The lie of omission is sometimes the most troublesome one.
I don't remember who among Rinpoche's students found our first meditation hall. It was a three thousand square foot space on the second or third floor
of a building near Yonge and Queen Sts., at 14 Queen St. East.
That block was redeveloped years ago and the building is no longer there.
We started to make the space habitable for our purposes by covering the floor with "ten test", a kind of fiberboard that came in 4' by 8' sheets. We
then covered that with a thin but strong orange colored industrial carpeting material. Most of the three thousand square feet of the space was
covered in this material, so we had large rolls of it for the purpose. We put together a small area near the window overlooking the street, for having
lunch, coffee, etc.
I and others helped with this work but the real prime movers were the university professor and two of Rinpoche's students who had been studying
engineering at the University of Toronto. It was likely one of these three that first found this rental situation for the center.
This all might seem quite unimportant in the context of my story, but it is very important. We, a small group of Rinpoche's students, less than ten
people, did virtually all of the work establishing this meditation venue. When that happens, in any group, there is an emotional commitment to the
situation. Relationships become tighter as problems are overcome, together.
One can use the term "esprit de corps". We were starting to become a team. Five or so students, who were really focused on Rinpoche, and not on one of
the other three lamas who had students using this Dharma center, began to be very cohesive and open with one another, at least as far as this project
The two former engineering students were particularly "charmed" by the university professor. These were young people who had dropped out of
engineering in second year, had nothing really to do of a compelling interest, and threw themselves unreservedly into our efforts. The university
professor really had them jumping through hoops for him during this period and they loved very minute of it.
We set up a shrine at one end of the meditation hall, consisting of elevated shelves covered by colored cloths upon which were placed statues and
ritual implements. This was overseen by Rinpoche and done according to his wishes.
These shrine altars can become a catch all for a wide variety of fetishistic offerings, particularly photos, little statues, plastic flowers and the
like, placed there by students in the grip of various degrees of devotional fervor. This sort of thing would start to accumulate and every once in a
while Rinpoche would have to clear it out. Nobody else would dare. He would, from time to time, remove some of these things with the words, "too
It was at this hall, after a period of weeks during which I proved that I was a reliable worker for the center, that I met Rinpoche.
The professor had at one point said to me, "You may not like some of the other members but you will love Rinpoche."
Initially, the near exact opposite was true. I liked the other members insofar as I knew them, which was insofar as we worked together getting our
meditation hall set up.
My first meeting with Rinpoche, introduced to him by the university professor, did not go particularly well. He seemed wary and aloof. I don't know
why that was.
With the hindsight of almost seventy years of experience, I can say that I have encountered this before, usually in people who are up to something,
people with a plan that they think I might obstruct in some way, or people who like to surround themselves by people they can easily dominate and
control. Numerous organizations operate in that way, where the controlling personalities prefer to be surrounded by submissive people in debtor
relationships to them.
With Rinpoche, I didn't know exactly what was going on in his mind at the time, because our introductory meeting was brief. I wasn't alarmed at all. I
was used to adapting to whomever was at the head of the class at university, ignoring disagreeable personality traits and simply getting on with
getting educated. I had a similar attitude to Rinpoche and to Tibetan Buddhism. It couldn't have been more inappropriate.
Perhaps Rinpoche had been disturbed that I did not appear sufficiently submissive in my initial approach to him. That was very likely.
It was true.
Rinpoche, at the time, had certainly acclimated to the West and to Toronto, to a certain degree, but he was an old style lama. Although he was in his
early forties when I met him, and was twenty-eight when he came out of Tibet in 1959, his mentality was "old school Tibetan"
This is as hard core as it gets in meditation. Think of photos of the great lamas of Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion. Sometimes they smile but
most often you see an austere, unsmiling face perched on a high throne, at least for the camera. Of course joy rises naturally, if you let it, and
these people knew all about that.
This, three abbots and a lama, is from, probably Kham, in 1930, the year before Rinpoche was born there.
When we were working on our book, Rinpoche would often keep going until I started to flag a little from sitting cross legged so long and just the
general stress of trying to take dictation from him, trying to get it right, and trying to maintain patience and good humor.
At one point I suggested that he just write the book in Tibetan so that we could translate that
together. He didn't want to do it that way.
When I was at the point of exhaustion, he, fresh as a daisy, seeing that I needed a rest, would say, "Time for mantra break
", and we would do
mantras for a while . . . to revive ourselves. Not my idea of a "break".
It shows the mentality of this sort of person, very old school Tibetan, all meditation all the time.
He had never seen an automobile until he came out of Tibet. He said that people, generally, weren't familiar with modern sciences like astronomy and
that during an eclipse, there was a fear that the sun and moon would collide.
He told other stories of "old style" Tibet that I cannot tell here. He had a taste for the bizarre. These stories, the "thigh bone trumpet", the "show
off monk" and "loyalty to Karmapa", are too far outside the present historical context and odd enough that they could be used by malicious people for
One time we were sitting together in a sidewalk café on Yonge St, having a snack, when a diminutive midget with his legs in braces appeared, laboring
his way past us on crutches. As we watched this person, Rinpoche said, "There are many interestings in samsara."
The unspoken message I took from that remark was that samsara was, in Gampopa's words, "notorious for being endless" and to be careful of my karma.
I, and others of his close students, were real dog's bodies for him during this period, and I say that with a smile on my face. The professor and I
told him that he could use our skulls for ritual skull cups if we passed away suddenly.
I think he was pleased.
edit on 4-11-2018 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)