Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tenpa Rinpoche Hospitalized: UPDATED

This blog's editor, Tenpa Rinpoche, was taken by ambulance to an area hospital Monday night. He was admitted to the Cardiac Unit, where he remains in "guarded condition" with chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Tenpa Rinpoche was discharged Sunday evening, 1 July 2012, and is now resting at home.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bhutan Tragedy: Rays of Hope

Tragically, Bhutan's centuries old Wangduephoedrang Dzong is no more: it has been totally destroyed by fire. However, due to the quick action of His Majesty the King of Bhutan -- who was personally involved in firefighting efforts -- and a fortuitous set of circumstances, many of the dzong's ancient treasures were saved.

Continuously, throughout the ordeal, firefighters and volunteers risked their own safety to recover precious images and books. These were quickly inventoried and conserved. Here, His Majesty examines some texts that were saved.

Fortunately, the dzong was undergoing renovation when the fire began. In consequence, many of the most precious images and books were all located in one place. Quick thinking and fast action combined to bring them to safety.

Arriving at the site with Her Majesty the Queen at his side, His Majesty rapidly organized a team of responders to recover the objects.

Although the character of impermanence has demonstrated itself in this sad incident, we can take some comfort that there was no loss of precious life, and that some of the dzong's most beloved treasures were saved.

We cannot help but admire Their Majesties the King and Queen of Bhutan, and the leadership they demonstrated in a time of trouble. Long Live Their Majesties, and our fraternal best wishes to the People of Bhutan. Hopefully, the Royal Government will soon inform us of ways in which we can all support recovery efforts.

Let a phoenix rise from these ashes and spread the light of Guru Rinpoche for all the world to see. Structures are impermanent, but faith is not.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

UPDATED: Disaster In Bhutan

In what is being described as a "major cultural loss" to the Kingdom of Bhutan, the Wangduephodrang Dzong -- one of the oldest fortresses, dating to 1638 -- is ablaze at this hour. Firemen are unable to cope with the intense heat and strong winds, and the historic fort is burning out of control.

UPDATED: Following a heroic but ultimately futile struggle, during which even His Majesty the King came in person to help, the structure is deemed a total loss at this time. His Majesty has declared tomorrow a day of mourning for the loss of this national symbol. The following "before" and "after" photographs show some extent of the devastation.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Take the Fifth

The first day of the fifth Tibetan month this year was Wednesday, the 20th of June. This was the Summer Solstice; although, according to the Tibetans, Thursday, the 21st was the actual solstice.

We should call this the "birthday month," for we have several very important birthdays and anniversaries between 20th June and 19th July, when the lunar month ends.

First, on 24th June, we celebrate the birthday of the popular Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche VII. Next, on 25th June, we celebrate the anniversary of the wonderful Master of Masters: Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893 - 1959). Then, on 26th June -- this is three days in a row, mind you -- we celebrate the birthday of Karmapa XVII, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (these birthdays according to the Western calendar).

We are barely getting started.

On June 29 -- the tenth day of the fifth month -- we celebrate Guru Rinpoche's birthday (according to the Mindrolling tradition). This is also Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche's birthday, so I am thinking we will need a mountain of offerings.

Tuesday, 3rd July is the Dzam Ling Chi Sang, or Local Deities Day, so there goes another mountain of offerings.

The 4th of July is reckoned as America's birthday -- no offense intended to greater North America, Central America, or South America -- but, so we are instructed from birth. This is also the one day of the year you are likely to encounter Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche out and about, because it is his favorite U.S. holiday, and he celebrates it like he does everything else: vigorously. 

The rockets barely stop glaring when 6th July comes upon us: the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV!

Friday, 13th July is Dakini Day this month, after which we are at leisure to rest up until 23rd July, the fourth day of the sixth month: this year's Chokhor Duchen (a so-called ten million day).

My advice is to lay in a huge supply of incense, flowers, rice, candles, prayer flags, and materials for cleaning and polishing. Get everything shining beforehand.

Because Guru Rinpoche's birthday is thought to occur on Guru Rinpoche Day this month, I am including the above photograph of a remarkable sculpture. I wish I knew who the sculptor is, so that credit could be given where credit is certainly due. Isn't it wonderful?

Happy Birthday, everybody!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Triumphant Meeting

This photograph, memorializing June nineteenth's historic, first-time meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi, has flashed around the world this week, creating joyous feelings wherever it is seen.

The two, iconic Nobel Prize winners held a private meeting in London, England, during which His Holiness presented The Lady with a rupa of Buddha.

These powerful images, by Jeremy Russell for Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, convey the feelings of both parties to the triumphant occasion. His Holiness holds Aung San Suu Kyi's hands in both his hands, above, and she seems absolutely moved and enraptured as the presentation is made.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Long Live Her Majesty

If one were attempting to visualize Yeshe Tsogyal, it would not be out of bounds to visualize Her Majesty the Druk Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuk, Queen of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Her Majesty celebrated her twenty-second birthday this month (on the most auspicious day of June 4th) by effortlessly winning hearts and minds everywhere she traveled. Those who have met her, describe her as a model of intelligence, grace, gentleness, and modesty. She known as being naturally warm-hearted, and spontaneously compassionate.

