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TIBETAN ELDERS

SANDY JOHNSON

pr
US. A. $24.95
Canada $33.95

"When

the iron eagle

flies

and horses run on
go to the land of

wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered over

the earth and the

dharma

will

the red man."

-TIBETAN PROPHECY
flies,

"When

the iron bird

the red-robed people

of the East who have

lost their land will appear,

and the two brothers from across the great ocean
will

be reunited."

-HOPI PROPHECY
fr^il flral (TSil fr^il

A historically isolated people, the Tibetans have now
indeed come to the land of the red man, and nearly every

other country on earth.

When

the Chinese

invaded the country in 1959 and proceeded to destroy the ancient-wisdom culture as well as nearly a
sixth

of the population, hundreds of thousands of

Tibetans fled to India and parts west. In the 1980s,
the prophecy was fulfilled, and the Dalai Lama, exiled leader

of Tibet, met with Hopi and other Amer-

ican Indian elders in an effort to reunite the brothers.

Tibet's spiritual elders are dying off,

and

it is
lie.

«<5

with them that so

many of

the secrets of survival

They

are the ones

who

can find by touching somedetect; they

one's wrist

what our medicine cannot

saw the empty spaces of the atom before science
considered the concept of subatomic particles; they

know how

to realign even severe emotional imbal-

ances without drugs or therapy; they
plants heal us (they have catalogued

know what
destruction;
at

more than two

thousand) and

how

to save

them from

they predicted the demise of their

own countrv

the hands of the Chinese; they saw the

coming of

AIDS
dying

almost ten centuries ago. These people are
off,
it

and with them, the wisdom we need to

make

through the next centurv and beyond.

After the Chinese occupation of their countrv,

many Tibetan elders were

killed in reeducation
^'Ccntmued on back
flap}

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in

2012

http://archive.org/details/bookoftibetaneldOOjohn

The Book of

TIBETAN ELDERS

RlVERHEAD Books New York
19
9 6

rftJR

The Book of TIBETAN ELDERS LIFE STORIES b A AND WISDOM FROM THE GREAT SPIRITUAL MASTERS OF TIBET San dy Jo hns o n «^k .

B66 1996 154 Riverhead Books a division of G. may not be reproduced any form without permission. in All rights reserved.. BQ7920. P Putnam's Sons Publishers Since 1838 200 Madison Avenue New York. 2. the great spiritual masters of Tibet p. Sandy. or parts thereof. cm. NY Copyright 10016 © 1996 by Sandy Johnson This book.B66 294.BR BR BQ7920 . I. Lamas — Biography.3'923'0922—dc20 [B] 1996 96-5 145 Printed in the United States of America 1 3 5 is 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 This book printed on acid-free BY paper© BOOK DESIGN DEBORAH KI-RNER . CIP Johnson. Published simultaneously in Canada Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data The book of Tibetan Elders : life stories / and wisdom from Sandy Johnson. ISBN 1-57322-023-X 1. Spiritual life — Buddhism.

This book is dedicated to His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. . and to the heroic people of Tibet.

.

for encouraging me to believe could. to Lama Rigzen for his dedicated translations. wish to thank Tenzin Wandrak for his kind help in Dharamsala. Lobsang Lhalungpa. I owe a special debt of gratitude and "Jiilley" to Bill and Adrienne Kite for their thoughtful and generous guidance in Ladakh. Thanks me in Ladakh and many of the splendid photographs that appear in this book. Jill Kneerim. . I am indebted to my editor at Riverhead Books. and to both Angdus (Big and to Betty Fussell for joining many for kindnesses. for inviting me to take this journey. My thanks. too. to those who helped point I the way: Nevada Wier. I am indebted to Heinz Nowotny. and to my friend and agent. Dechen Fitzhugh. Amy Hertz. to Morup Namgyal and his family Little) for for their hospitality and advice. and Peter and Jennifer Tadd.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Apart from those whose words and wisdom grace these pages. For Sogyal I Rinpoche's photograph.

A C A A" O Ur L E D G M E N T S . Jeff Cox. Jorg Cantini was my wise and caring translator and advisor in Switzerland. and Astro Sciences. of me some precious which am Snow Lion Publications. Countless teachings with their help. a thousand thanks to Kimberley Snow for her painstakcame ing transcriptions and editorial assistance. for Palmo and Khando Netsang acted tors. and Nanci Ross shared Paulus family for lob- valuable information with me. translated and transcribed some of more difficult tapes. and remained so throughout the writing and preparation of the book. whose excellent translations and continued assistance were invaluable.and especially for introducing me to Tsering Choedon. as guides and. and Wangdu. Carol Moss led indebted. Tenzin Geyche Tethong. my hosts there. as well as an enduring friendship. to Julia long walks and warm talks that kept me to sane. Barry Spacks. Thanks cheering to Adam Rodman Adams for technical support. In California. offered generous factual assistance. translaassis- am grateful to Jaqueline Moulton her eager interest and tance during my stav in Switzerland. for and to Anne for me on. the a monk-student UCLA. served I as translator in those specialized fields. for tak- am grateful to Lee and Helen Maynard and to Margo Barr ing on the difficult task of holding down the fort during my travel to India. secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. who in turn kindly led me to Palmo Hafner and Jan Leiser. Joanna Hess introduced me to Salome Hangartner in Zurich. I when necessary. for his wise and caring suggestions. was most helpful in arranging my memorable audience with His Holiness and in suggesting of the Tibetan Institute of Medical elders to interview Jampa Kelsang. Both Lisa Leghorn and Chokyi. sters Warm thanks to the and love along the way. and to Martin Wassell elders. for for his I good counsel. made at valuable contributions. of the Chagdud Foundation. and to her husband.

to Wendy Johnson for her unending inspiration and encouragement." And on for Tashi Delek. who made my visit so pleasant. Susie Godfrey. difficult. who sits terviews previously published in "Cho-Yang. for their enduring faith in me. who let me have the best of her "angels. who has grown with me during the writing of this book. Zanna Zuckerman." As always. my thanks to Bonnie Palmer. and to the staff. and to my mother. I am grateful to Jeremy Rus- in Dharamsala. Many of the translations were sell. the world's I my lap as write this. for permitting me to draw upon some of the same inmost enlightened puppy.I owe a special debt to the people at Lerab Ling in France: Patrick Gaffnev. Bill to Billy and Anthony Johnson for allowing me to my heart. Johnson I am grateful to Mark Robinson. to put into print that which has always been in ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .

.

CONTENTS FOREWORD INTRODUCTION LITTLE TIBET Xlll I 9 2 O SPACEMEN AND CAVE DWELLERS THE MOUNTAIN A LIFE 34 J 8 OF LUXURY THE ORACLE OF WANLA TIBET IN INDIA 5 / 46 63 J I PALACE INTRIGUES GLIMPSES OF ANOTHER WORLD THE SHAMBALA TOUR GUIDE 88 .

J THE TALKING FROG 98 / NOMADIC LIFE O O I MEDICINE AND ASTROLOGY HIS OJ 12 2 HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA OUT OF INDIA / 2 J CHINESE INVASION AND OCCUPATION: THE TAILOR. PART II / 2 9 WAR HEROES SURVIVING THE INVASION / 4 5 I 5 9 ARISTOCRACY l 6J I MOVING ON EDUCATING A A IN I J YOUNG MONK JUDGMENT / I I 8 2 O LESSON 9 THE TEACHER 9J HEALING 2 7 DHARMA DYNASTY: FROM TIBET TO THE WEST 2 I 4 GREEN TAR A 248 2 5 5 2 2 DHARMA IN THE MIDWEST IN KARMA: MADE AMERICA J4 2 6 PROPHECIES THE OTHER OCEAN EPILOGUE 2 8 I J9 .

and the water « little and air were clear. unafraid of human rise to hunters. Of course. Many factors gave life in our homeland its par- ticular character. with cause for the anxiety and tension that afflict the lives of many of our more crowded neighbors. We shared this inspiring landscape with countless wild animals. there was more to life in Tibet than the pleasures of a beautiful landscape. as human beings we all want to be happy . and whether we are rich or poor. But on the other hand. food was plentiful and nutritious. The soaring mountains and vast rolling plains gave people great feelings of peace and freedom. whatever our beliefs.FOREWORD Almost all the people who tell their stories in this book were. The high altitude and harsh climate made life difficult. who also lived freely. Ours was an environment that readily gave contentment. like myself. born in Tibet. Wherever we live in the world.

many of us who escaped into the freedom of exile have been able to save something. they are our elders. its medical FOREWORD . have personally benefited as a The author ders. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are dis- turbing emotions such as anger and attachment. a result. with buildings. both as it was practiced Tibet and as I it has been adapted to the changing circumstances." not refers to the is people whose stories are told here as "el- because there anything special about growing old.and free from misery. Nevertheless. and the living hold- have been prevented there from passing them on. both in Tibet and in exile. more. there a positive side even to such a disaster. In Tibet. our sense of Tibetan identity and our determi- nation that our nation will be free once more are undiminished. while love and compassion. a half decades. the teachings of the Buddha have been a strong and pervasive influence. fear and suspicion. has been attacked and ers of its traditions largely destroyed in homeland. a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness. to happiness is From these we have learned that the key inner peace. is believe there a great deal in Tibet's religious culture. I Even feel I though I myself have spent more than half result. Because they are the link between old Tibet and new generations of Tibetans. We have been able to preserve What is our religion and culture and reestablish our institutions. And yet in the face of such hardship. More than its a million Tibetans have died as An ancient culture. literature. for the values we hold dear have been put to the test. is Throughout the treasure has last three and much that Tibetans been lost. The Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet has been one of the great tragedies of this century. Their accounts reveal aspects of the traditional Tibetan many in way of life. but be- cause of the experiences they have acquired and the examples they set for those who follow. its and artifacts. my life as a refugee.

book will find inspiration and hope in it to bring peace to their own and that they also may be prompted to lend our cause their support.knowledge. November 27. peaceful outlook. 1995 FOREWORD . I hope that readers of this lives. and respectful attitude to the environment that can be of widespread benefit to others. His Holiness The Dalai Lama / nfLyr V.

.

The Book of TIBETAN ELDERS .

.

Out of this strange light a face appeared. the other side of the story: of the war the missionaries waged . How it happened remains I Soon afterward. tion. from their own wounded hearts. traveled to Native in their American reservations to speak who told me own words. the face. I'd been working on an historical biography of a Catholic misin the I sionary recently beatified for her late 1880s. a point stopped believing what was My resistance went beyond mere author's crisis when it burst into the visual form of a terrifying flash of light that blazed across the bedroom of my New York I City apartment. was al- not to learn the reason for that incident for some time. to elders. work among the Native Americans where I and had come to writing.INTRODUCTION In 1990 baffle I had an experience that to this day continues to me. though in the months that followed I would find the source of the apparia mystery.

the red-robed people of the East who have lost their will land will appear. North American by the Navajo. while I was researching the elders book.against the native people of this country a elders I hundred years ago. freedom and the sovereignty Hopi view that spiritual leader Martin Gashweseoma had told me in an inter- if you dropped it a plumb line down from Hopi through the cen- ter of the earth." The Tibetan version was given by the eighth-century sage traveled from India to Tibet to establish Padmasambhava. the Dalai to Lama came to New Mexico meet with tribal leaders from the Hopi. in And curiously. discuss religious The purpose of these historic meetings was to rights of indigenous peoples. His four-day tour. the words reversed. part of his marked the fortieth anniversary of his nation's occupation People's Republic of China. met was Pete Catches. who had there: Buddhism "When the iron will eagle flies and horses run on wheels. would come out at the holy city of Lhasa in Tibet. "When the iron bird flies. I The stories heard so captivated my heart that they became the fo- cus of The Book Indians. I managed to gain an invitation to a meeting at the mod- ern concrete gymnasium of the Santa Fe Indian School. the Tibetan people be scattered over the earth and the dharma will go to the land of the red man. for sun and moon Tibetan and Hopi are the same but and many of both peoples' chants and symbols a are similar. the face came to call Grandfather. In April 1991. clearly a prophecy Tibetans and Hopis share. of Elders: The Life Stories and Wisdom of Great American By then I was living in Santa Fe. he'd gone on. and Apache nations. where the Dalai THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . a place that attracts many people who are interested in native traditions. and the two brothers from across the great ocean be reunited. the of man whose had appeared Among the man to me in the I bedroom my apartment. visit. Martin also talked about version. is: The Hopi modern one." Intrigued. holy man of the Oglala Sioux.

was not that of one of the world's most venerated but of a man who understood the absurdity of taking himself or his position too seriously. but today scarves an exception.lama would be ball A platform had been erected between basketnets and scoreboards. In the speech that followed. He urged Native American leaders to develop long-term plans to preserve their identities and. but the Dalai It Lama wore an irrefig- pressible smile. identical in their bur- gundy-and-saffron monks' robes. I With he thanked the children. "There are so many similarities between the Indian and the Tibetan peo- SANDY JOHNSON J . around the necks of each of the His Holiness presented the school with a hand-woven Tibetan rug. flags fluttered filled dozens of smaller prayer tive from the rafters. and a bracelet. inviting not awe but genuine. Students and Na- American teachers the stands. as theirs. determination. recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his opposition to the use of violence as a means to free his homeland from its invaders. The Dalai Lama and his attendants filed in. a a smile as childlike orsilk Navajo blanket. noted their common struggle for selftheir language. Then the young dancers presented the Dalai Lama with (for teddy bear. and speaking." Then. a bolo tie. notebooks and jackets piled at their feet. most important. their arms held loosely in their robes. Reporters set up their cameras and video gear along the walls. their sandaled feet moving silentlv down the aisle toward the dais. an ear of corn planting when he returns to Tibet). pottery. elders and invited guests sat in front of them on folding chairs. 'As a monk. draping ceremonial white gifters as a blessing. the Dalai Lama. is do not normally wear naments. The smile and the laughing eyes swept over the crowd. A Tibetan national flag hung over the dais. their seats The monks took a traditional in full cerea on the platform and watched a performance of dance by Native American children from Santa Clara Pueblo monial dress. deep affection. ures. The faces of the attendants were solemn.

I was aware of the first number of practicing Buddhists there. and why would they me? And since they are constantly reincarnating like perennials in a planetary garden." my Native American manif I I had just completed when a call the final edits on editor. is "What happened to us sis- country happening now in Tibet to our Tibetan brothers and was reported the next day that the Dalai Lama. an elder could be four years old. I hashed this over I with my editor. Over dinner one night with A THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . a shawl covering his lift. According to the he said wistfully. I uscript similar came from my elders." said. was taken to the top of the Santa Fe Ski Basin on a chair On the way up he smiled and waved to surprised skiers. They in turn would direct me sig- From nificant the time I had made Santa Fe my home. "It reminds me of my own country. shaven head. might speak with. "I believe we may have had common ancestors Central Asia. who filled me with assurances that trouble. She asked would like to do a book on Tibetan I "But don't know anything about Tibetan culture five culture. but I was flattered. once I got started would have no I She had several ideas about the lamas and teachers to others. Didn't it take a person a lifetime of study to understand the complexities of Tibetan Buddhism? the key el- Several lifetimes. had strong misgivings.pies/' the Dalai in prehistoric Lama said. noticeable at by the prayer flags that adorned so many houses." It president of the Navajo Nation agreed. surrounding snowcapped peaks. in fact? How would talk to I go about learning who ders are. and at the top at the he stood looking local paper." The in this ters. "What did you know about Native American years ago?" said I my editor.

talked about how my years of exploring one culture seemed traditions were rooted in the be leading seamlessly into an exploration of the other. dark copper skin. and silver evoked images of the Hopi and Navajo. The myth continues: As the forces outside Shambala get call worse and worse. I The next morning filled found a large shopping bag on my doorstep.friends who were I scholars of both Native American and Tibetan Buddhist to traditions. a beautiful city where extraordinary bevolition. and marveled SANDY JOHNSON 5 . the warriors of Shambala on their own strength. My friends were not same spiritual They believed both I earth and that would find the parallels striking. thousand Buddhist monas- and the imprisonment of countless nuns and monks. and Insight. Nepal." with books on Tibetan Buddhism. cut off from the outside world by their own a place of peace. We marveled at coral. Some Tibetans view Shambala as metaphor for one's it own inner spiritual journey and dedicate their lives to finding within themselves. People who have taken the Kalachakra initiation — frequently given by His Holiness the Dalai again in Shambala. it. They showed me pho- tographs of their recent trips to India. six Lama — are the ones who will meet I read of the devastation the Tibetans suffered at the hands of the Chinese Communists. Their ornaments of turquoise. I "Do read about a people who believe in the existence of a mystical kingdom of Shambala. their cheekbones. its only weapons are are bows and arrows that have the nature all of ex- alted wisdom and more powerful than the destructive missiles in the outside world. I wondered. with a note attached: Fascinated. the destruction of teries. Clarity. and Tibet. Who will is If Tibet lost. Kindness. among them replace these teachers? I many great masters. It is ings live. rise up against these negative forces. who will carry on the ancient traditions? read the Dalai Lama's at his spiritual biography. surprised. the resemblances: the small stature of the people. and defeat them. and long shiny braids.

airy living room. a traditional Tibetan The figures depicted on it represent various meditational deities. teacher. A movement at the window caught mv eye. hand-painted to the fireplace. in bright yellow cloth. universal among Tibetans. hung next art A hanging silk scroll. would begin my own backyard. in the land where I the tradition and teachings had existed for twelve hundred vears. it seemed. as I was. Canada. He softly set a tray of tea in and cookies on the table in front of us. 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . sought the advice of scholars in New York. would learn. many of them wrapped and -embroidered he explained. Books. with its wide span of windows scriptures that overlooked the valley below.greatness: If a tradition could it produce such an extraordinary being. form. drawn perhaps. and spoke and patiently simple language mv untutored ear could underI stand. though I would never quite get used to We sat in his large. from there some went on to Europe. it. and America. and Cali- fornia. in I found Lobsang Lhalungpa a hill just off the his lovely rustic house perched high on Basin. slender man of indeterminable age — fine-featured. learned that those who survived fled to India. I it must be valuable. on the turned to see birds of every description lighting railing of his deck. felt then a sense of urgency to record their I stories and their wisdom. road that leads to the Santa Fe Ski A slight. must be preserved. lined the walls. buttery skin. and I a captivating manner is —he welcomed me with a smile whose warmth. who lived just two miles away from me in Santa in My journey. Washington. A thangka. is in brilliant colors. a much-loved and respected Fe. But these might be the to have lived the tradition in their people own sacred places. and heard about a Tibetan elder. last where they continue to give teachings. to the magic of his words. with brown almond-shaped eyes.

I continued to to his explanations. a pure intellecis tual criticism. is Our that senses have limitations. that is not true is. Islam. Buddhism spiritual discipline. True wisdom seeing where the problem of human misery what the solution is. an alternate moral and a way of — complete process of human and transformation. His mission SANDY JOHNSON J . daism. or Hinduism Buddhism does not is subscribe to the belief and creation. who discovered began them through his own compassion for suffering beings. Its ra- individual responsibility tional intellectual insight into life approach to overcoming existential trauma and interpersonal probis lems guided by a combination of wisdom and compassion. Where did such pro- found come from? He explained: "Buddhism in a creator is not a religion in the sense that Christianity. "Wisdom here does not is mean intellectual power. a people state. Thus. and how we might perceive the true nature is of things. who strive to attain the highest buddhahood. Called dharma. wisdom. trying as best could to absorb the meanings. Buddhism espouses and reality.I told him I wanted to know something about the tradition that cre- ated such a peaceful people. "The original dharma principles came from Buddha." It would be months before I would begin to comprehend that one can actually the senses —by means of meditation — perceive the world I beyond what listen show us and into the true nature of things. cultivating and perfecting this wisdom and compassion make up the heart of Buddhist practice. Wisdom the true. the spirituality state of perfect compassion. It is a class life by itself. Buddhism not a philosophy. sensitive vision of mind can penetrate ordinary appearances. or a love of knowledge. "The true nature of things not easily perceptible to our senses. Juis. As such.

" In the summer of 1994. THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and finally you die. did not know if I would uncover any great truths or would come back with the knowledge that the answers to suffering do indeed would be led to extraordinary bet. This ordinary life. it is own existence. mendicant in search of truth. though.from the moment he first saw these sufferings. of it did with a state of attainment — of wisdom ancient and knowledge of practices and powers held only by those who embody the teachings. But there are other sufferings. "Buddha gave up his royal position (he as a was a prince). 1 set out on a journey to a destination ex- actly halfway around the globe mendicant. then you get sick. and wandered about covered was. What he disright in our we don't need to look for the answer outside. As I had for I my previous book. meetings with the men and women of Tilie in I and to a glimpse of a lost world struggling to survive in each of the four corners of the earth. is you grow old the course of every minute. but — as far as one can go without heading I back —not as a as a journalist. I gave careful thought to a definition how I would less to define "elder." had learned then that such had do with age than timeless. You are born. left the king- dom. In time. my own existence.

LITTLE TIBET

Though
to begin there.

so

many

great teachers have left Tibet,

I

thought

I

had

Lobsang Lhalungpa had cautioned
would never

into Tibet as a writer; the Chinese

me not to try grant me a visa.
I

to get

I

could

put "housewife" as

my occupation on my application, but still

would not
a tape
I

be able to interview Tibetan people
recorder

—even without


is

for fear of

endangering them. "The Tibet

once

knew," he'd said

sadly, "is

no more.
it

It will

never be the same.

So what

Tibet

really? Is
is it

this extraordinarily beautiful
its

piece of land, or
people, and
I

the people and
is

culture?

If it is

the

believe

it is,

then Tibet
I

wherever the people

are."

He and
which

others suggested that

first

go to Ladakh, "Little Tibet,"

where many Tibetans have settled during the Chinese occupation, and
is

similar to Tibet geographically

and

culturally. Situated

high in

the Himalayas on the Tibetan plateau,

it is

the last

place where one can

see

something of what Tibet had been before the Chinese invaded. Alas

most
off

high as Tibet, Ladakh
for nine

is

reachable by a

main route
it

that

is

closed

by snow

months

of the year, giving

the same "Shangri-la"
strategic location

mvstique that Tibet once had. And, because of

its

on

the border where India meets China and Pakistan, Ladakh had been
closed to outsiders from the end of

World War
Ladakh.

II

until 1974.

Only

since

1979 have there been

airline flights into

Buddhism came
bet

to

Ladakh eight centuries before
of Christ
itself.

it

ever reached Tidays, the

three
is

hundred vears before the birth

—and these

country

probably more Tibetan than Tibet

A

writer friend

and indefatigable world
for a time. It

traveler,

Betty Fussell,
I

promised to join

me

was decided: That summer 1994,

would begin
its

my

travels into the mysterious

world of Tibetan culture and
"quick
vi-

particular

form of Buddhism known
is

as Yajrayana, literally the

path," bv which the practitioner
sualizion into a
a lotus

reshaped through meditation and

buddha.

A symbol that is often used in Vajrayana is that of
Our mind,
like

blossom, which grows out of the mud.
is

the lotus,

is

innately pure, but this purity
bitual patterns.

obscured by poisonous emotions and ha-

Our task is

to rid ourselves of these defilements in order to

uncover our true nature. Vajravana abounds with methods and techniques
for

chipping away the

mud

and uncovering the

crystal.

The

goal

is

to

achieve not only enlightenment, but complete buddhahood.

It is like

imagining that we

all

could

become

Christ.
I

From Ladakh

in

northern India,

would go on

to Dharamsala, the

seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, then flv to Nepal,
still

where

I

might

be able to enter Tibet
I

itself

as a tourist.

flew

from Albuquerque, where

mv

youngest son, Anthony,
It

lives.

As we said good-bye, he handed
dressed to

me

a notecard he'd written.

was ad-

"The JournevMom" and

carried a

message of love and sup-

10

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

port,

and prayers and
I

for a safe return.

As we hugged, Anthony gave
I

me

a

stern look

said,

"You come back."

laughed and assured him

I

would.

From

there

flew to Los Angeles, where

my

middle son,

Billy, lives.

We

spent the day shopping for last-minute gear, and after a farewell dinner

he took
a lens

me

to the airport for

my

night

flight.

As we unloaded

my

bags,

suddenly flew out of

of

its

own, and landed
I

at

my glasses, as if propelled by some awful force my feet. Billy looked at me in dismay. How
journey alone

could

possibly

make

this

when

I

couldn't even leave Los

Angeles in one piece?
I

have three sons,

all
I

of

whom

are, of course, a

good deal younger
I

than
since

I.

But from the time

became

single,

and more important,

suppose,

my bout
sister.

with breast cancer, they tend to treat

me

like a

worrisome

younger

Mark, the

eldest, swears

my gravestone ought to read, "We
fragments of

Think She's Here."
As
I

sped through the night to
the stars that

my destination,
I

memoI

ries flickered like

hung

just off the wingtip.

When

was

in

my teens, my grandfather used to say
and
ing
fastest bird in the

was

like

the peregrine, the smallest

upper
I

sky,

not

known
I

for its nesting skills. Reflect-

my peripatetic life, wondered how had told me was like the robin. Would my
on
I

might have turned out
children be

if

he

coming

for

Sun-

day dinner to the house where they had grown up, instead of seeing
at airports

me off

and memorizing new phone numbers?

During the flight,
betan Buddhism
I

I

dug

into one of the several books
I

on Ti-

had brought with me. The more

read, the

more ap-

parent the parallels between Native American and Tibetan cultures

became. In
spirit

their ceremonies, Native

Americans

call

on ancestors
in the

in the

world; Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the

Buddha

form of

different deities. Native

Americans go to sacred places

in the hills

on

vi-

SANDY JOHNSON

11

sion quests; Tibetan holy

men

seal

themselves off in caves to meditate. As

Lobsang Lhalungpa had pointed out, both cultures revere the earth and
all its

creatures.

The

teachings

—the Way,

called

Dharma by Buddhists

are

what Native Americans
Back
in

refer to as the

Red Road.

Santa Fe, Lobsang Lhalungpa had told me:

"There are fundamental
dhist

similarities

between Tibetan Budintensely

and Native American

beliefs.

Buddhism

is

humane.

It

speaks of concern for others:
that includes ecology.

community concern, and

a universal concern

"For instance,

when

the

Buddha was

alive,

during the rainy season,

he would hold the

retreats for the

monks

inside a hut in the village, not
killing the insects.

outside, for fear of destroying the grasses

and

Even now,

when monks go out

into the forest, they are not supposed to break

branches or pick flowers. This strong sense of respect for the natural world
is

shared by the American Indian.

"Both cultures are animistic: they view nature as not
of trees, but a real living thing.

just a collection
ele-

Each

tree,

each body of water, each

ment

exists as a habitat of a particular spiritual force.

Thus, when you hurt

a tree,

you hurt not only that

tree,

but

its spirit

as well."

Lobsang also had mentioned
nese are rounding up thousands of

the terrible similarities between

the destruction of both peoples and their traditions.
five-

To

this day, the

Chi-

and

six-vear-olds, taking

them

away from

their parents,

and sending them

to China, just as

American

missionaries forced native children into boarding schools in order to

"Christianize" them. Tibetan children return to their families speaking

Chinese and embracing Chinese mentalities.
In the process of colonizing Tibet, the

Communists destroyed some

12

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

six

thousand monasteries and arrested and tortured nuns and monks.
is

"If

this

karma," Lobsang

said, "it

is

very bad

karma we are now experiencing."

It
rise

seemed like

days after

my

plane took off
it

—Did

I

see the sun
at

twice?

that

we landed in Delhi, where

was night again. I was met

the gate bv a small

man with a thin mustache, who bowed and introduced

himself as Kushor, sent by the travel agency that had arranged

my flight to
all

Ladakh.

I

wondered how he managed to pick me out of the crowd, since

the faxes I'd been receiving from the travel agency were addressed to "Mr.

Sandy." Kushor 's instructions were to collect

me and my luggage and take
to

me in a chauffeur-driven car to a hotel an hour's ride from the airport. glanced up at the clock as registered. "What time's my flight
I

I

Ladakh?"

I

asked Kushor.
in at the airport at six,

"You must check
I

madam," he

said pleasantly.

looked at him. "Six in the morning?"

"Yes,

madam."

"Four hours from now?"
"Yes,
rest."
I

madam.

I

will call for

you

at five."

He bowed. "Have
and
I

a

good

had

just

enough time
call

to shower, change clothes,

lie

on the bed

before the wake-up

that might or might not come.
to the Far East.
I

thought back to

another
cation;

trip

I

had taken

was with

friends;

we were on

va-

we
I

sat in first class

and drank champagne and ate

caviar sand-

wiches.

flirted

with the captain.

A

Rolls

Royce met us

at the airport in

Hong Kong and whisked

us off to the Peninsula Hotel. As the red eye of
I

the clock blinked the minutes,

wondered
I

if it

were possible to have

all

one's reincarnations in one lifetime.
of
life

was certainly

living a different kind

now.

The money

I

save

on

a

coach seat goes toward survival on the

road.

SANDY JOHNSON

I

J

Flying from Delhi
preconceived notions about

to

Ladakh

requires an act of surrender of

all

travel.

A ticket

on India

Airlines (otherwise
is it

known

as Air Chance) does not guarantee a seat.

Nor

guaranteed

there even will be a flight. (There are only three flights a

week

into

Ladakh.) Taking just a short hop, only thirty minutes, the plane
rectly over the

flies diis

Himalayas and lands on a small

airfield

on

a plateau that

one of the highest
in only

in the world. Since landings

and

takeoffs can

be made
if

one direction on the

single runway,

which runs steeply
if

uphill,

the

wind happens to be blowing the wrong way that day or
denly clouds over, the flight must be canceled.

the airfield sud-

So the bewildered

traveler sits

on the hard wooden benches

of the

windowless Delhi Airport waiting room in a jet-lagged stupor, no longer
able to determine
a.m. or p.m. It
if

the clock on the wall that reads eleven o'clock
air

means

was crowded; the

was

stale.

Babies swaddled in the folds of

mothers'

saris wailed.

People dozed

fitfully,

heads draped over backs of
the loudspeaker

benches, legs sprawled into narrow

aisles. Periodically,

crackled unintelligible announcements.

Once
to Ladakh,

or twice

I

approached the

ticket

counter to ask about the

flight

and was met with the yes-no-I-don't-know gesture of the head
a helpless shrug of the shoulder that put an

accompanied by
ther questions.

end

to fur-

A lovely
woman

Hindu woman wearing

a sari the color of
I

lime sherbet sat

opposite me, a squirming infant in her arms.

smiled at the baby; the

smiled back.
dry.
I

"It's a girl,

but they

let

me

keep her anyway."

My
to

mouth went

dared not ask.
British couple arrived
this flight before

Finally, a

young

and

sat

on the bench next
ropes.

me. They had made
called at last,

and knew the

Our

flight

was
is

and we lined up

for a final security check.

Because Ladakh

14

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

and realized why so few pi- lots are qualified (or willing) to sign on for this particular flight. seemed to shimmer. flashlights. I and the evanescent that objects over. Stock. Godwin I Austin). I name on r it. Frowning. security is tight." " said. tel's my hotel. breathless. To the north was K2 (Mt. thin at that altitude. Taxi drivers asked me where I gave the name I their heads. the and miraculously landed.a sensitive border area. My English friends had long disappeared. dazzling white peaks of Nun and Kum that tore through the clouds and reached 23.300 feet. Hotel Stok. looked down as we began our approach to the Indus Valley below. stared. along with ever\ other passenger on the was alone at the airport. the second highest mountain in the world. they shook searched my bag to produce a letter with the hoof flight. Stok. Sand- wiched between two mountains and heading plane banked sharply to the left straight for a monaster}. Bat- were removed from cameras. I to meet me. Finally. Frantically. told is 1 was lucky to get a window It what first had been the most spectacular flight in the world. looked up at the mountain we had just flown inside a cloud. Checked-in baggage had to be identified out- side on the tarmac prior to boarding or it wouldn't be loaded onto the plane. I was mv view of the Himalayas. driver. no." "But that's what "No. The peak had disappeared No one was there was going.' 'Stok' SANDY JOHNSON I 5 . as we skimmed the jagged. teries my English friends explained." he I've been telling you. and computers and tagged for pickup at the other end. "Not 'Stahk. I found the letter and showed it to the one remaining "Oh. The seat for aircraft I was a small old Boeing 737. I The The air is first thing I noticed as walked to the terminal was the light so light.

Ina found no lobby or reception desk. and yelled at them. each with yards bordered by stone walls. I'd read. then nudged them with his bumper until they skipped out of the way. in bright red dotted the I Whitewashed stucco farmhouses trimmed countryside. the hide for boots fuel." The American tribes their needs. staircase. Finally. they had had a lot of I leaned forward in my seat and asked the driver sky rain. Kailash in Tibet is responsible for nourishing these pastures and turning them this color that hardly seems possible on earth.The small rural village where the hotel stands is fifteen miles from of the town of Leh. the horns for agricultural tools. The driver pounded his horn. was excited by what I thought was a yak and pointed it out to the driver. "There with all is yak. "Not yak. past meadows of dizzying green I and golden pastures wheat and barley. The I driver looked sat up at the and said. half cow." back in my seat. dzo. A down herd of multicolored long-haired goats meandering unattended the road brought us to a halt." A little farther on he pointed to a massive animal with longer falo. the yak similarly used: the milk and flesh for butter and meat. hair. We came to a bridge strung with river. and jewelry. is which crossed a the Indus River. the hair for ropes." fast-flowing "What river this?" I asked. Two boys rushed out my luggage. only darkened hallway and a wall. a smaller version of the American bufbuffalo of old provided the Native is and said. It looks nice. we turned same into the hotel driveway. wooden My luggage was stacked against the but the boys l 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and baskets. tents. "This The and Indus. don't think so. "No. if During the journey. followed them past a garden in brilliant bloom. Half yak. fully and the dung for Both animals are themselves stocked supermarkets. He shook his head. I The Hotel Stok is a larger version of the to take side I architecture I had been seeing. originates near the holy site of Mt. leaned out of the window. hundreds of prayer is flags.

piled up stone by stone by those who wished to earn merit. landed on the stone green-black wings. wall An oversized magpie. it means to be a stranger in a very When a tall. ing from rocks high on the mountainsides. holding out his hand. "You'll knock at the door announcing dinner me. He me up the he stairs to my large corner room. Bordering the road was a long mani wall. I passed a farmer herding one hand. I stood looking at the closed doors. SANDY JOHNSON I J . nut- brown face. you have to be Bill Kite." altitude." He apologized for not meeting me." Later. and he cried. walking through some otherworldly place where the stones and flowers and birds are symbols whose meanings are yet to be revealed to me. Carved on many of the stones is "Om mani padme hum" ("Praise to the jewel in the lotus. the Buddha of Great Compassion). a I said. sweet I and where the ried air is so think it must be blessed by the prayers carfly- on the wind by prayer flags. he explained. and slept till the next morning. After breakfast his sheep. stick in I set out for a walk. Chenrezig. need to get used to the failed to rouse "You probably ought to take a nap. I and called loudly. with relief. fanning its felt as if I were dreaming. prayer wheel in the other.had gone. on every house. He wore the traditional Ladakhi thick brown woolen robe tied at the waist with a bright-colored sash. Blessings and called out morning and evening like a song. which he spun 'round and 'round as he moved his lips in steady recitation of mantras." the mantra of Tibet's patron saint. Wel- come. he was sure it the flight hadn't arrived in led had been canceled. faded and ragged and enduring. wanted to cry "Tell me you're Bill Kite. smiling. When the morning. A garden with astonished marigolds taller than I and sunflowers the its tail size of a small tree me. feeling what strange land. athletic-looking man with a I blond ponvtail appeared. streaming behind. "Julley!" is — a greeting that means Hello. They were everywhere. His broad smile creased his weathered.

set Adrienne. Bill and his wife. monks live." he explained. "No. we navigated the the home of Morup Namgyal. competing with cars and cows laid Women sit on curbs. Mine.In the afternoon. Bill wanted me to meet Lama Rigzen. alarm clocks. would be an lent translator for side of my interviews. Adrienne. trinkets. That evening we and I were invited to Tsering Angdu 's home to meet Bill. took me into the town hotel. red-robed." Leh has an ugly sort of charm. bottled water. for right-of-way. out on foot to a house nestled in the park I had admired the day l 8 THE BOOK OF T I B E TA S ELDERS . a man in his thirties. also offered his assis- India Radio Station. its one main all street clogged with buses and trucks spewing noxious black fumes. backpacks. We passed a golf course that and I part of the military base. But stopped me. Off the main drag run alleyways. friends of Angdu's wealthy father. is Sitting Angdu. tance locating and choosing elders to interview. "They'd take your camera they caught you. nephew of the owner of the name. Dangerous explogolfing sons grabbed for my camera." He spelled is it out: "T-s-e-r-i-n-g. "This a sensitive military installation. because he speaks English. offered to act as both guide and emissary back alleys to for me. At dusk. "Sitting. soft-spoken. the royal family. as in SitI ting Bull?" asked. back in town. cigarettes. composer and manager of All Morup. noticed a sign near the eighth hole that reads. Lama Rigzen." Bill "Warning. We were driven by Little Angdu." shook I my head. batteries. of Leh. wilting in the fierce sun. My is if had to see this. dark. sive. gentle. a Ladakhi Bill felt monk working on excel- his doctorate who. We walked down a narrow path just outwhere several town to a three-story house. warrens crowded with shops selling cheap sweaters. curly haired. their fruits and vegetables out beside them on a dirty cloth. Next. Bill The uncle's I told me.

a twenty-eight-year-old preppy who resembled my style. spoke perfect English with only a trace of an accent. noon. and although they are now only figurethis place heads. was served raised the cups with lids. the young king. clearly not un- derstanding a word of our conversation. I could not imagine without its preppy king and shy queen mother. he immediately stood and shook my hand. . turn (I We were presented to each in had already been instructed how to bow. a concoction of tea. drunk morning. the grass silvery green and soft underfoot . and continued to refill it each time "One set down on the table. and I night by both old and young. We took a shortcut through a field on our way home. Bill told me the royal family were dethroned in 1834. The house was large and seemed rich comfol- pared with the neighboring farmhouses." Jigmet. . is drinks until the teapot empty. while his mother and his grandmother sat silently. the queen mother. We removed our shoes and lowed our host to a large parlor. content to observe in a that reminded manner me that this is a patriarchal society. and the young king were seated. hands together).before on my morning walk. Dusk. Butter tea. first and soda. yak butter. SANDY JOHNSON 19 . sons. where the queen of Ladakh. flicking drops three times." Bill whispered. in lovely china lips. Above us the the sun's sky turned mauve. Bill stopped me as I cup to my and showed and me the Tibetan custom of dipping one's finger in the tea an offering to the deities. a young I girl it im- mediately refilled my cup. as The tea is a staple in Tibet and Ladakh. Western salt. As soon as took a few sips. a few orangey clouds catching the last of rays. they are still loved by the people. When I got to the king. "It's impolite to refuse.

He couldn't promise an do his best. Lama Rigzen would meet me at introduction. would attend. Duwang means Great Yogi (Meditator). a small hamRin- twenty miles from Leh. His name Konchok Norbu. a great master from the Drikung Kagyu lineage. but he'd the festival. meditating for fourteen years. sustenance a cup of water a day and a small amount of tsampa (ground and roasted barley). he off in a cave. Before that.SPACEMEN AND CAVE DWELLERS There was let a festival at the monastery in Phyang. Lama Duwang came had been sealed his only to India in 1992. Little Angdu picked me up just after a . which His Eminence Lama Duwang poche. Lama Rigzen told me that the old is lama is a man of extraordinary powers. all He remained in his mountainside cave during the Chinese occupation and the Dalai Lama's exodus to India.

and said he feared he needed medical His master sent word back if promising to say prayers for him.Lama Duwang Rinpoche breakfast of eggs. powers would he emerge with? Did he discover the suffering the What kind of same keys to human Buddha saw? And what were those answers? told Lama Rigzen had me that after the first eleven years. I wondered I if it was the altitude that made I the yolks of the eggs white. care. or person of refuge) developed severe problems with his legs and his eyes. He got word to his master. and dhal. but no one asked seemed to know dragged my mind away from who sits in a the white-egg-yolk problem and pon- dered the sort of person cave for fourteen years. potatoes. rice. the rin- poche (precious teacher. and added that Lama Duwang's prac- SANDY JOHNSON 2 I . Pachung Rinpoche.

On another wall hundreds of small statues of deities rested in orderly rows on wooden shelves. broken prayer wheel that no one had been able to use for years. tow- might have been middle of the Sahara for that matter. Built in the sixteenth century. he went to a place in northern India to teach. never settling in any one place. New Mexico. where we were greeted by two young monks. considered a blessing. The old lama travels all over India.tices were strong enough. But for the or. poche stayed and continued and the promise proved When he finished his refuge. In this place was a stupa with a very old. Duwang Rintrue. Ancient wall paintings of the wrathful and peace- 2 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . impossibly blue We turned onto another dirt road that led past a series of chortens to the monastery. standing surrounded by candles and vessels of yak butter and water. As soon as Rinpoche arrived. At the far end of the hall were more enorand sitting. a re- minder of the political fragility of this peaceful country. Then. An occasional cluster of small. his practice. sits high on a hilltop of blue slate and resembles a meflights of steep We climbed endless concrete steps to the re- main prayer hall. we passed another military base. his ailments would disappear. purple desert sky. so dark that for a mo- ment I could see only the huge gold Buddha statue glowing in the flickering light of votive candles. overhead was the cloudless. flowers defied the sand. A mile out of Stok. moving our shoes. the multitiered white- washed complex dieval palace. the prayer wheel suddenly began to work again. Lama Rigzen had explained. mous gold-painted Buddha statues behind a glass. Then suddenly we were in the middle of an immense lunarlike landscape of dry parched earth and sand dunes that stretched ering Himalayas I as far as the eye in the could see. brave. we entered the darkened hall.

which had a good view throne from which His Eminence would observe the dancing. Their ankle-length dresses were heavily brocaded and worn under a vest of contrasting color. in many manifestations. to walk clockwise around the be used Offerings of a few rupees were gratefully accepted. Everyone villagers alike. seemed to know him. searched the sea of burgundy-robed monks for Lama Rigzen and spotted him talking and laughing in the mid- dle of a group of Europeans. Children and smiled eagerly. The area was carpeted with a large Tibetan rug and shaded by a yellow-and-red canopy. low table.fill deities were in remarkably good condition. the festival grounds. as was the collection of festival days. amulets at their necks. I'm a monkey-monk!" He took me to the visitors' section. frozen in time from the sixties. were mainly well-to-do European but also a number of hippies turned up. The travelers. thangkas displayed only on We climbed more steps to another smaller chapel with more wall paintings of the five Dhiyana Buddhas —representing the On five branches of buddha-nature —and statues of the wrathful four-armed Mahakala. to for the upkeep of the monastery. crowds of villagers in of tourists with cameras air full Down on dress ceremonial for the and dozens and camcorders waited Duwang Rinpoche. visitors I took my place and sat cross-legged behind a long. making me laugh. entering each of the chapels we removed our shoes and remembered altars. I Adults too were pleased to be photographed. Village women wore elaborate turquoise-studded winged hats. in sandals. mid- peraks. jostled in front of cameras. monks and He jumped over a stone wall to greet me. its one of the major protectors. with several strands of SANDY JOHNSON 2 J . The one another to stand shimmered with excitement. of the "You see. perched precariously atop long rich braids joined at the ends way down their backs.

The moved slowly. and sat protected from the now blazing sun laid. wobbly walk. "Hurry." he whispered as we drew Lama Rigzen prostrated himself to the old lama. do not cut their Lama Duwang archery contest. as me to sit on one of the cushions explained at his feet. horns sounded and His Eminence Lama Duwang Rinpoche chanting monks. at the long wiry strands of chin whiskers that at the hat. They served us butter tea from exquisite cop- per and brass teapots. Lama Rigzin later explained." he white silk scarf. motioned ding. under which another beautiful Tibetan carpet had been The dancing began dancers as soon as His Eminence was seated. and tsampa. handing me a carefully folded "He I will see I you now. I and listened. shaped hair. He Then he nod- smiled a broad. after the 24 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . stared. Tourists darted back and forth with their cameras to find good vantage points. bent low. hair. to the Lama Rigzen came to get me. like a hive and the color of his woolly gray brilliant He was escorted to his throne of patterned cushions. wound loosely on the top of head and wrapped with a leather thong. by a canopy. realizing did not know the near. leading a procession of visitors path was lined with villagers and who strained for a look. it was his hair. fascinated. saffron. offering the white katak. "Take off your hat." I "What do do?" asked. agreed to an interview later in the afternoon. Finally. Lama Rigzen which my mission. large ancient-looking The man approached in a heavy. then presented me. beat of a hundred drums. I hung to the middle of his chest and suddenly realized was not a hat at his all. Certain holy men. Their appeared in the distance. which the rinpoche took and placed around my neck. I protocol. toothless smile and took my face in his hands. his great girth enfolded in yards and yards of burgundy and a rather On his head bee- was what I assumed to be unusual sort of hat. said. trancelike.turquoise and coral beads.

Rinpoche

sat,

legs tucked beneath

his robe,

on a bed draped
a gold-

with brightlv patterned fabric, sipping tea. Behind

him hung

painted silk-and-brocade thangka.
himself,
est as
I,

Once
for

again

Lama Rigzen

prostrated
inter-

and the rinpoche motioned
nervously, set

me to sit. He watched with
my
questions in

somewhat

up the tape

recorder and tiny microphone

on the table

in front of

him.

I

had written out
I

my

spiral

notebook. Smiling at him, pen in hand,

prepared to begin the interview.

But the rinpoche, through

Lama

Rigzen, took the lead, asking

me

where

I

come

from.

'America."
"I

heard an American traveled to the moon.
I

Is

that true?"
sur-

"Yes."

was thinking that the rinpoche must have been quite

prised to learn that a

man had been

to the

moon and

back while he was

sealed inside a cave in Tibet.

"What was
interrupted me.

his

name?"
I

"Neil Armstrong,"

said,

amused.

I

started to ask

my

question.

He

"What

does

it

look like?"

"The moon?"
"Yes."
I

pointed out the window to the moonscape outside. "Like that."

"Ooh."

He nodded

his head.

'And

how big is

it?"
is

Was

I

really

having this conversation?
I

How big
tell

the

moon?

"Well,

not as big as the Earth,"

said,

hoping that would

do.

"You Americans are very powerful. They
in

me

your president was

China

recently."

"Yes."

There had been

a

summit meeting

earlier that spring in

China.

SANDY JOHNSON

2 5

"And

will

your president do something to help us get our country

back from the Chinese?"
I

had heard that the

issue of

human rights had come up at the meetholy

ing but was shelved, lost in the conversations concerning trade agree-

ments. Hard put to
for

try to explain that to a

man and
I

feeling

ashamed

my country,
I

I

told

him

I

didn't

know but

that

sincerely

hoped some-

thing would be done.
got halfway through

my

first

question

when

the rinpoche, peering

at

me
I

from under

grizzly eyebrows, asked,

"What do you understand
been reading,
love.

about the philosophy of Buddhism?"
looked at him. Remembering what
it is

I'd

I

answered,
living a

"I

understand that
life,

based on compassion and
a

And on
a

good

so

one can have

good death and be born again into
identify love?"

good

life."

