Author Topic: When your Guru calls Shotgun  (Read 7852 times)


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When your Guru calls Shotgun
« on: July 01, 2012, 04:32:19 PM »
Hey all,

I came across this nice article written by Noa Jones and thought it would be nice to share it with everyone. I'm sure some of us are extremely fortunate to be able to serve our lama closely. Noa is one such person, and in this article, she wrote about a road trip she and a few other attendants took with their Guru from Seattle to New York.

A little bit about Noa. She is a writer by profession and have written for many Buddhist magazines such as Shambala, Tricycle etc. She is also an award winning writer, her recently just grabbed the Philip Zaleski's best Spiritual Writing of 2012 award for her journal titled "Where the Buddha Woke Up", which documented her pilgrimage in Bodhgaya.

I am attaching one of her works below for everyone to read. This article was written a month ago and was published on Nytimes.


When your Guru calls Shotgun
by Noa Jones

BY the time we reached the first rest stop, a Burger King in Cle Elum, in central Washington State, I was suffering two anxieties: That I would kill the guru, and that if I didn’t, he would ignore me for the next 3,000 miles.

He’d been as quiet as a statue for the two hours since we left Seattle. When he finally spoke, it was to say, “Oh, look, chicken sandwiches, only $1.05.”

People who haven’t spent time with a spiritual master might think that being in their presence has a calming affect, that wisdom drips from their lips like nectar. But in my experience, masters of meditation and miracles are not so easy to be around.

I have known this particular guru for about 14 years; he is a yogi, a brilliant meditation master and an award-winning filmmaker from the Kingdom of Bhutan. I call him Rinpoche (RIM-po-shay), an honorific akin to reverend or rabbi. And when I’m in his presence for any extended period of time, it’s as if I become invisible.

Then again, at the most unexpected moments (over fries at Hooters, for example), he’ll give me his full attention to deliver a brief instruction, like “Fall in love” or “Lose your address book and go to India,” and my life is changed.

Over the years he has asked me to do all variety of odd things, so I didn’t think much of it when he asked me to fetch a map of the United States. He was wrapping up a teaching in Seattle and wanted to take his time and see a bit of the country before his next engagement in New York City.

That he would take the time for a vacation was a surprise and a relief to those who know him. He flies almost every week of the year, accepting as many invitations as he can to meet the needs of his students around the world. So I looked for a road map.

My friend Emily, who travels with the guru wherever he goes, nudged him and said, “Aren’t you going to tell her?”

“Tell her what?”

“That she’s driving?”

“Oh yeah,” he said without looking up from his iPad. “Right.”

And that’s how I found out that I would be spending the next three weeks at the wheel, a holy man at my side, all of the United States in front of me.

Being asked to chauffeur was, to me, a thrilling honor like being asked to drive the president or the pope. But it was also scary, like being asked to transport someone’s kidney.

I would have help. Along with Emily, there would be David, a phlegmatic retired therapist and former New York City taxi driver. When I asked him why he thought he’d been selected, he said, “Rinpoche’s going on vacation and I guess he knew I’d be pretty low maintenance since I don’t talk a lot.” My mind immediately began wheeling. Why me? I remember Rinpoche telling us that when Lord Atisha traveled to Tibet, he intentionally took along the most infuriating person he knew so there’d be plenty of opportunities for practicing patience. Am I that person?

One of Buddhism’s famous sayings is: “Drive all blames into one,” which is funny when you have friends named Juan. It’s meant to point to the ego as the one root of all suffering. But in the case of our little road trip, I was the Juan. As the primary planner I would be the bearer of bad news, the target of raised eyebrows, the one responsible for tedium and sad continental breakfast options.

But we started out well enough. David picked out a comfortable Chevy Traverse and I charted the first part of our journey, a four-day trip from Seattle to Boulder, Colo., my hometown, where we would stay a week. On the morning of departure, Rinpoche’s devotees came to see us off, offering him white scarves and bowing with worried looks on their faces. One approached, hugging me as she whispered, “Drive safe.”

A whisper can be so loud and penetrating. It was now up to me to deliver Rinpoche, the most precious human these people know, safely to Midtown Manhattan.

I collected myself and got into the driver’s seat. The Traverse was a solid gas guzzler. The doors shut with soft assurance; everyone had enough room. We waved off the devotees and headed out of the city. Rinpoche sat cross-legged in a comfortable tracksuit. When he went to Tibet a few years ago, 5,000 horsemen greeted him with the very freshest butter and yak meat. Here he was under the radar: no fanfare, no processions, no greeting parties with burning juniper, no robes.

