Seeing with new ears

“I cannot solve the problem of life by losing myself in the problem of art”.
—Tina Modotti (1896-1942)

“Okay, now I’m gonna roll tape, and you can do it with feeling.”

Okay, seriously, this is one of the single best new pieces of instrumental music I’ve listened to in months (it’s actually been up on youtube for a year and a half!).

I put it on continuous loop with silence breaks of various random lengths, and played it on-&-off all day, and I found that it made an equally beguiling and energetically enhancing sound-track for virtually all the day’s activities: showering, asanas (though I never play music when doing yoga, per original purpose & profound effectiveness of Vedic yoga, not all that calisthenic modern American studio-style “yoga” with non-Vedic soundtrack “music” all those lovely x-cardio workout gym queens love to slather everyone’s ears with; but today I thought, why not? Let’s see what this totally whack sax-&-drum piece goes well with, today, for me)….

And with morning & evening meditation sessions & a few other silent or slower/quieter breaks aside,—I found it was great for showering; asanas; sweeping the floor; sorting laundry; boiling/steeping tea, boiling/steaming rice & chopping, stirring curried veg, drinking tea & eating rice & veg; washing dishes; driving to studio/office; sketching and painting; answering typical concerned-but-repetitive student email questions; dancing a little in total privacy; taking a walk around the lake…. Ordinarily, I strictly follow the wisdom of not dividing the attention by playing music when doing anything but listening to music, but today I made a fun exception.

Le seul véritable voyage….ce ne serait pas d’aller vers de nouveaux paysages, mais d’avoir d’autres yeux…
[The only true voyage… would be not to go to new landscapes, but to have
other eyes.]
—Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
‘La Prisonnière’ (published 1923),
À la recherche du temps perdu vol 5 ch 2

One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.
—Henry Miller (1891-1980)
Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (1957)

“The famous line is from Proust’s seven-volume work, À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past -or- In Search of Lost Time). The quotation is from volume 5—’La Prisonnière’, “The Prisoner”—originally published in French, in 1923.

In chapter 2 of “The Prisoner,” the narrator is commenting at length on art, rather than travel. Listening for the first time to a new work by a composer he knows, he finds himself transported not to a physical location, but to a wonderful “strange land” of the composer’s own making. “Each artist,” he decides, “seems thus to be the native of an unknown country, which he himself has forgotten. . . .” These artists include composers and painters he knows. He continues:

“This lost country composers do not actually remember, but each of them remains all his life somehow attuned to it; he is wild with joy when he is singing the airs of his native land, betrays it at times in his thirst for fame, but then, in seeking fame, turns his back upon it, and it is only when he despises it that he finds it when he utters, whatever the subject with which he is dealing, that peculiar strain the monotony of which—for whatever its subject it remains identical in itself—proves the permanence of the elements that compose his soul. But is it not the fact then that from those elements, all the real residuum which we are obliged to keep to ourselves, which cannot be transmitted in talk, even by friend to friend, by master to disciple, by lover to mistress, that ineffable something which makes a difference in quality between what each of us has felt and what he is obliged to leave behind at the threshold of the phrases in which he can communicate with his fellows only by limiting himself to external points common to us all and of no interest, art, the art…makes the man himself apparent, rendering externally visible in the colours of the spectrum that intimate composition of those worlds which we call individual persons and which, without the aid of art, we should never know?

“A pair of wings, a different mode of breathing, which would enable us to travel through infinite space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe in the same aspect as the things of Earth everything that we should be capable of seeing.

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only bath in the fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we really fly from star to star.”

~ ~ ~

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.                                         —Jesus Christ

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.    
—William Blake (1757-1827) English mystic poet and artist

An individual can only perceive others, can only perceive the world, can only assess the value of reality, according to the quality and expansiveness, the comprehensive inclusiveness, of his own consciousness. We see the world only according to the quality of what we ourselves are, our own experience of being, our own state of consciousness.                                                                                                          —His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008)

As a man is, So he Sees.                                                                                                                    —William Blake (1757-1827)

Reality is structured in consciousness; and reality is different in different states of consciousness.                                                                                                        —His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008)



a mala of favorite things

A mala of Some Favourite Things

mala — Sanskrit: garland, usually means a rosary or chaplet of beads for counting repetition (japa) of mantra / prayers.  Traditionally strung in rounds of 108 beads with one extra “silent witness” bead, also known as guru bead. Repetitions are counting in rounds of 100, but the other eight are extra to cover for any mistakes or lapse of one-pointedness. The 109th bead is not counted.

