Sunday, 25 September 2016

Am I Dreaming You?

 Am I Dreaming You?

When someone we know and have moved with through life suddenly disappears from this world forever it can give us a huge shock. As a friend recently pointed out to me; 'Death is the least surprising thing in the world and yet when it strikes without warning it is the most surprising.'

Life is indeed dreamlike. So dreamlike that we often cruise through our days barely aware of what is really going on. Then suddenly someone we have known, someone we have loved or loathed or someone who has in some way touched our lives, even if only the fringes of it, is suddenly gone. They are no more; phoof!

Are we so numb that we only look up for a brief moment before snapping back into our distracted world? Or do we get enough of a jolt to 'pause'?

The 'pause' is crucial. It is our ticket to something so much bigger than the petty concerns and preoccupations of our day to day life.

The following excerpt is a continuation on the theme we have been following in the previous two posts from the book; Who Lives Who Dies?

"When I was around thirteen years of age, I used to cycle to school with a girl who lived quite near our house.

Jessie was a little older than me. She had gorgeous, healthy, long blond hair that always seemed to fall in perfect folds around her face. She was not beautiful but she was certainly attractive. She was not one of my closest friends, nor was she a confidante, but I enjoyed her company on the long cycle rides to and from our school and over the years we developed an easy going and pleasant friendship.

Every day we had to traverse many miles of roads to reach our college. We often found ourselves pushing into a strong head wind which made the journey seem that much harder and longer. Cycling together, Jessie and I would chat and joke about all sorts of things and the trip felt less tiring. Near the end while on our way home, we would push our heavy cycles together up the indomitably steep, ‘Tamaki Street’ which stretched up the hillside on the last leg of our journey. Alone, this last climb seemed interminable, but when there were two of us it didn’t feel quite so bad.

We made these trips five days a week, month after month over a period of several years and because we shared this routine so regularly I seldom thought anything of it.

Then suddenly one day she was gone. I got the news from my sister, who heard it from a friend of hers. Jessie had been instantly killed when a motorbike, on which she was a pillion passenger, somehow missed a bridge, flew off the side of the road and crashed into the riverbed below. It had happened two nights before word had reached my ears.

I was utterly stunned. Then, as that sensation began to wear off, a seeping, painful sense of having been betrayed swept over me. I thought of all the days that we had cycled to and from school together. I thought of all the hours that we had spent in our respective classrooms. I could not think of anything that she or I might have done in these past years that could have in any way prepared us for this.

I could think of nothing in my school life or my home life that came even near to addressing the fact of ‘death.’
The things which I had spent all my time doing suddenly appeared superficial and irrelevant. I wondered that I could have slipped into such absentmindedness.

All the days, months and years that we spent in our college, doing our lessons and then all the hours spent after school doing homework, suddenly all of that seemed like some kind of bad joke.

Despite my previous experiences, nothing I had done up until this point had really addressed this issue.

My life suddenly felt very empty. There was something about it that made it seem unreal.

That life could be snatched away suddenly was something I had brushed against much earlier, but ‘I’ had gone on, life had gone on and once the old routines recommenced I had been lulled back into that shadow land which engrosses all of our energy and attention with things that we are somehow made to think are important.

In this new situation, someone I had seen and shared time with almost every day for several years simply was no more and there was nothing that anybody could do to change that.

That very day I made the cycle ride to school alone. It was a cold Monday morning. Never will I forget walking into the classroom and having to endure the silent stares of the entire class. No one knew what to say, no one knew what to do. Something unspeakably ‘mysterious’ had happened right in our midst and yet we all just sat there doing our lessons hour upon hour without even alluding to it.

In those days there was no pupil counselling to help students through any kind of crisis like this, there was no support at all.
One was simply expected to get on with it; with the same useless, meaningless grind, as though nothing at all had happened.

Somehow, when Jessie died, everything felt different in a new way. I had reached an age when my mind was beginning to question and inquire. In earlier years I had simply accepted whatever came along, but now I felt no longer able to do that.

Her death left a completely unexpected, gaping hole in a day-to-day ritual that we had shared for several years. I found it impossible to accept that she had simply ‘ceased to be.’ The sense of absolute mystery about her disappearance from the world threw me into a contemplative mood. I found no comfort in the words I heard in church.

I urgently needed to know what it actually means to ‘die.’ I did not want to hear some secondhand stuff that had been pulled from a book. I wanted more than that.

During that time, I discovered one thing that could bring a sense of relief and perspective to my life. I took to sitting outside at night and gazing up at the sky.

When I did this I could feel the ‘mystery’ and the ‘something’ which is so unfathomable about our existence. To look out and see countless stars and universes helped me to bypass my questioning mind and feel directly something which I could not name. When I looked into the vastness of infinity I could feel at once that there is so much more to our existence than the petty day to day concerns that ate up all our time and energy. This helped me to cope with my grief and frustration.

I suppose that is when I understood that the society I was growing up in would not be able to satisfy the deeper, inner questionings that this event triggered.

The intense and actual mystery of so-called ‘death’ loomed up before me as a huge and solemn unknown.

How was it possible to continue on with the daily routines knowing that we all faced this and that one day we would die? Surely there was something more which we needed to know.

Western societies are not known for prolonging their mourning. In fact, the feeling one gets is that as soon as the loved one is buried or cremated, as the case may be, it is expected that there should be a sense of closure or, at least, the expectation of closure and everyone then goes on with whatever it was they were doing before.

I felt that ‘death’ was not being given its full due, it was being brushed over in a way that seemed superficial and inconsistent with the fact, that each of us would have to face this at some point.

