Tributes to Arnie Nordman

Arnie was a long-time practitioner and a meditation instructor at the Boulder Shambhala Center and Naropa University.


Arnie became a Buddhist in 1988 while living in Wilmette. He moved to Boulder to pursue the Buddhist path in 1997. From David Roadhouse: “I am privileged to have introduced Arnie to dharma. We were at a neighborhood party (near Chicago). He took an immediate liking to the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche and began meditating. From there he stepped onto the path and continued to the last moment.” His main teachers were Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (although he didn’t actually meet him in person), Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. He was a meditation instructor at the Boulder Shambhala Center and Naropa University.

When asked about what initially drew him to the dharma Arnie replied that it wasn’t only the teachings. From the beginning it was the meditation. Basically it was just resting in the nature of mind. He was also completely magnetized by the Sadhana of Mahamudra. Once Arnie met the dharma, he cleared any obstacles to his one-pointed concentration on the path. He moved quickly from seminary through Vajrayogini, Cakrasamvara and Vajrakilaya. At fire pujas he was prone to break out in spontaneous doha and loved the songs and practices taught by the Khenpo.

When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the 1990s he was advised that study of trekcho and thogal would be good to do. He attended a number of annual retreats with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. During one retreat he asked Tsoknyi Rinpoche if they would be studying trekcho and thogal soon. Tsokyni Rinpoche replied “That’s all we’ve been talking about and doing the last 2-3 years”. Arnie always got a good laugh when recounting that.

He loved singing show tunes and often combined dharma with popular melodies: Vajrayana Choo Choo was his trademark tune. He sang for many years in the Naropa and Shambhala Chorus. During the last weeks of his life friends would visit and sing “May Basic Goodness Dawn…” He lived his life in a very full, passionate, cheerful and uplifted way, always caring for others. He loved life and often exclaimed, “It’s a beautiful day in the Kingdom”, regardless of the weather. He saw this world as a pure realm.

His family was very important to him. Children and grandchildren loved him and his sense of humor. He was unflinchingly loyal to the Chicago Cubs, wearing his Cubs hat in all kinds of Colorado weather. At his son’s request the hat was placed in the casket with him.

Marcia Usow

For Arnie, the Cheerful, the Brave

May all the protectors you know so well join you and guard you on your journey.
May the Norse drala that has blessed your warrior path continue with you on your way.
I feel no distance in the vajra mind;
I cannot forget, nor do I imagine do you forget the many feasts we shared as fellow sadhakas.
On your way now to the West, in Sukhavati
There is no doubt Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara show the path of non-dual wisdom–
A giant smile lights up the universe,
Along with the horse’s neigh
And mantra and mudra of the yidam.
May indestructible confidence be with you.
Through your courage, humbleness and sweet demeanor.
You sparked nonstruggle and kindness in all of us,
A leader who led by following perfectly the guru’s command.
I cannot forget your genuine example.

With much love,
Bill Karelis
Navodari, Romania
March 31st, 2013

I first met Arnie at a Shambhala level in Chicago in the mid-80’s. We then both attended the 1988 Seminary together. At the talent show concluding the seminary, Arnie belted out a soulful version of “Old Man Dondam” to the tune of Old Man River. I later heard that the Regent was greatly moved by his performance of this song. It was recorded and it would be great if someone could post it on the Chronicles. [If you know where we can find it, please let us know at ]]>. Ed.]. After Seminary, we did many 1000’s of prostrations together, and he was always an inspiration to keep going through ngondro and beyond. In 1990, we also had a memorable drive together in a bright red Miata convertible (subsequently named the “trickster” car) from Chicago to Vermont for the 1990 Jamgon Kongtrul Vajrayogini Abisheka. Reflecting back on our 28 year friendship, I see two qualities that stood out in him. First, almost more than anyone I know, he took the four reminders to heart. Arnie truly did practice as though his hair was on fire, and he was guided in his life very much by the reminder that “death comes without warning.” In a conversation with him after he had returned from his granddaughter’s graduation from college a few years ago, he remarked that she, like he himself at that age, had no idea how quickly her life would pass. A related quality would be his unwavering devotion to his teachers and his strong commitment to the dharma and to the sangha. His devotion was not the mushy, tears welling up in the eyes, form of devotion; instead, he had the type of devotion which Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche has said is “true devotion”— an understanding and appreciation of “cause and effect.” I cannot recall him ever complaining about anything or anyone; he was always appreciating the world around him, and his speech and actions seemed always to be as “fine as flour.” Finally, Arnie embodied “sangha” in its highest form. Just talking with him and being around him always left one more inspired to practice and to study the dharma. He also had an incredibly big heart.

Penny Peterson
(Portland, Oregon)