So. I’m going to Nepal. I have to ensure that the schedule at the Lama House is rock solid and rustle up the funds for the plane ticket I’m putting on my credit card, but I’m going. My teacher has died, and this is the moment not just to say adieu for now, but also to seal my commitment and throw myself full-on into the business of living the teachings he gave me.
It’s funny. I’m nervous, actually. There’s a part of me that says, “Oh, stop exaggerating with the big internal commitment. Either you go or you don’t go. Whatever you do is practice if you connect with the sense of the teachings. And anyway, Nepal is a lot of trouble. It’s dirty and noisy and fairly impoverished. You’ll have a stomachache from eating spicy food you can’t digest and you probably won’t even be able to hear the rituals, you’ll be so far in the boonies. Maybe you should just stay home and be helpful here. Help is needed here.”
And it is. But this is also the point at which the rest of me calls bullshit and says this, “Everything may be emptiness, but you don’t see it that way yet. You need to do this. Because it’s challenging. Because this moment matters. Because of the very thing you are afraid of. This experience will change you.”
It’s not the rickety buses or the shit-filled toilets or even the dust-smeared faces and grabbing hands of the destitute. These are not easy additions, and they deepen the element of confrontation and reflection, but they are also mainly the landscape of this journey. The heart of this journey is the choice to do something out of the ordinary. To step out of the comfort of a role I know in order to progress and to be of benefit.
Shamar Rinpoche was a precious guide. He taught me the value of gentleness; he had the lightest touch in the way he handled beings, to help us open to our own capacity without ever feeling the cracks. And, as well, the value of daring. That kindness is not doing what is pleasant, but what is correct. Yes, we need wisdom to judge that, but that is what the path is for. And on the path, a certain measure of boldness can be helpful: to dare to ask questions to gain understanding; to dare to believe we have something to offer; to dare to offer it in the endeavor to be of use in this world.
He has left us for the time being, and we are left to inherit his wisdom as best we can. The most potent means I can envision to pay homage to his teachings and his legacy is to step out of my comfortable habits, fly to a country I don’t know, and bid him a final farewell. And, more than that, or perhaps the essence of that, to use what gifts I may have in this life to share that journey with you.
This project is a travelogue, a mixed-media, real-time account of the journey from Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, in the Dordogne in France, to Shar Minub Monastery in Kathmandu Valley in Nepal for the cremation of the 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodro. I'll be on the road from July 26th to August 2nd. Each day, I’ll share news, stories, illustrations, and photographs to chronicle this historic event.
For a sense of my work and writing, check out some related articles.
About Shamar Rinpoche:
AbsencePresenceConfidenceTears. On the passing of Shamar Rinpoche. This piece is unusual in that I can’t take credit for the images; they come from my gifted friend Tokpa Korlo, who is also chronicling this momentous time.
Ten Days Out. A reflection on Shamarpa’s funeral in Germany, complete with illustrations.
Previous accounts of pilgrimage:
Pilgrimage Happens. Major sites of the Buddha’s life and death in India.
Where Our Teacher Walked. Pilgrimage to Tso Pema, in the Indian Himalayas.
This Is A Place of Practice. Retreat at Pendé Ling hermitage in Auvergne, France.