Some transitional passages – 2016

“I don’t want to die. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I die. Nobody knows what that’s going to be like. But when I die, I’ll still be a buddha. I may be a buddha in agony, or i may be a buddha in bliss, but I’ll die knowing that this is how it is.”

–Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, quoted in Crooked Cucumber

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, a Japanese Soto Zen priest, came to San Francisco in 1959 at the age of 54. With his Western students, he founded the San Francisco Zen Center in 1962. Author of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Suzuki-roshi was one of the most influential Zen teachers of his time. He died on December 4, 1971.

I bow to my ballpoint pen
and throw it out—
year’s end

–Mitsu Suzuki Sensei, widow of Suzuki Roshi


5 January

His Holiness Chatral Rinpoche (Jun 18, 1913-Jan 5, 2016) 102.

Tibetan lama, long expatriated in Nepal.

A most wondrous being! One of my dear teachers. I posted some words about His Holiness in a previous entry on this site. Into his nineties, Rinpoche was still enjoying his life-long habit of taking off for months at a time on solo hiking-canyoneering meditation camping retreats in extremely remote sacred hidden hanging valleys in the Himalayas. He carried a mammoth backpack with dry food for months of seclusion, sometimes wore Birkenstocks on the trail (!), and generally charmed the wild animals who came by to see what this grandfather-hermit saint was up to. From his twenties onward, numerous other great saints, and all the most important religious and government officials, begged him every year to assume important teaching and institutional leadership positions. He always refused. He was a family man as well as great lama and yogi—husband, father, and grandfather, as well as adopting-grandfather, and fostering-grandfather to other children. He trained many persons as yogi-lamas, including his wife and daughters.

8 January

Gunaram Khanikar (Mar 22, 1949- Jan 8, 2016) 66.

Indian herbalist.[180]

9 January

Mitsu Suzuki Sensei (Apr 23, 1914-Jan 9, 2016) 101.

Japanese Haiku poet and master of traditional tea ceremony. Quite the loveable, fun, but irascible character. Wife/partner and widow of San Francisco Zen Center’s Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (author, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind ). Roshi was one of my teachers, and in an informal way, Okusan (Mitsu) was, too. Following Roshi’s death, Mitzu took on the dual role for many years of being both the most self-effacing, almost invisible member of the Center community, and at the same time that of its honorary “den-mother” and “mother-confessor.”

10 January

David Bowie (David Robert Jones, Jan 8, 1947 – Jan 10, 2016) 69

English singer-songwriter, musician (“Space Oddity“, “Heroes“, “Starman“), and actor (Labyrinth, Zoolander), liver cancer. [215]

Bowie (aka Davie Jones, aka Jonesy) and I met in the late 60s and early 70s, through a mutual beloved woman friend — a brilliant musical actress and later brilliant academic who we each had previously dated at different periods, when we were all very young and single. A decade or so later, in August 1980, Bowie’s Elephant Man stage production brought him to Chicago for a month. I’d been living in the city for a few years and Bowie, recently divorced after nine years of marriage and fatherhood, asked me to take him round to all the best “secret” & not-so-secret spots — late-hour blues & jazz clubs, ethnic cafés, bookstores, offbeat clothing boutiques, etc.

He was then going through a mostly clean, drug-free period, so I agreed, though with some very serious, trepident reservations. He had also dropped his drug-fueled insane performance-persona of “the thin white duke,” a heartless pro-Nazi British fascist aristocrat. A few years before bringing his theatre performance to Chicago, he had shocked his sane fans and most humane members of the public, — and thrilled and emboldened skinheads and neo-Nazis and other rightwing thugs and wannabe-thugs all over Britain, Europe and the US, — with his seemingly quite serious public use of the Nazi Hitler salute on virtually any occasion, and his atrocious and seemingly quite candid and sincere public statements such as this, made in 1974:

“Britain is ready for a fascist leader. . .I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism. . . I believe very strongly in fascism, people have always responded with greater efficiency under regimental leadership.  . . . Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.  . . . You’ve got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up.”

My initial response to his request/invitation to spent time socializing was polite, of course,– cautiously polite. But I had to call round to some mutual old acquaintances to verify that he was no longer spouting vile fascist idiocies, even in parody, and no longer (at least mostly not) caught up in the insanity of addictive drug use that had seemed the strongest factor in his disgusting “white duke” phase, addiction that had permanently ravaged his body while also at least temporarily unsettling and overshadowing much of his mind. With strong vouchsafing from friends, I agreed to his request.

