maybe someone was hiding in the house. I checked every room. It was getting dark outside. I had only one more night alone. Rinpoche and Max would be driving down from Karme Choling the next day.

Calling up my Coldstream Guard's [11] mind, I had a glass of sake and marched bravely up to the bedroom, cleaned up the rice, and finally put away Rinpoche's clothes. I returned to the kitchen to make myself a bowl of soup and sat at the table eating it. The house started to move. It creaked and groaned in the wind. Then it whistled and moaned. I ran up to my room and took out my thirty-eight caliber revolver from the bedside table. Hurriedly I loaded it and stuck it in my belt. Since I had recently become a Buddhist I also picked up my mala beads from the small shrine table and hung them around my neck for good luck. I had more faith in my revolver at the time, however.

Going downstairs to the living room I put a record on the phonograph, a recording of the trooping of the colour from the Queen's Guard. The sergeant major shouted out orders. The troops stamped to attention. The massed bands burst into military marches. I drank sake and waited steadfast in line for the demons of the unknown to attack. I turned on every light in the house and burned incense. The music, smell, and light drowned out the moaning, moving house and its unseen world. I stood guard all night waiting for Rinpoche to come with the rising sun. When Rinpoche arrived with Max and the two dogs I could finally relax.

For the first few weeks Max and I organized our daily routine. We had breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, and supper around 7 p.m. But gradually Rinpoche started to stay up later into the evening and then get up later during the day. At first Max and I took turns staying up with him, but he insisted that we both stay awake with him. We all sat around in the same small sitting room, sometimes listening to the recording of "The Trooping of the Colour" over and over again, other times in silence. Our bedtime got later and later -- 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3, 4, 5, 6 a.m. We were staying up all night and going to bed at dawn or later. The problem was that with this schedule neither Max nor I could do any shopping, as the stores would be closed be ore we got out of bed at 7 p.m. I explained this to Rinpoche, hoping he would allow me to go to bed early so I could shop in the morning. I was dearly hoping I would be sent to town for the shopping and then have an opportunity to find some other entertainment. Instead he said, "Okay, we'll send Max," condemning me to perpetual, timeless, inactive Colour Trooping.

During one of our long nights I brought up the mystery of the rice in the closet. He said, "Think of it as gap." What the hell was that supposed to mean? Gap? How could one think of something as gap? There was no thing in a gap. A gap was empty. I started to panic again and I asked Max about it.

"Oh," said Max, "It must have been a blessing."

"You know," he went on, "rice falling on your head is a blessing." I liked the explanation better than "gap." Nevertheless the idea of gap remained a small, glowing panic ember in my mind -- the fear of nothingness.

During one of my sleeping times, which had an equal chance of being night or day, I had a dream about the house being attacked by demons of all kinds. I told Rinpoche about this dream.

"Oh," he said. ''Why don't you sleep with your gun in your hand next time and you can shoot them."

I thought that this was a good idea. So the next afternoon when I went to bed, I loaded my .38-caliber pistol and lay down to sleep with it clenched in my fist. As I lay drifting off it suddenly occurred to me that I might wake up and accidentally shoot someone, so I took the bullets out and went to sleep with the unloaded gun in my hand. Needless to say, the demons showed up in my dream, and although I had the gun in my hand I could not find the bullets for it. In the dream the demons chased me all over the house while I desperately searched for the bullets. Rinpoche laughed for a long time after I recounted the dream to him.

The autumn days slipped by in our numbing routine, so it was some relief when Rinpoche announced that we would have some visitors. Three other students, Duncan, Jane, and Nick, would be visiting for a long weekend. Nick showed up with some LSD and we decided to take a "trip" with Rinpoche. I had never taken acid before, so I was both excited and nervous about the prospect. Max organized the food, as tripping could make you very hungry. He put a pot roast in a slow cooker that would be ready about six in the morning, although I had my doubts that I would be that hungry at daybreak. The six of us sat in the living room and Nick passed around the acid on a small piece of white cardboard. It looked like fish scales. We all took one hit. Rinpoche took what was left, about six fish scales. I drank some sake and we all chatted.

