1997 – Still on the road to Gomdé
Nowadays there is a sign on the left side of the road just before you get to Esby. It is a very inconspicuous white sign with black letters. Instead of “Rangjung Yeshe Gomdé” it might as well have said “John Doe’s machine factory”. I mean, you see them everywhere around the country.
In 1997 there was no sign there. Or maybe there was a little something made of wood ornamented with a couple of prayer flags. But coming down Smedehalden in my old orange Volvo, I did miss it several times. Even then I realised that the (missing) sign was not to blame. It was my own anxiousness, for the very first time I was going to Gomdé and all kinds of thoughts were dancing around, blocking my eyesight.
Why I was there at that particular place, at that particular time is a long story. So we will not go into that now. Let us just say, that the person I regarded as my teacher had died several years before and that I had been shopping around for quite some time. Six months before the trip this searching had led me into a bookshop in Copenhagen, where I found a book called “Song of Karmapa” written by a Tibetan master called Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, who was completely unknown to me. That book was really something, because it made me realise the crucial importance of pointing out instructions: The situation where a teacher in actual reality is pointing out (by gesture, fingers, words, closeness, love, compassion, etc.) the Buddha nature in your own mind stream. As they said in an old advertisement for coffee: It takes two to make a good cup of coffee – you and your merchant. The case of pointing out is similar: It takes your guru to do it, and you to be open enough to realise, what is taking place.
At that time, I had my own rigid ideas about people, who connected with Buddhism. Either they had to be very curious about life and the world – or they had to have a natural kindness and affection for other beings. I was of the first kind, I had decided, and I was very curious about what kind of people I was going to meet at Gomdé, particularly the hardcore Buddhists that actually lived there. Let us not go into detail, but just say, that the first face I talked to was really kind. But in general I would add that the old guard maintained a certain reservation and distance in relationship with all us newcomers.
I am not blaming anybody. People looking for paradise or nirvana have often so inflated egos that they are hard to be around. That is the big challenge for people living at Gomdé. They do all the ploughing and seeding, while the guests are picking the fruits.
But at that time I found it a bit disappointing, because it seemed to be in contradiction with the space like quality of the teachings and a sad repetition of the usual hierarchical structures, that you see all over the place. It did not bother me too much, though. As a true newcomer I was so taken by the kindness and intelligence of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and his brother Tsoknyi Rinpoche, who were both giving teachings the first week that I felt like being in another world. I even got to talk with Chökyi Nyima, so who was I to complain?
And believe me, when I look at my hardly readable notes from that year, they told us everything: The ground, the path and the fruition according to the different yanas (including Mahamudra and Dzogchen); the view, meditation and action; a whole range of methods to accumulate merit and wisdom and so on and so forth. On top of that, in the second week we had the great fortune of Chökyi Nyima introducing us to one of the most essential texts: Patrul Rinpoche’s “Three Words Striking the Vital Point”.
In other words: Even the most diligent person participating that summer would have had enough stuff to practice for the rest of his or her life. Nevertheless I am still coming back each year for more instructions. Why? Well, the mind seems to be very fickle and our habitual tendencies appear to be deep rooted. So even after all these years a lot of us are still on the road to Gomdé.