We immediately had some very good & funny times together, aided by a few of my local friends, mostly women, one of whom Bowie instantly began dating. At that time Davie was dedicated to trying to establish a personal daily meditation routine, and very much appreciated having a local chum with whom he could practice daily meditation sessions (mostly in the shrine room of my flat, but also, rarely, up at his sometimes-fan-besieged hotel room). He also appreciated having local chums he could go have 2am breakfast with, usually just myself & a couple of my women friends, casual “double dates,” if you will, after taking-in late-hour club sets, sometimes staying up til dawn discussing art and literature, music and spirituality. Bowie loved to paint and study painters, was very intelligent, fairly well-read and articulate. However, it seemed all the past drug use had somewhat compromised both his stable sharp attention-span, and his ability to enjoy being deeply relaxed at the same time.

All of this was poignantly ironic, for when Davie was around 16 to 18 or so, he had met and studied for about a year with a London-based Tibetan lama, Venerable Chime (CHIH-mey) Tulku Rinpoche, with whom he remained friends. I could only speculate, somewhat sadly, as to how much more personal developmental growth, health, and enjoyment Bowie likely missed out on by subsequently becoming caught up for several years in quite damaging drug abuse and worthless superficiality rather than further cultivating his early spiritual interests with the guidance of  a competent mentor. Chime Tulku (who still lives in London) is a nephew and student of one of my most important Tibetan teachers, His Holiness the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Chime Tulku also was a student of another one of my teachers, the late 16th Karmapa, and we share some other Tibetan teachers and friends as well. So, while I had not met Chime Tulku, having Bowie hang out for a while during that summer of 1980, meditating and socializing together with myself and a few of my select local friends, was mostly all very relaxed and homey from the get-go.

One very serious initial impediment however, was that the woman I was then most fondly and steadily seeing refused at first to meet Bowie. She is Jewish and her parents were Holocaust survivors. A part-time theatre actor herself, she was surprised and impressed by what a good job Bowie did on stage when she agreed to come with me to see him in Elephant Man, but she refused to allow me to make introductions. She was far too sickened and angry over his public pro-Nazi pronouncements and antics from the recent past. When I told him this, Bowie sought out my friend and her parents on his own initiative, apologized, and gravely asked for their forgiveness. He ended up having a series of hours-long soul-searching discussions with my girlfriend’s father. This man was a hugely-gifted surgeon, historical and literary scholar, a classical musician, acclaimed humanitarian activist and international medical aid volunteer director. Their talks left Bowie visibly quite shaken and ashen for several days, after which he seemed both sobered and uplifted.

Although I always thought Bowie was an exceptional showman and a talented songwriter, I was not (and still am not) a particularly strong fan of his music overall. So much of his work just seems, forgive me, rather shallow. Nor have I ever found anything about his various early public “performance-personae” the least bit interesting. It all seemed fueled by brain-scrambling drugs and unresolved basic issues of self-identity. It is one thing to offer insightful, empathetic observations about such concerns, including gender-identity for instance, especially from within a lived emic perspective. It is another thing, either to be so fucked-up from continual drug abuse that you have no idea who you are in almost any sense, or, — vice versa — to have so much discomfort or pain from lack of self-knowledge and/or self-acceptance on numerous levels (not restricted simply to your sexuality or celebrity or wealth) that you prefer to constantly stay fucked-up for years on grossly damaging drugs and to make numerous horrific public acclamations of the need for a violent take-over by some neo-Nazi dictatorship.

From the vantage of my own personal universe of sensibility and concern, “glam rock” and almost all that went with it was a vapidly silly preoccupation and a childishly pointless, even offensively banal response to life and the pressing needs of the time. Such superficial, fictional costume drama role-playing as a creative career and/or in daily street life, has always seemed, to me, a desperate and doomed attempt to make up for a lack of  knowledge regarding more comprehensive, more satisfying states of natural fulfillment. That is to say, a lack of knowledge of the more richly-engaging adventure of discovering and nurturing, enjoying and sharing the deep abiding unity between individual holistic self-nature and the natural world at large. And thus a lack of awareness also of the profound fulfillment that comes from applying the resulting benefits of this experience of deep unity in active contribution toward a more humanely meaningful, conscious evolution of society and culture.

At a personal level, however, “in real life,” Davie during that time, at least, was notably polite, thoughtful, surprisingly intellectual, and quite funny. Wherever we went, he always dressed in a most simple, nondescript way. I think he must have studied the slightly preppie-influenced clothing preferences of young, educated Midwestern suburban dads, and/or rather square young composition instructors at Midwestern state colleges. It seemed he somehow decided such a look would best allow him to “blend” while in Chicago, and he had arrived already equipped somehow with the requisite clothing items. There were lots of topsiders, penny loafers, chinos, and Izod golf shirts, along with a navy blazer or two. Never did I see him act the prima donna, or bank on the social “currency” of his celebrity. Well, with the one exception that he was sometimes willing to “hook up” for the night with a just-met sufficiently appealing-and-interested woman (if he also did so with any men, or under-aged girls or boys, as his self-advanced reputation would have it, I never observed it or heard about it). Certainly Bowie knew that in most if not all such instances of one-off hook-ups, the woman’s interest was due more to her attraction to his celebrity status and presumed wealth, rather than simply his striking good looks and quiet suavité.

