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…