In this case, just 109 persons, places, things that happen to be among my favourites. Not necessarily my most favourite in all cases & categories! But definitely among my favourites….

Who & what are some of your favourites?

some Coastal/Western towns

1 Port Townsend
2 Stinson Beach
4 Cambria
5 Leucadia
6 Sedona
7 Flagstaff
8 Santa Fe
9 Taos
10 Boulder

some top sattvic foods (organic, fresh only)

11 ayurvedic buttermilk
12 oranges
13 amalak fruits
14 almonds (blanched)
15 honey (raw)
16 ghee
17 most grains
18 mung bean dhal
19 most fruits
20 most vegetables

some fave novels

21 Lost Horizon
22 The Grand Sophy
22 The Dharma Bums
24 Siddhartha
25 The Little Prince
26 Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game)
27 Journey to the East
28 Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān
29 The Research Magnificent
30 Christopher and Columbus

some fave movies

31 Prime
32 The Holiday
33 The Holly and the Ivy
34 Enchanted April
35 Page Eight
36 About a Boy
37 High Fidelity
38 Lost Horizon
39 Heat and Dust
40 The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

some fave fruits

41 strawberry
42 black cherry
43 peach
44 blackberry
45 orange
46 pear
47 mango
48 guava
49 cassava melon
50 mangosteen

Some fave painters

51 Paul Klee
52 William Blake
53 John Marin
54 Marc Chagall
55 Robert Natkin
56 Henri Matisse
57 JMW Turner
58 Georgia O’Keeffe
59 Joan Mitchell
60 Henri Rousseau

Some fav cuisines – (lacto) veggie organic fresh version only!

61 Indian
62 Thai
63 Chinese
64 Japanese
65 Greek/Mediterranean
66 Italian
67 Mexican
68 Balinese
69 Californian
70 Southwestern (New Mexican)

some fave Indian towns

71 Uttar Kashi
72 Rishikesh
73 Manali
74 Puri
75 Goa
76 Dharmshala/Mcleodganj
77 Kovalam
78 Darjeeling
79 Kalimpong
80 Kasar Devi

some fave 20th century women (celebs)

81 Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969)
82 Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)
83 Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)
84 Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
85 Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
86 Peace Pilgrim (1908-1981)
87 Muriel Rukyser (1913-1980)
88 Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
89 Tare Lhamo (1938-2003)
90 Petra Kelly (1947-1992)

some fave hats

91 balmoral (kilmarnock, tam-o’shanter)
92 artist beret
93 Tibetan (faux!) fox / Russian ushanka
94 tricorn
95 cowboy
96 lifeguard straw
97 slouch
98 asian conical (“coolie”)
99 turban
100 Sami čiehgahpir /  Andean chullo etc)

Some fave mala beads

101 quartz crystal
102 red coral
103 pearl
104 banded agate
105 conch
106 amber
107 turquoise
108 rudraksha


109 His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008)

Cloud Patch

As in the sky all clouds disappear into sky itself:
Wherever they go, they go nowhere,
wherever they are, they are nowhere.
This is the same for thoughts in the mind:
When mind looks at mind,
the waves of conceptual thought disappear.

— Machig Labdron (1055-1149)
Tibetan yogini, woman lama (Buddhist teacher)

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

― Henry David Thoreau (1816 – 1861)

The greatest stories are lived, not told.

— magazine ad, 2016

My life has been the poem I would have writ
But I could not both live and utter it.

― Henry David Thoreau (1816 – 1861)

If you’re looking to find the key to the Universe,
I have some bad news and some good news.
The bad news: there is no key to the Universe.
The good news: it has been left unlocked.

— Swami Beyondananda (Steve Bhaerman b.c1945)

There is a way. No one will reveal the secret.
You must enter the door yourself. But there is no door.
In the end, there is not even a way.

— Dongsan of Haeinsa, 1936
Korean Seon (Zen) Master

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.