This factor, he once told me, was part of why he preferred often to go hide-out in “obscure” parts of urban Africa and Asia where he could ramble the city streets incognito for weeks at a stretch without anyone ever once suspecting his identity or status as a pop star. But that had become very difficult by then. His fame, he complained, among other difficulties, had made it virtually impossible in Europe or North America or Australia, etc, to simply chat-up a girl he fancied and take his chances on success with his charm alone. He was too well known. Partly related to this, Jonesy therefore was also sincerely grateful to spend time “dating” the female friend of mine I mentioned earlier (not my steady girlfriend, but one of our close pals). This woman was very much aware of who Bowie was in terms of music, his rock star status and film work — far more than I was, — but she was not the least bit wowed by any of it. Her indifference to such things was helped by the fact that she was far more strikingly attractive and charismatic even than Bowie himself, in her own unassuming and deft way; and that she also had plenty of money of her own, as well as a devoted posse of quite attractive would-be suitors, both male and female. Plus, she was a serious grad student, an accomplished classical musician and dancer, and was an impressively well-grounded and level-headed person.

This friend, unlike my steady girl, was not Jewish and though of course she also found Bowie’s Nazi shit profoundly abhorrent, she was able to give him the benefit of the doubt (rightly or wrongly) as to his claimed intention in having presented it,— that is, as being a farcical critique and pantomime of actual British fascists and Nazi-supporters from the 30s and beyond. This friend found Bowie’s single dad status, square attire, and unassuming casual approach more interesting features in someone to have a brief affair with than his pop idol star status. And she had no interest in any lasting romantic future with anyone at that point in her life. So it seemed to be an instantly mutually-recognized good match, providing them both with lightheartedly intimate, sincerely good company with no strings attached.

From my limited observation, I found Bowie, or Jonesy, to be a chap of several internal conflicts and obvious “issues”, but overall a well-intentioned and generally kindly person. I certainly never knew him well, but our time hanging out together that August was an amiable renewal and extension of our previous very casual initial acquaintance from years before. He conveyed the impression of deeply yearning to feel much more free, internally and externally, to pursue his deeper spiritual interests than he seemed to feel encouraged or “allowed” to do. He pretty much confessed this more than once. Yet something, some partly-unconscious complex of things, kept him too caught up in far less edifying concerns than was best for his growth or even his day-by-day sustained happiness and clarity. Bowie was certainly not alone in that. However, my closest friends and I had been engaged for many years in daily meditation and related spiritual practice and study as the primary focus of our lives. Our social and personal lives as professional creative artists, academic teachers or students, and committed activists, etc., were secondary extensions and expressions of our primary spiritual engagement and growth  as practitioners and teachers of Transcendental Meditation trained and certified by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who I had known since his first world teaching tour in 1959.

Jones was 33 the year he spent that month acting and exploring in Chicago. By then the early mutual friend and one-time girlfriend who had initially introduced us, over a decade earlier, had been retired for some years from her own very successful international performing career. She had also completed her personal training with His Holiness Maharishi as a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program — some of which training she and I had undertaken together. She had also finished her doctoral studies and had already begun gaining significant notice as a gifted professor and research scholar. Reminiscing about her, Jones expressed some regret over various directions and turns taken in his own life, particularly the less edifying aspects of his still freshly ended marriage and the years of his life lost to drugs. He told me that due to extreme addiction to cocaine and a slough of other drugs, he couldn’t remember having given many of his concerts over the years or even having recorded some of his albums.

With all the outward success he had achieved, it was obvious that on some very significant levels Jonesy continued to wish that he could be someone else, living elsewhere in time and space. Again, he was not alone in this, of course, although he found it utterly isolating. He expressed a desire to find a genuine way out of this existential state of dissatisfying constraint. But, like many individuals who struggle with addictive tendencies, he found the false escape into drugged mind-body states a strong pull toward further avoidance and muddling of his chances for making serious progress toward his own self-realization and self-liberation. His daily and nightly immersion just then in the stage role of the Elephant Man was both partial compensation for, and also partial postponement and distraction from, the need he felt for greater, deeper self exploration and integration. Like other theatre people I have known, he seemed able to access a larger, more satisfying aspect of himself when presenting the fictional facade of a dramatic character than when just being his “ordinary,” unaffectated self as Davie Jones.