'And

how do you

Oh no, a trick question.
and
treat
all

'A feeling from the heart for

all

other people

animals and birds and insects.

And

a desire to protect

them and

them with kindness and compassion."
"Very right," he said, nodding his head.

"Whom

did you learn this

love

and compassion from?"
Feeling a sense of confidence that
I

was getting the answers

right,

I

began to

tell

him about

the Native Americans in our country

who

share a

similar philosophy,
his granddaughter.

and about the holy

man who taught me and made me

"So they are not Buddhist?"
"No, they are not Buddhist."
His eyes were so penetrating,
I

felt as if

I

was beginning to fade under

the force of his gaze, like a photograph

left

out in the sun.

"How do you
"Compassion

define compassion?"
is

caring for

all

other people without judging them,

2

6

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

and accepting them unconditionally,"
these were only words.

I

answered miserably, knowing

"Okay

if

you know very
this?"

clearly love

and compassion, what more do

vou need to add to

"Wisdom,

I

suppose."
I

He saw into the

very depths of

my ignorance.
tell

"So, whatever

want to say to you about wisdom and compassion
I

and

love, this
I

you already know. So

have nothing more to
silently

you."

looked to

Lama

Rigzen,
test

who sat

watching me.

No clue from
moment

him.

I

had passed the

but flunked the interview. The rinpoche's eyes
I

were closed, but his

lips

were moving, reciting mantras. After a

began to gather

my things.
you want to know?" he asked
just as
I

"What
door.

else did

reached the

Words came tumbling
derstand
tion.

out, ringing with frustration. "I
I

need to un-

how

to get to that."
this
I

was surprised by the intensity of

my

reac-

What

was
did

sudden leap from objective

journalist to spiritual
"I

seeker?

How

go from interviewer to subject?

think

I

understand
I

these concepts, but I'm not clear

how to take

the steps to get there.

know how to become compassionate and

loving and wise
sit

don't

He
I

raised his

hand

to silence

me. "Then

down."

took

my

place

on the cushion on the
But
in his eyes,

floor

and looked up
softly

at

him,
I

embarrassed by

my outburst.

which rested

on me,

thought

I

saw the

tiniest flicker of

amusement.
wheel of life. So what
is

"Now we are
the

in samsara, in this world, in this

main cause

of rebirth in this wheel of life?"

He was

not finished with

me after all.
"To learn what we didn't learn
"Yes. In this
life,

in the last life?"
this
is

sometimes we find happiness, and
in previous lives,

a result of

the positive things

we have done

when we have done very

SANDY JOHNSON

2

J

good things

in

another

life. If

we have unhappiness

in this life,

it is

the

re-

sult of negative things
fore.

—bad deeds, bad thoughts—

that we've

done be-

"The main cause
attachment.

of being born into this wheel of

life is

desire

and

We must avert all the desire and attachment. With attachis

my mother; This is my father; These are my children; This is my property; This is my country; This is " he pointed to the
ment, we think: This

tape recorder

—"my recording machine.
I.

All of this

comes from attachto analyze this
I,

ment. Me, my,

This

T

is

everywhere. But

when we go

when you remove, one by
arms

one, our outer body

—the

hair,

the eyes, the

—do any
is

of these contain the I? No.

You analyze each part and find

there

only emptiness."

For

some reason
is

I

chose that

moment

to take his picture.

"What

that?" he asked sharply
is

"This? This

my

camera,"

I

answered, wondering

if I

should have

asked his permission

first.

The rinpoche threw
one to the

his

head back and laughed,

a

huge rumbling
I

laugh that shook his entire body.
other, bewildered.

Lama Rigzen

joined

in.

looked from

Rinpoche pointed to the camera again,
fit

about to say something, but was overcome with another
Tears streamed from his eyes.
robe, then

of laughter.

He dabbed

at

them with

a corner of his

blew

his nose.

With each wave

of laughter,

Lama Rigzen was
explained.

equally stricken, and the two began anew. Finally

Lama Rigzen
your camera."

"Rinpoche
I

is

laughing because you called
blankly.

it

looked at

him
is

"Just as

he

speaking about attachments.
set in.
is

I,

me, my. Don't you see?"

And

a fresh

round of laughter
is

"Because he
samsara.

saying that attachment

the main cause of rebirth in
love

He

says

we may

think that

we know about compassion and

2 8

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

and

desire

and attachment, but

this

is

not enough,

it

has to

become

part

of our lives
pirically.

on

a practical level.

We know everything from books, not emIt

There

are so

many

books.
just

has

all

been written about. These
to illustrate that at the per-

things have to be practiced.
fect

You

happened

moment."

The rinpoche had

regained his composure. "So according to Bud-

dhism," he explained, "we don't just accept that we
love

know compassion and

and not

act

on

it.

We

must

activate

all

the compassion and love in
love in the activity of

our minds.

And how can we know compassion and
lot of

our minds? Say another person has a
of his problems
I

problems.
I

We must think:
will give

All

will take;

I

have some happiness, so

my happithis.

ness to him;

I

can take his problems to myself.'

We must

think like

This

is

the application for our mind.
is

"Buddhism

difficult;

it is

a very

deep philosophy. But
will get
it.

if

people

strive to perfect their practice,

then they

It is

very useful not
all

just for us,

but for
it is

all

human

beings.

It will

bring benefit for

sentient

beings, but

very difficult to uphold this compassion and this love."

Moments
said to
I

passed in silence. Rinpoche addressed
to

Lama

Rigzen,

who

me, "Rinpoche wants

know what you're

thinking about so hard."

knew I was
I

receiving a teaching of greater
it

magnitude than
for

I

could
I

comprehend;

found

dizzying. "I

might wish

enlightenment, but

wonder

if I

would have the courage."
said:

The rinpoche

"When
you put
this

you see

a person

who

is,

as

you

say,

enlightened, and you
very important that
It is

wish you would be able to attain these qualities,

it is

wish into action. Everything

is

practice.

not enough just
on.
It will

to think or to wish,
very, very difficult.

we must put

it

into practice from
arise in

now

get

Many obstacles

our minds.

When we

run into

SANDY JOHNSON

2

<)

these obstacles,

we begin
more

more
this

difficulties,

We think obstacles; Why should
to doubt.

to ourselves: I'm having
I

do

this?;

Should

I

leave

path and find another? So

many doubts and difficulties come
we

into our

mind.
'At that time,

we must

forget everything that

think

is

true in sam-

sara, in this cyclic existence

things

like,

my country, my this or that. We
dharma. Then you
will

must

forget clinging.

And

just practice the

begin to

achieve something."
"I

guess

my biggest obstacle
I

is

fear,"

I

said.

"Do you know what

those fears are?"
have, of being sick, of being poor, of being

"Fear of giving up what
alone."

"So what you are actually asking

is,

How can someone who is just beown mind? Regarding the
in life

ginning on the path remove such fears from her
fears

and the problems that we encounter

—and who doesn't enit.

counter those, they are part of living

—we need

to develop a strong renun-

ciation for the ordinary cycle of existence as

we experience

The word
mind
that

renunciation here means,

literally,

a certainty that arises in your
free of that cycle.

you want to be, and

will

become,

So

it is

not renuncia-

tion in a pessimistic sense, so

much

as recognizing the
to,

shortcomings of

where we are and the certainty that we want
be freed or released from
that. That's

and

will, rise

beyond

that,

what

I

mean by

renunciation."

He

leaned forward, looked at

me

with piercing eyes, and waited for
I

an indication from

me

that

I

was following him.
for

realized that

Lama

Rigzen was trying very hard to translate word

word what the rinpoche
I

was saying, without any interpretation of his own.
continued.
"Further,

nodded, and Rinpoche

we must turn our backs on our grasping
on the things of
cyclic existence,

or fixation

on

cyclic existence,

and on our ordinarv

JO

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

erage unenlightened being. the worst. We dewe are velop a sense of disenchantment. yet. that we view fallen/' this cycle of existence as we would a fiery pit into which we have I felt turned upside down. This what gives clinging fear." and problems in the first This below-average. or very averse to we fuel own love-hatred of being either very attached something. a kind of revulsion at cyclic existence. me that caught a glimpse now and on the wing of a bird as it then. Part of strangely. very unenlightened being wondered what kind of practice he was talking about.state of being. not something that you're begin by contemplating going to be able to figure out immediately. there was another part of me did not understand a word. For someone is who has reached a very advanced more straightforward. that it no longer it. We are constantly pushed or pulled. and emotions with our And because we cling to that notion. causes us a problem. When is fears and problems arise. like the quick reflection of the sun off. soars SANDY JOHNSON 3 I . even disgust. this cycle of ordinary existence that We we are caught in at this point. It is it is "Without such extensive term to deal with fear in difficult in the short any effective way. fascinates us. very difficult to rise to fear move beyond the fundamental factor that gives place. that we have a certainty going to be released from that we have the intention of being liberated from this. We have this sense that something really we invest the existence of events. the most probis lematic thing is we do to its become attached power: to the fear that arising. For the avgrasping. solidity. there causes us things. Lifetimes? Eons? practice. then. but still it often requires years or even eons of all practice to get to the point where they stand above it is of that. it ning practitioners. this grasping is "Overcoming not something that is easy for beginlevel.

" He his face turned to the window. is As long as we think that samsara is nice. samsara is sweet. but he was already on that perhaps this master was giving I to another subject." "It is useful to regard cyclic existence as this fiery pit. 3 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . because you want to. just it. as a matter of course. we have will the attitude that samsara it. from the point of view of how everything is subject to im- permanence and change. But you need to cultivate and this comes about through the welfare of oth- developing an altruistic approach. a stinking at swamp. "The means by which we put our renunciation and is disen- chantment with cyclic existence into practice to meditate on impermais nence. sam- sara delicious. we are not going to is be released. And as it- long as self. samsara fine. all as a land inhabited by cannibal demons who are threatening us is sides. regarding everything that has gone before. 'Another important factor attitude of lovingkindness is to cultivate a 'noble attitude. an is and compassion toward others.' that is. one of ers into I really taking account. aware of impermanence in is meditation. so that ingrained we are. 'Are you saying it is life is we want to be liberated from? I thought Bud- dhists believe human life precious. this something that to develop love for you as a beginner will not come easy You won't be able and compassion just off the bat. sufficient or satisfactory in we never be liberated from We have to have that dissatisfac- tion and disenchantment. again and again. Sunlight etched the myriad lines deeper in and caught the pewter of principal his hair." if was not sure he had answered occurred to I my question. everything that happening now. so to speak. Again. until our awareness of impermanence in us. It me me the information needed rather than the information thought I wanted.

this. are "While there more abstract. that beings are alike life- in the cycle of existence. eons of practice. in the details. Was it because he already knows? re- membered the reading somewhere that in Shambala they've been going to moon for twelve hundred years. Thus." got more than I had bargained Renunciation. would benefit you understanding. "That's for. not just humans."You begin by appreciating that there is not any being that has not all been vour mother or father from beginningless time. SANDY JOHNSON 33 . elaborate techniques or processes of just try to focus contemplation that traditionally are explained. it is through an understandlife ing of the role that our parents have played in this that we gain an un- derstanding of our connection to other beings/' He closed his eyes and began moving his lips. parents . through countless times. it. smiled. This applies to beings throughout the six classes or six states of conditioned existence. Then we extend that kindness to all beings. on love and compassion and not become too caught up First. for now. have this very valuable. but all of these beings — all of us^have been one another's parents. and contemplate the basic kindness that we have received from them. we appreciate what our parents in this lifetime have done for us. in some lifetime. "Understanding that there is is no distinction that It we can make to between one being or another. I looked out the window at the lunar landscape and suddenly wondered: The old lama showed no interest in I how an American got to the moon. the idea of every being having once been our . the nonexistence of the self. . After several moments he looked I at me. and said. Are bad parents anathema to Tibetans? On the way back to Stok.

my mind maelstrom. pointing to mv head. His laughter followed me into a dream. "Not there. The previous night's intense dream lingered. rocking back and forth on his stack of cushions like a giant red buoy in a stormv sea. My and my head throbbed. had been reading by candlelight ten than not —and my a —power in Stok is out more ofI eyes had soon tired. filling my dream it was — head with a terrible roar. swirling with questions that questions. . only led to I more imponderable kept seeing the image of the old lama sitting cross- legged. it. I tugged at the thin blanket throat tried to curl myself into but I could not get warm. and felt raw. But then lay- awake. "There?" — me he was laughing at. T?" he taunted." His laughter echoed. except that in the "Where is your arms. I felt m\ self recede and grow smaller as his face. laughing. "There?" my my feet. I quaking with cold.THE MOUNTAIN I woke the next morning.

Bill. came closer and closer. I I did have a flu of a some sort. drifted in and out of dreaming scenes from my life. grew larger. four. his daughters were ten. there was no one to hear me. People appeared. as if to devour me. As Bill was more than a decade older as stepdaughters. her home at Green Gulch Zen Center northern Two years before my trip to India. spoke more than kitchen English. thermos of hot water and more blankets. the girls were younger I sisters as much Wendy. who was now my second exI husband. Neither Kansa nor the houseboy. We had develJ 5 SANDY JOHNSON . just before my sons told me their father was ending a marriage that had first. Drenched with perspiration. fumbled my I toilet kit for a my temperaout. Then. ture: It read 103°. Bill I asked for Jai. I had gone on to make two more hasty marriages that mystified friends and distressed Still. twenty miles from town. Bill. close through those years and I had remained and somehow managed to sustain an outline. and became extremely than I. play. like my skin burned cold. When Kansa. holidays. and We spent weekends. I was alone to call in a hotel. had a heart attack and a bypass operation. Bill my parents. characters in a and spoke When I had married my second husband. them. I been troubled from the had never fully forgiven myself for breaking up the family. and summers with close. a the eldest. to whom made was "Wick" (for Wicked Stepmother). albeit blurred. I knew it would be useless to scream. The toothless mouth widened. thermometer and took a terrible sleep. realized dry It ice. was the kind of dream I have if I am feverish. left for and Adrienne Kite had Khatmandu. became in Buddhist and California. worse. of a family. the cook. eight. knocked at the door.disembodied now. with no phone I —and no one in if I had one. left for India.

Gerry. because of you that Dad is stuck in an awful marriage at- that never should have been. a philosophy. months before. I could almost reach out and in the light touch stared until shapes I began to form I and shadows and became six faces. She looked at me I with the same expression just given the eulogy. in everyone's whose young life was stolen by cancer years at ago. saw her sitting there in the front row. Wendy appeared onstage in my dream and. Over and over I I called his name. my heart pounding. you know. but I could not account for the person was then. I saw my mother. distinctly carved in the mountain. Awake. I Why? Why did you have to do it?" I searched for an answer. "You can't keep wreaking havoc cost." I woke from this dream sobbing. I confronted her now. she me and walked away. but she disappeared. you touch. Without answering. and communication between us ended. I had From had stood. And it's because of you he had the heart You broke I his heart. I turned to look at the window. then finally I drifted off again. wanted to tell her that.oped ters. stood in her place. Actions cost. soil in which to grow our sons and a his daugh- which lasted insisted until he married woman who resented the children and on shutting them out. accused me: "It's in an un-buddhalike way. my dreams. He had died me desolate. with its arched nose I and sweeping forehead. tack. values. and my closest friend. I Scenes and faces continued to parade through saw that the faces were still there in the mountain. leaving whom loved and revered. and the crevices around the mouth. saw Pete Catches. saw his face. I could make out the hollows underneath the cheekbones. Things I you know. turned from asked her if that were true. She shook her head lives me. re- membered from my the dais where at I brother's funeral. looking me with angry blue eyes that told I me she had lost the wrong child. changing with the 36 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . The mountain was so near it.

cautiously. on suddenly remembered the antibiotics earlier. I and its demons raged on for two more days. dreamless sleep that lasted unI late the next morning. only how my death will be. it stood up. and opened wide.shifting shadows as daylight faded to dusk. Friends of rash selfishness. had brought. friends betrayed in moments I had descended into one of the Buddhist hells had read about. The mountain shone dazzling in the morning sun. Then. SANDY JOHNSON 3 J . snowy clouds encircled a white silk offering scarf. At the peak. The fever the third night. I this was not my death. friends dead. it: dow. then prayed it would be quickly finished with me. went to the winbright and innocent. I Then. there in Why hadn't my case? til I I thought of them or of the sleeping pills right took them and fell into a heavy. If I lost.

My friend up early to Betty was due to arrive that morning. but when it finally arrived. had was at least partly psychic. My recovery was quick after for the had taken the antibiotics. and I was eager to talk about The flight was of course delayed. Too quick. at the airport. flu. it. relief. medication to have had an effect on the supposed illness I'd I was con- vinced that whatever tion. Tsering I I got meet her Angdu material- ized again arrival and wanted to come along. a purifica- an ego cleansing. anticipated Betty's I with realizing how very alone had been feel- ing. I thought. I had thought I would approach Buddhism as a journalist. instead my whole system of thinking was under attack. Betty got off the plane in great good humor and we greeted each other like . with a jour- nalist's objectivity.A LIFE OF LUXURY It was only two I days since my demons had come to visit.

ena very strong interconnection. is very clear at that point: Work with your own inner conditionings.schoolgirls. But it's is it really real. Therefore. mentally. this whole universe. self recalled what Lobsang Lhalungpa had said about the before I left Santa Fe: "We that begin life with a strong sense of selfishness. Hardy soul that she sat in is. true nature of one's this central own life. what is see is real. real for you. vironmentally. we assume them Buddha said. Find out where you went wrong. There Recognize that the say. a selfishness is comes from ignorance. way we look I at it. let's clear this root of igno- rance and tackle the problem of selfishness. spiritually. But still you carry the impact of your ignorance. and in a distorted you make a lot of mistakes. But we lose sight of the true na- ture of things. as We don't look at things as they are. Then begin to understand why we are interconnected. we look and Okay. to the exclusion of the rest of I I "The answer. Therefore which improves humanity' must exist. things seem to be very real. You might not even remember so clearly. but as we perceive them to be. Open up you'll your own closed world and understand the connection. one's own mind. am concerned only with that my security. We are part of that great SANDY JOHNSON 39 . You perceive things your fundamental notion at is way because You can look that you are an exclusive entity. we create kind of entity called self is self. she needed only a short rest and time to unpack. what you see? What you see over there only image. for your mind. then. it "This central so very precious to each person that is becomes and con- the center of one's world. to be. connection in many is different ways: physically. I Then we my room and had a beer and talked. 'Everything else different from me nected to me. Ignorance not being able to understand the reality. my well-being.

' what am ever.000 I feet below. with is all the talk about renunciation. Isn't that what we I West spend years on defining our ego. life. my my friends." Lobsang had the couch doing? 'And I?" said. — to the intense delight of the local chil- who bv then had decided to join us. Whatever do. I how this woman. Betty and I talked long into the night I on the pros and cons of the couch versus the cushion. my wife. my society. every- body who this comes into contact with me. I Then we begin to accept our personal responsibility. And that is the beginning of a responsible that what Buddhism teaches. say. We seemed to have collected 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . could see. I'll not But suddenly the river valley broadened and miles of golden wheat fields stretched before us. much more is sensible. So we don't need to feel totally isolated. Then the tiny. eleventh-cen- tury village of Wanla appeared. The next day was my birthday. Betty wanted to see something of the country. thought. was drawn to see mother's age. We climbed down a mountain. remote. and I. In this same village lived whom hoped we hadn't thought about the concept of an oracle existing since the days I'd read about It them in Greek mythology. live to see it. and barley Never mind. Having a certain responsibility to understanding makes a person life. unchanged bv time. think.thing." said to Betty. trail was a harrowing drive on an upaved razorback falls that climbs to 13. exactly I my lives." really is? But does that how does one go about finding out what one exactly? "Find out in the What mean where you went wrong. "If I'm not my 'self. slipping and sliding dren. but on my envi- ronment. we don't need to feel an- tagonized.000 feet and away to a gorge 3. my family. has an impact —not only on my own children. was more confused than I had been told about a crone who lives in a cavelike dwelling at the bottom of the mountain in a medieval village a day's drive from Leh. who an oracle.

low.curious villagers as well. We bent almost crouching. Even the sky has changed. "A lot of changes have taken place in my also village. The son ried into a family with the ter a sculptor. to enter the doorway. Villagers and children were crowded in as well. Both my sis- and I worked very hard. The woman sat on her knees on the bare earthen floor and looked curiously at us. I used to go begging mv meal exchange of the day Sometimes worked in the houses of my relatives in for food. she drew up her knee and leaned on her clasped "I was born into a family whose house name was Gyagarpa. who followed us to Skalzang Dolma's. lit I I had set on the floor next to her. we caused asked her if she would talk to us about her Dolma's eves hands. pily He was our mag-pa [husband] I He dead now. The onlv source of illuminaof sorts through tion came from an opening in the wall. and certainly had never had a conversation with one. She had two sons and one daughter. "I and sometimes we also work in other houses. A series of platforms and shelves fashioned from stone held her old pots and utensils. up. It is more cloudy now. but is my sister did. had no children with him. and is me to a man from I other house. bewildered by the sudden attention. children had to labor to earn their own livelihood. Back then. had a verv difficult childhood. SANDY JOHNSON 4 I . lived hap- with the mag-pa. life. In olden days. My an- father arranged a marriage for both my sister . I flour. wheat. a window which shafts of afternoon light cast a dusky glow A small fire burned in the crude day oven. And people have changed. She had seen few Westerners in her life. for We had no rice. or sugar. eras With the cam- and tape recorder and microphone a small event. the daughter mar- house name of Solpan-Pa-Wanla. We grazed our cattle and collected fodder for had to winter.

used to invite the people of Wanla to gatherings. wondering how she could possibly am eighty-five years old. and cook with the firewood my nieces and nephews bring me. which I wear when I go to the gonpa [temple] to see a lama. would spend whole nights singing and 4 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . fetch my own water. tea. I I have my perak with three rows of turquoise. they were more religious- minded and performed more offerings of a religious deeds. I remember he had farthest I on is to his hat so that wouldn't fly Now the live can go I to Lamayura Gonpa. went on many pilgrimages. but at this advanced age I cannot remember many of them. butter. "I here alone?" asked. "When I was able-bodied. I where I served chang [Tibetan beer] to everyone. They also bring me barley flour. people showed more concern for one another. off his head. all the different traditional songs and do the folk I dances. or statues of gold all didn't have the good fortune but I and silver for the temples. and chang. water my fields. a set of a hundred butter lamps and butter the silver chal- ice before the statue of I Chenrezig [the patron saint or Buddha of Tibet] to build stupas. I too fasted often and made complete set of my clothing to the monastery and. My eyein spring return here to sight has become weak now. exstay is cept during Losar [New Year] and the winter months.. In used to wear still my younger days." "Do you manage. Then I go and in the family house. my perak and my fleece hat. with here. liness the Dalai I saw His Ho- Lama three times in Ladakh. and my fur apron on my back. and and nephews I I can still do all my chores myself. on two to fill occasions. There are many songs and love stories." We were curious to know "I if she remembered any folk stories or leg- ends that might have been handed used to sing all down from her elders. so I can't always recognize people. I my nieces But which I quite far from my own small house. to hold and I saw the Karmapa Rinit poche once.

offer a hun- SANDY JOHNSON 4 3 . tion depot. fifteenth. People grains. get my various lives mixed up and recite only the prayers know by heart.>:- Skal^ang Dolma telling stories.' and another short prayer to Chenrezig. heard of such a thing as a school. Before all I go to sleep I prostrate to the Buddha and pray that like my wrong actions from the past be pardoned. In They say I was like a parrot in my younger days. at learning. living here without your family?" I asked. 'Om mani padme hum. had to grind their own flour from dried fermented "Don't you ever get thinking lonely. spend most of my time saying." either. On auspicious days I the tenth. my country. "I don't feel lonely. My bed how dependent the elderly are in I I I I is near a window. There were no shops. As get old. very quick we never even and no ra- those days we did not have a schoolhouse. and the thirtieth of each month.

. and her moth-eaten goat-skin We followed her outside. show you!" She disappeared into a black opening in the wall. which she opened and stared to She took it to the make sure. them for us. then smiled happily. in their "I hear that people in the outside world live comfortable lives with tables and chairs and carpets rice homes. "Maybe your riches take up too much riches of your time and leave you no time Maybe your But I have taken more away from you than they have given. so?" fine clothes all She shrugged. I was nearly dark. and headdress. and the prayer of to recite refuge to the Buddha. (about four dollars). and piness in the outside world. I gave her a folded-up hundred-rupee note at. don't know about . I see you in your fine clothes." . As we made the climb back up the moun- realized what I had just seen had less to do with a life frozen in time 4 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and she donned like a girl. am in rags. these things. and have everything needed that. with shawl. bringing the con- versation to a close. where she sleeps. I have no teeth in I my mouth anyway. These I used with the monks as a part of the fasting ritual. the Dharma. As we got window u p to leave. "I will "Wait. and the Sangha. "No. swirling around and around Then she took a bow. I to be happy —sugar and I and I all have only tsampa and tukpa [soup] to eat. Yet hear there is much unhapCan you tell me why that is?" "Do you have some thoughts about why and your furniture and for prayer. but am happy. My fingers developed sores from counting the beads on my mala." she said excitedly." I admitted.dred butter lamps. its came out earning her seven rows of turquoise. that is I can't. She yawned. It tain. Then I say all the mantras I know.

local spirit protectors. I thought about the busy-ness of my own "rich" years a little more. I to climb a mountain to see the oracle of Wanla. Little Angdu were ahead. grabbing for bush branches along the unmarked path. are part of a tradition that goes back thirteen hundred years. .than it did with a life lived according to a tradition fervently believed in. Have our riches indeed taken more from us than they have given? I strug- gled to find my footing. they stopped to wait and No. SANDY JOHNSON 4 5 . and . Lama Rigzen and reached out to help us. who advises the Dalai later in Lama on important matters of These whom it would see Dharamsala. was explained. the townspeople than They with are more concerned with the personal lives of politics. nor the state. to the time of Padmasambhava. I doubt I ever would have found the time state oracle.

He was the reincarnation of some great hero. Would he tell us "During the period Ladakh isters. of King Senge Namgyal of [late sixteenth century] there were seventeen very powerful min. to Lama Rigzen explained about himself? him that we had come from America and had never met an oracle. Once again children and adults crowded in to watch. Lama Lhompo was one and his of them.THE ORACLE O F WA NLA It acle. many lamas and other oracles said that he couldn't get into . was d u s k in Wanla when we were taken inner to the house of the or- We were led to an room lit by oil lamps. special. power was maybe magic. He greeted us shyly. The oracle sat against the wall on a bench that was covered with a rug. When he died. to "One day Lama Lhompo came from Leh Wanla on foot.

acles. So wandered the me with his power to tell our present." We nodded. but had to stay in a kind of in-between village. They advised me to do certain things. the head lama of his horse Lamayuru came to this village and saw Lhompo get down from and give some directions to the people of Wanla. make offerings to the monastery. state. in front of He drank rapidly. even the people of Ladakh. The room was quiet. I felt very uncomfortable in my body. everything. then the SANDY JOHNSON 4 J . like a baptism. asked if we could speak with the spirit of the oracle. answered. The people in the village took me to Leh to talk to some lamas. "Actually. A lama asked him. There came a sound. very strong. The man A woman brought a thermos of butter tea and set it on the table him. His head twitched sideways. spirit The spirit also gives them advice about heal. they come to the oracle. 'Who is that coming?' asked. eight or nine years ago. past. and became very suspicious. re- spectfully.heaven or his spirit hell. how to have success But he does not have the power to to "The first time the came me. my mind and I and pray. in their lives. But sometimes there are sharp pains. I did as the lamas advised. is living in this area right now/ never re- member anything that said afterward. before that. or they have to make a decision. This spirit speaks through me to tend "Seven years ago he began to speak through the people of Wanla. the bardo. future. who benefit from if the or- When they have problems in their lives. draining the cup three times as the woman refilled it. the villagers waited silently. "The lamas made a special puja [prayer ritual] and invited the Lhompo to speak. and I was afraid. After a time his eyes closed. There was a seven-day period. 'I Are you the Lhompo?' And the spirit I am the Lhompo. like a knocking at the door.

is can you to tell me?" as enlightened as "Your true work time." He paused a moment. Was this what I was life is going to change again." you must find your teacher — for your true The room was true work? so still I could hear the quick beat of my I heart. For that you need a Seemed being led to? "Your place. his head forward. commanded. then was tossed backward. Wasn't doing 'And what is that. "But work. eyes rolled back behind fluttering eyelids. Heh! need to consult Heh! scholars to teach you what you must know for this work. I'd decided would be of would deI vote that? my writing to books that some benefit. "Heh!" different startling us.whole upper half of his body jerked spasmodically. looked at Betty." I had been hearing this at every turn." become first you can in this lifewill do that you must know yourself. Then in a gruff voice quite from his own. in And this work will teach you how to live your own life first peace and liberation. "Stand up!" I We rose to our feet. We both were taking this very And you will "You. It With trembling hands lifted his cup and gulped more dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt. visible. no. pointing to me. Like an fell epileptic in the throes of a seizure. But to teacher. "You must study very hard. You are going to move to another Oh. seriously." 4 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . but only the whites were tea. He opened he his eyes. My When I'd had my brush with mortality." he said. "Near a great ocean. Suddenly he shouted.

Nearby in another hut. "Will-my-broken-family-be-mended?" The oracle answered: "Let them all go. Finally. California? I'm afraid of earthquakes. between the various members of her which Lama Rigzen had difficulty translating. she asked simply. the children of the village slept. rift Betty tried to explain the family. a Tibetan version of a kibbutz." whispered. I "You ask him something. Lama SANDY JOHNSON 4 9 ." That night we spread our sleeping bags on the floor of a hut at the edge of the pasture where we had seen the yaks.The Oracle of Wanla I looked at Betty and grimaced.

a donation from one of the houses. I thought about the Are our lives already written somewhere.Rigzen and Little Angdu brought us we set a pot of soup. but now I no longer knew what to wish for. and the way to support myself doing what loved best. at The children and giggled until once they wound down and nearly full. when I the moon was flooding the pastures with a I silvery light. I used to I wish for health. stood looking at this dreamlike place oracle's predictions. fast like had come to. Later. which giggled on all a cot. a makeshift dining table. fell asleep. while at this very moment the sun shines on all my own world? I wanted to make a birthday wish on the near-full moon. 50 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . happiness. are we held marionettes by the strings of destiny? Was I always going to be standing here underneath this moon on my the people of birthday eve.

"Have you inter- . for security checks. would hire a car I and driver for an eleven-hour trip from Delhi to Dharamsala. I would brave 'Air Chance'' once more for a I She had to get back to the States.TIBET IN INDIA Today Betty and flight to Delhi." Betty said. and waited for our airplane to appear. as to His Holiness's private offices some months soon as I knew would be in India. to request a meeting. my laughing lama who had wanted know what moon looked like. We arrived early. at the center was to Lama the Duwang Rinpoche. I would meet lamas and wait for my audience with the I had written before. as instructed. where Dalai Lama. An entourage of red-robed monks came bustling through the terminal doors. Suddenly there was a commotion at the entrance. "That looks viewed him?" like someone important.

and popped it into his mouth. Hanuman.500 feet. The Tibetan com- monasteries. and As soon as I feared them. did as he asked." the area is just edge of the snow Known a cul- tural potpourri: an assortment of spiritual seekers in raggedy shorts. and I rolled down my window. schools. I when we passed a colony of gray monkeys at the side of the road. the seat of the government-in-exile and the present the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. secretary to His Holiness. is in northern India. We were to stop so I driving along a ridge that leads to Dharamsala. The monI keys turned to stare with bold. and clicked away. and the others started toward "Quick. curious expressions. 5 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . with its is two sections. as "Little Lhasa. elevation 6. in the state of Himachal It is nestled in the Dhauladar Range of the lower Himalayas. viceroys. The one who picked it up unwrapped us. Tenzin Geyche time of mv audience. I was settled in my telephoned Tenzin Geyche message. Pradesh. Because I Tethong. asked the driver could take a picture. wondered if I would get the they would Dalai Lama's blessing for call me back with the my project. libraries. I tossed a lemon drop wrapped it in paper to them. close the window!" the driver I said. is in McLeod Ganj. wondering if he saw them as emanations of the Hindu monkey god. and ther a student of left a I was nei- Buddhism nor a devotee. divided into told me Dharamsala munity. line. and started the engine.Dharamsala. hotel. and the headquarters and residence of the Dalai at the Lama. it home of His Holiness British A hill resort from the days of the was to this place in the Kangra valley that the Dalai Lama and ten thousand of his followers settled in 1960 following the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

who the son of the Nechung oracle. Timberland boots. playing a toy a hauntingly lyrical sound one could hear a mile or two away Attached to the strings of the makeshift instrument were two mari- onettes dressed as an Indian prince and princess. had given oracle. establishing a network of bet to watch over the dharma. and backpacks mingled with swam is of burgund\-robed monks and Tibetan women in their kimonolike chubas everything and striped aprons. the second state second state oracle is Unlike the Wanla I oracle. to find him.sleeveless vests.d. nature extremely wrathful. Lobsang Lhalungpa. me a letter of introduction to Tenzin Wandrak. stalls selling skirts and mohair sweaters to prayer wheels and malas. a thermal and soared a bit higher until they were exactly eye I where sat sipping morning is tea — at the hawk line. sitar. which Wandrak is the founder. however. pungent aroma a beggar sat contented in the shade of a tree by the side of the road. and placed the local of them in a se- ries of spirits in a spirit hierarchy according to their powers. which danced as he strummed. new reli- Padmasambhava. I had breakfast on the patio of my hill- top hotel and watched two hawks glide just above the tips of the pines. The main road was lined with from batik of incense air. It was the best show in town. When Padmasambhava of the "cannibal first brought Buddhism into the land by demons" in the eighth century a. On the They caught level to first morning. Wafts of marijuana filled the mixed with the sweet. the concerned only with of affairs of state. set off down the hill to the Gadong monaster}. resisted the peaceful aspects of the gion. the local deities. protectors in Ti- The last and most powerful of the deities vanquished by Pad- SANDY JOHNSON 5 J . gradually subdued each supernatural battles..

resembled lies on a hillside near the temple and residence of the Dalai Lama. as early as 1945. Even today. And the im- on his forehead. but during the trance print of a dorje will appear it will develop a strong odor. one of the signs of the true Nechung oracle that his breath has no odor before he becomes entranced with the spirit of Pehar Gyalpo. Tenzin Wandrak. most important because they have access to the spirit of Pehar is Gyalpo. the state who was called upon to "channel" the power and prophetic ability of the protectors. The Gadong monastery ropean-style haircut. is the spirit who occupies the body of It the medium in a trance. on and named him and his brother spirits Pehar Gyalpo —the Five Ferocious Kings. and had the Nechung monastery built medium. When in 1642. acting for Pehar Gyalpo. was Dorje Drakden who warned the Thirteenth Dalai Lama against his life of an assassination plot by his regent and. the Fifth Dalai Lama consolidated temporal power in Tibet he named Pehar Gyalpo protector of the now central governas a dwelling for his official seat of ment. symbolic of the path of compassion). a dorje (a ritual object represent- Padmasambhava touched his head with ing a thunderbolt. placed nectar his tongue. in slacks and shirt and Eu- more a casually dressed businessman than 5 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the the Gadong. Frequently Dorje Drakden. alerted Tibet to the also urged the Dalai coming danger from China. a system to these spirits are the — also hierarchical — of mediums who have Nechung and access grew The two state oracles.masambhava came to him in the form of an eight-year-old novice monk. He in Lama to go to India in- 1956 to establish lines of communication with Nehru. Eventually the monastery became the oracle of Tibet. In time. which proved valuable to the Tibetan refugees who flooded the country in 1959. the minister of the Western King while he is of Speech.

had served the Tibetan government in Tibet. She arrived soon smiling brightly. Others are do public service or whatever I "Since the age of sixteen. I traveled with him staff. told her I wanted to go on a pilgrimage to India. In 1955 when His in his en- Holiness the Dalai Lama visited China. during the time of great Fifth Dalai Lama. There were five sons and four daughters in our family.the second state oracle. Tibet was an independent country. Our lineage have started seven generations back. made an excuse to my I mother. I asked Choedon if we might begin with a brief introduction. Tibet. In those days. "My full name I is Tenzin Wandrak Gadong. passed down from father to son. in I When we I had seen the conditions China. Wandrak after. am fifty-eight years old. tourage of more than seventy as part of his lower division returned. eager to be of help. Mr. I father was the state oracle of Gadong. and I felt that sooner or later I China would invade. She a young Tibetan me. This is how escaped. I was born in Gadong. in 1957. I am the eldest of the second 'And how was it that you became state oracle?" "My him. and is after a friendly he placed a phone call to Tsering Choedon. raven-black hair pulled tight in a long pony tail. It was traditional. of Gadong. told as a translator. The is mediumship said to our lineage." wife died. free to One son must become the medium else they like. Because it have seen since childhood. He received me graciously. She wore the traditional striped apron and crisp cotton blouse. as was I his father before it used to watch I my father in trance. After giving birth to one first son and one daughter. SANDY JOHNSON 5 5 . never thought of is as anything special. and might woman who be available speaks excellent English. chat. his wife. the situation inside Tibet wasn't good. My father had two wives.

I think she knew in her heart that she "I would not see at me again. In months. I Then she took it and put it in her cupboard. His Holiness gave a speech about the difficulties in Tiin India betan settlements and expressed the need for some volunteers. my mother called me back.Ten^in Wandrak ever. in Darjeeling until 1963. my father knew that was going to India formy mother because we knew she would be against But on that fateful day as was leaving Tibet. Then was moved to the Tibetan 1964 at a meeting. So I went to the Tibetan settlement in Orissa. So Village for a few went there work I in the office of Tibetan Children's Library. worked Kharshang Radio Station a when my father sent me I message to come to Dharamsala to to join the exiled government. She gave me some tsampa to squeeze in my palm to make mv imprint. 'At that time. although tell I we did not it. 5 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS .

"During that treat year. so one day went to see my teacher and asked the meaning of 'the radi- ance of five lights will is be revealed. in 1967. and another in Canada. and my body suddenly experienced other I strange sensations. It felt would become so scared fire would jump out body. 1 "By the time my father died. Medication didn't work.' He explained that the spirit of the proBuddha families. getting very skinny. first sign of the onset of mediumship. "It is and in 1976. but I none of them could help me. was very scared. was the only son residing in the Tibetan settlements in India and serving in the Tibetan governmentin-exile: one of my brothers was living in I Bhutan. the others were back inside Tibet. ities was asked to take over the responsibil1 of this monastery. The answer was. told my father about my experiences. I "Then asleep. wasn't feeling well. tector deity the emanation of five and the message meant that I was going to be the oracle. "One day 'Just I consulted the oracle about [spiritually]. I and sometimes while of bed.' I did not understand the meaning of that answer. my health. That few was the years. a very unusual came over me. I saw several dif- ferent doctors. my complexion darkened. I thought was going to die. for the next nothing more happened. is I traveled back to Dharamsala for a Yamantaka re- [Yamantaka . I took two months off and came again to Dharamsala. difficult to explain exactly I how I first experienced being a in medium. I started getting sick often. was losing weight. in 1975. After that. was appointed oracle. because although sense some uneasiness my nerves before SANDY JOHNSON 5 J . a meditational deity as —the wrathful form I of the Bud- dha of Wisdom] One evening cold feeling we were having dinner. I as if someone had thrown were the sign of the "Because I inside my I was told these happenings spirit. five keep yourself clean and accordingly the radiance of lights will be I revealed.

a tenant. one has to get authorization from His Holiness. During official ceremonies. ceremony. not something that can be either It is more like the relationship between a landlord and spirit. the tenth day of the first month of every Tibetan lunar calendar into trance together at times. and knee-high white leather boots fiery red eyes of with curled toes. some people ask learned. the oracle dons red fit brocade trousers with six-foot-wide which over his normal pants and are folded and tied at his ankles.am fully in trance. a Nechung and Gadong. tied loosely. reIf someone wants to hold a trance ceremony with the state oracles. On top of all of this. For instance." I had seen pictures of the state oracle's ceremonial dress. outsiders are not permitted to attend. "On year. You don't know anything about what has place during the trance. It seems as if all the channels. if "Since this not prevalent in Western countries. There is is a considerable measure of discomfort. the veins of my body are the onset of the trance.) the two state oracles. When the spirit is about to enter my body. go also and hold ceremony. start to shake. and for this people would be permitted to attend. Drepung monastery could quest a ceremony. but there are other ceremonies where outsiders can observe. Before legs. he puts on an ancient Tibetan mail jerkin of gold-leafed 58 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . It's quite complicated. That is. But it is mediumship can be taught or learned. it is he wears two heavy robes. your body becomes a house for the and you betaken come totally unconscious. a It looked like an ancient warrior's costume. since during trance not unusual for the oracle's body to swell up two inches. (We go into trance individually The ceremony takes place in the big temple hall. Over a red silk shirt. appliqued with the wrathful deities. I don't remember anything when I I being filled up.

It is equally important to untie the knot the mo- ment the spirit leaves the oracle. on by the attendants. In addition to bind his sleeves —the left padded as for archery silk and stitched with three scarlet eyes —he wears center. It all If tied too early it could kill can't be tied on at all because the spirit becomes hap- pens in a few seconds. the headdress rests spirit is in trance. swinging the sword. too late and so active. ritual steps that are tossing scarves twelve feet in the and dancing the part of the ceremony. it.ringlets. and gold front- piece with a golden mirror in tilate in trance. Something resembling is a backpack. which holds four flags and three victory banners. it was lost to SANDY JOHNSON 5 9 . muscles from the enormous weight of the The huge headdress would snap the neck of a normal man. Once the far as I the knot will I then be tied. "A specially trained person must the chin of the oracle. a red. Since the oracle loses consciousness during the trance. he must rely on attendants. Tenzin Wandrak told strains his me that when he is not in trance. strips of red cloth that then secured around his waist. But once in trance. amethyst. Lama. but when am not in trance can't move with "We were unable to bring the original costume to India. As I know. he often full regalia. yellow. its As the oracle begins to hyperven- the mirror will quiver and shake. held oracle waits for the spirit to enter. a golden quiver filled with arrows to his right. no one has ever weighed the headdress on. A three-foot-long silver sword and buckle is attached to his left side. and other jewels. the oracle leaps about. Each article is decorated with elaborate embroidery and encrusted with turquoise. "While the his head. it tie the headdress underneath the oracle. bowing easily to the Dalai air.

not just offer prophecies and tell the future. wondering they were refer who people West call spirit guides. "In the case of His Holiness the Dalai are like his employees. dharma protectors work under him. dharma protectors. that's I the oracle's prophecy. whatOnly when am in trace and I I consulting. in effect. the dharma protectors who do what he tells them to do. Some spirits are capable of telling events within one month's time. his employees to find information about certain The employee makes goes and discovers the specific information. Lama. We are talking here about the which emanates from buddhas and bodhisattvas. the It that simple. and protect our minds from hindrances and obstacles. Other- am only a layperson. We huto mans need communicate with them." if 'And who exactly are these spirits?" asked. the spirit has to be very powerful. think that since is "Many Western people ever I say is the prophecy. whatever the deities wise. then all reports back to the employer. and who Native Americans to as the Grandfathers. an employer might ask things. "People think that the isn't spirits are the advisors only to His Holiness. rather then above him. So the relationship between His HoTherefore. "To do such a job. A new headdress and costume were made here in India under the sponsorship of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. am the main oracle. five 6 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the and the spirit works like that. whose main puris pose to help beings develop spiritually and to lead them to the path of the truth. to The spirits are. After gathering the information. "There are different kinds of spirit spirits. and they in turn need to speak us and advise us. whatever in the believe I may or may not be true. the em- ployer then liness his final decision. some one year's.the Chinese during the invasion. but that not so. For example. I say.

It is Whether we use of the information or not totally up to us. depends a great deal on our actions. then. he will give you the right advice." I told Mr. otherwise. This how this system works. Because don't understand how much you know about our culture. To know more about our tradition and how it it works. you ask a question that falls within the perimeter of the spirit's clairvoyance. the prophecy will just a very basic explanation of come true. great lamas "I and teachers. since the spirit in question can tell both past and future. The one that we are talking about can fore- an infinite amount of time. There- SANDY JOHNSON 6 I . That is why we consult with the spirit to find reincarna- tions of late. "The Tibetan dhist belief people's lives are inextricably interwoven with Bud- and philosophy. the nature suf- karma that happiness comes as a result of our own good deeds. personally believe that prophecies are accurate. The fulfillment of the prophecy. the in safeguarding the welfare of big role our country's religious and is political system. not." who are accessible "Do people "If generally find the information to be accurate?" I asked. And sometimes we Nechung don't say enough so spirit plays a that you will understand. a century's.year's. For example. he will tell you. and karma and fering results from our bad deeds. "No. If your question I is beyond the reach of the spirits' spirit's ability. but besides the state oracles there are others to the general public. It is certain that if all the is conditions are right. here. one has to view in the light of the Buddhist belief system. Wandrak about the Wanla oracle and asked if he knew of him. tell and so on. It is would like to add something important for us to know if how much we understanding you people have about our tradition. we might say things which need not be said.

The traditions they managed to bring into exile with them had been torn from a fabric as ornate and intricate as the oracle's ceremonial dress.fore. into life Was it realistic to think it could be stitched outside of Shangri-la? 6 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS ." in order to un- derstand Tibetan culture and I was beginning to see how much the Tibetans had lost as a re- sult of the Chinese occupation. it is important to have some knowledge of Buddhism rituals.

propped up on was He had been ill. I float above the bedcovers. I set My eye was drawn to the bookcase . and up the tape recorder and microphone. he insisted on We arranged ourselves on chairs and stools around the bed. The son would take Tsering Choeden and me to his home.PALACE INTRIGUES Tenzin Wandrak had arranged forme to meet a monk who is the son of Gyalten Namgyal. translucent. tailor lay on his bed. but his story. We walked past the kindergarten complex to a groundfloor apartment. and recalled his life in astonishing detail. promised telling to keep the interview short so as not to tire him. a disembodied Yet he seemed eager to talk. His head seemed to skull. where his father the pillows. tailor to both the Thirteenth and Four- teenth Dalai Lamas. the eyes sunken. the skin on his face thin.

