The Day I Shook Hands with my Guru

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Note: This story takes place in Boston in March of 1982. The talk mentioned is the same one that was videotaped and titled “Creating Enlightened Society.”

It was a beautiful spring day. The sky was sunny and bright, without a cloud. The Vidyadhara had just finished a talk at a packed house in a large church in downtown Boston. We were all pouring out of the church into the splendid weather. I was with two friends who were interested in Buddhism but not part of the sangha. I noticed Rinpoche standing over by his black limo, waving to everyone. I felt such tremendous joy and simplicity after the talk that I turned and waved to him. He motioned to me to come over, so I did. The kasung parted and I was able to walk right up to him. We shook hands and I felt an incredible warmth that is indescribable.

At this point it is important to note what I looked like: a young Jewish boy with a beard and dark hair. Rinpoche asked me if I meditated. I said that I did. He asked me what kind. I was so proud to be able to say “Shamatha.” He said “Shmata?” (which is Yiddish for rag’). I got so confused at that point; my mind was a blank. I didn’t know what to say. Then Rinpoche asked me what I was doing. I said that I was going to have ice cream with my friends. He let me go and I went off.

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Alan Ness
Alan is a long-time student of the Vidyadhara and Sakyong Mipham living in Seattle Washington.