I was a bit disappointed as nothing much was happening and I went upstairs to the bathroom to sit on the toilet. Bending forward, I looked down at my feet. They melted into the floor like running jelly. Somewhat surprised, I looked at the walls. They were running with blood! I pulled up my pants and ran down the disappearing stairs and threw myself on the couch. My startled eyes were wide open and my teeth were grinding. ''Are you okay, Johnny?" Rinpoche asked gently.

I was pissed off and totally paranoid. Why the hell was he asking me that? Was he into some kind of Asian mind training? Perhaps he was an outer-space alien.

Looking across at him I hissed resentfully, "Yes, I'm fine."

"Let's play 'Trooping of the Colour Guard,'" he said.

What was the space alien saying now, I said to myself, 'Trooping of the Colour Guard. "What the fuck is that?

Somehow I went over to the phonograph and put on the record and sat back on the couch. Something shouted, "By the left, quick march,'' and a band struck up with British Grenadiers. I looked across the room at a big Chinese doll that occasionally melted into Max, who was smiling like an idiot. Duncan next to me had his head in his hands, so I went back to grinding my teeth and staring into nothingness. From a long way off I heard Rinpoche's voice. "Johnny, speak to Duncan."

What was a Duncan -- a dung can? I started to laugh. Duncan was full of shit.

There was Rinpoche again. "Johnny, speak to Duncan."

I turned my head and looked at Duncan. His head was still in his hands.

"You okay?" I grunted. Nothing. "Hey, how you doing?" I nudged him with my elbow. He moaned and sat back with his head on the couch, staring at the ceiling.

Rinpoche pushed a newspaper into my hands.

"Read to him," he said.

I managed to stop the letters from floating all over the page long enough to read to Duncan. There was a picture of an old sailing ship and I read out loud from the column about "Old Ironsides," the Constitution. During the upcoming 1976 Bicentennial celebration she was to be sailed into Boston Harbor where she would be turned around and sailed out again.

"That's it," shouted Rinpoche. "I want you to tell Duncan a story and the punch line will be 'the Great Turnaround."'

I started slowly, with the first story being about the Three Bears. Duncan listened, laughing at the story. Then I hit him with, "Then Goldilocks did the Great Turnaround."

"Oh shit," he moaned. Something clicked. I had a mission. I was relentless. I attached myself to Duncan's mind and punched out story after story with the finale "The Great Turnaround."

Duncan said, "Wow!" "Holy smoke!" "Fuck!" every time I hit him with the phrase that he had let himself be lured into. Cunningly I hunted him each time and led him into my trap of the Great Turnaround which I shouted out at the end of each presentation of images. We must have gone on for hours because the darkness outside began to turn into gray dawn.

Rinpoche motioned me to sit across the room by the window, opposite Duncan on the couch. Rinpoche started to ask people questions about their lives, prompting them on into an open display of their aspects. I was fascinated. It was like watching a group of actors putting on a self-stylized interactive play. Rinpoche, who had not asked me anything, looked across at me.

"Is it always like this?" I asked.

''Always," he answered, and he went back to playing with the play. Finally he said, "Let's eat."

I was famished. We dug into the pot roast with great relish. Duncan said to me, "Thanks for helping me. I was really stuck."

I laughed, because I thought I was the one who was stuck and Rinpoche had helped me out of it by having me interact with Duncan. As the sun rose in the blue emptiness I helped Rinpoche up the narrow stairs to the bedroom. We played the falling-down­-the-stairs game. The object of this game was for him to crush me beneath his weight by falling on top of me -- the greater the height of the fall, the better. As I rolled him into bed he was still giggling.

I had decided to make a sacred object out of Rinpoche. In order to do that I would be very formal in a British way. Now Max, who was more laid-back, California-style, would greet Rinpoche in the morning by saying, "Hi, Rinpoche, I suppose you want breakfast." Max would not even get up out of his chair, but would continue to read the newspaper. This pissed the hell out of me. The more formally British I got, the more relaxed Max seemed to get.

