Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mukpo

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

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

Postby admin » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:18 pm


To my astonishment, it will have been almost twenty years since Rinpoche's death when this book is published. Contemplating this, two things come to mind. One is how quickly life passes. In some respects, the years since Rinpoche's death seem like the blink of an eye. Also, when I think of what Rinpoche accomplished in just seventeen years in North America, I am in awe.

Even in sickness and death he continued to have enormous influence. Following Rinpoche's cardiac arrest, during the period leading up to his death, and for several years after he died, a stream of students moved to Nova Scotia from the United States, other parts of Canada, and Europe. Several hundred of his most senior and closest students settled in Halifax and other areas of the province. While he was alive, I think that people felt that they had all the time in the world to fulfill Rinpoche's wish that we would join him in Nova Scotia. Now it became clear that we had no time left at all. This inspired people to pick up and move themselves, their families, and businesses to this new homeland.

Whether they joined in this odyssey or not, wherever they were, all of Rinpoche's students now had to take responsibility for the teachings they had received from him. Rinpoche appreciated and magnetized people with talent and intelligence. During his lifetime, he supported everybody, and, at the same time, he expected a lot of people. He asked them to live up to their own highest expectations. The people who were close to Rinpoche have developed into remarkable human beings. Uniquely, individually, his students have led incredibly productive lives, which I feel have had a profound and beneficial effect on other people.

When the teacher dies, it is like breaking a vase; the air that was held in the container mixes with the whole of space. It is partially in this sense that the teacher's death is a blessing. Similarly, Rinpoche's students, who were held together in the circle of his life, were released and let go to find their own way. Many have remained in Nova Scotia, Boulder, and other major centers he founded, but many others are spread around the world.

In its own way, his death was the beginning of a tremendous period of growth for a lot of people, including myself. However, it was not a particularly easy time for any of us. During his lifetime there had been a dependence upon Rinpoche for sanity and for a confirmation of our personal worth. After his death, when that external reference point was gone, people hit rock bottom in states of depression, anger, and psychological poverty. Then slowly, as people began to internalize his teachings and turn those teachings into their life path, realization began to occur on many different levels. It is like the story of Ananda, a monk who attended the Buddha for many years. It's said that Ananda didn't fully understand the Buddha's teachings when the Buddha died, and that was when his personal journey really began to move forward.

Following Rinpoche's death, the Vajra Regent moved immediately to consolidate power, and he began to slowly weaken the community's financial and psychological support for my family. Within days after Rinpoche's death, I learned that his life insurance policy had already been cashed in before his death to help pay Vajradhatu's bills. I began to panic a bit about how I would provide for my family. I went to see the Regent and reminded him that Rinpoche had intended to put the house at Mill Village, which Vajradhatu now owned, into my name. I told him that I wanted to sell the property and put the proceeds in a trust for my children's education. The Regent agreed, and the house was put on the market. At the time of the sale, however, I was only given something like ten thousand dollars. The rest went to Vajradhatu. Initially, the Regent offered me a monthly stipend, which I think was $1,400 a month to cover my living expenses. (The mortgage on the Court was covered by the organization.) Less than a year after Rinpoche's death, however, the Regent told the comptroller of Vajradhatu, Bill Karelis, to stop sending me a monthly check. To his credit, Bill refused to cut us off, a kindness that I have never forgotten.

William Karelis enters the courtroom at the Boulder County Jail on Friday (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer - Daily Camera)

-- Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually assaulting student: Community expelled mentor over separate misconduct allegations in 2004

I felt that I should continue to support the sangha in whatever ways I could, and this included teaching within Shambhala Training, something that Rinpoche had always encouraged me to do. The year after Rinpoche died, when I was asked to teach an advanced level of Shambhala Training in Texas, the Regent wrote to me, telling me that I was only qualified and authorized to present the most elementary levels of the teachings. This was typical of how he attempted to belittle the family. He began to refer to the Sawang as "the little prince," a term he employed in the most derogatory fashion.

Rinpoche had left instructions that a committee consisting of myself, the Regent, the Sawang, the Kasung Kyi Khyap, and the two dapons was to be convened to help with the transition after his death. I was to chair this committee. The Regent never once brought this group together. Rather than seeing it as his role to support the family and to advise the Sawang as he grew into his maturity, the Regent obviously felt threatened by us.

