By Nina Rolle
We’ve been having some hot August days in Boulder, with a dry wind. Most of the sangha has returned to town from a summer of retreats up on The Land. Inspiration and devotion to the Sakyong and the Dorje Dradul are at red hot levels, like Smoky the Bear’s fire danger signs on the highway. Finally I can staff the huge event welcoming the Yangsi Rinpoche to Boulder and with servers and ushers straight out of offering devi training ground, nonetheless. Perfect.
The night of August 10th I could not sleep. As coordinator for the Tea and Rice Ceremony welcoming Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche to Colorado and to the Shambhala Center on behalf of the Sakyong, I was buzzing with details that still needed to be dealt with—seating charts, introductions, china service, how many rinpoches, who’s gonna shlep the tea and rice from Marpa House to the center—I sat wide-eyed in the dark, and reflected on the Sakyong Wangmo’s grace and perspective, her pure motivation. Breathe. Breathe. What is the View…keep going back…comb your hair from the roots…we ARE the clouds of offerings, we simply need to manifest as the retinue of the Rigdens, make it welcoming and magnificent (with the right dishes), that’s all…
“We have a princess!” were the first words I heard on August 11. That joyous news colored the whole day of final preparations for the arrival. It’s a girl, It’s a girl, It’s a girl, did you hear, it’s a girl became the mantra transmitted down the line as volunteers and servers arrived. Elizabeth Mattis Namgyal from Mangala Shri Bhuti arrived early to get the lay of the land. As guests started trickling in, a colorful crowd of Tibetans, Bhutanese dancers in full costume, and western students with khatas gathered on 14th Street. Flocks of Dorje Kasung appeared. The plane from Boston was early. They’ve landed. They’ve left the airport. They’re 10 minutes away. Here’s the motorcade, led by MSB’s John Clancy riding a Harley.
The traveling party was led into the building by Andrew Forbes’ bagpipes and met at the door by Sechen Kongtrul Gesar Mukpo and Makpon Jesse Grimes. Members of the Ladrang greeted the party downstairs. Kalapa Court servers greeted them on the second floor. Of course there was another Rinpoche added with the traveling party, we pretty much expected that. (chair, brocade, side table, lama snacks, rice plate, teacup, done).
After a color party of Sun Campers led by Sargeant Kelly MacLean presented the colors, tea and rice was served by thirty elegant, nearly invisible servers. Sechen Kongtrul Gesar Mukpo welcomed Yangsi Rinpoche with a brief and very heartfelt address, inviting him to return many many times. Elizabeth Matthis then spoke on behalf of Mangala Shri Bhuti, and representatives of the area sanghas offered khatas to Yangsi Rinpoche and to Rabjam Rinpoche.
Yangsi Rinpoche spoke briefly, very quietly—a simple message about his travels celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The ceremony ended with the singing of the Shambhala Anthem. Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche and Rabjam Rinpoche were given cards with a picture of the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo and the lyrics of the anthem.
Directly after the ceremony, (and the inevitable traffic jam on that narrow staircase between second and third floor) the traveling party, the Sakyong’s family, and a few honored guests gathered in the Shambhala Training Hall, which had been transformed into an elegant dining room and reception area. This was, for me, the highlight of the evening, where the Sakyong’s court truly manifested. Lady Konchok—tired from dialysis but blissfully ( and finally!) a grandmother—attended with Grandpa Lama Pegyal and Uncle Gyurme Dorje. Area Rinpoches were able to visit with Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche and Rabjam Rinpoche, and Alexandra Shenpen offered khatas on behalf of her late husband Lama Ugyen Shenpen.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, bustling around in hosting mode, added 4 last-minute guests to the dinner table (more chairs, china, silver, re-arrange, seat the guests, done.) and then sat by himself, enjoying a wee sip of sake in front of the Werma Shrine while the others dined. The dinner itself was exquisitely presented, presided over by Master of the Kalapa Court Mark Thorpe and Head of Household Denise Wuensch. While the dinner was being plated by Machen Janos Porps, Yangsi Rinpoche was shown artwork and calligraphy by the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. With nightfall the temperature had dropped a good ten degrees. The windows were open, letting in a slight breeze, as well as the excitement and sounds of a lively concert on the Pearl Street Mall and the lights from the Boulder Theater across the street.
Our path in creating this event was inclusion—inclusion of older students, younger students, male and female, experienced and relatively green. There was a lot of mentoring going on in the process, with more experienced students instructing the younger crew in service, ushering, and ritual aspects of Tea and Rice. Gesar Mukpo’s powerful presence in the days preceding the event was a huge gift. He was there representing the Sakyong, he was there as Sechen Kongtrul, he was there as himself, a young tulku reminding us to make an authentic human connection with this young Khyentse Yangsi tulku, and not just see him as the incarnation of somebody else.