Memory is a problem for me—you already know this—and I’ve just spent the morning wondering what from the last few days is most likely to stick.
Perhaps the ten seconds we spent with Khyentse Rinpoche at 03.50 on the morning of receiving the siddhis when we bumped into him on the way to the gompa. “OT Rinpoche hasn’t woken up yet,” he told us, clearly more amused than concerned, although without OT Rinpoche the ritual could not begin and was scheduled to start at 4am.
The one memory I am bound to preserve with excruciating exactness is my sole foray into serving tsok. Each day injis were invited to take turns serving tsok to the monks and other guests, and when my turn came along I was given a box of Amul milk to distribute. Someone had cut it open, thankfully, but a bit skew wiff, which I only discovered when I tried to pour a drop into the cupped hand of the first in a long line of the Mindroling monks. White, smelly, long-life milk gushed uncontrollably over his text, his thigh bone trumpet, his mala, his robes, everywhere and all I could do was move on to the second monk, where I made an even worse job of it. A sea of milk threatened to engulf us both, even though, bizarrely, the box of milk remained virtually full (a reverse kind of siddhi?). I then treated the third monk in the line to the same treatment, and the fourth, and on and on and on until I reached the end of that line of honoured guest participants, who by now were utterly drenched and grimacing.
Finally I reached a monk I know, one of Khyentse Rinpoche’s jewel-like Labrang monks, Tenzin Dorje, who held his cup out, smiling broadly and encouragingly. I breathed deeply and made yet another attempt at pouring a tiny portion and succeeded, finally, without spilling a drop. At the time it felt like a miracle. And from then on it was plain sailing. But I blushed for a full hour afterwards and my bowels still shrivel within me when I think of my terrifying incompetence.
I’ll also remember the rain, which played quite a significant role in creating an particular atmosphere throughout the drupchen. At one point we were deluged day and night for more than 72 hours. It was the kind of rain that soaked you through within a couple of seconds, and the mud was primeval. Interestingly, or should I say predictably, it pretty much stopped once the drupchen had been completed.