That afternoon we entered Idaho. “Everywhere in Idaho is a sweet spot,” a tourist brochure claimed, and so it was. What a beautiful state. Gliding through canyons of greenery under blue skies, stopping in a small town for pie and American coffee. Rinpoche paid some children $20 to wash the already clean Traverse. The calm that had settled over us deepened.

As the sun began to set, Rinpoche finally spoke. “America has nothing to worry about,” he said. “So much natural beauty.” I felt glad that I’d chosen this slightly longer route. We sailed through towns called Tensed and Troy, making our way to Orofino, Idaho, home of the Nez Percé Indian Reservation.

I picked Orofino because I thought Rinpoche would appreciate the indigenous culture of our continent for its similarities with Tibet. But Orofino was devoid of any visible evidence of the 20,000-year history of the Native American people.

From my room at the Best Western I downloaded images of the Nez Percé to show Rinpoche at dinner. We drank pinot grigio and ate fine food and flipped through images of long dead medicine men. Eating arugula across the table was my own real-life wise man, and I felt a peculiar mix of hope and fear that he would look me in the eyes deliver some new instruction that would pivot my life. Maybe to finally settle down, or buy a ticket to Japan. Every moment with a lama is a precious opportunity to tap into his wisdom. But he was on vacation. There was nothing to do but wait.

Yellowstone National Park was a highlight: rich colors oozing out of the earth, the scent of magma, the abundant natural resources. I felt proud to show Rinpoche this jewel of the country. “It’s like Tibet,” he said as we passed a clear blue lake. But better, I thought. We weren’t supposed to get out of the car, but we couldn’t help ourselves. I had to take a photograph of Emily posing with a bison. “What’s the difference between a bison and a buffalo?” David joked dryly. “You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.”

Rinpoche loves a dumb joke and that this crack got a good laugh out of him inspired a twinge of petty jealousy. I sulked ridiculously.

I was at the wheel along a stretch of beautiful roadway connecting Montana to Wyoming when a cloud of red dust appeared before us: a rock slide, which, it soon became clear, had just deposited a gigantic boulder in the center of the road. We pulled over, and David and I climbed out to inspect. As we strained to roll the boulder off to the side of the road, other drivers pulled over but stayed in their cars to watch, windows rolled up. This dislodged piece of earth, I realized, could have been the end of us.

Our next stop, Thermopolis, Wyo., was a disappointment. My inner Juan squirmed as we checked into a hotel that was seeped in stinky sulfuric fumes, right down to the sheets. But there was a pool. So we sat in our bathing suits eavesdropping on some locals talking politics — red state, blue state stuff. David went down the giant slide while I tried to act like it was an everyday thing to be sitting around half-naked alongside the lineage holder of a great ecumenical Buddhist tradition.

From there we went to Boulder, where we stayed for a week so that Rinpoche could take a photography class. On our last night we went to an art opening. Rinpoche wanted to go incognito so he wore an Andy Warhol wig and a pair of yellow sunglasses as he wandered among immense landscapes painted by the artist Peter Di Gesu.

From there we continued, with some calamity, to Chicago.

All trips have a low point, and I believe ours took place trying to escape Toledo, Ohio. We were hungry so we consulted the GPS, which directed us off the highway, onto an overpass and down several long roads to the parking lot of a boarded-up Mexican restaurant. Tumbleweed blew past and lightening flashed on the horizon.

We should have turned back, grabbed snacks and high-tailed it to Chicago. Instead we headed deeper into downtown, where the AAA guide promised refuge in a place called Georgio’s Cafe International. By the time we got there it had started to rain heavily. I leaped out to the curb only to see a spindly hand draw the curtain across the window pane of the door. Closed.

The rain was coming down in fat, hard dollops. Rinpoche spotted a grim Chinese restaurant down the block and we made a run for it. There we sat on China King’s plastic chairs, soaked to the bone, eating grubby chow mein from plastic foam plates. It was no place to bring a holy man.

Rinpoche’s mood never changed. It’s hard to pinpoint what that unchanging mood was. He was on vacation, he was relieved of answering hundreds of questions, guiding lives, managing, mentoring, mediating (though perhaps he was still meditating). This greasy, loveless meal seemed to please him no less nor more than the fresh river trout we had eaten days before on the banks of the Clearwater.

