David Cook passed away on January 13, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado from COPD (emphysema). He was admitted into hospice the previous day. David was a long-time member of the Shambhala community and a dedicated member of the Dorje Kasung.
Stone Solid Beneath Snapping Wind
Stone solid beneath snapping wind,
sky spreads out like the dragon’s tail
sharp as guru’s sword
gentle as one white cloud
over Marpa Point
where I know you still
with that quiet gaze
beneath which no detail
be too small.
Planting of the banner of Shiwa Okar at New Zealand Dathun, January 2003
One noticeable event at the New Zealand Dathün of January 2003 at Taramanui was the placing of the Shiwa Okar’s banner on one of the hills behind the hostel where the Dathün was being held. Roland Cohen, the Oryoki Master, mentioned that it would be great to have a banner there, on one of the hills in the distance. Since David Cook would come to join Dale who was the main teacher, for the last week, the Garsung, Hermien Rodenburg, thought this would be just the kind of job David would like to do. So preparations were made to have a banner produced. In a town like Taramanui it is not easy to find materials but finally a nice sail maker ordered some flag material and fashioned the banner. Then David came and was very much into the idea. For one day we tried to find out how to get access to the mountains. You can not just climb a mountain because they belong to someone. The mountain on the left belonged to the Maori and the mountain on the right to a Kiwi farmer. This Kiwi farmer happened to be the best friend of the new boyfriend of the ex-wife of the Dutch cook who helped us out during the Dathun. So, no problem, we could climb his mountain and plant a flag: “to bring positive energy down”, is the way we explained it. David and me drove along the mountain sides, tried to walk to it, but failed. Then we phoned the farmer and his wife came out to show us the secret path and the illegal access over the railway bridge. She was very enthusiastic and would have liked to walk us all the way, opening and closing gates for her 3,000 sheeps and looking very sportive in a summer mini skirt. But that day we did not have time and the big climb was set for the next day.
The next day was a little misty and rainy but according to David this was excellent. The mountains were quite steep and he insisted on doing the climb by himself in order not to be dragged down by other less fit members of the crew. So we decided that we would do werma sessions on the ground, and he would do one on the top. But before David prepared himself thoroughly dressing himself in full combat gear with a spade on the side. He marched with the flag unfolded to his car at around 3 pm. A while later we emerged from a werma session and saw a white spot on the far mountain. The flag was planted and we felt thrilled. By this time all Dathün participants knew that something had happened and although the staff had just had a meeting about the seriousness of functional talking, this seemed to have been forgotten and everyone was talking about this event.
Finally David returned, covered in green and smelly stuff that turned out to be sheepshit. The mountain with its 3,000 sheep was of course full of shit and since it was steep this had not been a holiday but nevertheless a very satisfying trip. During the week we glanced up at the white spot on the mountain and felt that dralas had definitely been brought down.
4th of July 1984
Photos by Marvin Moore
Here are 2 photos that I took of David on the 4th of July 1984. I asked David to pose for me. There was some kind of Vietnam tie in to the Fireworks but I forget just what. David, who was one of the very few Vietnam Vets in our Sangha, agreed to don his army fatigues and we climbed to the roof of his building in Brooklyn. We had a good time making these photos while enjoying a few Pabst Blue Ribbons. My memory of David is the same as my recollection of this little event. It was sweet, a little sad and very real. -Marvin Moore
Ah Mister Cook,
So sad to hear you’ve gone from us,
So glad to know we’ll see you again soon enough.
Always so iconic in form and in mischief,
Inscrutable good seeing and sardonic smile,
Seeing you made my heart leap in salute.
You never knew you were my shining hero.
David had his last conversation the night before he died. Acharya Dale Asreal and I were with him in his hospice room, and through an oxygen mask, he said with tearful emotion devoid of any self-pity, how exceptionally lucky he felt he was. He also expressed immense gratitude for having had both the Druk Sakyong and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as his teachers, and for having sangha friends who never gave up on him. He continued talking for quite a while in a very labored voice, through the distracting muffled swoosh of his oxygen mask, and at some point he began alluding to “making arrangements.” I didn’t at first understand when he said something about being simple, “nothing too elaborate.” He then asked who we thought should ride the horse I finally caught on that he was visualizing an honor guard at his own funeral taking place on the MPE parade ground. He then carefully described that the stirups should face backwards, as well as the boots. He added that he had ruled out wanting his ashes to be shot out of the canon because “That would just be too much.”
This last conversation was seemlessly, purely David; his humor, his mischief, his love, his deep devotion to the Makkyi Rabjams, and his Dorje Kasung heart were all coming through. May his impecable loyalty, wry smile, and huge broken heart continuously dance in my dreams, and may his journey through the bardo end in a good rebirth with his Mukpo warrior family.
-Dapön White, Mark Thorpe
Two Old Dogs
Back a few years ago at Magyal Pomra Encampment, Cook Rupon and I were asked by The Sakyong to demonstrate to the participants what it was like to be in the setting sun military. Both David and I having served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era had a bit of haunting memories of that experience.
Here is the scenario that we set up and here is what happened:
I was to go in front of the encampment and begin to address the encampment. I would do this in a very casual manner (no head and shoulders and no sense of presence). As I did that David would come running out screaming, Who in the hell did I think I was: standing there addressing the troops in such a casual manner.
The demonstration that followed was shocking and heart felt.
At the end of this demonstration Cook Rupon, with tears in his eye’s gave me a hug said I love you Willy!
With tears in our eyes and open hearts these two old dogs melted into the hearts of the lineage. It is so good to have all of us as Clan, Warrior Kasung of Mukpo
See you soon “Old Dog”
With Love, Will
Poem for David Cook
I remember that slow smile and twinkle in the eye
At Karme Choling, remembering the war
We weren’t protesting in the streets
But putting our asses on the line.
You loved guns, i had had my fill
Of course when you got together with that wise maniac
People were going to start pooping in their pants
And then the time you threw a live round in the fire
And everyone sat around looking stupid and i headed for the exit.
The time you brought Breakfast the cat in to show the Vidyadhara
He started pulling its whiskers, after all they were the only animal that didn’t cry when the Buddha died
I had cared for that cat’s kidney stones and had the flea bites to show it
You were laughing and i was telling a Buddha to take it easy.
Dave, you did your best for me
We loved each other, but politics is stronger than that
You had your ways, slick in a real sense
But you cared about me and the feelings were mutual
If it’s not the booze it will be something else
It’s in our DNA, what’s the difference what the addiction
To our thoughts or a glass of whiskey, same, same (as they used to say in the jungle)
It’s all pain only in different uniforms.
So Dude, put on your khakis, you loved those dressage dress boots
And Arla loves the bridle for her mare you gave her
When you knew you were exiting at X.
I loved you then and i love you now,
Say hello to the big guy for me, and you two have a drink.
Cold desert breeze-
Your hardened smile,
genuine and tough
like the leather
of a true gunslinger.
Your heart shines
like the blackest of boot polish.
dirt beneath the soles,
blue sky and flapping tents.
I miss you dear sir.
subtle and harsh,
precise and clumsy,
sharp and dusty,
has been my inspiration.
May every burning hot mug
in the hand of our King
remind me of you.
In loving memory,
You always said
A kind word about Scotland
When we said hello in your glory days
Before you became tremulous in your outlook.
I’m glad we met again in recent times.
Would I like to write a Scottish cookbook
You said with a straight face,
and made me smile.
I left town only a minute ago and now you are gone.
I always smiled at your hello and your Scottish tartan ties
I’m glad I took joy in the David Cook Book
And Buddha Bless