Friday, April 16, 2010

Directly From the Center of My Heart

As I read the myriad reports, and see the video in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Yushu, I am remembering an early evening during the height of the Cultural Revolution.

I walked into the backyard of the house on Webster Street, in Berkeley, California, and encountered Tarthang Rinpoche standing motionless. He was looking West, up into the sky, and as I approached, I saw tears glistening on his face. 

My immediate thought was to comfort him in some way, but I did not know what to say, so I just stood there mute beside him, looking into the sky.

After an interval, and without turning his gaze, he asked me, very softly, "Do you see that sunset?"

I replied that I did.

"Is it beautiful?"

I replied that it was.

"Many good lamas died today," said Rinpoche.

We are all prisoners under that same sunset. We deceive ourselves of freedom, but we are prisoners just the same. 

There is nowhere to go.

We stay here for each other: some by chance, some by vow, some by desire, some with ambition, some do not need a reason. Maybe it is so wrong of me to feel a particular sorrow when I see destroyed temples and bloodied burgandy, but forced equanimity is no longer equanimity, and I cannot escape my own humanity.

Many good lamas died today.

Note: We are continuously updating links to earthquake coverage at our consolidation page, here.

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9 reader comments:

Anonymous said...


Sonam said...

This is why we love you Tenpa.

Jacek said...

Eh Ma Ho!
In the center is the marvelous Buddha Amitabha of Boundless Light,
On the right side is the Lord of Great Compassion (Chenrezig)
And on the left is Vajrapani, the Lord of Powerful Means.
All are surrounded by limitless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Immeasurable peace and happiness is the blissful pureland of Dewachen.
As all beings pass from samsara,
May he be born there without taking samsaric rebirth.
May he have the blessing of meeting Amitabha face to face.
By the power and blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
of the ten directions,
May he attain this aspiration without hindrance.
OM Ami Dewa Hri

Nicholas said...

May we all clearly perceive all appearances to be as insubstantial as the fabric of the night and instantly awaken to the pure wisdom display arising in every phenomenon. May all the honored departed, in this tragedy and all others, be reborn in Dewachen, bathing in the radiance of Amitaba, the Buddha of Boundless light. May all those suffering loss of friends and family members find refuge in Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva of compassion; and may all those suffering injury of body or mind take refuge in Menla, who without doubt heals all wounds and cures all illness. In the wake of this tragedy, may all tears shed in sorrow on behalf of those suffering in Kham be dedicated to the liberation of all beings suffering in the ocean of samsara, and that the causes for suffering be eliminated for every being without exception, that all beings arise as emanations of the exaulted one, Chenrezig, the outer universe becoming the pure realm of Potala Mountain.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me approximately what date perhaps (month, year) that day you mention from the cultural revolution would have been?

I went to UC Berkeley for undergraduate and remember seeing your house there and being curious (if the Tibetan place near campus was the one you were at), but I never made a serious connection. I wish I would have! I guess it was not the time. That was about 1987-1990.

I would have never done the things I had to do in the mundane world if I had entered that building back then.

TENPA said...

This is the 1968-1969 time frame. In 87-90 you are thinking about the Nyingma Institute on Hillside.

I really enjoyed your comment, but you know, we all had some things "to do in the mundane world" and it all becomes useful.

Never too late, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is the place I remember. I was born in June, 1969. I think I remember what happened in the Cultural Revolution some time before that as well!

Anonymous said...

"My immediate thought was to comfort him in some way, but I did not know what to say, so I just stood there mute beside him, looking into the sky."

Nightprowlkitty said...

Sharing with you a poem I wrote about Thrangu Monastery. My teacher is going to Tibet soon. I am a poor student but have much devotion.