Video by Georges Leminbach
Camera person unknown
Michael Scott’s Comments
December 15, 2021
I see there’s some debate about when this was. Since I was there for several months around this time, I think I can throw some light on the question.
This must have been in late summer, 1966. I was there for a week in July that year and for four months in September – December. Sherab Palden arrived in September 1966, I think. His arrival was a big deal and Rinpoche was so happy. This was when he began bringing Tibetan thangkas and art into the British picture. Sherab Palden was there when I arrived for my four-month stay in September. So this must have been taken during his very early days there.
In the following months, Sherab and Rinpoche spent hours and hours together, painting and chatting in Sherab’s room, and Rinpoche taught me how to stretch canvases on 20″x 30″ frames for them to paint on. We were waiting for the ownership of Johnstone House (as it then was) to get sorted out — the remote property, a former hunting lodge, had been discovered and founded by Ananda Bodhi, a Canadian Karma Kagyu monk, as an ecumenical Buddhist facility. It was eventually transferred to the Tibetans from a Trust serving this broad range of Buddhist lineages, and in early 1967 CTR fully took his seat there.
I don’t recognize the women in these clips. Kunga (then Richard Arthure) is there, most clearly in the shot of him at right with CTR and Akong to his left. I know that Richard arrived at Johnstone House two weeks before my return there in September. So I think his presence in this footage nails the date to mid-September.
The short monk with glasses is an Englishman who had converted to Buddhism from Catholicism. He’d lived with RInpoche and Akong in Oxford for quite a while, immediately before all this — I had visited them in their tiny flat there earlier that summer. I think his Tibetan name was Lodro Thaye, sweet man.
The other person I recognize towards the end of the footage is Chime Rinpoche, a Tibetan in robes. He’s talking to a woman whom I don’t recognize. Chime was tall and funny. I liked him, in fact I saw him in London later, where he’d set up a centre.
There were only 6-8 people at Johnston House in the Autumn of 1966, including Trungpa (as he was then known) Sherab Palden, Lodro Thaye, a couple of interesting Brits, and me. Richard A was mostly in retreat in a tiny woodsy cabin behind the house. We were meditating some, under Trungpa’s guidance, and waiting for the place to be legally passed to his leadership. He travelled to London on the overnight bus from time to time, to give a talk at the London Buddhist Centre.
Hikes in the hills surrounding Johnstone House were quite common: a wonderful experience. Rinpoche would lead, we’d walk and walk on the bare mountain tops, groups of us just like this, stopping to meditate for a while from time to time. Of course, this was 2+ years before his accident, so he was an agile and energetic walker.
It may be me in a couple of the hiking shots in this footage, but I’m not sure, since the picture is blurry and I don’t recognize other lay people there.
These walks began by crossing the “beck” (small creek) that you see people wading through in this footage, then up onto the barren hilltops that stretched without any sign of human life for miles and miles. Beautiful.
Oh, and the dog. That is Sing-Tu — Rinpoche’s special dog: precious, famous, loyal, and loved by all.
So this footage was definitely taken in 1966, and I’m pretty certain it’s in mid-September. That would also be the latest time that people would hike bare-chested in the often-rainy and cool Eskdalemuir Valley there.
Hope that throws a bit of light on it.
This video was posted on Youtube in December 2020, where it had not been seen by very many people. The Chronicles first learned of it on December 11, 2021 thanks to a heads up from David Lewis. Thank you David!
We are now in touch with the filmmaker, Georges Leminbach, and hope to learn more details about the video.
For most of us, this video is our first glimpse of Trungpa Rinpoche on film before his car accident in 1969, which left him partially paralyzed.