In 2004, about six months before my late wife, Betty was to pass on from a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs, she had received P’howa instructions from Bhakha Tulku and was content with preparing for her passage to Dewachen (Buddha Amitabha’s formless realm of great bliss). However, she still had a few questions. Lama Tharchin Rinpoche was happy to help put her mind at rest. So we made an appointment to visit Rinpoche at Pema Osel Ling. We arrived about an hour early for her appointment. The great Stupa had recently been built. (The surrounding stupas were not built yet.) I suggested spending the hour looking at the great Stupa. Small problem: we didn’t have a four-wheel drive truck to get down to the site, and Betty was in no shape to walk down and back. We looked around for someone with a four-wheel drive vehicle, with no luck. I looked at the dirt road leading down to the Stupa. It was dry, and it hadn’t rained in weeks. Without really knowing why, I felt it was important for us to see the Stupa. So, we drove down to the Stupa without a problem. We circumambulated a few times, since Betty seemed to have the energy for it.
The time to meet Lama Tharchin Rinpoche got closer, so we headed back up. But when we got to “the hill” – the really steep part of the road – big surprise! The car got stuck. Now, I’m an experienced driver. I have rocked my car out of snow banks and muddy ditches, but this time, the car was really stuck. So, we decided that Betty would stay with the car, and I would walk up the hill to find help. I got to the top of the road, tired from rushing, and looked around for help. But I couldn’t find anyone. I couldn’t connect with my towing service. I started to get anxious about getting the car and Betty back up the hill, as another hour passed looking for help. I thought we would miss the opportunity to talk to Lama Tharchin Rinpoche. Suddenly Suzanne Harte appeared out of nowhere, and she somehow found Phil Banks.
We all drove down to the car… but Betty was missing. Phil got Suzanne and me in the back of the car to weigh down the rear wheels. Phil gunned it, swerving and jerking, practically stripping the rear tires. Thanks to his skill and daring, our prayers and determination, we got up the road. At the top, exhausted and sitting on a rock was Betty!! She had hiked up all the way without help. I couldn’t believe it.
We visited Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, and Betty got all of her questions answered. As Rinpoche said at her memorial service: “Betty, she is very genuine, naturally, she has that special quality, and faith and devotion. Even though she had a serious physical problem, she visited me, and you know, normally people come together, they talk about life, difficulties, emotional stuff but she only talked about her practice. She wanted to be reborn in Dewachen, great exaltation Buddha field. Serious, she really did mean it. When people come to some kind of obstacle, normally they are discouraged. But she became more serious. I was so amazed. That’s inspiring to our Sangha. We can follow a positive person.”
The Stupa has become a very important part of my experience of Pema Osel Ling. I have made it a point to visit the Stupa each time I am at Pema Osel Ling. I sponsored the construction of the Parinirvana secondary stupa in Betty’s memory. Fact is, in my own mind, I am a very stingy person. I always think I am holding something back when I make a donation, that I could give more, if I could only generate a more generous attitude. It is fear about the future- if I give $100.00 instead of $50.00, will it jeopardize my retirement? How easy is it for me to forget that every time I make a donation of time or money, I get it back in many multiples, tangibly, really truly! I am especially grateful for the opportunity to donate my time to secure green cards for the precious lamas associated with Vajrayana Foundation.
In particular, I think of Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche, who penetrates my heart with truly Dharma English! What a return on investment! And, I cannot thank Lama Tharchin Rinpoche enough for his compassionate care when I grieved for Betty. His inspiration freed me in helping me realize, a little bit, the impermanence of ordinary existence, and I cherish his blessing for my exhilarating, embracing loving new life with Jane Ellison.
Another tangible blessing on my sponsorship of the Parinirvana Stupa-
Due to some unexpected events, I found I could afford a pilgrimage to Tibet with Lama Yeshe Wangmo. One reason I wanted to go there was to see if I could understand the great Stupa at Pema Osel Ling better by visiting stupas of the motherland, so to speak. Maybe, I thought, there was a relationship I could find on a true feeling level. Despite the many physical and emotional challenges I faced on the trip, one of the many high points was visiting the reliquary stupa of Longchenpa. Wow! Now I understand the great Stupa of Pema Osel Ling is the most recent in a long line of great sources of spiritual energy, and draws immense energy from that lineage.
It is my ardent prayer that the Stupa last for a very long, long, time, as it represents the only truly unchanging state, the Dharmakaya.
It is my next ardent prayer, that as many people as possible have the chance to see it, feel it and know it.
And, it is my third, most ardent prayer, that many, many people join me in resisting our habitual stinginess, our fear of the future, by giving something, anything, to make the Stupas accessible to everyone, so no one has to struggle up “the hill” the way Betty did.
Source: Interview with Chuck Goldman publihsed with his permission: VF eNewsletter