Why was it that no one seemed to wonder where she went or what actually happened to her? Why was it that people were able to believe, so unquestioningly, what they had merely been told? I knew that could never work for me.

It takes some unravelling to get to the bottom of the complex feelings that can accompany the loss of someone who has touched our lives. Most of the time, these feelings are glossed over, ignored, or buried beneath a load of distractions. There are endless ways of not confronting the reality of loss and death directly.

We avoid the confrontation by filling our time with self-centered and artificial distractions. Very often we are preoccupied with all manner of things that are not in the least bit vital and this is primarily how the days, months and years of our lives are filled. All the while, we know very well, that the ‘clock is ticking,’ that our time is running out, yet we are no closer to understanding what it’s all about.

Inherently we are so much more than we are led to believe. There is a mystery in that. A mystery far beyond the confines of what our day to day ‘thinking mind’ is willing or even able to comprehend. We can get a striking sense of that even very early in life.

The fact is that we cannot escape ‘ourselves’, where ever we go, whatever we do, we are bound to be confronted, sooner or later with the mystery of our own existence.

This is why it is vital to look deeper now in the midst of so-called ordinary life, with all its cares and distractions, because the ‘now’ is itself filled with immensity and holds the key to the deep, disclosing recognition of who and what we really are. The now is all that we really have!

Jessie’s life came to an early and abrupt end and she did not know herself beyond the body and mind and the routine day to day needs and preoccupations of worldly life. But it can be different for us. We have the chance to look inward and discern beyond what appears to be true to what actually is true.

Life gives us a push and in some instances a sharp and hard slap, forcing us to look further and more deeply. We are not bound to believe all that others would have us believe, we must discover the truth for ourselves and the signposts that rise up on our individual journeys are often unique and perfectly tailored to help us do just that and thereby, wake up.

May the inward journey for each of us begin now; fresh and renewed with each passing moment! "

Page 50: Where Did She Go? from the book;

Thursday, 22 September 2016

True Meditation

True Meditation is an effortless spacious moment
in which we let go of our 'selves' of our 'thoughts'
and our endless distraction.
By allowing our attention to just rest naturally,
we give ourselves the opportunity to
recognize what is always there...

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A Matter of Life and Death

Rainbow above Sydney Park

We think that we are the body. We identify with it in almost every way. We spend inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money to keep it fed, rested, beautiful, clean, healthy etc. Is there anything we would not do to make this 'body' more at ease, more comfortable, more attractive?

Yet every single one of us knows, deep down, that one day this body will dissolve into the elements from which it originally arose. Everything that is born into this world will one day die. Can we point to any great figure, in all the history of past aeons, who did not die to this world, sooner or later?

Yet we seldom really give much attention to this fact. Life swallows us up with its distractions and fascinations. By focussing all of our attention on the shifting shadows of day-to-day goings on we constantly fail to notice what is unshifting, stable and ever-present.

Yet, there are those who have solved the mystery of our 'existence' and who live and move in this world fundamentally unfettered by the physical body and all that concerns it. They are the authentic teachers in this world; those who have gone beyond the strictures of religious ideologies and dogmas.

We may or may not have the karma to meet with such as they, in this lifetime, but we should, at least, know that they exist and that all of us have the potential to be as they are.

They are as a 'lighthouse' in this world. Beacons of hope in a shifting landscape filled with danger. We need to know that there is so much more to who and what we really are and they come into this world to help us to realize that. Essentially they are our inspiration and our hope.

The following is an excerpt from the book; Who Lives? Who Dies?

Early one morning I woke to the sound of thunder. It was a humid pre -monsoon dawn in Boudhanath, Kathmandu. The year was 1991.
I bathed, dressed and had a light breakfast, then made my way along the lanes and pathways from the room where I was staying to the Monastery of
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, which was nearby.

I knew that something ‘special’ would be happening that morning in Rinpoche’s room and I was determined not to miss it.
I reached the temple and quickly skirted the Mani wheels as I headed clockwise around the main building to the back entrance.

Once inside I was able to dart swiftly up the stairway to the third level where Khyentse Rinpoche had been staying the last several weeks and was just in time to slip inside the door before it was carefully and resolutely bolted from the inside.

I was one of the very last arrivals, all others were already inside and seated quietly on the floor. The room was full but not overcrowded. Only a selection of Tulkus, Lamas and a handful of western students were there.

The atmosphere was charged, not only with the gathering of focused and largely influential attendees, but, also by the approaching storm which filled the room with flashes of lightning and claps of thunder.

Storms were a common afternoon occurrence at this time of the year in Nepal, but only rarely did they take place in the early morning hours.

I had heard the day before that Tulku Orgyen (a great Dzogchen Master) would be offering a special Long Life Empowerment to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche(a contemporary and also a great Dzogchen practitioner) who had not been well for some time.

Although I had received this particular blessing already numerous times before, to be present when two such illustrious masters were coming together and under such deliciously secretive circumstances, was not something to be missed.

I quickly found a place to sit at the back of the gathering so that I could take in all the proceedings while leaning comfortably against the outer wall. The supplication chanting had begun.

Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche had already completed all of the preliminary preparations for the empowerment and a number of ministering attendant Lamas were officiating near the mandala and ritual objects which had been carefully laid out and arranged.

As soon as these prayers had been offered in unison by all those present, Tulku Orgyen launched into the main part of the ceremony.

Few people knew that this empowerment was taking place and the whole thing had been kept very hush, hush with only certain close students in the ‘know.’ If it had not been kept secret there would have been throngs of devotees hoping to attend and the sheer numbers would have made the event untenable.