This got to the point where I really wanted to throttle Max for not behaving correctly as I thought he should, and I told Rinpoche I was ready to knock some sense into him.

"Well, we can't do that," he said. "Let's play some tricks on him."

Max was a speed freak whenever he got up, whether it was morning or evening. He would throw on his kimono and jump into his slippers, which he kept outside his bedroom door. He would just slide his feet into the slippers and take off down the hall. One night Rinpoche sent the grateful Max off to bed early.

"You look tired, Max; better go to bed," he said.

We waited about an hour or two and then we went upstairs and securely glued Max's slippers to the floor. Rinpoche was rolling around stifling his laughter. The next morning we were up before Max, sitting in the kitchen having tea. The kitchen was right under Max's room. We heard him get up, rush out his door, and then, bang! He hit hard on the upstairs floor. Down he came to the kitchen.

"Say, Rinpoche," he exclaimed, "someone glued my slippers to the floor." I burst out laughing.

Rinpoche looked at him and said, "Perhaps it was an illusion." Then he started to chuckle.

The following week was passing in an unusually quiet and peaceful manner when Rinpoche said to me, "Johnny, can you put something that will smell in Max's room."

"You mean like scent, Sir?" I asked, not really understanding his intent.

"No, no," he looked at me like I was crazy. "Something that will stink."

We were eating fish, so I said, "Well, Sir, I could nail a piece of fish up under his bed."

"Great," he said, nodding his head.

So I put a large piece of halibut into a net bag and nailed it to the underside of Max's bed. When I opened my bedroom door the next morning the entire hallway smelled like Fulton's fish market. Max said nothing and both Rinpoche and I were quite surprised. We thought that he must have twigged it but the next day the whole house smelled of rotten fish. Max came downstairs and said, "John, I think there is a dead mouse in the wall in my room. Could you take a look? I'm going to move to another room."

That same day, believe it or not, I found a dead mouse on the lawn. As Max was moving over to the new room I went upstairs and chipped away at part of the wall and pretended to find the dead mouse.

"Here it is, Max, you were right." I showed him the dead mouse.

After Max moved everything into his new room, I nailed the dead fish to the bottom of his new bed. When Max complained about the smell again, Rinpoche said, "Your smell must be following you around."

I HAD ALWAYS BEEN a hunter. It was part of my self-sufficient trip of taking care of myself in the wilderness -- not just of the forest but of the world. Now that I was a Buddhist I reacted in horror to killing, although playing with guns for purely self-defense was something I was sure that the Buddha would have agreed with. In any case, hunting seemed more humane than a slaughterhouse.

When I was a young farmhand I had never been to a state-­registered slaughterhouse. I had no more idea of the procedure than did the black-and-white cow we were taking there. The inside was stainless steel and white tile with a cement floor. An electric hoist with a hook on it ran down the center of the room. The place reeked of Pine-Sol. The smell made the atmosphere even more surrealistic. We had to coerce the cow into the room by twisting her tail. She was wide-eyed with terror. One of the fellows attached chain cuffs to her rear legs and ran the chain up the hook on the electric hoist. He pressed the red button on the wall and the hoist slowly gathered in the chain and lifted the animal. The cow's body hung in the air only inches above the floor. A pair of pliers attached to a rope was put into the cow's flaring nostrils. I was told to pull the rope so that the cow's neck was stretched tight. The other fellow took a large butcher's knife and with a swift swing he struck the cow's stretched neck. The cow's blood burst out across the room with great force. I was so shocked I let go of the rope. The head of the cow was only half severed. The cow, swinging slightly, convulsed while it hung suspended in the center of the room. Blood spewed out of her severed neck in all directions. Her mouth opened and closed in silent bellows as air rushed in and out of her exposed windpipe.

One of the fellows, enjoying my shock, took a cup and filled it with blood from the cow's streaming jugular vein. He offered the steaming cup to me. "Want some? It puts lead in your pencil." Now, thoroughly amused by my repulsion, he laughed loudly and drank the hot blood, leaving red stains on his lips. Within an hour the cow was skinned, disemboweled, cut into sections, and hung in the cooler. I decided I liked hunting-it was more romantic.

