Kalu Rinpoche Returns To the Bay Area

The following article is from the Autumn, 1995 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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by Deborah Price Janke

On a clear Friday morning, August 12,1995, eight auspieious symbols were drawn on the sidewalk facing the entrance to 1892 Fell Street, Kagyu Droden Kunchab, in San Francisco. People stood waiting with burning incense and silk offering scarves. As the crowd grew larger and larger one was reminded of the previous Kalu Rinpoche's question to his dose disciple. Lama Lodru Rinpoche, whether ali of the Western students who were taking refuge with him might be the insects he had fed while on long solitary retreats in the mountains of Tibet years ago.

Little Kaki Rinpoche, 4 years and 11 months old, stepped from the car and walked up the stairs into the Kagyu Droden Kunchab Center, established 19 years earlier. During the Mandala offering Venerable Lama Lodru Rinpoche, Spiritual Director of KDK, with tears streaming down Iris face, said he had done his best to keep his Center going with the hope of the new Rinpoche's return. Now that Kalu Rinpoche was again sitting on the throne there was no joy to equal this experience.

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H.E. Kalu Rinpoche performing Chenrezig initiation in San Francisco. Photo by Tamara Wasserman Hill.

Kalu Rinpoche is a remarkable child. He is a head taller than other children his age. His features have a maturity and beauty which many people comment on. His form gives off light. When he sits on the throne he has perfect posture and composure and never fidgets except to turn and ask a question or make a comment about the proceedings. During his visit to San Francisco he gave two initiations, Green Tara and Chenrezig. During both ceremonies, assisted by Lama Lodru Rinpoche, he interrupted several times with suggestions. This delighted the audience.

On the night of his arrivai in San Francisco, Kalu Rinpoche's father, Lama Gyaltsen, gave a brief biography of the former Kalu Rinpoche. This was a compelling story. The audience was told that the previous Kalu Rinpoche showed signs at a young age that he was the activity incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, and his family was asked to give him to the monastery. Kalu Rinpoche's father, who was himself a great incarnation, said, If my son is who you say he is, then he will naturally exhibit ali of the qualities and activities of the great Jaingon Kongtrul. So it is not necessary for him at this time to leave home and be placed on a throne.

As a young man, Rinpoche spent many years in solitary retreat. His mother, afraid for his life, was determined to fmd him and bring him home. She loaded up with food and supplies, but after much searching began to despair that she would neverseehersonagain. And then, in the distance she saw an animai like no creature she had ever seen before. She felt she should follow it, but each time she got dose it would disappear only to reappear further on. Finally at the end of her endurance she found her son and was heartsick at how thin he had become. She begged him to where he would be born and what signs they should look for. Rinpoche turned to his nephew and said, Just be nice to Gyaltsen.

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H.E. Kalu Rinpoche with Lama Lodru during Chenrezig initiation. Photo by Tamara Wasserman Hill.

In honor of Kalu Rinpoche's return to Kagyu Droden Kunchab, Lama Lodru invited representatives of San Francisco Bay Area Dharma Centers to participate in a welcoming ceremony on August 15,1995. Five Tibetan womensymbolizing the Five Wisdom Dakinis made offerings to Rinpoche, while he sat with perfect absorption on the throne. Following this, Lamas from several Bay Area Buddhist Centers as well as members of those centers, made prostrations and presented symbolic silk scarves. Rinpoche was then treated to a variety of entertainment organized by Lama Lodru which included Tibetan opera singing and dancing, Chinese lion dancing, and martial arts demonstrations. During the Green Tara initiation the audience experienced great emotion in meeting their teacher again in this precious new form. Kalu Rinpoche will be traveling from San Francisco to Northern California, Oregon, Washington and will complete his West Coast come home with her. Rinpoche said he was perfectly healthy and wanted to stay where he was and continue his retreat. His mother said that if he didn't come home immediately she.would take back the provisions she brought and not leave them for him. Rinpoche said, fine, and hoped she would offer them to ali the animals and insects who needed nourishment and blessings. His mother finally relented and left the food, which Rinpoche offered to the animals and insects anyway.

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Lama Gyaltsen told the audience at KDK how Rinpoche decided to go to the West to teach the Dharma, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other holy sites of the Judeo-Christian tradition. He met Pope Paul II. During that time Lama Gyaltsen, who was the previous Kalu Rinpoche's nephew and closest attendant, said that Tibetan Buddhism was not understood, and that Lamas were a definite novelty. It was difficult for them to find housing, and food, especially since Kalu Rinpoche had the habit of offering up everything he owned to the Dharma At one point Rinpoche and Lama Gyaltsen lived on peaches only, which grew next to the shack where they were staying in Canada. Rinpoche had no complaints and was completely happy.

The new Kalu Rinpoche is the son of Lama Gyaltsen. His mother's name is Drolkar. Rinpoche was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Eminence Tai Situpa 18 months after his birth on September 17, 1990. Lama Gyaltsen said that at the end of the previous Kalu Rinpoche's life many people asked tour by visiting Hawaii in the latter part of the month.

Everyone who speaks with Rinpoche is struck with the familiarity of the experience as though seeing home again after a long journey. Rinpoche recognizes people and impulsively gives them gifts and talks to them as though he knowsthem. This is reassuring to Kalu Rinpoche's former students, and best expressed by Lama Lodru Rinpoche who said that he had experienced some skepticism prior to meeting the new Kalu Rinpoche, but when he saw him for the first time he found that there was something clouding his eyesight and realized it was tears. In fact I was crying because there was such pure energy coming from him. At the time I first saw him as a baby he didn't even talk, but everything looking, acting, eating was exactly like the previous Kalu Rinpoche. So there was no hesitation, no doubt. Every time I see him, the way he is with people, makes me more confident in my mind that he is the Kalu Rinpoche.

Kagyu Droden Kunchab, a center for the study and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism is located near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco: 1892 Fell Street. Lama Lodru Rinpoche is the spiritual director and resident Lama. Heisthe author of Quintessence oflhe Animate and the Inanimate, Bardo Teachings, Attaining Enlightenment, and translator of Garden of Ali Joy, a manual for the practice of Chod written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodo Taye.

Deborah Price-Janke is president of Kagyu Droden Kunchab.

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