Jones had his young son along with him during his stay in Chicago, a quiet boy of eight or ten. I felt that this helped ground Davie’s own sense of a fuller, richer adult self-identity and responsible connection to life. At the same time, it was one of the largest contributors to the cluster of competing interests for Bowie’s hour-by-hour, and day-by-day attention. Bowie had a lot on his plate right then. The month in Chicago, with most mornings spent more or less alone with his son, was meant to be in part a kind of working father-son vacation, a time for healing and relaxation. And to some extent I believe it was. At the same time, Davie’s grueling theater schedule and newly applied immersion in single parenthood left him both semi-exhausted and also eager both to plunge deeply into the inner silence of daily meditation practice and to go out and discover a new city with a few friendly locals who could be trusted to take him round to some of the kinds of places and events he most wished to experience during his “down-time” hours.

^  ^  ^  ^

Chime Tulku on David Bowie:

Detailed profile of Chime Tulku:


Song written by Davie about Chime Tulku in 1965 (?) and included on his first album David Bowie (1967); this is a later BBC sessions version:

“Silly Boy Blue” – lyrics (with my notes)

Mountains of Lhasa are feeling the rain
Lamas are walking the Potala lane

[* lama means guru, spiritual teacher, not necessarily a monk or nun *Potala Palace is the Dalai Lama’s former monastic “White House” in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital]

The teacher takes the school
One boy breaks the rules
Silly boy blue, blue, blue, silly boy blue

Yak butter statues that melt in the sun [*ritual offering items]
Cannot dissolve all the work you’ve not done

A chela [*ie disciple] likes to feel
That his Overself [*ie buddha-nature] pays the bill
Silly boy blue, blue, silly boy blue

You wish and wish, and wish again
You’ve tried so hard to fly
You’ll never leave your body now
You’ve got to wait to die

Dalai-La, Dalai-La, Lhasa-La, Lhasa-La, Dalai-La, Lhasa-La

[*“la” is a term of respect affixed to the end of a name or title]

Chime, Chime, Chime, Chime, Chime

[*Chime is the name of Bowie’s Tibetan teacher and friend, Chime Tulku]

Silly boy blue

Child of Tibet, you’re a gift from the sun
child incarnation of one better man

[*a rambunctious schoolchild, Chime was also recognized as the reincarnation of a revered previous lama]

The homeward road is long
You’ve left your prayers and song

[*after relocating to London as a young man, Chime returned his monk’s vows, married and raised children, while remaining a respected lama]
Silly boy blue, silly boy blue
Silly boy blue, blue, silly boy blue, blue,

Silly boy blue


17 January

Stephen Levine (Jul 17, 1937 – Jan 17, 2016) 78.

American poet[365] and author of various popular spiritual books. A student and supporter/ promoter of various cross-fertilizing traditions – Hindu bhakti, Zen and Vipassana, etc.

Levine and I shared some lovely mutual friends since what seems like forever—all the way back to the days of the Oracle in the Haight, as well as treading sometimes mutually inter-braiding paths, but sadly, we were never close.


20 February

Rev. Father Fernando Cardenal, 82, Nicaraguan radical priest, educator, liberation theologian, Minister of Education (1984–1990).[361]

Brother of Rev. Father Ernesto Cardenal, poet, radical priest, liberation theologian, Minister of Culture.

I never met Fr Fernando, but Fr Ernesto is one of my favorite people.

Both brothers were dedicated from early in life both to giving their lives to a pursuit for God-realization and to liberating their people from the tyranny of the American-supported Somoza dictatorship. Fernando had been directly involved in an early, unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the strong-man, and later both brothers joined the Sandinista Front. With the eventual success of the revolution, they were each appointed to cabinet posts in the new government, as a result of which their functions as priests were vindictively revoked by the ultra-rightist Polish pope John Paul II, and their entry into the United States was blocked by Reagan who of course supported both Somoza and the Contra terrorists.

Nevertheless, the brothers were enthusiastically supported in their continued priestly roles and government positions by the people of now-liberated Nicaragua. Fernando’s post-revolutionary educational projects succeeded in teaching tens of thousands of poor families and children how to read and write—people who had been denied the most basic education under Somoza.

Before long, however, both brothers resigned their government offices and withdrew their support for the Sandinista party which they felt had become deeply corrupt. Their lives are an interesting study in the often difficult project of attempting to wed contemplative-but-socially-engaged spirituality, poetic vision, and mystically-grounded liberation theology with a moribund institutional religious hierarchy on the one hand, and a quickly-and-easily corrupted revolutionary government bureaucracy on the other hand.


9 March

Galagama Sri Aththadassi Thera (Jan 11, 1922 – Mar 8, 2016) 94.

Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, Mahanayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter of Siyam Nikaya (since 2015). [186] One of several Asian Theravada Buddhist teachers who were early supporters and beneficiaries of the teachings and activities of my primary teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi whose first teaching tours outside India took place in 1958.

24 March

Garry Shandling (Nov 29, 1949-Mar 24, 2016) 66.

American comedian and writer. Long-time Buddhist practitioner, and fellow student of beloved Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh (Brother Thay). Shandling helped fund Thay’s Deer Park Monastery in San Diego, California. As per Shandling’s final wishes he was posthumously ordained as a monk during his funeral service. Garry was much loved.

This is a moving article about this kind man:

25 March

David Snellgrove (Jun 29, 1920-Mar 25, 2016) 95.

British Tibetologist.[511]

All gori sahbs (gauri sahibs, ie whiteys) who love Tibetan people-and-things are deeply indebted to Dr Snellgrove, the Dean of Tibetan studies!

From his many years of close observation and study of Tibetan and related Himalayan monks, Snellgrove—who seems to have been raised Catholic—conceived a desire in middle age to become a Catholic priest, but was somehow turned down. At the end of his life he desired his ashes to be interred in a Buddhist monastery in Cambodia.–obituary/

26 March

Jim Harrison (Dec 11, 1937-Mar 26, 2016) 78.

American poet, novelist, and self-described “halfway Zen Buddhist.”

During a Dec 2013 interview, asked whether he practiced Zen, Harrison replied:

For 35 years I’ve been a really (halfway) Buddhist. Not practicing, not at a busy Zendo but on my own.” Asked, “How do you account for your late-career productivity?” Harrison replied: “I don’t know. I guess it’s because I stopped drinking half-gallons of vodka. Now I drink wine mostly. I don’t know, a lot of stuff slips away with age. I’m not in hot pursuit of women or anything like that.” Harrison was noted for his lifelong devotion to consuming copious daily amounts of liquor, and for some while of cocaine as well, and to the shooting of animals as “sport” hunting.

One day I may have to get around to trying once again to read some of Harrison’s 35 or more much acclaimed books. I’ve tried a coupla times and just couldn’t get past the first 4 or 5 pages. Many readers love his work very much, touting its Buddhist influence, but I’ve just never found it attractive. I am not particularly desirous of wandering around inside the mind of someone who spends/spent most of their life drunk and/or coked-up while shooting animals for sport, even if they regard(ed) themselves as halfway Buddhist. I’m all in favor of drunks/cokeheads and hunters taking up Buddhist practice and study, just not so very intrigued by self-proclaimed Buddhists who remain more dedicated to pursuing a life fixated on smoking, coking, drunkenness and hunting (and writing about all this along with lots of tales of brawling and killing), than to achieving personal and cultural insight and growth aided by Buddhism.


16 April

Sayadaw U Pandita (Jul 28, 1921-Apr 16, 2016) 94.

Burmese Buddhist monk and meditation teacher.[289]

One of several Asian Theravada Buddhist teachers who were early supporters and beneficiaries of the teachings and activities of my primary teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose first teaching tours outside India took place in 1958.

29 April

His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya (Nov 2, 1929- Apr 29, 2016) 86.

Tibetan Buddhist teacher.[521] Resident in Seattle since 1960.

One of the two primary hereditary lineage-holders of the Sakya teaching tradition. Another one of the eminent lamas from whom I received teachings, although I did not get to know him well. His widow is a revered teacher as well. Like most contemporary Tibetan teachers, His Holiness promoted the non-sectarian movement within Tibetan Buddhism, begun in the 19th century by the most advanced masters.

30 April

Rev. Father Daniel Berrigan, 94, American poet, radical Catholic Jesuit priest, peace activist, and prisoner of conscience (Catonsville Nine).[526]

I posted an earlier entry dedicated to Fr Dan on this site following his departure.

Dan was a good friend, mentor, and supporter from many years ago, along with his brother Phil, particularly when I was organizing with the underground railroad (peace train) during the Vietnam war. Dan and Phil each spent some years in prison for nonviolent activism against the war. Dan was good friends with my mentors and mutual friends, Vietnam Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) and American Catholic radical monk and poet Thomas Merton. Father Dan and Thay once wrote a book together, The Raft is Not the Shore. Dan (like Merton before him) had no problem practicing Buddhism as a Catholic priest, neither did he (or Merton) have any problem sharing the Christian eucharist with Buddhist friends like Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.


7 May

Bhante Maung Shue U Chak (1941-May 7, 2016) 75.

Bangladeshi Buddhist monk, hacked to death in his hermitage temple by fanatic Muslim fundamentalists.