In late 1988, the community learned that the Regent was HIV positive and had developed AIDS. A young man in the community who had had a brief sexual encounter with the Regent was diagnosed with HIV and could only trace his illness to the Vajra Regent. I did not know about the Regent's condition until this all came out. I learned later that Rinpoche had arranged for the Regent to be tested for HIV, without his knowledge, in the mid-1980s. Rinpoche had then met with the Regent to inform him of his illness and to warn him to be careful not to infect others. The Regent didn't heed Rinpoche's warning, it seems.

There was an uproar in the Buddhist community -- and in the press. The Regent, without actually being stripped of power, was forced by actions of the board and other community members into retreat in California. Finally, with the intercession of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the Regent gave up his attempt to exercise authority over Vajradhatu and he was in a sense exiled into retreat for the remainder of his life. Early on in this crisis, I traveled from Halifax to Boulder where I gave a talk to the community in which I said that I thought that the Regent should step down, for the good of everyone. Although I was criticized in some quarters for taking this public stand, I feel that it was necessary, and I have no regrets. The Regent's family and a small group of students who remained loyal to Osel Tendzin established a community in Ojai, California, where a few of them remain today. The Regent died there, from complications of AIDs, in 1990. We are as of this writing still working to have a genuine reconciliation of the two communities, based on dignity and truth on both sides. This troubling chapter in the history of our community continues to haunt us, as perhaps it should. It serves as a powerful, ongoing reminder of the dangers of self-deception, especially on the spiritual path. It was not just the failure of one individual. In a sense, we all failed. Sometimes I think that it will be the sum total of the achievements of all of Rinpoche's students that will ensure that his wisdom remains. In that sense, we are all burdened with the responsibility for transmitting his teachings and seeing that his legacy endures.

In the years following Rinpoche's death, I found that some people were looking to me for leadership, but many also wanted to tell me how to behave and what to do. There was no malicious intent, but people started to become domineering and brittle with one another. In Rinpoche's absence, not surprisingly perhaps, numerous power struggles developed. Vajradhatu was having tremendous financial problems, and some of the negativity about this became focused on me.

Rumors also abounded during this period. At times, they were quite petty. To give an example, at one point, Ashoka had a pet turtle that ate small quantities of ground beef. One evening, I went down to the kitchen and found out that we had run out of this food. A volunteer was preparing shrimp for dinner, and I cut a small sliver of one of the raw shrimps to feed the turtle. A few days later, I heard that a story was going around the community that Lady Diana had a pigeon that only ate lamb chops!

Under financial pressure, the board of directors decided to sell the Kalapa Court and only informed me after the decision had been made. I was to be given the money from the sale, with the expectation that I would buy a house somewhere else in Halifax. I felt like a pawn in a male power play. The negativity was permeating my family life as well as my public life. Criticism sometimes came in the form of poisonous letters, some anonymous and some not. Eventually, I reached a point in my life where I experienced no personal joy at all. Strangely, it reminded me of how I had felt growing up in England. People seemed to have tremendous expectations about how I should behave, which had no relationship to my own experience or instincts. The situation weighed on me very heavily.

Eventually, in 1989, Mitchell and I decided to move the family away from Nova Scotia to Hawaii -- just about as far away as we could get. We expected this to be a temporary move. We had been through such a stressful time that we needed to go to a place that was isolated and relaxing. Mitchell wanted to get back into his medical career, and he was able to get a good position in a hospital in Honolulu. Our family needed the time to heal. We stayed in Hawaii for three-and-a-half years. Mitchell and I married in 1990, in a small family ceremony in a Buddhist temple there. In Hawaii, we were able to discover some family unity and provide a normal environment for the children, which was very important.

Soon after Rinpoche's death, the Sawang traveled to India to study with His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He remained there until 1990 when, with the death of the Vajra Regent, he was called upon to assume the leadership of the Vajradhatu community. In 1995, he received the Sakyong abhisheka from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Penor Rinpoche also recognized Osel as the incarnation of Mipham, a great Tibetan teacher who died at the beginning of the twentieth century. Osel Mukpo is now widely known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. In the mid-1990s he changed the name of the organization from Vajradhatu to Shambhala. He continues to propagate the dharma teachings of his father. In 2005, he married Semo Tseyang Ripa in a private ceremony in Boulder, Colorado, and they plan a large public celebration in Halifax in 2006. I have been asked to conduct the public ceremony for them, and I am delighted to be able to welcome Lady Semo Tseyang into our Mukpo family in this way.