Wind. Later. our families arranged a marriage between my mother and my father.on the opposite side of the room. an ET doll. Since we had no schools at that time. and secretary in the Sokhang. while in one of his trances. my grandfather died. the Nechung oracle. written spells on a piece of paper to be put inside His Holiness's beautiful new boots. eight. Sounds of children playing outside voice. He also took me on his tent-making jobs for the no- 64 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . in 1898. "He taught me sew when was When I was ten. He gave my grandfather and his family a house. the largest house in Nyamo Tsang. The people tates of in that village owed allegiance to the es- Demo Rinpoche. an autographed photo of Richard Gere. my grandfather taught my father to read and write. My father was to master of robes to the Dalai Lama's family. to the odd assortment of objects set among and the religious articles and scriptures: a Garfield cup that read. a lay Tantric practitioner. the head I office of the tailor's guild. a statue of Goofy. and Demo Rinfa- poche was arrested and thrown in He died there shortly after. Demo Rinpoche asked my grandfather to come to Lhasa to administer the estate. my father was asked to make applique thangkas of the Sixteen Arhats. the regent was imprisoned. Gone with Scarlett. "My mother came from ther. the Year of the Water Mouse. Her who was chief administrator to the Sixth . the "What do you mean we're out of Coke?". A few months after that. but it. learned of jail. He had joined a plot to kill They had the [pre- vious] Dalai Lama by means of black magic. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's regent. Panchen Lama [second- highest lama in Tibet] brought his family to Lhasa and rented a wing of our house. My grandfaa village near ther was a ngagpa. and came from Lhasa called Dechen. two books. and dogs barking did not drown out the old man's determined "I was born in 1912. "But a few years later. and allowed me to work on them.

for picnics. and was an institution of high prestige with a special area in the temple. The tents were very elaborate.w Gyalten Namgyal ble families. in Mongolian the walls. who used them style. floor round. "I and had carpets on the and thangkas on became skilled enough to be entered into the tailor's guild for fur- ther training. "The Thirteenth Dalai Lama [the current Dalai Lama is the Four- SANDY JOHNSON 6 5 . cated We all wore round yellow hats that indiNovices could be severely disci- we were in government service. who were allowed to slap them in the face for being slow. plined by the ones on top. The tailor's guild had been established by the Fifth Dalai Lama in the seventeenth century.

they're not you to make his dirty. cutting and sewing. a marriage girl from a good family was arranged. She decided over the household and look after the family. He was golden brocade robe. remember the first time I saw His Holiness. he saw something he didn't he it scolded us. to His Holiness. all I heard shouting outside. When I was fourteen. Even English government representatives who had audiences with His Holiness were afraid of "I him when he wore red. calling for mourning and ordering that prayer flags be lowered. 6 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . My mother. The brocades came from the Norbulinka treasury. had always wished ter the Dalai per. which I is why there were so to en- many great painters and artists during his time." "The Thirteenth Dalai Lama changed brocaded robes every day. whose I youngest was barely walking. gift of silver He had come to the workshop to distribute imposing in his his annual coins to the tailors. many of them from the Manchu emperors. Once. Men must unwind their hair. and women should remove their ornaments. I When a prototype was approved and the work. and designed first flag it himself. commissioned. "These brocades for belong to the government. even though everyone was afraid of his temred. When he an angry mood.teenth] was particularly interested in fine arts. the Dalai Lama decided he wanted a Ti- betan national flag made. After that. he wore and everyone around him was very careful. when we had if finished a piece of work and presented he asked we had washed our hands. night as I "One was doing my sewing in my house. became desolate. they sat cross-legged on their like. By then I should take was getting private work to a in addition to the money I earned from the government. Lama's felt in service. was the one to execute the "My father died suddenly when I was seventeen. he would often tour the tailors as If sewing rooms. and had been offered to successive Dalai Lamas over centuries. scrutinizing the cushions.

I was working on would be ready it for the it. and the baby was My mother saw this as a sign that we should give up all worldly things. after the drving was completed. the remains were covered in gold. the Lama was an- nouncing his forthcoming departure tailors of for the "Eighty of the 130 the Sokhang were selected to stupa. mausoleums of the other Dalai We completed in thirteen days. was among the fourteen people to go inside the golden stupa and arrange the robes. a protrusion in the shape of the Chenrezig statue had emerged from His Holiness's shoulder. and dedicate ourselves SANDY JOHNSON 6 J . I and that when the new incarnation came to Lhasa. "He had also asked that the house below the Potala. didn't think much of it then. The mummifying body Potala in the traditional manner: the fluids were extracted with salt. Ling Rinpoche. it Kalachakra assured him would. few days before. Retmg Rmpoche. in Shol. Reting Rinpoche told me had I served His Holiness well. but after he passed away. realized that His Holiness had known that the regent would soon be enthroned.The Thirteenth Only a Dalai Lama had died. The house Thirteenth Dalai Pure Lands. It had happened quite suddenly. make the in the it brocade decorations Potala with the for the new which was to be placed Lamas. Just before the remains were dressed. and all our possessions. would be serving "My wife stillborn. our lovely house. and Gyalwang Tulku were among the others who saw this. He was never to wear was worn by our present Dalai Lama when he gave the Kalachakra initiation in Lhasa. in Shol al- ways served as the regent's residence. "The construction remains took about a of the stupa and the preserving of His Holiness's process was done in the year. him. because soon someone would be coming I to stay there. I then. died giving birth when I was twenty-four. he had come into the workroom to ask I me if the white brocade robe initiation. I be fixed up.

but had already been appointed I to lead I the restoration of the temple decorations at Samye. to ensure the protector's support in brandishing a weapon. government welcoming lamas. then danced wildly. he looked very small yet composed on was overjoyed to receive our new Holiness's blessing. feeling his way around with his stick. and that Lhasa was imminent. was ordered to remain at Samye to make tents. During the ceremony. Then. The cabinet. we heard that teenth incarnation of the Dalai the Four- Lama had been found and his arrival in recognized in All Amdo [eastern Tibet]. At the age of twenty-seven. She wanted me my post as Chenmo. I took my vows from Phabongka Rinpoche and received my new name. so that could continue to I serve His Holiness. "When work at Samye was nearly finished. where she spent to resign years in seclusion.strictly to the dharma. I Samye's main protector into a trance. the most important being the 'Great Peacock Tent. resign promised would when the work was completed. I "When the celebrations were over. at "While Samye I became friends with the oracle of Tsuimar. made me a monk official instead. deity. Lhasa. I was appointed Namsa 6 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Gyalten Namgyal." It had been explained to me that the Dalai Lama is seen as an ema- nation of Chenrezig — a living buddha. watched him go He began by eating a raw animal heart. My mother removed her ear ornaments and set out for many I Bhari Labrang. officials. When the trance ended. handed in my resignation according to my promise to mv mother. He blessed me the renovations. on the third day of the trance. the blind oracle ran along the edges of the roof. unwilling to accept my resignation. and abbots would be part of the elaborate I celebrations. Everyone in the family became a monk or nun. he was the same old man with no eyeballs.' in which the young Dalai Lama would hold his first audiences before the final procession to his throne. I When I saw him.

This game was sup- posed to determine who would be the scapegoat. the thirtieth of the second month. from the window retinue. I was also responsible for the statues and new sets of robes for the tailors in Nechung and Gadong oracles. Very few people were allowed into this storehouse of brocades.Gelong. and was meant to appease negative forces in the political sphere. all the way to Samye. "On the appointed day. and Ganden all I time for the enthronement. that An official at the curtained door checked everything after the went in or out. He would go around the begging for money. but many say the dice were fixed because the same person always would be chosen. This cer- emony was said to originate in the days of the Early Kings. knowing that people would never want to displease such an inauspicious character as himself. "Many preparations needed to be made for Gyalwa Rinpoche's [the Dalai Lama's] entrance into the Drepung and Sera monasteries. a face painted black man dressed in a goatskin with one side of his Barkor. New decorations were ordered for the three monasteries in Drepung. Two monks would drag him out of Lhasa by the collar. whose statue was inside —was only one of many storehouses SANDY JOHNSON 69 . Sera. personal der of tailor to the Dalai Lama. We worked for six months with materials from the Namsa treasury high up in the Potala. there was a throwing of ritual cakes and the send- ing off of the scapegoat. We were given a all large space at the foot of the Potala. The Nechung oracle came out in trance with his The day before. of the palace. and the other white. and those few had to take off their chubas first so nothing could be con- cealed in their robes. The Namsa treasury —named Buddha of Wealth. The Lama watched the procession. and a workshop was set up un- my direction. which took several hours. chose sixty of the best Lhasa. His expulsion began with a game of dice with the abbot of a nearby monastery. lay the monks and Dalai government officials lined up in front of the Potala.

which begins on page 129). 'As I worked to restore the hermitage and to make new ceiling friezes and pillar hangings for the Sera and Drepung monasteries. therefore think helped to use up Ti- making it possible for the Chinese to invade. I went into one that had been dug right into the mountain. which bet's merit. JO THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS .within the Potala." The tailor then recounted how he had been stories that I personally affected by the Chinese occupation (so —horror would hear again and again this much so that I have dedicated an entire section of book to those experiences. but many happened then and I including the destruction of the Reting monastery. while torches lit our way through the total darkness among the massive foundation walls. won't go into it now. but things I didn't pay much attention. later. great political I intrigue swirled around my head. Once. Finally he was able to leave Tibet and fulfill his dream: to make a new hat for the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

was curious now to learn something of the monastic system. Although Tibet of Tara. is a patriarchal society. Her practices were so great and her offerings so numerous that she was told by the lamas. they are virtually indistinguishable from their male counterparts. Her name was Princess Yeshe Dawa.GLIMPSES OF ANOTHER WORLD Having glimpsed Tibet. you become enlightened in the next lifetime. "If you pray to will come back in a man's body. and with their shaved heads. with its a little more of the gilded world of ancient I rich brocades and palace I politics. Wis- dom Moon." . role of had heard almost nothing about the if women in Tibet. the abbey I we passed on the way back from the noticed that the nuns wear the same burgundy-and- saffron robes as the monks. the ancient texts tell of the origin one of the female buddhas. and she lived many eons ago. so I asked Choedon we might visit the nuns in tailor's.

7-2 THE BOOK OF T I B E TA . and made a vow instead all to remain in a woman's form. with more nuns fering arriving from Tibet each day. after many more eons of practices and meditation. After each crackdown on demonstrations. Monasteries and abbeys were an early target of the Chinese Communists. herself Then. as Drolma. The Geden Choeling founded in 1973 Buddhist Abbey in Dharamsala was by twenty-one exiled nuns under the care of the Tibetan Nuns Project. many of whom have endured suf- beyond comprehension. Yeshe Dawa would not eat her breakfast until she had freed a million beings from suffering. nuns and monks are regarded with deep distrust. She would work for the benefit of of samsara ends sentient beings until the cycle and there is no more suffering in the world. they feel. It is their duty. she was finally liber- ated from samsara. China and to fight for Tibet's freedom. there were eight hundred abbeys in Tibet. This population has grown to more than two hundred. "Reundermines the race and re- poison. is Their resilience in the face of interrogation and torture in prison viewed bv their captors as provocation." In occupied Tibet. recognized rein- carnations of enlightened beings. housing up to twenty-seven thousand nuns. In time Rescues. According to legend.V ELDERS .Yeshe Dawa refused. lunch until another million were freed. the largest group of Bud- dhist nuns in the world. It has two great defects: It tards the progress of the country. In the words of ligion is Chairman Mao Zedong. the Mother Who name Yet I had heard of very few female tulkus. it has been the nuns to confront who have initiated new marches. and dinner until she had freed she still another million. the Tibetan became known for Tara. Tibet and Mongolia both have been poisoned by it. Before the Chinese invasion.

My dharma teacher. it I al- ready was interested in learning the dharma and becoming was me to enter the abbey. where nuns who had I studied in Lhasa taught Tibetan poetry. but now am retired. And we had to rise early in the morn- Then we would have prayer sessions. at five. study. age sixty-nine and born in Lhasa. History I learned from some Christians I had met in "My childhood in the abbey was a happy time. then lessons. lunch. stairs to is the retired its head nun. at the "There were nunneries top of the hill. prayer master. and I felt so alone. grammar.Newang Choezin. The umze's is primary responsibility is to see that everyone in prayer position. "In addition to learning to read religious scriptures. "Discipline in an abbey may seem strict. skilled at we became embroidery and applique work. We made colorful things out of also dyed yak handicrafts which we used and which brought in money to supplement our abbey's funds. of this abbey for a long time. went there to the village. "My mother not hard for died when I was a child. and wondered if they were the same in an abbey. considering we were allowed to visit our family only twice a year. she then leads the prayers. and after that. She led us up the her small room." told the umze was difficult for I me to imagine what life in an rigors of a abbey must be life like for a little girl. The umze also teaches the younger nuns. hair. She motioned for us to a seat in the straight-backed on the bed as she took wooden desk chair. I was very kind. with sit neatly arranged desk and book. had heard about the monk's in a monastery. and so on. who was a relative. "I I was the umze . ing. My room was only a SANDY JOHNSON J3 . I was never lonely that it after that. astrology. Since a nun.

admit what you have done wrong. 'All women got along quite well. to we were dharma stunature. 'I have done and this and this/ But within the scriptures. His Holi- always reminding us of this. It successful uprising. wondering if nuns are im- mune dents. to petty jealousies of the and tensions other young Since women all is are subject to. then there ness is is no conflict." I 'And did of you get along well?" asked." in the would learn more about the invasion and the uprising to months people. The house was constructed of stone and mud. and do prostrations and other things to purify any bad acts within the past fifteen days.little smaller than this one we're sitting in. and all quite comfortable. we could do anything we I liked. You think this to yourself. if "Buddhist philosophy says that everyone wants happiness. here. I think that generally nuns tend to be prettv women. but not so that everybody would get involved. When the Chinese came and there was the unfear. help others be happy." "Was dia? Is it it a difficult adjustment — to leave Tibet and live in exile in In- verv different here?" "In Tibet. Jealousv human occasionally there might be some tension. there a place where vou visualize." confession? is "Is there And to whom do you make confession?" when you is "Confession this not like it is in Christianity. have I a problem with the water it. "I left miss Tibet in 1961. adaptable Also. say. So you want happiness. so we were taught watch our minds. vow to yourself not to repeat them. but now in exile we have to depend on in others. The water Tibet was so clean. regret having done unfortu- nate actions. not out loud. Also. so pure. come. and of the extraordinary spiritual heroism of the Tibetan 7 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . everyone felt I was either flee Tibet or be killed.

a "Delhi-belly" He prescribed a foul-smelling potion. and Ani Gomchen. I Later on that night called was suddenly a felled by what the desk clerk it —euphemistically seemed— tually provided and with certain proprietary fondness. On the way we met an old man sit- SANDY JOHNSON 7 5 . the eighty-seven-year-old nun whom Newang Choezin had told me about. She would meet me for tea in the morning. a master whose name had come up frequently in my reading. and we would go together to see Locho Rin- poche. and we went to find Ani Gomchen.J Newang Choe^in I left Choedon and headed toward the hotel. The next morning Tsering called for me as arranged. which ac- enough relief to buy me a few hours' Choedon sleep.

and four daughters. Sometimes \ I go to the river to wash my clothes. "I lived on a farm in central Tibet. didn't know then cook that the Chinese were com- ing. For four years it. started stone caning. and stav until five or o'clock in the evening." Pleased that we showed interest in his stones. "I buy the smooth stones from the Indian traders. I We believe it paint it compare with the make sure it is right. But then. a bowl. I When all he looked up. On the other. In I my family were four sons. where he got the stones. After scripture to I on the naked body. became a monk at the Sera monastery. so deep in concentration he did not notice us for some time. like all of I the Tibetan refugees. After that worked on road construction. We stopped to watch as he carved a mantra onto a stone. asked him. paint the words because I believe that life if you start carving on the bare surface. I when there was no more work. because of a conI involving a ceremonv. six come here every morning at eight-thirty. he went on tell us about his life as well. under a makeshift tent. I who bring them on I the backs of horses from the riverbank. bottles of water —were neatly arranged to one side. His few belongings some candles. sticks of incense. all ear round.— ting by the side of the road a cup. then you will be creating that the stone has feeling. carve the stone. A fire was kept go- ing for his tea. watched and studied how people did "I then I started doing it every day. through Choedon. during the Regency. beside a bag of tsampa. Before first. Otherwise I am always here. For twelve years I I worked as a in a school in Delahousie. in- cluding me. in red. but flict I left at the age of twenty-five. My daughter is a phannacist at j6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . stacks of scriptures lovingly wrapped in cloth sat next to piles of it smooth stones.

prints of the deities. we turned Ganj's main road and I down a dusty McLeod came to stone steps. When we lane well off lead reached the other side of town. which down to a row of apartments. a prayer wheel hung by a string above the bed. People sometimes give if me my stones. and beckoned us We settled on the edge of the only piece of furniture. and reminded myself that these too is are sentient life beings and that repulsion only a personal view. stepped around slugs the size of cigars that clung to the stone. The walls were filled with photographs of the Dalai Lama. paint the rocks. In my next they might be a litter of puppies." I get red powder from her and mix it with water to 'What gave you the "I idea to carve the stones?" a beggar. Hands together to her tiny Ani Gomchen to sit. six I believe this work is holy work. Ani Gomchen sat cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. I I pray as I carve for all those in the realms of samsara. moved by what I just seen. her bed. and the nun's face appeared. It is didn't want to be enough that I have something to offerings for eat and something to wear. toothless smile. albeit ugly ones. Also the wind that blows across the stones saves insects and other living things from a bad rebirth. seems. smiling in front of her face. In the morning I burn three of incense sticks and pray that whatever accumulation of merit make out This is caning the stones be prayer every morning. my We had walked on Not all in silence. at the door. bowed to us in welcome one-room hut. holy men wear robes. Choedon knocked a wide. no one buys them I put them in that stupa up there near the The water that touches the stones spreads the blessings carved on them. I was lost in it thought. but river. Ani SANDY JOHNSON J J .the medical center." for the benefit of all sentient beings. altar cups.

'What prayers are you doing?' Then he asked to see it my prayer book. Choedon explained it was a Tipill. it which was very old and worn. "My abbey original name was Yeshe Toma. her head shaven. the iron pot on the stove. His Holiness took forehead. Ani- brought out a basket of biscuits. 'Thank you. betan but I thanked her and smiled and demurred. the boxes of food. no one would know who that Dalai This is how I got my name: His Holiness the Lama had come to the abbey in Delahousie to give teachings. la declined. someone came here asking is. If was given the name Ani Gomchen. Yeshe Toma. We nuns waited a long time at the glimpse of him. A film of dust and grease covered everything in the room: the teacups. When I got there. I Once more sciousness that is reminded myself that it is the condition of one's con- important. shook my head and put my hand to my stomach to indicate my "problem.Gomchen's skin was smooth and unlined. reaching behind I seeming impolite. one of the nuns went to see where he came running back and said His Holiness 'Is wanted to see me. after- ward he went door to get was. he asked. at the risk of Then. they had not been washed A large mouse jumped from an open cupboard onto the slab of grease-coated concrete that served as a countertop. I My hostess asked if we would take tea. not the externals.' jS THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS ." and the nun immediately handed me a small brown pellet wrapped in paper. a soiled curtain. this said yes. then and touched to his handed it to me and said. Her burgundy if robes were frayed and stained and looked as in years. She a in to see our temple. which means for Grand Meditator. but when I I was in an in Delahousie. Finally. At the moment it was all I could do to keep my mind off the condition of my very upset stomach and concentrate instead on the clarity in her eyes and the pure joy of her smile. your seat?' I I was very nervous.

I am eighh -seven-and-a-half years old now. my parents were going to arrange a marriage for me into a noble family. Since childhood. all 'After one month. I my wish is to practice the dharma. But don't think we're given a choice. My mother comes from northern Tibet. When was would recite mantras in my dreams.' would deliver food to sit did I where you with in a room with only a pinpoint of light. female. telling me that the journey was very hard. "When was thirteen. whether if am male or female. that time. I Even my if I next If life. the "I head nun honored me with the name Ani Gomchen."After that. I'd like to be a — I have a choice. it re- quested to do to this my friend. Suddenly a hailstorm came up. I My father's family comes from lamas. we made circumambulations with prostrations which took a around a hill. I "When was seventeen I my mother passed away My father went into him through a small hole. that we would have to support I ourselves by begging and might be attacked by robbers. the hut was big enough only for one person. big family in very voung. I take skins of would take I whatever I had and them in to the lamas. with SANDY JOHNSON 7 9 . from I Kham. whole day. They tried to discourage me. But my friend and wanted to do it together. but begged them to let me go on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash with a friend of my sister's. knew I wanted to be a nun. nun am male. I pleaded and pleaded. I closed retreat. At it was easy because was young. not like now At Mount Kailash did many full prostrations. The lama said that would be harder lie do it with another person because we wouldn't be able to down to I sleep. and finally they let the holy places. I'd like to I be a monk. visiting When I'd reach a monaster} I I'd do a full prostration. was the youngest of a nine children in our family. When other girls would mutton and exchange them offer for fancy things. I did pilgrimages 7 all over Tibet. I me go. and a 'dark retreat.

Wk

Ani Gomchen

much thunder and
was watching the

lightning.

We
it

prayed and the hailstorm went back.
a vision of

I

sky. All

of a

sudden
filled

Guru Rinpoche
it

[Pad-

masambhava] appeared,

so big

the

sky.

Then

turned into a rainit

bow. After a while the rainbow turned to green. While

was green,
that.
it

I

saw

Green

Tara.

At one point, she was smiling.
I

We both
seen.

saw
said

Rinpoche
bless-

was very pleased when
ing of the guru.

told

him what I had

He

was the

"When
dain

I

was twenty

I

took some jewelry and valuable objects from

our house, went to a high lama, offered him

my hair, and asked him to orI

me

as a

nun.

When

I

entered the abbey,

felt as if

I

had been freed

from prison.
"Later on,
I

did a long retreat.

I

didn't have a clock, but

I

used to
I

start

the Tara rituals at about four in the morning. During those years,

vowed

8 o

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

to recite ten million Vajra

Guru mantras

of
I

Padmasambhava: 'Oni ah
I

hung

vajra

guru

padme

siddhi hum.'

When came out of retreat,

heard

about the invasion.
"I

received a letter from
it

my lama saying the Chinese had invaded Tileave:

bet and

would be better to
if

'No one knows what

will

happen

in

the future, but
left for India.
I

you want to

join us, please come.'

Two thousand

of us

was fifty-one then.
to

"Word came
as a tulku

me that my brother's
him
to

son,

who had been

recognized

belonging to the Drikung monastery, had been arrested. The

Chinese

tried to get

abandon

his faith
as well

and to denounce the Dalai
him, he would never de-

Lama. He refused, saying they might

kill

nounce the Dalai Lama. Eventually he died
and has been reborn abroad.

at the

hands of the Chinese

"We came
ing in the

directly to
in,

Dharamsala. The Indian government had
roads.

given us tents to live

and jobs building

The

Dalai

Lama was

liv-

Old Palace

at

Swarag Ashram then. Twice a week he would give
to see him,

audiences, and

we

all

would go

which made us very happy.

"Two years later, I was
longed to the Karmapa.
I

invited to join an abbey in Delahousie that be-

hadn't finished the ten million Vajra
that.
I

Guru

mantras in Tibet, so

I

spent another three years completing

had the

same

routine: silence for seven days, then

one day to get food. Otherwise

my

door was firmly shut. During the

retreat, a very

good neighbor would

buy things

food, other things

for

me."
I

"You brought nothing with you?"
life

asked, trying hard to imagine the

of a renunciate.
"I

don't have any other belongings, just what people have given me.

They

ask

me

to

do pujas

for

them, and give
family. It
I

me

offerings.

This house was

an old kitchen of an Indian

used to be smaller, but during

my

three-year meditation retreat,

cut out a wall to have

more

space."

SANDY JOHNSON

Si

"What would you do
"I

if

you became
all

ill?"

never got sick during
I

the years in retreat, but once, here in
I

Dharamsala,

became

ill

for a

month.

thought

my

image of Guru RinI

poche and
a

my copy of a scripture should be given to His Holiness, so
day,

sent
to

message to his residence. The next
I

two members

of his staff

came

me to take me to him, but wasn't even able to get up. So the two men picked me up and carried me to the Dalai Lama's residence. When they put me down could hardly see. His Holiness came over and stroked my head and asked, 'What has happened to you?' He recited some mantras and blew three times on me. got well right after that. Now if ever get sick, visualize that His Holiness is blessing me and get cured."
get
I I I I
I

"Have you had other opportunities

to see His Holiness?"

"This year there was a big prayer going on in the Palace. His Holiness
invited

me to stay the whole time.
many

In Tibet,

nuns were not allowed to

par-

ticipate in

of the big prayer festivals, but His Holiness specifically
his discipline

said during
for

one of his teachings that the Buddha had taught

both male and female ordained beings."

From the time was a small girl, used to write my wishes in my diary. My cousin and would make lists on our birthdays and again on the New Year we allowed ourselves exactly twelve wishes. When Ani GomI
I I

chen was
bra (and

thirteen, she

wished

for a pilgrimage; at thirteen,

I

wished

for a

bosoms

to put into

it),

a horse (not like Heartaches,

who

always

complained and had
dle),

a habit of rolling in the

mud

—with me
if I

in the sad-

and

to skip the next three birthdays

and get to the magic sixteenth.
country
lived in the city;
in the city.

Later, as

an adult,
I

I

wished

for a

home
I

in the
for

and when
all

lived in the country,

wished

an apartment

But

Ani

Gomchen

needs

is

the blessing from His Holiness and the holy

words she performs.

82

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

Den ma Locho Rinpoche

is

the retired abbot of Namgyal

monastery, the Dalai Lama's monastery.

He

lives in

an apartment on the
attendant showed
I

top floor of the Green Hotel in Dharamsala.
us to a reception

A monk
I

room

off a large patio filled

with well-cared-for plants.
learned,
is

admired Rinpoche's Lhasa Apso dog, whose name,
(Compassion,
in Tibetan) After
.

Champa
to Rin-

some moments, we were escorted

poche's private quarters. Immediately
raised her clasped

upon

entering, Tsering

Choedon
floor,

hands over her head, and instantly she was on the
like a cat

her ponytail tossed overhead

pouncing on a

ball of string.

She

performed these prostrations three times with such simple reverence that
I

was moved almost to

tears.

I

had never seen such pure devotion.

Denma Locho
child's.

Rinpoche's face was clear and smiling, as open as a
I

His gaze was direct and peaceful.

presented

my katak, which the
sit.

rinpoche draped around
I

my bowed head, and he
still
if

invited us to

explained that
I

I

was

trying to get a picture of Tibet before the

occupation, and

asked

him

he would

talk

about his early

life.

"

I

was born

in eastern Tibet, in

Kham.

I

am

sixty-four years old.
a child for

My
and

mother married when she was eighteen, but did not have
the family a great deal, so they did
years,

many years. This worried
rituals,

many prayers
I

even read the whole Kangyur. After seven
fell

was born.

"The hamlet where I grew up
ing land.

between nomad

territory

and farm-

From

the

nomads we'd get yogurt,

cheese, and meat, then barley

and turnips from the farmers.
looked after the
a yak
fields.

My

father was a trader,

and

my mother

We kept mostly dzos and dzomos, a cross between
the

and

a cow.

We'd get milk from

dzomo and use

the dzo to plough

the

fields.
"I

remember the

pastures

full

of wildflowers in the

summer, and

SANDY JOHNSON

83

watching

my boots turn yellow as
memory
have
is

I

ran through a

meadow blanketed with
butter lamps coming
family
all

saffron flowers.

'Another

I

of seeing

many

from one of the big houses nearby and hearing
sad,

my

speaking in

hushed

voices.

I

experienced a sense of gloom and
just

distress.

The Thir-

teenth Dalai
"I also

Lama had
remember

passed away.

that

when

the weather got very cold, the water

would
take

freeze in the offering bowls out, dislodge the ice,

on the

altar inside the

house.

I

would

them
stick

which was exactly the shape of the bowl,
a small

then

two of these back to back to make

dhamaru

[ritual

drum]

to play with."

In Tibet,

when

a child

shows highly developed

spiritual gifts or feels

drawn

to ritual objects, this indicates a
life.

deep connection with the dharma
is

from a previous

Called a tulku, that child

then recognized as the

reincarnated lama of a specific monastery and will be raised there, eventually to

become
of ice,

its

abbot. Thus,

when Denma Locho
as a possible tulku.

created a ritual

drum out

he revealed himself

"When I was about six, people began to say that I was a reincarnation of Gen Locho, a well-known scholar from a nearby monastery called Selkhar. This did not please my uncle, who wanted me to become the
leader of the family. Anyway,

when

they

came from
I

the monaster}' to give

me Gen

Locho's robes,

I

refused to wear them.

went outside and curled
I

up beside our huge mastiff watchdog. Eventually
monk, but not
a in Selkhar.
I

was

initiated as a
I

was sent to Bamchu monastery, where
prayers.

spent

good deal of time memorizing

When
else

I

was eleven,

my

uncle

told

me

I

could study in Lhasa.

We set off with a caravan of two hundred
we needed
for

yaks, carrying trade

goods and whatever

our two-

month-long
'At last

journey.
I

was able to

settle in

Drepung monastery and begin studying

84

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

Denma Locho

for the

Geshe

degree.

Most

of the student

monks

in the college followed

basically the

same curriculum: introductory
for five years,

topics for

one

year,

the per-

fection of
for the

wisdom
I

then the philosophy of the Middle
in

Way

next two.

lived in a

room

Denma House with an elderly monk
Lhasa, he turned

who had come with me from Kham. As soon as we got to
into a real tyrant,

me memorize my lessons thoroughly and never He would beat me at the slightest provocation, always believing he was doing it for my own good. After he died of pleurisy, continued to persevere at my studies, eventually taking in students of my own. tried to find dedicated, serious stumaking
allowing

me

to miss any classes or debates.

I

I

dents

who would

not waste their time or mine.

"In the monastery,

many monks encountered
It

beings that were nonretreat

human, and

I

had one such experience.

was during a

on the de-

SANDY JOHNSON

8 5

When I looked the next we used for the inner offerings was left in I the cup. with the skull cup containing inner it offerings in front of just lay still me. if blessed in Tantric rituals. they will scream or rage. She beI gan to the shriek. she answered that she was a woman a village near Drepung. I'd heard that spirits can enter and leave a person's body by way of their ring finger. spirit in someone's body and get to promise to leave the per- 'After I tied a piece of string to the woman's finger. which. I took some white is mustard from substance. ing lifted off and. a woman came in. you can trap a son alone. but the spirit refused to answer. Gen Nyima left had gotten on as soon as but I was slow about going. saying that she was standing in a thornbush. met this neighbor who wouldn't speak to Out of anger. but she was quiet. Gen Nyima. In it this way. still I never found out vividly the who took it —maybe a hungry ghost I —but can remember sounds and the footsteps as lay there in the dark. I and listened. I heard footsteps." I glanced over at Choedon. "Once. Usually when someone I is possessed. When from asked spirit who she was. in Lhasa. I was told that she was possessed and asked could do anything to help her. I my pocket. it. and that tying a string on the finger prevents the spirits from escaping. Gen Nyima and I had gone to a it house to perform a was over. When she'd gone to market that morning.ity Yamantaka in the room of my principal teacher. ritual to insure prosperity. her asked the spirit who was possessing who it was. I had set- tled down to sleep in the large room. supif I ported on either side. only a little of the tea that later. but since was pitch black. a minute or two day. she entered the woman's body. a powerful burned blowing the smoke in the woman's face. who was relaying all this without expres- 86 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . she'd her. Just as I my boots. Then I heard the clink of the skull cup cover bereplaced.

sion. was afraid someone would notice. to him. but they were ribbed. In any case. SANDY JOHNSON 8 J . and I made her promise by the that she Palden Lhamo (female dharma protector) of Drepung Podrang would leave this neighbor woman his alone. we weren't allowed to wear shoes. degree. Finally. "I suppose that her this was a witch who went around harming someone. In summer. He would be glad to continue our talk on another day. and I considered getting flesh-colored socks." Rinpoche a double. remembering. It seems these people of Shambala go flying in and out of each other's bodies by way of ring fingers as easily as we cross the street. came in and spoke quietly for Rinpoche apologized and explained he had to leave an ap- pointment. her spirit. thick skin. it I and after a I my feet developed a I thought of a so- lution: bought some flesh-colored cloth and stuck to the bottoms of my feet without anyone knowing. it when trapped frightened her very badly. "After receiving my Geshe College until 1958. left me to ponder the power of the witch who could emit and returned to own story. Witchery and possession were utterly unremarkable to her. Rinpoche explained how others." His attendant He laughed. and soon my feet blisstreets Even the better-paved time were very cold in the early morning. or I body slept while she inhabited perhaps she had the power to emit a double. I went onto GyumeTantric The discipline there was very harsh. although the streets of Lhasa were very poorly paved. tered. I had to walk to my debating sessions.

Scholar. yes. and ritual master of the oldest Buddhist lineage in Tibet. the fourth incarnation of a scholar and saint from eastern Tibet. I can take you to meet the rinpoche who has been to Shambala. "Oh. life. in a He lives with his wife and daughter house near the temple in the States in Dharamsala. . In fact. who had she had ever seen any of these phenomena She smiled brightlv. I asked Choedon. His daughter. Choedon explained. who ex- had been educated and seemed remarkablv \\ esternized. who. if Tibet.THE SHAMBALA TOUR GUIDE Over tel a lunch of momo [Tibetan dumplings] and rice at the Holived outside Tibet half her herself. is Khamtrul Rinpoche words the only holder of the Fifth Dalai Lama's complete in direct transmission in India todav. meditation teacher." We went to the home is of Khamtrul Rinpoche.

I 'As a small child. tell went around singing. which has tion. "In the prophecy of my birth. and til great monastery of Litang. "My tle real name. I was so happy that they had come. this is was founded by the Third Dalai I a monastery of the Gelugpa school. born that A list was submitted to the search I party. The abbot of a different monastery made a similar prophecy about my rebirth. for "I kham in its name. is is Jamyang Dontrup. There year. he reminded me of a Buddhist painting. Seated behind a large desk in front of a window. I tried to go someplace SANDY JOHNSON 89 .plained this as she showed us to Rinpoche's room. you have to the us who we are and what are names of our horses. all but before we take you away. Since the prophecy said the search would take a long time. They took me with them. all but in Litang. 1927. or incarna- I'm recognized as an incarnation of a lama of this monastery. the who searched for the incarnation in Ba couldn't find me. into a middle-class family of merchants. and said not to look in Ba. The trul is for tulku. which means the Lama. we're glad you're so happy. but I because people my parents moved from Ba to Litang when was very young. remained there un- the age of eight. They told me. no matter where lived. right. in the area Most of the families made I their living through trading rather than farming. So the committee went there and asked to see were five of us the children born in the Year of the Dragon. they kept looking. When they met me for the first time. in was born an area of eastern Tibet known as Litang on Decem- ber 19. a place named Ba was mentioned. my personal name. his head encircled by the light behind him. The kham there my tito my monaster). At the age of four. I identified each of them. refers as a lama Khamtrul Rinpoche. the men and their horses. and they were satisfied. entered a monastery known It as Litang Gonchen.

than any girl I had ever seen —appeared to me. Finally. later that would discover Tibetans believe the strongest of three past-life memories occur between the ages begins to fade.000 Padmasambhava. learning their religious rituals. help me. but no one spiritual guide. and five. eastern Tibet. She was dressed a traditional and ornaments very different from those of Tibetan She behaved so seductively toward dance.else.' last I leaned forward in rapt attention. I studied in the Nyingmapa ophy. At in the north of Tibet. I amount of prayers. was so excited. a of about fifteen or sixteen —more beautiful in clothes girl. astrology. seemed able to consulted my Jamyang Khyentse I Chokyi Lodro. Always at sunrise and sunset. she said " to me. we should the kingdom of Shambala. I would have life. But tradition. It was suggested that make a pil- site in Minyak. visit When I calmed down a little. But while I was there meditating had an amazing dream. consulted I people. my mind many would frequently become upset and unbalanced. although can't remember exactly the words. I 'Brother. I was hearing firsthand about the kingdom I known in English as Shangri-la. and recite 400. a very clear it memory of my rec- previous monastery and relations in that So was no problem to ognize the "I men who came looking for me. he took to the kingdom C)0 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . but being young and lazy. the picture "From the age of eight up to the age of twenty-five. searched my memory for what had read: After the Buddha Sakyamuni it gave the Kalachakra tantra to King Suchandra. girl "In this dream. I me that all the atoms in my body began to I probably told her I all sorts of things. I made recited only half in a the prescribed sacred cave. I and philos- when was I sixteen. who did grimage to a sacred prayers to "I a divination. the pilgrimage. After that.

and I said that didn't have anything to worry about. As her brother. I said. 'Wow!' Then realized that she had called me Brother. In "She showed me her seven eyes: two in the ordinary places. friend. Gathering up asked her my courage. I how she knew who was. She I'd me wouldn't remain a monk. and my predecessors didn't also told make that past fifty or fifty-five. but or Dolka. SANDY JOHNSON 9 I . the warriors of ers Shambala —the dharma forces. The story states that in the future. my first thought was.' and on her palms. speech. couldn't Rinpoche told I I tell I her how I 'My tell really felt I about her. this would create conditions for my it I longevity. as well as gradually to release the imprint of the karmic patterns in our mindstreams. Since I'm now it sixty-five. all of whom guarded these teachings. in fact. The king was followed by seven dharma kings and all twenty-one lineage-holders. White Tara. hardly what my excited atoms expected. very I much want to go to Shambala with you. so instead of calling her Sister in return. one besoles of her feet tween her brows. As with is the tantras. 'You fool. two each on the this way. and mind. she said.' I have to you that have no idea how to get "Again she called me Brother. Laughing. don't you recognize me? Just look straight into my eyes. that she was there to guide me. but that benefit of many beings and marry a woman named Dolma married.of Shambala in the north and built an inconceivable mansion for the Kalachakra Buddha. practition- — are to rise up as an army and fight the negative Khamtrul me his reaction to the girl's invitation: "When this beautiful girl in my dream said that we could visit there. she revealed to me that she was. but there. the purpose of the Kalachakra practice to purify the body. She said that if I looked straight into her eyes. None my previous incarnations had when I had to leave Tibet because of the Chinese presence. when things look very dark. must have worked.

I for a number of tulkus to mam maintain their family I gave back my monk's vows and married. we saw Mount 9 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . there's the Dergey Printing Press. Being close to her created so doubts. bliss that had no questions.' air in we sailed through the my dream-vision. I on a white cloth next to this beautiful and we flashed away. I much mind. My wife's name is Dolka. in order to It became necessary lines. which are 'As there. At the time of vour predecessor. no conceptions in ordinary experience. but "I sat remained a lama. I was your auntie Tsewang still Lhamo and I carved some of the woodblocks. airplane. Pema Lundrup. girl.Khamtrul Rinpoche everything changed. 'Look. no my What I felt was beyond any kind of And we went so fast! If I could go that quickly in an could visit New York from India three times a like it day "We flew over a mountain that looked had a snow lion on it.

mothers' nary of all I and healthy. She me that each petal had thirty-two itself each the size of New York. In the tantras will states that the inhabitants of Shambala I subdue the evil in the uniall verse with bows and arrows. Fur- thermore. the destructive modern weapons that were developed World War When 9 3 SANDY JOHNSON . in the all heart of the kingdom of Shambala. Just looking at these dwellings gave and lovely rainbows.Kailash. each city was altogether. The houses themselves were splendid golden-roofed palaces decorated with brilliant jewels. From concluded that ce- of the inhabitants of this great place were humans. lay the mansion it of the deity Kalachakra. which ing jewels came from their wish-fulfill- and cows. were almost a million towns and more than a thou- sand great cities. for whatever a person desired rich would spontaneously appear. tinkling bells. no competition or discord. as well as too many seem other places to to support any mention. there was that in the kingdom was no sense of you and I. "The families in Shambala each owned large parks. and great wealth. Right in the center. built by King Suchandra. and an area that looked looked like a snake about to catch a frog. only perfect peace and harmony. with ponds filled with scented water. me a great feeling of ecstasy. free a feeling that they were not born from their wombs like we but appeared miraculously. and wondered about that because in of II. We also passed a desert that like a tiger's skin laid out flat. including a vast barren area that didn't form of life at all. there surrounded by nine hundred smaller little cities. Most extraordiof Shambala. then a magnificent range of snow mountains. but perhaps lestial beings or maybe nagas [water gods] . to work. ringed by of the grand cities. this I "Some not all of the houses were built of light. "We continued to fly north tains that looked like a gigantic until we came to a great circle of petals. No one had had are. mountold open lotus with thirty-two cities. Since everyone was from sickness and war.

then into a lama. "The most Tibet. ers' wasn't their fault. I found myself back in my cave. ignorance." I asked Rinpoche if knowing such a place exists. Fleeing the country for all was hard not just for me. I their unwanted reforms. he was in deep meditation I and shone with such radiance that first was unable to look directly at him. everything disappeared like a rainbow except and myself. helps him in times of difficulties. to the don't know if dreams of are true or real. who gave me a number empowerments. After girl that. but as this dream of my visit kingdom Shambala with White Tara my guide was very vivid indeed. the counter-agents will come automatically and appear in the kingdom of Shambala. The weapons in our world. my I "Then suddenly. The people were It under orders to invade our country. in a dream or in fact. were there. have no specific feeling about the Chinese today. are created out of various types of materials. it was their leadChinese. "I these experiences have made stronger. I woke up. his expression grew serious. "When we He the dissolved were presented to the king. I decided to leave Tibet. We began to express our love for each other. in it dream. He thought moment. she said that I should not worry because whatever destructive methods are created in our world. difficult period of my life was when the Chinese invaded I making in 1956. and was dawn. of into light. The inevitable came with the unsuccessful uprising Just after His Holiness left. but Tibetans.I asked my companion about this. but kept hoping that the situation would change for the couldn't go back to Kham or the monaster)' because the Chinese in 1959. but the antimissile systems of ful Shambala have the more power- nature of exalted wisdom. I was twenty-five. I went to live in Lhasa better. But instead of challenging it my faith. They thought it was good for the future of the 9 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . she explained.

We all should in religion or not. who turned to me. threw the answer. then on it Palden Lhamo. their Root Lamas. She asked a matter-of-factly. or Vajra Kilaya. more unusual than cup of tea. for a clear answer. "Would a divination for you?" she asked. again until Then I throw the dice. Together they both must pray to the Buddha. emies and love only for his neighbors understand the importance of this. For such ignorance I feel bad for the Chinese "Throughout the world. she were requesting nothing as easily. concentrating a few moments. all and Rinthe high- poche complied My mind automatically as flashed to priced psychics in the States." SANDY JOHNSON 9 5 . Dorje Shonu. "Both the diviner and the person seeking advice must have pure motivation. Just as he would do a divination on behalf of a as if I was unplugging the if microphone and putting away the earphones. and the spiritual community. and tectors. the Dharma." whether we believe The interview had come to an end." Rinpoche you like something to Choedon. Thank you. desire. "Yes. He nodded. box and. will A person who has anger for his enultimately suffer. if them onto the He gave I Choedon asked Rinpoche I he would mind explaining the art of divination. Choedon asked Rinpoche friend. I throw am certain said of the answer. wish that these poi- sons could be banished from the world. I watched with fascination first Rinpoche took three dice out of a silver table. especially dharma pro- Palden Lhamo. flustered by my eagerness.but that people. their deities. I Rinpoche to do felt my face red- den. If the answer is not clear. is wrong thinking. and hurriedly took out the tape recorder again. whether among Chinese or Tibetans. and she thanked him. I personally visualize call myself as my I personal deity. all anger. and ignorance I are the roots of suffering.

We had I but given up. questioned the waiter again. which contained my entire journal of the had lunch at the of interviews. We were same hotel and had walked back together." he said. had already searched there. when I decided to look a second time just as I in the restaurant. on a chair! Impossible. so pleased with the answer that I'd forgot for a moment to wonder how he knew had an illness." my health I —now and my a in the forseeable fu- Rinpoche nodded. ran to find Father Bob. I Choedon said she'd take me thanked Khamtrul Rinpoche. sala for who had come to Dharamstaving at the an audience with the Dalai Lama. lists my notebook. to have another look at the table was about to leave. "The illness you were stricken with few years ago will not return."On what subject?" she asked." franti- take care of your things properly or you I may stared at him. For the next hour we retraced our steps." I smiled. I decided where we had been I sitting. an Episcopal priest from Chicago. stopping at the bus station to con- firm mv reservation for the It following dav. listening. with each passing minute I grew more frantic. I'd Hotel Tibet with Father Bob. addresses. He then threw the dice and studied them. I was not until I was about to leave to meet Choedon that I realized my notebook was all missing. Father Bob." he said when I was almost out the door 9 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . held breath as he closed his eyes and mentally asked the question. Then he added. there. I had spent the better part of the afternoon cally searching for trip. "But you must suffer a loss. There was the notebook. I "You are fine. will 'And vou marrv again. "Primarily on the state of ture. Then. and so had Khamtrul Rinpoche suggested I go to the temple and make an offer- ing to Mahakali and ask for her protection.

no matter what the weather. and explained that she a wrathful "Wrathful does not mean and angry. SANDY JOHNSON 9 J ." placed my offering of rupees a white silk scarf at Mahakali's feet. fierce Choedon took me to the is room where Mahakali form of Tara." Inside the temple. mostly who were circumambulating this seyeral the temple. "Or no matter what their health. I and blue. "Go make your offering now. She told me many of them do an old times a day. it means strong and protective. and I walked up the hill past a stream of people."What"" He laughed and said. stands." Choedon elderly. and asked that she fayor me with her strength and protection. so bent oyer that her We passed woman who walked head nearly touched the ground.

hoodwinked. when the illusion faded. who was on way to the patio to watch the sunset.THE TALKING FROG Once back to my again. joined him. . and I walked hotel alone. Choedon and I separated for the day. I had walked away from the only marriage I'd had. my relationships were from my chaos. But then. Is it possible I still could get it right? " Have yo u heard his the one about the talking frog?" I asked Father I Bob. and thought: Do I want to marry again? It was real a disturbing thought. And if while. After that. perhaps for dinner. past the beggar. we'd both feel betraved. with his and his dancI ing marionettes. it would seem we had found refuge in each other. past the shopkeepers folding their shutters. and unawakened mind a little mutual rescue missions: You save save you from your politics or me for I'll your or even your as unhappy marriage. past monks in twos and threes headed to the sitar monaster}.

its great and dived invisibly into a ravine. wings catching the light. 'Really.' "Finallv she bends down. your position on prince charmings?" I told him about Khamtrul Rinpoche and said the divination. the sorry. I'm not kid- says. you won't be promise. and tucks him into her pocket. don't I also have to accept his div- ination about marriage?" "I would think so. I'll turn into your Prince Charming/ The woman ding. It's I The frog leaps after her.' it looks down and sees a frog. Why? Don't you ever want to marry again? Aren't answered.' " think I prefer a talking frog. 'On second thought. picks him up. My peregrine nature has denied me that. SANDY JOHNSON 9 9 .' "Is that Father Bob threw his head back and laughed. me about his own marriage. "If I'm to believe what he about my health. is you ever lonely?" "I never give myself time to be. 'Hey. I woman walks on. you've been waiting for your whole life. which I strong and steady and For a moment felt cheated. 'Hello! is walking in the woods when she hears a You there! If you kiss me. 'Please. 'I him for several moments. 'A woman voice call out." told I He lasting. wait! You forgot to kiss me!' The woman takes him out of her pocket and looks at she says. then asked. A hawk wheeled out of the north and swept down into the shadows. We watched the sun begin its descent behind the mountain.and we ordered beers. Doubtful.

but would be sometime around 1934. and traveled to the lowlands only meat and cheese. Tibet's original inhabitants were nomads living in high. he so much a part of old Tibet that I include his story here. They lived in low-slung tents to trade made of yak hide. They spoke their own dialect and dressed in fleece-lined robes. grazing their herds and yak between winter and summer pastures. "I area of come from it a family in western Tibet near Mount Kailash. charm boxes at their necks and long swords Although I at their waists. When I was five . I'm not sure of the exact year I was born. an nomads who lived and traveled in groups. would not meet Namtak Yundung and is his family until later in Switzerland. all Tibetans live in towns or monasteries.NOMADIC LIFE Not of sheep large. open country.

had two I sisters and four brothers. At night. when it rained so the At night. Then at Losar we al- drank beer or chang. my mother died. munities ever got to experience spirituality and monastic stantly being con- on the move. who would go where in the region to graze their ani- The decision was based upon how many animals to go quite far in the herd and how big the family." groups would always help one another when anyone Up until this point. But nomads It did not normally learn to read or write. and goat. We didn't grow our food. on products from the animals.5 cars old. And lots of butter tea. They were more like roaming pirates and would steal an animal whenever they could. "In the middle of the tent was the fireplace. we'd sleep around the edges of the tent. most of the people I had met centered their lives around monasteries and temples. Sort of an antelope or The rest of us slept on cloth sheets with fur coverings. we lived like nomads ways have. yogurt and dry cheese from goat's milk. a sort of iron grate big enough to hold two pots. These ran into trouble. was believed that reading caused SANDY JOHNSON I O I . are quite religious. yak meat. We We animals who were too weak to follow the herds. "Nomads We do practices and pujas daily. two people would stay outside to watch over the sheep. The thieves didn't belong to any group. we don't have in Switzerland. I wondered whether the nomadic comlife. as many as seventy families would come together to decide mals. to make sure they weren't harmed by wild animals or stolen by thieves. Some had away to the north. on a mattress made out of the thick fur of an animal a goat. Eight across of us lived in one large tent —about twenty meters My father slept —made of yak hide. for drainage On the floor keep were Tibetan carpets. "Once a year in the spring. used to invite lamas from the regions to killed only old visit us and give teachings. We'd dig holes rugs wouldn't get wet. close to the walls. "Our diet consisted mainly of tsampa.