7 May

Pir Mohammad Shahidullah (1951-May 7, 2016) 65.

Bangladeshi Sufi Muslim spiritual teacher, hacked to death at his outdoor forest meeting place by fanatic Muslim fundamentalists.

13 May

Zenkei Blanche Hartman Roshi (1926-May 13, 2016) 90.

American Soto Zen Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center. Author of Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart (2015).

My wife and I met Blanche and her husband Lou a few times over the years through various Marin neighbors and friends, but didn’t know her well. I had ceased any close or active connections with SFZC after Suzuki Roshi died in 1971, and I think Blanche had only just recently started to practice Zen shortly before or after his passing. She eventually became abbess of the center. San Francisco Zen Center Talks by Blanche Hartman.

She was a mother and many times over a grandmother and great-grandmother. One of her daughters is porn star and feminist sex-activist Nina Hartley, a rather interesting person in her own right. Wiki says: “Nina Hartley (born Marie Louise Hartman[3] on March 11, 1959) is an American pornographic actress, pornographic film director, sex educator, sex-positive feminist, and author.”

18 May

Ida Pedanda Gede Made Gunung (1952 – May 18, 2016) 63. Indonesian Balinese Hindu high priest.[322]

Hinduism has been the majority religion in Bali for many hundreds of years, where it long ago developed a variant local regional cultural form and style all its own. Shri Ida Punditji had a very colorful, creative, folksy, and funny personality, quite representative of the Balinese.

31 May

David Tod Roy, 83, American sinologist and translator (Jin Ping Mei).[534]

Jin Ping Mei (aka The Plum in the Golden Vase, aka The Golden Lotus) is a most amazing, fabulous novel, first published c1596 by the otherwise unknown pseudonymous “Scoffing Scholar of Lanyin.” It is conceived in some ways as a “sequel” to anonymous Outlaws of the Marsh, aka All Men are Brothers, aka Border Marshes. Outlaws is a semi-accurate fictional account based on early Chinese historical equals to Robin Hood and his Merry Men. But both these Chinese classics are more spiritual, as well as more erotic. They are about self-liberation in an inward, mystical sense of spiritual enlightenment, in a communal sense of self-liberation as social justice, equality, brotherhood and striving toward social peace in the midst of war, and in an interpersonal sense of self-liberation as relationships of erotic and romantic mutual freedom and fulfillment. Most Western novels have not even come anywhere close to envisioning or dealing with such things. More’s the pity.


23 June

Michael Herr (Apr 13, 1940-Jun 23, 2016) 76. American war correspondent, screenwriter, author (Dispatches 1977) and Buddhist.


2 July

Elie Wiesel, 87

Romanian-born American writer (Night), political activist and Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate (1986).[36]

8 July

Abdul Sattar Edhi (Jan 1,1928 – Jul 8, 2016) 88.

Pakistani philanthropist, social activist, ascetic and humanitarian, founder of the Edhi Foundation.[110] Called the world’s greatest living humanitarian. Starting with no money, he founded and administered numerous hospitals, homeless shelters, rehab centres, and orphanages across Pakistan. Nominated multiple times for Nobel Peace Prize. Outspoken critic of repressive and/or indifferent religious and government policies and practices. He owned only one change of clothing and lived a very ascetic life, though he claimed to be not religious. He was frequently detained and harassed at US airports while traveling to raise funds for his numerous charities. He was officially registered as the legal adoptive or foster parent of thousands of orphaned children.

22 July

Chief David William Beautiful Bald Eagle (Dave Bald Eagle, April 8, 1919 – July 22, 2016) 97. American Indian Lakota Chief, actor, soldier, stuntman, and musician [358].

Bald Eagle was the grandson of famous Lakota warrior White Bull (1849-1947) who fought in the Battle of Little Big Horn (“Custer’s Last Stand”).[5] Although White Bull was long thought to have personally killed Custer, it was revealed a few years ago that Custer was killed by two Crow women warriors who rode into battle together.

22 July

Shawshank tree, c. 180 years old.  North American white oak featured in The Shawshank Redemption.[374]

I would like to have met this tree. Not so very old by the standards of California yew, redwood, sequoia, and bristlecone pine, but it’s nice to see a tree receive its own obit!

24 July

Maha Upasaka Pandita Metta Pannakusuma Parwati Soepangat Soemarto (May 1,1932 – Jul 24, 2016) 84.

Indonesian lay-woman Buddhist leader, teacher and scholar, psychologist and university professor. [417]


13 August

His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (Dec 7, 1921-Aug 13, 2016) 94.

Indian monk and teaching lineage successor and leader of the conservative Swaminarayan sect of reform Hinduism begun in the 18th century. [215]

23 August

Joseph Chilton Pierce (Jan 14, 1926-Aug 23, 2016) 90. American Author.

