Thursday, December 27, 2007

Remembering Freda Bedi

For some reason, Freda Bedi comes into my mind this afternoon.

I do not remember the year, but I recall the last time I talked to her was when H.H. the XVIth Karmapa was visiting in San Francisco. I had been with His Holiness over in the East Bay, but when we all left for the City, the car in which I was riding was involved in a traffic accident and I was taken to hospital. Freda called the hospital to speak with me, to tell me that His Holiness was of the opinion I was significantly injured, and wanted me to know he thought I should stay there rather than try to continue. As it happens, I had a fractured skull, but I left the hospital anyway and when I arrived, she gave me a rather extensive but completely good-natured scolding.

So, she died in March, 1977, as I recall.

That is over thirty years ago now, and I doubt anybody remembers her. She never had a "blog," never published any articles in glossy magazines, never saw herself on the cover of any books, never went on well-appointed speaking tours, never did a CD, never did a DVD, and never lived in a fancy home. Still, I think we all need to understand that she made enormous contributions to Tibetan Buddhism at the really most perilous times. There is a brief biography of her online, and you may wish to read this but it won't convey the magnitude of her achievement. I have often heard it said that when the Tibetans first started straggling over the border in the 1950s, Freda Bedi was standing there to greet them with a warm cup of tea.

I do not know why she so suddenly comes into my mind with such depth, or why my eyes suddenly fill with tears of respect. She has certainly taken auspicious rebirth, and her age would be as we know. Freda Houlston; Freda Bedi; Mrs. Bedi; Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo; Sister Palmo; Ani-la, Mummy... these were the names by which she was known, 1911-1977.

In those days, there wasn't time for claiming credit, watching the till, striking poses, or a lot of fanfare.

One simply followed one's heart and did things accordingly.

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