"I was a monk for five years. was ordained monk at a Bonpo [pre-Buddhist animistic old. Namtak seemed reluctant. Thev had two or three tents. the lama already knew Namtak showed me about the mystical Bonpo a picture of his Bonpo lama wearing I a yellow tell pointed hat and a yellow-and-red robe. religion. I "By the time with reached seventeen. and more than a thousand sheep. I so. as opposed to my family's one. These long-haired dogs would herd the sheep and protect them from thieves and wild animals.too much stress on the eyes. and I learned to read in the backyard. I seventeen horses. and many dangerous dogs that were bigger than sheep. that the Chinese my lama had been having visions for ten years would invade. When asked him to me which predates Buddhism in Tibet. but he was ing against teach- them because manv of the rituals involved killing. If someone wanted to learn to read or write. tradition] monastery. who had sheep all learned in an abbev. who would become my we wife. My sister. Since day. Very aggressive any in nature. we had to work with the studied at night. My main teaching was Nyingma. which was more than two thousand years "In the monastery. More and more I could as the saw lamas leave the country 10 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . without asking as a my family's permission. Then Her family was much bigger than my own. they had to go to the monasteries. twelve yaks. "My lama knew many shamanic practices. When we got the news that it. I wanted to do something more I my life. I "We decided to leave Tibet because when the Chinese came. not practice anymore. later My friend Tenzin Dolma." "When did you decide not to be a monk?" gave back my vows and married. went to a monastery." they had in- vaded Lhasa. the dogs were more ef- fective than human when it came to protecting the herds. taught us.

near the Upi At the border were three checkone because none of us had a We couldn't passport. We lived in the camp about one He made the whole journey or two Our son was born there in 1963. were sent first to a region called Puri Bopaka. refugees had settled. while we We had a few horses. Orissa and went places. I'd heard many stories of the things they were doing. 'A year later we were sent south to Orissa. "We the Dalai tries. and mads we knew nothing about farming. in his mother's womb. Even though we didn't have any direct contact with the Chinese. But the Dalai Lama hadn't ers arrived yet in Dharamsala to negotiate with the Indian leadFinally. We had to points. because Lama had organized support from the USSR and other coun- many Tibetan years. using the many other Tibetans. money we had. which we used as pack animals. along with SANDY JOHNSON I O . we received permission to cross into India. a great experience. but after the first day. We left on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. We went by train to Manali. first took us eight days to reach the border of India. I had an instinctive feeling that the Chinese were bad for Tibet. But was so hot. the horses started to backward on the it. She'd never been in a hospital before. These we took to the second checkpoint. after two months. My wife and were put to work. "Five of us started to escape together in 1962. where. She found it wonderful. Also.situation got worse. district. and she gave birth in a hospital. icy track. ourselves traveled by foot. and other holy and finally up to the north. Benares. That's why he looks so strong! My wife had no problems during our escape. out of I the heat. so we had to go back It and walk around It was very hard going. We were relieved to be in high altitudes again. go through the fill out papers saying who we were and wait for pass- ports to be issued. last so this didn't really work. We down the mountain wanted slip to go over Nede pass. where it we found a house as no- with a little bit of land and began farming. about the flood of Tibetan refugees coming into the country.

of the families were too big ten times because couldn't afford to buv in Manali. during the stay in India. how to get through this pe- how we to survive. but from the time of our escape. We worked for three rupees a day. at first When I'd Red Cross asked us again.Namtak Yundung and Wife building roads. she died. Red Cross from Switzerland would which ones wanted to emigrate. In time. who was sick. we was hesitant because / o 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN E L D E . We were only four—my wife and son and his But I younger our the sister. that was barely enough to eat on. and We had to repair our trousers nine or new ones. My wife worked with the baby strapped to her back. told them we later. but many to be taken to Switzerland. couldn't travel because of little girl. we didn't have time to think of anything except riod in our lives. two years agreed. I another was born. the "While we were come and Most talk to different families to see of the families wanted to go. It was all hard.

but does say that if the Nepalese and Chinese begin to have conflicts. has been rebuilt. Of course. I like to be buried free. my wife. elders.heard that in Switzerland we couldn't practice Buddhism. "On study the other hand. Buddhism as they would have been had they grown up profound path of our We're afraid that they won't continue the A whole new generation of Tibetans is getting teachings from Western lamas is rather than Tibetan lamas. ReI Tibet can cently become more hopeful about we heard that the monastery where had studied. all My wish is that people who are able to read would read about Buddhism and think positively about the future of Tibet. "Our family is very happy living in Switzerland. who never had much of a chance to to hear Buddhism when we lived in Tibet. We have everything like all we need. Her practice is not to harm other beings. in I Tibetan earth. which the Chi- nese destroyed." SANDY JOHNSON I O 5 . "We are very happy also that people around the world have been exposed to Buddhism through our refugees." felt asked Namtak Yundung how he about being so far away from his homeland. This depressing. I would Tibetans. and all my goal is to have a better rebirth for myself and sentient beings and. that wc could do only Christian I practices. would invade Tibet and the people would have to say anything directly The text doesn't it about the people returning to their country. But that turned out to be untrue. to reach enlightenment. eventually. that the younger generation of Tibetans does not in is seem to be as interested in Tibet. Our one concern. though. and to avoid negativity in thoughts and action. then getting their country back. has had the opportunity many main teachings and to do intensive practice here in Switzerland. and would like my country to be [in can show you a text where Padmasambhava prophesied the eighth century] that the Chinese flee.

they belong to another time. I thought. God help us. My mind. I made a stab at meditating. was no match 06 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Over the years I had tried various tech- niques learned mainly from books. and my success had been hit-or-miss. belly. But very soon for Delhi- my sick stomach took over. to Shambala.That evening. I Then. seemed. on Indian reservations control trate or I in sweat-lodge ceremonies. wonder these people belong in the as I sat writing in my journal. was either concen- be cooked. Is it any fell prey to the Chinese Communists? They don't real world. sat cross-legged on the floor and quieted it my mind. It was forced to my mind to survive the excruciating heat.

told Kelsang-la I had better cancel it. Tenzin Choedrak. and the astrology professor I had scheduled. using advanced methods of Tantric meditation and visualization. the Dalai Lama's personal physician. My first I interview was with Dr. But Kelsang-la wouldn't hear of "What better place to take your sick stomach than to the greatest doctor in the world!" John Avedon wrote extensively about Dr. Delhi-belly had worsened. Kelsang would be more familiar with the terms.MEDICINE AND ASTROLOGY Jam pa Kelsang teaches icine astrology at the the Institute for his Medin- and Astrology. My experience with crit- ical illness had given me some understanding of the enormous power of . I had been given name as a translator for my terviews with the two doctors as a fellow teacher. He had survived twenty-one years of beatings and torture and starvation in a Chinese prison. Tenzin Choedrak in his book In Exile from the Land of Snows. my appointment.

Choedrak was appointed senior personal physician to the Dalai Lama's mother. until Two years later.the spirit. one of only fifty entered the Lhasa Medical Institute at students. and starva- I O 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Dr. the was written on the doctor's twenty-one years of beatings. Dr. We entered through a narrow. Tenzin Choedrak. to the study of medicinal formulation. the doctor was able to go to India. where he studied for thirteen years. and I my own recovery was profoundly helped by healing techniques taught to me by Native American medicine men and women. cult field of science taught only to selected students. his head lowered over papers. Dr. following the Dalai Lama's flight to India. I sat at his desk. where he became joined the Tibetan Medical Institute in physician to the Dalai Lama and Dharamsala as chief medical officer and head of the research department. Tenzin Choedrak seventeen. Since 1984. Choedrak's office is across the square from the large building that houses the Institute of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology. curtained doorway to an office at the end of the hall. face. Choedrak has been involved in research programs with Harvard Medical School and has participated in conferences on global health throughout Europe and the United States. The doctor looked up. I had witnessed with my own eyes a woman's malignant tumor "miraculously" cured believe — later documented — in a peyote ceremony. in his own country by the Chinese for twenty-one years. he was imprisoned 1980. WTien he It was suddenly staring into the tragedy of Tibet. So with considerable curiosity —and a very sick stomach — I was taken to see Dr. a diffi- He also devoted eight years In 1953 Dr. torture.

when the doctor that I Kelsang-la explained to had a "very bad stomach." at Then he looked my tongue. and the third sions. of the eighth Tibetan I The powder is then mixed under the into pills. silver. He told me I had a microbial infection gold. first finger. Precious pills are made from and jewels that first have been boiled with certain plants. I We can't find feel that these and it is an effective treatment. so you get weak." the skin with the he explained. then ground into powder and dried in a cool place away from sunlight. helped to strengthen their blood." SANDY JOHNSON I O 9 . can go to hell!" "Now all you Chinese We were about to begin the interview." Immediately the doctor "I press reached for my right arm and placed three fingers on my wrist.Hon in a maximum-security Chinese prison. "There a cure. but on the blood. was also the face of a man who. "the flesh with the second. full moon month and made told the doctor about my bout with cancer and asked if Tibetan medicine had a different understanding of the disease than Western medicine's. when he was released from prison and stood on the red line that marks the border on the Nepal- Chinese Friendship bridge. difficult to find it is the same. I press just hard enough to feel the bone. and are negative in that they I methods ful effect good in one way. found some patients it France who had When I gave them Tibetan medicine. the retina detached. His left eye was damaged during one of those prolonged beatings. that could easily be cured by "precious pills. is not a different understanding. the eyeball knocked into the upper But it left side of its socket. cancer. am familiar with have a powerin radiation and chemotherapy are as a treatment for cancer. Each finger has twelve divi- each of which reads the pulse that corresponds to a particular organ." which detoxify the blood. turned and shouted.

d.. Then between the seventh and eighth centuries. which was then practiced by a single family who were part of the royal Tibetan court. sixth century. another his famous medical scholar came. and the Tibetan father of medicine. Teniin Choedrak Dr. "Tibetan medicine is 2. this Around the from Iran. famous teacher taught medicine near the time of the Buddha.Dr. In 253 an Indian sage came to Tibet and taught his medical system.500 years old. the Tibetan king Trisong Detson. time and taught system in Tibet. Yuthok Yonten Gonpo. organized the first medical confer- / / o THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Choedrak then proceeded to give me a brief explanation of the history of Tibetan medicine. In the Bonpo tradition. a a.

They compiled first tant textbook at that time and established Tibet's medical college. text has classified almost 1. So many chemicals are used now. and that eighteen different diseases would appear. They held this meeting in a place in Tibet called Samye. often in the in the form of vapors or gases. "Our era seems to be the time prophesied. transforms into poison in is the stomach. and people often have negative reactions to them. when one touches certain plants and the hand is develops a rash. SANDY JOHNSON III .243 different medicinal plants and classified diseases into 1. Another type occurs self when one eats food that not in it- poisonous but.600 categories. India. scholars talked about their The different medical a very impor- own specialties. I treated many people there who were working as officials at that time. producing a major medical textbook. Melung. I "When I visited Russia. Nepal. another burst of medical energy ap- peared. water.000 people suffering in Russia due to gas or chemical poisons ing from the Chernobyl disaster. when not there is digested properly. which listed 2. the question arose about what would happen in the future. and other neighboring countries like Mongolia and China to participate. "Our medical sons. and plant poisons. At that time. There are result- 600. Then a kind of poison that external.000 different types of poi- There are various animal poisons. People would find it impossible to maintain their diets and behaviors properly during that period. learned about many gas poisons. like those carried as by snakes or dogs. survivors who suffered poisonous disease. the coming of industry. Kashmir.ence and invited many doctors from Persia. which would result in pollution of the air. and sometimes transmitted that atmosphere comes down from the sun. It was prophesied that in the coming time there would be a great change. "Then in the tenth century. or Country of Medicine. and environment.

three fruits. something and phlegm. but it is very expensive. and so on. and then go on to study each root. when we want we need to to to analyze or study. forty-two branches. students at Illustrated Tree of Mentsikhang (Medicine House) have to study the Medicine. If still deepen the analysis. bile for warmth. there is too little warmth. they are taught how to associate the appropriate chapters of the tantras with different parts of the tree. sometimes to bile. for flexibility. and two flowers. I am formulating the crucial medicine here. body gets hot. two hundred twenty-four this leaves. nine trunks. then you get fever or your starts shivering. that beings. the fluid or translated as wind. So you have study many. is the heat part of the body If excessive. we go up to sixteen hundred subtypes. my twenty-four patients were completely cured by Tibetan mediso well that they Our system worked though there is hope to create a branch clinic in Russia. branch. The ingredients call for gold and several ground-up jewels. Choedak to describe the system tome. I three humors control the physical condition of human read that the three like chi) bile. the heat part of the body responds water\ factor in the body r is phlegm. into a hundred different types. After learning diagram. a problem in getting the proper medicine there. rubies. and phlegm three sults. and I asked Dr. I and diamonds. or all Root Tantra. all To understand how of the interrelated parts fit together. There are five types of each of these re- humors in the body. including emeralds. and if they get out of balance." had read of the complexity of the Tibetan system of medicine. humors of the body are lung (or subtle energy. These three we classify. then sickness The movable part of the bodv is controlled bv lung.All of cine. "If many years. "Subtle energy accounts for the movement of the body. then your body / 12 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . which has three roots. Buddha explained in the first.

in general.gets cold. their blood grows stagnant and they from shortness of breath. "You can recognize lung energy by movement. if you are frightened. and disturbance of lung affects the mind. has the effect of slowing plexions. usually such a person doesn't have extremities or the enough and the abdomen get cold. This is. it way to understand lung. the blood gets very thick. You won't find fat. "Lung the is also intricately connected with the mind. he or she isn't very energetic. can't circulate properly. not toward body energy. goes into body fat. is close your eyes. When you open your parts of the body. in short. That is lung affecting the "When fat a person eats too much so beef. Then the passage through which the lung energy it moving becomes very narrow. Phlegm is by nature like the water element. like unhappiness. much blood in their sys- tems. this mouth. one part should be is empty. These people have reddish com- "When suffer people become obese. mostly this We call these people phlegm-character persons. "Many of our health problems. a dis- order of phlegm. As a consequence. two parts should have food. Ideally. one should be liquid. 'This the cor- SANDY JOHNSON 113 . Disturbance in mind affects lung activity. then your heart starts to beat very body. although in further study gets very complicated. Lung functions like an electric current which vou connect so something can move. stem from our diets. Alcohol also down the blood. So if you have heat. and is forms in the body. fast. The stomach can be divided into four categories. Healthful lung energy pushes the blood and gets a very easy it circulating throughout your body. it When a per- kind of person eats something. the color of his complexion very pale. Often is when son is obese. When you have a problem in the mind. operate any of the movable due to healthful lung energy.

The most effective place to take the pulse is on the is wrist. fever." He told me that surgery. If the phlegm proportion normal. tors believe in surgery He added that Tibetan doc- now. Choedrak cited a reference to an ancient textbook that talked about surgery. just over the radial artery. "Now we come to bile energy. was once a widely- practiced art in Tibet. including brain surgery. If bile is the main energy that helps with digesIf out of balance. you begin to shiver. In addition to tors at humors and an elaborate pharmacology. the joints are A correct proportion of pleghm also helps is with the stability of mind. In the West es- many people eat raw foods. then one has a digestive problem. If is phlegm. Each finger monitors "inner" and "outer" pulses —hollow organs / 14 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . but lack much specific knowledge. the person bile is with healthy energies will have normal body heat. The the factor re- sponsible for body heat. Usually. the right pulse for taken then the left.rect pattern of diet to help us digest pecially. which takes a whole year of study is Mentsikhang. Dr. that they had developed many surgical implements and methods of anesthesia. like vegetables and cheese. But when the mother of King Muni Tsenpo died after an operation to lessen the water around her heart. if there too much phlegm. If the patient first. tion. which can't be digested properly. then you have good digestion. Tibetan doc- must learn also how to read pulses. The operation had damaged her heart chakra so badly all that it impeded her death. because energy gathers at the heart level be- fore consciousness leaves the body. that en- ergy works properly. female. The doctor presses the middle three fingers of each hand on the flesh and bone of the patient. a simplified explana- tion of phlegm. "The body's is fluid or liquid part flexible. the reverse order is used men. surgery was officially banned. of course. you This is develop a there is too little. and get more energy.

the doctor monitors the heart of a male patient. weather also affects the — as well as the "seasonal pulse. they have recently shown an terest in the value of preserving Tibetan medicine. Tibetan medicine and astrology as the are as inextricably linked mind and bodv. Although the Chinese burned ical texts but critical Tibetan medin- during the Cultural Revolution. and — after six weeks —the sex of the child can be deter- mined. For example. with his der is left." "like a vulture attacking a bird" or "like a hen eating Imminent death also may be diagnosed through several rare pulse reading.being read as the "outer" and solid ones as the "inner" pulses are taken altogether. phlegm. the orthe "constitutional or reversed for women. The pregnancy pulse. Al- though astrology students are not required to study medicine. of taking the first incredibly bitter-tasting water. for instance. The doctor also determines pulse" of a patient bile —whether he or she is dominated by wind. I which must be I partlv chewed then swallowed with hot was symptom-free." after which the state of the humors body can be investigated. — thus twelve These relay information about the conditions of a patient's organs. soon apparent. Thev are taught in conjunction with each other. The pulses is for various conditions also are taken. Within three hours pill. the doctor then is is able to con- the illness "hot" or "cold. Each humor —and there are five varia- tions of each of the three humors —has a characteristic pulse. Again. with his right index finger. medical SANDY JOHNSON I I 5 . Descriptions of the various types of pulses range from "limping" and "quivering" to grain. returned the following day to learn about the role of as- trology in Tibetan medicine." since the or- gans. the lungs. Through an clude in the if analysis of the pulses.

even though a person's span can be calculated. which describes the personality based on the natal horoscopes chart the unfolding of a person's lated life. and over- luck in business or career. Here have a windy and phleg- matic nature. Physicians consult medical astrology of the when determining the best day week for treatments such as moxabustion or gold needle acupunc- ture. one does not have the karmic potential to for star is The Tibetan word karma. Most Tibetans wish to know the time of their death. love to meet new people and exchange My weakness could be I impatience. / l 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS .students must study the astrological sciences. life Four major themes appear in the Tibetan horoscope: all all span. over- bodily and physical condition. and my life could "end up with poison. one's karma is written in the stars. the natal and the age at which occurs. situation. one's person's life life can be extended with prayer and good deeds. life Tibetan is The span calcu- and divided into nine periods. However. and residence(!). I I seemed to be sampling morsels of Tibetan culture on this jour- willingly agreed to have my I astrological chart done by Jampa Kel- sang. Unlike European astrology. The patient's life-force and life-spirit days are deter- mined from their natal animal sign. The two charts I'd had done over the years were learned that I interesting but for the most part unimpressive. chart. so always be aware". that that I I promote frequent changes of feeling ideas. each ruled by one of the heavenly Each period is bodies. economic and political power. Astrologers also forecast the general welfare of the country. so that they can life prepare for a good rebirth. as A also can be shortened by such external events if earthquake or war or a terminal illness survive such events. Astrological calculations are always made for marriages and births. for a patient. interpreted in relation to it its ruling planet. As ney.

will a Tibetan cannot begin a journey on an auspicious date. over a lunch Tibet. . We'll to a rather abrupt see. poetry. requested that he not give me the date of my death. with upbringings free of problems. I My father was district governor and my middle school educa- had tion. and I am advised to control my temper. I went to village "Our was close to the border with Bhutan. and danger (all my health was in dates were correct). I of spicy noodles and tukpa at the Hotel began my interview with in Professor Dakthun Jampa Gyeltsen. to travel a great deal. separated from partners. On the whole the reading was surprisingly accurate. astrology. "You have good dren who are dear to you. Jampa Kelsang also told me. After the Chinese I invaded in 1959. "I was born 1939 in Lhasa. I began to study the shortcuts and got to I know all of the passages for the time when would make my escape. lest wake up on that day and be litI I erally frightened to death. I had done the astrological calculations to deIf termine when the most auspicious time to leave would be. who are sup- portive of your work. so after completed my parents invited teachers to our home to tutor me in the studies of and grammar. but the chart does come of seventy-four. . each time went out to care for the animals. I overcame many obstacles. he often take a small SANDY JOHNSON I I J . In order a special university. but I am coming now into a time of great chil- peace and happiness. Jampa Kelsang didn't. You have a much better and closer relationship (this to toward your maternal side than paternal side" girl the original daddy's in store —although I had no way of knowing then what the planets had forme).use lots of money unnecessarily. end somewhere around the age Later. to study for the higher science of astrology.

When I the Tibetan Institute of Medical and Astrological Sciences was formed. blood and is fluids are the water element. then all I strapped my luggage to my back and started walking. pleted com- my studies. "Astrologers are also consulted before marriages are arranged. and "In Bhutan I the next day to the Bhutan border. We consider the situation from four I 1 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the flesh the liver the earth element. "Tibetan astrology and medicine are based on the same concept of five elements: Wood. the earth see. on which we live. "These verse: the five elements are related to the external elements of the unifire water you drink. element. the metal we use for chopping. 1 waited I till dark. the lung. office of His Holiness the Dalai was appointed to the Lama. fire vital organs. spleen. earth. all walked night to the top of the mountain. a Tibetan makes diagnoses according to his astrological calculations.piece of luggage and move it a little down the road so as to begin the jour- ney symbolically on that "I left day. We believe that all vis- ible objects are five composed of these five elements. metal. when I came to Dharamsala. muscles are the wood element. kidneys. and a Tibetan doctor reads pulses but also thinks about the patient's animal sign. and so forth. where I served until 1967. he says there is wood element. to make sure the combination is good. the the bones are metal. the you use for cooking. and I am now teaching. the trees you "In our bodies. Tibet in December 1960. when he was born. water element. fire. and water. heat is the fire element. when a Tibetan astrologer makes a calculation and finds an imbalance in the as- wood element. As for our the heart. is wood element. Thus. At the same time. metal. he trologer says there is a problem in the liver. When a Tibetan doctor makes a diagnosis a disorder of the of a weak liver. earth element. Even the wind contains elements.

Then. so her health very important. which we make according is to his birth- Or if the woman's health situation unfavorable. we don't print. So for him. stop. their success. their health. Would they come to find out if they should part? "I have found this problem in this modern time more and more. third. who go ahead and get mar- without consulting an astrologer. his life span and success are very important. a marriage would not be good. we look at the couple's life span. "If for example we find the man's success is unfavorable. and calculate their compatibility. and fourth. First. there will be too many prob- lems. Nowadays. so we make the mantra from block deity. the amulet would contain a scripture or mantra of the astrological deity and the animal signs of their birthdays. second. for and according to the problem. Tradition- the husband has to go out and find food for the family. then we write the mantra of some Each sign has its special deity. In some cases.different angles. much time. Usually this SANDY JOHNSON 119 . after they have a prob- lem. is The mother has to give birth. him he wear an amulet. plus she'll have to take care of the financial is situation. ally. So we compare these four different aspects in each of them. they come to me for help. we to make an amulet tain text to free them or ask them do a certain puja or to read a cer- them from their obstacles. "In the olden times. the aspects are so unfavorable that to say. their financial status." I wanted to know if if those already married would consult the as- trologer they felt the marriage wasn't working. It all would be drawn have as in ink made from medicinal plants. we would make an we have amulet for her. so that aspect significant in her chart as well. we might suggest to day. There ried are couples first who are very much So in love. I draw up their charts to find the area where they are having the problem.

we is calculate the time of birth from when the cord is when a person separated from the mother. it is We believe that the child's life begins when breathing on its own. "We 2 o also look at a child's potential for education and capacity for / THE OOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . That might be the this to create antidote for that year to create good karma. "We can predict when a person is going to die. This amulet should be worn by the astrologer is first. "In our system. too." if it asked were true that his calculations can predict the date when someone will die. so that he himself I protected from any negative forces.Professor Dakthun Jampa Gyeltsen is kept secret. We do good karma for ourselves. cut. but generally it is not good to be that specific. and to save the of an animal. Instead we recommend life certain pujas or prayer offerings be made.

" asked if they do horoscopes for whole countries. In the calculations. if peaceful. If the asI trologer's calculations are correct." On that very sad note we brought the was meeting are the last interview to a close. Tibet will be no more: these masters holders of the secrets of Shangri-la. Given this situation. would seem that the In disunity. We also advise which animals would be best to there will be And we look I to see some big loss in the child's life. whether the child will tell do spiritual practice and if it will bring fruitful results. my calcuresult. the result negative. SANDY JOHNSON 12 I . there this year is no chance. appears that maybe is we are going to have a good but in the end. suited. if The chart can us which career would be best and If the work will be wrathful or peaceful. then which kind of work would be best raise.spiritual growth. "Have you done one for Tibet?" "Since there is a problem in Tibet now. we are always looking to see it what changes problem lations it is are coming.

owedmine I woke them I'd at dawn the morning of the Dalai Lama. filling two pages of I my audience with my spiral notebook I with questions. had called. I read over. He was on the patio. My audience with His Holiness would take place the following day at one o'clock. I rushed to find Father Bob to ttell him. Tenzin Geyche Tethong. had no idea how much time for all be alloted. and handed me a slip of paper.HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA HIS The desk clerk told me there was a message for me. and sat over tea. in despair ripped out the pages. The ven- . pacing nervously. but I was certain it wouldn't be those idiotic concerns. he had just fol- «| enough I received notice of his appointment. the Dalai Lama's private secretary. which immediatelv . went for a walk to try to quiet the noise inside my head.

to sunglasses out of the tle One little it. monkey had managed open a bot- of soda pop. welcome. until suddenly heard loud. then realized he simply wanted to shake SANDY JOHNSON I 2 J . and security officer down. . crawling with monkeys. but not Somewhere here . and drank from Another scrambled up the hill with what looked I like a hairdryer. shopkeepers had not opened their doors. My concerns The busy monkeys The laughter . insane chatter from I somewhere up ahead. trying to match that emptiness. . directly toward me. front and back. tell started to go into the hotel to someone at the desk about the of the Jeep. in any great hurry. I arrived early. The woman removed the small Swiss Army knife from my backpack. monkey invasion. . At the same time. for quite a thorough security a pat search. when a man. re- would be sharing the audience. and that His afterward." I fumbled for a my book almost falling. I I walked on. beaming katak. his famous and said. seat They were everywhere. as instructed. They flung candy wrappers. "Hello. couldn't help . spotted an open Jeep parked alongside a hotel. . underwear. shouting. The monkeys left. the sky was as empty and cloudless as buddha-mind. me was relieved to be an observer But the Dalai Lama walked smile. obviously the hapless owner came running out. I Holiness would talk with first. The man I yelled: "They've taken it: I my goddamn car keys!" there was a lesson.dors were not vet in their stalls. to be picked up after the interview. ransacking the car. which included handbags and pockets. . It was explained that a Swiss couple. I sat in an anteroom until a monk attendant escorted me along a breezeway to a veranda and through the wide doorway that opened onto the Dalai Lama's receiving room. hands outstretched. car. laughed. cently returned from Tibet.

While they had stood studying one of the ancient thangkas. When cup. 12 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the Swiss couple sat next to a translator. "Yes. yes. I was writing one know. statues. No. I think I like my word better. yet there was no feeling of The Dalai Lama lis- tened with rapt attention to the Swiss couple's report of what they had observed while in Tibet. I relaxed and allowed myself to be enveloped in the warmth I was fully filled with a feeling of lightness. The Dalai Lama asked if any Chinese were speaking Tibetan. bright lights suddenly flooded them. We took our seats sulted only once. but many Tibetans were When Lama my on Tibetan lighted that the Swiss couple finished their story. filled with fresh flowers. they told him. in large. altars. the Dalai Lama in a chair who was con- And then His Holiness thought a moment and decided. comfortable chairs. and "No. They were describing what happened while they toured the Potala." I I confessed my misgivings and explained that is I was new to Ti- betan Buddhism. he answered. the Dalai Lama's winter palace in Lhasa. of time sus- pended. The room was thangka paintings." spacious. and of being present and alive in that moment. de- when he recognized faces of individuals he had met. and they realized they were being videotaped. He agreed my definition of "elder" had less to do with age than with wisdom this current project and compassion. The moment of his gaze. "But that wonderful! You are an empty told His Holiness about the astrologv professor's dire predictions for Tibet. I I gave the Dalai Native American book and explained that elders. clutter.hands. and expressed great pleasure with of mine. on the couch." He leafed through the book. speaking Chinese.

a living deity of boundless love and com- passion — descriptions that have only limited meaning to a person who is not a Buddhist. on the way out. and hard work it is will eventually lead our captive nation to free- dom. lence. instantly in the such unself-consciousness. However. which perative that I the key to compassion. stood a step below the Dalai I Lama. little." as had heard the Dalai Lama described Compassion. sacrifice. of the "From one women in the stalls. Sitting across from me was a man of such ordinariness. will "I be- our beloved Land of Snows one day be freed. SANDY JOHNSON I 2 5 . "Where did you buy this ring?" Lama asked. She me this oddly shaped turquoise-and-silver ring for very compared the Dalai to the prices of the others. we stopped on the steps. So im- we meet cruelty with nonviolence. The small. my hand. I what has been written. They give us the opporit is tunity to practice tolerance. Our dedication. an emanation of the Bud- dha of a god-king. you and He looked at the Tibetan ring it had at a stall." it to his chest. are our "Enemies most important is teachers. words seemed to was presence of pure a Afterward. but did not fully agree. but he jumped down." I answered.The lieve Dalai Lama nodded solemnly. a forgets man All so open and simple that one dissolve. and monk attendant offered to take a picture. and "We I are just on the same bought it level. aged I woman who had it sold to me sold said that (I was quite old and that must wear when I go to see His Holiness don't know how she knew I was having an audience)." important that our struggle be based on nonvio- "What do you tion?" I say to young Tibetans who want an armed revolu- asked. took said. hugged I. light.

disintegrates. which it will wear around a my neck until tery. had received an edu- I 2 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . then received the red sacred blessing cord." he said quietly. Along with the blessings."I I know this ring. cation of the heart. and blew on it to bless I it. And this strange ring that now held mys- Whatever had gone before and whatever lay ahead. I thought I would I never be quite the same.

entering Tibet with my recording equipwritten on the ment and camera. walked .OUT OF INDIA I had to rethink my plan to apply for a Chinese visa to go to Tiover the bet when news came BBC that two Americans had been arrested some Tibetans as a gift. Now I people were flocking into Delhi. in a village The bubonic and pneumonic plagues had broken out south of Delhi only days before. Still. I needed very little persuading to change my plans. and tourists were scrambling for flights out of the country. Mahakali must have been watching over me in Delhi when I tried to get on a flight to the States. and detained there in a Chinese prison. They had been seen giving an au- dio cassette of a teaching of the Dalai Lama's to After a four-day interrogation. Unable to reach the airline representatives by phone. would be testing even the kindest deities. they were finally released and told to leave the country. even with "housewife" visa.

with haunted eyes. thanked whatever deity was who had come dressed as an English businessman.several blocks from my hotel to the airline office. he was it gone. the heat was suffocating. I On the it gave a ten-rupee note to each of the next to ease five beggars saw. I was then given "the last seat on the last out of Delhi." I When I looked to thank the Englishman. Splatterings of spit on the sidewalk looked ominous. groomed flight the money. At the canceled. lars). airline office I was told that all flights out of Delhi had been An I English businessman standing behind try a folded me I suggested. but did little I my conscience. felt as if I'd just glimpse of the lower realms. I my bags. People wearing hankerchiefs tied around their mouths and noses crowded the sidewalks. The sights on the street were terrifying. in a quiet voice. had a the little girl was not among them. Too cowardly to look into the face of such suffering. five-hundred-rupee note (less than twenty dolslipped the well- Shutting out the faces of the beggars on the official street. I 2 S THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . who stared at me when a little girl reached out and grabbed I my skirt. and dashed back to the hotel to collect way. and gasped I hurried past beggars. turned away.

along with 100. the Chinese illegally annexed Tibet. What fol- the horrific story of his arrest and imprisonment. a week-long grand held in huge tents. i their horses. he told me to come to the Potala the next . When delivered the clothes to him. we were af- attending the annual Kashag picnic. but not to anyone. In [the Dalai later that the Communist and December 1950.000 tunate lows is refugees. 1 was asked to make Gyalwa Rinpoche shirt. and the Dalai Lama. with fine food served from porcelain dishes.CHINESE INVASION AND OCCUPATION: The Tailor. and knew that something was wrong. fled to India. We saw our hosts suddenly ride off toward Lhasa on We didn't find out untroops had arrived. Others were not so for- — like the tailor who had given me a picture of old Tibet. Lama] some Tibetan-style tell pants and a I a layman-style chuba. til "When fair the Chinese attacked Chamdo. Part II In 1959.

and we were able to away from Lhasa. but for nearly a year. He was dressed in the lay person's clothes slip had made him. 13 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . that we would be leaving at four in the morning. Since we I stayed in Dromo we had brought little with us. many as thirty tailors at a time. Tension developed between groups of lors and myself. Rain had washed out foot. "The Chinese presence in Tibet was strongly Houses were req- uisitioned for their use. ordered the local often using as make them new uniforms. and sewing machine that I made him white one on the had brought along. We left two days later. thought that we'd be gone a few days or maybe weeks. I We were close to the border Calcutta. who hadn't brought much with them. We explained I that this would be against Tia betan etiquette. our paper cur- rency was eaten up by inflation. a very unsuitable color. I noticed tears I Gyalwa Rinpoche's for I eyes. dyed it before making chubas. The tailors to Chinese. never understood them. "It difficult journey. came with and when we put up a red cloth fence around Gyalwa Rinpoche's tent at night. The Chinese paid well less —up to twelve silver dayan a day that. and our work was usurped. who had led the delegation into Tibet. the general demanded one as well. had to make His Holiness some new clothes. us. —while our own tai- government paid than a tenth of Furthermore. no one recognized him. but he insisted. which was defused to in 1954 when Gyalwa Rinpoche asked me accompany was a his entourage to China. so ordered some American wool from I was nere- khaki. He wasn't completely pleased. many of the roads. prices went up. and we often had to travel first by mule or on General Chiang Chin-wu. Since it with India. but ally I was so busy with my sewing that felt.day and to wear an ordinary chuba and leather shoes. Many I gotiations were going on. 'As in we mounted our horses at the foot of the Potala.

rarely "Mao Zedong never appeared he came to visit at meals. schools. and the Chinese seemed terrified. After this noisy and cold journey. but by the time he had talked at a number of factories. servants. and we saw him. Once Gyalwa Rinpoche quite suddenly. we went on a grand tour of China. including lamas and their disciples. sort of discrimination. schools. When we entered China. "The Chinese provided everything we needed: cooks. which had a lovely garden. they would take Gyalwa Rinpoche out with only his interpreter. and various other people. drinking tea." I "Did you have much contact with Mao?" asked. we got to Beijing.for he suspected some it. While no one was lined up ings. we were joined by the Panchen Lama and Finally his bodyguards. valets. Our own servants and cooks were sent along with us to see many sights. We peeked out into the hall to catch a glimpse of him. and stores. he gained confidence. where Gyalwa Rinpoche settled into a two-story house in a complex built by the Japanese. betans were. The Chinese speeches were all about how much material progress China had made. At he seemed tentative and unsure of himself. worrying if they had taken him to an inappropriate place. We'd stay up late. and how much we would Some of our party were impressed with the new things they saw in China. three planes carried the rest of us to Shingang. part of the en- tourage continued overland with our luggage. and other At night. but he didn't say any more about "About five hundred of us accompanied Gyalwa Rinpoche to China. cooks. SANDY JOHNSON 13 1 . although ours had not been allowed. how poor the Tibenefit from "help" from China. as usual to see Gyalwa Rinpoche and to receive his bless- They seemed indifferent to his presence. first "In the winter and Gyalwa Rin- poche began to make public speeches. factories. government officials and their families.

Also. and tailors and guns were being distributed from the Norbulinka. to stop sewing for the uals. had all told me some years before that Even though also it I should watch out for of the modern technology. the splendidly detailed thangkas and murals —and felt that I we weren't the poor ones. there were crowds everywhere. 1 was asked to attend rifles a meeting at the Tsuglakhang. until. faster. buried myself in work but could not help but be aware of the mounting tension around me. To me. with the intense heat and molten metal. things got worse and worse. saying that as tailors I we served our government and people with needles. Where else in the world could you use your talent or I your money to attain [spiritual] merit? remember all of our treasures the rich brocades.— but my lama. not guns. Then. for centuries. we anony- had enough butter and cheese for everyone. "It like a hell seemed obvious to me that we were terribly fortunate in Tibet. in March 1959. But I refused. meant that we good motivation. they looked quite poor and undernourished in their drab cotton clothing. the pastures spacious. and the animal realms — a lot quicker. A rebellion was mounting. So I was not impressed when the Chinese told us how destitute we were. The this had heard and wanted to arm themselves. 132 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the factories. The was pure. I because to visit at the time Gyalwa Rinpoche and his party left Tibet. had gone my mother. As the years passed. the gold-washed statues. 'After our return to Lhasa. for the sake of mous artists had created beautiful objects enlightenment or a better rebirth. airplanes if and modern machines made things go didn't have hells. Phabongka Rinpoche. "It advised for them rit- Chinese and to help prepare the temples our must have been my fate to stay behind. seemed realm. Our temples —with all of their beautiful statues air and lavish ceremonies were open for everyone to view. we could get to the three lower realms —the And the hungry ghost. too.

my house to go pay some bills. "The Lhasa way rebellion When the Chinese found their there. like whippings. and all forced to use a single bucket in the middle of the room bet. he had already gone. a Chinese official and Tibetan translator came to my door and told me to 'A few days later. over. it I this. all which had been turned into a prison. returned to Lhasa. From my window. They installed a portable telephone system and began calling ferent places. I remem- bered all the of beautiful brocades that had worked with over the SANDY JOHNSON 13 3 . The condiabout tions of our imprisonment were dreadful: we were packed little in like animals. was soon Later I found out that they were part of a group trying to catch up with Gyalwa Rinpoche. given only a bad food. tied together into long lines. thinking that it might be useful later on. At the prison. The stench was overpowering. I couldn't sleep. so there was not much to say. rolls had a great deal of I time to think. had put down the house and set resistance around the Norbu- they came to my up their quarters in my upstairs dif- rooms. they thanked me for my hospitality and told me they had been very comfortable at my house. nothing like this. for sanitation. just as I was leaving report to Taring House. into the Tsuglakhang.who was old and feeble. With a heavy heart. The Chinese celebrated their victory by releasing thousands of paper flowers from a plane as it circled over the Potala. relieved watched the Chinese shell the Potala. though not everyone knew Anxiously. He had sent a message for I me to come to the NoralI bulinka immediately. they took my money and put me in a room with fifty other prisoners. I and was when did not burn. but by the time got there. In Ti- we were used "Since I to quick punishment. could see many people being killed and others being arrested and 'After the generals linka. I served them tea. They knew me already. When they left. they shot the people who were holed up Many people were killed in the last pockets of resistance.

It made me shiver to think that the Chinese would I contributing to a way of I life they wished to eradicate. but could devote began to concentrate on getting out. the Chinese kept bringing in more people. He scowled and banged his I fist I on the he talked to me. it I would toward my energy on fear and resentment. People's families used to be in food. 'I had cooperated way and had not gotten involved to dismiss tailors. store- that policy was changed. Although so several people still had died. since was eight years old. not waste survival. a fierceme that had spent most of my life exploiting the I masses as the Dalai Lama's table as tailor. When he asked if I could 13 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . when I am I'm no good to you in jail. At just to did this keep up had put punish me in me for my morale.years. I felt that if I could manage to accept my situation. most of which I was inedible. we were overal- crowded. looking man. talk. told him that he could bang his fist he wanted I but I was only a I tailor. the satisfaction of turning out perfect garments to satisfied first I clients. You could use me. I would be happy to work. When in the Chinese had asked for uniforms. 'After ten days. Then started to realize that all of these things prison. I had fallen into despair. Then added I I had been Lama's service for thirty-eight years. said. told "When I was called for interrogation. in politics. would make an offering of brocade robes to the great temples. every had complied. Finally. the head of the prison. I vowed if I ever got out. They began from the old rooms left over from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's time. all when got a chance to to. and I could sew anything. And the food had gotten worse. I don't know. the blessings of being able to serve Gyalwa Rinpoche. lowed to send but after a message was found to give us food in a thermos bottle.' "Where that I I got the courage to say in the Dalai all that. He got very angry at this considered the best of and was about seven hundred me.

they would recDuring the trial. after the cutting I said of course I could. I had mistreated them. I 'After dreamed one night that it I was back in the work- rooms and everything was the way peared and gave used to be. which put in my chuba. get a had to stand on a platform while the Tibetans hurled insults at me. and pulled mv ear until was sure that it would come off. let was given a place to work. units. They tore my clothes. but since they could not. then a pair of Chinese trousers. he brought me a shirt that had bullet holes I to mend. "In mid 1959. and some who weren't but were having a bad time. We often had to work seventeen and eighteen live hours at a stretch. they would be nothing at all and fitting of the brocade friezes for the temples. for a woman apprentice. 1 was told that I had to undergo a public trial. he boasted that he had the Dalai Lama's requests tailor working for him. think they would have killed me except that my nose began to bleed profuselv. and thev me send home for my sewing machine. This was ridiculous. but we received more food and no longer had to packed in a cell. about a year.sew Chinese clothes. The very next J 5 SANDY JOHNSON 1 . The prison authorities had told me that they wanted to exempt me from this. In time. and some other work. in it A few days later. and a I nounce They called me the Dalai Lama's few of the women said that when they had been apprenticed to me. people were encouraged to dedog. then beaten. In order to good work record with the work their fellow Tibetans. beat me with their fists. Orders and a sewing unit. Gyalwa Rinpoche apI me three oranges. so they let me go back to prison. These harsh affairs of the work units involved being insulted by your friends and neighbors. I ommend that things didn't get too carried away. tailors I came pouring in so fast that he decided to set up recruited other tailors from the prison. Then they remembered had never had I I that the officials had recommended that things not go too far with me.

men who had worked for me so he told me about it. and then not pay me. was required to do sorts of jobs. I how much money I made would give them as a tailor. the made me feel desperate. then take We counted sixty-one bodies. the Chinese had given me red wool me monks' storerooms to make into chubas for the prisoners. "I was released from prison in 1962. taken from the was in prison. We had to ask permission to do everything. Although their deaths were supposed to be kept as a tailor secret.' This was almost being in jail. 'After a few months. This was a dreadful instilling I method of hatred and mistrust all among odd people. that anyone dressed what seemed monk's robe would be punished. and my watchmy life it were always nosing into to get information from mv friends: if if recited prayers or not. This time I. Still. and I arrived home in my red chuba. so my mother and While I found rooms in another house. we were sent to Mem more and given our prison sentences. This work took that I up so much time couldn't that I make much money for sewing.' like was told because had to 'wear the hat. hide the dead in the outhouse. and many people died. My house had been sealed. such as watering someone's veg- etable garden or cleaning their toilet. My mother's in friends told like a not to wear this in public. but idea of spending two years in the jail mine was only three. Most people received ten. And they found that made a mistake. In addition to this isolation. credit for 'revolutionary behavior' with the work unit authorities.or fifteen-year sentences. I was summoned again to Meru. The food continued to be bad. I36 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Furthermore. three people assigned to those who wore the hat were to report whatever we ers I said or did. and I my things confiscated.day. one of the was assigned body bearer. His job was to them at night to the cemetery. people would de- mand sew them. along with a few other people that I who were also labeled 'reactionary.

whether they knew it or not. it. In addition to to go to sions. visiting a time of intense destruction. The fill were thrown into the rubbish heaps and used to in the swamps. ings Now the statues were being destroyed. 1 was asked to join the sewing cooperative. months. I had believed and worked for go up tried to accept it it in order to retain "By 1967. as were the paint- and murals. The chapel of the Tsuglakhang. Anything reminiscent of former times was now de- "I couldn't help but think that all of the political intrigue and bad things that had happened before the Chinese invaded created the bad karma that we reaped during the Cultural Revolution. I found in it very painful to see everything that in flames. they just organized I The beautiful brocades had made for the temple statues already had been taken down and tributed as loot. their heads visible. They all were Tibetan. but would float in the swamp an eerie for for several effect. clay statues We heard that they were made into bullets. were also accumulating collective negative at karma that would ripen some future date. difficult for me and to earn a living. Red different families and carting away whatChinese didn't take that dis- ever they could find. The metal statues were separated from the clay ones and carted off to the Chinese. I worked as a cutter and SANDY JOHNSON I 3 J . Although many of the workers there had been my apprentices. was pigsty. once so beautiful. I Even knowing this. eyes looking out. But the Chinese. turned into a filed. The statues wouldn't sink immediately."The Cultural Revolution was Guards roamed the city. with two factions of the Red Guard war- ring with each other. for the part in this devastation. had become extremely of the my sanity. was required many denunciation itself or ideological meetings self-criticism ses- Lhasa was in turmoil. I all odd jobs I had to do as a hat wearer. "In 1969. creating fires So many books were burned that some of the smoked two days.

