KDK San Francisco Grows Up
(This is the 17th in a series of reminiscences by Lama Lodu Rinpoche)
My teaching schedule at KDK San Francisco was not very demanding during my first year there in 1976. My English was not good enough for me to attempt to teach without a translator and although many fine translators helped me when they could, they were not always available when I needed them. At that time I based all my teachings on the great saint Gampopa’s text, Jewel Ornament of Liberation, and through the blessings of our lineage, my students were truly eager to hear them. They had a real hunger to receive these teachings which I was not able to satisfy due to the lack of a regular full-time translator but we managed as well as we could.
As the year progressed, my students began to talk about the possibility of buying a house for the center. At that time we were renting a house on 21st and Dolores and, although it was adequate for our needs at the time, we all felt the center would grow and soon require a larger shrine room and more space. Of course money was the main obstacle. Some of my students had part-time jobs that did not pay very well and others had no regular work at all. Although they managed to take care of all my financial needs in addition to paying the rent and upkeep of the center, I couldn’t imagine how they could possibly buy a house but they were optimistic and brave and were sure we could do it. We would drive around looking at houses—all of them too expensive—and dream together.
A student who was no longer at the center had left behind the key to a safe deposit box at Wells Fargo Bank. What was in the box was a big mystery and we all started looking at the key and thinking: maybe this is our miracle! We had fantasies of finding bundles of money or gold and finally went together to the bank to solve the mystery. What we found in the box was certainly precious—many audiotapes of early Kalu Rinpoche teachings—but not what we needed to buy our building.
Around that time we conducted the first Eight Nyung Nes at KDK and many of my students joined the ritual. After two weeks of this rigorous practice, they became more stable and mature and they began to trust me more. On both sides, confidence was growing and I realized I would have to work hard to deserve the trust of these serious practitioners.
Toward the beginning of my second year in San Francisco, His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche came to our center and led a retreat and gave many important empowerments. He met with students and gave them advice and instruction and I gained even more confidence as I saw the strong bonds forming between these students and my beloved teacher. The whole project of our work together was uplifted by this visit.
By this time we had even saved a little money and the house hunt continued. Every week we would see beautiful houses and we would get very excited about them but they were all still out of reach.
Not long after Kalu Rinpoche’s visit, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma lineage, came to visit our center, which was a great experience for us. He spoke often about Kalu Rinpoche, emphasizing what an eminent and accomplished teacher he was, and his words made deep impressions on all who heard them, helping to attract interest and students to KDK. Nowadays it would be very unusual to hear a teacher speak in such glowing terms about another teacher, especially from a different lineage. It was clear that His Holiness was motivated not by any wish to promote himself but to be of real help to others.
The next year we also had a three-day visit from His Holiness Sakya Trichen, head of the Sakya lineage, which was an especially wonderful occasion and attracted still more new people to the center. Soon after, His Holiness the Karmapa spent five days with us, giving several public teachings and empowerments as well as a private Red Chenrezig empowerment to a few others and me. His Holiness’s attendants said it was very unusual for him to give this particular teaching, which he gave in Tibetan without translation. As I was the only one in the group who spoke Tibetan, I marveled at my good fortune and wondered if I really deserved this amazing honor. He also spoke a great deal about Kalu Rinpoche, telling us all to follow exactly what Kalu Rinpoche told us and we would be certain to be safe and protected in our practice.
One day during the Karmapa’s stay he said he wanted to go to Japantown, so several of us took him there. He directed us to exactly where he wanted to park and as he stepped out of the car onto the pavement, we saw that there was a violent fight taking place between two black men, right in front of us. Fearlessly, without hesitation, and ignoring our cries to him to stop, His Holiness walked straight ahead between the two fighters, who parted and suddenly became calm. To our amazement, the men actually bowed as His Holiness stretched out his hands to both of them, giving them blessings and reciting mantras. We were astonished as His Holiness turned around, got in the car, and told us to drive home, as if he had come here precisely for this remarkable moment. We felt we had just witnessed the activity of a most pure and powerful bodhisattva.
This is the 17th in a series of reminiscences by Ven. Lama Lodu Rinpoche
Lama Lodu Rinpoche's Autobiography