Yup, that’s what we called it even though it took less than two hours to get there. Cesar picked me up by 9 am and we happily set off in anticipation at seeing Khenchen Rinpoche and his trusty attendant, Lama Phurba. They live in Cochecton, New York at the Center of Gyaltrul Rinpoche and were in the west to visit friends and to enjoy a bit of warmer winter weather.
Khenchen Rinpoche has a very impressive bio but when you meet him, he seems like a simple monk, warm and welcoming, speaking only Tibetan. He had no translator so he would not be giving us a formal teaching. We were going to practice Chenrezig with him at the Santa Barbara Center with some other folks both local and from as far as San Luis Obispo.
We arrived 15 minutes early and had a chance to greet friends, with whom it is always wonderful to reconnect. We stood as Rinpoche entered right on time. Without any fanfare, we began. The idea was that we would recite a section of the ritual in English and then Rinpoche would do it in Tibetan. Tibetan “pujas” are usually sung. Theoretically we could sing along with him as we have the phonetics in our ritual texts. But could we?
That was the best part for me. Rinpoche is near eighty if not more and the melodies that he sings are for us quite slippery to our western ears and different from anything we have ever heard. We tried our level best to follow him but could never ever manage to be on the same note. We sounded so awful that it was cause for some discreet hilarity. It was strangely delightful to be held in the suspension of not ever being able to find the same note as Rinpoche (or each other) but of trying to sing something. And all the while Rinpoche was totally relaxed and doing his practice as if we were not all caterwauling. After gathering for a group photo, Rinpoche and I somehow got our feet tangled up and caught each other before we fell into the flower bed. Lama Phurba gave me some special Tibetan tea. I hope to find a recipe for Tibetan butter tea for the next Duchen celebration.
Some of us walked up the street to The Daily Grind, a sandwich shop where we could sit outside and enjoy the company of good Dharma friends. Then Cesar and I stopped in Carpenteria for an extra bonus of visiting our buddy Deidre who used to belong to Pasadena Bodhi Path, but relocated to be near her mother in Santa Barbara. She has a lovely apartment and served us tea, dates and tangerines from the Farmer’s Market. We missed viewing the baby seals up the beach, but it was getting late and we needed to get back “on the road again” toward home.