Taggie returned from Sikkim soon after Rinpoche's death. For many years now, he has been living at Bhumipali Bhavan at Karme Choling. Although things have not changed a great deal with him, I have recently been extremely pleased to see that he is more cognizant and has an improved ability to converse with people about simple subjects. His seizures have finally been controlled. I think he is content, and I am so grateful to all those who have supported his care.

Gesar had a turbulent adolescence, and we went through a period when communication between us was difficult. We are now extremely close. I have been delighted to see him mature and to take on many of his father's qualities. He is tremendously intelligent and has exceptional artistic talent, which I believe he will develop more over time. After Rinpoche's death, Gesar studied with Dzongsar Khytenste Rinpoche and spent time in India, where he received teachings from His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Later, he traveled to his predecessor's monastery, Sechen, in Tibet, when it was very difficult to do so, and he also joined the family when we visited Tibet in 2002.

Gesar was already on his own when we moved to Hawaii, but he did join us there for several months. He spent a number of years in California, where he attended community college, played football, and worked on several Hollywood films. Gesar moved back to Nova Scotia in 2003, where he married Anna De Nicola, the daughter of longtime sangha members. In 2004, their daughter Chokyi Sofia Mukpo was born. I am a proud grandmother. Chokyi is a very special little girl.

Ashoka graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in political science in 2004.
In 2005 he attended the seminary at the Shambhala Mountain Center. Earlier, in 2002, he was enthroned in Tibet as Khamnyon Rinpoche during our family's trip to visit the Surmang monasteries that Rinpoche came from. Hundreds of Tibetans mobbed our hotel in Jyekundo, the last town before Surmang, to see Ashoka and receive his blessing when we arrived there.

From time to time, we get phone calls in the middle of the night from Ashoka's monasteries in Nepal or Tibet. I pick up the phone at 3 A.M. and someone says loudly into the line on the other end, "Khamnyon Rinpoche?" I respond, "Sleeping." They continue repeating Ashoka's name until I get him to the phone.

Within the next few years, Mitchell and I plan to travel with Ashoka to his monastery in Tibet. It is located in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Ashoka made a deeper connection to the Tibetan world when we traveled there in 2002. He was initially extremely skeptical about assuming any position as a teacher. Through the course of our trip, he began to realize the suffering of people there and how he could help them in his role as a teacher. He particularly was taken, not just with the poverty of the people, but also by the treatment of dogs and other domestic animals in Tibet. He made strong pronouncements to people there that they needed to stop mistreating their animals. Later, we said that this was his first dharma talk.

He has just become engaged to be married to Bianca Velez, whom he met at Georgetown. They both plan to attend graduate school within the next few years, and Ashoka hopes to have a career in the field of human rights. Rinpoche talked about Ashoka having the potential to be a great statesman. It has been interesting to see his interest in political science, and I feel that great things lie ahead for him.

David graduated from high school in 2003. He also attended the seminary in 2005. Currently, he is traveling for a year with his brother, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, in the role of an attache and kusung. This will be excellent training for him, whatever direction his life takes. He plans to attend university in 2006. David has shown a great connection to the Dorje Kasung since he was a small boy. He is constantly cheerful, empathetic with others, and a delight to me.

Altogether I am very proud of my boys, especially as I see more and more that they feel a connection to Rinpoche and to his teachings. They feel a responsibility to help care for Rinpoche's legacy and to continue the work that he began. This makes me especially pleased.

Rinpoche and I had always wanted a daughter, and we wanted to name her Chandali, but we were never blessed by one. He even wrote a poem to Chandali Mukpo. In 1988, Mitchell and I heard about an eight-year-old Tibetan girl who was in quite dreadful circumstances. She had been adopted by a woman in North America who mistreated her and had placed her for awhile in foster care. We decided to adopt her. So Chandali Mukpo joined our family at that time. Chandali is currently in nursing school in Providence, Rhode Island: She is a beautiful, gentle young woman. Altogether I am pleased that we are a closely knit family.

My mother, Elizabeth Pybus, died in Chatterwood Nursing Home in Hampshire, England, on September 8, 1998. She was eighty-eight. Recently, our family suffered a tragedy when my sister, Tessa, passed away. She was diagnosed in 2001 with hepatitis C. Tessa worked very hard to help raise funds for a Shambhala center in Providence in the years prior to her death. In the spring of 2006 she received a liver transplant but she did not recover, and she died on the evening of March 28, surrounded by members of our family. I was reading to her from the Tibetan Book if the Dead when she died. She had a peaceful and luminous death. I miss her profoundly.