All proceeded smoothly until I suddenly noticed that Tulku Orgyen had stopped reciting the prayers and was doubled over on the cushion just in front of Khyentse Rinpoche.

One of his long-time Western students from Germany, a qualified Doctor, who had been attending Orgyen Rinpoche for some years, was present and swiftly flew to his side. A ripple of surprise and alarm passed through and around the room, all eyes were glued to the drama unfolding at the front.

It so happened that at the moment of recitation of a certain part of the empowerment Tulku Orgyen had suffered a heart attack. Khyentse Rinpoche who was sitting right in front of him had been reading a small text while all this was going on and quietly looked up. He made some comment and then continued on with his reading.

Before long, Tulku Orgyen, with the help of one of his several sons, sat up again and continued on with the empowerment to its conclusion. It was all carried forward in such a manner that anyone not alert might have completely missed what had just taken place.

However, the irony of that morning was not lost on many of those who were present. In the dynamically charged atmosphere, it was a moment few of us were likely to easily forget. Death had come knocking at the door of the Lama who was bestowing the ‘long life’ empowerment. Khyentse Rinpoche had acknowledged what was happening and then continued on with his reading as though it were the most ordinary of day-to-day occurrences.

The ceremony was completed without further mishap. All were given the blessing and sent on their way.

Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche lived on for many more years and Khyentse Rinpoche passed away within three months.

Both of these masters were fully accomplished in the Dzogchen ‘view’ and all of us present that eventful morning were in awe of their realization. Neither Lama feared death or life, having gone courageously beyond both, and reached stability in the ‘natural state.’

None can predict or interpret the dance and play of the forces that rule our lives.

We may forget to acknowledge the extraordinary mystery of That which powers this whole display of being born, living out the allotment of our days and then undergoing all the stages of physical dissolution, but whether it is acknowledged or not, it is played out relentlessly.

From the standpoint of ‘realised beings’ such as our two distinguished Lamas at the centre of this event; nothing happened because their reality was based on something so much larger; something un-shifting, unchanging and unfathomable.

We all witnessed the manner in which neither master took this incident personally, or was even particularly concerned by it. They simply noted what was happening and continued on, just as they did with everything else that came their way.

Having a ‘view’ as wide as the sky, what is there to fear in the passing events which occur throughout life? That which is unshakeable, unchanging and eternal is our basic, inmost nature. In abiding in this state a realised being is able to pass through all the fluctuations of transitory events while remaining completely unaffected by them and in so doing, point clearly, un-mistakenly and powerfully towards that which is our natural inheritance.


What is the moral of this story, you might ask?
Once one crosses, for good, the threshold of recognition of one’s inmost, true nature, one transcends forever, the limitations of the mind, which is chained to the relative world and its conception of ‘life and death.’

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Sooner or Later We Will Face the Mystery

There comes a time in our lives when we get shaken up. It might come about through any number of happenings and in any number of ways. Some momentous personal event suddenly helps us to view the world and our place within it in a totally new light, thereby, bringing into focus, the mystery of death.

Giving our attention to this huge 'unknown' which we call death can help us to open another door into the even greater mysterious cavern of, what we call, our life, which in turn, can point us at last, towards the greatest of all mysteries; that of our awareness.

Awareness is always present and yet remains unnoticed, 
unheeded and unappreciated.

During the coming weeks, we will be posting some excerpts from the book; 
Who Lives? Who Dies? What We Need to Know Before We Go
This is intended to give a snapshot of one woman's endeavour to fathom this mystery. 

We are all 'called' but we don't always listen to and heed that call. Life swallows us up with its unending round of distractions and it monopolises almost all of our 'attention' all of the time. 

May the following articles inspire readers to look past their usual preoccupations, even if only for a moment. It takes courage to use this precious life to do what is most meaningful and yet this is our true birthright. 

May you be inspired to take some steps towards embarking on your own journey into the heart of being.

In the first place it is important to know what a 'human being' can be in the highest sense. These days the focus is on people who do not know 'who and what they really are.' We see endless examples of this in the fame and adoration given to politicians, sports stars, actors, and musicians etc. But what does it mean to encounter someone who has crossed that invisible threshold and become so much more...?

My father was a Polish Catholic, my mother, loosely affiliated with the Anglican Church. Neither faith made a very strong impression on me in younger days, although I felt a deep love and respect for the Christ figure and for the simplicity and integrity with which he had lived his life.

In my twenties, I met a Tibetan Lama of high standing (the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche) and was profoundly impressed. I had never encountered such a powerful human being before. This was not a worldly type of ‘power,’ it was something far more mysterious. This person, who was already nearing his eighties by the time I came along, had the sort of ‘presence’ that just automatically, ‘stopped the mind.’

I could not understand what was happening when I was near him in those early days, but at the time that seemed unimportant. When I came within his orbit, I felt as though I was merging into something so much larger. It took a long while to even begin to comprehend, intellectually, what I felt immediately and instinctively in my heart.

In the presence of such a being, the opportunity for a radical shift in one’s focus becomes entirely possible. In the years that followed, I met a number of other highly realized Tibetan Lamas in the Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. All had been trained in the old school way in Tibet prior to the Chinese occupation of 1959 and all had undergone long periods of retreat in various remote caves and sacred locations in and around Tibet.

Each of these teachers had given up comfort, ease, family, and friends in order to find ‘truth.’ They had given up ‘everything’ in order to attain the highest goal. These days it is rare for such things to happen.

