Poetry tributes to Trungpa Rinpoche

Sangha poetry for the 32nd anniversary of Rinpoche's parinirvana


No fooling!

Thirty-two years ago today, Rinpoche asked me to help him play an April Fool joke on the sangha.

He thought a while and then asked me to call Vajradhatu and pretend to be some person in the San Francisco sangha (I can’t remember who) and say that the Shambhala bookstore had burned down and that Sam (Bercholz) had gone to the hospital and even though it looked like he was going to be okay, could someone please contact Rinpoche so that he could “think about Sam or something” (Rinpoche’s words).

He thought I should put a bunch of Kleenex over the mouthpiece so that I would sound far away. This struck me as so funny, and besides I was nervous, I got the giggles. We both got the giggles. Then I had to dial the number.

The Vajradhatu offices were only a few blocks away — and when the person answered, with Rinpoche watching me, I was so nervous about blowing it that my voice trembled. It worked perfectly — I sounded distraught. When I hung up, he wondered aloud how long would it take for the phone to ring — it wasn’t long!

Hey Sam — if you are reading this, I never asked you — how long it it take for you to hear about it—!

With love and devotion,
–Suzanne/Tsondru Namkha

Gazing At His Consort

What do you see when you look at her—
Does she look like she has been some where—
How would you like to take that trip
Will you insist on knowing the fare—

The ticket from here to there is pricey.
First your soul is on the list.
It was a comforting notion for a very long time.
But now we all know it doesn’t exist.

Selfless sweet openness, how does she do that—
It looks so easy, so graceful, so light.
She never grabs or clings or falls,
She is a trapez-less acrobat.

What price has she paid to be left so real—
Only her self was on the table.
But the antes were up and she lost the game
Buenaventura for a lucky girl.

What price discipline; is it so bad—
And what of morality; it sounds so drab.
But to stay in step with our invisible partner . . .
It’s a bit of a trick when we try to see it.
But certainly it’s worth a try,
Because every one of us can do it.

It’s frightfully easy to dispel a dakini.
Ulterior motives or duplicitous words
Can take her out in the wink of an eye.
Yet, it’s in her non-nature not to stay gone,
So watch out ,,, she’ll be back with tricks and spies,
Cheerful or angry and ready to act

She plays so hard, her life’s on the line
And once in a while she dies for the truth.
With her moonlight complexion and lightbody gone
She dissipates in a smiling realm
And sleeps in the arms of vastbluesky.

Taking and sending ride on the breath
Our life force does a circle dance
Our thoughts go back and forth like ping pong
Self can’t survive this wild romance.

This outrageous girl, she has me half crazy.
When I search for her she can’t be found.
If I knew the price I would certainly pay it.
If I knew the time I would certainly keep it.
As it is , all I do is make her laugh ,
And hold her hands when she needs to weep.

My Guru Was One Scary Son Of A Bitch

He scared all my fear away
Whenever I’m frightened and think of his smile
There’s nothing left that’s scary at all
Nothing left of fear atall

My guru was a very greedy man,
He took my territory away
Whenever I’m greedy and think of his smile
There’s nothing left to possess at all
Nothing left of greed atall

My guru was a very impatient man
He hurried all my doubts away
Whenever I hesitate and think of his smile
There’s nothing left to question at all
Nothing left of doubt atall

My guru was a very passionate man
He seduced all my attachment away
Whenever I’m grasping and think of his smile
There’s nothing left to hold on to at all
Nothing left of attachment atall

My guru was a very ignorant man
He ignored my stupidity again and again and again and again
Whenever I’m stupid and think of his smile
There’s nothing left to ignore at all
Nothing left of stupidity atall

My guru was one scary son of a bitch
He scared all my fear away
Whenever I’m frightened and think of his smile
There’s nothing left that’s scary at all
Nothing left of fear atall
Nothing left of fear atall

