COPYRIGHT CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
TAPE 240 - INTVW W JAMES GEORGE, PT. 1:
JAMES, TELL ME THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SURROUNDED HIS COMING TO STAY WITH YOU.
Well, I think it was because my wife had been in London where they met a few months before my family took a Land Rover safari across from England to India and which I joined. And when we got the Land Rover there, we hooked up with Trungpa and he stayed with us for three months at the end of 1968. And we went on pilgrimage of the major Buddhist holy places in the Christmas holidays, budgaya, ravini and all around Behara. He was a wonderful guide. And of course he was very young then. I think he might have been 20. But he knew a great deal and he felt a great deal and it was a very alive sort of pilgrimage for us all -
WHAT WAS HE LIKE ...
- with my family.
WHAT WAS HE LIKE AT AGE 2O?
Well, I don't think he changed much throughout his life in a way. There was this core of extraordinary sensitivity and ah at the same time as he said himself, all the Trungpas have had trouble with their emotions. And he was no exception certainly.
ANY SPECIAL HAPPEN AROUND THAT TIME. WHAT STICKS OUT IN YOUR MEMORY OF HIS STAY WITH YOU?
WEll I think the most significant moment of that pilgrimage around northwest India - northeast India, was our visit to Sikkim. And he came with us and we were staying with the chogyil of Sikkim and it was at that time that Trungpa met again for the first time since they were in Tibet, Jilgo Gensai Rimpoche, one of his principal teachers. And we were part of that meeting and it was very touching. And many years later in 1987 we were again with Jilgo Gensai Rimpoche at the cremation of Trungpa at the Tail of the Tiger in Vermont, closing the circle.
DID YOU GET CLOSE TO TRUNGPA RIMPOCHE?
Well our relationship was at that time he was really part of the family. He was like one of my sons. And I had two others boys and a girl in tow who were a bit younger than him. And he was just part of the family and he would call my wife and I amala and pala. We were that sort of relationship. He had no other family really in exile. And we never specially regarded him as our teacher but we certainly learned a great deal from him and we definitely felt attracted to who he was and who he was becoming.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT? WHAT TIP-OFFS WERE THERE THAT THIS WAS SOMEBODY WHO WAS GOING TO BE OUT OF THE ORDINARY?
When he was getting ready to leave us and go to Scotland to Samya Ling with Akon Rimpoche, his old friend, I said to him, you know, Trungpa, you're not going to stay in Scotland, it's too small for you. You're going to go to America. It's big. So are you. And he was in America within I think about a year. I forget the chronologies exactly but approximately.
I THINK IT'S SIGNIFICANT THAT HE ENDED UP IN A PLACE CALLED NEW SCOTLAND.
Yes. Nova Scotia.
I THINK THAT HE WAS PERFECTLY AWARE OF THAT COMPLETION OF THE CIRCLE. YOU FOLLOWED HIS CAREER CLOSELY.
We were not so closely in touch through most of the years he was in Boulder because we were away on assignment in Iran and India and then were living in Paris for a while and London. So we missed out on a number of the years in which he was developing a large following. But I did go to see him in I think 1984 in Boulder and he was just beginning to think about the move to Nova Scotia. And we talked about it and it seemed to me that his principal reason for wanting to move was that he felt a little uncomfortably close in the atomic age to the Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Colorado and he thought his headquarters would be better protected and away from any targeting that there might be if he were in Nova Scotia. It would be a safer place.
WHEN YOU SAW HIM IN 1984 - THIS WAS AFTER AN ABSENCE OF -
It was after a big absence. And we had a wonderful meeting. He was very receptive. Of course by then he was the emperor. The whole ritual of the court that he surrounded himself with was ah quite extraordinary as I'm sure you know from other witnesses. Partly Chinese and partly in fact based on his experience living with me as a high commissioner ambassador in India, the flag on the car, the flag on the building and all the protocol of comings and goings he'd adopted, quite literally, as he saw it happening in Delhi, and added some Chinese touches and Tibetan touches of his own. But why not? mean why should we pay that kind of respect only to a great king? Why not to a great spiritual master as well? And I think he didn't feel he wanted it personally for his own ego so much as to make the point that if prime ministers and ambassadors and generals can have this thing, what about a spiritual warrior? Why shouldn't they be recognized and treated in a special way? I didn't agree with all the falala but that was not my perogative to agree or disagree.
WHEN YOU SAW HIM AGAIN THERE MUST HAVE BEEN AT THAT TIME QUITE A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN HIS PHYSICAL CONDITION. HE WAS WITHIN THE LAST THREE YEARS OF HIS LIFE. I'VE SEEN TAPES FROM 1984 WHERE YOU CAN SEE QUITE CONSIDERABLE PHYSICAL ....
Yes. And yet it was the same essential Trungpa inside. That was what was touching. And that was what undoubtedly brought so many people to his presence. He used to say himself when we were going round visiting Tibetan masters in Indian and Sikkim, Nepal, - people come - the bees come where there's honey. People do. There was a kind of of honey in his being that attracted even when sometimes his behaviour repelled. And it was always a question for one whether one was more attracted or more repelled. And you know, my own teacher indirectly, Gerjeef, ah he put it very nicely and I think it applies to Trungpa as well. Big angel, big devil. If you've got one you've got the other. Big angel, big devil.
GERJEEF OUGHT TO KNOW.
Gerjeef, it applied to him too, undoubtedly.
HE HAD SOME OF THAT CRAZY WISDOM LINEAGE.
OKAY THAT BRINGS US TO A POINT, ESPECIALLY IN THIS ERA OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS -
TAPE 241 - INTVW W JAMES GEORGE, PT. 2:
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO TRUNGPA RIMPOCHE IF HE HAD TAKEN UP TEACHING TODAY?
I think pretty much the same as happened when he started in America. Perhaps with even greater speed and facility because I think people are more thirsty and hungry for that kind of inner work that he represented, the presence and the moment that he was teaching and people are more willing to hear that now beause their need is greater. They've come to the point where they're not satisfied that we're on the right track and making progress either materially or spiritually. And certainly his own strategy was to go first of all for the leading edge of the culture, the artist, the poets and touch them, involve them. And through them fish for a wider audience which he did very successfully. But this is something in one's being. I mean here was a man with obvious faults and yet one couldn't help loving him. What is it that one loves in such a being? I think it's a sort of resonance that there is a response, again what Gajeef would have said and did say, conscious love evokes the same in response. And even when he was being crazy, one felt that it was with a good intention, that he had compassion for all his people and for all people, all sentient beings in fact. And ah the whole point of being a spiritual warrior was to take that compassion into life and affect life for the better. But the risks he took were enormous and the results were undoubtedly mixed and yet something of that love carried through and sustained and justified. You know, what is a life like that? In 1971 when we were visiting on home leave from Iran, we came to see him in Vermont where he just acquired a big estate .... Tail of the Tiger, rama trilling. And he took us up to a wonderful meadow high up above the estate which was absolutely wilderness at that time. And he said, isn't this wonderful air. Just here one can meditate and make retreat. .... perfect space. How many years later, in 1987 we were at his cremation in that very spot, as I mentioned earlier with Genzi Rimpoche presiding. And when they burned his body, 9 or 10,000 people all observed 3 distinct rainbows in a clear sky. How come? There was no meteorological explanation. And ah I don't have any explanation either. But he was not an ordinary being. And that is one's attraction. There are lots of ordinary beings who are nice and who teach well and who are ethical and don't have the same attraction. (chuckle) Trungpa was never boring, at any stage. And I suppose the response was because one felt the life in him, overflowing life, abundant life, and great love which comes with great life.