Although my teachers have been primarily Buddhist, I consider each one as having gone, entirely beyond the confines of their particular religious creed.

Their power sprang from the source of their own pure and deep experience and that is something shared by all who have recognised their true nature and achieved a measure of stability in that, no matter what tradition, religion or creed they may be affiliated with.

Truth, which is vast and eternally relevant yet changeless, is beyond any mind made creed or religion.

Let us meet in the eternal truth of what is here and now!

Excerpt from the Preamble:  Who Lives? Who Dies? 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

No Place to Go

Sydney Park by L Lauren

There is a favoured place. 
A place to sit and breathe and simply be...
It is set apart on a small hill and overlooks a large swathe of the surrounding area.
 It takes in the expanse of sky and space around.

 In this place, it is easy to remember that we are not what is happening to us.

 We are beyond all happenings, all doings, all comings, and goings.

We need to be reminded of this again and again because the 'world' pulls us out of our centre again and again.

Yet this world is as fleeting as the time that birds that come together on a branch.

For just one moment they are there and then they are gone without leaving
 a trace.

Like the passing clouds and moods of the sky above
we can lose ourselves in the ceaseless tumult and rush of this world.

But our inmost being can never lose us.

Constantly it is tapping away at our awareness,
 beckoning us to remember,
 summoning us tirelessly to
 look within.

We always tend to think that we have somewhere to go, 
something to do, someone to visit, something to say.

Yet the truth of our being is constantly trying to remind us that we are
complete, whole, and undivided.

No place to go. 
We are always just where we need to be.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Blade of Finest Steel

Iron Ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace
but when the blade of finest steel emerges, it knows better...

If we could see our future; if we could know how things will turn out and
if we could comprehend the greater and wider picture, we might move
through this life very differently. Then again, we might not.

How much of what happens is actually up to us?

We like to believe that we are the master of our own little ship.
That we are standing at the helm, making all the decisions and that we are in control. The whole setup looks and feels so convincing. There we are on the bridge clutching the wheel while all around us is the wide and open sea. Despite the size and the seasons of this vast ocean space, we feel that we are indeed steering our own independent course.

Yet, is this really true?
And how can we know if it is or not?

Recently, I underwent a journey at considerable expense of time, money, energy and effort. It did not turn out the way I had been hoping for or expecting. In fact, it was altogether quite disastrous in terms of those preconceived expectations. 

It seems not to matter how long we live, how much we do or how far we travel, to some degree or other we remain glued to our belief in what we 'think' we know. Very often the results of life experience don't seem to add up to much and certain things may take place for which we can find very little meaning at all and yet at the end of the day, do we need to? Would what we know or think we know really affect the outcome?

Is there anything in what appears to 'happen' to us that we can actually hold onto? If we look back at events they are just memories. If we look forward to future happenings, they are simply fabrications of the mind's hopes and fears.

The mind is brilliant at fabricating, interpreting and judging, but can we really trust it?

The ego can take a certain satisfaction in what we might perceive as 'worthwhile' or positive outcomes but what do we do with the stuff that we just can't make sense of? 

If we are not to become cynical about or jaded by 'life' there remains only one course open to us. But how do we get to the point where we can let go of our preconceptions and assumptions without going through a process which will ultimately leave us no choice. Such a process is likely to be a torrid and long drawn out affair?

As tiny children, we could look out at the world without preconceptions, but then life set in and we were loaded with so much information, imprisoned by so many surrounding thoughtforms and finally so bound up by our own created mental attitudes that now we can no longer remember the simple innocence of just 'being.'

Think of the way each grain of sand on the beach has arisen by the action of endlessly crashing waves and seasons. We can be likened to these grains and our life experiences to all its ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. 
"If it were not for the stones and boulders on the mountain, we could not catch hold of and move onward and upward to the summit of the peak.

How many of us ever reflect deeply in the midst of happy circumstances. When things are going our way, we relax and tend to let the time fly by. We don't consider the deeper questions surrounding our lives and our existence. We don't question our assumptions about this world. In fact, we take our lives and the extra-ordinary fact of our existence completely for granted.

Only when it is about to be snatched away from us or from someone to whom we are deeply attached, do we stop and give our attention to what is most important.

As babies, we could look out at the world without bias but as we proceed deeper into the maelstrom of life we loose our 'real' selves and become hopelessly entangled and confused.

"Water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink." Afloat on the sea of life our very existence arises due to the 'water' of our awareness and yet we often feel ourselves to be alone and abandoned on a vast ocean from which it seems that we cannot drink.

Again and again, life rises up to force us to look more closely at that 'water' of our awareness. The filters created by our mind must be taken away, either one by one or all at once, before we can see it for what it really is. Sooner or later we must acknowledge that nothing could exist without it and that we do not even need to reach out to grasp at what is inherently already there within us.

So next time we feel ourselves to be like helpless iron ore, aflame within the furnace of uncertain life events, we can remember the blade of finest steel. It will flash brightly in the rising sun to remind us of what has always been ours. It is what makes the flashing of recognition possible in the first place.

Ultimately, we have two choices; either to let go and recognise what is already there or to undergo the painful, forging process required to help us let go of the multitude misconceptions that our mind has created. 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Letting Go and Letting Be

If we are always in a rush we will never be able to take the time to notice what is happening to us 'now.'

When we take a moment to in our day to just 'let go and let be' we swiftly realign ourselves with the effortless, lucid and spacious awareness which is our true nature...

In the rush and bustle of just getting through our daily routines, we completely miss what is right in front of us; right under our noses!

