One suspects it is a bit like having a famous father who has now passed away. People keep coming up, saying, "I knew your Dad. What a swell guy he was! Make him proud, O.K?"
You can agree in principle, and you can agree in sentiment, but Dad was Dad, and you are you. Dad is dead, and you are living.
It is something Kalu Rinpoche lives with every day, as people keep trying to stuff him into the mold created by their perception of his predecessor. I have even heard lamas of mutual acquaintance say things like, "Yes, well, I was a little disappointed when I met him. I was expecting an old man."
Kalu Rinpoche is not a kindly, wise, old man, the icon of a past generation:
Kalu Rinpoche is a kindly, honest, and courageous young man, on his way to becoming the icon of his own generation:
Not long ago, Kalu Rinpoche took the unprecedented step of publishing a statement on YouTube, where he tearfully confessed issues in his life that were seemingly presenting themselves as obstacles. The issues ranged from drug and alcohol experimentation -- at a level that would bore most American high school students -- to the confusion of adolescent sexual exploitation, and a highly charged allegation that one of his tutors tried to murder him.
Speaking plainly, it took nerve, it took guts, and it took a mighty heart to clean out the blackmail pipeline before polecats could reach the tap. I don't have anything to say about what he did or didn't do, but I might have plenty to say about older individuals -- some charged with his welfare -- who put a sheltered, innocent, kind-natured boy in compromising situations, just so they could have a weapon to use against him later.
[Full Disclosure: I've never met the younger Kalu Rinpoche. Field Note: I dislike to commit the same sin I have just decried, but I was quite friendly with his predecessor. At times, I was directly responsible for his physical security, and well-being. We traveled together, and did events together. We spent time in one another's company, and came to enjoy that time. When I see his young successor -- the son of a man and woman I also knew and liked -- treated so downright wrongly, it causes me to think of politics.]
Kalu Rinpoche is also thinking about politics. Since his widely publicized statement on YouTube, he has been occupied with trying to sort out issues relating to transition at Sonada. He has a heavily entrenched mob to face, well dug in; grown fat by virtue of positions engineered between the death of the former Kalu Rinpoche and the maturity of the present Kalu Rinpoche.
On his Facebook pages --- here and here -- he often muses about the situation, sometimes bewails the situation, and occasionally throws his hands up at the situation. You can see the same statements on his blog, as well. I do not see anything out of character in these statements. His predecessor was also disillusioned with samsara at an early age, cultivated renunciation mind, and wound up spending a considerable number of years in retreat.
Recently, his statements have become overt requests for assistance. This past Monday, he remarked:
"I need your help and your love because I am working on Sonada things... ."
From 1962 on, Sonada was built with generous overseas assistance from (primarily) the United States, France, and Taiwan. As an institutional matter, those who built the place are the biggest stakeholders. That Kalu Rinpoche's seat at Sonada belongs to Kalu Rinpoche -- not to some ad hoc committee, expedient custom, or popular acclaim -- is, I think, without question. Failure to vouchsafe that circumstance, and follow the rules he chooses to make, insults not only Kalu Rinpoche, but insults the legion of stakeholders all over the world.
Here is what has people chafing. You can click these images for the larger versions:
This seems a commonsense approach to command and control of a multinational organization. Since Kalu Rinpoche has proposed these rules, and since he is having some apparent difficulty enforcing these rules, it behooves those of us with some connection to the affair to answer his call for "help and love."
Even if you have no connection, Kalu Rinpoche is still a gifted teacher for this age. I urge you to follow this situation and receive the benefit of his sublime character.