Linda Lewis

My very first memory of Khenpo Rinpoche was at the '85 seminary when he taught the Ngeton School in the octagonal building on the "land", RMDC. Jim Scott was with him singing Milarepa songs to country Western tunes, a humorous contrast to Khenpo's profound Mahamudra instructions, and to the appearance of our root guru, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in yellow robes, presiding over the last full seminary. A few years later, after the Vidyadhara's parinirvana and while residing at Karme Choling, I went with a friend to Wappenger Falls, at Lama Norla's small monastery and three year retreat complex, to hear Khenpo teach again on Mahamudra. It was my first time trying to follow a Tibetan text, and I could only make out words which the Vidyadhara had hammered into our heads, like "yeshe" or "sem". Jim Scott was there as well, translating and singing those Milarepa songs with such folksy wording. At night my friend and I were given a bunk beds in a room adjacent to Khenpo's. Being a light sleeper, I awoke whenever he awoke and got up, because the adjoining door was only partially blocked by the bunk bed, and when Khenpo went out into the hallway, it created a draft that opened the door an inch so I could hear Khenpo R. humming or singing some lovely Tibetan tune! My friend wanted to go on to Karme Triyana Dharmachakra and I was grateful to meet Khenpo Kartar and received the Marpa Empowerment, but I found myself somewhat clinging to the experiences I was having with Khenpo R., and I probably only imagined that he did not want to see me go either, right in the middle of these Mahamudra teachings. But in a few years he was coming to Karme Choling every summer of the world or so it seemed, and I was there for all but one. Am sure others will have plenty to share of these glorious summer retreats, but suffice it to say they included such adventures as learning "float-us" on Harvey's Lake (how to more easily get into vajra posture or full lotus in the water while floating!) or jumping from the rope swing at the reservoir into vajra posture before hitting the water (practicing to do the "bebs" in trulkhor for the 6 dharmas portion of 3 year retreat!) As the year 2000 approached, I was in New Zealand and had the opportunity with Marion Bond and Colin Pratt to invite Khenpo R. to Wellington, as he was in Melbourne, Australia. And with little notice, he came with Ari, to give teachings in a Sufi building over the weekend, and then upon request gave both refuge and bodhisattva vows to many on the spacious Bond-Pratt deck overlooking the city. But on the very first day, Marion and Colin both had appointments, so even though I had only been in Wellington 2 weeks at the most, I was to be their guide to the city! We were dropped off on the beautiful coast and walked along the harbour, looking I'm sure like a very strange trio: Ari so tall, carrying a large camera he'd bought in Australia; Khenpo in Tibetan dress, and me. We came to a boat that had been converted into a tea house and Khenpo wanted to go in. Perhaps picking up on my stubborn Protestant ethic and concern for time, Khenpo R. began to explain how there was NO Time! As I relaxed and we continued our walk, Ari taking occasional videos, I spotted a ferry going to Day's Harbour. I had no idea where that was and knew nothing about its schedule. But I made inquiries, and it seemed possible to go very inexpensively, and that once there, we would find close by a restaurant where we could have lunch. It felt like Dewachen, a great bliss realm, riding atop the ferry in the sun, stopping briefly at an island that once held prisoners but now was a sanctuary for many flightless birds. (Until the Maori and then Europeans brought animals to NZ, there were no predators on the ground for birds, so many, like the Kiwi, lost the ability to fly!) At the restaurant, while waiting to be served, Ari played the morning video for Khenpo, and Khenpo remarked that "even my eyebrows are white!" I tried to say something profound, like "No time, no old age, no white eyebrows!" and Khenpo loved it, thinking maybe I had got his earlier tea time message. But alas, as the only scheduled return trip on the ferry approached, Khenpo and Ari were strolling along the coast in the opposite direction from the ferry and I panicked! The ferry was filling with boisterous boys from a day school, in grey shorts, white shirts, pulling off their ties...I think Khenpo was testing me to see if I really got the message of timelessness! But we did just make the ferry, found seats in the crowded, smelly cafeteria inside, and Khenpo R. promptly fell blissfully asleep, Ari taking advantage of the time to sleep as well, and there was I, watching boys pass objects over our heads, and shouting but not at all disturbing those two! While Khenpo R. stayed at Marion and Colin's, a house like many on stilts overlooking the city, Khenpo R stayed in their bedroom which was below the main floor. Each morning I would fix breakfast while Khenpo watched Ari do lujong (exercises, literally "body training"). Once their breakfast was served, I'd run downstairs (still time conscious!), gather up their laundry and start a wash, run back upstairs and see if they wanted more tea, etc., run down again to straighten up beds, and then back up to collect the breakfast dishes. But one of those times I was off, miscalculated, and burst into Khenpo's room finding him completely un-startled, but stark naked before me! I was the embarrassed one! It was just another teaching of the precious, timeless guru!