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Apr 05
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Magic at the Court
Kusung preparing to serve a meal at the Court

Kusung preparing to serve a meal at the Court

By Jeff Grow

I was invited to court for a small reception for the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo with the Ripa sangha in White Plains, New York. This was shortly after they had gotten married. I was a little nervous. While I had served at court before, I hadn’t really been a guest and here I was going, ostensibly, as one of the Shambhalians making a good impression on the in-laws.

When I had served the Sakyong at court, it was often in the role of meal service. It’s ironic, I suppose, that I felt more comfortable then, balancing a cup of tea and a plate of food, trying to figure out how to serve it all in a tight and precarious situation, while having to watch my own mind, than I have “just hanging out” at Court as a guest.

This particular, “just hanging out” occasion was a quiet, but cheerful party with a few Shambhalians and several members of the Ripa sangha. Good conversation, tasty food, I was pleased to be there. Right when I started to relax, Rinpoche looked at me and smiled; always a nice experience, but something was different – there were some wheels turning… I smiled back and looked away, trying to decode. A minute or two later we made eye contact again and he said, “How’s the cake?”

“Good. How’s yours?”

Rinpoche chuckle, “It’s good.”

Now I began to feel a bit like I was back at an awkward middle school dance. I was talking to someone and something was about to happen, but I had no idea what.

In hindsight, having very recently had the honor of performing magic at the Sakyong’s wedding reception at Shambhala Mountain Center, perhaps I should have been slightly prepared – just in case. However, on the flip side, that does seem a bit presumptuous, right?

A couple minutes go by and Rinpoche waves me over and quietly says: “So… do you have anything with you?”

“Of course.” Immediate panic.

“Yeah? Would you mind sharing something with us?”

“Of course.” Mind went blank.

As a professional magician, (and as friends will attest to) I’m always able to perform something, it is part of my job; is there really anything better for PR and networking? However, on this occasion I really had nothing, I only had a khata.

What seemed like five seconds later, a spontaneous close up magic gallery had materialized (that, in itself, was quite a good trick on Rinpoche’s part), and all the guests were gathered around waiting for something – half of them knowing what was going on and half having no clue. In the sudden mix of groundlessness and potency that was created, the irony of me being the one “performing magic” at court was not lost on me.

To be honest, there wouldn’t be much point in describing the mini-show that ensued, but it went well. The delightful thing, for me, was that what arose at Court that day was just as surprising to me as it was to the audience.

In honor of the invitation to contribute to the Kalapa Court in Halifax this month two sangha members, Amy Conway and Jeff Grow, offer us some stories of their experience of court. We would like to invite people of all generations to submit their own stories of Court. Please feel free to share yours in the comment section below or e-mail them to Lodro Rinzler at [email protected]

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2 responses to “ Magic at the Court ”
  1. Kristine McCutcheon
    Apr 28, 2011


    The other side of the khata was when you surprised Rinpoche!

    It was one football sunday at the Halifax Court. Rinpoche was relaxing with some friends. I was on duty downstairs in the kitchen helping the Machen and doing some cleaning when Rinpoche’s beeper rang. For some reason I was really fast getting up the stairs so I arrived in time to see Rinpoche looking at YOU on tv. That is Jeff! The whole room was instantly filled with a tangible love. I have no idea who was playing football but I will always remember that magical moment at the court.

    Service, always an unexpected pleasure.

  2. Abner Burnett
    Apr 6, 2011

    Thanks for a pleasant and well told anecdote.

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