As Queen of Bhutan, Her Majesty is a Patron of the Dharma in the grand sense of the phrase, and has continually, from infancy until now, displayed a strong connection with the teachings.

Long Live Her Majesty, the Queen of Bhutan!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Marshimaro's Eulogy

Upon the occasion of his passing, this last Friday the 8th of June, and at the moment of his final breath, Marshimaro's consciousness immediately revealed itself in the Medicine Buddha's realm, "Beautiful to Behold." This happened like lightning, amid various signs. 

In the hours before his death, the Medicine Buddha mantra played continuously in Marshimaro's room. As his condition worsened, he stumbled to the floor beneath the small table where the playback device sits: something he had never done before. The mantra was the last thing Marshimaro heard. Since that time until now, his body exhibited no odor whatsoever, nor any leakage of bodily fluids.

Marshimaro was a gentle, kind, and intelligent rabbit. For example: if someone was crying, he would approach them, and touch them with his paw. He would also "chin" people and things. This is how a rabbit displays affection, and a sense of connection: by a glancing touch of his chin. 

Marshimaro would also display singular behavior during pujas or sadhanas. To everyone's amazement, he once tried to "sing" along with the Seven Line Prayer! From that time forward, we all began to understand that his communicative skills were extraordinary. I am comfortable telling you that from the day he was born until the day he died, he was continually exposed to mantra, the bell, and the drum. He learned to anticipate particular points in the sadhana, and would always sit in respectful attention, facing the altar.

People who witnessed Marshimaro's behavior usually thought I had "trained" him in some fashion, but this is not the case. He just came by attentiveness quite naturally: this was an expression of his personality. He was a spontaneously unique, loving sentient being who never harmed anything or anybody in his entire life -- not so much as the smallest insect.

When we experience the death of a being with whom we have some attachment phenomena, there is crying, sobbing, and sorrow. Emotions are in an uproar, and we shake with the force of these emotions. I am tremendously saddened by Marshimaro's death, and I have cried. I am openly grieving what I perceive as his death and my loss.

Ordinarily, this is not the best way to regard such matters. Nevertheless, this is how the ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent majority of us feel. This is what we experience: what we are thinking behind the sobs. Still, even this can be useful. Even this can be powerful enough to set an enormous, unifying presence in motion -- to release the deepest aspect of our being as humans.

As we experience grief, we can immediately tap into something limitlessly beneficial. Really, if we go ahead and embrace the grief, and just let it have free rein, there can come a moment when we think, "Oh... I do not want anybody else to ever experience anything like this! If I have to take it all, let me take it all. I want to do whatever is necessary to deliver others from the feelings I am feeling now."

So, this is the transformation of a beclouded emotion into the highest expression of aspirational bodhicitta -- right in the middle of the sobs and the selfishness. This is truly wonderful, you know? If you like, you can think of this as a gift. What it actually represents is clarity, so maybe you could call this the gift of clarity.

Because, in one stroke of clarity, fueled by powerful emotions that concentrate the mind, we recognize who we are, where we are, what we are, and the nature of our obligation to others. You can be sobbing, and screaming, saying, "Oh! Why did you leave me alone in this world?" and then, just like a blossoming perception of radiating light, you can transform this into, "From now on, I am going to do something so people will be delivered from this sort of anguish."

This is of immediate comfort: a kind of tranquilizer for space.

This morning, as I brought Marshimaro from the house to the grave, numerous animals began to appear. Two jackrabbits came at the same time -- a rarity -- and they literally stood watchful guard. This is unusual behavior on their part. Then after a time, numbers of field rabbits came from all directions, forming a sort of perimeter around the grave site. Ravens came, and roadrunners, and many birds from the sky. 

A tiny green hummingbird came and rested on a branch.

The sound of his wings as he flew away into a cloudless morning sky was Marshimaro's eulogy.

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

"Tibetan Buddhist" Cults Run Amok

“The major apprehension surrounding cults is not that they represent new religious creeds, dissenting political views, or alternative therapeutic methods. The driving concern is that these groups tend to abuse their members, and sometimes nonmembers, unlike bona fide new religious (and other) movements, which treat members and outsiders with relative respect.”

The April 2012 death by misadventure of a boy in Arizona -- what is now being cast as the "Tragedy at Diamond Mountain" -- has sharpened focus on out-of-control Tibetan Buddhist cults. If this tragedy leads to their eradication, then the death was not in vain: it would, in fact, be a fearless bodhisattva's gift. But, as it seems, the cults themselves are running amok, resisting all attempts to rein them in. Absent strong leadership, the road to their eradication will be rocky and steep.

