The Football Sutra

I beg the indulgence of those who have already come across the following revelation from the 1990s

Beyond words, beyond thought, beyond description, International Football;
Forever thrilling, the very essence of Pure Joy.
Yet, it can be experienced throughout the season!
Homage to FIFA and UEFA, past, present and future.

In German: Es gibt nur ein Rudi Völler!
In French: Allez les bleus!
In English: We was robbed!

A game in two halves.

Homage to Pélé, Bobby Charlton, Johann Kreuff, Franz Beckenbauer, Maradona and Zinedine Zidane!

Thus have I heard.
Once the Blessed One was watching the world cup
At home on his telly, together with
A great gathering of football fanatics, along with
A great feast of beer and chips.

At that time, the Blessed One entered the samadhi that expresses the dharma called “Accomplishment of Perfect Ball Control”,
And at the same time, noble Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the bodhisattva football fan,
While practising Perfect Ball Control, saw in this way:
He saw that Perfect Ball Control is accomplished when mind is one with the ball.

Then through the power of Pélé,
Venerable Philip Philippou said to noble Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the bodhisattva football fan,
“How should a son or daughter of a national team train
Who wishes to practise Perfect Ball Control?”

Addressed in this way, noble Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the bodhisattva football fan,
Said to venerable Philip Philippou,
“Oh, Philip Philippou, a son or daughter of a national team
Who wishes to practise Perfect Ball Control should see in this way:
Seeing that Perfect Ball Control is accomplished when mind is one with the ball.

The ball is always one with the mind; the mind is always one with the ball:
Ball is none other than mind and
Mind is none other than the ball.

Thus, Philip Philippou, Perfect Ball Control is not about feet, head or chest, as mind and ball are one.
There is no right foot and no left foot,
There is no own goal and no missed goal,
There is no corner and no throw-in.

Therefore, Philip Philippou, in Perfect Ball Control there is no thought,
No strategy, no set pieces, no spitting, no determination;
No eye, no head, no foot, no hand, no chest, and certainly no mind;
No TV deals, no commentary, no excitement, and no Perfect Ball Control;
No sweeper movement and no striker,
No defense and no offense,
No penalty and no free-kick,
No red cards and no yellow cards,
No bookings and no sendings off,
No huge salaries and no great advertising deals,
No vulgar wives and no kiss-and-tells.

Therefore, Philip Philippou, since footballer players themselves don’t exist,
The game only lives in our minds—and balls.
Since there are no football players, there is no game.
So, football transcends existence and abides in nirvana.

All the great players by means of Perfect Ball Control
Fully awaken to unsurpassable and immense bank accounts.
Therefore, the mantra of Perfect Ball Control,
The mantra of great players,
The unsurpassed mantra,
The unequalled mantra, the mantra that calms all game nerves
Should be known as truth, since there is no game to lose
The mantra of Perfect Ball Control is said in this way:

Between the posts, one with the goal, in the back of the net, “Goal”!

Thus, Philip Philippou, the bodhisattva football player should train in Perfect Ball Control.”

Then the Blessed One arose from that samadhi and praised noble Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the bodhisattva football fan, saying,
“Good, good, O son of national football team, thus it is, O son of national football team thus it is.
One should practise Perfect Ball Control just as you have taught and all the football coaches will rejoice.”

When the Blessed One had said this,
Venerable Philip Philippou, and noble Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the bodhisattva football fan,
That whole assembly and the world with its players, refs, linesmen, managers, owners and trainers rejoiced
And praised the words of the Blessed One.

Thus concludes the Sutra of the Heart of Football.

Hellbound Hellraiser

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche loved London. Twenty odd years ago it was a great place to have fun. It overflowed with movies and cheap restaurants and quickly became his playground. He’d wander around Leicester Square, Soho, Oxford Circus with a crocodile of friends and would-be students in tow from morning ’til night. We saw six movies one day in six different cinemas. The only one I remember was the last one, a midnight showing of Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall at the huge Marble Arch Odeon. We sat in the front row.

In those days I still clung to my Art House movies creds. I’d never seen Indiana Jones, or Star Wars, and to this day all I know of ET are the skits and satires its inspired. Rinpoche watches anything and everything; he loved, and loves, Kurasawa, Naked Gun and Star Wars. Total Recall was a revelation.

Come to think of it, the only time I remember Rinpoche showing irritation with me was over a movie.

The day had begun with his suggestion that we see Hellbound Hellraiser II. “You’ve got to be joking!” I sighed, and rolled my eyes. Rinpoche smiled and we went shopping.
A little later he suggested it again. “Isn’t life too short?” I asked, displaying a little dispair and rather too much naked prejudice. Rinpoche smiled and we went for tea.
After tea he suggested it again. We were standing outside the tea shop in a circle, about five of us I think, and although I’m not entirely sure what I said this time, it was pretty close to an outright “No!” Rinpoche transformed instantly from close friend into outraged Vajra Master.

“You really must not reject things, Janine! It’s bad for you!” And he wasn’t smiling.

