My Coffee with Chogyam.

Via on May 18, 2012
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: Elephant Journal Library

The Trungpa Talks.

Appropriately enough, we meet in Kham, Tibet, and if a milk crate table and two upturned flowerpots can be called everything, we have it all.

Any good Wikipedia user will cut-and-paste you that Kham has a rugged terrain characterized by mountain ridges and gorges. Certainly the precarious little cafe where we find ourselves clings to the slope of one of them. Both the café and the mountain doubtless have names.

I stare for an infinite moment at a white mountain before me, dusted in brown at the peak like a Photoshop inversion in three dimensions. Bubbles the size of tiny cities form on its sloping shoulders, randomly popping, keeping time ala Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues Chink Contraption Clockworks.

God, it’s early in this article to go that far out. My stuff is so not for everybody.

Photo: Youtube

Just as the earth sighs each time a vegan gives up the brave battle and eats a slice of cheese, so the mountain before me in the cafe diminishes a fraction with every popping bubble. Like all of us, this mountain is on the celebrated journey to nothingness.

I know that if I remain still and observe, the mountain will be unrecognizable in a half hour.

In fact, stopping to observe it is the very dharma itself. I inhale, and a bubble pops. Or not. I exhale and grin, very much the fool.

At last, unable to further postpone the inevitable, to my great delight, I slurp in. A valley appears: I have chopped the mountain. Soy foam from my cappuccino rains into me.

Here before me, the Rinpoche himself. As welcome a sight in my life as a woman riding a bicycle. (Without all the inane-looking gear, of course.)

We speak.

Chogyam: Having a staring contest with your coffee, old man?

Donovan Photo: Youtube

Karl: No, Rinpoche, I’m just thinking about Donovan. In fact, I’m trying to wrap my head around this interview. I mean, the idea of disseminating your disseminations is  daunting, don’t you think? Who the hell am I? I’m scared.

Chogyam: Ultimately, that is the very definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself.

Karl: Mmhmm. Well I don’t see bravery here on the nonexistent menu, Chogyam. And speaking of, are you cool with this being pseudofictional? I mean, I’ll be cutting and pasting most of your end of our conversation from “Shambhala,” and  putting some words in your mouth.

Chogyam: Let’s just consider this place the realm of the cosmic mirror, the primordial realm that is always available to human beings if they relax and expand their minds.

Karl: So no need for any release forms, or anything like that? You know, formalities, legalities and red tape?

Chogyam: Why not let that go? If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings.

Karl: I hear that Rinpoche, but my viewpoint often feels unalterably biased. Habitual thinking is the water I swim in. Show me blue and I’ll see blue overlayed in purple expectation, every time. Feel me?

Chogyam: When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness. When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness. When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air. These events may take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness.

Photo: Dima Bushkov

Karl: Are you saying I need to shower more? I mean, I’m game, if it’s headed somewhere. So to really be, all we need is a fuller immersion into everyday experience? You mean we are cutting ourselves off from freedom by fragmenting our experiences? So to distill this, might one say that Trungpa trumps truncation?

Photo: Kangotraveler

Chogyam: If you want this interview over quick fast and in a hurry, alliterate one more time. The human potential for intelligence and dignity is attuned to experiencing the brilliance of the bright blue sky, the freshness of green fields, and the beauty of the trees and mountains. We have an actual connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically fundamentally good.

Karl: I want that! But I promise not like a thing to acquire or a prize or anything. I’m just completely over feeling disconnected and in rabid need of entertainment. When did it get so heavy, and why am I riddled with seriousness?

Chogyam: A genuine sense of humor is having a light touch: not beating reality into the ground but appreciating reality with a light touch. The basis of Shambhala vision is rediscovering that perfect and real sense of humor, that light touch of appreciation.

Karl: I appreciate that, Chogyam. Lightly, of course. This interview is like looking through the window at the spiritual candy store, I’m salivating here.

Triggered by his mention of the word, my mind wanders to Shambhala, a city located way beyond reach and I think, just slightly east of craving.

My attention is drawn to the perfectly horizontal yet lightly domed landscape before us. The grassless meadow draped in 77 gradations of gold dotted with black stones invites temporary reprieve from the perpetual under-stimulation of my taste buds. Succumbing, I pick up the chocolate chip cookie and invite it to lose itself in the merciless unyielding destroyer called my mouth. It dissolves into the uncompromising vastness of me.