Popular interpreter of various academic findings on early childhood development and education which he felt supported his own theories of personal holistic spiritual developmental psychology. He seems to have been largely influenced by the anthroposophical theories of Rudolph Steiner. Pierce authored many books, including: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality (1971); Exploring the Crack in the Cosmic Egg – Split Minds and Meta-Realities (1974): Magical Child (1977); The Bond of Power: Meditation and Wholeness (1982); Magical Child Matures (1985); Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence (1992); The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: New Constructs of Mind and Reality (2002); The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit (2002); Spiritual Initiation and the Breakthrough of Consciousness: The Bond of Power (2003); From Magical Child to Magical Teen: A Guide to Adolescent Development (2003); Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit: A Return to the Intelligence of the Heart (2007); Strange Loops and Gestures of Creation (2010); The Heart-Mind Matrix: How the Heart Can Teach the Mind New Ways to Think (2012).


6 September

Most Venerable Nauyane Ariyadhamma Mahathera (April 24, 1939 – Sep 6, 2016) 77.

Sri Lankan Buddhist leader, forest monk and abbot, meditation teacher and author of over 100 books on meditation and Theravada Buddhist spirituality. [91]

Another one of several Asian Theravada Buddhist teachers who were early supporters and beneficiaries of the teachings and activities of my primary teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose first teaching tours outside India took place in 1958.

12 September

Hidayat Inayat Khan (Aug 6, 1917-Sep 12, 2016) 99.

London-born French classical composer, conductor and Representative-General of the International Sufi Movement.

Prof. Khan was the younger son of the famous Indian Sufi master and Indian classical musician Hazrat Inayat Khan, and the American writer Ameena Begum Khan (b. Ora Ray Baker). I didn’t know Hidayat, but his brother Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan was one of my Sufi teachers. Also a musician, Pir Vilayat was the successor and principal teacher of the Universal Sufi Order founded by their father (as a western branch of the historic Indian universalist Chisthi Sufi order—which accepts members of all religions and none).

Their sister, Princess Noor-un-Issa Inayat Khan, was captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis while serving as an undercover British intelligence officer and secret radio operator working with the French Resistance in occupied Paris during World War II. Before her betrayal and arrest, she was the sole surviving radio contact between occupied France and Allied intelligence.

Pir Vilayat also served the Allied cause as a British officer, first in the Royal Air Force and later in the Royal Navy. Following the war, he worked as an adviser and liaison to the governments of several newly independent Muslim-majority countries who had previously long been subject to French or British colonial rule.


15 October

His Eminence Domang Yangthang Rinpoche (1929-Oct 15, 2016) 86.

Indian (Tibetan Sikkimese) Buddhist teacher. [227]

One of my beloved and heroic elderly teachers. I posted an earlier entry about him on this site.


7 November

Leonard Cohen (Sep 21, 1934-Nov 7, 2016) 82. Canadian-born poet and musician.

Long-time Zen Buddhist practitioner and ordained priest/monk in the Japanese Rinzai Zen tradition.

I didn’t know Cohen, but we shared a few mutual friends. He knew lots and lots of people of all kinds, all over the world, even before he became so hugely famous. He had led a rather adventurous, somewhat clandestine life for a poet, long before and even long after becoming an altogether unlikely pop star. A life far more interesting and possibly much more profound than your average rock star!

But I could never understand just how and why Cohen always turned out to have been spending time pseudonymously in various political hotspots all around the world just before things would blow up into revolution, civil war, and/or invasion. I strongly suspect that he may have been a government operative, but whether on the right or left or neither or both, I couldn’t really decide. I also could never understand Cohen’s later dedication of decades to close association with his degenerate Japanese Zen teacher, a notoriously abusive sexual-predator and open alcoholic with whom Cohen regularly would get drunk.

Also sadly, some years ago, Cohen was financially ruined, rendered virtually destitute, through being defrauded by his manager. This woman had been a close friend throughout her life (Cohen and her parents had been very close for decades), and at some point she and Cohen had “shared a brief intimate relationship.” However, as his manager, she gradually stole his entire life’s savings of several millions. Though a criminal court ruling ordered her to pay Cohen $9.5 million in restitution, not a penny was ever recovered. Subsequently, she began a campaign of constantly harassing and threatening Cohen, for which she was sentenced by court to serve 18 months in prison. Cohen was forced by her theft to return to public touring, after having been retired for some years at a Zen monastery. Within the first few days of his new “comeback” concert tour, Cohen had earned more than the $10 million in savings his former manager had stolen.


11 December

Marion Pritchard (Nov 7, 1920 – Dec 11, 2016) 96.