The sad affair in Arizona has received international attention. It has also spawned considerable commentary in obscure reaches of the blogosphere. One of the more interesting discussions arises around reporting by Matthew Remski. What makes his work of some value is his genuine attempt to define what constitutes a cult.

Mr. Remski attempts to craft his definition with reference to three sources:
Of the three, I found the Group Psychological Abuse Scale to be the most useful diagnostic measure we might apply to Tibetan Buddhist cults. I would encourage readers to download this via the link above. Since it is only twenty-eight questions, we can read through it together. This is one of those "1 to 5" tests where "1" is "not at all," and "5" is "very characteristic."
1. The group does not tell members how to conduct their sex lives.

2. Women are directed to use their bodies for the purpose of recruiting or of manipulation.

3. The group advocates or implies that breaking the law is okay if it serves the interests of the group.

4. Members are expected to postpone or give up their personal, vocational, and educational goals in order to work for the group.

5. The group encourages ill members to get medical assistance.

6. Gaining political power is a major goal of the group.

7. Members believe that to leave the group would be death or eternal damnation for themselves or their families.

8. The group discourages members from displaying negative emotions.

9. Members feel they are part of a special elite.

10. The group teaches that persons who are critical of the group are in power of evil, satanic forces.

11. The group uses coercive persuasion and mind control.

12. The group approves of violence against outsiders (e.g., "satanic communists," etc.).

13. Members are expected to live with other members.

14. Members must abide by the group's guidelines regarding dating and intimate relationships.

15. People who stay in the group do so because they are deceived and manipulated.

16. The group teaches special exercises (e.g., meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues) to push doubts or negative thoughts out of consciousness.

17. Medical attention is discouraged, even though there may be a medical problem.

18. Members are expected to serve the group's leaders.

19. Raising money is a major goal of the group.

20. The group does not hesitate to threaten outside critics

21. Members are expected to make decisions without consulting the groups leader(s).

22. Members are just as capable of independent critical thinking as they were before they joined the group.

23. The group believes or implies its leader is divine.

24. Mind control is used without conscious consent of members.

25. Members feel little psychological pressure from leaders.

26. The group’s leader(s) rarely criticize members.

27. Recruiting members is a major goal of the group.

28. Members are expected to consult with leaders about most decisions, including those concerning work, child rearing, whether or not to visit relatives, etc.
Before using the above as a field assessment tool -- which seems a reasonable use -- we might want to consider the degree to which it does or does not jibe with legitimate Buddhist teachings on the subject. As to the latter, I can find no better resource than Trungpa Rinpoche's immortal commentary Buddhadharma Without Credentials, wherein he discusses what he calls the "perversion of sangha," which we have reprinted here at Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar many times:
"Thus, if a person is self-righteously claiming to practice the buddhadharma, is using his practice as credentials, then he is simply playing ego's game. If a group of people do this together, then they reinforce each other in the same game. Inevitably they will pick a leader. Then the leader will have as his credentials the title 'head of the flock.' Then the members of the flock will have as their credentials the title 'member of such-and-such organization.' The leader and his flock reinforce each other's identities. As is said in the Sutra of the Treasury of Buddha, 'If someone teaches with ignorance, it is worse than if he took the lives of the inhabitants of three universes, because his ability to teach the dharma is impure.' Inevitably this organization, this collective ego, will look for further confirmation of its health and existence. It may even take as its credentials the transmission of the lineage, the teachings of the great masters, but it will be a prostitution of those teachings. It will involve itself in the ever-escalating game of one-upsmanship in order to enlarge its congregation. This one-upsmanship may take the form of collecting endorsements and diplomas, as well as the form of ambitious practice and adherence to the teachings. It will also see the success of rivals as a threat. The Buddha said that his teachings, like a lion, would never be destroyed by outsiders; it could only be destroyed from within like a lion's corpse consumed by maggots. This is the perversion of sangha. It is the dark-age style of spirituality, the operation of spiritual materialism."
So, now, with these two, mutually supportive resources -- these base lines, if you will -- we can try to identify what is and is not a Tibetan Buddhist cult. This, in any event, is the hard way. The easy way is to just use common sense, and constantly apply a handy rule of thumb: to what degree does this action/speech/situation benefit all sentient beings? Not is any abstract sense, mind you, but in a very practical sense. Coughing up thousands of dollars to purchase thrones doesn't really fly, now does it?

Having performed our assessments, what next? What do we do? Who do we tell? According to Dalai Lama's well publicized statement at a March 1993 "Western Buddhist" conference, it seems we have some sort of duty to alert others, or warn others, or simply inform others. But, whatever duty we have does not peacefully co-exist with our cultural assumptions. We assume that, if we step up, then "someone in authority" is also going to step up and denounce whatever rapscallions need denouncing.

