Ama-la

30 September 2011 § 5 Comments

The Ama-la pictured here is not Sogyal Rinpoche’s mother. In India, it seems, all woman past child-bearing age with wrinkles and grey hair are called ‘Ama-la’, or ‘mother’. I guess it’s a monicker that will be applied to me before very long (Gott im Himmel!).

You’ll remember (you have a good memory) that I posted a picture of her with a goose not long ago. She lives at OT Rinpoche’s home. in the room beneath where I stayed, and we greeted each other every morning for week. Only two words were ever exchanged (Tashi Delek, a cover-all Tibetan greeting), but I now think of her as an old friend.

I feel I must apologize to regular readers for the horrible typos in recent posts. I really am the worst proof reader in the world. And I never have my reading glasses to hand, or am in a dash, or whatever. Typically, I find the mistakes after I’ve published and although I correct them as soon as I see them, I doubt I catch them all before you start reading.

Anyway, here’s Ama-la turning the huge new prayer wheel that OT Rinpoche installed recently.

Ganesh

29 September 2011 § Leave a comment

I first met Ganesh in 2006. His official job title (an important asset in India) is ‘OT Rinpoche’s cook’, but fortunately for Rinpoche, he can also turn his hand to pretty much anything. If the new cold water tank on the roof starts to overflow (it boils very dramatically, for no good reason), Ganesh knows how to tame it. If the dogs are eating a duck, again it’s Ganesh who scolds the dogs and clears up the feathers. You get the picture.

Since 2006, he’s grown a belly and a moustache, but is still as friendly and helpful as he ever was. He has a little English, but I’ve never really worked out how much. Sometimes he appears to understand, at others I’m not so sure. Take breakfast, for example.

“Madam like porridge?”
“Yes, thank you Ganesh.”
“Madam like omelette?”
“No, thank you Ganesh.”
“Madam like bread?”
“No, thank you Ganesh, just porridge.”

Yet, the next morning, and every subsequent morning, three open boxes of cereal were set out along with two heat insulated pots, one containing porridge (thankfully) and the other omelette or chapati or Tibetan bread (which, I should warn you if you haven’t tried it, is virtually indigestible, however much butter you try to soak it in).

So, being an inveterate, but largely unsuccessful, saver of time and effort, I had a go at trying to save him the trouble of setting the breakfast table with unnecessaries every day.

“Ganesh, just porridge is fine in the mornings.”
“Yes, madam like porridge?”
“Yes, thank you Ganesh. You make delicious porridge.”
“Welcome… Madam like omelette?”
“No, thank you Ganesh. Just porridge is enough.”
“Madam like bread?”
“No, thank you Ganesh. No bread.”
“Welcome…”

But once again, the breakfast table was heaving. Should I have had another go at easing Ganesh’s morning duties? The egalitarian in me screamed, “Of course you should!” However, as my fundamental conditioning has its roots in the English middle classes (dammit!), I simply didn’t have the heart to say anything more in case it sounded as though I was complaining. So I accepted everything offeredl, gratefully. And just ate the porridge.

Silhouette

28 September 2011 § 1 Comment

A snap from last year that I think I debuted on Facebook (please note, I lurk there now, but rarely interact) so some of you may already have seen it—forgive me for being repetitious. It was taken one supper time at the Labrang and as you can see Chokling Monastery is in the background.

When I was first invited to eat with Rinpoche, he would sit, very properly, at the head of a long thin arrangement of tables. But only about eight people could squeeze around that old table, so he had a new one made. It is large and deep (made up of several long thin sections), and although Rinpoche started out sitting at what used to be the head, he found himself stranded in the middle of a very long side and quickly moved to sit in front of the window, by the corner.

Having changed place, his attendant made sure the usual square of carpet marked out his stool and within seconds the never diminishing pile of miscellaneous goods that follows Rinpoche where ever he eats, had moved too. Noone would even think of sitting on Rinpoche’s place. It would be like climbing onto his throne in the shrine room.

Interestingly, neither does anyone ever voluntarily sit at the old head of the table—and three or four people could do so quite comfortably. I don’t remember a decision being made that Rinpoche’s old place should be kept free, but, the only way he can get people to sit there is by calling on them. I’ve often wondered why…

Skype

27 September 2011 § Leave a comment

While I’m at OT Rinpoche’s I have access to really quite good broadband. Good enough for Skype, in fact, which is a real bonus. Of course, the electricity tends to explode from time to time and I’ve already lost one power adapter to it, but nothing in this life is perfect. Right?

A couple of nights ago as I Skyped Ireland, Andreas looked fuzzy around the edges, and for once it wasn’t the Guinness. I liked the effect, so I screen captured him. (I love my Mac.) Perhaps there’s a future for Skype Art?

Mutton Curry

26 September 2011 § Leave a comment

There are a few shelves of western dharma books in OT Rinpoche’s house and on one of them I found these two stuffed sheep, or are they rams? Whatever they are, they struck me as being rather unusual ornaments given the opulent gilt and marble in the rest of the house.

It occurrs to me that they might be some kind of ritual substance. I vaguely remember a friend being given a sheep familiar to keep by her bed when she was sick (on the advice of a lama) with the instruction that she should write down her dreams. Loads of other stuff was involved that I can’t remember, but a toy sheep was definitely part of the mix. Maybe these examples were created for a similar purpose? Or maybe OT Rinpoche just has a thing for woolly animals?

They reminded me of a car ride with Khyentse Rinpoche from the Dordogne to Roqueredonde in the south of France. It was mid-summer and extremely hot. The roads were narrow and the local drivers we met cavalier, to say the least. At one point, though, instead of narrowly dodging badly serviced French cars we found ourselves gridlocked by a flock of several dozen sheep. It was a relief, in many ways, to be still, and for a while we sat in silence. Then Rinpoche spoke.

“Mutton curry,” he said, completely deadpan.

Another moment of silence as we processed the implications of those two words, then appalled delight broke out amongst vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and Rinpoche smiled, wickedly.

Mullah Nasrudin (9)

26 September 2011 § Leave a comment

Mullah was very lazy.
One day, having returned from a trip to the Gulf, where it is extremely hot in the summer, he said his village friends, “Do you know what? I have never been so continuously active in my life as I was during my last trip to the Gulf.”
“What is that you were doing, Mullah?” asked the villagers, curious to discover what it was that could inspire Mullah to action of any kind.
“Sweating!” replied Mullah.

Postscript: I know how he feels.

Yet More Drupchen Photos

25 September 2011 § 1 Comment

In the first photo we see OT Rinpoche’s attendant’s, Karma, who was tireless throughout the ten days, not only serving Rinpoche personally but acting as chöpon during the ceremonies and doing whatever was needed, day or night. So this photo is a little unkind because it captures in the only yawn he indulged throughout the drupchen. But I love the colours and atmosphere and therefore can’t resist including it in this collection.      

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