In order to be a successful hunter you had to first understand and appreciate the hunted animal. You had to know its lifestyle, its nature, its habitat. You had to actually enter its world. You had to realize that like yourself, an animal and its world are alive, and that life and death, being alive, have a quality of magic-a sacredness.

I had a holy concept of sacredness, regarding some things as holy and others as untouchable. My shrine in my Buddhist practice was like something out of House & Garden magazine -- flowers, candles and incense, and beautiful Tibetan pictures. I was on my way to becoming a real holy man.

Rinpoche could see my progress in practicing Buddhism and he started to bother me about hunting. He wanted me to take him hunting. "I want to kill something," he said. "I have never killed anything. I've just been a Buddhist monk all my life."

I would always refuse. "It would not be right for you to kill something, Sir."

Seeing Rinpoche in a slaughterhouse or even hunting didn't seem right to me. It didn't fit my concept of a holy man. The hunting queries continued for some time until one morning a flock of snowbirds gathered on the frozen lawn where I had thrown some old bread. Rinpoche picked up the .22 rifle from the kitchen corner. He walked toward the window and said, "Right, Johnny? We're going to shoot some birds."

I protested. "Sir, we've been through this a million times. Please hand me back the gun."

Rinpoche, always one to enjoy himself, began to leap around the room in his kimono singing, ''I'm going to kill. I'm going to kill." I didn't like the way it sounded at all. I took the gun from him and loaded it. But I also moved the rear sight out of line. I opened the kitchen window.

"Here you are, Sir," I said as I handed the gun to Rinpoche. "It's all ready to fire."

Rinpoche took aim at the birds and fired the single-shot rifle into the morning air. The birds flew off and not one was left dead. I threw more bread out and Rinpoche fired and again no birds were killed. We both laughed. I wasn't surprised, as he probably couldn't have hit the barn with those readjusted sights.

Rinpoche looked directly at me and said, "Oh, you're just an English gentleman, you couldn't kill a bird either." It was a challenge and I took the bait.

"Oh?" I said, accepting the wager.

So I took the gun and aimed, using only the front sights on the rifle and picturing the rear sights in my mind. I killed a bird, much to my own delight and Rinpoche's surprise. I walked out, picked up the bird's carcass, and waved it to Rinpoche and Max.

As I helped Rinpoche up the stairs to bed that night he said, "Johnny, do you know what killing that bird means?"

"No, Sir." I said.

"It means you will get married and your first child will be a boy who will be a tulku. [12] Also it will cause a slight interruption in our living situation."

I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what relationship there was between the events of that morning and my having a son. Rinpoche didn't expand on it, so I let it go and silently put him to bed.

Two days later Rinpoche and Max were in town shopping and got stuck in a heavy snowstorm. They had to stay overnight at an inn. Rinpoche called and told me with a chuckle, "We've been held up by a snowbird." A slight interruption. Interestingly, I have not killed anything since. Later I did get married and our first child was a daughter whom we called Sophie. Rinpoche announced that she was a reincarnation of G. I. Gurdjieff.

"But Gurdjieff was a man," I said.

"Yes," said Rinpoche, "that's Gurdjieff's joke on us."

SOMEHOW DURING THIS WINTER of the retreat year my handle on what I thought of as reality was becoming a little insecure. Out of seemingly nowhere I started having panic attacks, rapid heart­beat, and hyperventilation. I was sure I was going to die on the spot and I was certain there was a ghost following me around the house. So I asked Rinpoche if he had seen any ghosts in the house.

"Only two," he replied.

I almost fainted.

One night I had a dream of talking to a woman in her late thirties. She was wearing a long dress and holding my out­stretched hand. She was talking about building the farmhouse where we were staying. "When were you born?" I asked.

"May, 1853," she said.

I did the math in my dreaming mind, pulled my hand away and sat up in the bed, awake, with my heart racing.