While in Hawaii, I started riding again, and found that my passion for it returned with a vengeance! While we were living there, I was able to arrange for Rinpoche's horse, Drala, to be flown over. I found a place where he could spend his last days on the island of Hawaii. The woman who took him used to feed him strawberries in the field. When he finally died, around the age of twenty-five, they discovered that the mare with whom he'd been pastured was pregnant. I attempted to buy the foal, but it was not for sale.

After a few years in Hawaii, both Mitchell and I felt ready to move back to the mainland. I moved the family to Seattle ahead of Mitchell while he was investigating work possibilities. There, I connected with a wonderful group of people interested in dressage. Within a very short period of time, I developed quite a good teaching and training business, and I continue to travel regularly to Seattle to teach. However, Mitchell did not find a good position there, and after about a year, we moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where we have remained. Mitchell became a professor in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brown University.

Although my life may have been unconventional, I have had two marriages in which there's been a tremendous amount of love. I feel that I've had very good fortune in my life in terms of the men I've been married to. For me, my marriage to Mitchell is in fact a continuation of my relationship with Rinpoche, in that Mitchell and I both have a commitment to bringing the Shambhala vision into our lives. We have supported each other in developing ourselves and our lives as Rinpoche encouraged us to do.

During Rinpoche's lifetime, Mitchell and Rinpoche worked together on creating an organization called Amara to explore how to treat sickness from the Buddhist perspective. After Rinpoche died, Mitchell threw himself into his career 100 percent. He is now one of the foremost physicians in critical care in the United States, and in 2009 he becomes the president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. He has been instrumental in bringing into the mainstream of Western medicine the compassionate care of the dying and providing support for their families.

For my part, I have been very actively involved in my dressage career for the last ten years or more. Currently, I spend about six months a year in Florida, teaching and training horses.
I have had many horses over the course of my career. Currently, I have excellent horses to ride. There are many vicissitudes of life and of horses, but I find that I take more and more delight in the day-to-day discipline of dressage.

When Rinpoche and I first came to America, I tried to keep the dressage world and the dharmic kingdom separate. Over the last ten years, I've noticed a change, so that many of my friends who are interested in dressage are now also interested in spirituality. I have great respect for the people I meet who have taken their discipline to its pinnacle. To do so, one must go through a process of working with one's own state of mind. I know many people who are extraordinarily open-minded Shambhalian people in their own right. For me, the situation becomes more and more comfortable, so that I no longer have to keep the two worlds apart.

Khyentse Rinpoche was helpful to our community in every way. After Rinpoche's death, he gave advanced Vajrayana teachings at Karme Choling and then traveled to Halifax and to Boulder to give the same empowerments. These were teachings that Rinpoche had always hoped could be transmitted to his students. As he had promised, His Holiness took a role in the education of my two sons who were old enough to study with him. His advice and loving kindness were invaluable to everyone during the difficulties surrounding the Vajra Regent's illness and death. Following the Regent's death, His Holiness counseled everyone to remember the preciousness of Rinpoche's teachings and to work together. He left letters to that effect that still continue to guide us. His Holiness died in Bhutan in September 1991, and the Sawang led a large delegation to His Holiness's funeral.

In 2001, the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya That Liberates upon Seeing, dedicated to Rinpoche's life and Buddha activity, was consecrated at RMDC, now renamed the Shambhala Mountain Center. Khyentse Rinpoche gave that name to this monument. It is the largest stupa in North America. More than a thousand of his students attended the consecration ceremonies. The stupa is an exquisite and very powerful expression of the devotion of his students, and represents an outpouring of generosity from many people. A small stupa was consecrated that same year at the monastery that Rinpoche started in Nova Scotia, Gampo Abbey, in Pleasant Bay on Cape Breton Island.