With David at the wheel, we got back onto I-90, the rain coming harder as our bellies turned from lunch. There was at least an inch of water on the road and obvious danger; cars were moving like turtles. I was in the back seat trying not to shout, “Pull over!”

Finally Rinpoche spoke up: “Maybe we should stop.” So we pulled over and waited. The tension was thick in the car as the rain pounded down. I took a photo of Rinpoche from behind; the hair on his head seemed very alert. None of us knew how long this would last.

We were lucky. The rain eased and from there it was mostly straight highway, a flirtatious nod at Lake Erie, a night in Pennsylvania. We finally reached New York City in the middle of a heat wave. Rinpoche had begun yawning in long syllables — “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” — as we crawled through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Until the last moments, until his suitcases were safely inside the hotel, I was still waiting to be the one who killed him or the one who was enlightened by him. We said goodbye, he alive and me as deluded as ever.

Later, when I asked Rinpoche what the highlight of the trip was, he said, “Listening to those people talk in the pool.”


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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2012, 07:07:22 PM »
Thank you for this story, Q.

It is nice to read a first-hand account of Noa's experience in travelling with a high lama. Her worries, her thoughts, her feelings, experiences and constant mind wondering depicts a story of how wonderful it was for Noa to be there with her guru, albeit the uncertainties, second guessings and constant assumptions. You can tell how much her mind jumps from one thing to another, in the presence of her guru because she wants to make sure everything goes perfectly and smoothly for her guru's trip. The amazement of what was the hightlight of the trip to which her guru replied, listening to the talks of the people by the pool, seems bizarre for I am sure many other things like the scenery, the peace and quiet, could've been a better hightlight. So why then, did Rinpoche choose that? Maybe it is becuase he sees and hears the people falling into deeper sufferings of samsara and his tugging desire to benefit them in any way possible.. and the imprint of them being in his presence was already good enough to bring them benefit in future.

A high lama will always choose to be with the most difficult people, will do the oddest things, will act in ways that are beyond our imagination/believe - it is all part of the training, I feel. We never know what goes on in their minds, nor can we ever understand the obscure instructions to carry out a task - but one thing is for sure is that it is always motivated by the want in benefitting others.

May I one day be as lucky as Noa to follow my lama travelling and serve them in whatever ways possible. Each second with your lama, is precious, for you know you are in the presence of a Buddha. Thank you again for sharing the story. It was highly entertaining and very well written! 


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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2012, 07:46:50 PM »
This is such a nice story on Guru devotion and how the teacher trains the student to let go of expectations and conventions on how a Guru should act. Let me just briefly explain the reasons why a teacher acts this way. If we have our own set expectation on how the Buddhadharma should be, then we wont be able to study Buddhism without having misconceptions, or wrapping it around our ego and comfort zones. It is very easy to re-interpret a sentence or a teaching so that it is easier for us to hear, accept or practice, but it is difficult for us to actually take on a teaching that is difficult to hear, a teaching that forces us to reexamine ourselves, a teaching that causes us to question our own understandings or motivations or a teaching that points out our weaknesses and mistakes directly which can be quite hard to stomach for some practitioners as they have not reduced their pride. Therefore, to get the correct interpretation of the teachings, it is imperative that we train our mind to let go of its comfort zone and to stop it from wrapping the dharma around the ego and increasing it, then we would derive no benefit from the Dharma.

In order for the teacher to break our mentalities, he would subject us to the preliminary practices of the the 100,000 water offerings, prostrations, mandala and migtsema so that our mind will be less stubborn and more receptive to the Dharma. That is called and identified as merits as well. Additionally or alternatively, if we do not have time to do these practices and we have the great fortune to be near him, he will do things that will challenge our perception of him and also challenge our own comfort zones as well as break our perceptions and expectations of how things should be and should be done and make us realize that we are wrong for having such mentalities. Part of Guru devotion involves always seeing that whatever the Guru does is right (assuming, that we have checked him out according to the 50 verses, for example) simply means that we need to work on accepting things that are not of our own expectations and perceptions and when that happens we will get the correct interpretation of the teachings and we will be able to apply it in our lives.

With that said, Guru devotion is a very touchy subject that many people tend to avoid as a result of a huge phobia over personality cults and people often misunderstand that having Guru devotion equals to that but do not really wish to investigate and reflect deeper on what is Guru devotion. This story provides a very excellent example of Guru devotion and how it benefits the students' minds in the long run. Thank you for sharing, Q.