When I was physically with Rinpoche I did not have panic attacks but I was certain that he was somehow the cause of it all. It did not occur to me that Buddha's message, "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to," applied to me. My Britishness was part of "me." I had made my living by being British and if I gave that up what would I become? American, French, Italian? I mean, you can't just become nothing. But the fear was growing in me that Rinpoche was somehow nothing -- a gap. How could "I" act as nothing? Where do you start? After all, the Path of Accumulation was the Path of Accumulating, not the Path of Nothingness. The Path of Accumulation meant that I was going to get something. Here I was being invited to jump into empty nothingness. Not even invited, I was being pushed-caught between a rock and a hard place. My memories of war became a welcome and safe dis­traction. I felt that if I could keep these away from Rinpoche I could hang on to some semblance of sanity. Every time the world would start melting around him I would take refuge in the only thing left in my thinking mind, my memories.

Rinpoche said he would like to target shoot. I had my .38 revolver, which I had purchased to protect Rinpoche (some joke), and a .22-caliber single-shot rifle. Now I went out and purchased a Rugar .223-caliber semiautomatic with a thirty-round dip. I set up a target area in the garden that resembled World War II in miniature, with plastic soldiers, tanks, and trucks. Rinpoche, Max, and I would go out and blast them. Rinpoche called them the Mara Army. "You could be victorious over the troops of Mara, Johnny," he said. That sounded good but what the hell did it mean? I looked up Mara in the encyclopedia and it said "Mara is the Lord of the Sixth Heaven of the Desire Realm and is often depicted with a hundred arms and riding on an elephant."

Oh, I thought, mythology. I felt better. It's not real. But just in case, I started to look for an elephant rifle. Perhaps a Winchester .375 H and H Magnum might do the trick.

One evening Rinpoche and I were sitting in the kitchen. Max rushed in from shopping in town. Now, the closet and basement doors were next to each other and both doors looked the same. The basement stairs were very steep and ran down about twelve feet. Max was distractedly talking to us as he took off his coat, opened the wrong door, and, not looking, reached in to ha g it up. Rinpoche yelled, "Shunyata,"13 as Max and his coat fell into the basement. Unhurt except for a few scrapes, Max climbed out.

"Rinpoche," said Max, "You should have yelled to stop me."

"Why?" replied Rinpoche. "You could have gotten enlightened."

That night we went out to dinner at the local inn. Rinpoche had me purchase some cigars and secretly put some gunpowder in one of them for Max. The three of us sat in the inn casually smoking our stogies, two of us waiting in anticipation for the other one to explode. This went on for some time until Max, with the cigar still in his mouth, took a big puff and the cigar let out a big whoosh rather than an explosion. Flaming sparks and smoke shot out across the room from the cigar. Max remained pretty cool and said, "Your idea, I expect, Rinpoche." The three of us laughed.

However, the truth was that Max was a nervous wreck, and beneath my dignified British facade so was I. Finally, Max asked Rinpoche if he could go back to Boulder for a few weeks. Rinpoche gave his okay and Max departed, leaving Rinpoche and me alone in a house surrounded by deep snow. By necessity Max left his dog, Myson, with us. One night after supper Rinpoche said, "Get Myson and bring him in here." I dragged the shaking dog into the kitchen and following Rinpoche's instructions I sat him on the floor and covered his eyes with a blindfold. I set up stands with lighted candles by either side of his head. Myson couldn't move his head without being burned. Rinpoche took a potato and hit Myson on the head with it. When the dog moved, the fur on his ear would catch on fire. I put out the flames. Now and then Rinpoche would scrape is his chair across the tiled floor and whack him again on the head with a potato.

"Sir," I began hesitantly, trying to stop him.

"Shut up," snapped Rinpoche, "and hand me another potato."

I started to empathize with the dog. In fact, I became the dog. I was blindfolded and was banged on the head with a spud and if I turned my head my ears would burn and there was the squealing sound of the chair on the floor. Pissing in my pants I was that dog not being able to move, feeling terrified and at the same time excited. Finally, the scraping chair and the potato throwing stopped and we released the shaking dog, who ran upstairs to Max's empty room.