" I was hearing more and more Commission firsthand accounts of the terrible ordeals undergone by the Tibetan people following the Chinese invasion. and Tibet. In 1980. of Jurists. It was an improvement over the past few and there were no more of the dreadful renunciation meetings. His is as well as in one of the voices from the occupation: "On New Year's Day People's Liberation 1950. a atrocities The International Geneva-based human-rights monitoring group. had only a small amount of artillerv l 3 S THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . monks and nuns were forced to copulate in public. only a few thousand troops. including dragging the accused to their deaths behind galloping horses and throwing them from airplanes. such perience. Hunan. charge of security for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. reported the Tibet suffered at the hands of the Chinese: hundreds of public executions aimed to intimidate the population. This time we were told that our hats moved and once and again we had the right to talk to whomever we wished to go wherever we wished. it as fixing the tea. Still. Our and army. years. their sacred images desecrated. The People's Liberation Army an- nihilated entire villages with air strikes. Monasteries were destroyed and looted.was given various menial jobs to do. Despite my ex- my salary was eight times lower than others in the cooperative. When the Chinese first entered Tibet in 1950. It was reported that children were forced to shoot their parents and religious teachers. Dorji Wandu Phala was chief commander of the Tibetan Government Regiment. we were allowed to apply for pass- ports. wasn't until 1978 that those of us who wore the hat were once again rounded up and brought had been to re- the Meru courtyard. Radio Beijing announced that the Army would liberate Taiwan. and mine was granted almost immediately.

Our cabinet cabled the but to no avail. headquarters of Tibet's eastern front ten months later. Our govern- ment ter sent a delegation to try to negotiate with the Chinese. Appeals to Great Britain. The UN's posi- tion was that Tibet's international legal status remained unclear. and Nepal drew negative responses. India. "In December 1950. "When the Chinese invaded Chamdo. The war between China and Tibet lasted only eleven United Nations to plead for intercession. fearing capture of the Dalai Lama by him the Chi- nese army. It if necessary. where. we could get into India was our responsibility to protect the Dalai Lama. near India.Dorji Wandu Phala a few hundred machine guns and mortars. the United States. days. some of us accompanied His Holiness to the border town of Yatung. quickly." SANDY JOHNSON I 3 9 . Prime Minis- Zhou Enlai offered a ten-point plan for Tibet's "peaceful liberation. the entire country erupted in panic.

500 military personnel. was one of 500 dignitaries to accompany the Dalai trip to Lama on a seven-month China. palace to winter palace. We oversaw about 440. so our delegates. that the Dalai was afraid the whole time.which our delegation refused to sign. The Dalai Lama had just turned sixteen in The following month. That whole year. I felt very unsure. With the signing of that so-called agreement. ment. from summer teries. orga- nized a tour for us Tibetans while we were We saw how poor the common Chinese people were. "Several of us shared the responsibilities. The army had about 8. One service operated solely for the protection of the Dalai Lama and followed wherever he went. I wasn't afraid Lama would be kidnapped. were forced to The document was certified with seals of the Tibetan government that were forged in Beijing. The Chinese government there. consisted of 500 people. cut off from all communication with the Dalai Lama and our governsign. I wanted only to get back I to Tibet. divided into twelve different sections. July. more than ten thouset sand refugees from outlying areas guerrilla forces up tents around the Holy City. Although everyI thing was very well organized. and how severely they were controlled by Mao and Zhou Enlai (they used to call him Chew 'n' Lie). trips who accompanied the Dalai Lama on "In July 1954.000 There were two ser- people. three thousand Red Army marched into Lhasa. or to various ceremonies at the monas- The other service. Tibet lost its identity as a nation-state. They instead offered us a Seventeen- Point Agreement threatening all-out war against Tibet. 1 outside the country. national defense. By December there were twenty thousand "Soon after the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa. but felt extremely uncom- 140 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . "We troops troops. while in the maintained strongholds mountains. vices. returned to Lhasa in August 1951.

four high lamas had been invited to performances without their attendants. The PLA mounted heavy artillery around the entire Lhasan valley. cape. But rumors. 1959. and the future was something to be feared. demonstrations decrying the Sev- "The was in a state of turmoil. and were immediately arrested and imprisoned. Weeks theatrical earlier. Lama was if in the Norbulinka. they shouldn't answer the Chinese. evenings were spent planning the secret. a Chinese general issued an invitation to the Lama to attend a theatrical performance inside the Chinese camp. became then that the Dalai Lama must es- During those eight days. and a rumor swept through Lhasa that the Chinese planned to kidnap the Dalai Lama. felt this very strongly. enteen-Point Agreement were taking place. and during the palace. this him do We took eight days to time the people of Lhasa surrounded They wouldn't It let the Dalai clear to us Lama leave the palace because they were so afraid. enraging the Chinese. Three were executed. the summer The people decided that their ruler let was expected to go to the so. for fear of starting An announcement was made to the crowds gathered at the Norbulinka's front gate that the Dalai cline this Lama would de- and any future city invitations to PLA headquarters. Things grew very tense. News spread quickly. flee Tibet. secret. the Dalai palace. The Chinese I did not mean us well. the chief bodyguard was informed that ness was to guards. performance alone. didn't tell anyone. 'At that time. His Holi- On the morning before. It I was very We didn't even have time to go to our families. By I then. "On March Dalai 7. was already married and had ten children. come unaccompanied except for two or three unarmed body- The general also insisted the Dalai Lama's attendance be kept "We could not agree to this.fortable. The Dalai SANDY JOHNSON I 4 I .

My most urgent totally disastrous clash my unarmed people and the Chinese army/ "On March at the 15. With no belongings. remembering. only one cup in our pockets. the Khampas. two volcanoes. and we were Dorji Phala paused. But sandstorm suddenly blew up safe." behind us. a gun slung over his shoulder. The Dalai Lama dis- guised himself in a layman's robe and hat. the provisions we could bring. His eyes were fixed on a mental image of that protection. his glasses. The Khampas followed us and protected us until we got to the Indian border. The Dalai Lama's a tarp in the two tutors and members of the Cabinet rode hidden under back of a truck. "This was the moment. each duty was to prevent a erupt at any moment between . con- cealing our column. and removed ter. Chinese planes flew overhead. "Some officials were sent ahead to the Indian border to request asy- lum. but- and some meat. the first shots were Mortar shells fell within yards of the Dalai Lama's residence. a platoon of Chinese soldiers stationed themselves southern wall of the Norbulinka. The trip took more than two weeks by horse. we left the palace that night at ten o'clock. Two days later. were waiting with their horses. . underground fighters. but we did. Nehru agreed that the Dalai Lama and his followers could come into 142 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . a secular man. "Exactly how we left is still secret. At one point. all One of the soldiers carried a bag of tsampa. We expected they'd be just on us in no time. act of divine asked He closed his eyes and nodded silently.Lama later wrote in his autobiography: likely to 'I felt as if I were standing between . Near the border. I moment when he. and hundreds of Tibetan soldiers positioned themselves to take aim. and we knew we had been a spotted. fired. witnessed an him how that incident affected him.

" was always curious to know what each person interviewed thought about the future of Tibet. England. "In Tibet. Then have my breakfast and do some shopmy walk. I'd always sewed our government. near Darjeeling. in Switzerland. So eventually came here "When Afterward. wasn't so bad. Other colleagues shared these duties. There we organized schools and settlements until the government-in-exile moved to Dharamsala in 1960. We India. take lot of my prayers. I I first arrived here. who had settled in Geneva. It takes ill. My main job was to set up a school and to to help the refugees.We settled first in Musoori. Transferring it Europe was a big change. where acted as adjunct to the house father at the Pestalozzi Children's Village for three years. I but looking back. I helped mv brother. It's a large Tibetan com- munity. officials were spread around in different places. Phala's were about the next generation of Chinese. I until I Now live an ordinary life. read scriptures. After that. while Mr. and write letters. who are growing up in the West and receiv- ing their teachings from Western-educated lamas. I The next village has a monastery as well. who had become and continued there at seven. went to work I in a textile factor). I get up me more than an hour to say ping. I went to Kalimpong. became the representative of the Dalai Lama I Europe as my son had also moved to Switzerland. First I went to Sussex. and we visit each other. thinking and thus perhaps "I who seem to be more Western- more willing to consider Tibet's freedom. I have a I Tibetan neighbors. Thupten first W Phala. "At that time. The time I passes quickly. "My and well. Namtak Yundung's concerns were about the next generation of Tibetans. political have a feeling that the internal system in China will SANDY JOHNSON 14 3 . brother. retired. were grateful to the government of India.

They also seem more interested in material gains. This children they is privilege. "The Dalai Lama listen to sets an example for the whole Tibetan nation. I a deep comfort. With can face any hardship. so there have this. in My attitude toward the Chinese and the situation is my homeland is based on Buddhist philosophy. which that. my last years in a free Tibet. We him and we feel much better. but if you ask if Tibet is we must say we don't know." I was beginning to bring to understand how this small enclave of exiles had managed enough of Tibet with them to sustain themselves. and perin strictly black haps doesn't see things and white. "I would love to spend going to be free. I how I can our face the situation. 14 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . The Tibetan community has the Dalai is Lama.change. We can have hope. Other nations don't tell my must care for each other and not lose their cultural heritage. No other leader of a nation makes his people feel like this. The younger generation of Chinese seems more open.

but his greatest said. official in Educated as a monk the Dalai Lama's gov- ernment. Kuno held key positions in for twenty-five years. a post to which he had been appointed ing the government service at age eighteen. known March 20 as Kuno. was the hero of the it uprising in Lhasa in 1959. and Chinese. and has published numerous books and articles in Tibetan. He had fought nobly for the holy city of Lhasa. victory. He has taught and lec- tured in universities throughout the world. Kuno was the youngest member of the four-man Council after join- of Lhasa. English. Called the "incredible revolt/' took place three days after the Dalai Lama's escape to India. Kuno be- . which was in India produced by Remington Rand in 1976. he was to overcome his longtime hatred of the Chinese. In 1983.WA R HEROES Ngawangthongup. Twenty-eight years old at the time. In 1952. both in Lhasa and Dharamsala. he invented the Tibetan typewriter.

In Tibet. She also taught at the food. grain of rice represents at least insects died for this in the fields. "I received a good education from that side of old. my family. A single one drop of the farmer's blood. but I when I taught foreign studies at the Tokyo University in Japan. then a courtyard. similar higher. it was their only son.' Then Taste things individually. Kuno. of rice? And how many one grain Think of the people who died working not valuing it you waste a single grain of rice. If My grandmother would say. I needed to change the name Ngawang to get "I rid of obstacles in my life. My father and mother divorced early. don't mix them 146 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . while my father was business oriented and went and grandmother in the family "As a child. or the labor that went into producing it. Later realized that was good for both of them to divorce: my mother was very out a lot. all rice is imported from China or India or Nepal. but with a different meaning.came the official biographer of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I lived with my mother home in the country. learned that the Japanese also have a word I with the same pronunciation. the headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. According to my horoscope. who produced it. with lives an aquiline in face. and ask where it came from. a title of respect. I was born I in 193 1 . reed thin. Later. Kuno now and works Thekchen Choling. wider. When I was three or four years reading and writing. Tall. a Tibetan word. Across the front there were two big steps. but and larger than most. you are she'd really say. found out that it also appears in German. observe its color my grandmother began teaching me Tibetan me that when you eat. "My personal name is is Ngawangthongup. you must look and shape. in construc- tion to most Tibetan houses. It was a three-story stone house. his long gray hair worn in a ponytail. My nickname. religious.

heard of people going on pilgrimage to this holy place. for her. college had fatherless brothers. and we them asked 'mother. me how interdependent the world really is. Also. with the approval of the Dalai Lama or his was SANDY JOHNSON 14 7 . I wanted to became a monk when I was in Tibet.together. the center of Buddhism. if I six years old. so my grandmother and mother brought a Tibetan medicine practitioner to teach me. at least a prayer' It first taught in it. My the country. I Everybody wanted to go to the capital. one woman can have two or three husbands. And give thanks for the food and those who brought it to your table. three regent. so too. these. and to value everything a "Then my mother married Nyingma lama. Therefore. I polyandry. my father took me from my mother's home because he wanted to put me in school in Lhasa. even live together. could have another wife. so they took turns taking care of is "Drepung monastery like a whole university. that's when I became most homesick much. with four colleges. pray for them and generate was she who a determination to return something. I Particularly at sunset. cried every day. you see. I Each monastery would chose nine candidates. we have polygamy and could manage it. Sometimes all three wives all would gather together. wanted to see my [biological] mother. so after he and my mother divorced. If I married somebody. 'At first. but wanted to be a monk. My grandmother and mother were training me as a medical doctor. "Later. the me. or two or I three. he had three wives. But in also loved my grandmother very. if Each woman called I took care of all of the children as " they were her own. father traveled a great deal to different parts of have four mothers.' if it him I was hard for I him to leave home at such a young age. very Drepung monastery. and from would be selected. I I had go. That family had a tra- dition of learning Tibetan medicine. "You know. after that.

depending on his qualifications. digenous people. Although I would see the Dalai us. Until then. In our view. gland." remembered what the Gadong had said I about Tibet's polit- ical system as a combination of church and state. I could not talk to him. then on this side was Japan. like a coalition in the government. China. the Lama is the head of the Tibetan govof all ernment. as the other ear. like the New Year. Lama. Japan. where I lived from age ten to seventeen. with the ruling class exacting a great deal from the peasall ants in a sort of feudal system. That was oracle in 1948. was placed all as a clerk in the secretary's office in charge of the monasteries and I religious sites. when we 'At the school. in "Only Tibet do they have this system where monk officials and lay- officials join together in their work. India. like an ear. We didn't know about other inlike this: Russia. wanted to see something "After of this world. The Fifth Dalai Lama invited of the / 4 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . very few of us in Tibet understood much about the far reaches of the world.one of those young monks who were brought to the Potala palace school. Mongolia. and En- We knew nothing of the Americas. completing this college. Nor could he make contact with at certain all But we'd see him times when we were him giving him blessings. and to the present. We knew only China. 1642. the Dalai that. and Tibet made up one whole face. India. we received a newspaper published in Tibetan. asked Kuno to explain this to me. Russia. But before government was made up the families of the aristocracy. the world looked Mongolia. Every single office has both judicial office that involves monk officials and lav officials —except the punishment. It was only during the I Second World War that we found out how much we didn't know. one would automatically become a monk official and. went to offer scarves. could get a job in difI ferent offices. and England. Since the Fifth Dalai Lama.

So at the Potala palace. those monks were elderly. to join in the justice. At that time the lay- men who made up the government weren't working efficiently. Thev selected SANDY JOHNSON I 4 9 . thought ficials would be good idea to monks to collaborate with lay of- of the aristocratic families. So he invited monks and lamas from different monasteries. The Lama thought mads Dalai the government should work for the peasants and the noof the people —the majority — for their benefit instead of for the benefit of the aristocracy. who had good educations or were outstanding in some way. and the system worked very well.Kuno children of the aristocracy to reform the government. Then the Dalai it Lama and a his assistants. to strive for government to serve the general population and 'At first. train who were like prime ministers. they established a kind of institute or school that trained monk officials.

India. the students within the school. we already had some kind of underground movement organized among official. was going toward democracy. even bankers' sons. Lama had tried various reforms. The whole world as well. the Tibetan United States. In Tibet. These monks came from varied back- grounds — peasants. we Tibetans had The Seventeen-Point all Agreement specified that the Chinese must respect and culture. tween our two countries. when they telegraphed stay us. had bunk beds. is Tibetan traditions we don't have beds. We arrived in the winter and celebrated Losar there. ordering us They told us to and wait. "During the litically. Institute. We had already departed from Lhasa not to go farther. staff Britain. nomads. we returned to Lhasa. 'After the Seventeen-Point Agreement with China. but Tibetans had l 5 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . like a futon. when I had become an felt we needed to move in a different direction. The goal was to foster good communication and a better relationship befor the trip. even Mongolians. In teenth Dalai Lhasa. even over another's clothes. single Other students. I clerk of the member selected to go to the United was to accompany His Holiness there as monk official. the Tibetan govto ernment agreed to send young Tibetans China to study the language. early fifties. The Thirbut they didn't succeed. and China. The Dalai Lama even gave us money like pocket money. Also the custom never to step over someone. when the negotiations failed. and common people. just cushions. Nepal. I And later. summer. We went to Beijing to the so-called National Minority special privileges. Being the States. We waited almost seven months while the negotiations In went on. and we needed to change ent Dalai The pres- Lama also wanted these reforms.monks from cap and traditional monasteries who didn't have any physical handi- who were very intelligent. the government was very conservative po- and the aristocratic families very much afraid of reform. government sent delegations to the "At that time. At first.

One of my teachers. and gradually trouble began. Marxism. The so-called Communist Chinese worked on the constitution had to be translated into Tibetan. I If that had not ready been planned. In the beginning they were say that Tibet belonged to China. At first we were al- lowed to teach Tibetan dents. religion. a Chinese to guar- who had lived in London and Paris.beds. 'At That was 1957. people were allowed to criticize Chinese policy. language. I Mongolian. icy on Tibet. but not our culture or religion. Leninism. He had antee the Chinese government that I would come back. could not have gone back. was on the committee that When the Dalai Lama went to Beijing at the SANDY JOHNSON I 5 I . things started to change rapidly. everything changed." finally what point did you first meet the Dalai Lama?" "The time I met the Dalai Lama was in China. In the autumn we organized meetings. advised I me to leave. didn't plan to return. We had established an underground movement among the teachers and students. and the goodness of China. only yak or mutton. and culture to the Tibetan stu- Even the Chinese were learning the Tibetan language. pretending that but I didn't go back to China. but he knew that I'd return. "The Chinese had all a saying: A hundred flowers can bloom together At at once. I had already scheduled a foural- month vacation to go back to Tibet to see I my mother. first and we were the ones in the school to make a poster that questioned the Chinese polof 1956. and translations. and a few other languages. About 800 Tibetans were living in we began to realize that we were in danger. for was on a blacklist. Then the Peking. and the officials found us out. and a hundred scholars can express their thoughts freely/ that time. They taught us Maoism. afraid to when they began to claim that Tibet was part of their country. So I went to Tibet. "But in 1956. Later. the Long March. The Tibetans were meat given a separate kitchen because we don't eat seafood.

we tore up the old cobblestones from the square. and rein- them with old chairs and tables and bales of cloth from the nearby else Nepalese shops and anything that we could and lay our hands on. They didn't want to offend the aristocratic families. just before sunrise. we heard them on the Norbulinka side. institute. Lama had not advised us to fight. the western side of the building. within hours they had to- destroyed the main school. many peo- ple lived — totally destroyed . The l 5 2 THE BOOK OF T I B E TA S ELDERS . On top of we put hundreds of flower pots tin cans already filled with earth —some early flowers blooming in them. and wanted know about China. but they did not stay long. and the apartments where . so We never thought that And the Dalai we were not prepared. He had demto Tibet. "Just after two in the morning. the medical it. aristocratic families The monks were ported also manipulated by the who sup- them and acted as their benefactors. we heard the machine guns — in the distance at first. That was the worst. was on the translation com- mittee in Lhasa City. in 1959. made of timber a and sand bags. he learned that the constitution was going to be published to as a book. living at the Jokhang temple. 1 "At the time of the invasion. They destroyed of the electrical poles. they shelled the Jokhang. about dawn. the Chinese would shell us.end of 1954. and told me that he wanted to bring more changes Actually. provided For the other. that evening they all started shelling the Potala. the project. we saw that the\ were shelling the tall y Mentsikhang. One. "We were able to erect only two barricades. He also wanted to hear about our experiences in "For almost four hours he conferred with ocratic ideas me alone. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had outlined the democratic consti- tution and even invited village people to Lhasa to be specially trained. forced machine-gun post at the rear of the cathedral. early in the morning. . then nearer and nearer.

the upper part. but there was no way. but that was wrong. and didn't hold out much hope But we never thought that the Chinese would be so hard on the Tibetans or that they would destroy so much.soldiers came. found an open and charged about twenty I taken cover from the shelling. think the Dalai I Lama my brain. the Chinese came area. The Hunchback. at the I "Until 1986. We called him Gurgur. "There was no way we could win. We didn't realize that he was already gone. because we were fighting all We hoped that the Dalai Lama had already escaped from Tibet. fire. There was no way we could have been suc- but I still believe I we did the right thing in trying.' Others after the failure of the uprising. to them again. "They washed about the Chinese brainwashing. so brave. and killed. how to fight. We had only a few guns. they if we surrendered to the Chi- would either kill us there at the temple or we would be put into prison and tortured cessful. "There was one among us who knew him. Even nese. all worked together. The tea women were "Then. and we followed He was I in charge. he could make his escape. thought that we had to but now I follow the Dalai Lama's teachings talk and no longer think I this way. closer. in about nine o'clock the next evening. and we wanted to fight. bet's freedom. In the meantime. I was women who had with two men on for Ti- was very encouraged. fight was very angry Chinese and really wanted fight. I learned how to go within and anger and hurt with compassion. to counter but it had studied this before. but we had no way of knowing. We thought that maybe if we could keep the Chinese out of the temple within the Potala. We us. There was the Kalachakra initiation fully received in Bodh Gaya. I deal with my mind. including many women. Then the people started flooding the temple. They brought us and kept encouraging it The temple was on at and the women went to help put out. Mainly we threw stones. hadn't SANDY JOHNSON I 5 J .

He burst out. One day Gen Nyima you called me into his room. You can clean up the environment in every way. act locally' Locally wherever you are. Are you going around saying Maybe you just are leaving for India? I want to enjoy a ride in a train or an airplane?' told him I thought the situation was getting worse. If practice patience and tolerance. I I wasn't really aware of the Chinese presence in Tibet. which he had told to Denma Locho Rinpoche's description of his me on my second visit to him in Dharamsala: "Since I had spent so much of my time studying. I've had this inner peace. in every then there'll be peace within. Now is pray for the Chinese in a positive way. your mind. "They Local is say. for responsibility. I'd "Before 1986. and I began to think of returning to India. About the time lege. but you also need to clean up your mind. to erase negativity and anger toward the Chinese find such mental disci- from their minds." It could not have been so simple. Think globally. we should them. although that disturbed me. Since If have dropped my anger. I Where in the West would one pline? flight thought back to from Tibet. Now I understand personal level. the situation in I began to hear things finished with Gyume I Tantric Col- Lhasa had gotten very bad. given what these people witnessed. In order to take global local responsibility. it if we hold anger we for a country or on a cannot bring good. but he / 54 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . even used to pray negatively. then the world whole will have true peace. at least pray for I we can't love our en- emies. you must take your own self. When we as a have that kind of peace single person's I mind. in hope that there would be earthquakes I China or mud slides or some other disaster. where had gone on pilgrimage in 1956.moved my mind. all I thought.

always He didn't reply in public. 'So what's up with you?' I know what to say. tea. and many other great beings in Tibet were not talking about going to India. "Chinese spies were everywhere. the snow was very deep. criticized told him that thought CommuI I really all right except didn't accept religion. Otherwise. I used an amulet from Sakya Dagchen. but we met a yak coming toward us and were able to follow the channel We did a divination and decided to press on through a few more passes. We finally reached the Indian border and were path through the snow. so I just sat there. in added that the paid the PLA local at [People's Liberation Army] Kham had behaved well and Chinese people the price they had asked for food and so forth.just shrugged and told me that Gyalwa Rinpoche [the Dalai Lama]. and the sky cleared. and we started out for the Indian border. which contained a small charm for stopping snow. the Ganden Throneholders. all. even in the monastery. and an offering for When I I asked the Gadong ora- what would be the best me. but now I was also the intensity of the practice. we were going over a cross if it pass that villagers would not have been impossible to to ask if I snowed. At one point. silently. When the The came could do anything to help. it I whom knew to be a spy. and didn't said. I Pig [1959] the abbots went to consult the Gadong carrying only a bowl cle went with Gen Nyima on horseback. scarf. he said should stay right there." a Native I had once seen American shaman it divert a storm. we would have fortu- Beyond the pass. I Once a monk from Drepung Tantric College. Communism and nism was asked my opinion. so I knew such things were possible. That night the shelling started. A family gave us tsampa. there. I made it a point never to criticize the "In the second month of the Year of the Earth oracle. his tutors. beginning to see that it is believed then that was a gift. and horses. charm was been stuck nately of its very powerful. among the I first group of refugees to cross over. . SANDY JOHNSON I 5 5 .

he onlv going to become more angry. and creates enemies and animosity. nobody had explained what the first "Anger makes you and other persons unhappy. Amerireligious initiation. the choir can Indians danced and when the monks performed sky. I remembering that I had attended that ceremony. Instead. Jeffery Hopkins The university students were interested in the I prajna paramitas. you will feel a little bit more calm. Besides. Don't say anything. but felt that Tibetans tend to be contented people. I can't generalize about people. mentioned to Denma Locho Rinpoche that so many of the teach- ings I had heard tell us that the practices begin with transcending selfish- ness and anger and jealousy. and to New Mexico when for us. for compassion just the opposite of anger. while Westerners are so it involved with possessions that they find istic difficult to leave the material- way and attend "I to dharma. to California went with His Holiness when he gave the Kalachakra monks performed. Many Native Americans interpreted the appearance of such a spectacular rainbow as a blessing from the Great Spirit for I both the Tibetan and Native American peoples. there was a rainbow in the These Indians liked it so much! They are very I fond of rainbows. the Six Perfections. l 5 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . then you will think and think and see that if maybe there is a misunderstanding." smiled. is you show anger to the you should other person. concentrate on calming your breathing. where translated. and 1978 I spent a year at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. When you get angry it is very difficult to think in temis of is compassion.Denma Locho continued: "Then in 1967 His asked me to go to Manali to serve as the abbot of a in Holiness's two tutors small monastery. but that steps are in getting rid of anger. dances. After about ten breaths. it was the first time had seen the Dalai Lama.

a place Christians. So that sort of regret comes. you have commited some your regret sin will prevent you from I doing it again. SANDY JOHNSON I 5 J . "Both my teacher and it I feared to what would happen to the monastic be like a turtle structure in exile. So if you think that the other person it is showing anger to you. I've seen the lives of many monks blown about like totally disoriented feathers in the wind. it is of no use." asked what future he saw for the Tibetan people and for the world in general. Champa. not that person doing that. for seemed without its shell. the anger inside of him. You have to think and to use your compas- sion. I is the this same with the seat. "If you just feel regret. that will contribute to your not doing again in the future. think. then "If it is very fortunate. I kept thinking that be able to go back to Ti- That hope sustained me even though others who spoke English told me that the possibility didn't look very good. this leads to purification. sin. When I went to a church in London if saw where you could make confessions. who jumped onto dog will bite his lap.try to understand him better. the the stick because he doesn't know that the stick has is no control over it is itself. Many Many young tulkus have been from and have had to turn away life. it you confess and commit not to do I again. abroad. their studies in order to live cope with an entirely new way of I'd have gone to bet. In Tibet. you hit a dog with a stick. This particular idea about and regret. I "But think the world in general little bit is heading for better times. My fears is have been a less lessened now that the Cold War is over and there danger from nuclear war." He "If reached for his dog. but it if you feel regret in your if heart.

Since I am world and have connections with this world. pray that this sort of will suffering will go away.— "My main flicts interest is to help this world. Al- ways I pray that way. would pray that these people of Shambala get back all their country and continue their noble lives for the benefit of beings. be safe. I many con- and controversies and new pray that all my meditations I morning. I 5 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Since there are so diseases. and that everyone. including myself. and evening in this — will be to end this suffering." I. noon. And in turn.

on them. but was the fire women of Lhasa who took to the streets and dared the Chinese to spring of 1959. the former Dharamsala. had told me.SURVIVING THE INVASION The Chinese army targeted monks and nuns it as the most threatening group in Tibetan society. him These same spearheaded the revolt that led to the Dalai Lama's escape "Right after the uprising. Someone . And in the at- when a Chinese general demanded the Dalai Lama's at a theatrical t to Ind 1a. Two ladies ladies to one was a nun —moved many Tibetan Dharamsala. tendance show inside the Chinese camp) without bodyguards or soldiers — it was the women who lay women finally down on taking the road to prevent His Holiness's vehicle from to certain captivity." Newang head nun in Choezin. "a movement was started.

there is truth and we Tibetans should not be much. so we have to suffer at this time. or maybe we a people have done bad feeling of collectively. At the border. joined a small group of them. I am If also praying that the Chinese people's anger and their Tibet should be lessened. We l 6 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . may the compassion and the feeling of goodness grow in last for a the hearts of the Chinese so this suffering doesn't have to time. traders. hospital. in the on by the Chinese. the whole community can accumulate good I things will go in a positive direction. teaching the younger nuns to do the suffering so same. the world should understand that the If Chinese are wrong. I Also. I teach the young girls to avoid haas think to myself that maybe I've created bad karma. had to up like a beggar. people would always give vou thing to eat. since was inthe women who started the movement. tred. such a sorrowful mood that begging wasn't so hard. but I had to be careful to stay hidden. Please. pray for that too. She died Another nun was shot by the Chinese. it was always in my mind that I if the Chinese caught me they would do very bad things to me. it "Usually the journey took seven days. long "When volved with it came time to escape. They stood her up and shot her. and they were helpful. The border in the and there were I area of Sikkim was not closed. and we managed to slip by. The nun was and she fell shot later in the pit. that truth "I feel and justice should prevail. And I am justice. but to reach India. and I am praying for lust for that. Muslims. and other non-Tibetans going in and out. Since dress took us fifteen days I nuns were not allowed Everyone was in to go through. A nun from her abbey was imprisoned and grew very sick. guards couldn't always into Tibet or tell a little somegoing who was who was coming out.turned in their names for starting this movement. So merit.

Everyone had problems and wanted to audiences. When His Holiness learned that knew how to read and write Tibetan. and how blonde! And the bathing suits and the things they wore. His Holiness asked I talk to just him. I who had come from said that had been a nun in Lhasa. and I taught them how to make momos and "Thirty-six of us gland. I came here. We also got gifts from the West. years. I'm still grateful for those alms. he a nursery school for teaching gave in my name to his I sister. "In Dharamsala. went Sweden. It took three months to reach Dharamsala. and we were able to I build and make repairs. "In Kalimpong there were other Tibetans. some went on to Enothers some got married. His Holiness held two public audiences each day. Of those. My sponsors taught me how to make a Western tulpa to cake. In one of the public Tibet. and other Tibetan dishes. He I told us to stay for a bit afterward. to Dharamsala.were on foot almost the whole time. She had already started live in I Dharamsala. was put charge of the nursery. to learn nursing. "I went to Sweden for four years and was surprised at how big the people were. Also at that time. everything was so different. "At first we were very poor here at the abbey. was offered a place to exchange the children and looking after their health. and they treated us well. but the Tibetan people are extremely religious and made many offerings. and came back I into the Tibetan settlein ment in India to serve as nurses or teachers. Christian missionaries were giving out milk powder and oil and other things that were very useful. After some time. so studied. stayed two or three Then an offer came from Sweden I to bring young girls there as students. received SANDY JOHNSON I 6 I .

five of us nuns started poster campaigns to protest the continued persecution of our people by the Chinese. one by one. One monk began 6 to bleed profusely. Chinese and dragged us onto their trucks to take us to prison. We decided to stage a protest march calling for Tibetan independence and the release of Tibetan political prisoners. in her eyes. nine of us. we our abbey. along with two monks from a nearby monastery. On May 15.enough donations of food so that I could do a meditation retreat. I was one of the lucky ones. In that compassion." Dolma which are dark is still young —twenty-four—though cruelty. We vowed we activities peaceful in would keep our accordance with the wishes of His that if Holiness the Dalai Lama. Yet. held a secret meeting. It was then that I heard about the one we will call "Dolma. strangely. We circled the temple three times. We also vowed any of us were arrested and interrogated. Thev made us stand with our hands raised but still we kept shouting our slogans. sacrifice no mat- what they did to us. we met in front of the Jokhang temple. and they began to kick us and beat us with rifle butts and truncheons. our lives if necessary secretly for the sake of left our country and our Then. That made them angry. in the air. I 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and enormous in the small face. "In the spring of 1988. armed police arrived On the third round. one can see centuries of the compas- humanity's unspeakable capacity for sion in those eyes transcends pain. no one would divulge the ter identity of the others. "At ten o'clock on the morning of May 17. and that we would religion." I asked her what she meant. spiritual one glimpses true heroism. shouting our slogans.

and they wanted the names of lie the people who did. asked to see a doctor. I lost consciousness. I said we all were When wouldn't answer their questions. and in a cell. they brought in a dog to attack me. and beaten and "Three months later we were released and ordered to our abbey. They did this in full I view of some male iation who were watching from windows. taken for interrogation again. they beat me. them any names."We Then were taken to Gutsa prison in Lhasa. I refused to give body. to another room. I had no food for two days after. When I came was in another cell. They twisted my arms behind me fainted. "Sometime young in the night they came for me again. and the pain was so great to. They said I was too to have planned the demonstration. "On the third day I was tortured once more. Five more guards came until I in and beat me kicked me. When I arrived I discovered the Chinese had begun daily "re-education" SANDY JOHNSON I 63 . They made me they brought in a chair and chin resting on the chair. When two women doctors came to see me. "Then they took me stripped. balanced I on my my time fell. I felt such humil- and shame. they began to interrogate us one by one. me I for the names of the ringleaders. The pain was excruciating. told them about the blood. During the next ten days there was blood in my urine. toes. They slapped me in "The next morning I was alone over all I I the face and walked away. Guards photographed us and took our names and the names of our nunneries and monasteries. still naked. down and stomped on my Then with made Each and me squat. The dog would bite my arms and legs whenever I moved. there was blood on my face my body. "They asked ringleaders. where I was handcuffed and Two women beat me with truncheons and prodded me in the vagina and mouth with prisoners electric cattle prods.

The re- head nun and administrators were threatened that they would be held sponsible for any future demonstrations by the nuns. I found my mother desperately She had been made to stand naked on the ice for three days for shouting slogans against the Chinese for their policy of ban- ning religion in Tibet. and headed five Mt. We all wore lay clothes. During the six months the Chinese were activities. in Copies of the tapes were circulated among the underground movement Lhasa. I went for to Lhasa. for fear of bringing more punishment down on them. My sister had served a nine-month term in Gutsa prison for taking part in another demonstration. 164 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . I some money. up to nine on a tape recorder smuggled into the The songs were laments addressed to their parents and relatives. reached Dharamsala in the summer of 1990. From escaped to Nepal with I nuns and eight monks. we were forbidden to follow our religious "On February 11. were given additional sentences of years each for having recorded songs prison. my home on the outskirts of Lhasa. collected there." In October 199 3. fourteen nuns. 1990. serving up to seven-year sen- tences in Drapachi prison. "I decided I must escape and I tell the world what the Chinese are do- ing to our people. to stay We were ordered us.sessions to indoctrinate our nuns about the virtue is of the Communist sys- tem and to convince us that Tibet an irrefutable part of China. there. including myself. Kailash in western Tibet. and work admit in the fields. the Chinese expelled forty-three nuns from the abbey. left home without telling my parents where I was go- ing. gious activities. and all other nun- neries were forbidden to "When I reached ill. not to undertake any reli- home.

The Root Lama of Tibet is the Panchen Lama. treated brutally. Inside the prisons of Tibet. When he lived. The Chinese beat us. All of the Tibetans are like your children. The snowland of Tibet is your birthplace. We But are beaten and And prison sentences imposed are limitless. Under the Chinese there is no freedom. Now under the Chinese we no longer are Sacred Conqueror. There are bars on the windows. Where is the freedom we once enjoyed? free. From my embittered mind I sing a sad song. prisoners could be liberated immediately from Tibetan prisons: The barbaric Chinese eliminated him. SANDY JOHNSON I 6 5 . this will never change the Tibetan people's perseverance: It will remain unfaltering. And iron on the doors. There are beatings without end. Our food is like pig food.

The Chinese have transformed our land ofDharma Into a giant prison. the last one will complete her term in 2006. The unending torture which the Chinese have inflicted on us us: Could not destroy We did not die. I 6 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . The woman with the shortest sentence is not due for release until 1998.

The Chinese had caught our cousin's brother. women braided monks turquoise and a large retat coral in their hair and wore elaborate and they employed w we inue of servants. Men dressed in lavish silk and women robes.ARISTOCRACY Tibet's aristocrats trace kings. They also hired to perform pujas household shrines and to teach their children. where four-day picnics and archery con- were held amid magnificent gardens. . Government positions kept the nobility in Lhasa most of the year. served on silver plates and jade bowls and serenaded by chang "When we heard that His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled in 1959. Guests were girls. their origins directly to the Yarlung who held their ancestral estates by grant from the government. the jewelry. and we thought that we had to go at once. but all had country tests estates. discussed the situation and decided to flee as well.

where my husband taught Tibetan language. We lived with the students in a dormitory or boarding school. Tibetan people needed and the Indian government put them work building roads. were called to Dharamsala. "In 1962. the l 6 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS .My mother was too old to travel. In the meantime. "We went of Sikkim is first to India for about a year. to teach we left Dharamsala and went after a and look group of Tibetan children: ten boys and ten We stayed there three years. My husband supervised the more than 600 people who were assigned construction in the to road Chamba Valley in India. The expenses were paid by the French government. "The a idea for the school came from a Frenchman who had come to Tibetan school in Musoori and seen the hardships the children were suf- fering. stones would fall Durof down from the mountains. just a little food. He went to see the Dalai Lama and asked him if he would consider sending the children and teachers to France. but usually in a group. near the Pyrennes. killing many the workers. my husband had an administrative posi- We saw the Dalai Lama often. tion in Dharamsala. "We lived in tents in a settlement village. His Holiness consented. but we weren't able to bring anything with us. girls. Life was ing storms. Everything we had came difficult. We were always working. then we moved to a larger city for another five years. But then to government jobs. my daughter decided to stay behind with her grandmother and look after the house. and religion. to France. but in a separate apartment. then to Sikkim —the queen all a relative officials —where my husband taught Tibetan. culture. "We traveled by horse. from donations from America and other countries. We all were sent by the education department of the Tibetan government-in-exile to a government school.

they were even for- bidden to look up years old. then thev would work in the fields. we came to Switzerland. When the Chinese loosened my daughter you to trade in Tibet. and supported this idea. She lives here in Switzerland now. everything. President "In France. the children De Gaulle agreed. They were treated very badly. My daughter. Teachers worked too. cooking. all "The Chinese had put in the fields. in prison. and had to wade even in the wintertime." anger and hatred for the Chinese country. The red spot over the heart is for tar- SANDY JOHNSON I 69 . a naval officer. years. scenes that mained vivid in their memories. in forced labor for fifteen She never did develop is and even today she has medical problems. where she was kept properly. She "I feel married now Communist government. They depicted scenes the children had re- witnessed in their villages in Tibet when they were little. 'Have up a little bit. received news from a Nepalese trader that was kept asking anyone I who went seen my daughter?' until still found someone who knew her. my daughter got out we I of Tibet. But for twenty years we had no contact. but I who harmed my Mr. I'm sorry. presented the plan to the French government. members of aristocratic families to They were sent to the river to fetch water. When the twenty Tibetan students were grown and had completed "Finally their studies. He explained the stick figures: "This man's hands are chained to a plank. cutting firewood and washall and cooking. do the washing. do. The French students as ing well.Frenchman and his friend. He told me that work in she was alive. his legs as well. would attend classes in the morning. spread-eagle. at the Chinese. who was only thirteen was sent to prison. Norgay brought out a collection of embroidery done by Tibetan students in the school in France.

But still left com- pared to the people in Tibet. "In Tibet. I in their place. a young man is committing tissue." The more wondered for their if. and the people watching are his neighbors. could feel the kindness toward the Chinese. In this. here. cer. / 7 o THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . that so many Ti- betans have learned to develop. The woman standing behind him is the mother. these children are being forced to shoot their parents. "In this one. each carefully wrapped in Mrs. who would be made to dig the grave.» The Nor gays get practice. extremely well. the more my heart broke. he has to work in a factory. accumulation of collective negative karma. Norgay added. I h e a r d about I life in exile." There were perhaps a dozen. suicide. he was a teacher. in my husband we live was a government offi- France.

or had a seventh-cena perfect tury spirit dwelling in the Himalayas sensed would hear about apartment that would become available immediately on States? Are is my return to the story? If so. Several Tibetan Buddhist centers in Los Angeles draw visiting teachers and lamas from around the world. a major airport was an im- portant consideration. land of earthquakes.MOVING ON I don't know at what exact moment I made the decision to move on to California to continue my research. and for all the traveling that lay ahead. Los Angeles also held one of sons. I my into was in the I middle of putting books and oracle files boxes when remembered the Wanla and something about my moving to a place near a great ocean. Had the seed been planted in my mind I then. we really just characters in some other writer's I who the author? Karma? Destiny? fires. and mud slides to . It seemed was even willing to go to the look for answers.

mother of two. represents active wisdom. "came dressed as you. San Francisco's Green Gulch Zen Center is the old- Zen center in the United States. and I called soon after by. the With young a gentleness girl. since I'm the Buddhist in are yours. feelings for my divorce from her father." She listened caringly. She had grown wise and compassionate in this garden of hers. she I explained. with the uplifted big toe." the family and there you were in a Buddhist country writing a book on Buddhism. and said. It was a necessary my own path. and Wendy has lived there for twenty years. told Wendy about my travels to Ladakh and of the terrible three days I and nights of my demons. tens with settled compassion and awakens rests wisdom in those whose gaze upon him. "It stands to reason. each of us has our own karma. I flew north to see my stepdaughter Wendy. Married. re- turned to Santa Fe to ask Lobsang when could come I J 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . I was eager to see Lobsang Lhalungpa again. she has prematurely gray hair. in the center of the room. "And don't forget. which was a face deeply tanned now snow-white and framed from her years outdoors. We spent the weekend strolling through her gardens. I Tenzin Wandrak I had given me a package to deliver to him. born of bond we had created when Wendy was about a we explored our step. said. who guides unborn children and travelers from one world to anlis- The seated Manjushri Bodhisattva. many of them as head gardener. The demons. though." her deep brown eyes reminiscent of her father's and my son Billy's." she re- minded me. zendo (meditation Wendy told me that the standing life-size figure of Jizo Bodhisattva. visiting the hall).Soon after arriving est established in Los Angeles. she felt. the one other. "One of them.

array of birds gathered As before. at least he has a moment when he has this sense that. Would my progress always be this hard? asked. old at life. one becomes concerned with much more own growth. The Sangre de dwelling place of the Native Americans' ancestors. as if robed in ceremonial dress studded with tiny mirrors. I told Lobsang I had been extending my meditations by only min- utes at a sitting. causing the leaves to flutter. an minding on the railing of his deck. there are so many suffering beings. age. or was perhaps trying too "A person recognizes his spiritual potential when he looks at the problems of his existence —growth. Even he is not in a posi- tion to do anything. I oh. —not and just to his limited if fam- but to society and the entire sentient world. the Aspens had turned gold. and with a certain degree of distrust. have the potential to I develop my spiritual strength and vision and power so that one day may SANDY JOHNSON 17 3 . a person widens his concerns ily. "Quaking Aspens. The mountainside glittered in the afternoon sun. sickness." they are called. now. was summer Cristos. in the realm of consciousness. God. death —and is sees that these are things he cannot change. his what he can change his own own way of looking "And that's only the is minimum level of spirituality.He greeted me as an old with great care to friend. I on Ani Gomchen's I steps. where the deities of the East dwell. re- me now of the flocks of the small. delighting in I my travels and listening It my reactions to the people had met. Most of the time I felt like one of those slugs stuck slow. young monks that swarmed the hillsides of Dharamsala. But when true than his spiritual life begun. had been as thickly forested as the foothills of the Dhauladhars. for the flattened leafstalks that catch the least breeze. As growth takes place in the spiritual realm. But attitude. tentatively. when last I had visited Lobsang's Santa Fe home.

Eventually is opens out into universal concern and compassion. "Many people enment others is in the West do not understand it is that attaining enlighttrue task of helping to not itself an end. You can IJ4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . This vision has to do with the dharma. That is spirituality. sitting in a corner withmaterial support. The bodhisattva I vow is. for the practitioner to recognize this as their source of inspiration. sentient beings many. to want God's blessing be someone im- portant: this. Or how the meditations of ten yogis sitting twenty years sealed off in caves change the world. vow that Buddha vow that many other buddhas before him are taking and the vow that many others now and will take in the future.become one of those great masters is who can help others. simple. Notice that we say buddhas. only a beginning.' This itually so as to a way one may want is to grow be of help to these suffering beings.' only self-concern. The lies ahead. Tm a religious person/ or Tm meditating.' if it is or Tm worshiping in a temple." all thought of the suffering of Dolma and Dr. That the heart of spirituality. can work to their alleviate suffering of sentient and help them to achieve took. 'I do everything possible all achieve enlightenment so beings. and thinks. Out of the great mass of it is many have achieved buddhahood. but there is so much spir- suffering in the rest of the world. not just a Buddha. don't care how poor I am. So you see the distinction? That I what Buddhism teaches. Choedak and those still in Tibet. Therefore. and wondered how my tears could ease their pain.' That was the took. from a Buddhist point of view. Dharma it my source of spiritual growth. for oneself to is To pray for hap- piness for oneself. 'I much may have an extraordinarily sensitive is mind. materialism. the own enlightenment. a layman. Pure and "On out the other hand. I'm surviving. "It is not enough to say. a poor man.

emotional prostration. the ecology. 'Of course. turning away from the mentality that says. where the training meditation comes in. mental distress. it has an imand are benefited in pact on the body apart from conscious efforts to face the problem. or maybe some other cause. a basic education "Buddhism provides environment about life: Life and the living are precious.' is Buddhism has view of it a protection from the impact of disease when get sick comes. There is life protects one from false hope and to live no guarantee anyway that you're going long enough to enjoy your wealth. join the army of the great masters who work for humanity. depression. "Appreciating the fragility of disillusionment. requiring care for spiritual and nurturing. and com- passion. illness becomes worse. Humans have the truest potential understanding of life development. now that sickness here. I In any case. which includes a deep and the environment. 'I can do what I like and I don't have to concern myself with this totally integrated its impact on society or life. People who practice take these things very seriously many different ways. The more "But confusion. sickness naturally comes. Unbridled quests for material wealth and sensual gratification only feed an insatiable craving for more and cause serious destabilization and distress.achieve the same thing and become like them. is —wrong is habits. may have done something wrong there pain. and if the more suffering. in I have the how do remain calm?' that the mind. 'I'm so sick. I this same person says. It frees When the mind is free and calm. in terms of overcoming physical illness. You might pop off suddenly because of SANDY JOHNSON I J 5 .' then the fear. A view that When we un- derstand why we — of course. I'm so miserable. wrong is diet. there are so many factors — if a per- son says. fragile. "Buddhism makes people responsible for their own lives and for what they do to others. universal concern.

