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Lions Roar : November 2006
Diana Pybus was sixteen years old when she married Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Her family was strongly opposed and the mar- riage caused a sensation in the British press. The pairing was not only exotic—upper-class English girl and Tibetan lama—they were also the first people to wed under a new Scottish law allowing mar- riage at the age of sixteen. THE PRESS WENT TO my mother’s house in London and said they wanted to ask her some questions about the daughter who’d just married a Tibetan gobo. They didn’t know what a guru was, so they kept calling Rinpoche my “gobo,” a meaningless word. My mother went into shock and said, “Oh my God, oh my God, Tessa [Diana’s older sister] got married. I can’t believe it.” Then they told her, “No, no, it’s not Tessa, it’s Diana.” My mother fainted. The next morning after the marriage ceremony we got the newspapers and discovered that our marriage had made the front page of the People and the Express, as well as the back page of the Sunday Mirror, none of which are among the better Eng- lish papers. The Sunday Mirror featured a picture of Rinpoche and me, with the caption “Diana, 16, Runs Away to Marry a Monk.” Seeing our picture in the tabloids must have been ter- ribly humiliating for my mother. However, for me, the most outrageous event occurred after all the reporters had gone away and the phone calls had ended. Late that morning, while we were lying in bed, Rinpoche decid- ed he would call some friends to announce our marriage. His first call was to a friend in Wales, and I remember him saying, “Mary, a very exciting thing has happened to me. I’m married.” And then he said, “Yes, yes, she’s sixteen years old.” Then I could hear her talking on the other end of the line, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Rinpoche looked slightly quizzical, there was a pause, and then he said, “Hold on a minute.” He put his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone, and he turned to me and said, “Excuse me, Sweetheart, but what’s your name?” He had actually forgotten my name! Rinpoche lived his life without the conventional reference points that most of us cling to as the anchors of our sanity. I don’t know if you can possibly imagine what I felt like at this moment. It wasn’t that I felt he To his students, Trungpa Rinpoche embodied nonconceptual mind, attending to each situation with spontaneous elegance, provocative humor, and a warrior’s grace. One of the most poi- gnant truths that comes through the book is how Diana’s own lack of preconceptions freed Rinpoche to give himself fully to his students without hindrance. With refreshing candor, Diana also relates the struggle to define her own identity beyond being the wife of a mahasiddha, raising a family at the center of what she calls a “dharmic pressure-cooker.” When I came to Naropa to study with the poet Allen Ginsberg in 1977, Rinpoche was on retreat. But the seeds of enlightened society he planted in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains had a profound effect on me even in his absence. Poets, artists, psy- chologists, musicians, and spiritual leaders from a broad range of traditions flocked to Boulder, adding their own distinctive heat to the dharmic pressure cooker. When dawn and dusk reddened the Flatirons, hundreds of orange cushions swarmed like fireflies toward the meditation hall. Rinpoche died in 1987, but Diana is flourishing in a new life with her second husband, Dr. Mitchell Levy, a senior member of the sangha. With other members of Rinpoche’s family, she is also a leader of the Konchok Foundation, dedicated to restoring the monastery in Tibet where Rinpoche trained as a boy and aiding the people of the region who live in great poverty. Ultimately, the unorthodox love story at the heart of Dragon Thunder offers universal lessons in the transformative power of love and devotion. As Diana puts it, Rinpoche “is no longer outside of me, so when I turn to him, I turn to my own wakefulness.” STEVE SILBERMAN: Even before you saw Trungpa Rinpoche for the first time at a lecture at the Buddhist Society in London, you were reading and thinking about Buddhism. What drew you toward the dharma? DIANA MUKPO: I’d been raised in the Anglican tradition, and the answers I was getting at that point just didn’t make sense to me. I started to read about different world religions. The first book I read on Buddhism—I believe it was one of Christmas Humphreys’—talked about letting your ego go completely, and that horrified me. I thought that this religion was definitely not for me. But I kept coming back to dharma because it related to my own experience. It wasn’t a question of believing in something that was unseen; it was about really looking at the quality of my mind and working with that. It felt like the most real thing I had encountered in my philosophical search. In the book, you write about having a profound experience of rec- ognition the first time you saw Rinpoche at that lecture. You write that you felt like you were coming home. What was it about his presence that you found so powerful and so uncannily familiar? Excuse Me, Sweetheart 42 SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006