Compassion in Action From Mandala October 1989 By Ven. Roger Kunsang
fter being in such close contact with Lama Zopa Rinpoche for so long, I am beginning to see that his physical appearance is probably his only similarity to ordinary, worldly people. His actions are the opposite of those of most worldly people, and as the teachings say, that is a sign of a pure Dharma practitioner. It is difficult to find him doing anything but Dharma. At four o’clock in the morning he is sitting doing his meditation; on airplanes he starts meditating as soon as he sits down; when he stands up, he is still doing his prayers. He is completely dedicated to benefiting sentient beings and is totally unconcerned about himself. I do not believe he sleeps, but at certain times he will nod off, giving the appearance of sleep. For example, he nearly always nods off when being driven in a car, and sometimes around dawn, when the schedule is quite heavy, he has the appearance of nodding off for an hour but he never lies down. There is no “I” or “mine” with Rinpoche’s possessions. Those ideas are as distant as anything could be from him. Whatever he receives one minute is given away the next. The only possession Rinpoche has kept for any time is a maroon cardigan from Lama Yeshe who made him promise he would never give it away. Everything else goes. He often gives his robes away. They go quickly, and it is quite often difficult to obtain new ones. I remember once in Delhi I was frantically packing and had just managed to get everything together. It was the usual panic of racing out the door to get to the airport on time.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, an extraordinary lama, with guitar and clarinet in Adelaide, Australia, 1983. Photo by Wendy Finster.
When Rinpoche stood up after finishing his prayers – he is usually doing them up to the last minute and then does a couple of extra pujas after the last minute – I had to look twice as he was walking out the door with just his underskirt on, no shemtab (the monk’s lower robe). The underskirt was half-way between his ankles and his knees and he had his shoes on without socks as he had given his socks away with his last shemtab. I had to plead with him to take back the shemtab which I retrieved from the person he had given it to but it was difficult to convince Rinpoche to accept it. He didn’t think it was necessary, but I told him that going to the airport dressed in just his underskirt did not look right. Rinpoche once gave a lecture at a place where many high lamas had given teachings. There was a large visitors’ book, and it was traditional for each lama to put a photograph of himself in the autograph book and sign it. All the photographs were of lamas sitting on thrones and wearing hats becoming of a high lama. Rinpoche spent some time looking for a photograph and chose one of himself holding a guitar, wearing sunglasses and a large beach hat, and hugging a black dog. The dog was wearing December 2011 MANDALA EZINE 13