In 2010, as I was preparing to go to Nepal for the first time, someone asked me to bring a water purifier to Nepal for them. I thought the water purifier would be small like a Brita or something, so I said yes. I thought, I’m already taking this much stuff along, what’s one more thing!
During a cold Wisconsin January as I was getting ready in the weeks prior to the trip, the purifier finally arrived. But the box looked quite large…
And when I opened it, I found this contraption with a reservoir that I’d guess could hold 10 gallons (if Germans used gallons). I wondered how I’d fit everything and wondered if it was too late to recant and say ‘no’ to bringing this device as the purifier took up about 3/4 space in one of my 2 army-sized duffle bags.
While in Nepal, the purifier moved with me to multiple new residences and after more than a month, after no one seemed to ever be coming to pick it up, it became sort of a joke. Me and this water purifier seemed stuck together and the hip.. from Wisconsin to Delhi, to Kathmandu, and then there with me at multiple hotels and guest-houses for more than a month, there we were. No matter where I was, the tag-a-long purifier, the ever-present elf on the shelf, my proverbial shadow, followed!
Then one day, a man finally did come for it while I was working at Shechen Clinic. We stood and talked for awhile and and he told me that the purifier was for none other than for Chatral Rinpoche at his hermitage.
I was shocked that the purifier I had been dragging around was from the beginning was destined for Chatral Rinpoche! I had a lump in my throat, as I knew, in my mind, I had spent a considerable amount of time complaining about it.
I asked the man if he could arrange I meet Rinpoche, but he said Chatral Rinpoche wasn’t really seeing people anymore (he was already 98 years-young, at the time) other than close students so I didn’t push that further.
The man told me I had done something good in bringing the purifier, thanked me, and then left with his quarry. That was that.
After the fact, I let my mind wander on the subject. I thought to myself, if I had only known it was for Chatral Rinpoche, I wouldn’t have complained so much!
I learned a few things from this experience.
1. Never tire of helping others, no matter how small the task – we never know what kind of benefit it may bring. With our limited scope, many times we have no idea what kind of benefit (or harm) our actions may bring. The smallest action might yield great benefit, depending how conditions unfold, and in most cases there are always a few conditions that will remain hidden to us, therefore it is best to exert ourselves and do our best to guard our mind against negativity. In this case, I had no idea I was carrying something that would allow Chatral Rinpoche to drink cool, clean life-sustaining water. The opportunity to make an offering like that doesn’t come around everyday! But in my mind, I was already considering the recipient of this purifier to be just a normal Joe, an everyday person, and became annoyed with the task when it carried on for too long.
2. We should treat all beings as if they were timeless masters. My first thought was, “Oh, I should have thought about the purifier differently, because it was for Chatral Rinpoche!” It’s true I should have. But, wouldn’t it have also been good to offer the purifier to a normal person with the same degree of care?
I bet Chatral Rinpoche would have happily trucked that purifier around himself without resenting it, whether the target owner be a sage master, homeless beggar. Chatral Rinpoche displayed that type of equanimity throughout his life; with one hand, giving Dzogchen instructions to important high lamas, and with the other, tirelessly saved the lives of millions of fish from the Calcutta markets, marked for certain death by inexhaustibly releasing them back into the sea.
Chatral Rinpoche, passed away on December 30th, 2015.
Chatral Sangye Dorje, known commonly as Chatral Rinpoche, was a mendicant master of Vajrayana Buddhism who lived so long, it seems people are unsure of his actual age with varying accounts ranging between 102 and 105.
A fascinating yogin who captured the attention and hearts of many, yet remained elusive to most, was truly the last link to the Tibetan Buddhist masters of the 19th century and his teachers included Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, the female tantrika – Sera Khandro, Khenpo Ngachung, and Dudjom Rinpoche.
To read more about Chatral Rinpoche’s life, click here.
A few links to some of his teachings in English, here.
And finally, a touching message from Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche on Chatral Rinpoche’s passing, that captures just how renowned and elusive, simple yet profound he really was, here.