This simply does not happen. It needs to happen, but it does not. The Tibetan teachers, who we take for granted as that "someone in authority," greet matters such as these with utter silence. It is their cultural assumption versus our cultural assumption, don't you see?
"For just under thirty years, Tibetan Buddhism has been spreading through the different continents of our earth. Lamas, tulkus, and Geshes have made an enormous contribution to the flowering of Tibetan Buddhism all over the world, aided by hundreds of thousands of students and disciples. During the same period, some rather unhealthy situations have arisen, and this has led to difficulties. Initially this was due to an excess of blind faith on the part of the disciples and also to certain teachers who eventually took advantage of their disciples' weaknesses. There have been scandals, financial and sexual abuses. Such things happen! As a result I must insist at this point that it is absolutely necessary that both disciples and teachers keep the goal in mind--to preserve a perfectly pure Dharma. It is the responsibility of us all to put an end to this type of unhealthy activity."
                    ---His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Who are we talking about? We'll list just the alleged principal cults currently operating in the United States, inclusive of noted overseas command and control, or support mechanisms:
  • Dorje Shugden. A clandestine operation designed by the Chinese intelligence services to stir up trouble for the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. (So many people realize this I cannot, professionally speaking, classify it as "covert.") Denounced by the Dalai Lama himself.
  • "Geshe" Michael Roach. A cult of personality, denounced by the Office of the Dalai Lama. A number of organizations are grouped under the umbrella of this American fellow who claims to have received a Tibetan "geshe" degree, with only a rudimentary knowledge of Tibetan. He is the co-founder of Diamond Mountain -- the milieu that now becomes infamous owing to the death of Mr. Roach's romantic rival under peculiar circumstances.
  • "Lama" Christie McNally. A cult of personality surrounding the ex-wife of Michael Roach; co-founder of Diamond Mountain, seemingly the bigamous wife of Ian Thorson, victim of the Arizona tragedy (her wedding to Mr. Thorson took place two months prior to her divorce from Mr. Roach becoming final). Claimed by her numerous followers to be a direct manifestation of Vajrayogini.
  • True Buddha School. A showy operation managed from Taiwan, with no known connection to any legitimate Tibetan Buddhist lineage of which anybody is aware. Elaborate claims of divinity, "living Buddha," etc.
  • Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC). Also known as the New Palyul Lineage (NPL). Renamed from the Center for Discovery and New Life, formed from the Black Mountain Light Center, neither of which are nominally Buddhist organizations. A cult of personality surrounding former Christian New Age "channeler" Alyce Zeoli, a self-styled "Jetsunma" believed by her followers to represent the divine person of Princess Mandarava. The organization came to notice for the presence of a homosexual pedophile among its ordained, now serving twenty years in an Arizona prison. Subject of an expose by a Washington Post reporter entitled The Buddha from Brooklyn: A Tale of Spiritual Seduction. Outrageous on-line behavior, persecution of critics, and a suicide are associated with this cult. [Full disclosure: I had a bout with this group. The U.S. District Court judge stopped the fight and ruled in my favor: a first round TKO. The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently dismissed its own appeal of the decision.]
  • New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). American front mechanism for the aforementioned Chinese black operation. These are the people you see costumed in robes, "demonstrating" against the Dalai Lama.
  • Western Shugden Society (WSS). Headquartered in London; the "third area" designated for management of American activity associated with Dorje Shugden, New Kadampa Tradition, et al. These are straight up black operations managed by an active, hostile foreign power.
  • Pathgate International. Headquartered in London; the "third area" designated for support of American activity associated with the New Palyul Lineage. Maintains a "fighting force" of martial artists; gives substantial financial support to New Palyul Lineage operations in the United States. Thought, on information and belief, to exhibit some cross-contamination among membership with Western Shugden Society, although overtly, the two are claimed as opposed.
These are the top eight problems that need to be fixed. From each of these centers of discord, tentacles of divisiveness reach toward all corners of Dharma in North America. These eight cults read "maximum" on the Group Psychological Abuse Scale, characterized by absolutely indefensible misbehavior and violation of the common vows of Vajrayana Buddhism. Each represents a clear and present danger to its membership, and to society at large. They are to be regarded as an openly notorious threat to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and other individuals in a position to refute their claims, and are individually thought, on information and belief, to be in possession of arms.

These groups are characterized by fundamental deceptions, requiring ever-escalating deception on the part of leaders and members in order to maintain secrecy. Examples are: individuals making claims of status to which they are not entitled; sexual misconduct; abuse of controlled substances; hostile agendas toward "outsiders;" hostile agendas toward "insiders;" fundraising irregularities; grandiose projects which cover schemes to divert funds, and so forth. Other examples are possible, but you get the general idea.

At the base, these cults are delusional. The "king and queen" aspect is clearly noted in most cases, as are absolutely absurd claims to infallible divinity, and morbid preoccupation with the outward signs and trappings of status. 

None of them can pass the Group Psychological Abuse test.

None of them can pass the Trungpa test.

