Monday, October 13, 2003

Sky Burial - Part 2 of 3

After four of these retreats Rinpoche began visiting in May/June rather than August and we moved the retreat indoors and off-site to other locations. By this time the house and land had been transferred to the dharma center, but I was still living there. Many wonderful things had taken place while Rinpoche was there including stunning rainbows that appeared at precisely the right moment, as if on cue, visions, fantastic storms, lightning strikes followed by prolonged power outages and Rinpoche dancing and waving a sword on the green grass in the Mahakala mask and garb as sacred horns played for him. The place was never the same after that.

During Rinpoche's visit this past year I would drive back to the country from our retreat up in the city and spend the night downstairs in the house on the land. I was never comfortable staying upstairs after Rinpoche and it was unoccupied. It was "his" room, despite the absence of the little towel, the thangkas and all the flowers. As I walked out the lower door one morning to get in my car and drive back up to the retreat in the city I heard an unfamiliar scrabbling noise and sensed a movement in the air not more than ten feet above my head. As I started to look up a huge bird soared only a few feet overhead, losing elevation, wings outstretched, not flapping, gliding along the ground silently and then off towards the hedge row. At the last moment he, or she, pulled up, gained a little altitude and settled in a large tree maybe a hundred yards away.

I was shocked and struggled to absorb what had happened. It was so unexpected, so unusual, so large and near, yet so quiet, and it had come so suddenly from behind and just above me. Just as I caught my breath and began to regain my wits, I heard the same noise again, now recognized as clawed feet on shingles, and sensed a single powerful flap as another bird launched, soared and joined the first. Then, at an identical interval, a third left the rooftop, passed over and joined the others. It seemed to have both transpired in an instant and to have taken forever: a slow, graceful, synchronous movement in a symphony played miraculously somehow in a fractional second.

The vultures had been perched on the peak, immediately over Rinpoche's unoccupied room and precisely above where he always sat to meditate. They remained perching there for another three days or so, the three of them. I'd find them sitting atop the roof like eerie sentinels when I returned at the end of the day and they would continue to react with alarm when I'd suddenly, and absent mindedly, walk out the door below to get into the car the next morning. I became unsettled too. It took me a couple days to adjust and then, just as I began to expect them, they were gone.

--------- (To be concluded).


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