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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2012, 11:28:33 AM »
As much I have read what Ensapa wrote that this article is about Guru Devotion, I still do not understand how the experience of the author Noa Jones is Guru Devotion? If driving the Teacher around is Guru Devotion, do you not think that it simplifies Guru Devotion and the depth of the meaning?


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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2012, 12:36:22 PM »
As much I have read what Ensapa wrote that this article is about Guru Devotion, I still do not understand how the experience of the author Noa Jones is Guru Devotion? If driving the Teacher around is Guru Devotion, do you not think that it simplifies Guru Devotion and the depth of the meaning?

Guru Devotion is basically, surrendering to the Guru. However difficult the instruction is, the student has to follow. The instruction could be as deep as on the teachings of sutra or tantra, or it could be as simple as asking the student to go do some exercise. No matter how it is, the Guru's instruction is holy because it was given with the motivation of benefitting the student. Without Guru devotion, the Guru would just be an ordinary person and she would not have been able to learn anything and benefit from it. All the conversations would just be mundane words and conversations with nothing to learn from at all. In the process, the Guru also pushed her buttons and made her feel scared of what would the Guru do. If she gave up or hide altogether, then where is the Guru devotion? It takes Guru devotion to stick through to be with the Guru even when feeling intimidated or uncertain. There are many reasons why a student would feel that way with a teacher, mainly because the teacher can see through all of the students lies, deception and limits, and the student is unable to predict what the teacher would say or do next or how the teacher would react. But that is what a teacher is supposed to do, to show us our ugly side so that we can do something about it.

If Noa was taking just a normal friend out, she would not have been able to remember so much or derive so much Dharma and meaning from that little car trip she had with her Guru. It is Guru devotion that enables her to learn so much and to be able to turn that really simple and mundane experience into a meaningful one. This is exactly the link that shows Guru devotion in this story, or at least that is what I see in this story of hers. How much are we willing to tolerate friends who push our buttons, or people that will push our buttons for that matter? If we have a limit for that, then why is it that we can take it when our own Guru pushes our buttons? If Guru devotion is not the differentiating factor that enables us to stick with the Guru despite the difficulty, then what is?

But with that said, I would really want to meet my Guru more often as every time i meet him something in me changes and another  bad mental habituation dies off and somehow I become better. Noa is very lucky and if she really takes her Guru seriously internally, her Dharma practice will accelerate by a lot. So many people near my Lama has improved in such a short period of time compared to people who are either too far away from the Lama or do not have have a Lama. It is very true when they say that the Guru is the culmination of all the Buddhas because they physically perform the acts of the Buddhas for us.


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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2012, 05:24:05 AM »
I cannot imagine my excitement if I am given the chance to fetch a Guru around. Not only that, fetching any Sangha around would be such BIG responsibilities. I will be so honored to be chosen to. Its a great story the writer wrote about her feelings and journey about her Guru. How many of us have this chance often? There is Guru devotion as she felt the huge responsibility. If she didn't have it, it would just be fetching another normal being around for sightseeing. It could be something that the Guru wanted her to know or else He wouldn't have chosen her out of so many students.


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Re: When your Guru calls Shotgun
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2012, 06:30:04 PM »
The Guru mentioned here in this article is none other than Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche and he is quite a radical Buddhist teacher, reminiscent of the mahasiddhas of the past. To fully understand his wisdom, it's best to have a read of it here:

What Changes and What Doesn't: An interview with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

by Kelly Roberts

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is an outstanding Buddhist teacher and director of The Cup, arguably the first great Tibetan feature film. He’s young, thoroughly modern, and deeply concerned about corruption of the dharma. He challenges Western Buddhists to uphold the unchangable truths of Buddhism while letting go of its cultural trappings. Too often, he says, we do the reverse. Dzongsar Khyentse is interviewed for the Shambhala Sun by his student, Kelly Roberts.

