by Aaron Delong, Shambhala Times Regional Correspondent
In which we discover the story of two men in service to the Shambhala vision. The author, Aaron Delong is currently a gardener at Karme Choling and here profiles a long serving member of the Dorje Kasung: Mr. Gerry Haas.
“I used to be a mover,” he told me, lugging out the rolls of heavy padding he’d brought with him. “There’s an art to it,” he continued, an art that, it soon became clear, he was going to tutor me in, whether I was interested or not. I’d been working, packing up an ailing sangha member’s belongings for about a day, when he arrived. It wasn’t long before he was running things. It was in his blood, I guess. He had been a kasung since way back and, as he said, “That sort of training doesn’t leave you.”
There were boxes and boxes and boxes. Hauling it all out to the truck was a grinding task, up and down a good flight of stairs dozens of times. He kept pace with me through it, teaching me how to make the most of the space in the truck as we brought down belongings. He barely broke a sweat. I was somewhat amazed. He had thirty years on me.
“What’s your secret?” I asked, panting, when we’d finally loaded the truck full.
“Qi Gong,” he grinned.
Over at the storage facility, we dodged dripping icicles and puddles of slush while he pieced together the spatial puzzle of a 10x10x10 foot cube and a truckload of somebody else’s life. “Boxes first,” he said, “big ones, preferably.” While we worked, he told me about the old days. I prodded him some, but he was happy to talk.
“I was always talkative,” he noted. “It wasn’t strictly protocol, but there’s protocol, and then there’s the heart of the matter. Skillful means.” He related a story about serving His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, decades before. “His Holiness was suffering from stomach cancer at the time, and we were walking up an incline, trailing him, as per instructions, and it was clear he was struggling. You could see it. Finally, I just went up to him and offered him my shoulder, the way I’d seen his attendants do. It horrified the folks I was working with, but when His Holiness turned to me, his smile, it was like the sun itself was shining down. It wasn’t even a question, then, what was right. To serve, to do it right, sometimes it’s not enough to just know your orders.”
We got the back of the storage unit pieced together, floor to ceiling, with boxes of every size. Then, he waved his hand towards the chairs and tables we’d put out on the snow of the gravel drive.
“Now, the furniture,” he said. “Mattress, first.”
He talked about meeting the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
“I was in New York. I had this big van, and a bunch of friends wanted me to drive it up to Vermont. They said there was this new guru up there who Narayana had gone to study with. Narayana, who later became the Vajra Regent. Well, I wasn’t particularly enthused. I thought, ‘Oh. Great. Another guru.’ But I drove them, anyway. A couple years later, and I had moved out to Boulder and was heading up security for that ‘new’ guru.”
He talked while he worked, his movements and actions one plane of thought, his conversation another. I tried to help, but whenever I put something inside the storage unit, it was inevitably wrong, out of place, and, so, eventually, I had to just stand back and await orders.
“Rinpoche liked to test you,” he remarked, motioning me to bring him an end table. “He’d lean back while he was walking up the stairs and expect you to catch him. If you didn’t, he’d fall. It was no joke. He was hospitalized, once, when someone failed to catch him.” He paused in his work, shaking his head with a smile. Remembering. “He wasn’t light, either. He was completely solid. A rock.”
The U-Haul gradually emptied. The storage unit gradually filled. We rolled down the clattering metal door, padlocked the unit, and climbed into the truck to head back to Karme Choling. He rode shotgun while I drove back through the snow-dusted mountains.
end of part one….stay tuned in coming days for part two….