^IS if 1 ^ to sustain Lobsang Lhalungpa a heart attack." Realizing I really interviewed Lobsang. be only a support for vour spiritual growth. know The Buddha's Middle Way had never avoids both pure materialism and self-indul- gence on the one hand. as long as you that you can use this extraordinary vehicle for spiritual purposes. I asked him now about his early years. I think we should seek only the materials we need and fill up that other half with spiritual devotion. zLJ \ WziL. 1 • 1 -. Then you will Mate- have the combination of a well balanced material and rialism should this spiritual life. this body. "I was born in 1924 into a good family —not that rich —but on a good family.1 f ^4 !#"' H wH». You can attain balance as long as you have that clear in your mind. WR 41 -i-4 mHM Hf . and drastic self-denial on the other. My THE father was very learned and had a great influence me / 7 6 O O K OF TIBETAN ELDERS .

and my personal five. Jet- sun Lochen of Shukseb Hermitage and Nunnery. was not to return to Tibet. I 'At the age of sixteen ter. The regent still ran the country on behalf of the Dalai Lama. to 1951. but Bhutanese. an office directly responsible to the Dalai Lama and to the regent. lost my country to the massive Red Army SANDY JOHNSON 17 7 . The pay was benefits none. For myself. My students numbered more than a hundred. who was staff I a minor. of China. both for myself and my family in Lhasa. for consequences for duty. I refused to comply with the cabinet's order to return and report to new painful decision. little. In 1950 and 1951. left for India. Sikkimese. under pressure from the Chinese. life. including a great woman. a most would be 1 serious. had easy access to His and for many years received advanced teachings from them. Then. I I became a monk at the age of For a while continued secular education with my schoolI teachers for different subjects. schools in India I —the I 1 first cautious step toward Tibet's modernfor three weeks. "Fortunately for me. The government decided to of students to the add a number group of private students already in the modern ization. "My background sis in secular and monastic education seemed the ba- for the regent later to appoint me to the new assignment as director for the Tibetan and Buddhist studies in the Indian Himalayan towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. and Bhotias [local Tibetans] as well. The year was 1947. but at the age of nine or ten began to study more closely with my monastic teachers. After a brief secular education. ran the education program with utmost devo- "From 1947 tion. as a member of the Holiness's two tutors. and the life lonely. I also studied with other lamas. traveling on horseback This was a turning point in my life. my students were called back. I became a monk official —the youngest. Not only Tibetan. Soon af- was appointed to the staff of the grand secretariat at the Potala palace.

to give them to wear. India felt very vul- nerable. This was our cultural challenge to the Chinese! "By 1956. I faced lack of employment and means ter in of support for myself life and my new family. and they pubI lished material in our language to send back to Tibet. That made the Chinese headmaster furious. "Since the regent had rejected my 1948 proposal to set up a Bud- dhist monastic university in Kalimpong. India could do nothing for Tibetans politically or militarily. but wanted to help the Tibetan people in commercial and cultural office close to the pursuits. linguists. At that point a new chapnumerous foreigners: historians. doctrination) at the Chinese Communist funded and managed by Beijing. The I 7 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . I started to teach scholars. I abbot of Bodh Gaya and Ghoom monasteries."During the early years in exile. this terrible journey and were seriously run down and weakened from Some were suffering from TB and all kinds of health problems. The Indian government set up a in new cultural Tibetan border to help Tibetans whatever way they could. and anthropologists who. the children joined our charitable school. His Eminence Dardo Rinpoche. and decided to set up the Buddhist Cultural Center there. my began. Although they still maintained friendly relationships with China. a was asked to start Tibetan radio program from New Delhi to inform Tibetans in and out- side of Tibet about conditions in India and in the rest of the world. came to Kalimpong. some relief —food to eat and clothes Thousands had taken it. Before long. where I lived. they were nervous. cal We also organized a school for lo- Tibetan children who were already receiving free education (and inschool. the Indian government realized that Tibet represented a great loss to them: with the Chinese border so close. how pro- India and other world aid agencies were helping the Tibetans. because the Chinese would visit not permit them to Tibet.

re-create our religious and cultural heritage. I emphasized what felt most bet. the monks reestablished itself in India —which how Buddhism and partly in Nepal. religion. "I started the Tibetan Broadcast in 1956. Our hopeless. but haven't pubto the I of them. Lama and the ministers I "In meetings with His Holiness the Dalai during 1959 and 1960. ran the program devoting all my spare time to helping Tibetan refugees. worked without an without taking weekends off. so much distortion. It soon became very popular throughout Ti- bet. Then I began to translate I Buddhist lished all texts. so popular that everybody began buying radios and batteries so they I could listen to the program. that wanted wait until people had a proper introduction to the fundamental teachings before publishing serious doctrinal books. Nothing should discourage or distract us.gram also included topics concerning education. came out of this tragedy that many of the great teachers is escaped with their followers. Let and foremost vital establish monasteries. with no na- tion supporting our cause. I've translated many important books. Tibetan Buddhism was being introduced West. strongly: a 'We are now facing an unprecedented catastrophe in Tipolitical situation is and trauma in exile. "While the the good that loss of Tibet is great to us Tibetans is and also to the world. we discussed many things. a single-handed operation for three years. I taught at the University of British Columbia for a year. nothing else can save us. The Chinese tried to jam it. to but with so much misinformation. These institutions should serve as the nucleus of our resurrection as a nation/ "In 1970. 1 decided to move with my family to Canada. and I it continued as almost assistant. nunneries. SANDY JOHNSON 17 9 . With- out these foundations. and schools. and our diffi- culties in the political arena. for fifteen years. We need to rebuild our us first lives.

the living dharma! in "We're gradually losing that essence. he brings the message that he has read in books or learned from other lamas. Still. Teachers work with stu- dents. we have to go forward and do whatever best for us and for our children. Bud- dhism is an intimacy between teacher and pupils. sharing their ups is and downs. They are publicized and develop are not is a following. pointed masters will unfortunately. and. all A teacher very different."But I believe that when you lose the people sensitivity ture. without saying that is hopeless. That is the prob- lem now I'm not saying that there good lamas. And felt I probably should.' the way you work. And What will survive? Certainly there will is be Tibetan people. and out of Tibet. but a teacher more than a learned person. I think we will see more and self-ap- more Eastern gurus coming to the West. and these are the pitfalls you to "But there are a lot of people who want make their lives more l 8 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and they come with their titles or their connection to somebody and declare themselves a gum is or a lama." I told I Lobsang that while I was in India. their is cul- Ti- bet is a spiritual essence. it is how things impermanent. some emerge locally. both that's very sad. But Buddhism much more them in than a message. but he only a messenger. That's one is I'm not excluding that. People from India or Tibet who were own not recognized as good teachers and who had no is following in their community or areas see that the West opening. can give a message. it. telling terms of dharma: 'This avoid. —then Tibet gone. but how much "That is of that essence of Tibet will survive are: anybody's guess. religion. But I know how to go about "It very hard to find a good teacher. embody the essence of the teachings he has is A teacher has to learned. and natural honesty and — language. I people —and spirits —kept didn't telling me must is find a teacher. A learned man service.

He meant I that would improve mv relationship with my mother. People honestly seeking a simple truth. is I don't expect anybody to change their name their head. my mother controlled the purse strings. Change has to take place inside. Ever since pointed out that his grandmother I is a very independent woman. how impossible my mother was The issue me? my father's death. write woman determined to pursue a (Me to my mother: "I would have to Gone with the the Wind to get out of debt!" job. I now to consider that maybe my children's karma is not necessarily sub- sumed by mine. whom I he had always always defended. Or get a SANDY JOHNSON I 8 I . how cold. my eldest son. Couldn't he see how unfair. Bud- dhism doesn't care how many is people convert to Buddhism. For the time. to church regularly. I gave him a copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and told listened. and that am her worst nightmare: an unmarried career that does not support her. as though his loyalty belonged with me. applying it. as my father had. Mark was often money. for and he meditates. She did not feel the need to support my writing.") My mother: "Then write Gone with Wind. It cares only how each individual benefited. and to betrayed. or my habit of marrying and divorcing. fascinated. then asked if him about Sogyal Rinpoche. he has always been the most spiritually curious. He goes stopped three boys. ships. This not necessary. felt We had had conversations like that before. He also has trouble with relationfirst which I am quick to take blame.meaningful. and going or shave on about their lives." When Of the I flew east I stopped in Boston to see Mark.

Sera had more than and disciples studying the ancient six books of Buddhist wisdom. In one house. Our house tutor would send "We young monks us up to the rock spring. from the and we would dawdle throwing rocks. were mischievous. "Now I am seventy-five its years older. We liked the long to tuck our feet into our maroon-colored robes and slide down . At eight thousand teachers peak. the Year of full the Water Dog. I entered the Sera monastery at eight. He was born in Lhasa in 1929. there might be hundred to a thousand monks.A EDUCATING YOUNG MONK Buddhist Temple in Geshe Tharchin is the abbot of the Rashi Gempil Ling Kalmuk New Jersey. cliffs behind the monastery with buckets to fetch water for hours. His name is Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin.

Then we would and flying in the wind. more without a and many people would begin to nod off. Some wall of the monks and we would hide behind the race away. was to put tacks on the path leading to the front liked to walk barefoot. which means an arrow of dough. an underground spring flowed. before he would catch us. when a glorious master. and above SANDY JOHNSON I 8 J . alphabet and grammatical system that "Rinpoche's voice was incredibly powerful. Then they'd begin choking and spitting. Then he would tell one of his jokes and startle the daydreamers. Tonmi Sambhota. but a rather I was a and had bad reputation. roar with laughter —unter- the housemaster came at us with his "My house rible goof-off proved to be a very good scholar's house. when their mouths were open. and til we would stick. I was very good at firing dough balls at our teachers. "Phabongka Rinpoche was a reincarnation of a Khenpo of the small monastery atop the famous rock formation. trick On our way back. "In the corner of the cave. a favorite gate. and he had an uncanny ability to relate to his audience. "We also had a game a kind of a called pakda. in the center of which was an odd natural triangle that looked exactly like the shape of one of the mystic worlds described in our secret teachings. created an lasts to this day. Public discourses could sometimes go on for ten hours or break. came into my life. which was about three miles from our monastery. dough ball. But his most famous tool was his humor. especially in the middle of chanting. of meditation in a small cell built "He spent long periods around the a high mouth of a cave in the rock formation. The central chamber had vaulted ceiling. Phabongka Rinpoche. They were about to give up on me and let me bow out before the toughest course of study. It was there a minister. robes flapping and wait for a victim.boulders until the cloth was ripped to shreds.

I was here that met Phabongka Rinpoche. Phabongka Rinpoche passed from this earth. When he saw me he ' put his hand on my head and said. after had passed the lharampa examinations with highest to ask honors.it was another natural drawing. 'Now this one looks like a bright boy! From that day on I felt I had received his blessing. As Rinpoche had had the distasteful job of quartermaster. Geshe Namdrol. "I got angry and swore to him that I would not only become a geshe. and then serving as head of one of the two colleges devoted to the study of the secret teachings. "Before It is my final exams. and I was sent with firewood and supplies. just returned from a teaching tour. attained only by reaching the highest rank of geshe. He laughed. a decision to I master the teachings ben- of myself remember going my house teacher. the lharampa. and how fortunate I was teries in one of the greatest Buddhist monasI the world. and declaring my change of heart to him. Why was I wasting my time? What if to suddenly died? for the "In efit my heart made and others. our custom to cremate the body of a holy person and preserve the l 8 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . suddenly realized the preciousness of to be a student at I human life. 'Now the The day you beis bad boy is going to study and become a master geshe! is come a geshe the day I become the Ganden Tripa!' The Ganden Tripa one of the highest religious personages in Tibet. and with it some special power to I pursue my studies. and that the cave was the "It home I of a dakini first — a sort of Buddhist angel. a wild teenager. In my later years. this one just like the third eye that we see painted on the forehead of one of our female buddhas. We believe this third eye stands for the spiritual understanding in one's heart. Geshe Namdrol used me a little sheepishly if I would help him pick a good topic for the day's debates. but a lharampa geshe I as well (a rank which he never could reach). He holds the throne of Lord Tsongkapa.

within vour mother's born as a human. nor can he take our sufferings awav from us bv himself past actions. and is now a promising voung monk at the new Sera monastery manv buddhas and that if in south India. We believe that a buddhahood all the ultimate evolution of that a buddha can know things. The Buddha did not create the universe. Thus it is a custom for the disciples to seek the help of some great wise men and go out to find the child who is the reincarnation of their teacher. We believe that great saints can select their birth. the mind not destructible. and that out of compassion thev will choose to return and teach again if this will benefit them. for ex- ample (this we have done by the all force of our own past deeds. "We will believe that there are in the universe. structed. "By studying and practicing the teachings of the Buddha. India. "We since tually it is Buddhists believe that although the body dies. all speak of enlightened beings appearing to a saint we mean that any being who has removed all his suffering and gained knowledge can SANDY JOHNSON I 8 5 . but does not have all power. into a like physical matter —continues on and evenwomb if you are to be their disciples comes new body. we ourselves can become buddhas. good and bad).ashes in a small shrine. —these too we believe come from our own and must be stopped b\ ourselves. Therefore when we directly. and I still remember the day when they brought Rinpoche's remains back to his mountain hermitage. "A reincarnation of Phabongka Rinpoche was discovered in Darjeeling. as can every living being. A shrine was con- and a great many of us monks came to pay our respects and make our final offerings. this is help the beings who live there. thev each can appear on one or more planets at the same time. all life.

If I said what they wanted for thing I'd worked and believed in me to. wasn't frightened. I had to read many books two weeks developed an eye problem. kill would have to what then I believed. 'At fifteen. which continued degree in 1953. my whole life long. All of "The final examination was held in Lhasa. without shoes. Overcoming them helped me to become stronger. His Holiness. I who is a great scholar. I'd "For several years killing the scholars been Chinese would begin and monks. thirty years old. I started the actual training. trying to get them I to publicly criticize the Dalai say Lama. so my teacher told me to go home. in the main temple. I was there. I until I was I finished my Lharam Geshe for the final "When so for it came time that I Geshe examination. After that automatically finished there. couldn't study. The re- sults of our actions can't be avoided. blockages that were disturbing me. "I a two-day trip by horse. My mind I became crazy with fever.appear to any one of us. dancing. went I to the Tantric College at as Gyume monastery. I I got unbelievably sick. over the moun- l 8 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . "Five students and I traveled on foot. ask us questions til They would and we would have to give answers from the morning un- ten o'clock at night. in any form that may help us to reach this ulti- mate state ourselves. This happened several times. imagined people coming out of their houses. When afraid that the I worked an administrator. some sort of infection from the paper. couldn't even see light — very painful. 1 chose to go to India. I'd be going against every- So in 1959. the scholars from the largest monasteries were gathered there. If they were to question me. these were obstacles. We had been taught to study karma. By extraordinary luck. And I saw all these different creatures. was given highest honors. They had been talking to the monks and geshes. and they would me. reciting poetry. playing.

the water would be icy cold. We'd up a tent to sleep at night. Seven or eight times they spotted us from airplanes. feet we'd sink into the snow and be unable to With the melting snow. but when we began our descent and the snow would get walk. and people's frostbitten. In Tibet. We'd use a stone to strike the spark. up. The snow was hard high softer. It took us almost a set month to go over the mountains from Lhasa to India. we make them out goatskin. They SANDY JOHNSON i 8 j . Twice was very close. sometimes there would be little farmhouses we could in a little cave. or stay in.a Geshe Lobsang Tharchin tain to India. soldiers in the distance. would get Some lost their toes later. At other times we would have to find empty places I The only thing carried was food and fire-making equipment. Do you call of them bellows? That was very important. "We saw Chinese We it had decided that it would be better to get killed on the road than to stay in Lhasa.

Every day I have want to teach the people it from the top. he must be highly trained in Buddhist teachings. otherwise entertainment. driven out B E TA A I 8 8 THE BOOK OF T I ELDERS . Then to Delahousie. Secit is ond. We covered ourselves with blankets so they couldn't We would find the casings from the shells and use them for to candle holders. His Holiness asked I me to teach in I one of these to learn En- schools.shot at us. is I He one. 'And he doesn't have patience. he should have patience. vour body's consciousness continues. so I told His Holiness that wanted came to the United States. "I went first Assam. in India. manv good things have come to me. so he arranged several schools for them. like that. I asked had told him I did not. have been a good one. Nehru agreed that the young Tibetans needed an education." Geshe Tharchin continued: "We are refugees from Tibet. to teach and translate. After several years. here to New Jersey. A friend had come Holiness. a hundred in all —but they me yet if I are devoted. I who want to learn as much can teach. glish. and eventually on to Calcutta to the university there. this is a result of karma. then he should have courage. If I was to have had not found him or "How shorter. her. Only karma. to find a qualified teacher a long process. Rat-tat-tat. but none of the people were hurt. because I'm very happv this time around. but I can make it Find a teacher who has strong compassion for his followers." a teacher. earlier to start a monaster}' and requested a teacher from His "Buddhist philosophy teaches that when you change your body When the consciousness goes to a bad place. My previous life must [die]. hollow. Third. There are not too many members of this temple — fifteen or twenty families. in 1972." if only He laughed. see us so well. Some of the yaks were killed. to take as I "Dharma has many levels.

Our loss perhaps the greater first world's gain. In a life is. "As Buddhists. only a at deep sadness at the loss of our country and traditions and relatives. as teachings will I now reach all the outer world for the time. for all the rest were ripped the down by the Chi- nese for firewood. tion cave The monk's cell at mouth fills of his wonderful medita- was smashed to rubble. The his halls of I Gyalrong house. the deaths of more than a million of our friends and short way we have become more aware of how precious and are still and how we should practice too is religion while we alive to do so.of our Shangri-la bv the Chinese armies." SANDY JOHNSON I 8 . strange skeleton The Rinpoche's mountain hermitage stands like — only the front wall of stone remains erect. pray these teachings will help us to defeat our real enemies —the emo- tions of like and dislike and ignorance within our own minds. have been knowledge and my tricks bombed some out and burned. which so it the opening that no one can even find now. played where Phabongka Rinpoche gained cm Veshe Lobsang. we Tibetans do not feel anger at the Chinese.

we'd had lunch at an outdoor cafe near the studio where he meets with students. He was shy when reached him by phone. and had another name and address Back in for me. Before our interview. Often he thought of someone too. I sure that he was important enough to be was okay. I told him that it wasn't important enough to be writing one.A LESSON IN JUDGMENT I had asked each and I elder I'd met for suggestions of others list. He laughed and agreed to see me. At the adjoining table sat four men . I I might talk to. I He is called Geshe-la. to ask his opinion. was developing quite an impressive also kept checking back with Lobsang Lhalungpa. A teaching came in an unexpected way the day I met with Geshe-la. he was not in a book. Los Angeles I contacted a teacher everyone seemed to hold in high esteem.

on a farm about twelve miles from the town of Chamdo. "Must be hot in that getup. Geshe-la's eyes had misted over. but we had a number of cows." Still Communism.bantering back and forth about business in voices loud enough to all but drown out Geshe-la's soft. One stopped at our table and must tell you. You have such The a spiritual aura. waitress The had forgotten I to bring milk for Geshe-la's tea. I got up to leave." Geshe-la beamed. ten years you'll get your smiling. and introduced himself. and went inside to get some. strained to hear all Geshe and tried to block out these other voices.." he said. SANDY JOHNSON I £) I . "What are you?" Geshe-la smiled happily and explained he was a Tibetan monk. When came back. Slightly embarrassed. The man's face was of wonder. you know. it wasn't terribly hot today. . I had witnessed a transformation of a sort that would have sworn could not have been possible. "Quite pleasant.. couldn't take my eyes off of you. The men spoke cynically in the hard-edged way people do when they are trying to top each other's I stories. commenting on monk's robes. I've never seen anything quite so extraordinary. " I wa s b orn in 1 943 in eastern Tibet. accented voice. "They're changing. I The new guard wants to put an end to country back. "I men sir. and that no. he suddenly bowed I like a schoolboy and then rushed off. my I mind the while madly judging the men. one of the men was looking his at Geshe-la. Not a big farm. man mentioned that he had a friend who did business with the Chinese and made frequent trips. bet in five. After a while the said. He took the man's full hand again and thanked him profusely. His whole demeanor had changed." He chuckled as I fumed. extended his hand.

The few weeks were hard. so first could share room with him. and devotion of the families and teachers to the spiritual education of the young." at marveled the stories I heard time and again of the incredible knowledge imparted to the people when they were only children. deer. means 'land of love/ for teachings for busy things were a very kind lady. an older learned monk. gious man. When I was six. "I was the oldest of seven. a My uncle. He lived with us for a year and a half. Since I wasn't needed. studied there for twentya break.yaks. attention. "The founder Ganden monastery. "When the I was eight. I I chose to go. without Sometimes we a would be invited place to stay. During those eighteen months I learned many of the sutras by memory. I'm very lucky to have had such good and gentle parents. Ganden Jambaling. three years. such was quite young —only sixteen when I was born — yet she criti- understood how much my father needed a spiritual path and never cized him. dzomos. horses. Gelek Rinpoche would later explain that the reason for the focus on children prints in the is because it is easier to change karmic im- young before habitual patterns of are formed. donkeys. Many of us boys were homesick. the time. We were a very close family. was already a monk. My mother. Most sons go to the monastery unless they are needed in eldest home —then the next would go. Gelugpa sect: a great fourteenth-century the emanation of Manjushri. goats. my father and mother brought a teacher for me from the monastery. "was master and founder of the I Lama Tsongkapa. He would go to the local monaster}. eight including the one we lost. winter and summer. I'd think about my mother and I my home. which months no matter how at the farm. first my father asked me if I wanted to go to the monastery. My father was a good and reliat a time. my father's brother. to a benefactor's house and we'd be given food and 192 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . every day." Geshe-la continued.

14. and finished my degree. after had gone to the evening I One monk me He in the said. They found my and I learned then that my father and uncle had passed away under the hard- ship of Chinese rule. People in the countryside welcomed us and gave us food. It was very dan- gerous because you can sink in the 'At night snow snow to keep we dug a hole in the warm. because the Chinese soldiers gave will soon come into the monastery. dormitory asked where was going. "I heard nothing of my family until 1981. the some places twice as many. Three days we were in the Himalayas. Finally we crossed the Himalayas to the Indian border."My invasion. they were of the was hard for them more than one million Tibetans who "In lost their lives under the Chinese occupation. was very difficult to leave my robes. The strongest person went first. some areas of Tibet now you find more Chinese than Tibetans obliterate Tibet. As part of the plan to SANDY JOHNSON 19 3 . was we took. when the government-insister. I I studies left would have been finished in 1960 but I for the Chinese from college on March close to session. where the it grass was new and was warm. but it my family were farmers. And barley flour for tsampa. Since tured. they were not torto get food. and one by one we followed. From a distance I could see them shooting and crowds running in fear. practice pecha.' It He me some "My light clothes and a coat. to make a narrow footpath through the snow. exile sent a fact-finding delegation to Tibet. session. "I went to Delahousie until 1962. you should go now. There was always the fear that the Chinese would chase us with machine guns from their airplanes. His Holiin ness had asked the monks to continue studying just as they had done the monastery. said I was going to 'If you are going away. study all book and daily practice book. plus some- thing to eat.

'At first. Sangha. airport When we arrived at the we were overwhelmed by television cameras and excited newspa- per reporters who had surprised in the never seen Tibetan children before. one word is dharma I could them. Even with 19 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . people really of wanted to hear the tell dharma and would appreciate even one word Sometimes. with its busy- not just in the West that people are busy. had many ideas and many things to say. in the 'As to the difficulty of practicing lifestyles. "In 1963 His Holiness asked cities. is in the is world there are families to be taken care of and jobs to go That not such a big obstacle. had a very difficult time communicating with my Western students. I came to California. Dharma. Somehow the students were able to understand. The problem I see here in the West that people have no patience. reflect on those early retreats. We'd gether and chant. it was the amazed me. am quite get to- amazed. or do prostrations. In InI we were mountains and didn't go into town very had never seen so many lights.Chinese are changing the names of the mountains. They want can be accomplished in just a results right now! They think the dharma great concentration it few vears. but I lacked language In those days. when I I "Some cars that years later. thought how verv good it is that the people have so as a teacher. And I had never seen the ocean before it. I When I think about those days. skills. to be the teacher for Tibetan refugee students sent there. Everywhere to. And I would give instruction m meditations. "What dia me the most was all the many lights at night. taking things easy. had only read about There were so many people I at the beaches. traveled to the United States. everyone seemed happy. often. paying respect to the Buddha. England. it's dharma West. like having a whole session of dharma teaching. I I much freedom so here. the streets —even the me to go to Sussex.

that though they do not practice lifetime. but isn't practiced correctly there will if be no positive result. who rejected their parents' traditions for answers. People to want to get something. the young people. The dharma pure. This impatience is the biggest obstacle for Westerners." SANDY JOHNSON I 9 5 . want it come fly A miracle is not such a big deal. and reli- Many turned to Buddhism form of and some parents took this to be just another rebellion. "There are some people who without practicing the dharma.takes mam it. the result doesn't the same thing come immediately. works. if then that the right result. they did in a past life. a person and what we need most. But for many Westerners. That to a useful result. then they if it are not practicing correctly. and that created the good karma for their present life But if they don't continue to create positive actions in this tive deeds. If there is a positive change. but if one becomes a betIt more positive. less anger and hatred and is more calmness. show off to is others. has If wants to see just how much progress he or she in practice. there is no change. then they should check to see how their mind If is has changed from beginning the dharma practice up to the present. It may not look like a miracle ter person. they want some power. is "What made in fact a big deal. to get rid of our negative mind. but they soon drop They lose energy all because they didn't practice long enough to see results. reason is live very happy and successful lives Many people ask me how this can be. that the mark of good practice. here in the West. Even this is if someone can around the room or read minds. the 1960s saw a spiritual revolution among gions. else. is not a big deal. but instead do nega- they will experience the result of the bad karma in their next lifetime. they go try something And do all over again. The in this life. So many start to practice. is there is less desire. \ cars of practice to gain positive results. but they like a miracle." "Geshe-la.

inspires you to create These are your dharma the activities that you engage in are endless. "You should abandon friends delusions. 'All who stimulate your whose company friends. "In the is Lamrim texts —the Stages to the child. are is So you should try to relax a bit. "When you read the life story of Sakyamuni Buddha. "When of view. Instead. then the basic necessities of to sustain you."One's birthplace can often be jailers like a prison. You will never com- plete them. "That is not so is here in what must be the capital of samsara. even our teacher had to run away from his birthplace. So. parents do this sort of thing." 19 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the bottom of your heart. But from a spiritual point like telling one's children to stay with them in samsara. try to be less busy so that you more relaxed to do something for your future for lives. will what you need somehow come your way. are it is out of love and affection. Our parents can for. and one's parents the which we of that prison. you find that when he wanted to leave the palace and begin his spiritual practice. They think what they it is doing is for the best. cultivate friends positive actions. show us great kindness. From that point of view they can be said to be like jailers. Do something that meaningful your spiritual betterment. must remember and be greateful but from another point of view. of the Path to Enlightenment is — it stated that faith precedes the attainment of realizations. his fa- ther did everything he possibly could to stop his son from doing this. Faith to re- alizations as the mother is If you practice the dharma from life." easy. Did you know there even a perfume called 'Samsara'?" Geshe-la laughed. par- ents sometimes create obstacles and mislead and misguide us.

place of enlight- ened action. and spiritual director of Rigpa. Situated in the Languedoc plateau. I remember it was the scene itself that raised the question. an international network of Buddhist centers. Lerab Ling sprawls across 359 acres of meadow and retreat woodland. teacher. When was in France and met with Sogyal Rinpoche at his retreat ceni I I I ter. I arrived at this spiritual paradise in the middle of a summer in tents with more than 400 students. author of The Ti- betan Book of Living and Dying. between the Cevennes and the Mediterranean." Sogyal Rinpoche. gave this name to the retreat center he founded in southwest France. Lerab ling is Tibetan for "sanctuary.THE TEACHER Guru devotion s a concept have a hard time understanding. I asked him to explain it to me. many of whom stayed and referred .

with a retreatant. a video camera on a 9 S THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . Families with small children occupied the chalets on both sides. He a young elder — in his forties. they were everywhere —chasing one another salt trees. bespeckled face from the movie The Little Buddha. a reincarnation of Here." which I would share chair. in the cafeteria sneaking little into water pitchers I —and seemed hill to be of distraction to the meditators. and gold. I rec- ognized the round. walked up the to the enormous shrine tent where Sogyal is Rinpoche was giving a teaching. in soft waves around A small l microphone was fastened to his robe. at twilight. splashing in the pool. in which he played one of the lamas searching an important master. filled and a pair of red-lacquered chests.to the summer sessions as spiritual boot is camp. six thangkas. who and —the chalets line the path to the I swimming pool. shared mine with a tall. blue. shy German fellow smiled and bowed imperceptively when we passed each other in the hall. on a large raised platform furnished with altars. explained they me in between teachings. The I evening. He wore fell a gold-colored robe over a yellow shirt. his slightly graying hair his ears. on which rested blue vases ers. with fresh-cut flowof the and framed photographs of his teachers and Dalai Lama. Underneath lay a beautiful Tibetan rug of yellow. The rinpoche's chair and table were of lacquered orange. a young woman from California who would have to fit a longtime student. for a tulku. under a brilliant yellow canopy. first was invited to attend some of the teachings. Dharma kids grew wild through the there. a natural moun- tain spring. She had reserved one of the dozen or so recently built two-bedroom "chalets. Rinpoche's secretary. brass butter lamps. Built of cedar and simply furnished table —bed. Sogyal Rinpoche sat on a stage. beside for them stood an imposing throne used ceremonies.

Sogyal Rinpoche was storv about his days in a Jesuit school in Delhi. lighted ries They listened. He has probably done more to bring the dharma to the teacher. The talk was followed by a meditation session. But my mind buzzed and other. but which turned out to be a simple request: "Please pass the water. for Two more microphones were in placed around the I room floor simultaneous translations French and German. watched. When he fumbled for a word or forgot a date. In front of an infant so tiny that retreat. me a cushion. His book has reached countless people whose lives have been profoundly affected by the wisdom and compassion in his writing. then another and anI many Westerners. sat cross-legged. and tried to concentrate on my breath. no other word will do. to teachings sprinkled with personal and shared confidences. few rows. amused and desto- and with rapt attention. I decided to stay. I wondered me was a woman with a child at her breast." His students clearly adored him. who occupied the first Rinpoche called on for help. sort of where he kept hearing father. and used the time I well. his oldest students. water. writing in my noterotund book on the wooden deck of the chalet. But the was attentive." what he thought was some an incantation: "Please. and fly. Someone had been I kind enough to pass spine straight. Yet his teachings are open display of guru devotion among the precious.tripod rolled tape. could not help but be bothered by this followers. as the rinpoche walked past in his bathing trunks and sandals on his way to the SANDY JOHNSON 19 9 . modern world than any other I did not get staff my appointment with Rinpoche I until the fourth day. if the woman had given birth during the telling a Laughter rippled through the group. sat on the near the entrance. Like flitted like a lighting on one thought. amused.

it couldn't be an earthquake. Ym No. What does one do? Run outside? Crash. I Suddenly realized these crashes It had a definite rhythym. in Los Angeles. 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . I asked if he would do his exercises outdoors. I was sitting. one of carrying his towel. Crash. flanked by his his assistant. On tary. this and dropped 1 my head in my hands. was the student It in the next room doing some Wag- nerian calisthenics! continued for perhaps another twenty minutes. Zanna. He smiled and. The first morning I was jolted awake by a loud crash that shook the foundations of the chalet.swimming pool for his daily late-afternoon swim. Ym in an earthquake in I the south of France. "I have no business doing book. the afternoon Rinpoche and of the fourth day. peering shyly from beI hind thick he said. He was please carrying a With elaborate politeness." I looked over at the others at the table. Really. the chalet shuddered." mumbled miserably. "Yes. shudder. couldn't he do this outdoors? At breakfast I stopped him as he passed the table where tray. My mind raced. He was always accom- panied by part of his entourage. and it's an earthquake. and I forced myself to open my eyes. my heart pounded. bridge. whom hurried along behind him. Rinpoche's secre- appeared at my door to escort me to the garden of Rinpoche's private I residence. Another crash. reached for my shoes. a large ash. I suppose can do my prostrations in the shrine tent. who were smiling patiently. glasses. Ym not. shudder. sat across from each other secretary and at a table in the shade of Gaffney. Patrick whom he'd known since his days as a visiting scholar at Cam- A copy of my book rested on the table next to a copy of his own.

them and that makes them go through Sometimes I am surprised moved by is. but to People follow. too. They'll say. who have really followed a master have something in things. Then they often have a lot of difficulties on the path. and of healing it.After a brief exchange of pleasantries. so it lacks stability. corrupted?" is "It can be corrupted in the East. devotion is actually a is way of finishing with your past. they could not have fully studied. then?" "Devotion really is possible when you really engage in a training. that faith. it is. not blind You may have the karma to meet a master. Correctly understood. healthy devotion. and asked if this very Tibetan tradition were reallv possible in Western culture. Not everything it automatically corrupted once there is gets to the West! The it's only thing about the West is that not the right environment. He is the master of all the masters. it 'The Dalai will Lama is my teacher." to "What happens comes to the what you describe it as pure guru devotion when it West? Doesn't become distorted.' Of course he can be your teacher. Sometimes people follow a master distance and without actually participating in the training. but be difficult for you to follow him. Some people also claim they've studied with this master or that. when you from a work with a living master. and not to remain stuck in the past. when all they did was go to a few talks or a few seminars. the devotion Western people can have. not part of the culture. to change tion is and grow. but you have to develop the qualities to follow him. Devo- about us giving ourselves the permission not just to study. SANDY JOHNSON 2 1 . Our task in life really to learn to let go. because their basic being is not trained. Whatever they claim. I told him that the whole issue of gum devotion puzzled me. "Yes." "What is it that makes devotion possible.

and the teachings. when we meet comes very need to be "You a master.. there are who could have become . They assume all that the teachers are there to solve their problems. such questions don't Sometimes it be- clear how much these fears we have are our own fears and purified. be grateful because they have followed him They get frustrated when they can't talk to the teacher whenever they want. like rock They have the wisdom that. in the gives. if is so much the case with Tiall betan Buddhism. we need is a good understanding of the teachings ings. Sometimes students onto the teacher like kinds of things. ." don't think this to. see. 'And the guru ends up becoming a rock "Frankly speaking. ing ject all includpro- of your history and all all of your projections. But the relationship with a teacher lives in. it is spiritual and is based on. masters If they had wanted they had gone stars. but the message that he 'Also. this "Even when you address still openly and tease people about it. . and so students hold to them responsible for their whole lives. —because the is real teacher in the teach- What does the teacher teach but the teachings? It is not following the teacher's personality. I am is amazed at how many projections and expectations there are. there Is often a lot of fear: When you follow a master. West. out. For example. people relate to the it master with a the father or mother they did not have. 2 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . all kinds of difficulties can come. I . In and the charisma but the teaching itself seems to discourage order to have the clear discernment to follow the teacher. is he trustworthy? he going to lead us down the wrong path? But even exist. which can only lead to frustration. and gets mixed up lot of emotions. on the spiritual path." what distorts and contaminates the master-disciple star.. They expect the teacher or her."When you show devotion. you show everything of yourself. is not an ordinary one. This relationship.

Tilopa. judgmental mind. is and deeply devoted. conscientious. the great Vajrayana masters often did not appear in a conventional way. diligent. patient. it. SANDY JOHNSON 2 O J . They show us things about ourselves that like we may not quite like to acknowledge. inevitably. stable. is and mindful. with a hundred ugly faces. As qualities of a student. gem. not on his personality. Rely on your wisdom mind. in this case "It says in we really need to know the dharma and understand the the great Ornament of Mahayana Sutras taught by Maitreya Buddha: 'Rely on the message of the teacher. Usually we have concept or idea about how a master should be. and hit the mirror. he or she can push many buttons. the great Dzogchen saint Longchenpa said that a good student has trust and is highly discerning. disciplined. Even a master who's very calm and gentle and fits the bill will push all the buttons nevertheless. Again. Sometimes peaceful masters are more wrathful than the wrathful masters. get angry. That's normal. Rely on the real mean- ing. This a very Western phenomenon. Rely on the meaning. the forefather of the whole Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.Why? ter Because. is we refuse to accept and lash out against the master. We deny it. not on your ordinary. ugly face. compasis and deeply concerned about others' well-being. the teacher and the teachings mirror us. depends on the master and on the student. generous. it breaks into a hundred pieces. not just on the words. to be able to a particular rec- "The student ognize is someone who is able to see a when a master special. It is looking into a mirror and seeing a terrible. all A mas- can bring up our weaknesses. If you look at the history of India. If it's a special master. sionate. follows the teacher's instructions. visionary.' exactly it " "What is the nature of the master-student relationship?" for the "Very simply. "When we we get really angry with ourselves. not on the provisional one. and open- minded.

compassion. having the blessing of the lineage. discipline. but even then. but among the masters too there are masters. "We need If to be able to see beyond the form. Sometimes these masters had only one disciple. It is not possible for people to understand the only through their direct instructions that alive. "Of course lineage difficult to meet authentic masters. You cannot expect the master to be like a McDonald's. "If a master is an authentic master. we can come to understand the meanings. mv first principal master. The traditional teachings speak of many teacher-realization: learning. "Without the masters teachings. you know exactly what you are getting. somehow he took care of me. means that we have something special. fulness. he will manifest as such in every qualities for a perfect skill- situation. straight to the essence. Even though he died when I I was quite young. you see with a new 2 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . So devotion to the masters If begins with gratitude. to find a master with very special qualities rare. When fits you go to McDonald's. The remarkable is nineteenth-century master Patrul Rinpoche said there stands above hicitta all one quality that filled the rest: that the master has a heart that is with bod- —the it is real desire to is become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. I've I've met master af- ter master. purveying something that your concept exactly. When there is a easier to find is them. You been so fortunate: could say that my and has been filled with masters. and reveal to kept on meeting masters in who have continued to me what he had sown it is me. they bring the teachings ters also Authentic mas- embodv the blessing of the lineage. you have authentic devotion. and so on. life can speak from my experience.appeared as an outcast and a beggar. Compassion it is the most important thing. it we have this capacity. all owing to the kindness of Jamvang Khyentse. I You can find masters. renunciation.

but now as you come to discover yourself. You happen for may even find that you don't need any- thing else. certainty. and faith. That great gift of actually the gift of "The more you realize the truth of the teachings. Dudjom Rinpoche. all to discover vour real nature. giving. Because thev all are showing the same truth. the same as all the buddhas. Because de- votion the means to purify all the negative emotions and to work SANDY JOHNSON 2 O 5 . I felt as was no longer on "What you thev have. of realization. songs in the of experience. is the richer and more fulfilling your becomes. the more you'll find that the very beings of the masters resonate with the truth. 'And what's in interesting. if I I remember times when this earth. the gift of They you? you the greatest gift. "This means that the master is no longer is a personality. you may find that the more devotion there life is your life. What does that do for It frees you from yourself. is received certain teachings. You begin you did not know who you were. really he is the em- bodiment and the human is face of truth. also realize the tremendous compassion. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. you're okay. When- ever to I think of Guru Padmasambhava or the masters I have been close —Jamyang Khyentse. giving. love. you feel such an extraordinary joy and sense of I celebration. and prayers of devotion —composed spontaneously wisdom is moment vourself. This for what an incarnation — a compassionate vehicle touching the minds and hearts of beings. your frustrations begin to dissolve. quicken. Karmapa the Kalu Rinpoche — any them the or or of masters. That's why there have been so many great dohas —hymns. if your devotion is pure and focused. the same as Guru Padmasambhava. that way.clarity. from your own ignorance. and care are: And how selfless give they they just go on and on. and progress. things When you have been touched by a master in you. giving. I see all as same. wisdom. Till then.

questionable whether the lineage "So tionship. and devotion. then we'll life is alis have learned how to listen to life and how is to read the messages ways giving. For me.through particular psychological patterns. too hungry for idols. rapid and direct. and. an extraordinary path. "If you have It is you can become enlightened more quickly. the master who shows know how teacher' but actually its life itself is also a great teacher. devotion. in a sense. "When we principle. We are such a young society. it is the only way of learning. this devotion. Really to work with devotion like this is a means of development. and was moved by his sincerity." I understood what Sogyal Rinpoche meant. it is something universal. there it is also the blessing. is But we don't to listen to teachings. the master we meet. is it's a The us. outer teacher. such an amazing dynamic. talk about the teacher. the key. 2 O 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . but still I had doubts. Because ultimately what teacher. It is It purifies. If the teacher does not have will last. the teacher-student rela- It is something that makes you transcend from the ordinary to It's the spiritual. I our teacher? The truth our and the truth is what we have to become. and it is only because I I have this de- votion that there is can communicate the teachings is —because know that when devotion. devotion I is the path. the accumulation of merit. it empowers. inevitably we turn our masters into rock stars. said that there are three means through which we can realize the nature of our mind: meditation. This called the 'universality of the Once the master teaches us and we know the teaching. it's the greatest human relationship.

Time hung suspended before. was out much of the day that Friday. when came home tor. new to me. for just before Memorial Day weekend. she said. there was a message She had called at 4:45 my voice mail from the docto say she wanted to talk to me about one of the on I tests. She then ran the usual blood tests. among them tumor if the standard tumor marker. My body went numb. The office would fax me the reI sults in I two days.HEALING On physical a Wednesday morning I in late May. the doctor cheerfully reminded me. used to meais sure a there one. The five-year exam proved fine. I froze. my yearly checkup. which was elevated. the tumor marker. in that strange is other place remembered from four years where one instantly re- . went to a doctor. could reach her in her office until five. in another year I would reach the mark.

" illness you were stricken with few years ago I not return. for my legacy. not yet death. Outrage but obliterated I fear. "Is there no way reach the doctor for even a brief conversation?" asked. its Cancer creates be nose cancer of a holiday own particular paranoia —catch in a cold test and it must — so a mysterious phone call about a blood on a Friday weekend promised long days ahead I which to contemplate impermanence. if explained the reason for to. Life is not always a beautiful garden. tells in his book Gates to Buddhist Practice. just time to catch her. discovered I was thinking Buddhist terms about karma and rebirth. then you have no garden illusions.? moved from decided. my call to and asked tionist there was anyone else all could talk The indifferent recep- was afraid not. but of as far as she knew. the story the Buddha used to illustrate the rarity of human birth: "Compare the 3. I I But the reception- ist told me the doctor had already gone. not quite looked at my watch: 4:55. each deed each would be I in a new way. You are Did that mean never? He said was fine then." I is calm and free of fear has an immediate impact on the found I was taking notice of each thought. each word. So looking at things as they are means that life itself is unreliable. poisonous plants. I all that is life to the holding place. his but what about now Lobsang Lhalungpa had years earlier. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. the doctor would be out town until Tuesday.000-fold universe to a huge ocean with a wooden yoke 208 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and thorny bushes. there are harmful things. But a mind that body. reminded myself a of Khamtrul Rinpoche's divination: will "The fine. She would leave a message on her exchange. His words told me about bout with cancer a few at life as came to mind: "If you look what it is. in each would lay the foundation in for the future. Even in the itself.

later. somewhere on top of it. According to the Buddha. life. is when you peaceful and sensitive and compassionate. That this will happen is just barely conceivable. the chances of someone less likely. but it when you work with the mind. Once every hundred years comes to the surface for a gulp of then goes back sooner or over its down to the bottom. jor had good reason to be angry. way it may come: I helplessly and with fully the indignities of a long And before have had a chance to understand the nature of When Tuesday finally came and the doctor called me. Why had I I never noticed them resisted the urge to give in to the yes. only the illness. At the same time. drama. You don't have to pretend when your inner world secure and you understand what you are doing. I just watched and thought and. of selfishness. prayed. At the bottom of the ocean it lives a blind air. The laws of chance are such that. you impact others. you need no pretense. the body impacted and feel at peace. as labs can sometimes vary in their testing proce- dures. Your face what you are SANDY JOHNSON 2 0$ . "Healing make you is an essential part of Buddhist meditation. the moment the turtle surfaces the wind will blow the yoke turtle will head and the poke through.floating turtle. When you look at other peoreveals ple with concern. she suggested I have the I test redone. But by the end of the I week I had new a results that also had new mind. I do not fear death." finding a precious I human birth before? are even took notice of my moments of impatience. were perfectly normal. illness I turned once again to Lhalungpa for the Buddhist view of and health. She might have mentioned that ma- caveat in her message and spared me a weekend of wondering. it influences how is you look at other people. We don't always talk of healing.

Pure inside and outside. Fortunately. you have cancer. There is no division. so is a need for something specific in terms of medi- Buddhism is doesn't say that only meditation will work. asked. not pure. situation. But when your inner world is not clean. through conwith an unhealthy environment —which together up with images all result in disease. I Lhalungpa. that there is somebody out there with the rules: somebody a good boy and he friends. a punish- 2 / O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . this gives confidence and peace of mind.inside. when my doctor told me. Very soon sensitive people discover that that smile is not sincere. Therefore. is "From settled. 'Mr. 'What did for it. a different kind of smile. you do?' This is as if I had committed some crime and was being punished is a misconception. it's more wealth. when they heard had cancer. Somewhere along the mind did not focus inwardly on these problems. Dharma is really being what it is. everywhere. this is that then works with the conscious mind. true even in serious cases. more When somebody gets cancer. my own cancer. The power of the mind is such that when you take medicine with the understanding and property that is trust that this medicine has some going to work. sure. the deeper cause of disease in the unresolved mind or unresolved karma. gets wonderful things —more money. I "But some people. like because of my lifelong devotion. Even thirty years ago I when I en- joyed extraordinary health. not sensitive enough. "Therefore there cine. a Buddhist perspective.' pared myself for decades to understand ease can overcome us. how dis- had prepared myself along for this kind of unpredictable. For health is I said all right. didn't take it for granted. a very serious one. There is something there way. but you pre- sent a different kind of face. Dharma is not pretense. of The combination "This is mind and medicine speeds recovery. I had pre- how natural all things work. the problem gradually built tact —through the environment. then you pretend to be kind. A balanced approach needed.

