McLeod Ganj, India — December 1, 2011
From Ven. Roger:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked through the door. Rinpoche went forward to greet him (not being able to prostrate) and they embraced (this was the first time Rinpoche had met His Holiness since his stroke earlier in the year). The room was very silent and still. They remained embracing each other for what seemed like a long time. His Holiness then sat down and asked Rinpoche to sit close. His Holiness then held Rinpoche’s right hand and kept massaging and stroking it throughout their meeting and asking about how the stroke had started and all that had happened. During the meeting, for some who were in the small group with Rinpoche, it was hard to hold back the tears. Some were not holding them back at all.
Now we are in Dharamsala and the weather is perfect (to me). The center here is closed for the winter and it is very quiet. Rinpoche is starting a retreat with time for exercise. There are lots of monkeys around, many of them are bold, the smaller ones cute. They play in the little swimming pool Rinpoche asked to be built on the roof of his house. Rinpoche watches them with great interest and amusement. Below the pool is my room. The pool leaks and water comes through the roof and drips near the head of my bed. As long as the monkeys are happy and Rinpoche is happy watching them, why should I mind a wet head?
There have been lots of self-initiations and pujas with Khadro-la, Dagri Rinpoche and a few other lamas. In between these exercises and walks there is tea and then more tea and after that another cup of tea. Rinpoche goes regularly to a natural hot spring in an isolated place below Kangra which is hard to get to. Roads are bad and you have drive through a river. The story is that this hot spring was created hundreds of years ago by three great yogis who prayed for it to happen to help heal people. The interesting thing is that when Ven. Holly takes Rinpoche’s blood pressure after getting out of the hot pool it is always low, which is very good. Then after being out of the water, slowly the blood pressure increases. This happens every time, so there is something measurably good about this place. After the pool Rinpoche does some chanting, sometimes Lama Chöpa, sometimes The Diamond Cutter Sutra, the difficult chanting becomes speech therapy.
It is hard to get Rinpoche to exercise. Khadro-la is very good at it and knows exactly what is needed (which part of the body and what specific exercise is best). It is quite spontaneous and she is very innovative. It has been amazing to watch her. Since the time she flew to Australia, as soon as she heard Rinpoche had the stroke, Khadro-la has made an incredible effort to help Rinpoche, it is always her priority. In between sessions there is the “story telling,” and the stories are not about this world as we know it. If you listen long enough, this concrete world we believe in starts to feel a little dreamy and slowly the world of dakinis, pure lands and spirits becomes a little more real. The stories can go on for hours. Rinpoche and Khadro-la especially like talking about things we read about but may not necessarily believe in.
Khadro-la explained to me that it is very difficult for Rinpoche to think of looking after his own body. This is something I can really relate to. I see it all the time, but much more so since the stroke. In the hospital after the stroke, Rinpoche, at the most difficult and most critical times, seemed to have not the slightest interest in his body. He wasn’t at all interested in what the doctors or nurses did to his body. Never asked any questions of the doctors or nurses about his condition. He seemed to just accept everything, getting better/not getting better didn’t seem to make a difference. What was always foremost on his mind was commitments: prayers and practice, and that is the same now. All else can be left behind. Focusing on getting his body healthy isn’t easy! Khadro-la says Rinpoche is always “in practice.” It is rare to see someone like this even amongst high lamas, someone who’s mind is never separate from tong-len, bodhichitta and emptiness. Outwardly we can see and comment on Rinpoche’s great generosity with so many projects to benefit others, but it is difficult to see the real practice.
Another recent scene: Rinpoche and Khadro-la are chanting quite loudly. Khadro-la’s voice is beautiful, the two voices are echoing through this Roman-style bathhouse with ceilings maybe 10 meters [33 feet] high. I am holding on to Rinpoche’s hands, walking backwards, leading Rinpoche up to his neck in hot water (we are in the natural hot pool in the south of France). Khadro-la is behind Rinpoche barely able to keep her head above water. She is smaller than Rinpoche, quite petite, and can’t swim but seems to have no fear moving Rinpoche’s body, helping the right side to move. Now, this is in a public bath and there are many French people around, mostly elderly. They are somewhere between awed by the chanting and flabbergasted by the site and sound and not sure what to make of it. Meanwhile this little train of three people is moving in circles around the pool. At least two of the three seem to be totally unaware of the other people in the pool and what they might be thinking. Occasionally Rinpoche stops to rescue a tiny insect that is drowning.
The month or so in France was very good. We managed to rent a house in the Pyrenees near the hot springs and received lots support from Nalanda Monastery and Institut Vajra Yogini. They were so very kind.