Update: For those of you leaving messages about the various reports of HH Penor Rinpoche's passage from this world, I know. My temple is waiting until we are able to directly contact Holiness' primary attendant in India. We'll have more to say after that.
A quickie this morning, as students of HH Penor Rinpoche around the world have been asked especially to set aside today, Friday the 27th, to join the gathered lamas and faithful in India to accumulate massive prayers for His Holiness, who is in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Bangalore. I would join the practices scheduled at my temple, but I’m still in Vermont, so I’ll muddle along on my own. For those so inclined, the recommended practices that we’ll be doing are Vajrasattva and Riwo Sang Chod. It would be a kindness if those of you who are Buddhist (or Buddhist sympathizers) would at least chant His Holiness’ long life prayer. And, of course, any kind thoughts from any of you good-hearted souls directed his way are greatly appreciated. For me, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche is like the sky, the sun, and the earth. Everything of value that has grown within me has done so in dependence upon his wisdom and compassion.
Two days ago, my translator and I visited His Holiness’ seat in America, Palyul Retreat Center. We circumambulated the main temple and offered prayers for his long life.
Since DODR commenter Lama Kunzang and his wife Samaya live just up the road from there, we dropped in for a visit and squeezed Lama-la for details of his improbable Dharma life, which began back when he was in the military in Vietnam (and – shh – Laos and Cambodia) before most Americans had ever heard of Vietnam. Mostly I hankered after tales of his root lama, HH Dudjom Rinpoche. If someone offered me the chance to turn back the hands of time and meet anyone within the last 50 years, say, Dudjom Rinpoche would be the one.
It was with him partially in mind that we made a long-awaited pilgrimage yesterday, to the Ithaca, NY, headquarters of Snow Lion Publications. I almost became delirious in their store, hankering after all the new texts now available. But the first one I plucked off the shelves was Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom, Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal’s account of “the life and legacy of HH Dudjom Rinpoche.” Being of limited personal means, I carefully chose two offerings from the indefatigable Padmakara Translation Group: Mipham Rinpoche’s White Lotus, his explanation of the outer, inner and secret meanings of the Seven Line Prayer to Padmsambhava, and The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech, Khenpo Kunpel’s classic Nyingma commentary on Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva. I was then told at the counter that various discounts applied for books published by Snow Lion, and for me as a monastic. It felt a little like being on Wheel of Fortune (there’s a samsara/nirvana joke in there somewhere); I hadn’t quite reached my self-imposed limit of $100, so I chose a gift for my mother, who feels such strong devotion to White Tara: Khenpo Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal’s new book, Tara’s Enlightened Activity.
But wait! That wasn’t all! One reason for the journey was to finally meet one of Snow Lion’s co-founders, Jeff Cox, with whom I’ve had a phone and email relationship for the last 17 years. It was a warm meeting, and he showed me around the shop, discussing Snow Lion’s latest titles. There’s so much to admire and appreciate about Snow Lion’s work, but one of the most meaningful efforts of theirs, for me, is their Tsadra Foundation Series (dig the spiffy new Foundation website) and in particular the 10 volumes they are publishing of The Treasury of Knowledge, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s 19th c. compendium of, well, just about everything Buddhist under the sun. Alas, these are large hardcovers and I had resigned myself to admiring the latest releases from afar. But then, as I was waiting to check out, Jeff came and placed the volumes of Systems of Buddhist Tantra and Esoteric Instructions on my little pile and said they were a gift to me from Snow Lion.
In my world, books are the most profound gift, and I will never forget this wonderful kindness.
The day just got better as we were treated to an Indian buffet lunch with Jeff, his wife Christie who oversees the Snow Lion Newsletter (don’t receive it? you must), and Snow Lion’s Editor-in-chief, Sidney Piburn. Conversation ranged from Mongolian Buddhism past and present, to the Dalai Lama (who was the source for Snow Lion’s original inspiration), to the evolution of English dharma translation, to whether punks from New Jersey could ever be considered for freelance editing work, to false lamas who submit their manuscripts for publication under sneaky pretenses.
The final bit of intel I needed to extract as we bade farewell was where I could get the best coffee in Ithaca. I was unanimously directed to local roasters Gimme! Coffee, and was not deceived. A potent cuppa, along with my translator’s habitual hot chocolate, fueled our happy journey back to the green mountains of Vermont.
OK. That’s it. Off to the cushion. Please pray that this world may have the ongoing merit for HH Penor Rinpoche's enlightened presence.