If a teaching, teacher, or institution fails to embody renunciation mind, this is not Buddhism. If a teaching, teacher, or institution is preoccupied with the eight worldly dharmas, this is not Buddhism. There is a whole book written about this, by a real Buddhist teacher: What Makes You Not A Buddhist. I highly recommend this book.

It is all fun games until somebody loses an eye.

Somebody down in Arizona lost his life. I did not know him. Nevertheless, I would like to feel that he did not die in vain. If his death can spur the dismantling of these runaway cults, then it meant something. Otherwise it was just a waste.

Splitting hairs over who shot John is a scandalous insult. Seeking solace in long, drawn out philosophical arguments is just a means of avoidance.

Time to cowboy up and run these demonic varmints out of the territory. Otherwise, some day down the road, our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids are going to wonder why we didn't clean up this mess while we still had a chance.

I think we owe this one to the future.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Marshimaro Usagi (2005 - 2012)

Marshimaro Usagi, 24 June 2005 - 8 June 2012

My best friend suddenly passed away at 14:40 hours Pacific Time today. I helped deliver him into this world: it was his mother's first pregnancy, and she had difficulties. So, from the very first moment, we had a special bond. I was holding him again, as he passed away, stroking his fur, while we listened to the Medicine Buddha mantra.

Strange as it may seem, Marshimaro was an inspiration to me. He would often sit with me while I wrote. He would sit with me while I practiced. He had the ability to choose fortune cards, and had an amazing personality. During practice, he always knew the times for bells, drums, etc., and he always sat respectfully still, looking at the altar. 

We were very close, and I feel his death sharply. Such an awful illusion!

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

China Closes Foreign Tourism in Tibet

[ABC NEWS] Audrey Wozniak and Gloria Riviera report:

BEIJING – In a matter of days, the number of expected foreign visitors to Tibet has gone from millions to zero.

Chinese authorities alerted foreign travel agencies Tuesday that they would no longer be issuing entry permits to Tibet, the latest in a series of regulations being put on travelers to Tibet. The announcement follows the self-immolation of two Tibetans last week.

Tibet is no stranger to Chinese interference in its tourism industry. Tibet’s failed rebellion in March 1959 and the event’s annual memorial on National Uprising Day has chronically put the region at odds with the People’s Republic of China. In 2008, protests after National Uprising Day turned into riots that were met with violence by PRC forces. The Chinese government temporarily closed Tibet to foreign visitors. That is a now-annual practice in March, and during other national events significant to the Chinese government.

Now, many are saying that the latest in a string of Tibetan self-immolations led to the country’s shutdown to outsiders. According to Free Tibet, a campaign promoting Tibetan independence from China, there have been more than 30 self-immolations since March 2011. Most recently, on May 27, 2012 two Tibetans were the first to set themselves on fire in Lhasa, Tibet’s tightly-controlled administrative capital. The shutdown also coincides with the Saga Dawa festival, which celebrates the Buddha’s birth and draws many Buddhists to Tibet. This year, the festival began on June 4, which is also the anniversary of the Chinese government crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests.

While many tourism agencies have learned to adapt and predict the trends on tourism bans, this closure comes as something of a shock. According to Nellie Connelly, marketing director of WildChina, a prominent travel company that regularly coordinates trips to Tibet, Chinese authorities informed the company in mid-May that travelers would only be allowed to visit Tibet in groups of five people of the same nationality. Last week, the government stopped issuing entry permits to Tibet altogether. Connelly is in the process of rerouting customers whose Tibetan vacations are affected by the new ban. Only those Chinese nationals are allowed to enter the region.

“Tibet is a bucket-list destination for many people,” she says.

Last year, WildChina sent approximately 100 travelers to Tibet. This week, the company had to turn down approximately 10 inquiries about travel to Tibet. Four other WildChina trips are being re-routed, and five more are on indefinite hold.

The loss of income for Tibetan communities is significant. Tibet received 21.25 million domestic and foreign tourists in between 2006 and 2010, generating $3.58 billion in income for the country. Tourism is a staple of the region’s economy. Tibet set a goal to increase tourism revenue between 2011 and 2015 to more than 20 percent of its gross domestic product.

The Chinese government’s recent actions will make reaching 2012 targets difficult.

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Dirty Dancing

If the going didn't get rough, we wouldn't have Action Figures.

So, now I am going to write about the situation in Arizona with the frozen dancers: a dead boy, a butterfly lady lama, and a gringo geshe. 

Maybe it is none of my business. Maybe I should keep my big mouth shut. Originally, I wasn't going to say anything at all. But, in the back of my head, I have this nagging idea that maybe a few words from a damaged, bent, and bruised old scoundrel might be of some passing value. Like a drunk, maybe... who thinks everything he says is important. Or, maybe the tinny, piano-in-the-parlor voice of wearily accepted experience.

Hot blood, passion, aggression, the painful throb of sexual jealousy, and the gnawing thirst of sexual desire are not altogether unknown phantoms. There are wild ghosts in the Vagina Forest. They are how most of us wind up born, how some wind up realized, and how others wind up dead.

