In 1990, Sogyal Rinpoche invited Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to teach at another off-season ski resort, this time near Prapoutel in the French Alps. It wasn’t absolutely the last time Dilgo Khyentse Ripoche taught a western audience, I think that happened in the Dordogne a little later, but it was among the last great gatherings.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche attended and often ate at the local pizza parlour run by a girl called Sabine who made such a strong connection that Rinpoche took her to meet Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. And I went along for the ride.
A large but very cozy tent had been erected for Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche right next to the shrine tent, and although we hadn’t yet ‘met’ officially, my husband, Andreas, was one of the guards. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche took Sabine into the tent and approached Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who was sitting on an immense, wheeled throne, beaming with delight. I hung around just inside the entrance on the pretext that I would be available to open the tent flap for Rinpoche on his way out—one of those vital tasks I assigned myself in order to justify hanging around.
When the short interview was over, though, Rinpoche and Sabine left through a different exit. I turned to chase after them, embarrassed that I’d have to scamper across Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s line of vision, but convinced it would be a minor transgression in comparison to the far greater offense of leaving Dzongsar Khyentse to wander alone. In my eagerness to quit the tent I moved from a relatively unobtrusive jog to an ungainly canter, and stole another glimpse of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche as I went. To my surprise I saw that he was smiling, broadly and invitingly. I stopped immediately and looked around to see who he was smiling at, but I was alone. And as my gaze returned once again to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s radiantly beautiful golden face, he appeared to be inviting me to approach him.
In retrospect, I wish I’d had a new cerebrum implanted before I travelled to France that year, because what happened next wasn’t that time and space stopped functioning, but my brain. My first thought, if you can call it that, was concern about Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. After all, Buddhist events are dangerous affairs, and Rinpoche was out there, alone, helpless, vulnerable, unprotected. My second thought was that I couldn’t speak Tibetan.
So what did I do? Opening my eyes as wide as I could, I pointed at the other exist, the one Dzongsar Khyentse had left by and mouthed to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (who didn’t speak English) “I’m supposed to be attending him!” Dilgo Khyentse continued to smile. Then I started to trot, slightly unevenly at first, out of the tent and into the remorseless sunshine.
My bowels shrivel with embarrassment as I write this, and I still can’t believe I coud have been quite that stupid! Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche passed away the next year, and I never saw him again.
By the way, this photo isn’t one of mine. I found it in an old box marked ‘Dharma Photos’ that we haven’t opened for more than a decade, and the artist hadn’t affixed his or her name so I don’t know who I should attribute it to. But I do love it.