Dutch psychologist who, as a teenage school girl, saved over a hundred Jews from death by hiding them from the Nazis. Once, when a pro-Nazi Dutch policeman repeatedly searched her farm and was on the verge of uncovering her operation, Pritchard grabbed a gun and killed him. In later years, she acknowledged that her timely killing was a terrible thing to have been compelled to do, but also confessed that she would have done it again as often as necessary to save the innocent persons she was protecting from their (and her own) certain death had their hidden presence been discovered.

12 December

Trevor Tice, 48, American entrepreneur, founder and CEO of CorePower Yoga.[119] Tice died in his $6 million San Diego beach front mansion, under what police investigators at first deemed “suspicious circumstances.” Later they surmised that he died alone from injuries sustained from an accidental fall in his home.

Tice was celebrated in certain circles for his prominence in promoting and advancing a rapid-paced physical exercise approach he called “core power yoga” (not his original term). This consists of elements derived from ancient hatha yoga traditions and various contemporary gym-workout routines, utilized in a “purely secular, non-esoteric context and application, stripped of all non-essential cultural and spiritual additions.” Starting with a single commercial studio in the Denver area, Tice expanded his self-described “yoga empire” to 160+ studios, stating he wished for his business to become “the Starbucks of the yoga industry.” He then sold the business and retired to a mansion in Sunset Cliffs, San Diego.

Tice was praised by some for his amassing of great personal wealth from helping advance what he happily termed “the purely secularized modern yoga industry” (again, not his original concepts or terms), through marketing his “Core-Power Yoga Studio” franchises as “an American commercial business enterprise in the power exercise field – the tremendously successful non-esoteric modern American yoga industry!”

Not surprisingly, before becoming a late-arriving but rapidly-rising tycoon of the commercial studio-chain “yoga industry,” Tice already had been a power exercise enthusiast of the cardio-gym sort of rapid-paced calisthenic work-out routines, and a multi-millionaire high-tech corporate tycoon. Tice personally had turned to physical yoga exercise as a rehabilitative approach after permanently injuring his ankle in an outdoors sporting event. His fatal fall while alone in his retirement mansion may have been due to his injured ankle.

Tice interview with Elephant Journal:

13 December

Lawrence Colburn, 67, American Vietnam War veteran, intervened to end the My Lai Massacre.[123]

As an 18 year old volunteer, Colburn was dedicated to waging bloody war against the Vietnamese patriot resistance fighters, while serving as a US helicopter gunship-pilot. But one day he witnessed an entire village of unarmed Vietnamese civilian women, children, and infirm elders being massacred by his fellow invading-and-occupying American soldiers. He landed his ship and intervened at great risk to his own life, but succeeded in helping save the remaining villagers who were still being chased down and shot. The massacre was at first covered-up by the US military and government, and the officers and soldiers involved were praised and decorated with medals. Through Colburn’s efforts, a trial was eventually held and one officer, Lt Calley, served a very brief time in jail for his role in the massacre. Colburn himself was at first condemned for ending the massacre and reporting it. Eventually, however, he was decorated for his bravery in trying to keep one unauthorized massacre from being completed in the midst of the countless other officially-approved and unapproved massacres of the war. Many Vietnam combat vets have testified under oath that there were “hundreds of My Lai type massacres by US forces during the war.” It was a war to continue the centuries-old Western colonial control of Southeast Asian people.

16 December

His Majesty Raja Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (1930 – Dec 16, 2016) 86.

Nepalese royal, King of Mustang (1965–2008), complications from pneumonia.[78]

Together with his beloved Queen Consort, he was a deeply humble, devout and advanced spiritual practitioner and scholar of Himalayan (Tibetan Vajrayana) Buddhism, and a staunch advocate and protector of his country’s people. He treated all residents of his ancient nation-within-a-nation as his immediate family and his equals, and was in turn loved and supported by all as an elder brother, representative, and leader. Truly an admirable example of what the mutual relationship of a nation’s people and their presiding national leader can be like and should be like. With the Chinese communist- supported overthrow of the (admittedly quite corrupt) central Nepalese royal government, Mustang’s distinct, semi-autonomous, and remote royal government was also abolished by the new Maoist-led revolutionary republican national government. The new republic officially stripped Raja Jigme of his position and duties, against the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Mustang, who simply refused to acknowledge the change in their regional governmental domestic affairs.

See Peter Matthiessen’s East of Lo Montang: In the Land of Mustang (1995) for good photos and a brief text account of the author’s meeting with King Jigme in 1992.

19 December

Anupam Mishra (1948-Dec 19, 2016) 68.

Indian Gandhian environmental activist, author, journalist, and planetary water protector .[36]

Shri Mishra’s TED talk from 2009:


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