"That's how you train students," Rinpoche calmly stated to me.

"Jesus," I thought, "that's pretty barbaric."

In addition to all the other activities in 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.

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

Rinpoche had me change the telephone number so that Max could not call us before he came back. He arrived, bags in hand, concerned that he had not been able to reach us. Before he could say much else Myson rushed in and jumped all over him in exuberant delight. Rinpoche deliberately scraped the kitchen chair across the tiled floor. The terrified dog shot out of the house and fled across the field. Max was shocked and pointedly asked, "Rinpoche, what did you do to my dog?"

"I don't see any dog," he replied, looking at me.

"I got it!" I said, with the realization of being blindfolded and having three things happen to you at once, knowing the scraping and the disappearance of the dog were both somehow illusion. In fact, it was all illusion. Everything was illusion, but real. Rinpoche smiled and warmly greeted Max.

Did I get it? Not then.

“It was summer of 1985. I "married" Rinpoche on June 12th of that year. I met him around May 31st at a wedding of Jackie Rushforth and Bakes Mitchell in the back yard of Marlow and Michael Root's home. That year, we had our wedding at RMDC a few days before Assembly, then we had Seminary and Encampment happened during Seminary.

That was the year he spoke of limited bloodshed and taking over the city of Halifax and the Provence of Nova Scotia. We were in the middle of the Mahayana portion of seminary teachings. For weeks, CTR (Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche) had been asking everyone he saw if they had seen a cat. He asked the head cook, the shrine master, and all of his servants if they'd seen one. We returned to our cabin late one night after a talk and there was this beautiful tabby cat sitting on the porch. I said, "Here kitty, kitty" and it came right over to me, purring and rubbing against my legs. I picked it up and said: "Here, Sweetie. Here's the cat you've been wanting."

I can't remember exactly which guard was on duty, but I think it was Jim Gimian, and of course Mitchell Levy. Someone took the cat from me and Rinpoche ordered them to tie him to the table on the porch. He instructed them to make a tight noose out of a rope so the cat didn't get away. He stood over his guards to examine the knots and make sure they were secure. I was curious at this point, wondering what this enlightened master had in mind for the cat. I knew there were serious rodent problems on the land and I assumed he wanted to use the cat for this problem.

Then, he instructed the guard to bring him some logs from the fire pit that was in front of the porch, down a slight slope. We took our seats. Rinpoche was seated to my right and there was a table between us for his drinks. He ordered a sake. The logs were on his right side, so he could use his good arm. (His left side was paralyzed due to a car accident that happened in his late twenties.)

The cat was still tied by a noose to the table. Rinpoche picked up a log and hurled it at the cat, which jumped off the table and hung from the noose. It was making a terrible gurgling sound. He finally got some footing on the edge of the deck and made it back onto the porch. Rinpoche hurled another log, making contact and the cat let out a horrible scream as the air was knocked out of him.

I said: "Sweetie, stop! What are you doing? Why are you doing this?" He said something about hating cats because they played with their food and didn't cry at the Buddha’s funeral. He continued to torture the poor animal. I was crying and begging him to stop.

I said, "I gave you the cat. Please stop it!" I'll never forget his response. He looked at me and said: "You are responsible for this karma" and he giggled. I got up to try and stop him and he firmly told me to sit down. One of the guards stepped closer to me and stood in a threatening manner to keep me in my place.

The torture went on for what seemed like hours, until finally the poor cat made a run for his life with the patio table bouncing after him. It was clear he had a broken back leg. I'm sure that cat died. I looked for him or the table for the rest of Seminary and never found either. I imagined him fleeing up the mountain and the table catching on something and strangling him.

