from Touching My Father's Soul
with Broughton Coburn
A N...O M I N O U
S...F O R E C A S T
Rimpoche bunched his mala rosary into his cupped
hands and blew on it sharply. He withdrew it slowly
and inspected it, turning his head slightly and
squinting, as if trying to peer inside each individual
bead. He looked up at me.
"Conditions do not look favorable. There is
something malevolent about the mountain this coming
I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach.
Rimpoche sat on a wide, flat cushion, and he adjusted
his robe and began to rock back and forth, as if
he too had been surprised by the divination. He
clapped his hand loudly to call the attendant monk.
His clap broke the silence the way a guru's clap
in a Buddhist teaching is meant to trigger awakening
to the nature of emptiness, sparking a flash of
recognition that all life is impermanent, containing
no inherent existence. I experienced a narrow, momentary
space of calmness, a millisecond of emptiness, then
felt my stomach again.
A monk padded in quietly and served us tea, gently
lifting the filigree silver cover from Rimpoche's
jade teacup, which sat on a silver stand. The monk
then offered me some fried breads from a woven bamboo
tray. I declined, then accepted after the third
offer. Such trays are always kept heaping full,
and I had to concentrate on not knocking the other
pieces off. My hand was shaking.
In early January of 1996, I had traveled here to
Siliguri, West Bengal, for an audience with Chatrul
Rimpoche, a respected but reclusive lama of the
Nyingmapa, or ancient sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
His principle monastery was located in Darjeeling,
where I lived with my wife, but Rimpoche's patrons
and supporters had built him a small monastic center
in the northern plains of India, several hours away
by jeep. The West Bengal landscape is relentlessly
flat, far from the remote monasteries that the Nyingmapa
Buddhists established, beginning a millennium ago,
across the Himalayas. I felt fortunate to have been
born on the south side of the Himalayas, safe from
the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Since the late 1950's,
Tibetans have been crossing their border into Sikkim,
India and Nepal, for refuge. Partly as a result
of their unerring devotion, Tibetan Buddhism continues
to flourish along the south side of the Himalayas.
T O U C H I N G... M Y... F A T H E R ' S... S O
U L - Jamling Tenzing Norgay with Broughton Coburn
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