Dana Fabbro

I always felt (just my opinion) Trungpa Rinpoche brought certain practitioners into our community as examples. Tenga Rinpoche was a ritual master and worked so thoroughly with the community on the Chakrasamvara mandala and texts. Khenpo Tsultrim was a real yogi. And Thrangu Rinpoche was such an excellent upholder of the Vinaya. I first met him when I was living at Karme Choling, probably ’84. VCTR sent me there to finish my Ngondro and saved my life in the process. I was only a year back from ’83 Seminary (the three month, intensive 3 yana retreat that Trungpa Rinpoche implemented), which was the first program I attended. Ever. So, into the deep end, I went. Then spent the next year spiraling apart from a healthy case of “…too much, too soon”. One night Trungpa Rinpoche’s son Osel Mukpo called me from Boston, where he was visiting his father. “I spoke with Rinpoche, and he said you should go to Karme Choling and finish your Ngondro. He said then you will be able to appreciate your practice and the dharma. Then you should go to university”. And that was that. On the one hand, I felt tremendously surprised and grateful to receive such prescient, personal instruction from Trungpa Rinpoche, I mean like, how does that even happen? On the other hand, I also felt like, “…the bad news is you're being sent to a Russian gulag”. Our practice centers were no joke. You either put up (your practice commitment) or shut up. I felt a crushing sense of being sent into a practice environment that I was completely unprepared for. A few months later, I arrived at KCL. And yes, I was unprepared for the day-in/day-out insistence and upholding of discipline it required. Once again, into the deep end. And one day, Thrangu Rinpoche arrived for a teaching visit. He was such a reliable, study example. His teachings were very unadorned and to the point, offered oftentimes with an almost motherly or caring auntie, firm love. One day regarding Shamatha, he said, “…thoughts are like a pig in the garden they try to get in to eat the flowers and vegetables. As soon as they put their nose in the gate you have to whack them and get them out. If you don't get them out immediately then it is too late, they are in the garden and they eat everything”. His style was without elaboration. And his conduct was modest and precise. They had just put up the first fire puja cabin next to the main building at KCL - it was raw. A wood floor and new sheetrock, an otherwise unfinished space. They were going to hold a fire puja there anyway and Thranghu Rinpoche had his monks create a sand mandala for it. One day he wanted to walk over and see how it was progressing. It’s a small space, and at the time, basically a construction site. There were two monks, building this mandala - I had never seen a sand mandala before. They use the little metal, pipes that you tap on and sand flows out the bottom. It looked like they were just moving these little tubes of metal around but then underneath somehow a conch of dharma or Visvahvajra would appear. Rinpoche didn’t say much but seemed to approve. At one point he leaned down and took a few… like literally a pinch of sand in his fingertips and moved his fingers back and forth. He did that a couple of times and I thought, “Oh he'll make a little pile of sand and then the monks will take their sand to draw from that”. All he was doing was moving his fingers back and forth with grains of sand. In a few minutes underneath his fingertips, a perfectly drawn vajra appeared. Rinpoche got up and headed out the door of the cabin. There were only a few stairs that lead up to the cabin and for a minute Rinpoche stood at the top of them looking out to the sky. I was below the steps, looking up at Rinpoche. The director at the time Roger Guest noticed a little bit of sheetrock dust on the bottom of Rinpoche’s robe - Roger was not trying to make a show of anything, he was just being respectful and he kind of bent down and invisibly as he could, tried to flick the white dust off of Rinpoche’s’ maroon robe. Rinpoche just looked straight ahead. Nothing in him changed, his mind never moved and without looking, plainly said “Doesn't matter”. He was like a Lion in the noonday sun looking out over the plains, no reason to move. No need to question his place. Nothing to do but be. And he was. I'm sure others have much better stories than this - I just wanted to find a small way to offer my thanks to Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche for making sure the seed of Dharma planted in my heart did not harden due to my lack of capacity. I really don't understand interdependence or any of these teachings - so mainly last night I just drank tequila and got very sad. I left a Terton a voice message about Thrangu Rinpoche’s passing, he responded: “Yes, is sad. But also, he did the very best he could with his life for the Karma Kagyu”. May I remember to not waste time. Lama Khyenno.
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Walter hitchhiked from Philly to Boulder in 1974. He seems confused about what happened after that.