I was completely traumatized by the event, but it was never spoken of again. Rinpoche told me the "karma" from this event was good. I was dumbfounded. A common feeling I had when around Rinpoche was that there were things going on that I simply could not understand. It seemed like other people, with a knowing nod of their heads, understood things on a deeper level than I. I was in fear of exposing my ignorance, so i learned not to question and to go with the crowd around him. They didn't appear to have any problems with what he did. Such was the depth of their devotion. I just needed to generate more devotion to Rinpoche and one day I might understand.”

-- About the Time Chogyam Trungpa's Wife Gave Him a Kitty and He Tortured it to Death in Front of Her, by Leslie Hays [The Wife of Chogyam Trungpa]

It was during this retreat in Massachusetts that Rinpoche started envisioning and developing the Kingdom of Shambhala.14 The Kalapa Court would be Rinpoche's home and it was to be in my charge. Instead of being Rinpoche's butler I would soon be Master of the House. I would become a Dapon in charge of the Court Kusung, or servant guards -- in Buddhist terms, Bodhisattva Guardians. Molly, one of Rinpoche's students, came down from Karme Choling. She was an illustration artist and she and Rinpoche together designed the Shambhala flag -- a white ground with blue, red, white, and orange stripes on the; leading edge and the yellow sun in the white field. Rinpoche designed and drew the Shambhala arms of the tiger, lion, garuda, and dragon, which are seen on the cover of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (published by Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1984.)

I was excited about this creative time. This was going to be a real kingdom with its location in Nova Scotia, Canada. I would be safe within that reality, or so I thought. One day Rinpoche said to me, "Well, you know, Johnny, someone has to ask me."

''Ask you what?" I said.

''Ask me to become Earth Holder, the Monarch of Shambhala."

"Well, I'll ask you," I replied.

"Great!" said Rinpoche. We planned the event for the Tibetan New Year. I cut a tree for a flagpole and Max planned a dinner. Then at sunrise on the New Year the three of us got up and dressed in our best attire. As the sun rose in the eastern sky I asked Rinpoche formally if he would become Sakyong15. for the benefit of all beings.

He replied, "Yes."

I fired off a twenty-one shot salute from my pistol and Max ran the Shambhala flag up the pole. We saluted and shouted "Hip, hip, hurray!" then followed up by singing the Shambhala anthem. Max and went into the dining room and feasted with the new Sakyong. I was joyful and excited but underneath, my uneasiness continued to alternately swell and subside. Somehow the reality of the "gap" was still lurking below my world of this-­and-that. On an intellectual level that was still fairly primitive I had some understanding of Buddhism. I knew what it was sup­posed to look like-peaceful, calm, wise, compassionate. I knew enough to say, "Yes, I got it," but at the same time it was not in my gut on a visceral level. I thought perhaps I should do a retreat, since it would give me a chance to get away, relax, and get myself together before things went too far.

I could see myself robed, sitting under a pine tree in meditation posture with the sunlight playing on my shoulders and the wind in the pines. "Yes, that's it," I concluded, so I asked Rinpoche.

"Not a chance," he growled.

"But, Sir, I could finish my prostrations and do the other practices ... take the Vajrayogini abhisheka16 with David and the Regent and ... "

"No hope of that," he snapped.

Shit. I was trapped again, stuck in the life of a servant bursting with resentment. Then he gave me one of those smiles that light up the whole dark universe. It penetrated into my murk and dissolved it and I was better and worse simultaneously.

"One day you will be Sir John Perks," he said.

Wow, I thought. Sir John Perks of the Kingdom of Shambhala. I was full of hope again. Aloneness, when it hit, ruined my hopes and expectations. I was walking to the car in Greenfield, having done the shopping, when it struck. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of total aloneness and stopped dead in my tracks. There was no John Perks. There was nothing to be alone. Had "nothing" been a mental concept, it would have been something to hold onto. Then I panicked.

Only now, looking back, can I say that it was an overwhelming realization of nonexistence. The only way that I can convey what the experience was like is to ask the reader to imagine that all you think you are is totally fabricated. What you are is totally manipulated and conditioned by your own mind. Had I completely realized this at the time I would have died on the spot from a heart attack. For what was under assault was my thinking mind, its solid reality, what and who I thought I was. That which I thought was reality was, in fact, totally empty. This was the great "switcheroo," or turnaround.