'Is there something that I can do or not?' If you see that there something that you can do. I slept well. go ahead with the surgery and the treatments. This meditation table. before going to the hosdid treatment. I I paid no attention to what the doctor and nurses were doing. a tragic shock. "When had radiation. was doing a When they said I could get up. pital for radiation So every morning. do I it. feeling that I'd did that every day. learned to take things as they come and is ask. It is a total misunderstanding of how nature works. I got dressed and went I and sat in the corridor again for another period of meditation.' I had a long course of like a skeleI radiation. I I just said. "I didn't feel let's any shock when the doctor told me. they unlike anything. I can't take these pills every day. my mind was peaceful. It I needs a stronger counteroffice did my meditation at I home. I it was. there was an immediate impact of how powerful I and destabilizing so nauseous pills. told the nurse would sit there quietly for five or ten minutes before the treatment. But had learned how to un- derstand things. It's very calming and peaceful. and soon that destabilized had the second day SANDY JOHNSON 2 I I . The first day. was losing weight every day — I became almost —but country— ton still. healing meditation. but the second day. this is thought. On the I took measurements and drew a chart on my stomach while lay there doing my meditation to counteract the ill effects of radiation. I was fine. 'Okay. Something else needs to be done because force. Then I would go to my So I doctor's office for chemotherapy. "I meditated until the time they called is me in to the radiation room. then went to the doctor's I and sat outside in the corridor. I my meditation I practice. This is so foreign to our tradition. some took four or five pills that Then I said to myself. felt and weak that my wife called the doctor and he sent me day only. so powerful.ment. I Even when lost my it was a great I loss.

hear- ing me. which doesn't mean I I sit in the corner do- my meditation. when you see things without confusion. If for magic sometimes and exclude conventional methods lost. medicine. nighttime. where there was a tele- phone. doesn't work. "You will get well. worrying. You need to combine them. understanding. I shouldn't have been surprised when it was Pete who an- 2 12 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . they are spiritual But ef- when you combine medicine with fective and mental work. The nurse. okay. In this way. there always joy. I called. I had dream in which a faceless voice said the words. poked her head "No. What's going to happen? going to work? If it not If going to work? it I never questioned any of these things. "My practice ing never stops. a very healthy thing for modern people People have a tendency to look of treatment. The my operation. okay. "I've long accepted the tradition that says that when your body is un- well you need to do something physically — physical therapy. the unconventional methods don't work. It is At was weak but I never was mentally worried. and compassion that ensures still the in- ner world. "but would you hand me the phone?" On in and asked if they'd already started the off chance that Pete would be at his son's house. my medicasaid. still chuckling. When the mind is is and clear. think. works. it is more than either method by itself. is.was gone. Is it a waste Is it of time." I was no stranger and I to the power of prayer. I plus spiritual and mental work. My practice means whatever dharma am doing. is an incessant flow of stability in generosity. When a I was in the hospital knew Pete Catches was praying and doing ceremonies for night before me. I I had protected myself from the a little ill effects of the radiation. You have to build a sweat lodge for George Bush. daytime. I felt safe. even in my sleep." I tion." woke laughing. And that to look at. I you must get well. the end.

and you then told must do that with your books. You must build sweat lodges for all the George Bushes of the world." ceremony during He me he would be doing a pipe my operation. "But that is exactly what you must do.swered. I told him the dream and. SANDY JOHNSON 2 I 3 . "Isn't that funny. waited for him into laughter. Granddaughter. knowing his dislike for the Republican to burst administration and for George Bush in particular. But he was silent. Grandfather?" Finally he answered.

members of the Sakya family. all His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Sakya monastery in Seattle is the founder of the Principality. Because the lineage is inherited. According to history. thirteenth- century religious leader of Tibet and spiritual advisor to Kublai Khan. the men are permitted to marry. Rulers of much of Central Asia for many years. the Sakyas descended from the Sakya Pandita. the Sakya family de- scended from gods of the Realm of Clear Light.DHARMA DYNASTY From Tibet to the West I had been reading about when was the Sakyas in "Cho-Yang. In June I flew to Seattle and Vancouver to see three great teachers. who entered the human realm more than one thousand years ago and has remained unbroken since then. and author of The Sakya Born in . which Tsering Choedon introduced me to I in India." a series of books on Tibetan history and culture.

Khon lineage. he is the imminent He is one of seven children —two boys was care- and five girls. his fully H.His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche 1928 into the Phun-tshog branch of the successor to the throne of Sakya. planned by his father. Sakyas receive a special education. The large white building flying the library. sponsored by a Rockefeller Foundation grant. In 1974 Sakya Tegchen Choling. and offices. H. his family were the first to settle in the United States. the last throneholder in Tibet. SANDY JOHNSON 2 I 5 . as well as resi- for some of the if members. a dharma center Tibetan and monastery. Rinpoche and in 1961. and since Dagchen Rinpoche was to be future head of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. wondered Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche might have some advice for developing the calmness of mind which enabled Lobsang Lhalungpa to face his illness with such utter serenity. was founded. Trichen Ngawang Thutop Wangchuk. Dagchen Rinpoche was not to enter a monastery until his tenth year. They came at the invitation of the University of Washington. and American dence I flags serves as temple. His Holiness offered teachings in their home and in rented facilities until a building was found on the outskirts of Seattle.

the holder corrupts what holds."When is I am asked how to approach the dharma. we it. "On the other hand. Practice dharma is the anti- dote. and seeing faults in that environment. this it similar to us- ing an unclean bowl. nonbelief. we should practice the four desirable attitudes: viewing the teacher as a physician. as servants to the and mind. a student usually starts with the foundation practices. These include mandala prostrations.' we don't listen to the If we are like an overturned bowl. so think of the body as a temporary just re- dwelling. understanding the dharma to be medicine. If we should avoid are called the 'three faults of a receptacle. offerings. mind. my teaching to practice with the body. to think of the body as the master. We should also avoid the six defilements: pride. and speech die. listening to a teaching of the Buddha's. don't put the teachings into practice. it is Mind determines all actions. And speech is like an echo off a mountain. and resolving to practice the dharma as our cure. and guru yoga. good or bad. the mind When it you the mind leaves the body. desire. sounds. feeling they are useless. "When what teachings. "In Tibet. If we are lazy-minded and sleepy. 2 / 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . seeing oneself as a patient. "Mind buddha is foremost. The three negative mental factors of the of the mind are attachment. nothing can be retained. a hotel. resentment at feeling obliged to attend the teachings. and grasping. Its actions decide whether one will become a or descend to the hell realms. speech. Therefore king. we are like a bowl with is a hole in everything leaks out. being distracted by the environment of the teaching. purification ritual with mantra recitation.

which is like seeing the moon in water. To remove them. one must view the Root Lama dha himself. These stains can't be removed like spots from a teacup. as havwe always dedicate the merit. without thinking of or distracin a "The mind should be kept past. which buddhahood. Then. attitude for meditation can be viewed in progressive Understanding the dharma engages one on the Path of Accumula- tion. ing the nature of enlightened beings. 'At the end of every practice. to is I tell practitioners to sit with a the right position for the psychic veins to channel in the left. All beings free of inci- have buddha-nature. one can reach complete buddhahood and become obscurations and stains. the thumbs interlocked. like seeing the moon in the sky just after the is new moon. present. with the right left. We do SANDY JOHNSON 2 I J . The legs should be crossed. where beginners learn the difference between virtue and non-virtue start to try to and comprehend the nature of mind. or ground of the mind is our buddha-nature. The realization of dharma engages one on the Path of Insight. unperturbable condition. left on the bot- tom. in its natural state and without excitement. "The mental stages. put the mind proper state for meditation. Over time. straight back." It still free of all incidental amazes me that Tibetans see people as originally pure. or future. as inseparable from the Bud- devotion. This correctly. it becomes a full moon. a The mind should maintain "The base union of clarity and emptiness calm."In meditation here at the monastery. depression. and sincerity when meditating. tion. having faith. but we can't be enlightened until we are dental stains. right over The hands should be hand within the in the lap in the 'equipoise' position. Experiencing the dharma engages one on the Path reflection of the of Application.

to- boy. but that of someone wise and mature I —and compassionate. lap. matter-of-factly. learned. I realized." At that moment. But it ex- wasn't my hand the boy was reaching for. Tulku-la. I bowed my head low enough to I make the crown accessible as I to his reach. Mickey Mouse shirt. A moment later. de- "Meet our of littlest lama. He is the reincarnation my wife's The uncle Deshung Rinpoche. I Thinking what nice manners these Tibetan children are taught. close-cropped hair a small boy — barely more —rushed into the room and clambered onto Dagchen Rinpoche's peared." The prophecy was con- 2 / 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . for their happiness. "Tulku-la wants to bless you." bright. It was my head. I looked over at the mother. admit — felt the small hand gently touch tonishment I my head. hopped down from Rinpoche's large dark eyes lap and came ward me. and multicolored sneakers. But then I looked into his face. and attainment of buddha- hood." Rinpoche explained. But lighted." he said. Caroline was told by her teachers that the child she was pregnant with was "special. writing a book about Her name Sandy. not done just for one's own but for all sentient beings as well. Dutifully.this to express our joy and gratitude at being fortunate enough to be able is to study the dharma. Also. this monastery with is me. looking apologetic. and to my as- saw not yes. dressed in sweatpants. the fulfillment of their wishes. I smiled — a bit patronizingly. a child's expression. tended mine. She nodded An American who married Tibetan student of Dagchen Rinpoche's. "Tulku-la. their freedom from suffering. with dark. the dedication sake. was Caroline a Lama. whose name. His were serious. his mother ap- Dagchen Rinpoche was laughing. the door burst open and than a toddler. hand outstretched. this lady is who founded us.

"Many tulkus lose both parents when they are young. she would his studies. "He wants you "I to help I him on with it. The beautiful form of the circumstances and events. smiling. SANDY JOHNSON 2 I 9 . in a sense." Caroline oline said. Only months before. To make universally known without obstruction in the three worlds. With a words promise they could stop at McDonald's for a shake." Car- would soon lose her child too. am honored. strangely meaning As the left. and handed it to me. he flew out of the room and came back carrying his miniature ball jacket. his reincarnation. father was killed in an auto accident." Rinpoche it. pro- senior lamas in Nepal (Deshung Rinpoche's monastery-in-exile) nounced the boy the Shortly after. In a in few months. the precious vase of my mind. said.firmed in her dreams. cool water of Tibet's previous history Has the auspicious marks of an orderly flow of elegant sayings." I said. "Not unusual. have to take Tulku-la to the monastery Nepal to begin She would visit him only twice a year during the ten years when he would learn to take his place It among the great Tibetan masters. when Tulku-la had turned two. From within Can not your thirst be quenched by study and reflection? Therefore. I was handed at the this poem Rinpoche wrote in the Year of Water Pig (1983) conclusion of a lecture he gave in Olympia. Washington: The pure. I delight in drawing you a picture. was time now for Tulku-la to go home to bed. the "Lil Monster" written on the back.

One morning I woke terrible in tears I from what I perceived to have been a dream. So my early childhood my parents took me to doctors. having defeated the army of dark ignorance With the honey of great intelligence which studies stories The great and profound 1 of former times. an extensive lotus garden With the thousand movements of dancing bees. HIS EMINENCE JIGDAL DAGCHEN SAKYA From my earliest depending memories I have been plagued vivid that in — or blessed. with my mother that she refused to hear any more of my dreams. a mild form of epilepsy. as the day wore on. The idea must have so horrified I. I would never be happy. vivid dreams. and my child's innate sense of survival. They continue heed and I have learned as best I can to understand and to their teachings. Who I search and delight in the taste of the lotus-knowledge. the feeling of 2 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS ." he " I "You can't change your called after him in vain. "But. all-knowing spirit I and asked him about my karma. I me enshrouded in a cloak of doom. Accordingly. I there noth- — karma. asked. He answered that life.Consider a place enclosed. imagine this lecture should have some benefit. I also see the hive where and others live. In the dream had met an all-seeing." said. one of whom suggested the dreams were an indication of petit mal. But then. He had evaporated. felt as if I had a terrible sentence. still. —by strong. stopped talking about them. "is not in this or any other was stunned." "But wait The dream been dealt left ing I can do to change that?" "No.

a teacher. we came from say. She is also known for ing on Vajrayogini. to. with twenty or twenty-five SANDY JOHNSON 2 2 1 . You can do the house or in mountain caves. but Sakya lineage-holder nuns. they "In the Sakya tradition. where I meet with Jetsun Kusho. many eons ago. retreats in Not ordinary nuns. where she lives with her husband. the women don't marry. side. with wondered if the dream had something to do feel my readiness to give up samsara. She was trained alongside who became head of the Sakya lineage. I a female meditational deity. the system of contemplative and meditaher teach- tive practice special to the Sakya lineage. The god realms. found her in her modest home in the is suburbs of Vancouver. His Holiness Sakya Trizin. If I'm never going to be happy anyway. the heav- from another planet. I can stop No need anymore would am I free to get on with my life.gloom began to lift and was replaced by I a strange feeling of relief: trying. the three Khon lineage. say that many. Jetsun Kusho was born in Sakya in 1938 into the noble family of the her brother. I was beginning to the desire to meet Her full name The sister of is Her Eminence Sakya Jetsun Chimey Luding. Jetsun Kusho is one of in the history of women Tibet to have transmitted the Lamdre (Path and Its Fruit) teachings. Jetsun ing center Sakya Tsechen Kusho Ling. then to look for happiness. I The teacher came to our house for studies. had wanted could have studied in the monastery with the monks. I We all become I nuns. "The palace I grew up in was quite big. the resident lama at the teach- Thubten "They ens. The line continues through the men's was eight when took If I my first-level ordination. I That afternoon. as boarded a plane to Vancouver.

I We were quite young. A noble family. in India. When we heard that the I Lama had we My brother and aunt and all. We have four boys. left with a small party. slowly. for the Chi- nese. At the time we there were no Chinese people in our re- gion. wore nun's robes and shaved Dalai my head. they Sometimes when babies are just a few weeks old. but many spies —Tibetan people who were spying on us being a nun in India. We had a one-week wedding party A woman would have a one-month wedding party 'Astrologers tell a woman what color to wear when she marries. lived there. we do. and they to let became suspicious. not royal.servants inside. very rich and knew each other in school. There were thirteen farms. and we'd gone to the movies together. My was a bit awful. I think little children understand past lives better than forget. don't understand politics. "My husband's was also from a Sakya lineage-holder family. followed. Also. The two Sakya lineage-holder families aren't royal in the usual sense. slowly. "It still was difficult their heads only when someone They didn't understand women shave my shaved So I head. but in a religious sense. It's been a good marriage. they will start 2 2 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . He my brother's student. age. and a little girl who died at three months of told They me to get pregnant again right away. always asking questions. In that country. just as friends. so began to study English family is at a missionary school. Maybe twelve people in We went first to Sikkim because another aunt left. each with a manager that came once a year with offerings. so we really didn't know what was happening. "I girls who marry into the Sakya lineage are from other noble government service people. dies. My husband very. and the marriage had been arranged through I my aunt. decided my hair grow. people understood English and Western I ways. I stayed there until 1959. so I did. a blue dress dress with a green blouse. Then. but in Tibet. I am married now. fled. Generally the families.

The second. it. and the younger works in a photo shop. We I don't shout at each other. "It hasn't really been difficult to raise my children in the West. One of them tried drugs. You have remind children by showing compassion toward others. family and hold few secrets. but then there's the hangover. I'm a weaver. so With drinking. they're and twenty-four. lives in India. by displaying SANDY JOHNSON 2 2 J . "People ask me how is to instill compassion in their children. children don't like my husband them that and don't like they'll it. tell them to think about consequences. he was married a few months ago. is because of memories of "Our oldest son is thirty and owns a carpet company. We are very open in the The we don't shout. I tell maybe I have a few hours of pleasure. They say this past lives.w sm Jetsun Kusho laughing or crying in their sleep. The older son the production assistant for a design company. but it made him sick. just but I think that compassion to something that you're born with. who will be a lama and the lineage-holder. twenty-six The third and is forth ones live here. to a Japanese Buddhist. I'm very lucky they never got into trouble.

a very strong my family clan. in fact. and women's issues as they per- tain to the spiritual path. women and their nunneries play a very strong part in the monastic religion. not just men. Both the and social situation in Sakya was such that the women were accorded 2 2 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . In the Sakya School of Tibetan tradition. regard- less of their sex.patience. But that was simply a reflection of the cultural situation at that time and not something we need to regard as inherent in the teachings. the vast majority of lamas and teachers have been men. many women Buddhism. of those dha's teachings were men. When the Buddha taught was quite twenty-five hundred years ago in India. if we examine the historical record of and other countries. Within the tradition of Buddhism in Tibet. in "The role of women Buddhism. And as Buddhism in India we can see. not just human beings. It's part of the culture. "The Buddha taught benefit of all for the benefit of all sentient beings. I become prominent right now in this par- think it is very much a function of the time and place in which we live. wished to undertake practice and develop themselves they would encounter no barriers. There have been. of women teachers and pracif "Certainly among the Sakyas the custom was that people. Tibetan people tend to have lots of patience. there is teachers. We can see historically who followed the Bud- that a great number. for the living creatures. spiritually. the cultural situation different. the blood lin- eage played a very important part. have ticular culture. In my family. But this does not that only mean men can be the teachers. particularly within titioners. perhaps the majority. All sons and daughters are regarded as potential teachers by virtue of having legal been born into this family. Children learn from their parents their grandparents. and espe- cially from My older son is always quoting something his grandmother told him as a child. not like Westerners.

Her teachings are four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. we also find a number of key historical figures who were women. in terms of their also in terms of and develop themselves and their ability to act as teachers. As well. the dedication of women practitioners in Tibet. we both worked. have any qualities or usually it is isn't and the husband is in charge. still many women the teachings of are a women have been revered over the years. as a refugee. women are often the boss. One of the most famous who comes to mind is a woman named Jomo Menmo. the I Every day he by travels car. personally. "My husband and are equals. He works as a school janitor. Although teachers in the Gelugpa tradition. Sometimes a woman doesn't very smart. there few women teachers in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. but woman who controls the house. women also have played a very important role in the transmission of lineage. "Machig Labdron practiced today by there haven't been all lived in the eleventh century. women who were known for the sincerity and the intensity of their practice. two hours by bus or forty-five minutes work My husband never worked in Tibet. nineteen miles each way. Not only was she regarded as a fine teacher.equal status with the ability to practice men — in terms of legal powers. "In the household. but also as a person who discovered very many 'treasure teachings. Presently. "In the Nyingma school. though combined histories of not many. When we came to Canada. For the first SANDY JOHNSON 2 2 5 .' concealed teachings which she revealed to her students. This business of a children I don't believe woman being a slave to the husband and happens too much. was a very strong force in the advancement of the religion. the most ancient school of Tibetan Bud- dhism. "In the all of the schools. In India. the husband always obeys the wife. he didn't either.

there are women women good tend to be very shy and practitioner afraid. She'd give the if I empower- ment to my brother shy. it is conceivable that women in the West will be recognized as tulkus. I stayed at home. at a certain point. incarnate lamas. She was too "Do you are in the "It is think women Buddhists' roles will change. I when the Dalai Lama's sisters took public Sakya. Tulkus." and me. who were advanced practitioners in for- 2 2 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . women are not considered as important politically as the a nunnery. teachings. cal leaders until roles. "However. 'Also. My father's my my aunt. as said. But when my I older son was twelve years old. now that they West?" only natural that people in a different culture. The same processes they ob- served in India. men. and di- rection. but Tibetan sister. there is no fundamental distinction made between male or female. except for the head of We didn't have any women polititeachers. of taking the responsibility of earning on that particular lin- eage. she refused to allow any servants in the room except the shrinekeeper. she began giving my brother long-life empowerments once a week. but after father died. when is a very and teacher. one new to Bud- dhism. he looked after the younger ones and worked. And through their own practice they may come to be worthy. in Tibet. but would get upset looked at her face. begin to wonder about female role models and stereotypes and so forth. In the 1950s. You must remember Western people do not have a great deal of pre- vious experience with Vajrayana teachings.few years when the children were small. will also be true in the West: that a student will go to a qualified teacher and receive empowerments. so I'm suggesting to you that in the true spirit of the teachings of the Buddha.

It is also impractical to expect that there will all self-arisen lineage-holders. the lineage-holder must go through be rig- orous training. require much less training in this one. and sometimes they tend to make up their own teachings. We have to learn patience. There are West- ern lamas who trained in Tibet. don't get the meaning. Gelugpa. receiving guidance and empowerments ditional manner. Westerners have so many when they come It is to dharma. That's im- practical. do that. you get a degree. difficult for us to ers. The mind is very SANDY JOHNSON 2 2 J . "Maybe Western to teachers will change it. that. there are On the other hand. the validity of the process of a stu- dent going to a teacher. we have to have permission from our own teach- who check to make think that it is sure that changes will be beneficial. Perhaps be West- ern men and women of Sakya. But Western- ers like going to the university: easy. tion It's far more likely to handing its knowledge over to the new. when you finish studying. and Kagyupa speak- ing from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view. so the mind does not is "Buddhism teaches that everything in the mind. But it's important that we recognize and respect the authenticity.mer lives. It's not that Sometimes people meditate but they benefit. Nyingmapa. we might say we want things to get going immediately. in the tra- "Buddhism is so new to this culture. and making that transition from one culture to another. On the one hand. and men and women now being in the future there will trained in retreat centers in the West. one pops up and establishes a be a process of the old tradi- brand new lineage. we cannot rule out the possibility that Western lineages in the process of forming. We cannot expect things to establish themselves overnight. of a sudden. but Tibetan teachers want ideas keep things the same. But in order for these lineages to establish themselves.

My If brother and other lamas offered prayers for me. Afshrink. The wet weather in Van- couver must not be good for my head. I contracted in India didn't show up until I got here. even though he took worse. That's the why we have wisdom teaching of how to make doesn't actell mind stable. It does all kinds of things. plus the Buddha's blessings. Rice and sour fruits help. then it does. people believe that prayer works. If it I "Your mind can be trained to accept any situation. but karma comes from many. cept what is happening. the holes began to Within five months.tricky. It's that way. to view in terms of karma. then you can learn. 2 2 S THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . The doctor couldn't find any source for the headaches. by saving This also tends to create your "For example. You can create good karma by helping. it became but it with tuberculosis. since I've never had headaches anymake life I where else. Actually. I had three holes that if I in let I my my right one was cloudy. The left doctor said that lung. and that If helped. my stu- dents that my mind is very dull. and I'm very fortunate minds tend things. especially fine if if they pick up on only the bad they pick up on the good things. it doesn't. get migraine headaches. didn't want to do that. they were half their size. lives. Sugar and wheat is it who knows what karma It I involved? Maybe in another hit somebody's head or something. they don't believe. I'd have to stay all for two years. I own longevity. did practice in the hospital. not very sensitive. all the over the place. then every single minute is difficult. Sensitive to upset themselves. But X rays. If you have a stable mind. One moment it goes up to the planets. I stayed in the hospital six months. I "When ing back something bad happens. "When I came think that I to Canada. helps me ill to think like this. many lifetimes. The doctor told me but I them cut out my lung I'd get well quicker. it immediately I try to understand that is the obstacle. What have done com- now? Some people blame others. ter a while. like a retreat.

go to the hell realms. if Some peo- if they are very good practitioners. A teacher came every Thursday to teach me how to do handicrafts. nasty. It's When Christians do terrible things. ple. My brother told me to do meditation and sent me scriptures. knitting. At first. "You never know about your karmic relationships with other people. if you are kind to others. your dreams and life. not unlike the Christian purgatory. don't think anyone sends you if your karma that decides. Then. and we'd watch movies together. Your karma decides where you they say that anyplace. you'll you are very stingy If and very be reborn into the hungry ghost realm. as well as places you've visited in your mind. you're very lazy. they told me to do things like embroidery. you practice to keep your mind stable during the coming is The bardo a kind of judgment place. then you'll find a good human re- birth. they're very bad. Then you "If are reborn into one of the realms. Sunday they brought dav someone would come to teach I I "In the Tibetan tradition. Every Canadian government were very 1 my husband 50 miles to see me. Also. When you are in the bardo. Even you are not a practitioner."My husband was pital. not self-serving. sad that I had to spend so much time in in the hos- That part was difficult. My husband brought me a tiny flashlight so could read without disturbing the other women in the room. you encounter the contents of your fantasies. Every me English. go right to the pure realms. after the time of their death and before they are reborn into the next In this lifetime transition. called the bardo. SANDY JOHNSON 2 2 9 . will go. the people kind. The ladies in the room taught me to play a card game called crazy eights. you might be reborn in the animal realm. all did was eat and sleep. Others. But most people go to the bardo life. the people in the the hospital were wonderful. I God will send them to hell. we are taught to think about death and about the state you enter right after death. but otherwise. after a month.

of course. and harsh words. Now that things are going faster and faster. in this lifetime. this female wisdom is very important." We were an earring. the female represents the wisdom aspect. and you vow not to do teacher gives you teachings that will purify. provides a verv powerful practice her activities are very beneficial in this generation. Killing. don't excited and worried. stealing. and lying aren't too hard. harboring ill The three in the mind are having will. maybe you mistreated them Buddhism teaches that you should We teach the ten virtues and the ten non-virtues. not to do it No matter how you grew up. When you catch If yourself doing something again. The four speech are troublemaking. a interrupted by a knock at the door. slowly you learn these things. especially avoiding gossip and harsh speech. . he learned and became enlightened. Just try yourself. stealing. severe —can be become tell purified. We have always be mindful of other people. we become enlightened "If you are guilty of any or all of the non-virtues.— If you don't have a good connection with someone in a previous one. The speech virtues are very difficult to keep. you can that. A young man wearing long ponvtail. 2 J O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and not trusting the teachings. gossip. slowly learn to have good values and reap the benefits of "Tara. you confess to your it teacher. similar to the Judeo-Christian ten commandments. are killing. a covetous attitude. then. Female energy is get- ting stronger now. Also. four in speech. the mother of all buddhas. three in the body. I you I'll get excited. and sexual misconduct. three in the mind. Jetsun-ma and I exchanged smiles. his students. If we learn. as So did well. made a mistake. In Buddha's time. and torn jeans had come to inquire about teachings. again. The Buddha said that any non-virtue —no matter how again. whether actuallv present or visualized. then you can't think. The three in in the body lying. Slowly. and male the method.

that your birthplace. and I tell them that wasn't lonely ther. We if I have that. There nothing to go back to there. In takes a long time to travel. so in a lifetime. is and Sangha (the community of practioners)." year. practice done in terms of body. are into it. whatever. feel "How do you as if it about the onslaught of people who 'try' Buddhism. those are your parents. people are the same. In is Tibet we say that in whatever country you are comfortable. feel very comfortable with them. I A lot of people ask me They ask if I if I was homesick when I came I to Canada. If Hindu or Mus- you go to see them and you them. was lonely. People ask me want to go back to Tibet. they a husband. then you stick with "Once you Tibet. were the newest fad?" to "Some people who go want too. ei- say no. somehow we if have a good feeling about a particular teacher. ticed that things frequently no- happen in threes: one takes refuge in the Three Jewels: Buddha. but is my birthplace was destroyed. If you can see them more often. but they look for other things. flattened. but they are lonely only in their minds. I I began to glimpse the overwhelming complexity of Vajranaya." As I met more lamas and studied the books they recommended. dharma centers don't want dharma. you can see the teacher that's good. People think that they are lonely."When people come to me. no matter lim. Somehow we have karmic connections. so doesn't really matter where you are. it you can see the teacher as often as you like. Dharma (the spiritual teachings). you may see the teacher only one or at least two times once a But around here. But places are the same. ligions are spiritual. Chinese Buddhism. I tell them to go to lots of teachings: All re- Hindu. it Whoever loves you. speech. Japanese Buddhism. Muslim. and SANDY JOHNSON 2 J I . Some do want dharma. First.

presence or absence of a retinue. Tara's outstretched leg symbolizes her readiness to jump assist into action. and secret levels. On the outer level. Vajrayana is mind so full of enumerations that it is no wonder the Geshe degree can take thirty years. which 2 J 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . some aspect of the psyche. began to hear about the nine yanas. they might have the student take Manjushri initiation. just as thought I was beginning to get a handle on things. inner. then. wherever scratched the surface. understand yidam practice is done on the and secret levels. a for in- stance. greater elaboration. This image can be used prayers and meditation. Meditational deities. But. form an important part of it. Each part silk in of a yidam's representation — often painted on the form of thangkas —has multileveled meanings. to de- veloping love and compassion.mind. As outer. ten non-virtues. I Then. Chenrezig's thousand arms represent multiple ways to ors used. outer. the deity represents an as a focus for image of purity and perfection. it all com- plexity. I seemed to uncover more and more the Dalai details. help to con- vey the qualities of the deity as part of the meditation. whether they all are peaceful or wrathful. ten virtues. a teacher thinks an individual should aspire to cultivate wisdom. The qualities of the deity one aspires to are thus If gradually incorporated back into the psyche and recognized as our own. On the which is first inner level. of heads number and arms. or the Vajrayana path. increasing said. assimilated. I In terms of the teachings. other beings. The col- Manjushri's upraised sword cuts through ignorance. position of the deity. through the process of visualization and meditation. and teachings consist of I inner. I yidams. each deity represents objectified. and seventeen points of training. Lama comes down to good heart. and so forth.

which is innate and inherent but often obscured. I he has made several world at the met with His Holiness in San Francisco I Ewam Choden Center. our buddha-nature. Hevajra the principal deity of the Sakya order. rid ourselves of Yidam used as a technique to defilements and uncover our mind's pristine awareness. subject of his teachings would be. His Holiness SakyaTrizin. deity practice is is not separate from our own buddha-nature. Born first in southern Tibet in 1945. Sakya Trizin has founded numerous monasteries throughout India and East Asia. and established his seat in exile at Rajpur. He also founded Sakya College.d. and Buddhist psychology. when his father died. and gener- work with the wisdom-energy represented by him. asked him what the "I'm giving a Hevajra empowerment here major empowerment in San Francisco." title at He inherited the the age of eleven. is Jet- sun Kusho's brother and cousin to Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche. On practice the secret level. Since 1974 tours. training is a school of higher philosophical studies where given in logic. philosophy. "The Sakyapas are the Manjushri tradition-holders. in the fortya. When a child is SANDY JOHNSON 2 J J . is a in the Vajrayana tradition. an unbroken lineage of lamas that reaches back to 1073 The title "Sakya Trizin" means "Holder of the Throne of Sakya.gives the practitioner permission to take cite his allv Manjushri as a tutelary deity. India. This highest Tantric deity basically represents the union of ultimate method and ultimate wisdom together. re- mantra. where he would be giving a teaching." I asked His Holiness Sakya Trizin if he would tell me a little bit about his life. visualize his form in all of its symbolic power.

we'd enjoy listening to records on an old windup gramophone. and Vajrapani. the border to India than a it hundred miles farther on. also They were mainly British military all marches although we a few Ti- betan folk songs. didn't have so is much less culty leaving for the border of Sikkim. and we had contacts also in India. They to visit us in Sakya and Her father is a cabinet minister. one would see were the monasteries and the the monks performing. after "My came wife's family from Kham. written on the baby's tongue with a special nectar made of saffron. and we performed many pujas. (Though our summer house had the park. In other countries. 1 fled to Indiffi- dia. right after His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Chenrezig. I used to have many friends as a child. about 150 miles from Sakya. But without a road wasn't so close. and only a little knew English. People think this shows a very good propensity and probably practitioner in activity is means it's that I was a my previous life.born into the lineage. the letter string is DHIH. I when I was learned English from an I American named Jarod Rhotan. But I personally think because such television or in the main thing one saw in Tibet. doing pujas with had a full box of I religious ritual objects —cymbals and drums and many toys as they offering bowls that played with as a boy. Then. children would have toys. all. is and I was on horseback. all and other substances. Manjushri's symbol repre- senting speech and wisdom.) Mainly. I monks as a child. there. I in 1959. but I in Tibet the children don't have as do in the West. butter. 2 3 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . think that in how you act early on depends on the sur- rounding or atmosphere "In the early fifties which you were brought up. We didn't have in any other kinds of worldly distractions. so we taught each other. I would mimic them. a teenager. "I was born in 1945 in Tsedong. He didn't know any Tibetan. An are early prophesy says that the Sakya lineage emanations of Manjushri.

I'm meeting lots of peoto dharma when people come and want dice. giving little do a little administering." SANDY JOHNSON 2 J 5 . So people become attracted to another man or an- other woman. The more dis- advanced the society tractions in terms of communication and such. ers.His Holiness Sakya Tri^in also a good Tibetan doctor and a spiritual practitioner. one of our duties to give divinations to people who seek help. I know their and it future. We have two boys and they both will become teach- My oldest son already teaches and is very serious —almost too serious. "Students here come to me about problems in their relationships. I teach and administer our college I and two monasteries and many other branch monasteries. is I do divinations them with was trained as a lama. "I'm living We worry about his health. Even the Tibetans who live here come with these kinds have learned from the Americans! It's of problems. Also for some counseling. advice. My auntie ap- proved of the match. so teaching. a ple. They a different kind of society. now in Dehra Dun. the more you will have.

say. but they never had any children. being healthy in the future depends on how we you 236 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . that we can't change. my auntie. For act now. learned how to text. practitioner. for instance. however.) I just played with the dice. like a is destiny. She was an extremely and she was the one who handed me the dice. if they are another kind of consciousness or "I have deeper meanings. is One up is a separate sort of conscious- ness. When If things are already at the ripening stage. the life ahead of us. was eleven years old. I I believe that everything parts. If example. slowly. and died in 1975. then you can't change them. You know till the difference through experience. this we can change. Thus karma ward better ends. but then.I asked Sakya Trizin how he regards dreams and nightmares. She 'At first I came to India. I dice. (She's dead now My father was married to her before he married my mother. It takes a long time because you have the the text says. After my mother when I was very. or. Whether we are beautiful or ugly or healthy. I began doing divinations when died. while the other like a prophesy. But early morning are like prophesy. the elder sister of spiritual my mother. they have a different feel to them. "When you ask if say no. the crop is just beginning. for there are you have the exceptions. think dreams are of two kinds. will have a slightly different interpretation for the numbers depending on individual experience. very young. is already in the ripening stage. use them for divinations. took care of me and my sister. then how well it will grow depends on how much care you give it. But karma that has yet to ripen. dreams are more dreams "I a processing of the day's events. I would have to believe that karma has two crop that you plant. that has yet to ripen can be diverted to- "Our present body. but it is not always like many think that every person who does divination of each die. Up more until midnight the middle of the night.

low. and for the best. In is an oil lamp. your karma exhausted. Everything earth. they are making progress. If the wick used up. yet to come. then you'll be very unlife. Breathlessly. You can prolong your life. they are light ahead of us. if three are it is exhausted. The nagas. the light goes out. This need easy to see. polluted: the These create terrible diseases. it is "When people die. mentally — SANDY JOHNSON 2 3 J . and the rest of the world's?" I "There are many prophesies. fore operating spiritual progress. but The Cold War is is over. if you can put in more oil. the goals try we are seeking We should our best to change our inner being beis on the outer world. for practice begins with meditation I purification. tried to in match his words with what had read. so worldly conditions don't seem too bad at the moment. ier to only one. the people. it is hard to interpret them. China changing now." I was having I difficulty keeping up. They are not naive. is because of three factors: is your life-force If all is ex- hausted. and thought back to my days Dharamsala when I decided years these people were naive. and the devas and other deities are also very much affected by contamination. a part of the prophesy. the sky. but you can prolong. that still Even if a horoscope says that It is can be changed. But unless one makes inner won't be achieved. you have to die. the ocean. if two. you can replace But both the wick and the it's oil are gone and you have no more replacements. you're to die in a certain year. and their I being affected increases the diseases. then you have no choice. think we should do more and purifica- tion rituals. healthy and shorten your At any stage you can change your con- sciousness and thus change your karma. still eas- prolong life. your merit exhausted." "What do you hope see for Tibet's future. if the light it. then over. Evolved beyond us spiritually.smoke and drink and do all the wrong things now. but is it's not so easy to practice according to the teachings. the owners of the under earth. is it is more difficult. emotionally.

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people are capable
"All

the major world religions emphasize lovingkindness and com-

passion. In
tice.

Buddhism, these

qualities represent the very root of the prac-

The person who
his

practices

and possesses lovingkindness and
establish peace

compassion within

mind can

and harmony within

himself and help create peace and harmony within his family, his neigh-

borhood, his town, his

city.

In this way,

more and more

people's practices

can increase peace and harmony throughout the world. So therefore, whatever religion or philosophy you have,
I

think

it is

important for the
all

people to practice lovingkindness and compassion toward
ings.

sentient be-

"You can become conscious of the effectiveness of
your

this just
it is

from
a very

own

feeling. If

somebody hurts you

physically or mentally,

painful thing.

So through

this experience,

you learn

how

others feel and
especially those

wish to avoid hurting them. Other beings, living beings

who

share our

human

nature

are also brought

up

in lovingkindness.

When we
it is

were born our mothers looked upon us with lovingkindness and

compassion.

When we are brought up in the midst of such feeling,
to love the person

I

think

human nature

who loves you, who cares

for you.

As

you love

this person, so also

you should reciprocate with other beings.
just yourself

It is

logical, quite obvious. If

you benefit

and hurt other people,

then

I

think that

is

so clearly wrong.

"Once we
dinary people

create

more awareness among the general
there will be fewer people

public, with or-

more aware, then

who hurt others
at the

and do
time.

evil things.

But we can't count on everybody learning

same

"Even those who have committed major crimes can be corrected by

2

J 8

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

the teachings.
negative karma

It is

Buddha's teaching that people who have extremely
killed his

—even someone who has mother; own nephew; who harm him — may be cured through
tried to
ings.

or Buddha's

the teachwill get

With

that understanding,

all

Tibetans always hope that we

our

own country

back.
it

We

believe that the truth will prevail, always,

no

matter
I

how long

takes."

asked

how he

reacted to the

many homeless

people here in this rich

country of America.

"When
beggars there

the Dalai

Lama came

to

Bodh Gaya

—and
is

there are

many

—he decided

to give five or ten rupees to each beggar.

Do

you know what happened? Even the owners of three huge buildings came
to get these five rupees.

So how do you decide who

poor and

who

not?

Of

course, you have to try

when you

see a particular individual in need.

"Sometimes

I

quite admire the beggars. They're happy, singing

songs, they don't worry.

Sometimes people who

live very
fly

luxurious lives

have so

much

anxiety about their businesses.

They

here and there but

they have no time even to talk to their families.

The

beggars tend to have

more time.

I

know people from
all

the lowest to the highest. I've

been to

restaurants with

the roadworkers and seen

them

eat,

the kind of food
dirt. I've also

they were given, chairs and tables covered with grease and

had lunch
all

in a luxurious hotel

with the Dalai Lama.
sit

And I have

traveled

over India.

On

the trains, people

on top or hang

off the sides. Also

I've traveled in first-class trains in India,

with air-conditioning and won-

derful foods.

And

I've

flown by
is

air: first-class,

and

also in

army airplanes

in

Ladakh, where there
seat belts.

no

circulating oxygen

—you

are given a mask.

No
If

No
is

seats! Just a
is

bench.

I've traveled

by horse cart and by lim-

ousine.

If

your mind

happy, even in your ricksha, then you are happy.

your

mind

not happy, then you aren't comfortable even in your fine lim-

ousine."

SANDY JOHNSON

2

J 9

I

Jamyang Dagmo-la Sakya

J

am yang Dagmo-la Sakya

married into a key noble family of

the Sakyas. Dagmo-la and her husband, His Holiness Dagchen Rin-

poche, and three sons, as Dagchen Rinpoche had told me, were the

first

Tibetan family to

settle in the

United States

after the

exodus caused by
a treachsoldiers
still

the Chinese takeover.

They made

their escape

from Tibet over

erous 24,740-foot-high mountain,
at their heels. in diapers

Monla Kachung, with Chinese

Leaving Lhasa

in disguise, the family

—the youngest
aircraft.

—and

their servants were strafed

by Chinese

Their

horses,

many too weak
later,

to go on, froze to death in

snow 4

feet deep.

Weeks

on the brink of

starvation, the family reached the bridge

marking the Bhutanese border. But thev were refused entry by the
Bhutanese,

who

feared recriminations from the Chinese. As they waited,

their food supplies dwindled.
dia,

The

Dalai Lama, reaching freedom in In-

heard of the plight of some 1,700 Tibetan refugees and asked Nehru

240

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

to

make

a

formal request to the king of Bhutan. At
entry.

last,

the Tihetans

were permitted

Mother
of the

of five sons,

Dagmo-la

is

a

much-loved
I

teacher,

and author

book

Princess in the

Land of Snows.

met her in Los Angeles, where

she had

come

to give Tara teachings.

"We were brought
ever.

to
I

America

in

1961 by the Rockefeller
for-

Foundation on a three-year grant.

never thought we would stay here
its

We

were sure Tibet would get

freedom and we could go home,

but after three years
versity,
"I

my husband and my uncle began teaching at the unistay.

and we made plans to
was twenty-six,
a

young mother with three children and

a fourth

on the way. The children attended school, so they picked up the language
faster

than we did.

A vear later

I

had another son

five boys.

"Learning the language was the hardest part, but the University of

Washington assigned
ping. In

a graduate student to help us with things like shop-

America

it's

so easy

—you go
to,

to

one

store

and buy everything. The

problem was,
learn

in India

and Tibet we had many servants
to cook for the family.
It

—here we had

to

how to keep house and

was

difficult to find

the kinds of food

we were used

and since we didn't know the measureto buy.

ments, we were confused about

how much we needed
I

We were al-

ways cooking too
India before
"I

much
but

or not enough.
it is

tried to learn from our cook in

we

left,

entirely different here.
friendly,

found Americans to be most

most helpful when you need

to ask something.

But somehow we had the idea that we mustn't ask too
are

much
ties

or people

would think Tibetans

dumb. So we got

into difficulforth, try-

—we'd

take the

wTong bus and spend

all

day riding back and

ing to find our

way home.
fast.

'American society moves so

There's no time for family, for elders.

SANDY JOHNSON

2

4

I

When the University of Washington found us a house, we had a next-door
neighbor, an older lady,

who was very nice to us. She knew we were a refugee
we
couldn't communicate,

family with young children, and even though

she would leave toys for the children and give us vegetables from her garden.

We couldn't even thank her properly. Then we didn't see her for a while and wondered what had happened. We noticed newspapers had piled up in
front of her door. Finally, they

went

inside

and found her dead. Her

family,

who all lived far away, came back to claim the house. Thev didn't seem
They just argued over the things she had left behind
ture,

sad.

—the house,

the furni-

and such. That
I

really

shocked me.
I

I

know

all

Americans

are not that
I

way, but

thought:

I

don't think

want

to live in this country

when

get old.

"Tibetans respect their elders

—our
I

society looks

down on people

who

don't take care of their parents.

always loved older people

—my

great-uncles,
"I really

my grandmother, grandfather.
don't understand Western society's fear of age. In Tibetan
for the first time,

society,

when you meet somebody
it is

you ask their name,

then you ask their age. In fact
in

impolite not to ask someone's age, but

America
I'd

...

I

made many name then
all

mistakes. I'd

meet somebody

like yourself

ask how old you are. They would be shocked. women care about how they look, but the difference is, if you tell a Tibetan woman that she is looking older, that's fine. But don't think a Western woman would like to hear that. In Tibet if some-

and

ask your

"Of course,

I

body

says you're beautiful or vour clothes are beautiful,

vou have to an-

swer, 'Oh, no, no,'

because otherwise you would be showing pride.
is

And

even

if

someone

says your son

very

good

or your daughter very beautiful,
say,

you

say,

'No, no.' In the

Western way, you
I

Thank

you.'

I

had

to learn

these customs because
"If

was always saying the wrong things.
it

you know the dharma, you know that

is

special to

be a hueveryone

man

being.

You know that no human being

will live forever;

242

THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS

has to die. You die young or you die old.

Why

try to

make

yourself

seem

younger?
"I

was raised

in a

dharma

family.

My uncle was a lama; my great-unI

cle

was the head of the monaster}. Then
is

married a lama, and
of leaving Tibet

now my
just to

son

a lama.
lives

That was the whole purpose

—not

save our
I

—we wanted

to save the dharma."

asked Dagmo-la about marriage and divorce in Tibet.

"In Tibet, a son brings a wife
are

home

to live with his parents.

If

there

no

sons, then the oldest daughter
wife's family

would bring her husband into the
name.

home. He would take the
"I

don't

know any other country where this exists, but in Tibet a woman

can have two or three husbands, maybe brothers. Sometimes a family
doesn't want their sons to go to a wife's family, so they might bring in two
wives, but
it

may not work out to have two wives live in one house. They may
sisters to live

not get along. Sometimes they bring two
the same house, but

with two brothers in

many women have two husbands, and that works well.
is

"In Tibetan weddings, unlike Western, there

no

recitation of

what

you

call
is

commitments.

We

don't repeat any promises or anything.

A

couple

wed by

the

Buddha and

blessed by the Buddha, with family and

friends as witnesses.

"The modern system
older system, even
sleep together, they
if

of divorce

is

pretty

much

Westernized. In the
if

the couple stop loving each other, even
carry the

they don't

still

name and continue to live

together. Soci-

ety looks
different.

down on adultery, but if the marriage really isn't working, then it is
I

have never heard of Tibetans going to a lawyer. They don't like to

make

things so public. Instead the two families get together and settle
If

things.

there are children, the father takes the son, the

mother

takes the

daughter.
will leave

The man

will leave

and take whatever he has with him. The wife

and take everything she brought with her

—the dowTy,

everything.

