Rinpoche’s, lamas, khenpos and monks all seem to love shopping. They throw themselves into it in a way I never could. Take OT Rinpoche, for example. There’s nothing he likes more than to wander through flea markets, department stores, even mega-sized electrical gaget stores—I should probably have written, ‘especially’ rather than ‘even’, but such monolithes are my kind of hell.
Khyentse Rinpoche has less time these days, but in London in the late eighties he haunted Oxford Street, Soho, Leicester Square (“home”) and Tottenham Court Road. He always seemed to be on a quest: the perfect leather case, the perfect linen shirt, the perfect duffel coat, etc. And nothing deterred him. However cold, hot, wet, humid, blustery it was, if he wanted to shop, he shopped.
One summer, in the days when I still thought in Farenheit, he led a crocodile of friends and students from Marble Arch to Goodge Street at midday in the middle of a heatwave (more than 100 degrees). I wilted. And it’s only now, having visited India, I realize that for him 100 degrees was quite balmy. Everything interested him. He visited Selfridges’ perfume counter, scoured the shelves of HMV for the latest art movie imports, plundered Liberties ground floor for desirable note books, and of course, browsed the bookshops. Frankly, I never recovered from it. To this day, the idea of ‘going shopping’ inspires a low level of panic, and I very rarely window-shop.
All these memories crowded into my rusty mind when Philip mentioned last week that whenever he stays at OT’s he is surrounded by the products of countless shopping expeditions through many of the major cities of the world, which triggered a memory I have of taking OT Rinpoche to the famous KaDeWe in Berlin. We ploughed through all the usual departments—fabrics, poreclain, cut glass, food—and somehow ended up in children’s toys. I expected to sail through, but OT Rinpoche dropped anchor by a display of model animals, tiny things that toddlers love to stuff in their mouths and are therefore designated 5+. Jamyang Nyima, OT Rinpoche’s monk, stood patiently by as OT Rinpoche examined each species with an expert eye, then passed those that met with his approval onto him, or returned them to the neat line of clones they lived with on the shelf.
After some time Jamyang Nyima said something to OT Rinpoche and walked away. So Andreas was pulled into service and became the repository for OT Rinpoche’s selections. I asked Jamyang Nyima what the menagerie was for. Did OT Rinpoche have a secret penchant for playing Zoo? Or was he buying toys for his children or grandchildren (or whatever). No, no, none of that. It turns out they are a necessary part of certain rituals. “But we have so many,” he sighed, a little testily, it must be said.
Eventually, OT Rinpoche had sorted through the entire range. “No good donkey,” he said. “Look, no energy of donkey.” And he made an extremely funny face that suggested all manner of politically incorrect nouns. Nevertheless, he had amassed a serious collection of animals, and I still have somewhere nearly three feet of till roll detailing the name and stock number (in German) of each item.
In this snap from July this year, we had put shopping on pause, briefly, for a photo shoot in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the Hotel Adlon (because HH Dalai Lama stayed there): OT Rinpoche with Karma and Urgyen.