No matter how you try to gild the lily -- calling it universal, nectar-bliss this, or churn-emptiness that -- you are still pointing a golden gun with a suicide trigger at the open sky. Whether you come from a Strip Club culture that pays to watch, or a Penis Painted on the Wall culture that likes to be reminded, that trigger is always dangling down, just waiting to be squeezed.

Ours is a society where people will pay, and pay dearly, to buy stuff they see in movies. You can purchase Harry Potter wands, Gryffindor ties, and brooms to compete in Quidditch. It's called the "back end," and it is huge. Revenues from sales of back end merchandise often exceed that of total box office.

Except, the wands don't work, the ties are essenceless, and the brooms don't fly.

"Back end" is what is left when the lamas turn their attention elsewhere. It is what remains when the lights go up and the show is over. It is what Mr. Geshe Michael Roach and Mrs. Lama Christie Roach nee McNally bought and resold at their Hogwarts Experience down in the Arizona desert. It is what other movie-goers are buying and selling to one another at other roadside attractions. 

Oh yes, there are others... in some you get to play ordained, and dress up in robes. In others, you paint signs and go shout at the Dalai Lama when he comes to town. Some theme park rights are licensed, others are counterfeit. This is America. We have Original Joe's, Original Original Joe's, Joe's Original, and Rocky Upteem to guide us. 

As one fellow put it, we have the franchise running away with the brand.

Mr. and Mrs. Roach are married on April 16, 1998 in Little Compton, Rhode Island. The marriage is kept a closely guarded secret. A well publicized climb to ascendancy is noted: foreign speaking engagements with elaborately dressed stages, grand publications offered, enterprises launched, a picture feature in the New York Times. He appears in his monk's robes. She is dressed in ethereal white. Mr. Roach tells the Times they are celibate spiritual partners: they have vowed never to be more than fifteen feet apart from each other.

Somehow, and we do not know exactly how, Mrs. Roach manages to get more than fifteen feet away from Mr. Roach, and a good deal closer to someone initially described as an "attendant." The attendant's name is Ian Thorson. Mr. Roach files for divorce from Mrs. Roach in September 2010, in Yavapai County, Arizona Superior Court. Mrs. Roach marries Mr. Thorson a month later, on October 3, 2010, at Montauk, New York. She is again dressed in ethereal white. Her divorce from Mr. Roach becomes final on December 1, 2010.

On or about April 22, 2012, Mr. Thorson is found dead, lying beside Mrs. Thorson. Cause of death is listed as "dehydration." He is cremated in Willcox, Arizona on April 26, 2012: the last time his family sees or hears from his wife.

May I so humbly offer that the cause of death was not dehydration.
My mind wanders back to my own Montauk seashore, so many years ago. I picture my shining angel as she was then. She is wearing Lama Christie's dress. This is autumn of 1971 before Christie McNally was even born. She is a stunningly beautiful fairy princess. To this day, that is how people remember her: for her beauty. She is a famous blue dakini. We are a spiritual couple. We are rich.

We take long showers together. When I visit the barber, she comes along to supervise. When she visits the doctor, I sit in the room. We make the social circuit together. We are envied. We leave the cottage at Montauk Point and travel to Vermont.  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche marries us in October, a month after our divorces become final. For the wedding, we pass out flowers and oranges and bottles of beer.

In the colorful purse she got in Kathmandu, she carries a .38 Smith & Wesson Bodyguard Special revolver. Beneath my vintage Tibetan silk brocade shirt from Rinpoche, I carry a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, down my back, between my shoulder blades. The first thing is always, "Raise your hands!"
The knives.

Oh, yes.

The knives.

The days are golden. Life doesn't weigh very much when it is well lived. The nights are long and sweet. You beg the hours to last forever. The promises are forever, forever, forever. The promises make it heavier. We gamble against the odds, and rely entirely on love. Always, we think. Yes, always.

Not always.
Screaming tears and shattered goblets on expensive hotel room floors. Clothes torn and thrown from windows. "I gave up everything for you!" "Why can't we live a normal life?" "Why are you such a dirty little trick for the camera?" "I saw how you looked at him/her her/him." Broken bottles. Shots fired in frustration. Knives thrown in desperation.
In the interval between their Montauk marriage in October, and being asked to leave their Arizona retreat cabin in February 2012, Mrs. Thorson delivered three blows to Mr. Thorson with a Bowie knife. He was sutured. No doubt the "sorry" was as long, sweet, and slow as the starry Arizona night. One wound was described as "near a vital organ." The knife was a wedding present. Mrs. Thorson had a Japanese sword she fancied. She of the ethereal whiteness fancied cold steel. When she recounted the wounding of her husband, she said she did not know the knife would cut.

