Friday, October 1, 2010


History is the dream of what can be. - Diane di Prima

Postcard (by Delfina Piretti) with dorje.

Since my last journal (Sept. 3rd), I have left Boulder Colorado and traveled, with my son Devin to Turkey, via Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York City. I have taken the post card Delfina Piretti made for me seven years ago, as I have on all my trips abroad. It was her tribute to the Western Mountain (the same image I used at the top of the last post) and now I have photographed it in Istanbul, with a Buddhist dorje on it, a symbol of "indestructible truth."

This journal is a continuation of the theme of imagination and a tribute to three people I have encountered on my journey - John Perks, Madeline Bruser and Jack Niland - each of who have contributed to and extended Lord Mukpo's teaching legacy. Each of the three I first imagined visiting earlier this year. Without making much of a plan, it happened.

First, a continuation of the theme of imagination...

The war that matters is the war against the imagination. 
All other wars are subsumed in it.
Diane di Prima

. . . . . . . . 

The war against the imagination must be traced to ourselves and the acquired conditioning we receive that supports the mechanism of war within us. As used in the drala principle and in Diane di Prima's poem Rant, imagination has nothing to do with fantasy, mere daydreams or avoidance of reality. Imagination is the communicative and subtle expression of reality. Images arising from our unconscious - from space itself - are not yet tethered to our hopes and fears, but can represent pure moments of meaning or "first thought." The potentialities can be taken up as guidance and, depending on the strength of our character and the firmness of our determination, can become the foundation of "establishing our kingdom" (to cite the words of Lord Mukpo).

Istanbul, 2005.

Ideas and images of the imagination arise unbidden and suddenly. They are not manufactured by our ego and contain unimaginable (no pun intended) potential; they are expressions of what Tulku Ugen calls the "unconfined capacity" of mind.

 Tarot cards chosen by Jesse Goldman
history is a living weapon in yr hand
  and you have imagined it, it is thus that you
"find out for yourself"
history is the dream of what can be
                                        - from Rant
Nearly every line of Rant is a point of entry, a valid chunk of imagination explication. Instead of the dull and mordant notion of history - and our life - receding into an irretrievable past, history (as Rilke told us) is circular and comes toward us from the future. The "living weapon" is this unconfined capacity of mind which offers us a vacant future, one of pure potential, instead of the narrow route of habit which usually dominates us. But as di Prima says, one must "find out for yourself."

Devin at the piano.
Madeline Bruser

Last last year, my son Devin read a book on playing the piano by Madeline Bruser that changed his way of playing (and ruined his life, as changes in our habits can do, shifting him away from a highly rigorous and ambitious routine of daily practice into... well, he has ended up in Istanbul). After reading parts of her book, I, too, wanted to meet her. Madeline was an serious and accomplished classical pianist long before she met Chögyam Trungpa, but a single opportunity of playing for him in 1979 changed her life and her way of playing the piano forever. The short version of the story is that Trungpa ignored and seemingly mocked Madeline's playing - at the time, a highly dramatic style - until, barely able to maintain her composure any longer, Madeline suddenly clicked into a new mode of playing, far less self conscious and far more natural, actual. She could only remain in the mode for a few moments, but after that night she could never return to her previous way of playing. From the gap of reality Trungpa opened, Madeline went on to develop a way of playing that become a way of teaching others. She wrote a book, The Art of Practicing, and eventually retired from performing in order to devote all her energies to sharing what she has learned with others. In Madeline's words:
In connecting so much with music I was also connecting to my whole life more. Professionally, the key moment came when I discovered a new posture at the piano which came directly from meditation practice, from sitting still and upright for a set period of time every day, no matter what emotions were going through my body. That discipline, after eight years, resulted in my being able to maintain simple, upright posture at the piano too, no matter how emotional the music was. I was able to just let the music flow through me without reacting against it or manipulating it. It just happened that way I just found myself playing that way. Then I had my students try this posture, and they all played 100 percent better on the spot. And that was like light bulbs going on in my head I suddenly realized that I had something important to teach, and that became more exciting to me than performing.
 Madeline Bruser
I respect - and am honored to share - Madeline's assimilation of her experiences and lessons from her teachers, her own diligence and rigor, her commitment to the way of the piano. I visited Madeline at her NYC apartment and 99th and West End Avenue. In upcoming weeks, I will post a video interview with Madeline, a document of our two hour conversation.