— John Muir (1838-1914)

When the devotional soul lifts itself upward by continual meditation and prayer, an unusual light suddenly appears and snatches away the amazed mind. And so, in order that he may become a contemplative, and with his heart’s eye now cleansed, he is caught up to the sight of heavenly things, a door is opened in heaven (not corporeally but spiritually) and from it descend mellifluous gifts, and secrets are thrown open.

—Saint Richard Rolle (1290-1349) English mystic poet and monk
Hermit of Hampole, commenting on Bible verse: Revelation 4:1:
“I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven.”

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.

—William Blake (1757-1827) English mystic poet and artist

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

—Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
“Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

Strip off the blinders, unload the saddlebags!

— Hsueh-Tou Ch’ung-Hsien (980-1052)
Chinese Ch’an (Zen) master

This world is but a canvas for our imagination.

― Henry David Thoreau (1816 – 1861)

The little horse ambles clop-clop
across the summer moor —
I find myself in a picture.

—Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

Basho’s disciple Sampu painted a picture of Basho nodding along on his little horse, completely absorbed – subjective and objective fallen away, the inside world enlarged to fill the summer moor; the summer moor filling the inside world.

—Robert Aitken Roshi (1917-2010)

Dr King, Brother Thầy, Fr Tom…

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
(January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) Dr King would be 87 today.
Dr King nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thích Nhất Hạnh
(born October 11, 1926) Brother Thầy is 89, recovering from a stroke in November 2014.

Ven. Thich Nhất Hạnh (“Brother Thầy”) is a Vietnamese Zen master, Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, peace activist, and global spiritual leader, revered around the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. He is the man Dr. King called “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence.” His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. He lives in Plum Village in the Dordogne region in the south of France, traveling internationally to give retreats and talks.

Brother Thầy influenced Dr King to extend his work for civil rights to include taking a strong public stand for world peace and in protest of the US war against the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. As a Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr King was eligible to nominate his candidate for the Prize. He nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh, but in publicly announcing his nomination, King went against unofficial Nobel protocal to keep the nominations private and was thereafter officially criticized by the Committee.

Although the Nobel committee declined to award the prize that year, they did later give it to Henry Kissinger, one of the world’s most notorious, nefarious and ruthless war-mongers and genocidists of the twentieth century. Kissinger is currently wanted for war crimes by various international courts.

At the time of his assassination in April 1968, Dr King was scheduled to travel to the Catholic Trappist monastery at Gethsemane Kentucky to enjoy a retreat with his friend Father Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the famous priest, monk, author, and peace activist living in a hermitage there. King and Merton were mutual friends with Thích Nhất Hạnh who had visited Gethsemane some years before.

Merton died in December 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand. He had earlier publicly declared his willingness to join with other US peace activists in relocating to Hanoi, capital of North Vietnam, as “hostages of peace” in an effort to end the war and the US saturation bombings of the city’s civilian population. Many believe that Merton’s strong criticism of the US war effort, his close solidarity and mutual friendships with King, Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Berrigan brothers, and other peace and freedom activists and his offer to be a “peace hostage” in Hanoi, led to his sudden death, as a likely target of a CIA assassination hit. Merton would be 101 this month.

A multi-zillionaire many times over, Henry Kissinger (born 1923) has been consistently adulated as the dean of senior statesmen by successive US presidential administrations and has been appointed as both an official and and at times unofficial adviser not only by US presidents but by Indonesian and other corrupt regimes as well. By never leaving the US in recent years and with the aid of 24/7 protection by government-provided armed bodyguards, Kissinger continues to live in relative security, conspicuous luxury, and official “honor” while avoiding arrest and trial for war-crimes by international courts. Kissinger is now 92.

Although I spent some time working with the civil rights movement in my youth, and met some of its famous leaders, I never met Dr King.
My late wife and I personally received teachings from Brother Thầy, and along with Brother Thầy were once able to share a week of receiving daily initiations and teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
I visited Tom Merton twice in Kentucky and was able to see him again when he twice visited out west prior to leaving for Asia where he met with the HH the Dalai Lama and HH Chatral Rinpoche, among others.
I have never met Kissinger, but I would like to attend his trial for crimes against humanity.

Image result for thich nhat hanh and Martin luther king

Image result for thich nhat hanh and thomas merton

More Winter Light!

15 January 2016   –   a pome a day…

Osip’s 125th birthday…


This is what I most want
unpursued, alone
to reach beyond the light
that I am furthest from.