Kelly Roberts: I just wanted to say that your film, The Cup, reminded me so much of you, particularly when the Coca Cola can dissolved into Manjushri.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Really.
Kelly Roberts: In many places in your film, you replace traditional items with modern ones. For instance, the offering bowls on the shrine are replaced by the Coke can and the prayer flags on the roof of the monastery are replaced by a satellite dish. I’m wondering why you did this, because usually you are so worried about Buddhist tradition being corrupted.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: This is something that I want to tell my fellow Tibetans and Bhutanese—that modern technology is not a threat to so-called traditional Buddhism. Their society is just beginning to be exposed to the world of the fax, the telephone and the internet. They may feel uncomfortable with change, but the fact is we can no longer go to any place where there is no modern technology.
            We cannot avoid technology—it’s already at the doorstep, if not already inside our house. So instead of allowing these things to influence us, the wise thing to do is make use of their power and speed—to be the influence rather than the influenced. We can use the telephone, the web and television to teach, instead of them teaching us. We can use their power and the speed.
Kelly Roberts: You have compared your film to a modern version of a traditional thangka painting or a Buddhist statue.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Every culture has a different way of telling a story, and I felt that maybe I should just tell a story in a Tibetan way.
Kelly Roberts: Would that be your way of teaching?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: No, not at all. Buddhism has a long tradition of using images to represent wisdom and compassion. In its 2,500-year history, we can see that Buddhism has adopted many methods of expressing the dharma—through painting, sculpture, architecture, performing arts. These existed even during the Buddha’s time. The Buddha himself in the Vinaya Sutra discusses how to paint the five realms and the twelve interdependent links as we see in the wheel of life. So there is an old tradition in Buddhism of using images, and film can do that, too. Why not? For me, film can be modern day thangka.
Kelly Roberts: How?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Well, what is a thangka painting? It is an aid for your visualization. In the same way, film can help with visualization, perhaps even more effectively. For example, if you want to show what the hell realms are like, film could do that much better than a single painting.
Kelly Roberts: Don’t you ever worry, though, that with modernization certain aspects of the old tradition will be lost?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: As long as the fundamental view of Buddhism is not lost, there is no problem. We may try for sentimental reasons to preserve the traditional aspects as much as possible, but they will eventually change. Don’t forget that the customs and traditions that we are trying to preserve today were once modern and progressive.
Kelly Roberts: In the film, the Abbot writes about his wish that, “Nyima and Palden would continue to uphold the Buddha’s teachings according to these modern times.” What is it you’re trying to say with that?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: It doesn’t mean they will change the Buddha’s fundamental view. That should never be changed. I have met people in the West who are excessively attached to the external trappings of Buddhism. There is all this sentimental attachment to Tibetan customs and culture, and the actual Buddhist view is overlooked. In fact, I have heard that in creating a so-called “American Buddhism,” some people are saying, “Okay, maybe the Buddha’s view should be changed, now that Buddhism is in America.” And that’s not good.
            I would prefer that Americans really stick with the Buddha’s view: the emptiness of inherent existence, that everything composite is impermanent, and so on. It doesn’t matter if they leave out Tibetan culture. The really important thing is that they should accept the dharma. They should not worry about trying to design something better suited to Americans. The Buddha was an omniscient being. What he said was good for all sentient beings, and that includes us 2,500 years later. Nothing additional is necessary now.
            I see Westerners wearing chubas and showing off their malas. But I think the more people do that, the more they forget the essence, the actual point of the Buddha’s teaching. It’s amazing to see how eager some people are to adopt what is not essential, and throw out what is essential!
Kelly Roberts: I was a bit surprised that the Abbot would say something like this, since he is so attached to his homeland and its traditions, and doesn’t understand much about the modern ways.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Although many of these older, experienced Tibetan teachers are attached to their homeland and might seem rigid, beneath this rigidity there is an openness. Sometimes it’s quite surprising to see certain lamas incorporating modern ways of life into the ancient Buddhist thinking, especially when you know Tibetans. Tibetans can be so narrow-minded, so racist. They have such a superiority complex. Some of them are like missionaries who go to other countries and demand that the native people learn their culture. But at the same time, teachers like Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche created within the Tibetan wisdom lineage a space to accommodate Japanese, French, British, American ways of teaching.
Kelly Roberts: You say about the monks in the movie that Buddhism is their philosophy and soccer is their religion. Do you think someone could become enlightened by playing soccer?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: You never know. Maybe. Some of the saints of the past, the mahasiddhas, achieved enlightenment by telling lies or playing flutes. So if you meet the right master, and if you have the merit, why not?
Kelly Roberts: Because you’re now in the film world, you seem to have become quite famous and are living a bit in the lap of luxury. Are you getting attached to it?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: So much. I’m really going downhill! I’m getting more and more attached to this comfortable life. Even a small sesame seed in my bed bothers me. I used to travel in Indian buses, bumping along the whole night with Hindi film music blaring away, and still manage to do a lot of things the next morning. Nowadays, I might be driving in a limousine, but when things go wrong, I get very irritated. That is why I really think I need to shut myself in retreat far away in India.
            Mind you, many other Rinpoches, from my impure perception, seem to be getting that way, too. They are far too attached to the comfortable life. The life of simplicity seems to be less and less important and a life of distraction seems to be getting more and more popular.
Kelly Roberts: Do you tire of samsara?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: No, no, I am very much in love with samsara, not tired at all. Well, perhaps a little, thanks to years and years of being brainwashed when I was younger. The impermanence and futility of samsara does come to mind from time to time. But it only comes for nine seconds, and then it disappears for another nine months.
Kelly Roberts: You have always said that of the eight worldly dharmas, you have the greatest weakness for praise. How have you worked with all the praise you have received since your film came out?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: The Buddha said that if you know a trap is a trap, you will not be caught. The Buddha is talking about mindfulness. But mindfulness is something that is foreign to me, so of course I get very much trapped by all the praise and criticism. Having said that, my gurus are very special, and I always say that if I do have a little bit of a spiritual quality, it’s because of my teachers.
            I remember something His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse once told me. I used to be very wild, and sometimes people would report my actions to him in hope that he would scold me and discipline me. But instead, he would tell me who it was who told on me and would make a game of it. He used to say, “Don’t worry. You must remember that whenever there is one person out there who doesn’t like you or who thinks you are crazy, there will be a hundred people who are going to like you. And similarly, whenever there is one person who likes you, you shouldn’t get too excited about it, because there will be a hundred people who can’t stand you.” So liking and disliking are completely irrelevant.
Kelly Roberts: Speaking of being wild, you talked on The Roseanne Show, as well as on NPR, about visiting strip clubs. I don’t know how many people would view that favorably. Why did you go?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: I didn’t have any profound reason. But it does show that you shouldn’t come to me if you are looking for inspiration.
Kelly Roberts: Why do you sometimes wear monk’s robes?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: In Buddhism, we talk about several different stages of degeneration. There’s one degenerated time that Buddha called tagtsam zinpey du, the time when monastic robes are maintained just as a mark or symbol. That’s where we are now. At least I’m trying to hold on to that symbol.
Kelly Roberts: Do you have any regrets regarding your film?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: A lot of regrets, but I think I will take the regrets as stepping stones for my further learning.
Kelly Roberts: It seems that one of your aims in the film was to demystify the Western idea of Tibet and its culture. Why is this so important?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Preconceptions are not so good because they always mislead you.
Kelly Roberts: So you tried to show the ordinary side of monastic life and how that was profound.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Whatever I do, I have no profound motivation. I just wanted to make a film.
Kelly Roberts: But your film contained quite profound teaching.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: That depends on the person watching. Not everybody sees it that way. Maybe the success was just an accident.
Kelly Roberts: You talk about your next film being the life of the Buddha.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Only if I get enough money.
Kelly Roberts: Isn’t The Cup making enough money to finance another film?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: No, not nearly enough. Not even 10% of what I need to make my next film.
Kelly Roberts: So the life of the Buddha that you want to make is on an epic scale.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Yes.
Kelly Roberts: You must have done at least a hundred interviews by now. Are there any questions which you are surprised were never asked?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: I am surprised that no one has ever asked if I’m gay or not.
Kelly Roberts: Are you gay, Rinpoche?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: I have a tendency.
Kelly Roberts: If you were going to ask yourself a question, what would it be?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: I only have one big fear, that’s all. Not a question.
Kelly Roberts: What is your fear?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: As much as I want to be successful, I also have this growing fear that I will become a prisoner of fame.
Kelly Roberts: If you could have anything in the world, Rinpoche, what would make you happiest?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Spiritually, I would be so happy if I could see my twenty past lives and twenty future lives. That would probably give me some renunciation mind. On an ordinary level, I would be very happy if I could get my act together and finish the novels that I am writing.
Kelly Roberts: I hear that you just offered 100,000 butter lamps at the Boudhnath Stupa in Nepal. What makes you happier, doing that or making films?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: I can definitely say that I am happier offering the butter lamps.
Kelly Roberts: Thank you, Rinpoche.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: You’re welcome.