John Perks

Adanaire Celtic Buddhist Center, Saxtons River, VT

John Perks

As the maple leaves were accelerating their turn to red, I rented a car in Lebanon New Hampshire and took the short drive sought to Saxtons River Vermont, home of a longtime friend, John Perks, founder of Celtic Buddhism and known within that community as The Venerable Seonaidh Perks. John is also the author of The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant, a memoir of his time with Chögyam Trungpa. The photograph above - and the fact that John went on to be Bill Cosby's butler - shows John to be the man he is and as I perceive him: the recipient of many experiences, with a profound, incessant and activated  sense of humor, affectionate, loving, exploring and contributing to the human journey, a sane and lunatic tributary from the mind-transmission of Lord Mukpo (it could not be otherwise). John was quick to dress up for my proposed photo shoot and I assured him his choice of costume would dispel the sense that others might have that he is crazy.

The Venerable Seonaidh Perks

Julia and John Perks

I can't pretend to know what Celtic Buddhism is, though what I encountered at Adanaire - of John, his wife, the land they live on, the stones and shrines he showed me, even the beef bourguignon he cooked for me - was animate with the drala teaching principles; their universality, their common sense, their way of making the spiritual obvious. For instance, from the Celtic Buddhism website, John gives this definition of having a teacher:
With the teacher, whoever is your teacher, in Celtic Buddhism we say Anam Cara. It’s a Celtic term that means “soul mate” actually, so that the relationship between you and your teacher is a similar aspect – it’s one of being soulmates. We’ll talk about the Anam Cara system possibly in our next talk. In any case, when that transmission occurs maybe nothing special happens for a while. Then, because of one’s whole openness and sensitivity towards another being, one’s teacher, then even after that teacher is no longer physically present, still the relationship is there and is still continuing. So that lineage is very much like that.

Central stone of stone circle, Adanaire

From the website, the origin of the Celtic Buddhist lineage:
Trungpa Rinpoche felt that a culture needed to deal with its own history, mythology and social structure in its relationship to Buddhism. He felt that these cultural aspects were difficult to ‘see' because of their transparency, and that through investigation one could come to understand his or her cultural biases and their illusory nature. In Seonaidh's travels with Trungpa, particularly in Ireland, they had many long discussions about the early nature-based Celtic religion and also the Celtic Christian Church. Before Rinpoche's death in 1987, he told Seonaidh that he should go out on his own and start a lineage.
The Venerable Seonaidh Perks says of Celtic Buddhism: 
It's still a big question mark as to what Celtic Buddhism is going to evolve into. It's important to make the question mark very big, so that it remains a big open question. Not only about oneself, but the society in which one lives. Celtic Buddhism could be viewed as an open exploratory adventure with no conclusions.

View from stone circle back to farmhouse, Anadaire.

Jack Niland

I've run out of time to feature Jack Niland in the post, so I will do so next week. Jack is a mind and lineage holder of Lord Mukpo's legacy, someone fated to receive teachings on art and Buddhism no one else necessarily did, meeting Trungpa/Lord Mukpo early after his arrival in the United States. In fact, Jack did not even know who Trungpa was in 1970 when he was ushered into a room - seemingly by accident - to meet him. Trungpa immediately announced, "Oh, I've been waiting for you!" Below are two products of Jack's continuing work with the principles of art and dharma; the first a design motif, the second a pair of identical silk-screened tee-shirts he gave Devin and me.

A current design Jack is working on.

Devin and Bill, Istanbul.

View from 6th-floor hotel room window, Istanbul.


  1. dang! sorry I missed you on your roll through NH Bill_

  2. Need to know John is ok. Just an old friend checking in.