And for you to shine there—
no other happiness—
and learn, from starlight,
what its fire might suggest.

A star burns as a star,
light becomes light,
because our murmuring
strengthens us, and warms the night.

And I want to say to you
my little one, whispering,
I can only lift you towards the light
by means of this babbling.

—Osip Emilevich Mandelstam
(January 15, 1891 Warsaw—December 27, 1938 Siberian gulag)

Image result for osip mandelstam

My Hovel
The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.

—Ikkyu (1394-1481)
Ikkyu Sōjun, eccentric, iconoclastic Japanese Zen master and poet

Untitled poem by an anonymous Irish monk, 9th century

Is acher in gaíth in-nocht
Fu-fúasna fairggæ findfholt
Ní ágor réimm mora minn
Dond láechraid lainn ua Lothlind

It is bitter, the wind, tonight.
Tossing the ocean’s hair white.
I fear not the coursing of the sea
But fierce warriors from Lothlind

—in the margins of the St. Gall Grammar by Priscian, c845
tr.Victoria Lord

[Lothlind: Lochlann, Norway, “land of fjords”]


Family ancestral saints feast day:

St. Ceolwulf of Northumbria (c695-764), generation 43 uncle
King of Northumbria, England, and patron of St. Bede. He resigned in 738 and became a monk at Lindisfame. St. Bede dedicated his Ecclesiastical History to “the most gracious King Ceolwulf.”

St. Emebert (-710) generation 45 uncle
bishop of Cambrai, Flanders. Son of Duke Witger of Lotharingia and Saint Amalberga of Maubeuge. His sisters include Saints Ermelinde, Gudula, Pharaildis and the martyred hermit nun St Reineldis, beheaded during an invasion by Huns.


Three poems. One martyred poet. Two ancestral saints. One unknown scholar-monk. One rasty Zen poet-monk.

The Old Irish (Gaelic) quatrain above was penned c845 by an anonymous Irish monk in the margins of a classical grammar textbook. Norse Viking raiders were ravishing the often isolated island and coastal communities of monks and nuns in Ireland, Scotland, England, the north coast of France, and elsewhere in the Christianized parts of northern Europe. In the Viking attacks, many of the contemplatives would be slaughtered, most survivors, male and female, were raped, shackled, and carted off to be sold as slaves. The fiercer the storm, the more tossed the sea, the less likely an attack by Vikings from Norway, that particular night….A common prayer: “Lord, save us from the Norsemen!”

Today, among other such-like atrocities, it is the patients and staff of hospitals operated by Doctors without Borders that are being attacked and destroyed by US drone-missile strikes, from drones remotely operated by young game-fan recruits sitting at video console screens in desert facilities in California.

And it is the residents of Paris, and the staff and residents of community developmental disability service facilities in California, that are being attacked by marauding bands of insane terrorists. And it is so many other people today in so many other places and situations being killed by military, police, terrorists, and criminals. The increasingly frequent and violent storms and other horrible weather disasters brought on by human greed and our insane devastation of the climate and the planet also are killing many hundreds of people this winter of 2015-2016.

On this stormy winter night, relatively safe and relatively dry and warm here in my urban desert hovel, I watch and listen to the world news reports on my computer, and also “re-discover” a 1,200 year old four-line graffito poem/book-margin note. An Old Irish  quatrain for this cold new year… (And by “re-discover” I mean only to myself—I had first come upon the poem, long well-known to scholars, many years ago.)

My ancestral uncle Ceolwulf, as a young king was once kidnapped by usurpers and imprisoned in a monastery while rival kinsmen took over his throne. After he escaped and his kingdom was restored, he arrested and exiled the nation’s bishop for complicity in the coup. Years later, Ceolwulf abdicated his throne and retired for the last quarter century of his life to the island monastery of Lindisfarne which he had extensively endowed during his reign. There he lived and died peacefully, but less than thirty years later the monastery was ravaged by Vikings.

One of my ancestral uncle St Emebert’s sisters, a nun, was martyred when a band of invading Huns attacked her convent; she was decapitated.

Osip Mandelstam and his wife were harassed, imprisoned and exiled by Stalin’s regime, and in the end the poet was imprisoned again and died at a gulag transit camp. A few days before his death he had managed to get a note out to his wife asking for warm clothes.

