|Khandro Tsering Chodron|
Khandro Tsering Chodron, was one of the most remarkable woman i have ever had the extraordinary privilege to meet. Slight of build, her appearance betrayed a woman of great strength, loyalty and humility. I could sing her praises until the cows come home, but in the limited format of a blog, one must endeavor to be somewhat contained. In case you do not know her history, she was the consort of the great Tibetan Master, Jamyang Khyentse Choky Lodro. She came with him from Tibet in 1956, just before the take over by the Chinese in 1959. When they first arrived in India, they went on a long pilrimage to many of the sacred places, but from 1957 they lived at the Palace Lhakhang just above the town of Gangtok in Sikkim. Khandrola, continued to stay there after Choky Lodro passed away in 1959.
She lived and practiced in the simplest possible way, staying in the room that housed the relics of her Master. This room was in the southern, lower corner of the Temple, and here she would sit in her wooden meditation box, with just a few personal effects around her. I always had a sense of awe when i came into her presence and into this room. One could sense a very special atmosphere the moment one entered.
The first time i saw her was in 1989, when she visited Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche at his monastery in Nepal. It was evening, and there were not many people around. In fact i seem to remember that it had been expected that she would come at a quiet time. She preferred it that way. At that time i knew very little about her, but it was apparent that she was no ordinary visitor. Khyentse Rinpoche had climbed out of the large wooden box, where he sat a good part of the day, and, taking a long white scarf, had gone to the door in order to greet her. This made a strong impression upon me at the time. The atmosphere on that occasion was saturated with a silence, and the fact that he had gone to meet her seemed very significant. This did not happen very often and yet great Lamas from all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism came to meet him in this room.
When she appeared at the outer door, she cast a bright smile that shone like a beam of light into the huge hall like waiting room outside Rinpoche's private chambers. A diminutive figure, clad in a simple dark chuba, and wearing a little green woolen hat, which she quickly pulled off, careless of the fact that her hair flew out from under it like a silver halo. I clearly remember the hushed excitement and the joyful exchanges that soon took place between them. There was nothing extraneous or effusive in this exchange, but one clearly sensed the love and the profound regard which each felt for the other. This was a moving thing to witness and remains one of the precious memories i have from that time.
In the year of 1996, I went with a Tibetan friend to Gangtok in Sikkim, to attend a Kalachakra Empowerment that was being enacted by H.H. Dalai Lama. One day, during a break, we climbed the hill to the Palace Lhakhang, and upon approaching the Temple, i noticed a number of wooden selves with many flower pots and boxes directly outside the windows of one of the lower rooms of the Temple. What struck me most in that moment, was the fact that my favorite flowers were growing in many of the pots, and i had not seen or smelt this particular fragrance since i had left New Zealand way back in the 70,s. The flowers were freesias, and the effect of coming upon them like this, so unexpectedly, instantly bought tears to my eyes.
It was perhaps a minor occurrence and yet it stopped me in my tracks. Standing outside those windows and bathed in the scent of these flowers i felt a sensation of coming into the presence of something deeply familiar. After making one complete round of the Temple, we came again to the doors just outside this room. My friend beckoned me to follow as he stepped inside and then lifted the curtain over a door on the left and then entered.
He had been very keen to meet with Khandrola. He was preparing to go into a long retreat in the mountains to the north of Kathmandu, and was anxious to receive her blessing before he went. His father and uncle had both met her on several occasions in Lhasa in the 1950's and they had great faith in both Choky Lodro and her. I was very eager to met her myself. Khyentse Khandro had been the consort of my Master's, Master. In fact Choky Lodro had been close to both Dilgo Khyentse and Chadral Rinpoche, the two most influential people in my life. These were strong associations and the sense of being in the presence of something deeply 'familiar' could hardly have been surprising.
She greeted us with a bright and completely open smile. I have not met another woman who was as unaffected or as humble as she was. However i was also profoundly struck by the atmosphere in that room. It was both intangible and yet, at the same time almost palpable.
Soon after our arrival and exchange of greetings, a large group of visitors appeared. Khandrola quietly slipped away to the bathroom and we both instinctively knew that she would not reappear until the crowds had passed through and gone again, so we made our way out into the glistening sunshine, both of us deeply impressed by this brief encounter.
After my first meeting with Khandro Tsering in 1996, i was not able to visit Sikkim again for several years. However in march of 2001, i set off for Gangtok, eager to deepen my connection with Kandrola and spend time practicing near her. Soon after arriving, i found a pleasant room not far from the Palace, and as evening set in, took up a kadak and my small offerings and headed towards the Temple. It was a glorious, golden evening, and at that time, there were few buildings near the Temple, it stood alone in grand splendour, on the fold of the hill. A small apartment off to one side, housed an old Lama, whom i found dozing quietly in a deck chair, around him, the inert bodies of three or four cats stretched out comfortably...
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