Burn Self Deception


Burn Self Deception is Jim Lowrey’s account of the day Trungpa Rinpoche got the Pygmies, and other community members, to stop smoking marijuana. This event took place in late September 1971.


Totally amazing, terrifying and hilarious to hear about the early days and how your great Sangha came to be….such deep devotion in your voices too. Thanks for sharing and allowing us to make a connection with the Vidyadhara in this way…..met him twice and chickened out twice..what a powerful presence. Glad too about Robert getting back in later….phew.. -Erika Belair, 10/4/2011


I just listened to Jim Lowrey’s account of when Rinpoche burned the Pygmies’ dope in his fireplace in Four Mile Canyon. I was there that day and have a slightly different recollection (perhaps because it wasn’t my stash that went up the chimney into the dharmakaya at Rinpoche’s house).

To set the scene, Rinpoche had returned to Boulder in late September 1971 in the middle of his seminar on The Tibetan Book of the Dead at Tail of the Tiger because a Boulder sangha member, Melanie Papini, was dying of a very lethal form of hepatitis, which she had apparently contracted from her boyfriend. Everyone loved Melanie who was a wonderful person and devoted student, and her sudden illness and death were the first great tragedy for our young sangha.

I was in the kitchen that afternoon with a bunch of other people, so I didn’t see the initial encounter between Rinpoche and Robert Merchasin (I am eagerly awaiting R.M.’s account on Chronicles). There was a loud scuffle in the hallway, and I heard (as I recall) Robert say “You can’t do that to me.” Then he grabbed Rinpoche’s good arm. Rinpoche struggled free, picked up a flower pot with his good right arm and heaved it at Robert. Then he summoned everyone into the living room and ordered the Pygmies to bring him their dope. I wish someone had had a camera to take a photo of the distraught looks on their faces. One of the Pygmies told me they had just got a big shipment of hashish from Morocco and Rinpoche must have known about it. Anyway, they dutifully brought him all their dope and Rinpoche threw it in the fireplace and said “this is self-deception. It has no place on the path!” Then he lit the whole thing on fire. In retrospect it’s amazing that we didn’t all get stoned just from breathing in the fumes. Zanto told me afterwards that he had to exercise extreme self-control not to run up the backstairs and stick his face over the chimney to breathe in the smoke.

After burning the Pygmies’ dope Rinpoche told everyone that Robert was out of the community. He looked around the room and said to a number of people, “he’s out,” and they had to repeat after him, “he’s out.” I remember that after that Rinpoche got up and went over to Clarke Warren and hugged him around the waist and said, “you’re so tall.” In my projection, I thought Rinpoche was getting strength from Clarke’s height (as though he needed it, having just manifested the wrath of Dorje Trolo).

Several days later I ran into Robert and his girlfriend Susan at a friend’s house. Robert seemed to take being exiled by Rinpoche in stride. He said his father was always throwing him out of his house, too. Several years later Robert returned and became a devoted kasung. Maybe Rinpoche perceived Robert as having mahakala energy that needed to be channeled for dharma protection (another projection on my part).

Thanks for chronicling these milestones and colorful episodes before we all get hopelessly senile and demented and can’t remember them.

-Christine Keyser, 4 Oct 2011


very cool and very helpful, look forward to the next one. may all benefit – White Feather


Theme music: Balinese Monkey Chants. Chogyam Trungpa very much enjoyed these traditional Balinese chants. They were sometimes used to wake up participants at Magyal Pomra Encampment.