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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 49 Well, this is a complex question. I should probably start by saying that not everybody will agree with what I have to say about this, and that’s OK, because Rinpoche by nature brought about controversy. I think that Rinpoche probably drank because he felt it fa- cilitated his ability to teach in the West. I think he drank be- cause he felt that he was able to harness more energy to teach. If you look at what a task it was for him to bring the Buddhist teachings over here, and what he did in such a short period of time, I think he felt that alcohol facilitated that for him. Now other Tibetan teachers would refer to Rinpoche as a mahasiddha, that he was not an ordinary person, and he would have been the first to say that people should not imi- tate his behavior. Knowing Rinpoche as I did, he was not a traditional alcoholic. You never felt that he just lost it when he got drunk. I never experienced him that way. On the other hand I do think it became a poison because I think it was one of the contributing factors to his physical decline and death. So I think it was both a medicine and poison for him. Did you ever ask him to stop drinking? Yes, many times. Sometimes he did for a little while, but it didn’t last. One of the most impressive things about Rinpoche was how he practiced and promoted what he called dharma art in many different forms: poetry, calligraphy, flower arrangement, mu- sic, even graphic design. When I first sent away for the Naropa catalog in 1977, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and what a unified design sense it had. What was it in Rinpoche’s back- ground that prepared him to became a creator of dharma forms that went far beyond those of traditional Buddhist practice? That’s very much tied in to the total picture of what occurred for Rinpoche in bringing the dharma to the West. It’s an ex- tension of that. As the buddhadharma spreads, it has taken on the flavor of each different culture where it manifests, and this was happening for the first time in the West. Now, in order to bring the dharma to the West, Rinpoche faced quite a few challenges. In Tibet, dharma had been practiced largely in a monastic setting. Particularly as Rinpoche start- ed to introduce the Shambhala teachings, his view was that A stolen kiss while Chögyam Trungpa leads a formal Buddhist initiation ceremony in 1986 ©LEEWEINGRAD2006ALLRIGHTSRESERVED