More from December 1997

Giselle from Provence asked if I have more photos from the Yangsi’s Enthronement, so I had a look through my extremely chaotic series of photo boxes and realized that I’ve lost a lot. Or given them away. Nevertheless I have found a couple and although I’m not sure how interesting they are, but I post them to fulfill Gisele’s request.

Most vajrayana buddhists who have been around for bit will have a Richard Gere story. Mine happened 1997 at the Yangsi’s Enthronement. Sogyal Rinpoche always makes the most of every moment he has in Nepal and visited everyone, sometimes twice, including the incomparable Trulshik Rinpoche and the peerless Penor Rinpoche.

Penor Rinpoche’s place was a little way out of the centre of Kathamandu and as far as my memory is concerned, it was a square concrete box painted the colour of a swimming pool that had been randomly plonked in the middle of a field. And, predictably, after a long dry spell, the day we visited it rained, extremely heavily, creating an unfordable ocean of mud.

It was getting dark, I think, as we all stood looking at the vile, primeval sludge we would have to wade through to make our appointment. Sogyal Rinpoche’s solution was to dragoon a few men (possibly monks, but I wasn’t paying attention) into carrying him across. What, I wondered, should I do?

I looked around me, as much a damsel in distress as any princess pursued by a dragon, and happened to catch the eye of Richard Gere, who was also travelling with Sogyal Rinpoche at that time. What could the poor man do, but offer me his arm?

Now, at that time, I hadn’t seen a single one of his movies. Not American Gigolo, nor An Officer and a Gentleman, nor Yanks, nor Internal Affairs, not even Pretty Woman. And, being of a censorious disposition, I felt it my duty to keep all movie stars, however high up the A list they may be, in their place. Yet, I found myself simpering (yes, actually, simpering) as I clutched his strong, manly arm, and a good decade before palpitations became a way of life, my heart fluttered and pounded and lit up my normally sallow cheeks like traffic lights.

Needless to say, we all arrived at Penor Rinpoche’s place safe and sound, if a little grubby, and received blessings from him. The injis (apart from Mr Gere, who is also a VIP in the Buddhist world) spent most of the time waiting in a chilly room drinking butter tea. But then, that’s the name of the game when you find yourself attached to an entourage.

I have since watched every Richard Gere movie I could lay my hands on and, for the record, the man is every bit as charismatic and charming in real life as he is on the big screen.
Khyentse Rinpoche, obviously, who, as I mentioned in the previous piece, was sick throughout the celebrations. Nevertheless, he very kindly gathered together friends and students who were attending the celebrations for half an hour so we could spend some time with him.It was Rabjam Rinpoche who organized the whole affair and finding time to sit down and chat wasn’t easy for him. So when he and Sogyal Rinpoche bumped into each other they popped into the nearest room for five minutes of privacy. I think it might have originally been a kind of sitting room, but for the celebrations had become a dumping ground for all manner of furniture and bric-a-brac.I remember being very proud of this portrait of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. He’s so photogenic, it’s virtually impossible to take a bad picture of him, but I didn’t know that at the time. We ate a couple of times in the Yak and Yeti, where Sogyal Rinpoche was staying, and happened to bump into Khyentse Rinpoche there. He’s looking rather perplexed in this snap, but I vaguely remember he was teasing Celine or one of her sisters, so I feel sure that rather than feeling worried, he was merely gathering himself together before delivering a deadly coup de grace.

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