Mr. Thorson kept his mouth shut. He loved her. Sometimes he hit her. She loved him. Sometimes she cut him.  She did not know the knife would cut. They did not know love kills.
With blood on the sheets, sirens in the distance, she whispered through tears and clenched teeth, "I love you. God help me. I love you enough to kill you." I swore that I would never give her up, no matter what. I swore that I would protect her always, no matter what it cost. That I would take all her sins upon my self, like the knife between my shoulders. I stumbled off for suturing. She lost her nerve, but I only lost a name and a city. I knew love kills.
I cannot bring myself to say tsk, tsk. I am too goddamn disgusted that here, after all is said and done, not only can you bleed in the name of love, but you can fuck yourself to death in a half-suicide cave, the other half just dreaming; this, in the name of "Lamaism," grabbing back-end, branded merchandise like you just watched "Dirty Dancing."

Please, take a lesson from shattered life. 

Don't believe the movies are real.

Throw away your souvenirs.

A boy is dead, a girl is living with her own version, and an old man is on the telephone with his lawyers. People in the media, people in general, people on the 'Net, people like me are hashing over the situation, but we weren't there. People are tossing blame around, like pennies in a pool, but we weren't there.

I think nominally "Buddhist" cults should be done away with. I think demagogues should be shown the door. I think we should all lighten up on each other, accept that we are human, and accept that we all make heavy mistakes.

For that boy to die this way wounds me so deeply.

So deeply.

So deeply.

I thought I had gone somewhere so others would not have to go. Forty years ago, I told everyone that knives cut. I demonstrated that seductive demons wobble on the edges. I told everyone that desire, anger, and delusion kills.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Sorrowful Song to Palden Lhamo

A Sorrowful Song to Palden Lhamo

by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Sole Mother, Lady Victorious Over the Three Worlds,
please pay attention here and now!

During numberless eons, by relying upon and accustoming Yourself to
the extensive conduct of the Bodhisattvas, which others find difficult
to follow,
You obtained the power of the sublime Vajra Enlightenment;
Loving Mother, You watch and don't miss the (right) time.
The winds of conceptuality dissolve into space.
Vajra-dance of the mind which produces all the animate and inanimate world,
as the sole friend yielding the pleasures of existence and peace,
Having conquered them all,
You are well praised as the Triumphant Mother.

By heroically guarding the Dharma and Dharma-holders, with the four
types of actions, flashing like lightning
You soar up openly, like the full moon in the midst of a garland of powerful Dharma Protectors.
When from the troublesome nature of this most degenerated time
the hosts of evil omens -- desire, anger, deceit -- increasingly rise, even then
Your power is unimpeded, sharp, swift and limitless.

How wonderful! Longingly remembering You, O Goddess, from my heart,
I confess my broken vows and satisfy all Your pleasures.
Having enthroned You as the Supreme Protector, Greatest amongst the
Great, [I] accomplish Your appointed tasks with unflinching energy!
Fierce protecting deities and Your retinues who, in accordance with
the instructions of the Supreme Siddha, the Lotus-born Vajra, and by
the power of karma and prayers, have a close connection as Guardians
of Tibet, heighten Your majesty and increase Your powers!

All beings in the country of Tibet, although destroyed by the enemy and tormented by unbearable suffering, abide in the constant hope of glorious freedom.
How could they bear to not be given Your compassionate hand?

Thus please come forth to face the great murderers, the malevolent enemy.
O Lady who performs the actions of war and weapons;
Dakini, I summon You with this sorrowful song:
The time has come to bring forth
Your skill and power.

~ Any errors or omissions in this translation are solely the responsibility of her humble follower,
 Jangchub Ngawang Paldon Gyalmo.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Dunma Sangpo Ludro

Made by the hand of Dudjom Rinpoche,
Urgyen Samye Choling
Laugeral, France

Dunma Sangpo Ludro
The Playful Display of the Original State:
A Song and Dance of Sublime Aspiration