Ikkyu, was the illegitimate son of the Japanese emperor and one of his court-servants. Orphaned and sent to a monastery as a young child, he eventually became a zen master and abbot noted for his poetry, painting and calligraphy, his harsh criticism of political and religious institutions and all forms of hypocrisy, violence, and injustice. He was also notorious for his open frequenting of brothels, and his public poetic and musical celebration of sex and romance as valid and effective paths to enlightenment. Late in life he became the abbot of the nation’s most important Zen training monastery and also met a young blind musician with whom he lived openly in a passionately romantic partnership. Their love, and her beauty and kindness, became the subject of many of his later poems.

His Holiness Chatral Rinpoche (1913-2016)

Image result for chatral rinpoche

6 January 2016 Pharping, Nepal

His Holiness Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist Yogis and enlightened master-teachers of our age, died in Nepal on January 5, at the age of 102. He entered into final meditation on December 30 and for the next six days his body remained in the tukdam state (transitional condition of in-drawn equipose—a form of suspended animation).

My late wife and I held it as a very great honour to be personal initiates and students of His Holiness. He was a beloved teacher of thousands, including many of the most prominent lamas of Tibet, and was also revered by millions of additional persons as a great living saint, an enlightened being, a living buddha.

Rinpoche was born on 18 June 1913 in the eastern Tibetan kingdom of Kham and passed away at his home, a retreat-center ashram in Nepal. He is survived by his wife, his three daughters, and two granddaughters. His wife and daughters were extensively trained as yoginis and lamas by Rinpoche. His oldest and youngest daughters are married to reincarnate lamas (tulkus), and his unmarried middle daughter, Saraswati, is regarded as the manifestation, or rebirth, of one of Rinpoche’s own female teachers, the great Yogini Sera Khandro. Rinpoche’s widow, Sangyam Kamala, first met her future husband when she was 13 and journeyed to meet their mutual principal teacher, Dudjom Rinpoche. By the time she was 20 and Chatral was 49, the couple had fallen in love; at Chatral’s passing they had been married for over 53 years.

Rinpoche left home at fifteen, and traveled on foot extensively throughout Tibet in order to meet and receive teachings from over eighty different masters. After only two-to-three years of practice under his first primary teacher, Rinpoche was regarded as having attained full enlightenment.

During the remainder of his long life, he spent much time in long solitary meditation retreats in remote areas of the Himalayas, backpacking and camping in isolated areas where he stayed in a small tent and in various cave hermitages. Altogether, though not all at once, Rinpoche spent over fifty of his 102 years of life in solitary retreat, meditating in reclusion in various remote parts of the Himalayan cloud-forests.

At age twenty-one, Rinpoche was sought out by Tibet’s then-reigning regent who requested him to serve as spiritual guide to the interim national government. After declining these requests several times, Rinpoche reluctantly agreed, but soon thereafter withdrew to resume his wandering life of frequent extended solitude, which resulted in his acquiring the name Chatral, or Hermit.

Twenty years later, anticipating the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, Rinpoche migrated to Bhutan where he became the first contemporary Tibetan exile to establish a retreat training school in another country. He continued wandering extensively throughout the Himalayan region, establishing retreat centers and temples in Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal and India.

In 1962, the year of his marriage at age 49, Chatral settled near a small pilgrimage village in Nepal at one of the retreat centers he had previously established for training yogis and future lamas. There, he begin supervising the traditional three-year-and-three-month yogi retreats basic to the training of lamas. Among his personal students and trainees were some of Buddhism’s most prominent and revered figures. He also gave extensive teachings to his wife and daughters who became highly respected lamas in their own right. In later years his wife Kamala and daughter Saraswati assisted Chatral in conducting the training retreats.

Image result for kamala rinpoche Chatral and Kamala, married partners for 52 years

Image result for saraswati chatral Saraswati, Rinpoche’s middle daughter

Despite his advancing age, Chatral Rinpoche continued to follow his life-long practice of periodically spending months at a time on his own solitary retreats, backpacking into remote and hidden hanging valleys in the Himalayan cloud-forests where he camped and meditated, and performed advanced practices in silent reclusion. He continued this routine until shortly before his death at 102.