Because we fail to notice this spacious 'present moment' we get constantly propelled along by the unending drama of whatever is happening around us at any given time. 

The whole universe is filled with the 'beingness' of our existence, it is unspeakably dynamic and always available. It is the one 'constant;' the only thing that we can ever really, truly count on in this world.

It is our 'best friend' in the truest sense of the word.
No one can take it from us and no one can give it to us. We have only to acknowledge it within ourselves.

When we acknowledge the existence of what actually 'is' we do ourselves the greatest possible kindness.

Herein is the key to happiness, peace and joy. 

Why waste another day, or another moment, being caught up with what is unimportant? Our work has a way of taking care of itself. When we do not invest all of our interest in it, but just do whatever we need to do properly and well, without expectation of gain or loss, we release ourselves from the slavery of constant 'business,' infused with the anxiety associated with hope and fear. 

The body can be 'active' but when there is no attachment to an outcome we are released into great and spacious freedom of living in the present moment, without expectations and without investment in our 'doings.'

Of course, this is a radical shift in the focus of our awareness and yet it is within
the reach of each and every one of us.

I am just here to beat the 'drum,' which is a constant reminder of how things
actually are...

Friday, 22 April 2016

A Disconnected Life

"It is no measure of health
to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
Jai Krishnamurti

If we had to come up with one word to describe the controlling forces in our
modern society that word would have to be 'fear.' It is at the root of all kinds of troubles which loom large in our current modern world.

We are not only fed a multitude of reasons as to why we need to be fearful but because we believe that what we think we know and what we perceive with our senses is true and real we become entangled. The whole spiral of delusory perceptions spins around relentlessly due to the momentum of those inherently faulty beliefs.

This is the merry go round of samsara and it can carry on turning indefinitely if we let it...

Thankfully though, we have a choice as to whether we buy into all of this or not.

We can 'pause' at any time and re-evaluate the whole strange situation which has quietly entwined us so tightly that we barely even noticed that we can no longer live freely anymore.

"Everybody dies but not everybody lives.
They walk amongst us.
Those that do not know that they do not know."

What does it take to wake up? 
A paradigm shift in our awareness of awareness...

This may sound difficult yet bringing it about is one of the simplest of things we can ever 'do.' In fact, it is not even about 'doing.'
It is simply about 'being,' about seeing what is already and always present and available to us.

It is a radical shift in our perception of perception itself!

It is about the innate 'freedom' which nothing and no one can ever take away from us.

A 'disconnected life' is a life lived without the awareness of our awareness.
We have within us the ultimate treasure and it is always with us patiently awaiting our recognition.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Pause, Breathe and Open Your Heart


Developing the ability to let go into moments of 'openness' enables us to reconnect with the simple day to day occurrences in life which can instantly bring us into a place of joy and simplicity.

Modern life is full of the opposite. There is rampant 'disconnection' with what actually 'is.'

This is the reason why it is so important to take moments to stop and breath and by this I mean to really let go into the breath. If we can let go of our clinging to ‘outcomes;’ our clinging to expectations; our hopes and our fears, then we permit ourselves a precious moment of ‘inner silence.’

This ‘inner silence’ is an unwinding, it allows the mind to unravel the intricate and deluding web of thoughts which normally engross our attention.

When we begin to ‘unwind’ we enter into the natural state of just letting things ‘be.’

There is a natural rhythm in the cycle of our breathing which can easily convey us into a place of silence. It is not that we have to ‘do’ anything; we just need to relax and yet remain completely alert in the space between thoughts.

When we expand into the present moment, which is uncontrived and effortless, this simple non-movement takes us instantly to the edge of infinity which is the expanse of the ‘true self.’

We get so caught up in the little dramas going on in our lives and in our minds; that we take them to be true and real. But if we stop for a moment and look up into the sky, be it day or night and let that vision touch us in that secret, silent place beyond thoughts and words, something can happen.

In the flash of an eye, our perspective can shift from petty, self-involved preoccupations to the infinite mystery of the universe in which we ‘live, move and have our being.’

There need be nothing fabricated in this shift of perspective, it requires nothing but openness of heart and mind in order to reconnect with the profound mystery of our existence.

In doing this, we reconnect with the sacred, and the sacred is free, always available and unbelievably near.

Yes, we are that minuscule dot in the vast expanse of the universe but we are also that universe; the one reflects the other in a way that is utterly unimaginable and perfect.

The greatest adventure of discovery that one can ever embark upon is the inner adventure, the adventure that dives deeply into the 'self;' the mystery of our existence and of who and what we really are.

This simple message is being repeated again and again, like the beating of a drum. There are endless ways of saying this one true thing and yet the meaning is always the same. The intention is only that we will awaken to the call, hear the sound and dive deeply into the true self.

This is the one panacea to end all our troubles and the single most important thing we can do in this world.



Friday, 5 February 2016

A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived

Beloved Lord of Refuge, how can we can never repay your kindness.
Merging into the expanse of Wisdom
you will continue to benefit countless beings …

If you don’t reflect on death and impermanence
There will be no way to practise Dharma purely.
Practice will remain an aspiration,
One that is constantly postponed.
And you may feel regret the day that death comes,
But by then it’s too late!

Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche

While working on the final stages of the book, (Who Lives? Who Dies) I received the news, early one morning, that my teacher Chadral Sangye Dorje had passed away in Parping, Nepal.

A few days earlier I had received a warning that he was unwell and had immediately thought to put together a list of things I would need to do and pack should I have to leave quickly for Nepal. I knew very well that if I received news that he had ‘passed away’ I would very likely be in no state of mind to attend to all the details of making a sudden and hasty departure. Surely enough, that ‘word’ came on the 5th of January 2016.

