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Apr 03
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Meeting the Guru I Never Knew

The Vidyadhara’s presence is so profoundly with us, as the Sakyong says in THE DIRECT ANTIDOTE: “He is, in fact, here in the present, now more than ever. Even though many people… have never met him, he somehow has seeped into their inspiration.” How did you meet Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the guru you never knew? Share your stories by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

Practicing for Shambhala Vision, the Heart Offering of a Man We Never Met

Practicing for Shambhala Vision, the Heart Offering of a Man We Never Met

I met Chogyam Trungpa in New York in 1995. I was in East-West books on lower Fifth Avenue looking for something that would help me understand my beginning meditation practice when a stranger came up, pulled a book off the shelf and handed it to me, saying, “This book is really good, you should read it.” Then he walked away.

That book was “The Myth of Freedom.” And it began a life-changing relationship with a teacher I never met. Reading his book, it was the first time that someone told me there was nothing wrong with who I was, that I did not have to try to be “good,” that I could accept myself as I am without feeling like I needed to change. In fact, I was told that all the stuff that I longed to be rid of, the parts of me that were a source of constant embarrassment and shame, were actually a source of wisdom, a part of the path. Shocking stuff for someone raised with the idea that he was fundamentally sinful, corrupt, and most likely bound for hell. Finally someone was speaking to me about my experience in a way that I could understand. And he genuinely understood me. It came as such a relief that I could not put the book down for several days.

The stranger at the bookstore introduced me to Chogyam Trungpa in one other important way. He came back a few minutes after handing me the book and said, “If you’re interested, I know a place where you can get meditation instruction.” He gave me the address of the New York Dharmadatu, then on West 19th Street. Not long after, I worked up the courage to go to the loft on 19th Street. I was let in by a man with long silver hair and a beard to match, who informed me that the scheduled meditation instructor had not shown up. He suggested I go in and sit with the others who were already meditating and gently led me into the shrine room. Though I felt strange and out of place sitting in silence with this small group of people I didn’t know, I found later that I wanted to come back. I wanted to know more.

That desire to know more has been at the heart of my relationship with Chogyam Trungpa. I’ve read and re-read his books, studied the Shambhala Buddhist teachings, and struggled to relate with the community of people who share in the vision he expressed. I am grateful for that vision—a vision at once profoundly gentle and radically uncompromising. Though I never met Chogyam Trungpa, I am confronted by the expression of his mind every day.

I can never forget the guru I never knew.

Eric has been practicing and studying Shambhala dharma since 1996. He is currently the resident director for the Sacred Path of the Warrior program at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, where he lives and works as a freelance medical writer.

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7 responses to “ Meeting the Guru I Never Knew ”
  1. Meeting a Guru I never knew is a very strange kind of experience since I have never felt so deeply connected at all to somebody I never knew.

    For me, meeting the Vidyadhara happens any time I get in contact with the practice he has given and the books he wrote. In daily life at the center or at my home shrine – every single detail he must have been planned and choosen so accurately that I can really feel his spirit around me.

    The way all his teachings and instructions match together are making so much sense the more I get a deeper understanding… It really touches my heart by understanding just a little why he tought it that way and not this way. I am filled with deep love to the Vidyadhara each time of perceiving just a glimpse of his perfection. He will remain in my heart as my Guru, vivid and alive, although I never knew him.

  2. Drew Joseph
    Apr 13, 2009

    When reading the Vidyadhara’s books, I am always struck by how he understands me so much more deeply than I do!

    But I’d have to say the main way I met the guru I never knew was through dozens of his close students. After a long time at Naropa and in Shambhala Training, I came to sense a remarkable consistency among them. They all projected clarity and good cheer; they could create an atmosphere of openness; they were humble and considerate in ways that made me feel ashamed to be so boorish myself; and their devotion to the teachings and the sangha were mind-stopping. They helped me to feel my love for beings and trust in that. That’s how they introduced me to their teacher.

  3. Jennifer Holder
    Apr 6, 2009

    When I was a student at Naropa, the Vidyadhara was a legend in the hallways and classrooms. That was how I came to meet him. But what strikes me now is that he actually introduced me to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

    In a dream, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche took me by the hand and led me into a church. This was before I knew what a Stupa was or how to bow properly before a shrine. He led me down the aisle to the first pew, and introduced me to the person sitting there. His son.

    I feel that the Vidyadhara introduced all of us to the kindest person we could ever meet. Our sense of lineage is so alive, vivid, and personal, that both of our Sakyongs continue to light up our times with their brilliance.

  4. what a beautiful article. I only heard Chogyam Trunpa two or three times as one of a large audience–and like you I was inspired by The Myth of Freedom and by his embracing of the whole person.

  5. Antonio Plana
    Apr 4, 2009

    I was in a bookshop which I known very good. I was a strong reader fiveteen years ago. Few months before I had the first big catastrophe of my life and I felt overwelming by my own life. Then I decided to follow my heart only, and from it arose the tibetan buddhism, I don’t know why.
    Then, on the wrong shelf, there was a book, in the wrong place, in the wrong alphabetical order, its name was “Shambhala, the sacred path of the warrior”. I sow the strange picture of a tibetan dressed like a western man with jacket and tie…and a very profund look.
    I red that book for eleven times in the following days. And misteriously, in the same way, many of his books come to me, in the wrong bookshop, in the wrong place even in the spiritual section, by surprise, the first day on the shop, from the hands of the salesman.
    Trungpa became a living teacher for me. Finally I said, he’s my father, my second father. I find him in every moment of my life. He became the source of all my inspiration, the joy of life, the espiritual engine,…everything. And as far as I know, an autentic guru for me, who also answered my questions.
    Two years ago he went away, I don’t know why. Now I’m living in mesery and I don’t know how to manage my own life. I’m looking for his love again in every corner. I’m so lonely without him.

  6. Myth of Freedom was the first book I ever read where I thought I couldn’t disagree with anything that was said. Too many things have happened between then (13 years ago) and now to talk about here. I just have to say that the other day when I was sitting in the shrine room looking at his photograph I felt so close to this man, like I trust him more than anything or anyone. He is closer to me even than my sense of “me” or “self”. Strange to feel that when we never actually met in person!

  7. It was at my first Magyal Pomra Encampment. The cannon exploded, the banners flew, my heart opened, and…there he was.

    Thank you Rinpoche, kind sir, for your unending kindness to me, your student, whom you never knew.

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