Image result for kamala rinpoche His Holiness in Birkenstocks departing for camping trip

His Holiness Chatral Rinpoche was also especially well known for his commitment to the causes of vegetarianism and animal rights. There is a widespread Buddhist practice of ransoming and releasing captive animals bound for slaughter, a practice Chatral promoted. However, few Tibetans, even lamas, monks, and nuns, are vegetarian. Chatral however believed that all sincere Buddhists should aspire to be vegetarians. Chatral was legendary in India for buying thousands of cattle, goats, and other animals from slaughter -houses every year in order to free them. In addition to cattle and goats, Rinpoche purchased many large boatloads of fish every year and released them back into the sea. This was another practice he upheld throughout his life.

Of vegetarianism, he said: “If you take meat, it goes against the basic precept vows one takes as a Buddhist to avoid harming other beings. Because when you take meat you have to take another being’s life. So I gave it up.” Despite his personal ethical/religious standards regarding a compassionate vegetarian lifestyle, Rinpoche recognized that not every Buddhist, even every one training to become a yogi or lama, has already attained this ideal. So, though he did not serve non-vegetarian meals at his retreat school, students did not have to be vegetarians to receive training. He regarded non-vegetarian retreatants as on the path toward eventually becoming fully vegetarian.

Throughout the first half of his life, Chatral had studied with many of the greatest lamas of the previous generation and of his own, and in turn was a highly important teacher of many great lamas of his own and younger generations. He practiced and taught primarily within the context of the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the five primary Buddhist lineages (sects) of Tibet, but he learned from teachers of every school and taught students of any or no affiliation without any discrimination, being utterly non-sectarian and universal in his outlook. In meeting people and in teaching students, Rinpoche had no concern for whether someone self-identified as religious or non-religious, Buddhist or non-Buddhist; he treated all with equal compassion and interest, kindness and respect.

In the same way, he had utterly no concern for whether anyone was rich or poor, powerful or powerless, nor for whatever racial, ethnic, national, linguistic, or other category, class, gender, sexual orientation, intellectual acuity, educational opportunity or achievement, etc. In meeting others, he was kindly and friendly; if they were sincerely interested in wishing to study with him he was willing to give them teachings (although he was extremely strict in the standards of sincerity and self-application and -dedication he required of students wishing to continue to receive higher training under his tutelage and guidance.

This universalistic approach and evenness of perception and treatment of others has always been for me one of the most important characteristics I hope to find in any spiritual or religious teacher. I have met and learned from some religious figures who did not hold such enlightened views, but I have never sought out opportunities to personally study and train with so-called teachers who were exclusivist or supremicist in their approach. My late wife and I had the great blessing of receiving initiations and teachings from His Holiness during a period when he was still closely training both new and long-time students. Rinpoche was a most delightful (and also formidable) grandfatherly Yogi and gently-strict retreat master, with a most fascinating, admirable, independent life and profound manner of teaching.

In recent years, His Holiness had ceased giving audiences and receiving visitors outside his immediate family, no matter how eminent in any way or how closely-connected as disciples his would-be visitors were. Yet everyone in the countryside where he resided felt they were among his close personal disciples as he had given many public and private teachings for decades to the people of the district, and throughout the Himalayan region, especially among the Vajrayana Buddhist populations of Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and India. In recent years also, his wife, Sangyam Kamala Rinpoche, a wonderful teacher in her own right, has undertaken a number of teaching tours in the US and elsewhere around the world.

Image result for kamala rinpoche

Chatral was the heart-disciple of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987), who had been elected as the head of the Nyingma tradition. Dudjom Rinpoche designated Chatral as the regent and protector of the Nyingma lineage. Prior to the Tibetan refugee diaspora caused by the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, the Nyingma community had not felt any need for a central organization or institutional office of leadership. Electing a head teacher of the lineage was a new development within the 1,200 year old tradition. With Dudjom’s passing, Chatral was unanimously nominated by the lamas of the lineage to succeed as the new head of the community, but he declined, refusing to accept any office or institutional responsibilities. Since that time the position has been held by a succession of five more teachers, and each time a new head teacher was needed, Chatral Rinpoche was unanimously nominated as the first choice for the office and was urgently requested to accept the position, but each time he refused. The most recent head of the Nyingma, His Holiness Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche (1926-2015), passed away on December 23, only a few days before Chatral’s own passing.