Jim Lowrey
Final Chakrasamvara retreat
March 2005

This text arose spontaneously

This text arose spontaneously in a moment out of my subconscious (or we could say, the sambhogakaya.) It expresses the most intimate level of my relationship with Rinpoche and I think also expresses that ideal or optimal state one may be in of the guru and the student meeting naked in the charnel ground. Of course other things could be said- the love of the student for the teacher is as rich (or richer) in multiplicities as perhaps any other human relationship or love affair:

The wild, free unbounded energy of a crazy wisdom master who penetrated to the heart of things, destroyed the boundaries of conventional mind, motivated us to accept the difficulties that this penetration involved, sacrificed himself completely for the benefit of his students which [benefit] he understood entirely beyond consideration of conventional benefit, entirely in terms of realization. I love him for his craziness, his utterness, his utter single-mindedness of intention, his demand for surrender and discipline, and his deep indifference to the conventional, for his students and for himself, I love him for the total complete sense he had of the phenomenal world as playground, as the ground of joy, even to the point of manifesting a kingdom in a pure gesture of play and seriousness, of the movement into space-time of benefit, of beauty and the possibilities of collective transformation of matter and spirit. (In other words, the Kingdom of Shambhala. Who else would have dared—) I love him for his profound experience of the the unobstructedness of things, and the depth of his commitment to transmit that experience to his students. I love him for the demands he made and the purpose of the joy and pain he could deliver. I love him for the profound nature and beauty of his terma discoveries as wisdom vehicles and for the mere fact of his having made these discoveries. And I love him for his intense emphasis and insistence on the continuities of all this, and the possibility of realizing in life the continuous nature of meditation and postmeditation.

I love him for his wisdom, his inventiveness, his challenges, his craziness, his sanity, his beauty, for the crazy unconventional family of students he created about him. And besides all this I simply love him as a living presence in my life who need not be remembered and who could not possibly be forgotten, a self-existing wisdom master whom I love and respect beyond measure.

James Green

Green and Brown in Summer Heat

They mingle, the green and brown, pounded by the black and tan.
The black and tan do hard and soft on the breast of the meadow.
Our practice materials are greygreen.
Our armour is tan.
Our minds are hard and soft as we practice.
Naked heat, exertion, rain, and insects, our ghanta and dorje,
Softness and straight lines the kapala,
Flags and tents snap in the midnight wind of our meadow.
This is the endless repetition for Shambhala, for its armies,
Gathered by holy men, gathered by warriors, gathered by the tears of
Human bravery.
This is a gentle world where hard and soft know each other.
There is no peak experience for practitioners of this sadhana,
But there are moments.
We offer this amrita to the Rigden Father,
To the world,
And to Nova Scotia.
Long live the Horse Country,
And long live Victory Over War!

-Hudson Shotwell

Supplication to the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Kind root guru, Vajradhara in person,
Essence of the buddhas of the fourth moment,
Source of dharma more profound and vast than the ocean,
Your galaxy of oral instructions arises from one point–
the luminous star of egolessness.
Example of joyful realization,
You gave us the empowering scepters to follow your example.
Grant your blessing so that we may realize mind to be dharmakaya.

As Amitabha,
You smile red-faced from the kaya of simplicity.
Grant us the supreme siddhi inseparable from bliss-emptiness.

As compassionate Avaloketesvara,
You glow with the rainbow light of sambhogakaya.
Grant us the realization of luminosity-emptiness.

As nirmanakaya Padmakara,
Help us spread the dharma west of the Land of Snow and back again,
So that dharma is victorious over the three Lords of Materialism
and so that we all may enjoy the three yanas of the Great Eastern Sun.

Like Marpa Lotsawa and Great Repa Mila,
May our exertion not wane either in the world or in yogic retreat.
Grant your blessing so that we see the inseparability of samsara and nirvana.

With the bodhicitta amrita from your skullcup
Intoxicate conceptual mind so that appearance is seen as illusory
and emptiness as pregnant with possibility.
Grant us awareness that transcends mind.
With your cystal sword
cut through confusion,
Revealing the expanse of primordial purity.

Lovable, inscrutible Vidyadhara,
King of sacred outlook,
May our actions, like yours, become dharma art.