SANDY JOHNSON

2

4 J

but people know where to find them. going to ited I knew that I we weren't going back to Tibet and out. but there are I no Buddhist monasteries and nowhere will to go for teachings. In America. it. they'd think. then thev go to a stranger. everyis very happ) and very easy financially. people were not interested." on to have second or third marriage. marriage is to live together for a while I and then maybe a separate." "When wc first came to America. made a trip back to India. sire They love each other in the beginning. and he asked what was the problem. where did you prac- the dharma? I assume no temple existed then. into the background. later. I He was very kind and loving. "Thej are coming. When wc tried to talk about buddhadharma. Divorce very rare in ibet In America people go exist in Tibet. we weren't I live in India. somebod) close to family. We have our own chapel and shrine and we do our own praying. ibis doesn't " 9 "Is there prostitution in Tibet I here is prostitution in the big cities in Tibet. In Tibet if the parents can't work it out. but falls when dea fades away the marriage apart. In Tibet. is cried. all. there be some A few years 244 I II I BO A / I I H I I 4 v / / I R s . I vis- lis lolmcss the Dalai Lama. They wouldn't I take it seri- ously at and I I was a little worried. is they stir [ to it. except that there no dharma. to have children together. not just to sleep together but to care for each other. there were no dharma centers.America. After about seven years. Just one of those strange religions. The community don't nec- looks down on but we could never get rid of it. and to know that these children are half of each of you. The women essarily live in a particular area. in But they would never pay desire Marriage the West begins with — they don't look further. once they have made commitment. the couple decide for themselves to split up. thing is said there no trouble in America. Thev have counseling here. so I went and got our things At that time.' lis I lolmcss said." "Since you were the tice first Tibetans to emigrate.

teaching them. there are special to pray. When they were young. Everyone the evening and "I sit too busy. they have some a religion. I've noticed that many parents don't even have time to take meal with their children. to school or to work. and what was like to raise first her family here. "Everything you can wish for is here in this country. But here taken for granted and people don't think of the future. "They homes.' it asked her how she about the West. Later.later. when my husband and " 'I went back to India for a I His Holiness said. Even for birthdays. wish only that they would have more dharma. Bud- dhism "I says. the more imbalance. And television should be limited. times. In Tibetan Budit is all dhism. but my boys were really good. They are educated. visit. I was a very strict mother. was not easy. and all I are grown now. I didn't I know know all all They were very careful to hide things from me. feels told you. teenagers have problems. which they that they would did. So they with drinking and drugs. think children in the start West have too much freedom If —and too much their money. I told you. because in Buddhism. my husband and who uncle started a dharma center in our own home I for people gathered for teachings. After all. especially they had a football SANDY JOHNSON 2 4 5 . I had a very difficult time is They knew how important dharma name. I would never have alcohol in the house. they are lucky.' Of course. In the is mornings everybody goes own way. call 'Mother's champagne. the more negativity. or any party. so things are out of balance. her children's generation would be the Sakyas in centuries not to grow up in Tibet. we would call it the desire realm. They should at least get together in at the table and talk. but in society in our background and they liked their Tibetan It and in school they were embarrassed. would buy sparkling water. celebration days when we need and I had if a hard time gath- ering the children together as a family. they I have their own don't have to worry about them.

lamas and monks is the people. She a deity aspect of a in woman who made a promise that she all would always appear all female form to help sentient beings. She very swift. Now they are coming back to the dharma and they more "I interested in practicing. was asked to give Green Tara is Tara is verv important in Buddhism. Nyingma. she is very easy to practice. But We are the ones who go through the pain of giving birth. "I as well. like not only a Buddhist goddess. eight is hours a day. it is don't have a medical background. all re- Mother Mary like I She is embodied in all women I who help beings. "There are that is lots of deities in Tibetan Buddhism. Now we have more freedom to stand up and do things. was five years old when received a teaching of Tara. Some of the Ti- 246 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and maybe because of that we more sensitive. Sakyapa. I've been working there for thirty vears. portant. think women should be able to earn as much money as is men. So I'm happy. They like woman to woman. Tara ask her. With a lama. Whenever you right there to help. and Gelugpa—and initiations. so my work I not so im- just part of something that helps others. as well as all lineages worship Tara is and pray to her. Every Tibetan prays to her. in all of the four sects received tremendous teachings from lamas —Kagyu. but Tara is is the one the easiest because her picture like any one of us. now I have my own "I students on Saturday mornings. And I do love teach- ing in our Sakya monastery. but a goddess of in Christianity. I am much happier now than was when we first moved here. Many students to talk now seem interested in learning from women teachers. Tara ligions.game are or something. This benefits men going this way. In Tibet. women doctors. I'm glad that the women's movement work in a I blood bank. are I questions. they have difficulty asking certain women have more feelings and a different kind of wisdom. is "To me.

first "To do her a pure lineage." SANDY JOHNSON 2 4 J . Then. cleaning. you have to find a qualified teacher who has in Then you receive the teaching. —even from see." "How did you 'As a wife to sit find time in your day during those years to meditate?" is and mother who doing everything. and practice. That's initiation. I "You know.betan deities have six arms and four heads. — destroy the envi- ronment. and concentrate on her mind and your mind a body. subdue your mind. to make harmony. initiation. nature — it makes the creature So it begins to move. But you can keep the dharma inside. There are about her tragedies. earthquake. recite her mantra. isolated place. For myself. my my family. an oral transmission. the Tibetan people had a great so struggle. I the dharma while But meditation has to be done in a quiet. translated into English —how she saved people from lives a fire. Tibetans believe that underneath the earth too And when we do many negative things angry. and now I have more time mother. You can practice driving. beast or "You creature. rest of lost I much: my country. She comes disguised your someone you are close to. so didn't find much time for that in ear- lier years. as inseparable. it is good to receive an initiation. recite mantras. you receive an 'As a beginning practitioner. walking. But I never gave up. if you are sincere wanting to practice. or pray. and show compassion and love to others. what the whole initiation is is — and mind "Tara a very necessary deity in these degenerating times. speech. you don't have time down and practice the dharma. the to meditate. as "But Tara helps whenever you friend or your mother. She helps stories you to calm down. my home. sometimes eight arms. That gives you permission to visualize yourself as Tara. but got through it all because of the dharma. our own mother or your closest woman practice. you have to visualize them when you do visualize \ But with Tara you can friend.

and Dagmo-la. I to the airI port for her flight back to Seattle. We arrived at the airport early enough into her tote bag Dagmo-la reached and . Now. We are strangers "Impossible. we were never able a single quality to like or admire in each other. no fond memories. Yet we have no storehouse of shared experiences.GREEN TARA It had been arranged that I would take Dagmo-la car. a bad cosmic mismatch. In the mentioned that would be going to Florida soon to thing in visit my mother. It we had to find conflicting ideas and sensibilities. I told her about my troubled relationship with my feeling that my mother and wasn't just that were ill-suited from the first. sensing some- my voice. urged me I to talk about my mother. to talk about. with both my father and my brother dead. warm my mother with little and I are all that is left of our family. to continue our conversation." Dagmo-la said.

There. face radiated love and her arms. However her of was doing them. ready to I jump to the assistance of anyone who calls on her. waiting in when I noticed a collection of small statues inside a glass case. a table in front of text in hand. and her smiling and compassion. had also been reading Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and I Dying." by Portia Nelson. was a beautifully carved ald green. which ticularly took with me on the flight to Florida a week later. which read again and again: I walk down the is street. called I 'Autobiography in Five Chapters. her She her was ready to spring to action. was in a bookstore. thanked her and promised to I teach myself the practices. You know. I dropped Dagmo-la a note. found they led me into a more peaceful meditation.withdrew a sheaf of papers and a color photograph. think maybe you owe it to yourself and your mother to ask Green Tara for help —and maybe do some I of the practices. her neck. heart. Her hand was at on her knee in a gesture. of granting sublime realizations. thanking her and I telling my progress. There a deep hole in the sidewalk. the text explained. am parI fond of the poem quoted in the book. The ten-syllable mantra is there too. left on two lotuses and It a moon. jeweled ornaments adorned her hair. SANDY JOHNSON 2 4 9 . her right was Green Tara. Sandy. and here her photograph." try to Touched by this gesture." She pointed to the right foot. I I began somewhat clumsily my practices. which hung over the "See? She is pillow. That evening. That same afternoon line at the cashier's counter. "I Icre are sonic of the is Green Tara teachings. I went over for a closer look. In each hand she held the blue utpala flower. seated wooden goddess painted emerright foot extended. among the various Shivas and Kalis. statue and photograph at eye level on I me.

I fall I in again. There I a deep hole in the sidewalk it. I know where am. I walk down the same is street. I pretend don't see it. I am lost . There I a deep hole in the sidewalk. There I a deep hole in the sidewalk. . walk around I walk down another street. My I eyes are open. it's a habit.I fall in. 2 5 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . But it isn't my fault. I walk down the same is street. cant believe I'm in the same place. It still takes a long time to get out. I t wa slate when I arrived. . but my mother was waiting up for me. . there. and apart from her She looked amazingly well for her eighty-eight years. It isn't my fault. get out immediately. I am hopeless. . see it is I still fall in . It is I my fault. I walk down the same is street.

it it was Now. she was in remarkably good health. turning me into a four- teen-year-old ready for battle. when the imI who called herself my mother said in a quiet. Early the next morning. Sentences that begin with tried to come up with "Why" always inflamed me. swim. "If SANDY JOHNSON 2 5 I . my adolescence they sparked rebellion. I This was a so. would walk north for along the water's edge for a mile or breakfast. poster I began to explain karma and rebirths. then head back in time I Except this morning. it is only after a day or so that the old patto surface. laughed out loud. "Look. I turned right on the beach and headed south. and broke into During the week of my visit. they work as a time machine. you're a very nice lady. We are always happy to see each other terns of conflict at first. The just scenery and the beach are exactly the habit. wistful voice. startling a flock of sandpipers. headed out to the beach for a walk. had never had a reason to walk north. a run. walking south. she even asked me to tell her something about TiI betan Buddhism.steadily failing vision. street" when suddenly I am walking down came to mind. feel In my childhood they had a belittling effect and in made me somehow in the ashamed. and suitable answer. before my mother ritual: I was awake. there was such a marked change in my mother that wanted to say. same in both directions. I was observing the words "I how feels to change even so a different small a habit. quite without thinking. but where is my mother and what have you done with her?" She expressed interest in my work. Asked now same tone of voice. I and resentment begin thought about a con- versation settling: we once had about my moving from place to place and never "Why can't you plant yourself somewhere?" I my mother had a asked reasonably in her unreasonable way.

and that she was one of the teachers. we drove to another. I would I like to be a nur- mother next time. Rose explained that her boyfriend was deeply interested in Native American culture and was reading the book. go to closed. car swerved. and barely avoided run- ning into a We were on our way to lunch." if appeared with a tray." The tree. artist told her am. who drive on." was about to when she changed her mind. "Sure. asked I When I Rose I am a writer. one that seats four. wanted to know more. forces have learned there that chance no coincidences: other must have been behind had taken meeting. a tech- nique that combines massage with assisted yoga. she if by any chance I I am the author of The Book of Elders. new it. and boyfriend's work I had promised to come by the studio treat to see her and maybe even myself to a yoga/massage. I could look back with certainty and "Yes. Surprised. Months later. By the time we finished lunch. Moments later. one I never seem to find time to practice enough. It considers "health food" a fad. hesitated. since I I Finding the restaurant we planned to spotted a health-food restaurant. She showed told me a pamphlet. after my life a sharp turn in say. and I asked my mother if she'd like to try I My mother. we had exchanged tele- phone numbers. noticed that several people in the restaurant were wearing name Rose explained there was a seminar on Thai massage. "Rose. an unex- pected direction. tags.thought turing I might have another reincarnation. was crowded. a woman wearing a name With a pleasant smile she asked I tag. it was that moment." 2 5 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . and we introduced ourselves. let's try it. if we'd mind she took one of the empty chairs. was last in Palm Beach. we were given the last available table. Yoga is a favorite exercise of I mine. I From my are years exploring indigenous cultures.

many years be- and had always thought of it as a staid and rather stuffy place. Next I learned that the waiter and Joyce both are members of a Tibetan Buddhist study and meditation center. she paused moIndi- ment. India. ill. not to mention a meditation center. I had been visiting my parents in Palm Beach since they began wintering there fore. "So how's Tenzin looked up at him.A few DAYS later I visited Rose's studio and met her boyfriend. promised to come the next time I am in Florida. in 1980. puzzled. just north of I insisted Pete come stay the winter with I When told my mother during my visit with her that with one of the American Indians I would be spending some time a had interviewed. not where one would expect to find classes in Thai yoga/massage or American Indian sweat lodges. where we met greeted afterward. me to attend the Tuesday-night meditation sesI but I was leaving before then. then said as tactfully as she could. "Your blessing cord. Joyce. Joyce invited sion. I was reminded that after it was in Florida where I visited Pete Catches one winter. who had a house them. another writer friend of theirs. pointing to the red string at my neck. "I don't think we have any SANDY JOHNSON 2 5 J . The waiter knew them and them by name. "Here? In Palm Beach?" I was incredulous. who came from Saranath. Then he smiled Gyatso?" I at me and said. Tenzin Gyatso is the Dalai Lama's name. two years I had first met the Oglala Sioux medicine man. where they headed the Nyingma department at Varanasi University. brothers." he said. He had been Palm Beach. the three of us went to a small cafe for coffee. and his daughter-in-law. It is run by two Tibetan abbots.

We embraced and promised to see much more of each other. to talk about their together. Suddenly we were two women. my mother presented me with a string of pearls her mother had given her on her fiftieth birthday. it has red-robed Tibetan Buddhists too.ans in Palm Beach. Before left. Om tare tutare tura soha! 2 5 4 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . That evening my mother and went I through some of my fa- ther's things still in the life drawer where he kept them." I could now tell her that not only does Palm Beach have Indians. we are quite alike. the lessons I our own stories about our failures. each with our regrets. dear. I had indeed walked down a different street. Come to think of it. and my mother began we had learned.

with several other monks. the attendants tried. the young tulku's prayer beads flew from his hands while he was praying and landed on the statue of Penden Lhamo. While visiting Ngagpa Datsang at the monastery. His father. was the nephew of the Thirteenth title Dalai Lama. his years there. Rin- . Gelek Rinpoche was taken to Drepung monastery begin his studies. in 1939 in Lhasa on to the Lama was brought Demo Rinpoche. In 1959. His first teacher was Gen Yundung. No matter how hard it.D H A R M A IN THE MIDWEST His Eminence Gelek Rinpoc he was born the day His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai palace. the mala could not be pried from This turned out to be one of several unusual incidents. Recognized at the age of four and given the Dagchen to Tulku. During Gelek Rinpoche memorized the equivalent of ten thousand Western-style book pages. Denma Locho's Root Lama.

went to Cornell in Ithaca. Eventually they would be chosen to teach the dharma to people in the West. I for eight of us to be —economics. Rinpoche believes father's protectors must have been looking after him. the nuns gave them food the rest of the journey. a library to preserve the scriptures.poche fled to India in a party of five hundred. in Tibet. when three nuns ap- peared and asked if the son of Demo Rinpoche was among them. In 1977. thangkas. I went through a sort of teenage 2 5 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . arrangements were taught by graduate students 'After that. still Norbu Chen. I the Tibetan Broadcast. when Lobsang Lhalungpa over. By this time the Cultural Revolution was well under way objects were being destroyed. In 1964. the nuns offered the group some tea and a night's rest in the nunnery. left "Then. When the party arrived in India and told others of their good for- tune. and learned my ABC's. Gelek Rinpoche was selected by His Holiness the Dalai group of young Tibetan tulkus in Lama to join a small Dharamsala to con- tinue his studies and also to learn Western languages. at the invitation of Dr. as a student. subjects. and our sacred We opened a museum for the art. a handicraft had to things. " I wa s nineteen or twenty then. and since we sell and statues. they were told there was no such nunnery. I took went to Arlington. One monk went back and his found no trace of where they had spent the night. went back to India to the Tibet House in Delhi. while in India. English. handicrafts. we had I emporium. Through made and other the an- thropology department. where we could had given back my robes and married Daisy Tsarong. where cows would come in at night. and to Rinpoche twenty-five silver coins. But just before. I lived in a sort of servant's cotI tage. They were crossing a vast rocky desert with food enough to last one more day. make money. Texas. In 1960. New York. When to they learned that he was. last As the party left.

I were not allowed. all. which absolutely not right." SANDY JOHNSON 2 5 J . teenage rebellion had come was looking for thing. doesn't mean doing do. They think that is guru devotion. I I wanted to experiment. everything. I rebelled against the religion. yet there is These misIt understandings are caused by Buddhist practitioners themselves. to to have sex. mental thing that shifts your body and it. to smoke. extremely necessary for Buddhist a lot of misunderstanding about that. the Tibetan system. "Then I went back to During the I India. All the things that a little too late. folding hands —which it a lot of Western people physical gesture.rebellion." soul. half not knowing. We have a small society called the Jewel Heart. And wanted some- how that felt. so they do label it half knowing. bowing. prostrations." "I've noticed a hierarchy within the structure around some gurus that I find disturbing. to see — everything. and they think that it. Or maybe and I just great sex. and asked what his thoughts were. some kind of experience. Almost like a cult. People have been told to do things that way. That's what I think I was looking for?" for. I It is a Tibetan cultural I and Buddhist center. I didn't get "Was "I it a high I you were looking was looking don't think for highs so much as for some kind of an opening. to see how it felt. confirmed by my experience. it is that it doesn't help at doesn't do any good. practitioners. I couldn't get back to the United States for years. eighties began to teach many more Western students. is "Guru devotion very important." told Gelek Rinpoche that had discussed the subject I of guru devo- tion with Sogyal Rinpoche when interviewed him in France. the tradition drink. some kind of very interesting viewpoint or a different kind of feel- some kind of physical. but isn't just this is My own personal feeling. is and then they guru devotion. Then by 1987 came to Michigan. But mv ing.

you do have this vow of poverty. ity think the moral- there has a Christian influence rather than Buddhist. but not all the time. bow. is But true guru devotion is when the guru benefits you. Sometimes good to bow down. and there it is pro- found love in response. so they stand up. without understanding. That's a total misunderstanding. right? "Being rich may be the influence of very good karma. "The gurus come in. and you can 2 5 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . In the Christian tradition. Do you think this I is true?" 'Absolutely not. fold their hands. but real without feeling true devotion for the guru." "There's an attitude popular to among spiritual seekers that you have be a renunciate to gain enlightenment. Individuals are individuals.* Geleh Rinpoche "Perhaps devotion becomes distorted because the namaste system [greeting the divine within another individual] is not inherent in Ameri- can culture.

then there to benefit people. because of the influence of certain things. "We have to work with our delusions It is — anger. SANDY JOHNSON 2 5 $ . Sometimes we do act funny. kind nature. So we need to strive to overcome these nega- emotions. if you have attachment. you can always But work with it." is nothing wrong with having wealth you use "I've heard that people can change the habitual patterns of their minds. The karmic principle is this: You can never work with the but you can always work with the cause. then it can get in is- you don't have desire and attachment surrounding money and if you work hard if for it your money. to win over someelse. you just have to go through causal level. "If that beautiful nature could be exposed. human beings. Of course. jealousy — in order to overcome them. but we have to see where they come from. what a wonderful. sues. no matter that sometimes. When at the the effects are taking place. like making a deal with the tive devil. loving society we would At the moment everybody wants to win something. we behave badly to certain people.make good use the way. be. hatred. result. It of it. it. one "What we have that to remember is that it is not our beautiful nature we have a problem with. a deal with delusions. Our problems are impermanent. are. made active in the world to interact with others. but with the temporary obstacles that ob- scure this nature. kind. what the causes reverse those causes. Could you 'As tell me about we have that?" a beautiful. You will lose. and then "Karma is cause and effect. We can remove them. If important to remember that you can't make it is you make a deal with them. But we have to acknowledge that by nature we are loving.

can be very useful. Those paintings are really beautiful. then you'll find that it is not that bad. with anger. You can seek help from somebody outside. If you don't watch your mind it becomes like a monkey let loose all inside a museum. Awareness keeps the ings. 2 6 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . especially They are embedded in our family backgrounds. individual thoughts. whatever. blue. awareness of our body. it monkey from smearing the different colors on those paint- helps you change your habitual patterns. But our habitual pattern to blame others because we proud to acknowledge our own faults. I am responsible to myself. it is "Of course. Anger is part of a strong. Particularly we have to be aware of our mind. habitual pattern. but the true help comes from yourself. very hard. easy for me to say all of this. awareness of our speech. You don't want to destroy the monkey it —he has Then a right to it be there —but you have is to watch it and train properly. You'll the very idea. With jealousy. if you will not want to get up at nine. For instance."We don't have to learn it how to get angry. To put it into practice is initially. is mind is the beautiful nature that as good and Vermeer and Van Gogh paintings. comes automatically. "Similarly within our as rare as those rare. That all awareness. vou have the habit of getting up resist at noon. "I will tell you one thing: You have to help yourself. eduif cation. with attachment. Just paints over. But you make vourself do it. is and you are responsible are too to yourself. he paints green. nobody else can help you. Habitual patterns are difficult to change. is "The true way of helping ourselves to be aware of our functioning: maintain awareness of our thoughts. The or a Ver- monkey might take a big brush and paint over a Van Gogh meer. and great things. So it is time for us to catch that monkey. he puts all on red paint. But if you do not want you have to put forth effort. You don't want a crazy monkey to go there and smear paint all over it. to get angry. engraved.

Quite okay. say that anger is Some therapists I'm not a therapist. If you begin to switch that habitual pattern. you de- velop love or compassion. ger it is not so bad to sometimes put your on your own nose. much virtue as possible. good to turn around and watch yourself of Buddha's teachings is is a little bit. you develop the ability to rejoice in the fortunes of others. But the delusion of anger is at its peak. slightly away from negativity. embarrassed. in a good mood. but do know one thing: Anger is It is more than the fee that you pay to the therapist. looking forward to the day. For example. For example. then things are a little easier. instead of getting jealous. is with resistance. then. Then you get an irri- SANDY JOHNSON 2 6 I . you keep on watching your own mind. "If it is the biggest contribution you can make to yourself. a is person it very difficult to try to remember patience. anger finds He had is solutions for every problem. you're happy. be able to see the anger coming before you Then you can not that bad. Then gradually. Once you break that. the power of anger has been cut tremendously. instead of getting angry. feel it. I avoid "Some people may even recommend very expensive. slightly into virtue. right? lasts for shorter But once you acknowledge that anger. "The essence to develop as possible. It is it is a good sign. sometimes you might em- barrass yourself. it. Then maybe you will it. go slightly into what is positive. it means you are fin- watching yourself. And when that happens. to avoid as much when negativity as and to watch your mind. relaxed. then you find and shorter periods of time. You may soft. Instead of watching everybody's also faults everywhere. a little maybe a little shy. Buddha's solution that you should acknowledge that you are angry and give yourself a minute or feel a little bit two to watch your own mind. much more. the antidote to patience. "Some of us get angry with our mothers and keep that anger going it for years. When that happens. say that you've had a good night's sleep."The first fight.

There so a very close link between the mind and the body. costs Spiritually. and then acknowledge your thoughts.tation. is You get upset. There are a lot of body healers around. "So it is time to watch and to heal the mind. Look it at your mind once again. When we don't sleep well. The way to do it is through awareness. costs a tremendous amount of virtue. Through that you can heal yourself. Learn a then think. then meditate. lucid mind. mental the difficulties is very commonly manifest themselves we can't sleep. mentally. took away your happy it mood with it. you help not only yourself. And when your beautiful nature begins to shine." 2 6 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN E L D E . Even after the anger gone. need a mind healer. which can only be yourlittle bit. you a is clean and clear. you begin to help others. That's why it is it expensive. we start to get hysterical. Then you begin to have a wonderful life. and it can even cost you your health. physically. but you also self. right? When mind dis- turbed.

Now a United States citizen. northern California. He continues to travel and teach throughout the world. lives at the Gonpa's main center in Trinity county. Oregon. an early age as a reincarnation of the abbot of Chagdud Gonpa a centuries-old monastery and one of the few to survive the Chinese Communist invasion. which Chagdud Tulku twelve centers in California. in Chagdud Gonpa Foundation. Son of Dawa Drolma—one of Tibet's most renowned female lamas training from — Rinpoche and received extensive many great lamas. Washington. he came the to the United States in 1979. . Canada. and Brazil. 1983 established currently has After years of working for refugee causes in India.KARMA: MADE IN AMERICA His Eminence at Chagduc Tulku Rinpoc he was recognized in Tibet.

with wholepositive some and our experience can blossom into wisdom-mind. our whole view and feeling will be different. Could you say something how to The purify negative karma?" "In formal practice we use what we call the Four Powers to purify karma. all negativity is washed away. with habits. However we visualize. We really created actions that fully have accomplished harm. We modify our ordinary dualistic mind with meditafaith and nondualistic wisdom-mind. Some- thing happens when we practice in this way." "How do you integrate practice into daily life?" 264 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . completely sins is and obscurations. and we gret that fact and very sincerely re- and establish the intention to purify that action. we've misbehaved. "Through this practice. we confess our negative actions to that wisdom being. "There real effect in this. we didn't know what we were doing. Then the third power is to recognize that before. It truly purifies karma. either way. and yet our response. or we can wisdom source above the crown of our head. The second power is regret."I've been hearing about a lot about karma. Now that we realwill I we won't do it again. nectar and light flow down through purifying all the crown of our heads through our whole body. The same outer conditions can occur. ize. something verv tangible to our tion own experience. We recognize when we've done something wrong. It is alive. we didn't really understand what had created harm. the fourth power the power of blessing. first is to visualize an enlightened being present in the space visualize this in front of us. and devotion. where we visualize that from enlightened being. our perspective. We make this Then this commitment: Never again is repeat that kind of action. buddha-nature. suffering can be reduced and we can en- hance our capacity to deal better with daily things as they arise.

we can make some amount very of progress. when we comprehend the illusory nature of reality. was recognized as a tulku. For this reason alone. forgetting that the vehicle isn't yours indefinitely but only loaned. yes. crucial to start by contemplat- ing impermanence. borrowing a boat to cross a is river. There. we can help And as a minimum we can realize profoundly that we mustn't make other peo"There's a kind of ease that comes ple miserable. this impermanence that per- SANDY JOHNSON 2 6 5 . the more pain we encounter when they change and cease it's as they always do."I'll speak a I little bit from my own training in Tibet. —from teachand but also from directly experiencing the deaths of family teachers. Then maybe you'll never is Once the borrowed boat is reclaimed. the dreamlike quality of life. ties. If We have a precious human birth in order far. one who has directed successive rebirths for the benefit of others. Sometimes people won't realize because their lives are turning out disappointing or very trying. and instead of getting right at because you know the purpose to cross over. the more important and necessary we find them. the more attached we are to our pos- and relationships in the world. cross the river. it. Even better. sessions The point is. life. cial. we're not able to travel very at least others. you take your time or you ignore the chance altogether. painful. I Even at a very early age I was exposed to profound Most to the point of your question about practice in everyday learned through encountering the truths of impermanence ings. lost. for example. at the age of two. So I was expected to turn out rather spespiritual teachings. your opportunity as a rare vehicle that In this way we think about our human body delay. "It's also very important to understand that the highest spiritual op- portunity this lies in having a human birth. and they is lose interest in taking advantage of their It's like human capaci- which a grave mistake. we need to use well without to advance spiritually.

"Compassion natural to every one of us.' 2 6 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . though compassion is arises in seeing a child's suffering. but that we ap- proach with lessened hope and Then we're like when adults playing with children on the beach. you meet the day with an this sort of I'll altruistic intention to And you renew 'With as this commitment I every morning. You can. what we know to This The great Buddhist scholar Atisha spent his entire life in study and meditation. tell you'll have two? You remind yourself of correct motivation. very self-centered habits. Even as doesn't it is. day as I do the very best that will do right by other people much am able. the suffering of those we need to cultivate it by contemplating who invest their dream with solidity. good-hearted desire to spiritual practice. practice requires a constant reiteration of will lead to progress. Instead of setting out to become rich and famous or to follow your selfish interests. it isn't. We need to deand thus avoid velop a sincere. but because we have deep. and he came to the conclusion that everything the gle point: good-heartedness. spiritual maturity. life. life "Coming to an understanding of impermanence and having first a gen- uine. I yourself. that every- one may come to understand the dreamlike quality of the agony that results from inevitable loss.vades everything. and someday it won't be at all. life "Applying spiritual practice in daily begins when you wake up in the morning and rejoice that you didn't die in the night. of This kind of sincerity catalyzes the transformation of mind and being. make others happy are the steps to true And effective be true. in knowing that you have one more useful day —because how can you guarantee own help others. Buddha taught comes down to a sin- That is the essence of the spiritual path. This mean it that we deny our involvement with fear. and we carry the results into everyday experience. compassionate desire that suffering will cease. the adult doesn't suffer a sand castle washes out to sea.

whoever they are.' "Whenever you find that you have fallen short. do better tomorrow. then. increase the positives. all Dedicate the positive energy created by your good actions to beings. check your mind thoroughly How am I behaving? What is my real intention? Reduce negative thoughts. to. whatever condition they're in. there's no benefit. resolve to moment of patience. and be- havior. thinking. When you look back on your day. you may find that you were able to make others happy Maybe you gave food to a hungry bird or practiced some act of generosity. more compassionate in your interactions with others.HF Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche "During the day. a key Rather than becoming ever self-satisfied. be more skillful. may it cause them and long-term happiness. to feeling guilty or blaming yourself. speech. short- 'May this virtue relieve the suffering of beings. The point is to observe what SANDY JOHNSON 2 6 y .

Using the rational birth. no fault. lovingkindness— a part of the cloth until the patch is sewn so strongly garment. Buddha. You meditate this way anywhere —while driving a car. We don't have to shave on a our heads or wear special robes or leave home or sleep bed of stone. you contemplate: the preciousness of others. for if just mentioned. a cushion. I in practice you call upon a wisdom employ the Four Powers cial place. it becomes and strengthens the entire 2 6 8 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . the suffering of rest: Then you lies the all mind allow a direct. Spiritual practice doesn't require austere conditions. You don't need special props or a special environment. or it a deity. karma.you have done. not just yourself. and the quality that beyond thought —the pervasive. no limitation. like the two wings of a bird. contains no flaw. absolute perfection you gain the blessings of purification. You think. human let impermanence. "What meditation produces is a constant refocusing. faculty. subtle recognition of that which beyond thought. while you're working. and then relax. "In daily meditation practice you work with two aspects of the mind: its capacity to reason and conceptualize lies —the intellect. of reminding ourselves again and again of the deeper truths —impermanence. It doesn't matter you consider perfection to be God. then relax. because your harmful actions can be see your faults purified. That way the mind is always moving toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment. as long as when From you objectify perfection. but both together. When you being. contemplate. You have to bring pure intention back again and again. Meditation is like the process of stitching and stitching. and downfalls. nonconceptual nature of mind. You don't use one or the other "This isn't exclusively. check that your motivation includes helping all sentient beings. You don't need to go to a speis there is no place where prayer not heard. something you do only sitting on You pay at- tention to your spiritual process throughout the day.

Don't get distracted. like comes and goes. you are writing. you keep your mind on you are what you're doing. everything you encounter all — all the day's experiences and the night's experiences like a —everything has an illusion. If sewing. It just fact it is all dream. Don't in on what hap- pened yesterday or what might happen what the work rest is the future. why do we spend it arguing? So in the we realize that it larger sense. requiring diligence. your mind is on the pen. patience. comfortably in what you do. steady training. next we're sad."When you are out and about If in the world. who gives on one- SANDY JOHNSON 269 . you focus your mind on the stitch. fall We have great fortune. from Dagsay Rinpoche. use passionate? so brief?" keep patience. attentiveness. doesn't matter it — focus. why not enjoy the opportunity. we have such really well. to fight. It's like if we were going five for a long walk and we stopped to rest on a bench for maybe minutes. mav even begin Things arise to suffer extremely. as in a and and come and dream. then we lose go. Now we are happy. and somebody came to sit next to us. Don't get going It think of a hundred things at the same time. hold to closely. enthusiastic perseverance. In movie. stay with what you undertake. it's very mea- sured. a short time together. be loving and comis Why would we spoil this precious human opportunity that Chagdud Rinpoche's teaching reminded me of a teaching classes I received in Switzerland. "If you have the proper perspective. like a something to teach. and in that way you train the mind as well as with formal practice. We don't have time to lose patience. "There's nothing flashy about this kind of progress. "We simply don't have time to argue with other people. Why should we argue with them? Here we have this short moment that we can rest. or we it.

all negative like greed and hatred lose their targets and slowly dissolve. Next. Likewise. where heart or liver? would you say the the head? The legs? The it "Or if it is in the mind. the more we realize that the I its does not usually have an inherent existence. If ask each to choose an object that they can identify with. What we perceive as something solid and unchangeable is nothing but a projection formed of three "I factors: cause. The mind does not are stand still. does not exist on own. Since not all a meditation obI my I. The more we try to locate I. this practice helps you discover the true nature of the phenomena and to let go. the present. ask my students to divide this letter into five small parts. in which mind does reside? In the mind of the past.pointed meditation. it is One moment you the it happy and contented. meditation object because of the meaning behind ter signifies the "I This very simple let- famous ego. concentration on an object while dropping thoughts: all "Traditionally. like the cells in our body. concentrating on explain emptiness. students are Buddhists. you feel strong attachment or greed. they find it hard to choose one. each rephuman body. Then I resenting the five aggregates that form the to imagine separating the cles that are constantly five parts into ask them parti- hundreds of thousands of still changing. never remaining — I. feel in the next something unexpected occurs and you angry and discontented." 2 JO THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . to in teaching Tibetan meditation. resides? Is it in the body. I tell my students to search for the If it is in Let's find out whether the / is in I our mind or in our body. condition. alytical ject. or the future? constantly changing. we use an- and one-pointed meditation. I usually suggest the letter I personally quite like this as a it. and interdependency emotions if teach my students that in realizing this.

it is neither an attachment nor an aversion. it hasn't to do with ego. saw someone hitting also my wife. but is extended to everyone. as well as from negative emotions like ignorance. and hat/ed. you learn that find the I. we have neutralized our minds and are in a position to develop genuine love and compassion that truly brings about changes. but you don't do hatred. you not only analyze yourself. J "If you cannot find an / to hate. this I does not exist. can you find an to love?" "Just the contrary! Love in that way has nothing to do with the /. the same true of others. If but I'd be concerned with the person hurting you see children doing it something wrong. but also you investigate your attachment to your own children and whether attached this to. you can cut down on the three poisons of the SANDY JOHNSON 2 J I . Love means that you are simply happy to be near Once we have detached ourselves from the self-oriented and unhealthy love. and be exists in other people. similar. "When tached. specific people or objects. greed. that a solid thing it you can possess. you out of do it out of love.I then asked Dagsay Rinpoche. not hatred. When you cannot then you have to look for where you are at- "In this meditation on the J. I family. In Tibetan Buddhism. you have wrathful and peaceful dieties. own. Real love has is nothing to do with the If I which involved with attachment. If is you If can't find an I in yourself to J. you can't find a person's then what this is it that you hate? Their body? Their spirit? Behavior? When you do meditation deeply. but their motivation love. that is the first step. you need to discipline them. Sometimes the wrathful is faces seem enormously threat- ening. for her. of course I'd be very upset her. When love is pure. but they are very dif- Attachment depends upon believing that an object has inherent it is self-nature. "Love and attachment may seem very ferent.

looking at the yourself opening to the process. come up and they Other times. "When students come to me with these problems. More and more you'll feel As soon as vou get to the point where it. and ignorance. /. then drop sign that for the That's a moment you've gone too deep. They find meditation too hard because of what it reveals about them- selves. you're seeing things you don't like about yourself. 2 j 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . become acutely aware of things they don't like about themselves. Hatred can be a form of attach- ment.N'% Dagsay Rinpoche mind: anger. unfind themselves crying. it is important not to go too deep. "My students happy they feelings tell me that sometimes when they are meditating. At the beginning. Go very slowly. attachment. push. Stay on the surface. Let it I tell them not to go.

"It's helpful. a good time to begin to meditate. If You find one the rest helpful. the karma is right." SANDY JOHNSON 2 J 3 . to have someone open to guide you. Just their hands. First. Yeshe. it is Of when you teach are working with elderly people to meditate. and sometimes people will let is go of their fear of dythe most important being present when a person is dying thing. find each other. and ultimately to a peace that is universal." as a nurse in a local hospital. deity. goddess or a are dying. just like to the possibility. who works she observed that meditation helps patients. "If this is someone has an illness. said Rinpoche's wife. is "My personal message to my students that by following this path. who just very difficult to them how Then I sit there with them and hold ing. thev actively contribute to peace in themselves. of course. You can help the healing process faith in the by generating a very deep belief and course. men and women itself. is takes care of When the teacher a tells you something that then you know you've found good teacher. their com- munity. you have to be interested in finding a teacher. their family.

they will . Padmasambhava himself it's 'People say the times are bad. the future like in our hands. Hopis warn that the time of purification to look into a great mirror over. only a is upon us. "I think we are coming to a very crucial time. we all have to be very careful and aware. when said. only can change. is it's the people. that we be forced is and be judged. and we do nothing. There are certain if we can do to prevent them. And when the purification handful of people of each nation I will survive. but not the time. When I spoke to Sogyal Rinpoche in France. things that Some prophecies can be warnings.PROPHECIES What had so intrigued me at the beginning of my travels was The will the striking similarity between the Hopi and Tibetan prophecies.' If The we people make the time. It's up to us. asked him if the Tibetan prophecy held such dire predictions.

named by the Hopi and I think also by the Tibetans. what you do has I such an influence and effect on you and on the world. So prophecies as warnings. it's dif- 'The difficulty with prophecies. People don't think of the con- sequences. is so important. a time of acute danger?" "That's right. These interconnections have to do with the collective karma —you are not really completely free of others. the times are fraught with conflict. many. merit. but also to turn them into something really good. people become less "There's no kind of global awareness. What happens France affects Europe. when everything degenerates: wrong views abound. memory. is that it is sometimes people don't people know how to read or interpret them. cline. only after they've happened that people come to realize what they meant!" "But is this particular time of the millennium. SANDY JOHNSON 2 J 5 . in Sanskrit. which take the we must listen to. liable. Sometimes. drained of nutrition. the United States. In the Indian tradition.happen. The state of the world. and hard to find who it's can. in it's called Kaliyuga. then we have an opportunity not only to change the circumstances and avert the disasters. and diligence Everything is devalued. unfor- tunately. The influence is so strong. creating a sea of interconnectedness. emotions are intensified and become more negative. many which are interdependent. That's why karma ripples. the state of the environin ment affects all of us. be- cause we've done certain things already. ficult to avoid. many kar- mas. The meanings can be quite hidden. It's the dregs of time. intellect. life span degenerates. The choice is up to us. Tibetan it's Due Ngen Nyigma. There are many. are said to dere- and people's bodies. But other things cannot be prevented. and if we take these warnings to heart. unfortunately.

" When we come to die. for example. Ego-habit. There's no other to choice. a revolution of the heart and mind. What resis- that makes us resist? Is there a tool kit for overcoming that tance?" "Generally speaking. still. Yet at the end of it all. tion. this mani- fests as what I call 'active laziness': we do if everything we can to avoid the main issue. or float around in 2 J 6 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . or kalpas. "however much people want to practice meditait? do they experience an internal resistance to Even when thev meditate. for example. In the West. we cannot resist. we have "How can "That is our personalities become more true to our nature?" is what the whole Buddhist path about: the ego aspect of our personality dissolves. understanding and forgiveness. this "But the Buddhist teachings don't speak of world coming to an end just yet."We must become ble. end up as nothing." tion." "Why. and the unique quality of our buddha-manifestation shines. what's important that our future very much up to us. and is many is phases within them Anyway. we have to surrender our resistance. will You don't have to worn that when you become egoless you turn into a vegetable or a robot. let go. we'd end up extraordinary practitioners. they end up simply falling asleep. I And it can be laziness. it's when people experience resistance to medita- habit. There are many epochs. sometimes think that we put half the energy we invest in not practicing into practicing. finally. personally responsible and universally responsiestablish the princi- we must have more of a sense of community and ples of love and compassion. The basic spiritual teachings should be taken deeply to heart and allowed to bring It about a change. to the practice alwavs comes back and to working with ourselves. try to is it I asked.

Sogyal Rinpoche outer space. and yet they were very different. ChenBuddha of En- the Buddha of Compassion. Manjushri is the Buddha is of Wisdom. really The amazing thing is that when you lose your ego. yet each of them manifests unique and rezig ergy. about the buddhas. SANDY JOHNSON 2 7 7 . which is difficult to do The nature of all buddhas is one. Both est realization of the have had the highthe same Dzogchen teachings. while manifesting their own special qualities. like Dilgo are considered to Khyentse Rin- poche and Dudjom Rinpoche. conceptually. then you become 'somebody/ Egolessness are. let's talk too becomes a manifestation of who we "For example. Look also at the great masters. is special qualities. and Vajrapani as all other the They are the same buddhas. both come from tradition.

re- ceiving the teachings educates you and makes you very aware. With the teachings. Even though there may be resis- tance. it thing is that when you discover what meditation can a seems ridiculous to stop yourself from having such wonder- ful opportunity. advise you. then to reflect. In we need to hear. Buddhism. and then to apply them. So then the teachings begin to come back to you. and inspire you to overcome your resistance."One simple bring you. one which has wisdom and begins to guide you." 278 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS . there's also an inner voice. We need to remember the teachings.

during one of our weekly my mother raised the sticky subject of my future was still reeling from thinking about the future of the world when stay in California she asked me if I would when this project was finished. held my breath.THE OTHER OCEAN telephone conversations." she said softly. but after that could look forward to staying at home. I Soon after my return from Europe. I paused. plans. with my dogs and my books. "I really don't know/' I said. My next project required traveling. wherever that might be. I She went on to say she'd been thinking that like to was time owned my own help make that possible. and she would have you near get to about living down here it for a while?" she asked." . fearing that her reasonable ques- tion I would rouse the terrible teenager. "It would be nice to for the next years. "Perhaps we can start to know each other. feel "How would you home.

A way home—to find a lost part of myself. from the time dark. That the beginning of a responsible That what Buddhism teaches. She'd be telling us what to wear and who our friends a prolonged silence." 2 8 O THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS ." So my clearer mind saw this as an opportunity for some badly needed karma repair. but on life I my environment. my mind: "Buddhism asks my family. The teenager woke I I . he. to "walk down a different street. is my friends." in would be nice just to spend Lobsang Lhalungpa's words echoed to accept responsibility. After such checked to see if my mother voice quite said. . fast cars. got my I first and stayed out past plane. the up. . "I the line had gone dead. dummy. should We'd never write another word. everyone whose touch. in a gentle new to me. some time together. it Then fast horses. It's a trap. Then. my own is life. and you'd have your friends. the most independent woman I have ever known It know you have your work. us Whatever I do or say or think has an impact —not my only on society. life.I thought about I all the years bicycle I I had been running from and rode too fast fly a mv Was mother. even learned to I reallv my mother and all thought she stood for that ran from? Or from Me feared might see in her? Now she was inviting me back into her life.

their karmas are their own. their chilI I dren and their father. and we each form give our chil- our own puzzle. yet they are separate. We are a fractured The pieces can be fitted together to make a whole. pieces of a peculiar kind of jigsaw.EPILOGUE The packing goes slowly. and think: The Wanla oracle never said which great ocean. I have met the people of Shambala and listened to their voices as I they spoke of the beauty of simple truths. Jetsun Kusho had all said. will be in Florida in time for Christmas. My sons and stepdaughters. but have learned patience. family." On my last trip to Florida there I learned there was a sangha I among the palms and sea breezes. "We dren flesh and blood and the love and tending we are ca- pable of at the time. are making plans to be there. Moments when listened care- .

a place a find. I have come to the end I of this particular journey. know know now that Shambala a very real place. gathering along I the way the gentle wise ones to have met and whose words I have listened and recorded and taken to heart. as Moments when my eyes saw clearly. ponds of knowing under a cloudless. until for achiev- was a civilization that lived peacefully for at least a thousand their borders were invaded. To some. Theirs years.— fully and with an open heart. a last handbook for saving the world. I was train able to glimpse as it from a speeding still —images of that kingdom slipped by: flashes of crystal truth. They offer us some practical advice ing inner peace. Shambala called Lost Horizon better. quickly. secrets The people of Shambala hold the we must once have first known but somehow have within ourselves before lost sight of. written by some of the people alive who have access to the instructions. 2 8 2 THE BOOK OF TIBETAN E L D E . Now it seems am beginning another. a movie in black and white I and a stage play set to is music called Shangri-la. that peace must be found we can begin to expect peace in the world. I is a mythical place. I was almost able to hear strains of the song of Shambala. few other- wise ordinary-seeming people know how to They walk among us with quiet steps and trusting smiles —and a certain light in their eyes. turquoise in the and flowering trees bearing fruit of pure wisdom planted time before time. secrets. sky.

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BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY s\<r\ 3 9999 03019 258 5 BRIGHTON E ICH LIBRARY .

the Tibetan elders course already of Johnson's —most about the of which have come SANDY JOHNSON The Life Stories is the author of The Book of Elders: & Wisdom of Great American Indians. At the same time. the previous Dalai Lama's tailor. the great ture. Jacket design by Lisa Amoroso N . Her work of nonfiction Against the Law was the basis for both a television movie and a feature film. to escape a what has now become Sandy Johnson the life brutally oppressive environment. Johnson meets a age woman of indeterminate who lives life in a cave praying that people might be less distracted by material things and learn to care for each other again. — including the date of her death. as well as two novels.(Continued from Jront flap) camps. Johnson herself is on a spiritual quest. and interwo- ven with the stories of the elders comes her own physical healing as well as a long-awaited reconcili- ation with her family. women masters the entire range of the culAn astrologer offers to produce Sandys chart. dictions The book life is filled with pre- made by true. a stone carver shows her the rocks with prayers painted on them that he places in the river at the that the water end of every day so it may her carry blessings to everything touches. The Cuppi (a Literary a Guild York selec- tion) and Walk Winter Beach (a New Times Notable Book of the Year). Many survived. traveled around the world gathering stories and teachings of Tibetan doctors. the state oracle. however.

even when his or her how poor. Even when nothing left to give. an elder is one who carries the knowledge of tradition and wis- dom of the heart.The Book of Tibetan Elders is an unprecedented and stirring chronicle of some of the world's most it precious wisdom. one who walks in ter how revered.BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS LIFE ST encounters are critical to all of us who share a concern for the health of the planet and for the spiritual replenishment of those who inhabit T." — McLUHAN SBN 1-57322-023-X 52495> 9 781573 "220231 . The voices she 9781573220231 . even there is truth and dignity no matter people. in humility no matown larder is down to the last there is when the body aches with fatigue. Some heal with a song. C. gathered here in attempt to bring back from the brink of destruction. —SANDY JOHNSON The Book of Elders "No one seriously interested in understanding America's Indian cultures should miss this book. Some elders heal with a knowledge of natural med- known or recognized by the dominant culture. Some heal with a spirituality worlds beyond many of those who don black robes and preach on Sundays. An elder serves the sack of coffee.' PETER MATTHLESSEN "This is an important and revelatory book. an open heart." icine not yet M&te&z. "Not defined by age or gender. it." TONY HILLERMAN 'Stirring and valuable. always an open door. Author Sandy Johnson embarks on a journey of discovery of unknown destinations into the heart- land of Native American cultures.

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