Lyndon Comstock On Chogyam Trungpa etc
On Trungpa and people associated with his Tibetan monastery
On Esselen Indians (from Tassajara area)
Recalls his wedding officiated by Chogyam Trungpa's heir Osel Tendzin
DC intro: Lyndon had read some pieces I wrote about Trungpa and Boulder called Trungpa, Rinpoche, and Boulder. Here he refers to what I wrote in the third piece, Boulder, about a song I'd sung for Osel Tendsing, Trungpa's Dharma Regent.
7-22-17 - The birthday song story is a wonderful story You have one line in your song which may stick with me, despite my tendency to forget all song lyrics or the like, because it's so "on point" In reference to Trungpa R. you say, meeting him was like stepping on a tack. Well said. Very well said.
The regent was the person who conducted the wedding for my wife Arline and me, in 1978 in Berkeley at the Dharmadhatu, as it was then called.. It was quite delightful, in its way. You won't be surprised at the style because it was so consistent with what you'd seen. Even though our own role as the wedding couple was quite simple, we got hours of training ahead of time in exactly what we were to do. Almost zen-like, if one could say so, in terms of its emphasis on precision.
For the ceremony itself, all of our guests were seated in the shrine room other than immediate family members, principally my parents (Arline's parents were no longer alive). They were taken into a reception room and had people chatting with them and serving them the entire time until the ceremony started. We were taken into the teacher's reception room and sat with the Regent. We were served sake with him and chatted with him--as you know, he could be wonderfully sociable, for perhaps two hours. The timing, in retrospect, seems to be have been based on how long it took us to get what he judged to be sufficiently drunk. We're both sippers, not gulpers, so it took a while. We made the grave mistake of having failed to warn our non-sangha guests that there might be a long delay in the start of the ceremony and one couple was leaving as we walked in...they were quite annoyed and actually didn't come back into the shrine room, they just went ahead and left. We were, of course, expected to both remember and execute all of the very detailed instructions we had been given even though we were by then sufficiently drunk that it was difficult to walk rather than wobble. Of course, we really couldn't but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. Typically for me, I can't remember the details but the ceremony was based on the bodhisattva vow and the commitment one makes is basically just to walk on the path. We gave the Regent a gift of a beautiful crystal goblet that we had had engraved with some appropriate dharma representation, and, as usual, I can/t remember just what. He later told us that the goblet broke, which later struck me as being appropriately representative.
It was interesting to me that Trungpa R. piled so much onto the students who became closest to him, I personally think that almost none of them did well with the pace. I think he greatly overestimated most of his Western students as to our capacity to absorb vajrayana at that breakneck pace. I think he got that style from his experience with Khenpo Gangshar and almost no one in that circle In Tibet could absorb that pace either, is my view, and they had ten times the degree of preparation that we did. Perhaps he really did think, as he often said, it's up to you. Meaning, in this case, If you want to sip from this cup, I'll give you as much as you want. Personally, I think my most basic reaction to him was one of fear, and as tantalizing as he was, I felt very little inclination to try to spend very much time in his presence, it felt too overwhelming. I couldn't even tell you just how our connection happened since I didn't feel drawn to him, in some warm and fuzzy sense, at all. Not at all. I never had any sense of asking him to become my teacher. At some point, I realized that he had become my guru, it was like I was getting messages in my head from him. To tell the truth, I feel like that occasionally still happens and he's already been dead for thirty years now.
7-18-17 - Trungpa R. had not only his family of origin that he left behind in Tibet but all of the people associated with his monastery. Although the monastery was destroyed by the Chinese (and has since been rebuilt), a good number of people survived long enough to participate in starting to re-establish their traditions and practices. And certainly they didn't forget Trungpa R., even though he was only about 19 when he left, but he had already made a very significant impact. Even aside from his formal role as abbot of Surmang Dutsi Til. Thus, we have people accessible to us, albeit they are physically remote, living in a country under occupation, and speak a different language, who not only share our tradition and are part of the same sangha in a general sense, but are the spiritual descendants of the same teacher and regard us as something akin to blood relatives (even though most of the Shambhala sangha in the West have little or no awareness of this). Not only that, but the folks there are aware of a number of elements of our shared tradition that Trungpa R. never prioritized teaching to us during out brief years together. Even though he was intimately familiar with them. Meditational dance (lama dance) would be one example. Because of the Tibetan sangha, those are still accessible to us if we wish. I've personally found the Tibetan sangha connection to not only be interesting but powerful and enriching. For me personally, it's been an important connection and I'm going back to Surmang again in August.
I will give another element of this from when Trungpa R. was still alive. He made a point of trying to introduce his Western students to as many as possible of the great Tibetan Buddhist teachers who had made it out of Tibet, or at least the ones that he personally knew or admired. Indeed, for most, he was instrumental in making it possible for them to visit North America for the first time. The 16th Karmapa would be a good example. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche is another. Even at a provincial outpost in Berkeley far from our capital in Boulder and later Halifax, we hosted many of the greatest vajrayana teachers of that era, as it became possible for them to visit the West.