The feeling is as if I’ve chomped into a Tibetan cloud made of a small chocolate chip cookie. If that makes any sense at all.

Karl: Chogyam, I think the gap between where I am on a given day and where I would like to be spiritually would make the Grand Canyon look like a cup from a toddler’s tea set. You know, plastic with little blue flowers and some green vines chasing around. What can get me across this expanse?  What color is my hot-air balloon?

Chogyam: Your mother was right, Karl, don’t talk with your mouth full. You were actually spraying cookie there, dude. We are talking about a very basic act: sitting on the ground, assuming a good posture, and developing a sense of our spot, our place on this earth. This is the means of rediscovering ourselves and our basic goodness, the means to tune ourselves in to genuine reality, without any expectations or preconceptions.

Karl: I so was not spraying cookie!

Chogyam: Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to be without deception, to be fully genuine and alive.

Karl: Ok, ok, I may have sprayed a minute amount of cookie.  Can we put it past us?

Chogyam: The practice of meditation allows us to experience all the textures of the roadway, which is what the journey is all about.

Karl: Do you mean that when Alanis sings, “Thank you nothingness, thank you clarity, thank you, thank you, silence,” she is speaking the truth? I always thought she was pandering to pseudo seekers like myself, after a quick fix and a clue at the istore.

Alanis Photo: Youtube

Chogyam: Does it matter? Drink the words like mountain water. Through the practice of meditation, we begin to find that within ourselves there is no fundamental complaint about anything or anyone at all.

Karl: Good. I could use that because I’m starting to feel inferior to all the people who have never sprayed chocolate chip cookie during an important interview.  You think Walters ever did that? Let me answer that for you: no. 

Chogyam: You can transcend your embarrassment and take pride in being a human being. Such pride is acceptable and good. You are capable of sitting like a king or queen on a throne. The regalness of that situation shows you the dignity that comes from being still and simple.

Karl: Chogyam, when you say pride, do you mean shame?  I’m not proud to be a human being, Rinpoche. I lost that with my I Can Read Book of Frog and Toad’s Big Adventure.

How am I supposed to fence myself off from the tornado of anger and sadness around the way people bully animals without apology? It eats me up. I know powerlessness that borders on, well, powerlessness, and it leaves me sighing in the evenings.  You know, around sixish, when everything starts to quiet down.

Photo: Putneypics

Chogyam: We can work with the rest of the world on the basis of the goodness we discover in ourselves. Therefore, meditation practice is regarded as a good and in fact excellent way to overcome warfare in the world: our own warfare as well as the greater warfare.

Karl: Here’s the thing, my teacher. I sometimes hate. I find animals noble, and in their innocence, honestly, further advanced than humans. We are such heartless beings!

Chogyam: Stop crying, you’ll melt all over the table. This is a tentative situation, Karl, remember, I’m dead. Open your eyes, your teachers are everywhere. You’ve forgotten the deep enduring beauty of your own innocence. Listen to Sarah twelve times, and breathe.

Sarah Photo: Youtube

Karl: You draw such a hopeful, beautiful picture in your book. Is there enough left of my heart to see it? I hope so, dude. I swear I feel like we are a virus. Did you see the Matrix?

Chogyam: Human existence is a natural situation, and like the law and order of the world, it is workable and efficient. In fact, it is wonderful. It is ideal. 

Karl: Do you really think so? Ever since seventh grade, I’ve been skittish. My teacher, Steve Carver, was genuine. He had us read “Hiroshima,” and then showed us a graph of a kazillion periods. One period on the paper represented Hiroshima’s bomb, and the whole paper represented what we had then for firepower. I’ve been scared. I’m terrified. 

Chogyam: Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.

A lotus blossom appears on Rinpoche’s left shoulder as he speaks these words. Time suspends all rules for a second-hour-minute, and the lotus vanishes like the Cheshire cat, but without grinning first.

With enormous love, respect and affection, we bow in silence.

This article dedicated to Maru Garcia.

~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor yoga teacher writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck, careening down route 66 at speed, that he somehow took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and decided to roll with it, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you sometimes feel the same.

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29 Responses to “My Coffee with Chogyam.”

  1. shaydewey says:

    Shared on Elephant Spirituality Facebook page.

  2. Andrea Balt Andréa Balt says:

    Oh wow, please ask me, am I loving your interviews with the enlightened in jungles and on mountain tops, or what?