Throughout his long life, Chatral Rinpoche never wished to have anything to do with any official positions or institutional structures, preferring to remain a completely independent non-monastic yogi, wandering recluse, and autonomous self-reliant teacher. As designated regent and protector of the Nyingma lineage, however, and personally respected as the most knowledgeable and highly realized master of the tradition, he trained his teacher Dudjom Rinpoche’s rebirth (yangsi) and many of the other most important rinpoches within the lineage, as well as training numerous sincere students of whatever background. His wife, Sangyam Rinpoche, has said that the quality of his training was so high that all of his students who became lamas are regarded as rinpoches (“high lamas” — a title indicating personal spiritual attainment, not of an office held).

Chatral Rinpoche’s passing is a landmark event in Tibetan Buddhism and in the entire international, planetary sphere of world religions and spirituality. Of course, on the one hand, the passing of anyone is very sad for those of us who love and admire and depend on them.

In some ways this can be especially acute in the case of great teachers such as His Holiness and other great beings upon whom we depend for ongoing personal guidance. Somehow, no matter how advanced in age they are, we are so rarely fully prepared when it comes time for such beings to withdraw (at least for the time being) from life in a familiar human body on this Earthly plane we temporarily share. And yet, on the other hand, the time period immediately after their passing, extending particularly during the first 49 days, is an especially powerful, auspicious time during which it is additionally advantageous for us to engage in very sincere spiritual aspirations and practice, due to the powerful blessing-energy such beings release during this time. So that is something to be immensely grateful for, and happy about, and to benefit from. It is an especially good time to attune our own awareness with theirs. Their personal mind is united with and for the time being co-extensive with and deeply immersed in the universal field of original consciousness, cosmic Mind, or Buddha-nature. So to the extent we aspire to unite our own mind with theirs, we benefit to a great extent from the expansive blessing influence of this innermost intimacy of conscious attunement.

It is believed that after these first 49 days following their passing, most beings, whether already-liberated or not-yet-liberated, will have completed the initial post-death intermediate stage, and begun to enter into their new life on whatever plane—either taking re-birth on the human Earthly plane, or remaining in or entering into some other subtle or gross state and plane of existence. Fully liberated, enlightened beings such as Chatral Rinpoche have the option, it is believed, of remaining in the subtle spiritual realms where no further rebirth is required, or of returning to this mundane realm to further help liberate the many other beings born and reborn here. It is believed that any future rebirth on the part of such liberated beings as Rinpoche is freely intentional and fully conscious on their part and in response to the needs of others, not as a compulsory rebirth due to their own individual karma. They have fulfilled the purpose of their past human existence, having gained liberation before dying, and are no longer compelled by individual ego-desire or karmic debt. Since even prior to death they have already attained oneness with universal compassion and the natural evolutionary impulse of the cosmic will, after death also they are always continuously benefiting all beings whether they take further Earthly rebirth again or not.

In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, practitioners take vows (bodhisattva vows) to continue always to help other beings attain liberation, even if providing this help involves continuing to take countless future re-births. Especially in the Tibetan tradition, it is assumed that all great beings, even after having attained full liberation and enlightenment during a given lifetime on Earth, will continue to take re-birth to help other beings on the Earthly plane. Some beings, liberated or not-yet-liberated, take more than 49 days between death and re-birth, some take less; but it is understood that even if their rebirth does not occur within or immediately after 49 days, nonetheless by that point the specifics of their future rebirth or other situation will have “gelled” to the point that they are no longer absorbed in the initial post-death transitional formless state.

Some not-yet-liberated beings, it is believed, will enter a realm after their Earthly death in which the overall balance of their good and bad karma provides them with an enjoyable heavenly-like existence for some time until their still-unresolved Earthly karma and unfulfilled desire draws them back into life in a human or other Earthly womb. Others will find that the overall balance of their karma results in a purgatorial-like existence for some time until their still-unresolved Earthly karma and unfulfilled desire draws them back  to begin yet another Earthly life beginning in a human or other Earthly womb. Many great rinpoches and other bodhisattvas take rebirth only after one-and-a-half, or two-and-a-half years following their previous withdrawal (passing away) from embodied life on this plane.