He had actually passed into ‘Tukdam’ (final meditation state) on the 30th of December 2015 at 17.35 but as he had requested his close family members not to announce his passing until he had fully merged into Maha Paranirvana, they carefully kept the occurrence a very strict secret. Not even people working on the premises inside Rinpoche’s compound were aware of what had taken place.

Chadral Rinpoche lived to the considerable age of one hundred and four, counting by the Tibetan system which includes the months of gestation prior to birth. His had been a grand and long life and one which had been of benefit to countless sentient beings.

He guided and took care of me for more than twenty years and the gratitude I feel along with the sense of the deep connection which will always exist between us is something which is not possible to describe in words. Along with the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche he was one of the central and most important people in my life.

Since 2009 it had not been possible to meet face to face with Rinpoche but for me personally, this had not been an issue. I had had the great fortune to be able to spend much time with him and was guided closely through my retreat years. I had been extremely fortunate to be able to go to him when I needed his advice or to verify ‘experiences’.

Others were not so fortunate however and a whole new group of people both young and old from all walks of life and all parts of the world missed that precious opportunity of direct contact with him. Nevertheless, his influence continues to reach far and wide.

Before 2009, Rinpoche was very accessible although he never lingered too long in any one place. There were a few occasions when things might not have gone the way some people might have expected but this was part of the beauty of his style and expression. He was never a Lama to compromise on the things that he held dear, neither could he be ‘brought around’ once a decision about something or other had been made.

A hundred and four years is a long time to be alive in the world. Rinpoche met with and was and an influential force in the lives of so many people. He saved countless lives and lived out his term without compromising his convictions in any way. His life was one of simplicity and integrity and stands as a testament and shining example for all those of us who were fortunate enough to witness at least a part of it as also for those who were not.

He spent time in worlds so incredibly different. Imagine Tibet in the early nineteen hundreds long before the Chinese occupation and try to compare that world with the one in which we live now? He moved seamlessly through both, never missing a step, never faltering in his determination to benefit sentient beings.

Practical and Yet Spontaneous

Rinpoche was a supremely practical man who did not possess even an ounce of hypocrisy. He was so direct and to the point that some feared him. Although he was very much a Tibetan ‘Yogi’ he could also be quite traditional. However, it simply was not possible to narrow him down and label him as either traditional or non-traditional because he rose to meet every occasion from a place of complete spontaneity.

His focus was always on the ‘essence’ of things, and he had little time for or interest in anything else. He was a living embodiment of the Buddha’s teachings, which he had so completely ‘owned’ through his own practice and experience and he encouraged all of his students to do the same.

Rinpoche’s spontaneity arose from his moment-to-moment capacity to live in the present, which gave rise to many unexpected little incidents, some of which could be quite humorous.

I remember one morning when we were buzzing around and preparing for a trip up into the hills of Darjeeling. We thought we had things pretty well in hand but when it was announced that the car had arrived, Rinpoche suddenly leapt up from his seat and began to head towards the door. We quickly grabbed the warm clothes that he would need that day, and awkwardly tried to dress him as he moved. Once he got into motion it could be difficult to pin him down. His daughter Semo Tara Devi was there on that occasion and between the two us we managed to put a jumper on him and also drape his trangju and sen (yogi skirt and shawl). But then suddenly he was heading towards the door again so Tara grabbed one shoe and I the other. Only when Rinpoche was actually climbing into the car were we able to see that he had a different shoe on each foot. Certainly, Rinpoche had not noticed.

Dry words in a book on a shelf were for the scholars. Rinpoche moved freely through the fields of experience. There was joyfulness around him and a scintillating sense of freedom without boundaries. Even so, it should be noted that Rinpoche was also a brilliant and prolific scholar who authored, at least, three volumes of works which are widely read.


He was tremendously learned in an organic way; his learning came through experience, and it revealed itself with considerable authority and power because it was so completely authentic.

This authenticity never moved me more profoundly than on an occasion when a small group of woman students gathered one afternoon in his room in Salbari Gompa in order to receive the Bodhisattva vows.

Some weeks before this event, a long-time Western student and I had been discussing the practice of Guru Yoga in general and Chadral Rinpoche’s Guru Yoga in particular. I had been deeply impressed by the way my friend had recounted some of his personal experiences in this regard. He had discussed the various qualities of different sadhanas (practices) but then pointed out that the Guru Yoga of Chadral Rinpoche was so potent that the blessings which flowed from it were almost palpable. He had said something to the effect that you can almost ‘hold’ the blessings in your hands and feel the weight of them.

The image which his description had conjured in my mind remained with me very clearly, and that afternoon when we gathered to receive the vows I kept remembering it.

I had taken Bodhisattva vows already on several occasions with other teachers; however, a European student of Chadral Rinpoche’s requested that he give them to her, and I found myself in the fortunate position of already being present in the room and therefore able to be part of this small group. I was delighted by this happy occurrence.

There might have been five or six of us present that day. If I remember correctly, we were just two foreign women, a couple of Tibetan nuns and one or both of Rinpoche’s daughters.

At that time, Rinpoche was staying in the small room upstairs in his house in the Salbari compound. We were called together and then he beckoned us to enter the room and close the door behind us. We stood before him in a line across the width of the room. Rinpoche meanwhile, sat on his meditation cushion on the floor ensconced in a large furry cape.

