Big Changes, Seeing Another Side

December 18th Part One

Yesterday a big change happened in the shrine room. Another wave of the Ripa family arrived and the available space in the dignitary seating area on His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s side left overflowed. This made things more difficult for the choppons and so today we found the Sakyong, the Sakyong Wangmo and Lhuntrul Rinpoche to the right side of Namkha Rinpoche’s throne. Along with this it was decided that the main recipients should come to Namkha Rinpoche’s right rather than left side because it is easier for His Eminence. This means that westerners who are seated shrine right now have a clear view of the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche and so forth when they are receiving things from Namkha Rinpoche.

In elaborate abhishekas like the ones we are receiving one is doing one’s best to visualize many things in succession. Often it is hard to keep up because we don’t know the Tibetan, and Namkha Rinpoche will speak very quickly. But even without the hearing the words, knowing the structure of events allows one to keep up here and there. For example, early on in every abhisheka one retakes the refuge vows, the commitments to the Buddha as teacher and example, the dharma as the path and the sangha as the community on the path.

Usually I let the main recipients ‘go first’ mentally when Namkha Rinpoche is offering something that people must get in a line for. I wait for all the main recipients, the Sakyong and so forth, to receive an icon symbolizing whatever aspect of wisdom is being emphasized and I do the corresponding visualization. This has seemed a way to go about things.

But yesterday, as soon as I could see how the Sakyong was actually receiving things, my outlook changed. I don’t know exactly triggered the change, but I began to notice the Sakyong in the role of a student rather than a teacher. His body and actions were those of someone completely attentive and humble in the presence of Namkha Rinpoche. He really was soaking everything in, becoming an empty vessel to ready to receive. He was very soft and gentle while being alert and strong.

As I watched, I saw in his motions a lot about relaxation and devotion. It became clearer to me that while I am lucky enough to receive these empowerments, I also here to witness the Sakyong. Seeing him receive the teachings, how he receives them, I was shown a lot about myself—where in contrast I am held back, how I could open more. I feel a bit weepy writing this because I feel like watching the Sakyong enabled me to drop some of my ambition and my heart has relaxed.

In the evening a friend mentioned she thought a blog entry about the Sakyong as a student would be great. She described what she saw in earlier days when the Sakyong sat on the other side of the throne. It was impressive to her how the Sakyong conducted himself when he was seated. While on his cushion near the bottom of the throne, the Sakyong has been closely watching His Eminence, attentively listening and reading his texts in order to keep up. I feel really fortunate to this side of him.

By the way, there is a lot of humor on dais by the throne. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche will start chuckling at the occasional soft-shouldered collision in everyone’s efforts to quickly and smoothly get to his side for an icon to be placed on the head. The Sakyong regularly seems to be checking in on his students in the assembly and often sends one or another of us a smile or some raised eyebrows. Yesterday while standing beside his Eminence, the Sakyong noticed I was perking up my posture a bit and he playfully mimicked this by poking up his head and neck while briefly moving his eyes like he looking at the sky. We both laughed.

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