His Holiness was one of the foremost present-day masters within Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche studied with some of the most revered Tibetan masters of the twentieth century, including Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893-1959), the great female Yogi Sera Khando (1892-1940), Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-87), and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). In turn, the present rebirth (yangsi) of each of these teachers have been among Chatral Rinpoche’s closest students. Chatral’s own daughter Saraswati (b.1975) is recognized as the yangsi of Sera Khandro and has been extensively trained by her father as a rinpoche in her own right. Jamyang Khyentse’s present rebirth, Dzongsar Norbu (b1961) has been a close student, as has Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi (b1993). Dudjom Yangsi (b1990), the rebirth of Chatral’s main teacher, had been very closely trained throughout his young life by Chatral as his own heart-disciple, even having been taught to read and write at an early age by Chatral Rinpoche. More recently, from age 18 to 21, Dudjom Yangsi completed the traditional basic three-year-three-month retreat for lamas under Chatral Rinpoche’s guidance in 2008-2012.

Some of Chatral Rinpoche’s teachings are collected in the book Compassionate Action, first published in 2005.
A translation of his biography can be found online, via Rangjung Yeshe Publications.



8 January 2016

Image result for snow peaks

8 January  –  a pome a day…

Too Soon The Cold Wind

Too soon the cold wind
wrapping valleys, swallowing ridgelines
putting out lamps in stone huts.

Too soon the fingers numb
thoughts split and hammered
into a chilly corner of the room.

But when I awake
dig out from the chill
I find the spirit aflame.

A sapphire peak
struggles up out of the dream

a thousand seams of garnet
wrapping its base, frost sifting
through sunbeams

the world silent —
the eave bell striking
on its own.

— John Brandi (b 1943)
The World, the World
White Pine Press, Buffalo, 2013

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First Writing of the New Year

Beneath the sky of my homeland,
Yellow mai blossoms blooming,
Announcing the joyous news to millions of friends.
Here beneath the sky of this foreign land,
Covered with snow and floating mist,
Glowing ember of wood fire.
Bright candlelight and fragrant tea
Also warms my heart.

— Thich Giac Thanh (1947-2001)
Scattered Memories
Parallax Press, Berkeley, 2013


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8 January

some saintly ancestors of mine whose feast is celebrated today:

Sainte Adèle of France (1009-1079), generation 31 grandmother
(Adela, Adela the Holy, Adela of Messines, Adélaïde, Adelheid, Aelis, Alix)

Ste. Gudula (Goedele, Goule, Gudila, Gudule, Ergoule, -712), generation 45 aunt.

St. Athelm (-926), generation 37 uncle

white clouds

7 January  –  a pome a day…

Driving for Home

Horsetail clouds brushing the shoulders
of pines more resemble egret feathers
spitcurled by wind.
So much is misnamed—
take the brown thrasher, that brash
thief with song like water on fire
that builds its nest in the desert smiles
of teddy bear cholla.
Swainson’s Hawk
sounds too butlerish for this heavy-taloned
philosopher of the plains, often mistaken
for a child hunched on a hungry fence post
watching for mice under the massive swivel
of sunflower heads.
What have I misnamed
today in my rush from car to class to office to
car, what essentials are missing? Poetry
grinned at me with her cracked teeth, held
out a slim hand but I didn’t have time
to offer lunch or ask her name.
Only now clouds claim me, the blades
of egret feathers waving frail
lacy question marks across
my windshield above the swarm of cars
driving for home.

— Pamela Uschuk (b1948)
Wild in the Plaza of Memory
WingsPress, San Antonio, Texas, 2012


The Colors of a Fallen Flower

One time entering life
Crying crying, laughing laughing,
Suddenly, seeing the colors of a fallen flower.
The traveling steps touched the eternal land.
This mountain, that river,
The soul of the white clouds
Became light and immense.

The poem “The Colors of a Fallen Flower” was my first poem written in English. It was written for my first Dharma talk about Zen in an American monastery.

— Thich Giac Thanh (1947-2001
Scattered Memories
Parallax Press, Berkeley, 2013

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7 January Feast-day for Family ancestor saints:

St Kentigerna (Caentigerna, Quentigerna) of Loch Lomond (-734), generation 43 aunt

St Aldric (Aldericus, Aldricus, Audry, Elric) of Le Mans (800-857), generation 39 uncle

St Reinold (Rainold, Reynold) of Cologne (-960), generation 36 uncle

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