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The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:07 am
The Kingdom Collapse: Not-a-Fan Fiction
by Charles Carreon
June 16, 2019
No one can really know the truth about what's going on in the collapsing Kalapa Kingdom. Silence has fallen over the royal palace, and the coming and going of supplicants has been replaced by the jawing and scheming of lawyers and crisis-managers. Rumors travel fast and far. The truth can only be inferred from the actions of the Interim Board, never from their words, that drip with the unctuous piety that circulates like incense smoke, unable to mask the reek of creeping decay. Presenting surmise under the cover of a roman a clef would be the politic way to run with this story, but American Buddha has never been politic. We carry tales, and name names. Expect fly-on-the-wall recording of insider conversations, cynical analysis of current events, maybe some dark humor, if we can manage it.
The Ideal Adversary is An Incompetent
When you have to go to war, it’s always a relief to discover that your enemy is an incompetent. And when you know in advance that war is coming, the ideal plan is to arrange for an incompetent to assume the role of your adversary. Certain political leaders have risen to the heights of power by doing battle only with incompetents – the two Bush presidents, for example, both defeated flaccid opponents – George Dukakis and Al Gore, two of the most wooden candidates ever to deliver a stump speech. Hilary Clinton thought Trump would be the easiest one to beat, and did everything she could to get him to run, even having her husband encourage Trump to enter the Republican primary. So you get my meaning. If you’ve got to fight, find a loser to fight. And, of course, be sure he's going to take the fall.
Shambhala – An Organization That Has Always Been Ready for War
Shambhala was born in the crucible of conflict, conceived by a man who loved to behave outrageously, and required the aid of loyal accomplices willing to engage in secrecy, deception, and violence. Shambhala is actually the second iteration of the Buddhist “Vajradhatu” group established in the eighties by Chogyam Trungpa, the enfant terrible of American Buddhism’s first generation of believers. Shambhala is a bastardized philosophy of spiritual nationalism that Trungpa synthesized from myriad sources. He adopted Tibetan mystagoguery and theocratic patriarchy to set the tone of awe and obedience, swirled in a bit of nature mysticism to give it an earthy flavor, infused it with aesthetic taste by incorporating Japanese flower arranging and architecture, militarized his bodyguards by dressing them in British-style military uniforms, put the students on a stairway to achievement by distributing Boy-Scout style merit badges and achievement pins, and set the whole thing to music with a national anthem cribbed from a Scottish folksong. To appeal to Americans who believe you get what you pay for, Shambhala training is delivered, Scientology-style, in a series of levels. Everyone can aspire to become a meditation teacher, because there’s always more room at the top in an expanding organization.
Trungpa, a man who had seven wives, a coke and booze habit that sent him to an early grave, and made his name in the annals of American literature by ordering his bullyboys to strip a poet naked at a Halloween party that only he enjoyed, practiced total domination over others. Raised as a Tibetan oligarch, he harbored a lifelong grudge against the Chinese for depriving him of his autocratic position, and revenged himself on the American baby-boomers who had been raised on the Shangri-La myth, and seriously believed that Tibetan lamas knew the secrets of the universe. In his early days, when there was no Internet to prevent him from engaging in brazen impostures, he routinely impersonated the Prince of Bhutan in countries around the world, with all the naked hubris of a born conman. He was habitually late to public appearances, harassed anyone he felt like for any reason he fancied, and on more than one occasion, tortured animals for sport. He needed bodyguards as much as Michael Jackson, and for similar reasons – he lived a lawless lifestyle, and needed to keep the authorities out of his business.
Running the Kalapa Kingdom -- A Job Too Big For the Sakyong
Despite Trungpa's desire to pass the lineage to his reincarnation, thanks to the scheming of Trungpa's wife Diana, and his lawyer Alexander Halpern, the Sakyong found himself at the head of Trungpa’s Shambhala organization – an organization he could never have created himself, and which many people say he never wanted to rule. But he was put into that job, and it came with all of the privileges of kingship, since Trungpa had designed it that way. So he is nothing like the fellow who took over Scientology when L. Ron Hubbard died – that bastard Miscavige who pushed his way to the center of Hubbard’s organization and literally beat the shit out of anyone who tried to oppose him. That guy is never going to have the problems the Sakyong has, because he loves power and knows how to hold on to it.
No, the Sakyong is far more like a lazy aristocrat who doesn’t know what to do with himself. Because of the faux-monarchical structure of his pseudo-nation, he has some ceremonial responsibilities. Nominally, he is supposed to care for the spiritual welfare of the citizens of his “enlightened society,” but from all reports, he has no love for his subjects, and acquits his lordly duties with ill-grace. He also has an inferiority complex, because he could never fill Trungpa’s shoes, each one of which was about as big a bathtub, compared to the size of the Sakyong’s tiny feet.
Trungpa, for example, had the gift of spiritual gab, and the ability to magnetize the attention of great writers, artists, and publishers. He could show up late for lectures, because when he got there, the spontaneous spiritual oratory would flow freely. His question and answer sessions were lively exchanges, and the spiritual seekers of the sixties and seventies that he turned into slavish believers started out as irreverent, passionate adventurers. He converted them with bold declarations of spiritual superiority that he backed up with bravura performances. He was a philosophical gangster who played Russian roulette with his disciples, only he knowing which chamber the cartridge was in. He could point the gun at his own head, pull the trigger with a smile, then pass it across the table. No wonder the women came, and came, and came. He was a spiritual gunslinger in a town that had no sheriff.
The Sakyong, on the other hand, couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. There’s enough Trungpa on tape to fuel a hundred more books, but when the Sakyong speaks spontaneously, it’s an embarrassment. The bird of spiritual intuition just won’t roost in his head. He can’t hear those Mahamudra melodies, blow those Dzogchen riffs. He’s never lived in a monastery at fifteen-thousand feet. The Land of Snows, with its wizards, demons, gods and goddesses, is as much of a rumor to him as it is to any other Tibetan who, like himself, was born to a nun in a refugee camp, of an uncertain sire. Although he’s said to be Trungpa’s son, he more closely resembles another lama, Akhong Tulku, who was one of Trungpa’s functionaries. Akhong is a humorless fellow, an officious bean-counter who thought Trungpa an embarrassment in the early days, and staged a mutiny against Trunpga’s leadership of Samye Ling in Scotland, stealing Trungpa’s seals of office, and driving him out of the center. Admittedly, Trungpa had committed severe breaches of decorum, drinking, carousing, and marrying the fifteen year-old Diana, activities that the Sixteenth Karmapa also disapproved, going so far as to terminate Trungpa’s authority to represent the Karma Kagyu lineage.
The Ghosts of Shambhala
Yes, quite likely, the Sakyong is the son of a plodder. He shows no acumen for spontaneity, although he apes Trungpa’s drinking habits, womanizing, and postures as a poet with the aid of a circle of sycophants. But even his sycophants don’t match the quality of the toadies that Trungpa could draw. A paucity of talent at the center has lead to a lacuna of inspiration where Shambhala’s heart should be. Yes, the guards are all in place, polishing the silverware and guarding the doorways and courtyards of Shambhala’s “Kalapa Kingdom,” but the esprit de corps is tepid. Still, the womanizing, and within recent memory, the use and abuse of tender flesh, has been a steady trend. Yes, young girls below the age of consent have been brought to the king’s bedchamber, some say even by their parents and guardians, who have lowered their children to the gutter to raise their own status in the Sakyong’s milieu.
These tales have circulated for a long time in the psychic bloodstream of the Kalapa Kingdom. The years have rolled by, and turned into decades. The abuse victims have grown up. They have shared their stories with one another. They have been silenced. They have lived like the ghosts of the realm – specters everyone has seen. Spectres that the authorities insist do not exist. And yet they are there. Everyone knows. They cry out at night. Their voices are pained, insistent. They cry for justice, for recognition, for existence. They will not go away. They haunt the Sakyong’s dreams. They disturb his peace. He drinks. He drinks to forget. He drinks to wipe away the vision of those he has harmed. He sits on his throne, and he hides in his rooms, and he trembles inside, for he knows he deserves nothing but derision. He would like to disappear, but his army must be fed. The illusion must be maintained, or its collapse will be dreadful. The collapse of Shambhala would be – no, he cannot imagine it.
Re: The Collapse of the Kalapa Kingdom / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:36 am
Spears on the Horizon
The Sakyong has a bad dream that visits him again and again. He sees an army on the border at dawn, their spears glinting in the morning rays, piercing the fiery horizon. War has come to the kingdom, and he turns to pull a sword from the wall. Then he wakens, and it is a day like any other. He is expected to be calm, royal, to exude meditative gravitas. There are no enemies to fight, but his nerves quiver, ready for battle. The saccharine obeisance of his servitors disgusts him. He wants to throw his breakfast plate. He wants a drink. He has a drink. Then he has another. And so the day begins.
His tedious counselors bring him bad news. He asks them what they must bother him with? Rumors, sire. Rumors of what? The ghosts. Good lord, the ghosts.
The Grey Men and The Long Game
Now come the advisors, the lawyers, the men wearing suits and ties, carrying laptop computers, billing by the hour. He likes to talk to the lawyers who write contracts, who make deals and promise new business combinations in profitable arrangements, but lately there are fewer of those. Now it is always the dreadful, dour-faced ones with their blonde, female sidekicks looking sharp and serious. The litigators, the human resources lawyers, the trouble-shooters and crisis managers. They ask questions about the ghosts. They don’t take well to denials. They claim they must know the truth to protect him from those who wish to destroy him and the Kingdom. He’s not sure if he can trust them, but he has to. And he has to pay them, too.
The lawyers have come up with a plan. They call it a limited hangout. Sometimes they talk about lancing the boil. Other times they talk about taking the sting out, or beating the other side to the punch. All of these martial metaphors. They lay out their plan in a PowerPoint deck. It’s a script for controlling the ghost problem, but it’s not a simple script. The grey men play to win, so they play the long game. They’re talking four or five years to rid the kingdom of ghosts, or the rumors of ghosts, which amounts to the same thing.
The Sakyong doesn’t really like the plan, because it begins with what sounds like a surrender. The Kalapa Council will have to dissolve. They all know that ghosts are real, and we don’t want them to be subpoenaed. They’ll exit under a cloud, but it won’t actually rain on them. It’s important to get them out of the organization, because it puts them out of reach of a subpoena to the corporation. They can travel, go on retreat, speaking tours to Thailand, if need be. What they know has to be kept out of reach of investigators.
The grey men have written a letter of apology for him to sign. True, it doesn’t say much of anything, but it’s going to be spun through the friendly press as if it were an abject confession. This is the sort of thing the grey men do. They say one thing and do another. Of course, the grey men love his confession letter – it’s a masterpiece of evasion. It went through nine drafts, countless hours of editing at umpteen dollars an hour, bouncing back and forth as an email attachment between partners and associates. Wherefore, it says nothing, but has the flavor of saying something, and can be described as a confession. It cannot become evidence. It provides no fodder for investigation. But it can be sold as evidence of remorse that eliminates the necessity for investigation. It’ll satisfy for those who cry that something is due, if perhaps there are ghosts, and silence the conspiracy theorists who claim that ghosts are definitely real. Either way, the Sakyong is very sorry about the ghost problem, whatever it may be.
The dissemination of the “confession” is carefully planned. The grey men quickly become familiar with the players in the small Buddhist publishing market. They talk with Sam Bercholz of Shambhala, Helen Tworkov of Tricycle, Guy Eastman of Snow Lion, Mel McLeod of Buddhadharma, and Phillip Moffitt of Spirit Rock. They meet Pema Chodron and Lady Diana. They visit the Shambhala Center in the City, and watch the students coming and going. They appreciate all of these people as consummate professionals at the top of their game, the startup entrepreneurs of the consciousness game. They coordinate strategies, give advance notice – Shambhla is going to rise to the occasion. The ghost problem is just that – a problem. And the grey men solve problems.
The Fear of Mandatory Reporting
The grey men say that the biggest problem is this thing called “mandatory reporting.” The Sakyong is disappointed to hear about this concept. Apparently, all of the states where Shambhala operates have these troublesome laws that require religious people – clergy, that is priests and monks and nuns – to report child abuse to law enforcement authorities. This is really the fault of the Catholics, the grey men explain, but now it’s everyone’s problem. The blonde sidekick leans forward to explain that, if the definition of clergy includes meditation teachers, which it really should, then all of these people in Shambhala who have religious titles, like “Shastri,” and “Acharya,” and “Lopon,” all of these people also have duties of mandatory reporting. The Sakyong suspects that the blonde gal has it in for him, and enjoys delivering this type of bad news. She continues by explaining that people who are therapists, psychologists, and doctors – of which there are quite a few in Shambhala – they are all mandatory reporters, too.
The Sakyong’s head swims. Alexander Halpern, the lawyer who has been Shambhala’s grey man for years, has never told him about this. He should have told him. It might have made a difference. At least he could have avoided doing the underage girls. Now he tries to remember. Who knows about which one? Who is a therapist? Was he a Shastri back then? Was his mother an Acharya? Wasn’t his father a doctor?
Andrea, a Pied Piper for Shambhala's Victims
The grey men then tell him about the science of controlling the opposition. This is where we started in this article. Where do you find a fool to lead the charge against you? The Sakyong is bewildered. We’re going to find someone to lead the charge against us? Yes, the grey men explain. We have to. Otherwise they’ll organize themselves. A really scary ghost could emerge. One with a genuine grievance, a motivating wound, a thirst for justice, a dangerous ghost. Best to get ahead of the parade. Hire a pied piper. Lead them straight out of the town, over hill and dale, into a place far away, where they’ll be lost and forgotten.
The grey men have a candidate for the role. She’s one of the Dharma Brats – second generation citizens of the Kalapa Kingdom. She’s known no society other than Shambhala, and claims to be a ghost herself. She’s been a troublemaker in the Toronto centre, speaking at inappropriate times about having suffered abuse. Nevertheless, she describes herself as fiercely loyal to Shambhala, and has been reaching out to various leaders in Shambhala about collaborating with the organization to create a system for processing the complaints of the abused and getting them some redress within the organization. She says she has no desire to go the police and instigate an investigation by outsiders, which of course should be understood to mean that if she doesn’t get some cooperation from Shambhala, she may seek to instigate an outside investigation. Her name is Andrea Winn. She needs money to get her project started. The lead grey man suggests she be discreetly provided with some funds. The blonde speaks up at this point to say, “We recommend that she be urged to start a Go-fund-me, and donations can be made anonymously through that mechanism. Individual Shambhala members can make the donations in their personal names.”
The Pliable King
The Sakyong is incredulous. He turns to his Aunt Diana, who holds the reins in all of these troubled situations, and asks, “Did you know about this?”
Diana looks straight ahead, at the lead grey man across the conference room table, and lies through her teeth. “First time I heard a word about it.” Then after a pause, she turns to the Sakyong and says, “But it makes sense, don’t you think?” When the Sakyong says nothing, she continues -- “You’ve heard about the #MeToo movement, haven’t you?”
Diana tilts her head in the direction of the blonde, who takes up the charge, turning to face the Sakyong. “It’s very dangerous when this sort of thing gets started. The Weinstein organization is collapsing in the face of the disclosure that Harvey Weinstein used company assets and employees to…” she paused briefly to choose a proper phrase – “satisfy his appetites.” She paused again, then resumed. “There is a bit of a similarity in the facts here, and similar dangers could eventuate.”
The Sakyong frowned and said, “All of these things happened years ago. I’m married. It’s all different now. Can’t you just defend me? That’s why I pay you.” He tried to look like he was above it all, but it didn’t quite come off.
A second grey man cleared his throat and closed his laptop to signal his desire to speak, and the lead grey man nodded at him to proceed. “We understand that, uh, we’re talking about things that are in the past. But just to provide another data point, Bill Cosby was just convicted a couple of months ago for a crime that occurred fifteen years ago, and he’s looking at a prison sentence. So the passage of time doesn’t necessarily provide any protection.” He looked back at the main grey man.
The main grey man sat a little straighter and looked the Sakyong dead in the eyes. “First, let me say that we are representing you in this matter because of our long relationship with Alexander.” Here he turned to the crafty old lawyer seated at the head of the conference table, who acknowledged the compliment by closing his eyes and smiling gently. “Thanks to Alexander’s representation of the Dalai Lama, Dzongsar Khentse, Pema Chodron, and many other eminent lamas, he has been able to inform us of the implications of the situation in which we find ourselves. There is an institutional risk here, and yours is what we lawyers call a ‘bet the company case.’ So, as Jason has implied, your first concern must be to avoid imprisonment, but the institution’s concerns go far beyond this personal matter. Alexander, perhaps you can help me here.”
Halpern pulled the glasses from his face and rested them on the table, looking down and taking a moment to consider his words. “Osel, I knew the Vidyadhara as a personal friend. He had the highest hopes for you. We all had them. Dilgo Khentse went to bat for you when Thomas Rich destroyed his Regency, and I was confident you could train up to the job. But I must be honest with you. I’m disappointed. His Holiness is disappointed. There is no room for pride of position. Amongst us, you have nothing to hide, and if you want to ever sit comfortably on the Kalapa throne again, you must begin to take direction. We are going to put a plan into action with or without you. I would much prefer this first option. Sally, show him the outline.”
The blonde reached into the smooth Italian leather portfolio and extracted a slender document bound in translucent plastic, and slid it across the table to the Sakyong. He drew it to himself and flipped it open. It was all laid out chronologically on the first page with bullet points and target dates for completion of a multi-phase crisis management plan. Diana leaned towards him to look at it, trying to appear as if it were all new to her.
The Sakyong reviewed the first page briefly, then looked up and down the table at his handlers. “So you have it all worked out? I’ll be apologizing in writing, this Andrea Winn person will lead with this ‘limited hangout,’ then there’ll be a legal investigation that will tamp things down a bit ... what is this Olive Branch?” He paused and looked at the plan, then resumed, “Then I will send out another apology and um … leave the country.” He looked angry. “Have you bought my plane tickets already?”
“In fact we have,” replied the blonde.
“Well, that’s just dandy, he said.” Turning to Alexander Halpern with an acid look, he said. “We’ll talk about it.” Then he stood up and walked out of the room.
After he left, the lead grey man said to Diana, “We need to get that letter signed immediately.” Diana nodded in assent. He turned to the blonde and said, “Is Andrea Winn under control?”
The blonde replied, “For the moment.”
“Well,” said the lead grey man, “Call her up and give her some assurances. We don’t want anyone going off the reservation.” Then he turned to Alexander Halpern and asked, “Anything more we need to do around here?”
Halpern replied, “I’ll stick around and have a word with his majesty. I’ll get the letter signed by end of day.”
“Allright then,” said the lead grey man, “I think we’re done here.”
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:22 am
Halpern found the Sakyong at his favorite sulking-spot, sitting on a stack of lumber out behind an outbuilding where he could get away and nip on a bottle of Pinot Noir. The Sakyong looked up at him, giving him the stink-eye. Halpern set down his briefcase, hiked up his pants a little, and sat down on the pile of boards, about a yard away from the monarch. He didn’t say anything, and waited for the Sakyong to speak. The boy would have something to say, and once he said it, they could move ahead with the plan. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Do you think this is going to work?” asked the Sakyong.
“I don’t know,” Halpern answered, “but it’s the best way to be sure the problem doesn’t get out of hand.”
“Can this Winn person be trusted?”
Halpern replied, “I don’t trust anyone, Osel. I trust my knowledge of their needs, their desires, and my ability to address those needs. Andrea Winn is a very needy person, so I am confident of my ability to keep her under control. Trust …?” He savored the question, and pronounced his judgment – “No, I don’t trust her. She’s a subtle blackmailer.”
“What’s she supposed to deliver?”
“Good question, Osel. She will deliver your victims, and their stories, packaged in anonymity, cleansed of the crucial facts that investigators would need to commence a prosecution – names, dates, places, witnesses.”
“But Alex, wouldn’t it be better to let sleeping dogs lie?”
“Osel, I don’t know what you’re drinking there, but it’s not helping your clarity any. If you don’t know that the dogs are already awake, prowling around, looking to eat your ass, then you need to wake up. Trust me, the dogs are not sleeping. We need to control them.”
“My dad never had to deal with this kind of shit.”
“Your dad never heard of Twitter, much less #MeToo, and damn lucky he didn’t. But do you think he moved to Nova Scotia because he liked the weather?”
“Right, right, right.” The Sakyong’s voice was resigned. He knew very well that Chogyam Trungpa had paid hush money where it was needed, and moved to a Canadian island in large part to enjoy a lawless lifestyle. He was ready to concede. “So you really think we need to do this?”
“I do, Osel,” replied Halpern, in a gentle, kindly voice, filled with understanding. He lifted his rear off the wood, moved closer to the boy-king, and sat down close enough to put a hand on his shoulder. “Just until the heat is off.”
“And when will that be?” The Sakyong’s voice sounded plaintive.
“I don’t know, but I don’t have any doubt that it’s necessary. You called the tune, now you have to pay the piper.”
“Jesus,” the Sakyong let out a long breath, set down the Pinot Noir, leaned forward and put his forehead on his hand. “It was a long time ago – the girls – I mean that’s the dangerous part, right?”
“That’s the dangerous part,” Halpern agreed. “All the adults, they can sue, but I don’t see any likely prosecutions. The best thing is that most of the problem interactions – tell me if I’m wrong – happened several years ago. The girls are all adults now. Statutes of limitations have run or are close to running. I’d say, give it a couple of years and you’ll be in the clear.”
“A couple of years?” The Sakyong looked at Halpern with a flash of anger, then turned away and took a pull of the rich, dark wine. He wiped his mouth on his hand and stared out at the distance. “In a couple of years, I’ll be nobody. I’ll be forgotten.”
“Bullshit, Osel,” replied Halpern, “You will still be the King of Kalapa, the Vajra Master to thousands of students. We’ll keep the franchise going. The faithful will pull together. Have some faith in yourself. But it’s a time for discipline. You need to cut the spending, because you’re not going to be earning, and we’re going to have to sell some property, because a crisis burns money. Lawyers aren’t cheap. Some payments will have to be made. Most importantly, we need to get the assets protected so there’s no financial target to incentivize the lawyers of the victims.”
“Well that’s just fucking great,” retorted the Sakyong. “What do you think we should sell? This place? The Court?”
“I was thinking Marpa House,” answered Halpern.
“What?” The Sakyong sounded incredulous. “My mother lives there! I suppose we’ll just put her out in the street? She’s on dialysis! We can’t disrupt her routine – it could injure her health!”
“I understand all that, Osel, and we’ll take care of the Lady Konchog. She’ll understand.”
“But why should we sell Marpa House?”
“Selling the Court properties would signal defeat. Possibly more important, though, is that Marpa House is a potential trouble center.” Halpern paused, waiting for the question he knew would come.
“What kind of trouble?”
“When you are gone, there will be a leadership vacuum. We can’t fill it, because no one can be trusted to hold your seat for you. Symbolically, we must keep you on the throne, but still there will be a leadership vacuum.” He paused while the Sakyong absorbed this, and waited for the next question.
“So you think Marpa House could be a focus of …” The Sakyong tilted the bottle from side to side, feeling the weight of the liquid as it rocked, then resumed speaking. “Marpa House could become a center of – rebellion?”
“I’m afraid so. It’s got traditional roots. Your dad’s students are nostalgic about it. It’s supposed to be for practitioners – they talk about low income and high rents – I don’t like it. I don’t trust it. We need to get rid of it.”
“You know, I think you’re right,” answered the Sakyong. “I see your point. How much you think we’ll get out of it?”
“Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, give me your signature here.” He reached into his briefcase, pulled out the confession letter clipped to a stiff-backed pad, drew a pen from his lapel pocket, and extended the two, one in each hand, to the dour-faced spiritual monarch.
“I really have to do this, huh?”
“You really have to do it.”
“And my mom – we’ll take care of her, right?”
“Of course we will,” answered Halpern, smiling gently, kindly, at the boy he’d made a king. “Of course we will,” he repeated, reassuringly.
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:40 pm
GOOD DAY, SUNSHINE
“I need to laugh, and when the sun is out,
I’ve got something I can laugh about.
I feel good, in a special way,
I’m in love and it’s a sunny day.
Good day, Sunshine!”
-- Lennon – McCartney
The mandala of her mind was ready. Cleansed by wisdom fire, wind and water, clean to the endless perimeter of the circle of protection, surrounded by a fence of crossed vajras. The Guru’s lotus throne appeared in the sky before her, and on a sun and moon seat, the seed syllable appeared, radiating flames. Out they went, blessing all beings and making offerings to all of the Holy Ones. Back they came, laden with gifts and blessings. Again the syllable flared, and in the flames appeared the visage of the Guru, dressed in splendid robes, surrounded by luminous disks that glittered all around him. From His heart a single red ray emanated, touching her heart, transforming her into the naked, red dakini, dancing in flames. As she chanted the Guru’s mantra, a ring of flame connected the two of them. His blessings flowed into her heart in an endless chain of wisdom fire, cleansing her mind of dualistic concepts, merging her awareness with that of the Lotus-Born Guru of Oddiyana.
Andrea had practiced this ritual so many times, she no longer knew whether it comforted or tormented her. Love and pain had long ago merged into a single stream of experience. Trust and betrayal were fruits growing on the same tree. Goodness and evil had lost their precise meaning, but pain was still significant. Pain drew her close to her computer screen, pain pulled her like a needle draws a thread, pain moved her fingers and her eyes, pain moved her back to her meditation cushion where she tried to find peace, pain moved her to the couch where she sat and ate ice cream, and binge-watched Netflix to obtain relief from her weary mind.
Growing up in the Kalapa Kingdom had not been easy, but it was the only place she knew. What had she learned? She had learned to speak the language of piety, sensitivity, and obeisance. She had learned reverential phrases and flowery addresses. She had learned to hold the Guru above her head like a woman who balances a water jar, ever conscious of the precious nectar held within. But sometimes she wanted to toss it to the ground, to break the vessel, spill the water, and scream, “I’ve had enough! It’s a lie! I want to die! I want to kill! I want to be free!” But this was not allowed, so she tried to remain silent. She tried not to offend, but something inside her kept poking through the skin of compliant speech and conduct.
Everyone knew what she knew. It was an open secret. So she sat at her computer and typed the words:
“I was sexually abused as a child by multiple perpetrators in our community. When I was a young adult, I spoke up about the community’s sexual abuse problem and was demonized by my local Shambhala center, ostracized and forced to leave. The shocking truth is that almost all of the young people in my age group were sexually harassed and/or sexually abused.”
There, she had written it. She trembled to see it on the screen. She closed her eyes to see the woman in flames dancing inside her. The woman seemed to be cheering her on. The woman was red as a glowing coal, and as she danced on one foot, she waved her hooked knife and cradled her skull cup lightly. But the Guru on his throne did not respond. His lotus-light frightened her. His wrathful smile became a menacing leer. She snapped her head to the side to clear her head and returned her eyes to the words on the screen. She continued writing:
“I don't know the statistics on the generations of children after mine. What I do know is that many of us have left the community, and for those who have stayed, their voices have been unheard. Beyond child sexual abuse, women continue to be abused in relationships with community leaders and by their sanghas....”
As she read those words, the dam broke. Tears began flowing down her face, and sobs came from her chest. She had been choking, and now she could breathe again. The blazing woman inside her took over after that. Courage flowed through her body and mind. Words arose in her mind, moved her fingers, and appeared on the screen. She knew it was the beginning of something big, and she had always known she was cut out to do something big. She felt like a river of lava pouring out of a volcano, molten, red hot, consuming everything in its path, leaving behind nothing, nothing at all. She wrote until the words stopped coming, saved the document, laid down on the sofa, and fell into a deep sleep.
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:59 pm
Her phone rang, and she recognized the number. Samantha, the lawyer Adam Lobel had recommended she work with. She answered, “Hello, Samantha.”
“Hi Andrea, just to let you know, Jeff Martens is on the phone with me here. He’s an associate here at the firm, helping me on this matter. Mind if he sits in on our call?”
“No, that’s fine,” said Andrea.
“Well, I just wanted to begin by telling you that we have been formally retained by the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council, and we are authorized to listen to you on behalf of the Shambhala organization. I’ll be your point of contact with Shambhala, and anything you want to tell the Kalapa Council, you can tell me. You should remember that I do not represent you, so anything you say to me or to Jeff, or to anyone here at Steele & Hartmann, will be information we will be free to share with the Kalapa Council, the Sakyong, and other decision-makers at Shambhala.”
“Thank you for making that point. That’s what I assumed,” replied Andrea.
Samantha answered, “All right, thank you for confirming that. So why don’t I turn it over to you, and tell me what you wanted to share?”
“Sure. Well, I don’t know how much you know about the situation that I’m trying to address, but it’s a mess. Excuse me if I ramble a little, because a lot of this is emotionally charged information for me, and I have been speaking to a lot of people. Just in a general sense, I don’t think you want this to come out in an uncontrolled way, and I think I can help control it.” Andrea paused.
“Just assume I know nothing, and tell me what I need to know. We’re listening, and Jeff’s taking notes. We’ll stop you and ask questions if we need clarification. So just relax and let it flow, okay?” Samantha’s voice was reassuring. “Perhaps I should add that I understand the general nature of the disclosures you’re going to make, and I’m entirely in sympathy with what I understand your approach to be. Jeff and I are both in the Employment section here at Steele, and problems like these are pretty much our daily bread, especially since the dawn of the MeToo era.”
“I see. Thank you for that background,” replied Andrea. “Are you, by any chance, a Shambhala practitioner, Samantha? And you, Jeff?”
“I’m not,” answered Jeff. “Can’t speak for Sam.”
“I’ve visited a couple of centers to get a little background, but no, I wouldn’t call myself a practitioner. I haven’t paid for any classes, at any rate,” answered Samantha.
“Okay, well, have you been to either of the Kalapa Courts? Have you met the Sakyong?”
“No, no, none of that,” both lawyers answered at once, stepping on each other’s answers in a flurry of disclaimers.
“Right. Well, I suggest you dig into that if you’re going to be working on this. It’s not an ordinary world. Ordinary rules don’t apply there. Working in the corporate employment environment wouldn’t necessarily give you any feel for how the Kalapa Kingdom operates.” Andrea gave them space to respond.
“Okay, we’ll keep that in mind. But why don’t you go ahead and get started with the story. What did you want to tell the Shambhala leadership?”
Andrea continued. “Well, to put it simply, there has been a lot of sexual abuse in the organization, and it’s been festering for years. Everyone knows about it, but nobody talks about it, and I think it’s coming to a head.”
“Okay,” answered Samantha, “let’s start with your first statement, that there’s been a lot of sexual abuse in the organization. When did it start?”
“It’s been going on as long as anyone can remember. If you haven’t read up on Chogyam Trungpa – you do know who he is, right?”
“Yes, of course. I mean, I do,” answered Samantha, “I’m not sure about Jeff, but I’ll bring him up to speed. What did he have to do with it?”
“Well, did you know he married his wife when she was sixteen?”
“Yes,” answered Samantha, “that’s in the file we’ve reviewed. Do you consider that sexual abuse? I understand her parents approved the marriage.”
“Yes, that’s what we’ve all been told, and I’m sure it’s true, but I’m just saying, he liked young women,” said Andrea.
“Got that,” said Samantha.
“He liked them so much that he married seven young girls. One of them was a girl named Ciel, who was betrothed to him before she turned eighteen, and married him on the day of her birthday. She later committed suicide.”
Jeff could be heard clearing his throat. “Go on,” said Samantha.
“There were sex parties going back to the earliest days of the group,” continued Andrea. “There were parties where people were told to drop their clothes and those who refused were stripped naked forcibly. These things happened in the context of Dharma teachings.”
“Did the students never protest?” asked Jeff.
“No, never,” answered Andrea.
“Why was that?” continued Jeff.
“Trungpa was a great lama, and he taught using non-rational methods. It’s called crazy wisdom.”
“What kind of wisdom?” asked Jeff.
“Crazy, crazy wisdom,” answered Andrea. “He published a book with that title. You could read it, but I don’t think you’d understand it. It’s quite advanced.”
“I see,” said Jeff. “Crazy wisdom.” He said it slowly like he was writing it down while tasting the flavor of the words. Sounding a note of recognition, he continued, “Crazy wisdom … okay I see here on my laptop – that’s what Sogyal Rinpoche taught?”
“It’s what Sogyal says he taught, but he’s just pretending. Trungpa Rinpoche could really teach using crazy methods. It’s like psychological knife-throwing.”
“Explain that, please,” said Samantha.
“You’ve seen knife-throwers who throw knives at their assistants, right? They don’t hit them, because they’re very skilled. But it’s terrifying. Do you think that the knife-thrower and the assistant have a close relationship? Do you think the assistant trusts the knife-thrower?”
“Of course,” replied Samantha. “They have to. Otherwise, they couldn’t do the job.”
“Same thing in crazy wisdom,” said Andrea. “If the student can take it, they are transformed. They experience fearlessness. They learn trust, absolute trust. They go beyond trying to have faith to having it, and that is empowering.”
“And this is relevant to what?” asked Samantha.
“It’s relevant to everything, absolutely everything. Trungpa Rinpoche had more power than any man you have ever met, and not just among his students. Reality was, as he liked to say – workable – and he worked it into the shape he desired. Shambhala and the Kalapa Kingdom were magic creations. He brought them into being. He literally created the world that his disciples live in. He designed the architecture, the uniforms, the rituals, the meditative practices, and infused them with reality, so that people could believe in them. And we do.”
“So you haven’t stopped believing in the Shambhala teachings, in the Sakyong, who is, as I understand, Trungpa’s spiritual successor?”
“In no way,” answered Andrea. “That is beyond my power. It’s the world I grew up in, and I can’t question it.”
“So what do you want to do? I understand you are taking on some kind of whistleblower role here. Why are you doing that?”
“Because I want to save the Kingdom from the corruption that has infected it,” said Andrea.
“Tell us about that corruption, then,” Samantha said.
Andrea explained, “Trungpa Rinpoche set an example that shouldn’t have been followed. He once told a student named Larry Mermelstein when he asked Rinpoche if his students should follow his example in their personal sexual relationships, ‘No, absolutely not – it would be suicidal for you to do what I do.’ But Larry didn’t tell that story publicly for thirty years. Meanwhile, hundreds, maybe thousands of students imitated his style.”
“In what way?” asked Samantha.
“In every way you can imagine. They drank a lot, they smoked tobacco, they cheated on their wives and husbands, they had sex parties. And some of them went farther...” Andrea’s words seemed to fail her.
“What do you mean, they went farther? In the sexual realm?” asked Samantha.
“Yes, and in other realms. There has been child abuse, there’s been a lot of violence – physical and emotional. And we have these systems that are supposed to help, but they don’t, because if you’re a leader in Shambhala, everyone covers for you, and the higher you are placed, the more people think you can do no wrong, and you get away with everything. And if anyone speaks out, they’re shunned, and silenced, and …” once again Andrea’s words slowed, then stopped.
“Do you need to take a break?” asked Samantha.
“No, I’m okay,” she answered, but she said nothing further.
“You’ve been speaking very generally. Do you have direct knowledge of the things you’re talking about? Have you been a witness to these things?”
“I’ve been more than a witness. These things have happened to me. When I lost my innocence, I didn’t even know that what was happening to me was wrong. But maybe that’s how it always is … when you’re a girl, when you’re a kid, and you trust people, and they misuse that trust.”
“Is there anything more you want to tell us about your experience?” asked Samantha.
“No, I’ve dealt with it. I’ve spent a lot of years processing. I mean, I’m still hurting; I’m still angry, but I’m more concerned about the systemic problem, and about the women who are still suffering. Nothing is being done for them. They can’t even speak for themselves. I am going to speak for them.”
“So will you be collecting statements from these people who you say are suffering?” Samantha asked.
“I am working on it, but I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. They’re all scared. Shambhala is all that these people know – we’re talking about people who grew up in Shambhala, and even if it’s not the best place for them, they don’t know anything else. I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s not easy. I have developed my own life, professionally, but I’ve never developed the personal friendships that I had in Shambhala… that I lost when I left Shambhala. It’s like a door closes behind you, and you can’t open it again. So I’m stuck outside, and I miss being inside, but I can hear how those still inside are suffering, and I know it’s not right. It’s not how it’s supposed to be. People aren’t supposed to have to suffer to stay in their home. It needs to change, and I’m determined to help make that change.”
“I see,” said Samantha. “I’m very sorry for what you’re going through, and I want you to know that even though I don’t know what Shambhala is really about. I can’t comprehend a world that runs on crazy wisdom. I think the organization may be ready to embark on a course for change. I think if you share your information with me, we can work together, and share what you know with leadership, and make some changes.”
“I’ll tell you honestly, Samantha, I don’t think you are right about that. I don’t think the organization is ready to change. Too many people are too comfortable, but that’s going to change. When some important people are made uncomfortable, then we may see some changes. But even then, I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve been trying to get them to listen to me for years now, and all I’ve gotten is resistance, and a little bit of lip service.”
“Well, it’s our job, as counsel for Shambhala and the Council, to advise them, and what I am hearing from them is that they want to find out what your concerns are, and address them.” She paused, then resumed. “So, just returning to what I was saying before, have you collected any statements? I would like to see them, if you have.”
“I’ve got several, but I don’t know if the … subjects … victims … whatever we should call them – I don’t know if they’ll be okay with you seeing them.”
“Well, you could keep all the identities confidential, and the times and places, the people they’re complaining about, you know. So we wouldn’t contact anyone. But without some statements, what are we talking about here? The Council will not likely be moved to do anything just based on your general statement that there are problems in the community.”
“Yes,” replied Andrea, “I understand what you’re saying. It’s just a tough situation, because these people, they know that Shambhala will pretend to listen to complaints. You know about the Care and Conduct procedure, right?”
“Yes,” answered Samantha, “I’ve read about that in the file. I understand that you don’t think that system is useful.”
“It’s worse than not useful. It just makes things worse. A lot of the times, they just end up putting the victim and the perpetrator back together, and the victim is totally re-traumatized. There’s never any discipline imposed on the perpetrator, and the victim is usually ostracized once it gets out that they made a complaint. And it always gets out. There’s no confidentiality. I mean, they say it’ll be kept confidential but then they leak it, and everyone finds out, and the victim is humiliated, and the perpetrator goes on his merry way.”
“Well...,” Samantha paused briefly, as if she wasn’t certain she wanted to say what she was about to say. “You haven’t mentioned anything about the Sakyong. Have any of your people complained about him?”
“I can’t say,” answered Andrea. “Mmmm, no. Nothing I can discuss.”
“You sound a little uncertain about that,” said Samantha. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” said Andrea.
“Well, I think maybe we’ve done enough for today. You have any questions, Jeff?”
“No, thanks for asking. And thank you, Andrea. This sounds very interesting, and I’ve taken careful notes. Oh, there is just one thing … I understood you were thinking about starting a Go-Fund-Me. Have you done that?”
Andrea answered, “Not yet. I think that’s premature. I’m planning on writing a report to the community, and when that’s done, then I can do some fundraising.”
Samantha responded, “Right, that makes sense. Can we look forward to seeing a draft of the report before you release it?”
“Why would I do that?” asked Andrea.
“Perhaps you won’t need to share it with the public if we can use it to spark some internal changes, right?”
“That’s almost too much to hope for,” replied Andrea. “But I’ll think about it.”
“Please do,” answered Samantha. “I think you have got their attention. You don’t want to just throw that away. Sometimes you can overplay your hand. Sometimes getting a little feedback from your negotiating partners can move things forward.”
“You’re saying I should show you my cards, so you can help me play my hand?” asked Andrea.
“Well, you could put it that way,” answered Samantha.
“Okay, I’ll give it some thought. Thank you for calling.”
“Thanks for taking the call,” said Samantha, as Jeff called out a closing, “Good talking with you.”
As the call ended, her music feed resumed, and Bob Dylan’s voice abruptly replaced those of the two lawyers saying their goodbyes. His world-weary words rang out:
“I lived with them on Montague Street
In the basement down the stairs,
There was music in the cafes at night,
And revolution in the air.
Then he started dealing with slaves,
And somethin’ inside of him died.
She had to sell everything she owned,
And froze up inside.
And when finally the bottom fell out,
I became withdrawn,
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on
Like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.”
The song continued, but her mind stopped right there, as the image of young revolutionaries, high on music and social change, were transformed into slavers with dead souls and frozen hearts. And like Dylan, she too continued with the only thing she knew, keeping on, like a bird with only the sky for a friend, tangled in its infinite space, keeping on for a destination she didn’t know she would ever find.
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:44 am
Historic Prelude: I. The English Lesson
The young monk put aside the tattered copy of Moby Dick he'd been reading, setting it on the bare concrete floor next to the folded blanket that provided his seat. It was midsummer in the hill-station in the Himalayan foothills, and the only coolness came from occasional breezes that puffed through the open window above his head, stirring the muslin curtain. He was wearing a sleeveless yellow shirt and a tattered burgundy monastic robe, but his simple attire didn't diminish the look of aristocratic privilege infusing his person. He leaned back against the wall that had once received a wash of pink paint, and looked directly at his teacher, an Englishwoman gracefully draped in a white sari. She was seated on a pile of cotton cushions in a corner of the small building that served as the school for young lamas. Her legs crossed becomingly like a sitar player's, she fanned herself with a palm frond fan. The sounds of squabbling children echoed through the bare rooms, but the two were focused on each other.
"Mrs. Bedi," asked the young monk, "are you a Communist?"
The question did not surprise Freda Bedi. She had been expecting to hear it from the young man, whose childhood as an enthroned tulku disposed him to asking difficult questions without apologetic prefaces. His command of the English language had improved perceptibly with every lesson over the past several months, when she'd selected him from among the Tibetan refugees to be her special project. She considered how to answer the question, and allowed a gentle smile to hold the moment while she framed her response.
She had in fact been an ardent Communist in her days at Oxford, where she studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and met her husband, Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, an Indian hammer-throwing champion with steely arms known as BPL. BPL had the manner of a raja, and a deep voice that warmed the heart of every female auditor. Freda responded to his charms, he to hers, and although the relationship was deemed scandalous, the two bonded for life. The Bedis were now in mid-life, and while Freda ministered to refugees, BPL was off enjoying familial privilege and pursuing amours, but during their fiery political youth, the two had been active in any number of political movements. Of course, like all Indians in thirties England, the young couple had pledged allegiance to Gandhi's independence movement, but it was Marx's philosophy that garnered their admiration, and they labored together in the British library, tracking down every article the founder of Communism had written about India, later publishing this collection as "Letters on India."
Freda suspected the young monk had learned about this book, which marked but one phase in her political evolution. He might fear that his tutor was politically sympathetic to the Maoists who had overrun his country and deprived him of his position as an ecclesiastical lord in an ancient feudal theocracy. She had great plans for the young man, whose intellectual ability and spiritual potential was evident to her. Chogyam Trungpa might well be the eleventh incarnation in a line of incarnate Bodhisattvas, but he understood little of world politics, and could have no comprehension of what the world had suffered through during her lifetime -- two world wars, the toppling of the British Raj in India, the emergence of totalitarian governments in Russia and China, the rise of nuclear superpowers, the establishment of the United Nations, the holocaust of the Semitic people, and the establishment of Israel. She had been passionately devoted to the Indian independence movement, and in the throes of that passion, she had often been ideologically consistent.
One embarrassing memory came to mind now -- she had written favorably of Hitler's National Socialism movement during 1934 while BPL pursued a doctorate in Berlin, and had even suggested that such a movement would someday sweep India. She winced inwardly, thinking how, stirred by the swelling pride of the German people, she had foolishly imbibed and repeated Nazi propaganda that denied any aggressive purpose in the militarism sweeping the German Reich. How idiotic she'd felt when BPL had looked up from the newspaper one morning in their Berlin apartment and, foreseeing that they might be suddenly rounded up as a mixed-race couple, he declared that they would depart that night for Switzerland. She shuddered remembering how BPL's presentiment had come true shortly thereafter, when the SS swept up dozens of Indian nationalists who had, until then, thought themselves to be members of the Aryan brotherhood, notwithstanding their dark skins.
She remembered clasping her newborn son Ranga on the train platform as they left Berlin, eyeing every German in uniform with fear, until at last their train departed for the Alpine crossing. She remembered how deliciously free and safe the air of Switzerland felt, and how grateful she had been for the kindness shown by Sir Alfred Zimmern and his wife Lucie, who had nurtured her relationship with BPL, and provided them with an apartment in Geneva. She remembered the relief she felt as they sailed away from the Mediterranean port of Trieste, leaving behind the upheaval in Europe, heading for a new home in India.
As the scenes of her life flashed before her placid eyes, Freda spoke the most honest word to describe the woman she had been. "I am a pragmatist."
The young man frowned. She had dealt him a card face down, using a word with which he wasn't familiar. But he reached out to his Tibetan-English dictionary, found the word, and nodded his head in satisfaction at understanding her meaning. "So you did what you had to do?" he asked.
Freda answered, "I saw injustice and suffering, and wanted to relieve it. At one time, Communism seemed like a solution. At another time, I saw other solutions. I take it you have discovered some of my writings?"
"No, some people were talking -- you know -- gossip." He raised his brows.
"Well, I hope no one said that I was a Maoist, because that I never was."
"No, they didn't say that. They said you had been a Communist."
"Do they say it about Prime Minister Nehru, as well?"
"I have not heard that," Chogyam replied, "but is he?"
"It has been said that he sympathizes with Communism, but as you know, he opened India to you, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetans fleeing the Red Chinese. So the matter cannot be all that simple."
With quiet passion in his voice, Chogyam said, "The Chinese are Communists. They drove us from our country. I would like to destroy them and reclaim our place."
"Would you?" replied Freda.
"Yes, I would," said the young monk, his face set in suppressed anger.
"Would you mind very much if we did not talk about Moby Dick today, and discussed this topic more?"
"No," answered Chogyam, "I would like to speak of these things."
"Well, do you know that the British wished to protect Tibet from the Chinese? The British offered to sign a treaty with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama that would have provided military protection from foreign invasion," Freda said.
"No, I didn't know that. Why did the British do that?"
Freda continued, "Because Tibet, in its position at the roof of the world, holds within its territory the headwaters of the great rivers that feed China -- the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Yellow Rivers. Tibet has what the great powers call strategic significance. Such lands are always contested. The British made the same offer to the nation of Bhutan, and Bhutan accepted. And Bhutan has not been invaded by the Chinese."
"Are you saying that if Tibet had accepted Britain's offer, that the Chinese would not have invaded?" asked Chogyam.
"That seems a reasonable conclusion, wouldn't you say?" replied Freda.
"Perhaps," he answered.
"I will tell you something more," said Freda. "The Dalai Lamas made many mistakes when dealing with the Chinese. They knew nothing of the world outside their borders, and as a result, they made poor decisions."
"Like what?" asked Chogyam.
"The 13th Dalai Lama was concerned about the Chinese, as you know. He met with British representatives to request help from the British Empire, but he asked for the wrong things," said Freda.
"What did he ask for?" asked Chogyam.
"He asked for weapons. He asked for tanks. They thought he was crazy."
"Did they give him any weapons?"
"Very few," answered Freda. "The Tibetans had very few soldiers, and none who could be trained in the use of modern weapons. The British are a soldiering nation. They can judge these things."
"What should he have asked for?"
Freda paused to look directly at the young man, and said "Radios. Printing presses. Books." She glanced at the book in his hand. "English teachers."
"Why?" asked Chogyam.
"Because with radios, said Freda, "the Dalai Lama could have sent a message across Tibet, from Lhasa to Golog, in seconds. Without them, it took five or six weeks just to send a message. With printing presses, he could have published a newspaper to gather news from all around Tibet, and he could have made the world aware of Tibet's existence. As it was, Tibet was just a mythical land, Shangri La."
Chogyam took the ideas in and nodded his head.
Freda continued, "But the Fourteenth Dalai Lama made the greatest strategic error, the one that made the Chinese invasion possible."
"Which was that?" asked Chogyam.
Freda's face was pained as she said, "He let the Chinese build a road all the way from the Chinese border to Lhasa."
"Ah," said Chogyam, "That was a mistake."
"Yes," said Freda, "and why do you say that?"
"Because armies roll on roads," said Chogyam.
"Exactly, my son. Armies roll on roads."
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:03 am
HIstorical Prelude: II. The Lovers
The housewives of Delhi were preparing supper amid the noise and clangor of the city. The noise was dominated by the puttering buzz of moto-taxis, pierced through with the occasional angry honk of a truck trying to push its way through traffic. The clear winter sky arching over the rooftops was smoky, the scent of smoldering charcoal drifted on the breeze, and slanting rays of sun cast long shadows across the rooftop. The lovers lay snuggled in a mound of laundry, freshly washed and dried, snatched from the clotheslines that tilted this way and that all around them. The young nun gazed up at the sky above them, watching the black birds wheeling up in the sky, dark winged shapes ascending thermals like invisible spiral stairs. Her mind was at peace, and the monk looked down into her clear eyes, that reflected the blue of the sky.
"When you go to England, will you take me?" she asked the young man.
The young man did not answer, but only gazed into her eyes.
"Chogyam, will you take me?"
The young man rolled onto his back and looked at the sky, seeing the same blue there that he had been watching in the woman's eyes. He knew he would not be taking her anywhere. She was eight years his senior, she was a nun, she had no place in his future.
Just as the woman was about to speak again, she was interrupted by an angry pounding on the rooftop door, followed by a voice tinged with the precise accent of an Indian native-speaker. "Konchok! I know you're up there with ... someone! Open the door! I must gather the laundry. You are making me late!"
The nun giggled slightly and grabbed up her clothing, then yelled out, "Be patient! Just a moment and I will let you in. Don't try to break the lock!"
But the interloper responded only with a disgusted growl, followed by the furious stampede of his feet descending the stairs in an angry rush.
Downstairs, the angry dobhe wallah had rushed in on Freda, who was going over a lesson with a young monk. "Mrs. Bedi! She is at it again!"
"Who?" asked Freda. Then she raised her hand and said, "No, I know who."
"Yes, you know who. But with whom is the question, eh? No matter, I must get the laundry, unless she has soiled it once again, and if so, I tell you I will not be washing it again. That hussy!"
"Narayan, do not speak that way of Konchok. She has done you no wrong, and the follies of youth must be forgiven. Besides, in her country, it is not uncommon for a woman to have two, three, even four husbands!" Freda's head inclined to the right, like that of the goddess Tara in her indulgent pose, understanding the frailties of mere humans.
"But she is a nun, Mrs. Bedi! How can she carry on this way? In my religion it is not this way," protested the angry dhobe, his thin, lined face displaying genuine vexation.
"Come, come, Narayan, you well know that Lord Krishna had hundreds of lovers, and your namesake Lord Shiva ran about planting his lingam in every yoni he could find."
"But they are all emanations of Parvati!" he replied, clasping his hands above his head in self-benediction.
"So are all women! Don't try to best me in debate, Narayan. Remember, you are a dhobe wallah, not a Brahmin." Here she paused and smiled, fishing into her sari to pluck out a small purse. "You are only put out because you will have to take a later bus, and you will have less time to smoke chillum! Here are ten paisa for your trouble. No, twenty -- ten for the bus, ten for your little Shankar." She extended her delicate hand, white as a lily, with the two copper coins held in her palm, and smiled as she would to a child.
Narayan's face softened as he stepped forward to take the peace offering. "Thank you, Mem Saheb. But if she has soiled the laundry ..."
"If she has soiled the laundry, she will wash it herself again. I will see to it."
Narayan backed away towards the door and took his leave. "Then I will be going, Mem Saheb. I will return tomorrow to do the folding."
"Thank you, Narayan."
The lovers waited at the top of the stairs, door ajar, until the dhobe had departed. The two then descended, and the monk discreetly exited to the street as the nun turned into Freda's sitting room, her head dipped respectfully in apology. Freda turned to the young monk she had been schooling. "Chokyi, run along. Konchok and I must speak." Turning to Konchok, she gestured to a cushion and tilted her head toward it, inviting the nun to sit.
"You must be more discreet, daughter. It will not do to have Narayan carrying tales," she cautioned the young woman.
Konchok's eyes were lowered. Her mind was still on the question that Chogyam hadn't answered. She knew it was not appropriate, but she couldn't help herself. The question burst forth, "Mrs. Bedi, when Rinpoche goes to England to study next year, can I not accompany him? I could be his servant. He needs a servant."
"Oh, my daughter," replied Freda. "This will not happen. We haven't the funds. I will be lucky to get scholarships for Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Tulku. You must understand -- they have the mission to carry the Dharma to the West."
Konchok began to cry. "Truly is a woman cursed with an inferior birth! We cook the food, we bear the children, we labor for them and shed tears for them, but they don't care for us."
Freda sat silent. For this declaration, she had no rebuttal.
Re: The Kingdom Collapse / Not-a-Fan Fiction
Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:11 am
Historic Prelude: III. The Rebel’s Lost Cause
The young lama stood before her out of uniform. Wearing blue jeans and a khaki shirt, he looked like he was getting ready to hang around the tourist hotels and fast-talk the hippies into a trip to Agra with a tour of the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal.
“I am done with this nonsense,” he said to Freda Bedi, whose face formed into a frown of displeased surprise.
“What are you talking about, Chogyam? asked Freda. “We don’t have time for nonsense. I’ve been working very hard finding the money to get you to England. Just today I’ve spoken to a very important man who can provide you with everything you need to pursue an academic career at Oxford. It is a dream situation.”
Chogyam was undeterred. “I don’t care, Freda. I have to be a man. Konchok has been thrown out of her place and put on the street. She needs my support, and I must be a good father to my child. She could die in childbirth. I would never …” His words tailed off, some of the steam going out of him.
Freda stood up and walked towards him, and reached out to take both his hands in hers. Her feminine charm glowed and she emanated a kindly expression. She drew him towards her and said, “Do you like me, Chogyam?”
“What?” asked Chogyam. “What are you asking? Of course I like you. You’re my friend.”
“But I mean, are you attracted to me as a woman? I mean, be honest.”
“Well, not now. Not since Konchok and I … well when I was younger, I guess I had a crush on you,” he conceded.
“Yes, it came and went, didn’t it? Now you see, I’m not the right person for you.”
“Well, of course not. You’re married to BPL. You have children of your own.”
“Yes, and Konchok is not the right woman, either. There will be ... others ...” and here Freda paused almost as if to peer into the future and discern something there, “Do you understand?”
"No," answered the angry young man, shaking her hands out of his and stepping back into the doorway. "I have no idea what you are talking about. You're just trying to confuse me. All of you religious types -- you're hypocrites. You knew Konchok would be disgraced and ruined, but you didn't do anything to prevent it. Now you're trying to tell me that I can have more ... sex partners ... if I get a British education?"
Freda sat down on her cushion and patted the one next to her. "Sit, dear boy. Samsara has you in a whirl, and you have lost your bearings. See how I've put you to spinning even more wildly with a single remark! You mistake my meaning -- perhaps I phrased it badly. What I meant to say is that you will win many hearts for the Dharma with the same ease that you won Konchok's. A light such as yours cannot be used to light a single candle. You have enough light to illuminate a city, no... a nation, maybe even ... the world ... of which you have seen nothing, and know nothing. You must trust me, child. Sit with me and let us talk."
"Do you have anything to eat?" he asked.
"You haven't eaten?"
"I was angry," he paused. "I spent all I had on these clothes."
"I'll see what's left in the pot," said Freda, motioning him to the cushion. "You sit down."
Chogyam sat down, looking ill at ease in his new clothes, looking like he was trying to be someone he could never be. Presently Freda returned and handed him a brass plate with two potato patties and a dab of yoghurt. He ate them with appetite, and set the plate aside.
When he'd finished eating, he resumed his questioning. "What can we do to help Konchok? I can't just abandon her. It will weigh on me."
"I will help her," said Freda. "I will give her enough money to go to Bodhgaya. She can stay with Amala there, and help her run her tea shop. When her time comes, the people there will help her, too. After the child is born, she will have to work, like everyone.”
Chogyam looked past Freda, shaking his head, imagining the difficult path that lay before his lover, burdened with a child, shamed by the self-righteous community of men who would never know the suffering they so easily placed on a woman’s shoulders.
Freda decided to say what she had not wanted to say. “What makes you so certain she is carrying your child, and not Akong’s?"
Chogyam’s face turned red and his fists clenched. “Don’t say that about her.”
“Not saying things doesn’t make them untrue. She has been kind to both of you. We both know this. I know the truth and I do not judge her for it. You can walk one block in this city and see more wrongs casually committed than Konchok will ever commit in her whole life. She is a good woman in a deep way, and I promise I will do everything I can for her, if you are true to your own path.”
His hands were shoved in his pockets, his gaze downcast. He said nothing, but his rejection filled the room.
“My son, I promise you – if you take my advice, you will earn more money in a night among the British than in a year here in India. Don’t you know that India is just a place where the English come to steal? We must get you out of here, to where your talents can shine and bring you the worldly merit you deserve.”
Seizing upon her admission, Chogyam nearly shouted, “So you admit the English come here to steal! And what are you stealing? Philosophy? Spirituality? Sanctity? Well you won’t get any from me! I’m not a hypocrite. I’m not going to sell the Dharma. No one wants to pay for it, anyway. Look at all of the holy men in India – they are all beggars except for the Maharajas who have sold their authority to British.”
“Of course, that is true,” Freda replied, “because no one values what is abundant, and here in India, they have maximum religion. It has no value because it is everywhere. But that is not the case among the English and the Americans. As you will discover, in England and America, what you possess is a treasure of great price that does not dissipate, and can be sold again and again.”
“What do I possess?” asked Chogyam, sounding skeptical.
“Oh, my child, what do you possess? Inside that head of yours there is great treasure, and although you still struggle with English, you have learned far faster than your fellows. You have received empowerments and teachings that the English have been lusting after for a long time, and all they have been given are counterfeits, fakes, frauds!” Freda leaned forward, raising her eyebrows for emphasis.
“What type of frauds?” asked Chogyam.
“Just wait a moment, Chogyam,” said Freda, rising from her seat, and heading for the doorway. “I will show you.”
When Freda returned, she had a stack of a half-dozen books. She handed him the first one and said, “The Secret Doctrine – this is by Blavatsky, a woman who claimed to speak with people she called Ascended Masters, from whom she received teachings that she compiled into a pack of nonsense. It made her famous, and just by repeating her foolishness, many scoundrels have made fortunes.”
Chogyam lifted the cover and looked at the picture of Helena Blavatsky on the frontispiece, then flipped through to the table of contents. He chuckled in amusement as he read the chapter titles.
Freda passed him a cheap paperback, “The Third Eye,” by “Lobsang Rampa.”
Chogyam looked at the cover, illustrated with the image is a man with long moustaches, wearing a Tibetan hat, with smoky images of temples and demons filling the background. “Who is this Lobsang Rampa … and what is this Third Eye?”
“Lobsang Rampa is a shameless Englishman named Cyril Hoskin who writes novels and claims they are autobiographical. He claims to be a tulku …” she paused in frustration and annoyance at having to repeat the words -- “He claims that when he was a child his tutors drilled a hole in his forehead to awaken his supernatural powers, hence ‘the third eye’ of the title.”
Chogyam’s face twisted into a mask of amused disbelief. “Really?” he asked.
“Really,” Freda replied.
“And people believe it?”
“They not only believe it, some of them have tried to replicate it on themselves!”
“They have drilled holes in their foreheads?” Chogyam asked, disbelieving.
“This is what I am telling you! They know nothing!”
She handed him a third book, “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.”
“Gurdjieff,” he read from the cover. “Another fraud?”
“Not an entire fraud, but the book is madness, incomprehensible. Don’t take my word for it – keep it and read some of it – if you can understand any of it, you will be among the first. Some say he wrote this abominable tale as part of a teaching method that seeks first to frustrate, then to illuminate, his disciples. In any event, he made and squandered fortunes. He taught only the wealthy and educated, and frankly told them that he would shear them like sheep because they had more wool than they needed, and he would put their wealth to good use.” She smiled as if unable to suppress admiration.
Chogyam also smiled as he looked at the man’s bald head and waxed moustachios. “I’d like to meet him.”
“Too late,” replied Freda. “But that is no problem for you.” She smiled like a shopkeeper sighting a profit, and continued with excitement -- “His disciples have found no one to replace him. If you hook a few of them, your fortune will be made.” Returning to the subject that had begun the discussion, she put the capstone on her argument. “With the wealth you acquire, you will be able to help Konchok and the child, but you can't help her by being a tour guide. That’s not right livelihood for a man who has memorized the wisdom of Atisha and received the ear-whispered teachings that Tilopa passed to Naropa, that Naropa passed to Marpa, and Marpa passed to Milarepa.“
"Right livelihood? Selling jewels of Mahamudra?" asked Chogyam.
Freda sidestepped the question. "The competition will not stand up to you. You will rule the market.”
“I don’t know,” he replied, “It all sounds dishonorable. You can't teach Dharma to idiots. There are preliminaries. The three wisdoms – hearing, contemplation, and practice.”
“That is the way. Find sincere students, and help them mature. You have far more ability than you know, and you will be able to reshape the teaching so that it has meaning for these people, who will not be able to follow what these old lamas would teach. Right now, you are like a bird inside the egg, pecking at the shell. It seems small, and you are just trying to imagine what the world outside is like. Once you emerge, you will see it and understand. You learn to fly, and you will see the world from the height of the clouds. You will inspire others to soar with you."
"That is a dream that will never come true," said Chogyam, looking at the floor in front of him, shaking his head.
Freda reached out and lifted his chin until his eyes met hers. "It is not a dream. What is a dream is your idea that you can escape this fate, that you can stay inside this shell. You were born to fly, my son."
Chogyam felt Freda's eyes looking into him, and his mind became still as he saw that she was speaking the truth, reading his heart, and seeing his true destiny. As he looked into her eyes, he saw not the woman before him, but the miles he had traveled to reach this place. He remembered the long escape from Kham, all those who had started the journey and died along the way, all those who had suffered to care for him, who had given their lives to lead the Chinese off his trail, drawing the danger to themselves so that he could escape, and survive. He could not betray their hope. When Freda saw that he had regained himself, she said to him gently, "That's my Rinpoche."
After a moment, he stood to go. As she rose to accompany him to the doorway, he looked at the book in his hand. “So I can keep this for awhile, this Gurdjieff book?”
Freda thought for a moment, squinting, and had a fresh thought. “Actually,” she said, “take this one instead.” She held out a book with the title, “The Light of Asia,” with a picture of Shakyamuni on the cover. “This is not a stupid book. It is a little sugary, but it is the history of the Buddha that the Buddhist Lodge has circulated, and most of the English and Americans who want to study Buddhism have read it. You need to know the way the story has been told. They will expect you to tell it their way. People are most pleased by being told what they already know.”
He looked at the cover. “Sir Edwin Arnold – an English nobleman? He wrote this?”
“He was a schoolteacher. Headmaster at the Sanskrit School in Poona. Knighted by Queen Victoria.”
“Really? I thought all the knighthoods were given to killers like General Clive,” said Chogyam.
“Now and then a poet gains recognition,” replied Freda.
“So there’s hope for me,” he replied.
“Well, I don’t expect you’ll be heading an army, my boy.”
“Don't be so sure,” he said, looking at the kingly image of the Buddha on the book cover. "The Buddha could have been a Chakravartin."