Desperately trying to get back to what I still thought was my solidity I staggered to the car, trying not to hyperventilate. I managed to drive to the Howard Johnson's Motel bar. I ordered a double gin and tonic and drank it down like a glass of water.

"Are you okay?" asked the bartender. Where had I heard that phrase before?

"Fine, fine," I said and ordered another double. Sir John Perks had better get a suit of armor, I thought wryly.

But the attacks became more frequent. Then I had a realization. Sex! If I felt so alone why not have a partner? I asked Rinpoche if I could have a lady friend up on some weekends. To my surprise he said yes. So I invited a friend from Boston to visit. But it gave me no relief. In fact, it made the aloneness sharper and I felt as if I were going to die any second. One day at breakfast Rinpoche said to me, "Johnny, isn't it strange how orgasm and death feel the same?"

I blocked his words for the moment and panicked later.

Relief came several days later when he said, "Johnny, let's take a trip to London."

I pretended not to be excited, and to make sure, I asked, "To London, England, Sir?"

"Yes," he answered matter-of-factly. "We need to get some Shambhala medals made there and we could get some military uniforms." I brightened up. Trooping of the Colors meets Sir John Perks. I had a mission.

"Let's stay at the Winston Churchill Hotel," he suggested.

National pride swelled in my chest. Shambhala was going to be British after all. As a safety procedure I went to the local doctor and got prescriptions of Librium and Tagamet for my panic and stomach pain. Sam, the publisher of Shambhala Publications, was to meet us in London where he had an office. On the aircraft Rinpoche and I sat together. He was quite upbeat and talked about all the things we would do in London: restau­rants, nightclubs, theater, and clothing stores. The air stewardess asked what we would like to drink. Rinpoche ordered his usual. "Ginandtonicus," pronounced as the name of the Roman general from the Asterisk Comic Books.

"You could teach people etiquette, Johnny," said Rinpoche. He went on talking about military uniforms, tuxedos, evening dress, balls, dancing, and formal dinners. Excitedly I joined in with further ideas. Rinpoche said, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Let's do it. We will grow old together." Bliss and joy returned, drowning out the emptiness.

And so it came to pass. In London we stayed at the Winston Churchill. We took the designs of the Shambhala medals to the jewelers to be made. We ordered uniforms at Grieves and Hawks on Savile Row -- a general's uniform for Rinpoche, a major's uniform for me. Rinpoche used his family name on the order form, Mr. C. T. Mukpo. I used my original birth name, John Andrews. The clerk looked at Rinpoche's form in a quizzical way and asked, "Who is Mr. C. T. Mukpo?"

I hesitated, my mind searching for a realistic answer. Finally I said the first true thing I had ever said in my life.

"I have absolutely no idea."



10 Formerly Tail of the Tiger, renamed Karme Choling; Rinpoche's Buddhist Center in Barnet, Vermont.

11 British military regiment

12 Tulku -- In Tibetan Buddhism, a person who is recognized as a reincarnation of a previously deceased teacher.

13 Shunyata -- Sanskrit meaning emptiness or void; the negation of believing in the false idea of how things exist. This cannot be explained verbally, but can be experienced.

14 Shambhala: Sanskrit; a mythical kingdom somewhat like Brigadoon or Camelot; considered by some to be located in northeast India. It is the place where Kalachakra teachings originated, and is the kingdom from which a savior is predicted to arise when the world is on the brink of destruction.

15 Sakyong -- Earth Holder, the monarch of Shambhala, head of the Shambhala lineage.

16 Vajrayogini -- the diamond yogini. A meditative practice deity; the nature of one's basic being, or state of mind. Abhisheka, Sanskrit for anointment; a ceremony in which the Vajra master empowers the student into the meditative practice of a particular deity. The energy of the deity is manifested during the ceremony, and there is a joining of the minds of the teacher and the student, which arises because of the student's intense devotion.
Site Admin
Posts: 35790
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Religion and Cults

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests