This is Sogyal Rinpoche in 1982 and it’s pretty much how he looked when I first met him at a teaching on 1 March 1986 at the Rigpa Centre, St Paul’s Crescent, Camden Town in the days before The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
He must have spoken about Guru Rinpoche because back then he always did, but you already know about my appalling memory leak so you won’t be surprised to hear that I remember not one syllable of his talk.
After he’d finished teaching and left the room, the rest of us retired to the lower level for tea. As I stood sipping mine, bamboozled and delighted, the door to the office opened and Sogyal Rinpoche’s face appeared in the crack.
“Come in, come in,” he smiled.
Surprized and thrilled, I followed Rinpoche into the office and through to his tiny room at the back. We sat face to face, Rinpoche on the brocade and cushion covered futon, me directly in front. He then took both my hands and laughed and laughed and laughed. Being English and really quite polite in my own way, I too laughed, and laughed… and laughed.
“What star sign are you?” he asked.
I replied, truthfully, “Scorpio”.
He laughed again. And so did I. I think I must have been with him for all of three minutes.
As I regained the filthy Camden Town streets, unable to make head or tail of my experience, I fell back on old habits and burst into tears. Of relief. However confusing this Buddhist business seemed to be, I knew that I was finally on the right track.
Years later, I asked Sogyal Rinpoche, with whom I am still very close, why he had asked me about my star sign. Was it something to do with a prophecy? a curse? the signal of some momentous event? (I have a tendency towards the over-dramatic.) But he shook his head and replied, “I have no idea!”