At the time of the consecration of the stupa, I had begun to feel that it was very important for me to travel to Tibet and visit Surmang, Rinpoche's monastery there. I wanted to take the children with me, except for Taggie, of course, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche -- who had already gone the year before, leading an official delegation from Shambhala. In the summer of 2002, Mitchell and I journeyed there with Gesar, Ashoka, David, and Chandali. It was extraordinary to see the place that Rinpoche came from and to meet so many people there who were still so dedicated to him. We spent quite a lot of time with the Twelfth Trungpa, who is now a teenager. We also met a number of members of Rinpoche's family, including his nephew Karma Senge Rinpoche, who had traveled all over Tibet collecting the teachings that Rinpoche had written and transmitted to people before leaving there in 1959. Karma Senge has now made two trips to North America. Rinpoche's brother, Damchod Rinpoche, was also at Surmang when we were there, and he and Karma Senge will be coming this summer to Halifax for Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's wedding.

When we first arrived at Surmang, it was two or three o'clock in the morning. The monks greeted us wearing wrathful mahakala masks and playing Tibetan horns, drums, and cymbals, which make an unearthly music. I was profoundly affected by the primordial feeling. In the morning, we were able to see the state of Surmang, and it was heartbreaking and somewhat shocking to realize that the monastery had not been rebuilt, and that people were living in extreme poverty.

I was very moved throughout our visit, not only by the physical hardship people had endured, but also by the knowledge that they had also suffered from losing Rinpoche so early in his life. We got so much from him; they gave up so much. Since that visit, I have been spearheading the work on a number of projects to rebuild Surmang Dutsi Tel. We have started the Konchok Foundation as the umbrella organization for this work. Currently, the monastic school, or shedra, is being rebuilt, and we have also been raising funds for the education of the Twelfth Trungpa. I am particularly interested in providing education for the laypeople as well as for monastics, and I would like to work on sustainable economic ventures for Surmang. For one thing, I want to donate 100 dris, female yaks, to help establish the dairy business there.

Before Rinpoche died, he had received letters from Surmang asking him to return. He had written back, saying that he was not well enough to travel there by jeep or horse, but that he might try to helicopter in. That never happened. In the years after Rinpoche's death, when much of Tibet opened up to Westerners, for various reasons, our community neglected the rebuilding of Surmang. However, now we are striving to make up for lost time. I am very pleased the project is moving forward. In the end, I hope that Surmang will become a place where our students can go to practice, and also that we can send people there to share the teachings that Rinpoche gave us. While I was there, for example, I gave the transmission of the Werma Sadhana to several hundred people.

During Rinpoche's lifetime, he wrote more than a dozen books. Since his death, more than two dozen additional books of his teachings have been published based on his lectures, which are preserved by the Shambhala Archives in Halifax. In 2004, an eight-volume, three-thousand-page collection of The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa was published. There are plans to publish many more volumes of his teachings. We are particularly looking forward to the publication of several volumes based on the teachings that Rinpoche gave at the seminaries, a project that is being headed up by Judith Lief. There is certainly no dearth of material overall. When we added up all of the talks he had given in North America, we discovered that there were more than two thousand of them! Between now and the twentieth anniversary of his death, the Archives is digitizing all of the audiotapes on which his lectures were recorded, and centers around the world will have digital libraries of this material.

We are now in the initial stages of planning a Chogyam Trungpa Foundation and Institute that will help to ensure that the publication of his work will continue and that generations of students can continue to study what he taught.

Every year on April 4, the anniversary of Rinpoche's death, students around the world gather to practice together and to share with one another stories of his life and teachings that he gave. Rinpoche planted the seeds for the teachings to flourish in the West. Because of the depth of his intention and his actions, and because what he gave us was absolutely unadulterated, I know that Buddhism will firmly take root in the Western world, as another link in the chain that began with the Buddha. When Padmasambhava brought the teachings of Buddhism to Tibet, he was able to present their essence, transmuting them into the Tibetan culture. Similarly, Buddhism is taking root here in a uniquely Western way; based on Western sanity and wisdom, independent of the crutch of other cultures. This is due, in part, to the purity and the intensity of Rinpoche's efforts. I have no doubt that he will be with us for a long time, and that my grandchildren, as well as their children, will come to know him.
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Re: Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa by Diana Mu

Postby admin » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:19 pm


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Diana Mukpo.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.


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


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

2. Chogyam Trungpa, letter, unpublished.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

3. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


1. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

3. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.


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

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

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


1. Chogyam Trungpa, Court Vision, unpublished manuscript.

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

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


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


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

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


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

2. Chogyam Trungpa, poem, unpublished.

3. Diana Mukpo, poem, unpublished.


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

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