I am elated to be alive as a new generation of powerful tulkus is being trained to teach in the West. Two years ago in Seattle, it was the XVIIth Karmapa and a very few days ago, it was the 17 year old Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche in Vancouver, B.C.
I was co-head of household so my view of the Yangsi’s visit is narrow and what I offer here are a few snapshots. My view is narrow because the hours were long for me as for many on the visit staff. When I attended the Yangsi’s talks, my mind was as a hot but sleepy flea, not particularly settled or clear and attentive.
As elsewhere on his North American tour, Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche mentioned his “boring” voice during a talk while assuring everyone that he was not bored. That drew laughs in Vancouver too. In his humble way, he listed the many wonderful qualities of the previous Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche while declaring he himself had none of those qualities.
At the final celebratory feast (the tsok) on Sunday, the Shambhala Anthem was requested. During the KI KI SO SO that followed—it was rousing as though expressing much love and appreciation—I saw Yangsi Rinpoche look down a little and try to cover a small smile as though perhaps a little embarrassed. His humility was evident.
Spectacular weather invigorated staff on Monday’s boat tour of Vancouver’s harbor. The tour occurred in part to thank the staff but also for Yangsi Rinpoche to perform a life release ceremony for 40 crabs. Big sky, ocean and mountains, clear weather and Vancouver’s glittering skyline were the setting for complete access to Rinpoche throughout the tour. The boat shimmied left and right for a little while when Rinpoche captained the boat with little nine-year-old Bianca.
On the last and final Tuesday evening, a backyard barbecue was enjoyed by all with Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, Rabjam Rinpoche, Changling Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard in attendance. Somehow a bocce ball set was brought out and instructions given. This is a gentle game though it can be quite competitive. Yangsi Rinpoche, Rabjam Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard all played and eventually some visit staff too. It was noticed that no one was particularly competitive and in fact all clapped when Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche or anyone got his or her ball close to the pelota.
Later in the evening, Rabjam Rinpoche and Yangsi Khyentse led a small group of staff into the family room while escaping the mosquitoes and the gathering darkness. They stayed late and stories were told. This was a wonderfully intimate time and went on for quite a while. I was quite busy, but at the very end, my co-head of household generously relieved me for a few minutes and I had the opportunity to ask the Yangsi about his earliest memories.
The Yangsi began to remember his first hair cutting and Rabjam Rinpoche — who has a big smile and personality — interjected, telling everyone in the circle how much Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche did not want his quite long hair cut and how he cried. Yangsi Rinpoche then remarked how he now thinks long hair would be “sissy.”(!) He also offered some observations to one of our young kasung earlier in the evening on the kasung uniform saying the uniform seemed old-fashioned to him, and could be “sharper.” He offered some design ideas.
At the airport with the party checking in, some of us had the opportunity to sit with him as he waited off to the side in a steel and vinyl airport lounge. As I sat alone with Yangsi Rinpoche, he said a few things and then said, looking directly at me, “Ben, I will always remember you.” I felt the warm pressure of the hand of the lineage on my heart.
Others had their turn being with him a final time. Then check-in completed finally, some sad and laughing goodbyes were said until next time.