Druk Sakyong who breathed wisdom prana into our lungs
and opened our hearts to the mind-stream of AWAKE,
On top of my head
sing and dance with your awareness consort,
turning the wheel of supreme siddhi
So that I, easily distracted and lazy Jinpai Pema,
May repay your great kindness
by realizing the true nature you first pointed out.

Linda Lewis
Sopa Choling

Offering to Rinpoche

Tears freely rolling down my cheeks
As I listen to Your voice.
You put me here.
You keep me going.
Yet – all i have of you is a picture-video-poem-recordings of your voice.
Why did you leave us—
You gave us this amazing gift
Not even waiting to see it fully unwraped
I need you to help me unwrap it.
Unwrap myself.
For it is so painful.
All I have are haunting memories, shadows, recollections.
In all of THIS i see YOU.
A tease.
For I want more.

Monica Peters
– Written at a Karma Choling Dathun, 2005.

A Song

This day is heavy.
Almost forgot to stop and let air seep in.
I’ve found a treasure
Sadness you have attained through
A tender touch.

My jealousy is a blue flame
So pretty, what a beauty, what a shame.
I’ve missed
A magic show
You are a caravan of gypsies.
You dance
You sing
You are picture perfect
Framed in stories
A metaphor for every time of year
You are the world
So simple though.
I take your smile as a gift
I’m lucky.
Nothing have I missed-
How can you miss what you’ve never met—
A handshake is but a punctuation,
It is the
Page the space the time that carries
weight. And this weight I know
-not a briefcase full of pebbles,
but a clothesline full of sheets,
with a sudden gust of wind it is lifted.
Then all we have is today
– the footprint of a tender touch. A Rose.
You have given me a smile that only ever grows.

I have a song!
I have seen your caravan
Give birth
I have heard this song before a long long time ago
It is ancient, turning
Into new.

Alicia Fordham
April 4, 2006

For Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

And now you are dead,
After all.
Yet your mind keeps unfolding,
And your vast heart keeps beating
Inside me.
I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,
But then with you, I never did.

You saw what was needed
And had to be done.
You took up a sword.
You chewed up this world,
And swallowed it whole.
I guess that killed you in the end,
As everything does,
But not before it made you blaze.

You cared so much,
You couldn’t care less.
Yet you went right on
Tickling our minds,
Breaking open our hearts,
Spilling our blood on your sword.

I owe you everything.
You showed me my mind
And asked me to dance.
Your death was the final blessing:
It let me know how much I love you.

John Welwood
San Francisco
May, l987

For the Eyes of the Solitary Warrior Only

The War was Never Begun
The Battle Never Ends
Winning and Losing are Costly Illusions
The Solitary Warrior Knows when to Engage

Make a Good Dinner
Be Sure to Place Flowers

Philip Bralich, Ph.D.
Fire Puja about 1998

On April 4th for Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

When you died,
Devotion became more confusing and entertaining than ever
Among those of us that never knew you,
Some worship you

In our homes,
We are presented the opportunity for real devotion
We could attend to the most intimate details,
Instead we flee

In our work,
Our hearts are connected to the arteries of the world
We could nourish the entire planet,
But we shut down

In our hearts,
We could make selflessness and kindness our priority
We could see with eyes of stillness,
But we stay blind

In your stead,
I devote myself to your same hopeless task of tenderness
Not placating you like some god,
I vow to love

On this day,
You continue to turn me away from spiritual materialism
The fish are biting right here,
This path is true

Your students,
Still carry on your precious lineage and commitment
I vow not to waste this gift,
Thank you so much

Dudley Jackson
Columbia, SC Shambhala Center
April 4th 2006

Rinpoche left us

Rinpoche left us
he’s gone
I can hear his voice
I remember sitting by his bedside
with my daddy getting him dressed
I remember waiting right outside
the bathroom for my daddy and Rinpoche to come out.
I remember singing nursery rhymes with Rinpoche.
I remember Chubby*
I remember “don’t forget the secret.”

