Buddhanature

When I was in France this summer, I met with my teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, for five minutes. He’s busy—he has commitments, a foundation to run, a lot of students who want to see him: thousands. In fact, we are all clambering to see him. Who knows what we want from him—a lot of weird things. This summer, for instance, he cautioned us, at the program in France, not to talk to him about so-called “tantric sex.” He said something like, “I don’t know what tantric sex is, and I don’t want to know. So if you think you’re having it, don’t tell me about it.” We can be pretty crazy.

Anyway, I met with him for five minutes. We were outside, on a porch in the back of the house in the exquisite Dordogne Valley where he was staying. He was in robes. I feel like he was barefoot, but probably not—he was probably wearing sandals. He walked in front of me, slowly, his back towards me, when I first got outside, and I followed. It’s when he walks, that I often see him as a prince, or these days, as a king. He has that quality.

Finally, he motioned for me to sit down in a chair by a table. Then he leaned up against that same table, about a foot from me, crossed his ankles one over the other, and smiled at me, or maybe even chuckled. We talked, and he laughed a lot, like he was happy, and having fun. It was like we were on a date—he was very near, and he was having a nice time. (We weren’t on a date, FYI, don’t worry.) But that’s what he made me feel—that he was having a nice time, just being there for that five minutes one early evening in the Dordogne Valley. It felt personal.

Like I said, he is very busy, there were other people waiting in the foyer to see him. Many people had come before me on that day, and the days before that. But he just leaned against the table, and smiled. He wasn’t anywhere but there. It sounds like nothing, but it startled me. Though it was completely simple and subtle, it was a gift. The gift was, I’m here. The gift was, You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

But I don’t feel O.K. like that. I don’t feel, inside myself, that I know that kind of acceptance. No one’s ever treated me like that before, like there was nothing at all wrong. (This is nothing “spiritual,” by the way. This is not a woo-woo thing, with incense and bells and prayer.) This is what I left my summer with. This is how it is: You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

Anyway, it’s time for me to tell you this. I probably haven’t conveyed it, the message. I haven’t been treated like that, and I haven’t treated people like that. So now I’d like to convey it. I’m going to start here. I’m going to start now.

(Photo: Rinpoche by Pawo Choyning Dorji; taken with a Hipstamatic iPhone camera)

The Virgin and the Gypsy

I think it’s time to post this. I wrote it one morning in Berlin this past summer, for Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, on the occasion of his birthday.

This morning, bedroom

We were getting high, my friend Janet and I, behind the church by the grocery store. Back then, if you got caught, you’d be taken into the station, put before a judge—who knows what else: Raped? Ruined? We were fourteen, fifteen tops. We were the smart girls in our class, and still some of the junkies in town knew us and called us the Virgin and the Gypsy. Back then, when I got high, the earth would sometimes tip and I would start falling. It was not a pleasant feeling, but it was better than the other one, the one that I still feel sometimes–the overwhelming knowing that I am actually, like a new bird fallen from its nest, too alone.

Anyway, we were behind the church, sitting on the summer grass, and we were high, when suddenly we heard the sound of footsteps. Now, the church and the grocery store were separated only by a chain-link fence and an embankment (on the grocery-store side) crowded with trees and garbage. We were about six feet from the fence, almost close enough to reach over and touch it with our outstretched fingers. We could see the trees on the other side, but we could not see the person approaching us. We could only hear their heavy footsteps in the dry leaves. I said we were stoned—did I say we were falling?
***
Let me take a quick break to say that for my tenth birthday, my mother gave me twenty dollars, and sent me with our housekeeper to Chinatown. She couldn’t come with me on this birthday journey, because my father was very sick. I didn’t know that my father was dying, right then, at the time—I just knew that I was spending my tenth birthday alone. O.K. What I wanted for my twenty dollars was to find something that would make my father feel better. I scoured Chinatown looking for that remedy. I paced the winding streets, endured the dancing chicken and the fish smothering in their tanks. I bought him a pair of pajamas from some men with comb-overs, but that wasn’t it. It, it turns out, was perfect: Though my father was a Jew, what I found for him was a plaster Buddha, about a foot and a half high, spray-painted gold.
***
You mentioned the dog eating its own shit and not looking back. I’m happy (and afraid) to report that I eat my own shit less and less, but when I do eat it, I always look back. I always look back. I trust nothing and no one. I am trying my best to trust you.
***
My father died three days later.
***
The footsteps were heavy and slow, and were definitely heading up the embankment in our direction, as we fell towards them, stoned out of our minds. I stabbed out my joint in the grass. (Grass to grass, ashes to dirt.) I could hear that Janet had stopped breathing. I stopped breathing, too. Continue reading “The Virgin and the Gypsy”