Although I had spent a lot of time around Chadral Rinpoche in an informal way, I had only been present on a small number of occasions when he gave formal teachings or empowerments. This turned out to be one of those rare occasions.

Rinpoche asked us all to make prostrations and as we did so, he picked up his bell and damaru (small hand drum) and began to chant the lineage prayer of the Longchen Nyingtik Tradition. Rinpoche’s lineage is a remarkably short and powerful one originating in Kuntuzangpo, which passes on to Jigme Lingpa, Gyalway Nyugu then on to Patrul Rinpoche, Nyoshul Lungtok and Khenpo Ngachung, who in turn passed it on to Chadral Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khenpo.

I don’t recall that I had any particular expectations of what was to come except a pleasant sense of anticipation which in no way could have prepared me for the impact of what was to follow.

As soon as Rinpoche’s deep and rich voice began to intone the lineage prayers I felt myself suddenly and quite inexplicably catapulted into a ‘timeless state’ which was absolutely saturated with blessings, so much so, that even though I had barely completed my three prostrations, a surge of tears rose up and began to flow.

I was not at all prepared; no handkerchief, no tissues, not even a long shirt sleeve to come to my rescue. These were not the emotional tears of joy or sorrow; these were tears that overflowed from some previously untapped source in my being. With every passing moment, it was as though Rinpoche was opening wider and wider the faucet on a stream of grace. Not only did the tears flow from my eyes but my nose was also streaming. I had never had any such reaction in previous gatherings where we had all taken these same vows. This was something quite unprecedented and really took me by surprise.

For the entire duration of the gathering, this flow continued. I recall feeling some embarrassment at not being able to control what was happening or even blow my nose. I was a complete mess, so much so that I did not notice if anyone else was as affected as I was. I only recall how relieved I felt when it all ended and I could rush off to my room and wash my face and re-compose myself again.

As Conventional as He was Unconventional

In many ways, Rinpoche could be quite conventional, and yet in others, he was quite the opposite.

One instance of the manner in which Rinpoche could be unconventional, and which most people would not have been aware, prior to his passing away, caused many some surprise. This only emerged when the family compound in Parping was opened to the public. On the walls of the Lhakhang, which had been built inside the compound, were painted the Hindu deities of Shiva with his consort Parvati. On the left side of the shrine; Krishna with his consort Radha and their entourages along with various other representations of this kind.

Directly in front of the temple entrance, and housed in its own separate building, a Shiva lingam of generous proportions.
To some traditional Buddhists, this would seem like a grave eccentricity in the Lama and something quite inexplicable.

However, Rinpoche had gone beyond the narrowness of needing to confine himself solely to the accepted and traditional Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. He saw no conflict of interests. What these images represent is an expression of ‘energy’ in its many and varied forms and this ‘energy’ is universal.

On more than one occasion I was with him when we visited a Hindu shrine. One which he dropped into regularly, was the shrine on Tiger Hill near Darjeeling and there were others in various locations.


There was complete integrity in all that he did, and this is no doubt why he could carry so powerfully the traditional alongside the non-traditional.

He made it very clear that he would not perpetuate himself in the lineage of ‘Tulkus’ and requested that no one search for his ‘reincarnation.’ In recent years, after the passing of several great masters, a number of ‘Tulkus’ were put forward as candidates, and much controversy ensued. Rinpoche made his position crystal clear on this point and thus avoided any future complication.

He had always steered clear of the monasteries and large institutions and consistently underlined the importance of doing practice in solitary retreats in order to have direct experience of the essential points of the ‘dharma.’

On several occasions Rinpoche made the comment that some people who came to him and who were dressed like ‘practitioners’ actually had no stable inner experience, while there were those who seemed to be very ordinary and who did not have the appearance of being a ‘practitioner’ yet who were in fact ‘true practitioners.’ To Rinpoche, a ‘true practitioner’ was someone who had recognized the natural state and achieved a measure of stability in settling into That.
He underlined for us the fact that we cannot judge anyone by appearances alone.

He established many retreat centers after he moved to India in the late 1950,s so that those who came to him would be able to practice in suitable locations and thereby actualize the teachings by gaining first-hand experience of them.


He clearly pointed to the fact that one has to practice the ‘dharma’ in order to gain benefit from it for one’s self and in turn for others. He had spent many decades of his life doing just that and often under the most trying conditions. For many years he had wandered around Tibet, staying in the caves or in a small tent with little more than what he could carry over his shoulder. He could easily have passed his days in comfort and plenty in one of the rich monasteries. He truly had lived as an example of what he later encouraged others to do.

The master is not able to give us something that we do not already possess. He/she simply alerts us to our true and inherent potential. It is for us to understand and gain true experience of our inmost natural state by taking his/her advice to heart. Rinpoche gave his students every opportunity to do this, providing the conditions needed to really settle down and practice.

He established many simple places where practitioners could come together, or where they could be alone in order to practice the Dharma without distraction.

He always emphasized the need to gain experience in retreats and almost all of his direct students have undergone a retreat or two under his guidance and care at one time or another.


That our lives should be an expression of what can bring benefit to others is the motivation of a true Bodhisattva whose every action is geared to turning others towards the ‘truth’ which is within themselves. Rather than spending our precious lives and energy in meaningless activities and distractions, he encouraged us to benefit beings through sincere and concerted practice motivated by Bodhichitta. As with the perfume of a flower which need not ‘do’ anything particular and yet which affects and purifies the whole surrounding area with its scent, so too should our practice radiate its fragrance throughout space.

