The Genuine Face of the Guru

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Photo by Robert Del Tredici

Why all the fuss over a dead man; why don’t you just get over it and move on? Someone asked me that the other day. Good question. A couple of thoughts come to mind.

When the party chat about who knew Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, more and better and for how long and in what ways is long gone—when the people who can have such conversations are all dead—what will remain is a long-lasting reverberation of dharma: the genuine face of the guru.

His face radiates friendliness. One glimpse of it suffices to open the door of confidence.

He did not live for his time and place alone. His kindness was full-service and all-service. He changed perspectives for good: red is really red now. He planted seeds all over: egolessness is in the OED. He set events in motion: students are teaching students who are teaching students ad infinitum. Never the same and never located in one place—friend, poet, scholar, king, general, monk, lover, artist, trickster, boss, kitchen-sink-man, ethereal being, loud, soft, short, tall, heavy, light, young, old, you name it—his legacy is diverse beyond any attempt to construct or destroy it.

The thought of him awakens memory.

The most powerful work of a teacher so often occurs after they are gone. Over the span of an entire life, the time one spends face to face with the teacher turns out to be quite small. While a teacher is still around, there is the faint hope—despite all the evidence to the contrary—that he will clean up your mess for you or come around the corner and confirm once and for all that you really are the greatest. In a very real sense one comes to know the guru so much better in the aloneness and unrequited state of being left to one’s own devices, only to discover that one’s own devices are none other than the guru himself. The stirring songs to the gurus are all about calling from afar. To think that the guru must still be alive, waiting for us in the next room, preparing to give us that next big talk, or big kiss, is to think that we must be able to hang on to the embryo to appreciate the fully formed human being.

By a glimpse of his face the wisdom of mind transmission is established in one’s heart.

The guru flourishes when the body is transcended. Access is always granted. His face is the world itself. To glimpse it is nostalgia for the fourth moment, the cosmic joke of leaping to where you already are, where he is waiting for you, water pistol in hand.

© 2007 Barry Boyce
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Barry Boyce
Within the Shambhala community Barry Boyce is perhaps best known in recent years as a senior teacher with a particular emphasis on the Sadhana of Mahamudra. In his working life, Barry is a writer, a writing teacher (see Victory Communication), a senior editor and staff writer for the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma, a member of the Denma Translation Committee (see: the Art of War by Sun Tzu), and the coauthor of Rules of Victory, an upcoming book on the Art of War to be released by Shambhala Publications in March, 2008.