  3. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks Shay! Andrea, are you loving my interviews with the enlightened in jungles and on mountaintops, or what?

  4. Mr. Science says:

    Karl, I really enjoyed this.

    Sort of like a spiritual version of “I’m not there”

    You took a risk. Initially the format made me cringe, but you managed to make it personal enough that you expressed something quite nice.

    Really could have been a train wreck, but ended up humorous and touching.

    Well done.

    • karlsaliter says:

      Thanks for that! I've never had a train-wreck-narrowly-averted compliment, and I'm taking
      yours right to the heart bank.

      Cheers!

  5. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Loved the Tom Robbins riff there, Karl. But then that's just my peculiar weirdness.

  6. I didn't think it was possible Karl, but I actually love this one more than your tea with Pema. I consider both to be among my greatest teachers…and the next time you are back in CT, we need to get together for coffee and invite them along. xo

    • karlsaliter says:

      Even without the logarithmic function wordplay?

      Thank you, Kate. This one means a lot to me, and I'm happy to hear you say that.
      It felt like something emerging, and I'm interested.

      Green light for coffee!

  7. Jill Barth Jill Barth says:

    Great piece, Karl. Thanks!

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for reading it, Jill. It ceases to exist without the reader.

  9. Chogyam says:

    Here's to losing our cookies!

    • karlsaliter says:

      Sometimes, I need to remember that failing is perfect. Cheers, C.

      • Chogyam says:

        Given your use of literary elusions and the particular erudition it suggests, I also thought you might be able to identify the origin of my avatar image. Recognize it?

        • Chogyam says:

          Sorry, English is my second language. I meant "allusions" not elusions. It's funny on several levels, though, because it's a kind of failure (which is perfect) and because the misspelling came in the supposed context of literariness and erudition.

          • karlsaliter says:

            That is funny, and I love mistakes like that, but I must confess I'm stumped on the cool avatar.

            Of course the Asterix and Obelix comics come to mind, but I know that's not where you're coming from. :)

            What's the story?

  10. Chogyam says:

    It's a drawing of a sphincter from Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions." http://ericspitznagel.com/content/wp-content/uplo

    • karlsaliter says:

      HA! It's been too many years, I completely forgot that brilliant book. Vonnegut is a god.

  11. maru says:

    This was amazing Karl, thank you so much.
    So much of this coffee klatsch rings a bell inside my heart. Specially the conflict of :
    "How am I supposed to fence myself off from the tornado of anger and sadness around the way people bully animals without apology? It eats me up."
    Chogyam: We can work with the rest of the world on the basis of the goodness we discover in ourselves."

    How can I be prpud of being a human being? how can I accept and breath thru my dispair when witnessing cruelty and injustice and yet stay loving and compassionate? How?

    This article shows me a sweet glimpse of the answers I so much look for:
    The possibility of seeing the best that emerges in me when facing the worst.
    The quietness that connects me to the Divine flame inside of me, which often I am blind to.
    Embracing love and compassion, not for them, but for what it does to me.
    Not giving up.

    I loved it.

    How can I

  12. [...] and compassion, sat perfect with my sights on the world. It opened the path to Gary Snyder, Chogyam Trungpa, Han Shan, Li Bai and host of other “Zen lunatics” who, in their fertile crazy wisdom, [...]

  13. Carolina says:

    Ah, thank You for your energy! I was smiling the whole time.

    "You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." – Kafka

    • karlsaliter says:

      Thanks Carolina! I just saw your comment today, sending this article to a friend. Glad you were able to read the article, and that Kafka quote is perfect.

      All the best,

      Karl.

  14. [...] My Coffee With Chogyam. | elephant journal2 days ago … Photo: Dima Bushkov. Karl: Are you saying I need to shower more? I mean, I’m game, if it’s headed somewhere. So to really be, all we need is a … [...]

  15. [...] it was undoable and it made me mad at everyone, mostly myself. In “Working with Negativity,” Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says that there’s nothing wrong with the essential arising of any emotion [...]

  16. Maru says:

    Thank you so much for this article Karl. I love you, with alove that is shapeless and solid. You are a beam of light with sneakers.

  17. [...] is so weird, it’s getting a little crazy right now. This is a trip.” So I sat in the chair and Rinpoche, my teacher asks me, How am I doing? Am I okay? Am I ready for this? And my response, which scared [...]

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