Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Sky Burial - Part 3 of 3

I mentioned the vultures to a friend and he mentioned it to Rinpoche. He said very directly and without hesitation that they were dakinis and that I would be okay if I did a lot of Tara mantra. That was reassuring! I had never thought of them as a threat. I did some mantra, but probably not as many as I should have. I've been an undisciplined, easily distracted, practitioner.

I don't know what Rinpoche saw in the vultures besides their dakini identity. He didn't make a big deal of it. But for me, they were sad mourners. Feeling his presence in the area, but finding him absent from the room, they appeared to watch and wait, silently. They seemed disappointed and a little disoriented, as if someone had forgotten to tell them about the changed location. They were also an admonition to me to respect and appreciate the wonderful gift that had been Rinpoche's spontaneous appearance on the land four years in a row, a sign that it was still a special place and a very vivid reminder of impermanence. Dew drops on blades of grass are probably a little too subtle for my coarse mind. Looming vultures appearing suddenly a few feet overhead are a little harder to ignore and I am grateful for the dramatic emphasis.

An instant can change your life. It was never the same after spontaneously telling Rinpoche that my teacher in India would want me to offer him the space. Looking back, it appears to have been a milestone. One thing led to another and my life has since changed in many ways, mostly wonderful, but also some that are sad. Now I have moved and almost completely disassembled the beautiful mandala that was both my home and the hub of our four summer retreats on the land with Rinpoche. The house is vacant and it is a silent, lonesome place. Only the memories of Rinpoche, the wind, an empty throne, a partial shrine and some fluttering prayer flags remain. It is a bardo, hanging suspended between what was and whatever is next. The vultures have not returned and I miss my old life, Rinpoche, my teacher in California and my karmic lama in India.

Though unlikely to happen, I would like to be buried in the sky with the three vultures and their friends in a final Chod. But now I must stop thinking of the past and speculating about the future and focus instead on preparing for death, whatever its uncertain timing may be and regardless of how I might be buried. Like the advice given long ago by Pa Dampa Sangye in Ding Ri that I quoted on the blog a few days ago, "The vulture of mind definitely will fly away anyway. Train yourself immediately in the ability to soar in the vast expanse of the sky, oh people of Ding Ri".

We are all residents of a Ding Ri. Some seem stable; others can be seen to change suddenly from one Ding Ri to another. It is easy to worry about the state and direction of your life and miss the vulture on the roof. Then one day without warning, you hear from above and behind you the sound of claws on shingles and you immediately realize, as the mind spreads its wings and prepares to fly off into the burial sky, you will discover very soon whether or not you can soar.


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