A ho, ye!
In the buddhafield of Sukhavati
Dwells the dharmakaya guru Amitabha.
I supplicate you, consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of supreme empowerment.
This rigpa, luminosity emptiness free from fringe and centre,
Is this not wisdom mind?
This natural state, unaltered since beginningless time,
Is this not you, Changeless Light?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature
Amitabha is scattered,
The buddhafield of Sukhavati evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever experience arises is the trick of dharmakaya.
Grasping at buddhafields is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to the label 'Buddha,' a dangerous abyss.
Amitabha is not outside, look inside!
This discovery of dharmakaya in myself -- a la la!
This unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound pith instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
In the buddhafield of Potala Mountain
Dwells the sambhogakaya guru Mahakarunika.
I supplicate you; consider the child with kindness
Grant the blessings of supreme empowerment.
This rigpa, intrinsic luminosity free from obscurations
Is this not your wisdom mind?
This awareness display, spontaneously present wisdom of
knowledge and love
Is that not you, Lord of Compassion?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature,
Mahakarunika is scattered,
The buddhafield of Potala Mountain evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever discursiveness manifests is the nature of sambhogakaya,
Grasping at buddhafields is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to the label 'true dharma' a dangerous abyss.
Mahakarunika is not outside, look inside!
The discovery of sambhogakaya in myself -- a la la!
This unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound pith instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
In the palace of the Glorious Tail-fan Mountain
Dwells the nirmanakaya guru Padmasambhava.
I supplicate you, consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of supreme empowerment.
This rigpa, unceasing self-liberation
Is this not your wisdom mind?
This nature of mind, source of kayas and jnanas
Is that not you, Padmasambhava?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature
Padmasambhava, is scattered,
The Glorious Tail-fan Mountain evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever expression appears is the dance of nirmanakaya
Grasping at buddhafields is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to the label 'bodhicitta' a dangerous abyss.
Padmasambhava is not outside, look inside!
This discovery of nirmanakaya in myself -- a la la!
This unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound pith instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
On the chakra of great bliss on the top of the head
Dwells the peerless lord, the root guru.
I supplicate you, consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of supreme empowerment.
The present moment mind, the fourth time free from three,
Is this not your wisdom mind?
This rigpa, the root of all dharmas,
Is that not you, root guru?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature
The root guru is scattered.
The convention of buddhafields evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever experience dawns is the guru of one's nature,
Grasping at buddhafields is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to form a dangerous abyss.
The guru is not outside, look inside!
The discovery of the buddha in myself -- a la la!
This unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound oral instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
In the buddhafield of Blazing Mountain
Dwells the yidam Great Heruka.
I supplicate you, consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of accomplishment.
This universal splendor, intrinsic awareness of all samsara and nirvana
Is this not your essence?
This heroic prajna realizing egolessness
Is that not you, Vajrakumara?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature
The assembly of yidam deities is scattered,
The Blazing Mountain evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever appears and exists is purified as the nature of the yidam,
Grasping at buddhafields as substance is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to the deity as an entity a dangerous abyss.
The yidam is not outside, look inside!
This discovery of the supreme deity in myself -- a la la!
This unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound oral instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
In the heavenly realm of Khechara
Dwells the dakini Vajravarahi.
I supplicate you, consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of dispelling obstacles.
This fundamental state, the uncontrived innate great sphere
Is this not your very expanse itself my friend?
This wisdom of bliss and emptiness inseparable
Is this not you, wisdom dakini?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature
Vajravarahi is scattered,
The heavenly realm of Khechara evaporates
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Whatever is seen and heard is the nature of the consort's prajna
Grasping at buddhafields is a deceptive phenomenon,
Clinging to the label 'Great Mother' is a dangerous abyss.
The dakini is not outside, look inside!
This discovery of the queen consort in myself -- a la la!
This is unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound oral instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

A ho ye!
In the indefinite charnel ground
Dwell the ocean of dharmapala guardians and samaya-bound.
I supplicate you; consider your child with kindness
Grant the blessings of enlightened activity.
This rigpa, unsought primordially existent activity
Is this not the life essence of you, oceans of samaya-bound?
Guarding against the dualistic appearance of samsara and nirvana
Is this not you, absolute protector?
You have never been separated from me for even an instant.
Though never separated I have not recognized this.
Now, the moment I recognize my nature,
The dharmapalas are scattered.
The sixty-four sacred places and lands evaporate
Into the state of the unborn nature -- sha ra ra!
As the play of rigpa bliss emptiness -- ya la la!
Ordinary thoughts appear as the dance of self liberated dharmapalas,
Grasping the conventions of sacred places and lands is a deceptive phenomenon.
Clinging to the label of 'external guardians' a dangerous abyss.
The protectors aren't outside, look inside!
This discovery of the samaya-bound in myself -- a la la!
This is unceasing carefree mind -- emaho!
This too is the perfect teacher's kindness.
This too is the blessing of the profound oral instructions.
I sing this song of magnificent delight,
I perform this dance of highest aspiration.

My vajra brother lama Sonam Chopel requested this song of the experience and realization of whatever arises. When I analyze my own being... wow! my master is excellent. I have met a real lotus-born in person, his pith instruction is profound, it is dzogchen -- the essence of the heart blood of the dakini. Although I cannot show off by bragging about doing practice in a cave sealed off with mud, as long as one remains inseparable from self-settled innate wakefulness, no matter what happens there is no need for hope and fear or much worries. Although this ordinary person has not actualized dzogpa chenpo, still one can feel at ease, the dharma tradition is great, so there is no reason one can't sing this spontaneous song of sublime aspiration. This stray donkey who is impressed with his own penis, the gypsy Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, wrote down without any self-consciousness whatever came to mind in the valley near Tsopema in Zahor, India.

Translated to English by the lord's grandson, Dharma Sagara at the Mountain Retreat in the Clouds in the summer of 2005.

Published Saga Dawa Duchen 2012 for the benefit of all beings.

It is already auspicious.

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