Soon after Rinpoche escaped to India from Tibet he took a vow renouncing the consumption of meat. This happened in nineteen sixty, long before it became fashionable. Prior to that, he had been as rabid a meat eater as any other Tibetan. Once he decided to abstain, however, his stance was unshakable, and all the temples and retreat centers under his guidance became ‘no meat’ zones. Here again, he was an example of what he preached and living to a grand age underlined the fact that human beings can subsist very healthily and happily on a vegetarian diet.

He made it a mission to release countless fish from the fish farms in Kolkata and elsewhere. Other kinds of wildlife were also rescued in a similar way.

His compassion revealed itself through a long stream of activities that brought freedom, on one level or another, to countless sentient beings.

The Humor

It was a delight to spend time in Rinpoche’s company. There was always plenty of laughter and light-hearted banter. There were so many humorous incidents, but one instantly springs to my mind.

One year, we were in the Lhakhang retreat center up in the Helambu Region of Nepal. At that time a group of devotees had come up from Sermatang to accompany Rinpoche to their monastery.

Around thirty of the older and higher ranking people from the village had made the journey on foot in order to welcome Rinpoche and accompany him back. They brought with them a sturdy little pony which Rinpoche was to ride on the way down the trail to the village. This particular pony was an old favourite of Rinpoche’s and had carried him around on other such occasions in the past.

On the morning when we were due to leave everyone gathered near Rinpoche’s hut. He climbed onto the pony, a big happy smile spreading over his face. One lama went ahead of our group wielding a large kukri blade in order to make sure that the pathway was cleared of any debris or stray branches and the rest of us followed behind.

Barely had the small horse begun to move than it let out a loud fart. We could see Rinpoche ahead shaking with laughter and everyone behind followed suit. The animal continued on in this vein every few minutes all the way to the Sermatang. Goodness knows what he had eaten for breakfast. Suffice it to say, we kept a respectful distance behind…

The View

Above all else, Chadral Rinpoche encouraged us to recognize our ‘true nature,’ because absolutely nothing else will be of any use to us in the long run. This and this alone is the chief and crucial point. In recognizing and practicing, one brings into balance all other factors in one’s life. It is the great panacea, the one thing which brings resolution to all that causes confusion and suffering in this world.

On one incredibly precious occasion when he gave a couple of us some ‘pith’ instructions, he referred to the advice given as the ‘blood of his heart.’ Such ‘treasure’ has the power to liberate countless beings; we need only open our hearts and pray with one-pointed devotion. Our devotion is like the sun that melts the snow on the top of the mountain of the Guru’s blessings.


A few days after the news had been broken about his ‘passing,’ I made my way up to Nepal from the South of India.

I had gone to Nepal for the first time in almost a decade in August of 2015 and had the great good fortune to see Rinpoche on a number of occasions.
I had gone in order to pay my respects while I was still in the region and had made my way over from Darjeeling, having spent the summer months in my retreat hut in one of his centers in the hills.

The latest visit, however, although following just a few months after was under very different circumstances and carried with it a very different mood.
Being the middle of winter and in the grip of not only the cold but also profound economic and political misery, there was an added dimension to the sense of sadness at his passing.

Crippling power cuts and shortages of every kind were the order of the day and these were not due to the after-effects of the powerful earthquake that had struck only months before. These had been brought on by the greed and short-sightedness of an elite few.

Despite all of this, however, or perhaps because of it, the population near and far came to Parping. They came in droves to pay their respects and receive the blessing’ of the reliquary.

Initially, I had passed some days inside the temple shrine and participated in the ceremonies that were taking place. However, it soon became too crowded so I withdrew to a spot outside and below the temple area. Every evening before the prayers ended, I would head up to the temple building and stand near an open window in order to recite the words of the Guru Yoga prayers with all the Lamas who were gathered inside.

For me, this proved to be the most moving moment in the days during which I could be present. Invariably, as soon as the Umsey (chant leader) began to sing this particular prayer, his voice would crack and waver. Sometimes he would have to stop chanting all together and then another Lama would take over.

Rinpoche had brought so many of us together and the feeling that we were and are one big family remains. How can we ever forget his kindness?

A Life Well Lived

Day after day I sat and watched the stream of humanity, young and old, rich and poor pass by and through the temple precincts in which the Kudung was being housed. It was not easy for these people to make this journey to the fringes of the Kathmandu valley. Their transport was inadequate and often terribly over-crowded. It was a costly journey for most people and also extremely uncomfortable. Yet they came and kept coming.

It is profoundly moving and humbling to see how one life, which is motivated towards the good of others can influence so many in juxtaposition with those who are motivated by temporary gain and greed at the expense of so many.

What a stark contrast and the more moving for being so.

We need good examples of how to live our lives and how to give precedence to what is most meaningful. It is not as though we are going to have endless chances to do this.

Everywhere we look we can find countless examples of lives spent in dissipation and distraction while a well-lived is a rare thing indeed.

I can only rejoice in Rinpoche’s example which was and remains so deeply meaningful not only me but to so many. The radiance of what he gave the world will continue to have its beneficial effect long into the future if in fact, humanity has a long future before it…

In these days and times, we can be sure of nothing except the ‘one true thing’ of which we have spoken repeatedly throughout this tome.

May we be moved to discover this for ourselves and thereby make our own lives resonate with what is truly meaningful.

With the pure motivation of Bodhichitta (the wish to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings), each one of us has the power to transform our world.

May we keep this in our mind and heart; always.

Precious Bodhichitta, the highest attitude
Where it is unborn, may it arise
Where it is born, may it increase,
rising ever higher and higher.

Prayer by Shantideva