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Lions Roar : November 2006
Second Best Leaving Scotland under difficult circumstances just two and a half months after their marriage, Diana and Chögyam Trungpa arrived in the United States to find American students open and receptive to the Buddhist teach- ings. Chögyam Trungpa’s rapid rise to prominence as a spiritual teacher began in a small farmhouse in Vermont then called Tail of the Tiger. THE MAIN HOUSE at Tail was small, with a living room and kitch- en on the main floor and several tiny bedrooms. Upstairs, on the third floor, a somewhat larger room was turned into a meditation hall. Rinpoche and I were given one of the rooms on the main floor as our bedroom, in the back. Our bed was a mattress on the floor. Most of the people who came around in that era, both men and women, had long hair and were sort of grungy. I continued to wear the hippie caftans I had brought from England, but I added peasant blouses, flowing skirts, and the occasional short skirt to my attire. At the beginning, Rinpoche’s dress was noticeably more conserva- tive than his students.’ He liked to wear an ascot with a silk shirt, for example. After a little while, however, he changed his dress a bit to go along with what other people were wearing. Rinpoche bought some embroidered Mexican shirts, and he used to wear those. He also got into a flannel shirt phase for a while. There was group sitting meditation in the shrine room upstairs ev- ery morning. I often sat with people, although some mornings I would sleep in with Rinpoche. There were a lot of late nights. In the evenings, people would gather in the living room, and Rinpoche and I would hang out with people for hours. Sometimes he would just talk with people; sometimes he would give a short lecture in the evening. The ac- tivity would go on late into the night. Up to this point, to some extent, I had had Rinpoche to myself, and I had done everything for him— cooking his meals, washing his clothes, making appointments for him, and so forth. It was an adjustment to have so many people around all the time and to have to share him with everyone. Although I sometimes missed the time we had had alone together, I was fundamentally very happy to be there—with him and everybody else—and delighted to see him able to expand and relax so much. He was really launching his campaign on the American soil. One time, when we were alone in bed, I was feeling romantic, and I said to him, “I love you more than anyone in the whole world!” He replied, proudly, “I really love you too. I love you second best of any- thing in the world.” I said, “What do you mean, ‘second best’?” Then he replied, “First I love my guru, and my guru is the buddhadharma. I’ll always love the dharma more than anything else. But you’ll al- ways be the thing I love second best. My first commitment isn’t to being a family man, but to propagating the Buddhist teachings. This is the point of my life. Hopefully the two things can work together.” Even in matters of the heart, he was uncompromisingly honest. ♦ priate or not. I simply had this unbelievable connec- tion with him that felt to me very natural. I think you can say the proof is in the pudding. I don’t feel I was exploited because this was not a ca- sual encounter. This is something that developed into a deep, meaningful, lifelong relationship. It was not a frivolous encounter. On the other hand, one can’t emulate Rinpoche’s life. I think that would be very dangerous, and I’m certainly not saying that I would condone 28-year-olds sleeping with 15-year-olds. This was a special and unique situation with a special and unique person. Your first stopping point en route to the United States was Canada, because you had visa problems. You were living in modest circumstances but received help from some of Rinpoche’s American students. The initial couple of weeks we hadn’t connected with anyone to help us. We were very, very poor. We lived in an old studio apartment in the university district of Montreal and we basically ate only rice. After a couple of weeks, we connected with students who were able to help us. These were American students who had studied with Rinpoche at Samye Ling, and they had decided to start a practice center in the United States. This became Tail of the Tiger in Vermont. From your description, the atmosphere in the early days there was quite informal. People were dropping in and out at all hours. Rinpoche was wearing overalls and living very intimately with his students. Was this difficult for you at times? Well, at times that was difficult for me all the way through, even as the situation evolved over the years. Rinpoche was very, very patient with his students. Initially, he met people at their own level at a place where he could really communicate with them, and then gradually things evolved. One of the pivotal points was the visit of His Holiness the Karmapa in 1974, when the mandala Rinpoche created around him as a teacher changed. Rinpoche had so much devotion and respect towards His Holiness, and his students were able to observe that. They began to un- derstand how they should express their devotion to Rinpoche, who had never asked for anything like that for himself. After you moved to Boulder, Colorado, there was a tre- mendous evolution of the community in a very short SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 45