AN OPEN LETTER TO THE 17TH KARMAPA

I took refuge with the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek,

his monastery in Sikkim, in 1978. A few years before,

with my wife Judith and a thousand others,

I was sitting in an aircraft hangar in San Francisco

when he raised a crown-like black hat to the top of his head

and flooded the wide open space

with a force I had no name for or understanding of

Let’s just say he tipped his hat to me

and a few years later with an entreaty I could not refuse

cut strands of hair from my head and by the single vow

that I would not gossip or speak meanly of others

confirmed me a Buddhist. I learned to meditate over many years

visiting Tulku Urgyen at Nagi Gompa, his nunnery

perched above Kathmandu. It was the walk there and back,

anticipating and digesting what he’d tell me

that focused and clarified my mind,

emptying it of preconceptions, that gave it direction

and grounding. Then the weeks of sitting,

getting it right or wrong, till he once again led me

to focus unfocused, to look without looking,

to meditate without meditating. It was Penor Norbu Rinpoche,

who I met in 1976 at his monastery in a refugee camp

in the south Indian plains, who reached through my defenses,

through the underpinnings of all I experienced,

to establish in me a basis for awakening

Who did this many times over many years,

though I didn’t realize he was doing it

till I did. The full force that lifted me free,

that magnetized and drew me east,

first felt at the back of that airplane hangar,

was within, and throughout,

always present. I draw on it today, with apprehension,

as I beseech those who gather in Bodhgaya

where Buddha attained enlightenment and in Lumbini

where he was born, those who come together

to pray for peace, to do so not just in places of pilgrimage

made well and whole within your own Mandala,

but to open wide those protective circles

for all who suffer from war and from the actions of war makers

and war profiteers. I ask you to gather

not just where peace was attained, but at the heart of the beast,

in their lairs, their military bases, and in their banks,

corporate offices and government strongholds

If not yet by presence, then by aspiration,

lead us to stand in solidarity

and bear witness against these crimes

Though I lack your compassion and vision,

I would rely on it. For those who would

establish the basis for being within us, is it not time

to establish that ongoing basis for being

in the world?

 

 

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