by Catherine Fordham (age 6)
April 5, 1987
Boulder, Co

Spontaneous offering in response:

Hunkered together in the dusk,
smothered and cuddling in questionable Halegonian hospitality
of encroaching autumn, looming blanket of winter,
your ongoing illness and heavy medications
symptoms of the far vaster fogs and ice to come,
all encapsuled in the closed curtains
denying the passage of
this time
that time
but still somehow
as always with him
a very very,
– though now not quite so jolly –

How good you make time, Sir.
You and Ciel,
and later I,
sharing your last evening meal, all of us eating together
in the darkened, twilight grey-painted bedroom
your last in this world.

And after dinner
accompanied by witty and sad Mukpo chit-chat
then a last night of endless hyper-ventilation
without pause, breath after breath;
and then
I left at noon;
and then you left a minute or so later;
and then Walter came in and found you,
and then months in and out of the hospital
and then the fog and ice rolled in
and then our world became permanently
as the ice melted and flowed away into the ocean of awareness.

Oh we long for you, Chokyi Gyatso,
our tears fill the rivers and lakes of these rugged, darling maritimes
providing rain of blessings
of our true-hearted, true-blue, all-victorious Mukpo-fied sadness.

Let us carry your all-victorious banner of compassion and good-humour
deep into the rocks and bones of this land,
and out into the vast bardos beyond living and dying.

Or, as they say in France: ‘one for all and all for one!’

In response to his call for poems or reminiscences, this last one living of the three who partook of that ‘last supper’ together, Ashley Howes, Cape Breton resident, on this day of bittersweet remembrance, on this day when the winters snows have melted all away, composed this spontaneous poetic song for my old friend Walter Fordham and all in our marvellous Gem of a Sangha.

Love, Ashley
4 April 2006

The best green tea

The best green tea
came out of the fragrant wet earth of Jiangsu
southchinagrown in hillside rows
and harvested by
short dark skinned people,
laboring in large woven conical bamboo hats.

From this well,
Is life aroused and nurtured,
And drinking it, senses snap as if a fluttering pendant by a sudden wind blown.
Taste and fragrance are unparalleled
And people join together to drink it.
In imari bowl
bought at the 28th

st. Target
it sits,
intoxicating hesitation, wonder and desire.

Lee Weingrad

The Ever-Presence of Your Grace

unequalled guide
Great teacher
Great joy
Great wild man
Only friend
Great being
Great heart

You are the ice cube of bodhi
floating cool and spacious
in our glass of neurosis.

You are the great blue pancake on our heads
open and claustrophobic as the sky.

You are the terrifying first thought
more terrible and more terrific than Naropa’s old hag.

As always, your words confound us
inspire us
make us sit up
confuse us
make us laugh and tremble
and vibrate with your brilliance.

It is impossible to imagine that there was ever a human
being who was more powerful, more skillful, more
outrageous, more dangerous and kind, more awake,
more frustrating, more capable of invoking fear,
commanding loyalty, touching the heart, popping
neurosis, and exposing false views.

But all we have to go by is our own experience.

Maybe there was a teacher who was greater than you.

Was Khenpo Gangshar more outrageous—
Was Dorje Trolö more wrathful—
Was Mikyo Dorje more skillful—
Was Milarepa a better singer—
Marpa more earthy—
Padmasambhava more influential—
Was the Buddha more enlightened—

But we have met the lineage through you.
You are the Buddha.
You are Padmasambhava
bringing the dharma to savage tribes.
You are Marpa
plowing our hard soil.
You are Milarepa with a falsetto voice
singing first-thought songs of joy.
You are Khenpo Gangshar
offering the feast we cannot refuse.
You are the Kagyü and Nyingma fathers.
You are the lineage
from ancient root
to tender limb.


You are the young monk —
the accomplished teenage prince —
who is soaked in dharma and driven from Tibet
by the madness of communist aggression.

You are the embodiment of 2500 years of enlightened energy
thrust suddenly into the turmoil of the west —
a gift to the world from Chairman Mao.

