The Garbage Man

One year Khyentse Rinpoche opened all Chökyi Lodrö’s trunks and suitcases and boxes to find out what was in them. Every day for quite some time, Maggie neatly arranged the latest selection of Chökyi Lodrö’s personal belongings on the table outside the archive room, so that Khyentse Rinpoche could swoop down in between pujas and interviews and work sessions and teachings to decide what to preserve and what to chuck.

Now, as I’m sure you know, Khyentse Rinpoche is only ever extremely busy, and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that the examination process was pretty much over even before it had begun. Speedy is not the word here. (Sadly, my thesaurus has been unable to provide me with an adjective that can adequately convey the quality of any of Rinpoche’s tempi.) He was in and out like a speeding bullet.

Before the dust had settled, though, OT Rinpoche would suddenly appear and insist on going through the detritus that had been left in Khyentse Rinpoche’s wake. At this point, things would slow down markedly. Purposeful and thorough, OT Rinpoche went through everything Khyentse Rinpoche had tossed aside, employing his entire catalogue of wordless expletives in the process. As his long-fingered hands passed over the piles of junk, it was as if he were conjuring all manner of treasures, each glowing with historic and spiritual significance. The one I particularly remember was a mouldy, tattered cloth that, it turned out, had once covered Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s prayer book.

He described himself quite cheerfully as the “Garbage Man”. But, once I stopped laughing and thought about what was happening, I realized that OT Rinpoche can’t have been more than eight years old when Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö passed away, yet he retains detailed memories of every moment he spent in Chökyi Lodrö’s presence. Not only can he remember word-for-word what was said and done, but even which piece of cloth was used to covered which book. When I compare it to the garbage my mind has collected over the years, I begin to appreciate what an extraordinary being this great man really is.
Garbage man, indeed!

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