This story came up during a conversation with Roshi Joan Halifax last week and I thought before it got lost in my increasingly suspect memory I would record it………
The End of the Search for Siddhis-
This was it. After years of looking I had finally found a fully vetted Vajrayana master of verifiable lineage who was giving teachings and empowerment in the tummo practice. Power in all its forms was my main interest at the time, physical, psychic, financial, political. I was ready to learn this practice and use it and the power it could generate to advance my practice and my life.
Years of martial arts had left me with an injured low back which I disguised with a very erect posture. New to this Sangha, I sat right in front of the Lamas all week long, trying to demonstrate my capacities, hoping they would notice that I sat better and taller than anyone else, that my practice was more advanced, my meditation more stable and single pointed and focused. In my delusion I thought I was as advanced as the Lamas themselves…..and I wanted them to recognize and acknowledge this, or at least praise me for being a great practitioner.
At the end of the week of teaching came the Empowerment, and the complicated visualization practice I thought would give me the ability to withstand cold of any extreme. And after that the chance I had been waiting for, when we could ask questions of the Lamas.
Lama Kenchen Palden Sherab, now deceased, and Lama Tsewang Dongyal, were known as the Khenpo Brothers. Lama Kenchen spoke only in Tibetan, and his brother translated for him. They were, and Lama Tsewang remains, true, stainless, immaculate teachers of the Dharma.
I raised my hand and asked: “How do we know that we are progressing in the practice?” I was expecting a detailed explication of the stages, something along the lines of “First you will notice a gentle warning in the lower belly, this will intensify, and when you truly meld the red and white drops you will produce a heat which will fill your entire body….”.
Lama Kenchen looked through me for a moment with the clear light of Dharma shining from his form. He knew what I was asking and what I expected as an answer. He smiled, and said simply: “Well, of course, if your Love and Compassion are increasing, you are doing the practice properly.”
The moment was as close to Satori as anything I have ever experienced. Years of desire for power manifested in hard work and rigorous training appeared as the egotistical foolishness they had been, and disappeared as the realization of the truth of his statement flooded through me.
I remain grateful beyond words for the graciousness, gentleness, and skillful means with which Lama Kenchen dismantled a big piece of my ego in a moment and set me on a more compassionate path. I hope all practitioners meet with true Dharma teachers such as Lama Dongyal and Roshi Joan and progress in their practice.
May it benefit all and bring harm to none, JR