You absorb our language and culture
with full appreciation of western mind.
and look for an opening-
a way to present dharma

Then comes the crash: sudden shock.
You unmask.
Stand naked and raw before us and speak simple truth.

With your rolling walk —
laboring to the teacher’s chair —
you are the plowman behind the ox.

In your hands, we are cultivated
with untiring exertion
and seemingly without effort
into people who can hear
into a community that can nurture
into leaders, teachers, directors, soldiers, courtiers,
gardeners, servants, ministers, flower arrangers,
lords and ladies of dharma.

Your activity is felt in all directions.

You create the Maitri program so untamed energy can meet itself and relax.
As Dorje Dradül you enlist us in the kasung
giving us discipline and dignity along with a gentle heart
and a mission to overcome aggression.
As translator, you turn English into the language of dharma.
As vajra guru you invite us to the sacred mandala
and make the introductions.
As trickster you expose our attempts to gain territory
with sudden jolts of ordinary mind.
As heavenly appointed earth protector
you receive the hidden treasure of Shambhala,
plant the primordial blade in our hearts,
and proclaim the vision of
not small, not west, not moon, not setting.*
As artist, playwright, songwriter, poet, flower arranger,
calligrapher, photographer
you join dharma and art together
and point the way to a new understanding of culture.
As householder, you invite us into your family.
You comfort, scold, and encourage.
You never give up on anybody.
As the ultimate importer
you take the exotic and make it ordinary
so that now buddhadharma resides at home
in our language
in our culture
in our children
in our bloodstream
in our bones.

As far as anyone we can see, you never have a day off.
Your discipline is continuous, never pausing, never
hesitating. There is truly nothing in your life
but teaching and working with others.


What is left for us —
we who are your students,
whether we knew you or we did not know you –
in the never ending presence of your absence—

Your leaving has been the heartbreak that never ends
Your leaving is the teaching that never ends
Once we had our duty — we could say “I am on duty ” or “I am off duty”
Now there is just our lives — each moment.

When we cook, we cook for you
When we clean our homes, we clean your Court
When we care for our children, we emulate your care for us.

When we sit, we are your throne cushion
When we stand, we stand in your presence
When we walk, we are your walking stick
When we drive, we are your driver
When we wait in line, we wait for you
When we tend our garden, we tend your garden
When we open the door, we greet you.

The procession is underway
The inner court incense is burning
You are forevermore entering
taking your seat
clearing your throat
proclaiming dharma.

May we wake up in the middle of our lives
and carry on your work
May we make love with your passion
eat with your appetite
clean our homes with your attention to details
wake up in the morning with your awakened heart
go to sleep with your empty abandon
sing with your piercing first-thought confidence
teach with your skillful means
die with your wisdom.

May we sit always at your feet
May we feel your presence in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya
under Colorado mountain sun.
May we find you in the spring floods at Kalapa Valley
on the parade ground of Magyal Pomra
in the skirmish at Sun Camp
in the cool mist of Nova Scotia
in the homes of practitioners
in the faces of strangers
in the songs on the radio
in the heart of depression
in the moment of ecstasy
in the eyes of our children
in the ever-presence of your grace.

In short, may each action
each trial
each success and disappointment
be carried out in your service.

Your smile lingers over the world
cooling anger
terrifying extreme beliefs
illuminating shadows of doubt
exposing corruption
and teasing life out of our grumpy bones.


Lords and ladies, ladies and gentlemen of the Druk Sakyong’s world, please rise.

I give you for today and for as long as his teachings unfold,
for as long as beings live in the slime and muck of the dark age:

The Vidyadhara
The Dorje Dradül
The Dragon King
His Majesty
The Profound Brilliant Just Powerful All Victorious Sakyong.

Born a monk.
Died a king.
The thunderstorm
which was his life rolls on
with a continual downpour of blessings.

Let us enjoy the kingdom that he built
in the middle of our ordinary and troubled world.
May we work as tirelessly as he for the well-being of all.

Composed for the consecration of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya
by Jigme Lodro, 18 August 2001. ©2001