Rinpoche turned to speak to someone and suddenly all I could see of him was his back. My entire nervous system went into meltdown. My stomach screwed itself up into a bundle of knots, my knees shook and my mouth went dry. How old was I at the time? Eight or nine? No, well into my late twenties, a fully grown woman. But I simply couldn’t bear the idea that Rinpoche could be angry with me, especially over something so stupid.

The someone left and Rinpoche turned back to our circle. “So, who wants to see Hellbound Hellraiser?” He asked, looking directly at me. Needless to say, like the grovelling lapdog I have now become, I demonstrated extravagant eagerness at the prospect. And at that moment I also meant it. Rinpoche took me by the hand—the only time he’s consciously touched me that I can remember, apart from the the slaps on the back when he finds something funny and I’m not attending—and off we went to the cinema. It looked as though I’d been forgiven, and my god, the relief! I can’t begin to describe it.

We never saw Hellbound Hellraiser, though. I think the theatre was sold out. And for some reason Rinpoche never mentioned it again. I often wonder if the whole point of the exercise was to soften up my rigid mind and histrionic bigotry—at least the solipsist in me does. Something definitely changed in the way I operated from then on. But who knows? Perhaps he really did want to see Hellbound Hellraiser…

Book making

It isn’t even my book; I’m just the putter-together and ironer-out of language. Yet it prays on my mind. But then, books are worrying beasts.

My old friend and mentor, Patrick Gaffney, who had a much harder time of it than me, once wrote, “Books are like giant leeches, fastened onto you, sweating, heaving and relentlessly sucking the life out of you. They only let go and slither off when they are fully sated, and you can never tell when that’s going to be.”

I begin to understand what he meant.


“A European, even when in ecstasy over eastern splendour, should retain the taste and eye of a European.”

Works well in the context of translation from Tibetan to English, don’t you think? Although I doubt Pushkin had such things in mind when he wrote it.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Writing has never come easily. It’s why I set up this blog. I was convinced that simply by providing myself with an unthreatening forum, elegantly turned phrases would spill effortlessly from my fingertips, and I would be able to amuse my friends from the comfort of my own solitude with stories of my disreputable youth. It hasn’t worked. So it looks like a change in modus operandi is called for. I think the problem may be that my mind is too full of Rinpoche.

Did I tell you about the very first time we met? It was at the old Rigpa centre in St Paul’s Crescent, Camden Town. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was passing through, and it was my turn to serve him a cup of tea. A simple task. Or so one would have thought. In the end it look nearly half an hour. Getting into the two foot square kitchen was hard enough, but then to negotiate the backs and fronts of god knows how many over-excited Dharma groupies of all nationalities (I mostly remember the French) was virtually impossible. Why so many overwrought women found it impossible to separate themselves from the sink, the rubbish bin and the fridge, I will never know. And they never, for one moment, stopped talking.

Somehow the tea got made and I carefully placed the expensive, lidded porcelain cup on the obligatory tray that I held at shoulder-height (a method of service that was de rigueur at that time, but I had no clue why) as I made my way up the narrow stairs (delicately perfumed with urine, I remember) and into the shrine room. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was sitting at the other end of the room on what looked like a huge, bright orange and gold raised bed, mountainous, golden and topless. Sogyal Rinpoche cross legged at his feet. The trick would be to cross the twenty or so metres between the door and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche without tripping over one of the two hundreds beings that had crammed themselves into the room, or spilling any of the tea.

In those days I oozed an unbound confidence that, sadly, was based on deplorable ignorance. I strode forward, smiling, keen to meet the eyes of this Buddha in the flesh and to do a matchlessly perfect job of serving tea (little things…). It worked pretty well for the first half dozen steps. Until, that is, I entered the no-time zone. Literally.

Suddenly, the cool autumn light changed shape and all sound both bled away and embraced me. The splinter of mind left to me went completely blank. To this day, it is a mystery how exactly that cup left the tray and found its way onto Khyentse Rinpoche’s table. As is how I extricated myself from that state. But I did, because the next thing I remember is someone calling my name.

“Janine,” said Sogyal Rinpoche, as he gradually gained substance. “Rinpoche, this is Janine, Philip’s wife.”

Having made a fairly successful stab at focussing on Sogyal Rinpoche, I followed his gaze to the person sitting next to him. A young Asian man in robes sat bolt upright and looked directly at me as though I was the most important person in the room and someone he had been absolutely dying to meet all his life: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Smiling, beautiful, radiant. I gazed, open mouthed. We shook hands.

“Philip has been a very good friend to me,” he said.

Mercifully, I have no memory of what must have been my completely incoherent reply, but from that moment I was hooked, irrevocably hooked. Eager and more than willing to play masochist to his sadist, secretary to his CEO, straight man to his comic. Student to his teacher. However, the puzzle of why a certain kind of Dharma student is irresistibly drawn to small, tight spaces filled with others of their kind continues to allude me. But I can still make a pretty good cup of tea.