After staying with Don Cherry and his family in Sweden I went on a tour of Buddhist centers paying my way by painting thankas and ending up at Kalu Rimpoche’s center, Kagyu Ling, in France where I stayed for one and a half year.
Various high lamas came to the center to give teachings. For me, the most memorable visit was that of the 64-year-old Nenang Pawo Rimpoche, one of the highest masters of the Kagyu lineage. I saw him first in Paris where I went to his teaching. When I entered the meditation room I thought that he looked directly at me and smiled, but I was not sure, he had already begun the teachings and the room was full of people and it seemed strange to me that this high lama would take special notice of me.
I returned to Kagyu Ling and a few days later Pawo Rimpoche arrived. All the residents assembled in his room to bid him welcome. I sat on the floor right by the door. Rimpoche got up and went out and as he passed me he gave me a sign to follow. I got up and went along with him to the bathroom and he led me into one of the stalls. I thought he needed some help, but he hugged me and started to kiss me and grope me. I was too surprised to react. Come tonight, he said, come tonight! And he wouldn’t let me go till I had promised to come.
I don’t like to go back on my word, and maybe I was also curious about where this adventure would take me, so, when midnight had passed and the whole center was dark and quiet, I tiptoed from my room down the stairs, along the corridor and knocked on his door. He had expected me, and he invited me into his bed and we made love. It was quite nice and it was late before he let me go and I had to promise to come back the next night. He was very compelling and he had little English and I had little Tibetan so our communication was restricted.
I was rather tired the following day but I kept telling myself that I had to go since I had promised. So, when everybody had settled down for the night, I was again feeling my way through the dark castle to another tryst. It seemed that he couldn’t get enough, and the next day I was confused and felt out of sorts by having this clandestine affair in the center. Most of all I was exhausted.
I decided to tell him that I had to stop. All I could come up with in Tibetan was ’not good’ and that’s what I told him on the third night before leaving. He protested, but he also gave me a gift, a mala (rosary) of red corals hooked together with gold links.
Next day, as I was working on a painting in my room, Rimpoche came and sat down next to me and started feeling me up. I was determined to stop and I drew away from him and kept saying ‘not good’ in Tibetan. He said: “Everybody does it. Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa do it”. I had no idea how he knew about my connection with them, but I did not believe him. I had lived with them more than two years and I was sure that they kept their vows. Rimpoche finally left, but I was afraid that he would come back at night so I locked my door.
Rimpoche and me to the right behind him
The whole thing was puzzling and I had an urge to talk about it with my good friend Julie, a Dutch woman who lived in the castle with her husband and her daughter. She laughed and said: “He has kissed and groped every single male in the center”. She told me the whole story that I had been too caught up to notice. There was uproar in the center. Rimpoche had groped her husband and a French nun had surprised them when she entered to clean the bathroom; she was shaken in her faith. Rimpoche had groped the American monk who lived at the center and he was shocked so profoundly that he had given up his monkhood and had left for America. That was no great loss; I think he was better off not being a monk. Most people were cool; it seemed that Rimpoche had a reputation and it was considered best not to mention it. A gay friend of mine from Paris talked warmly of Rimpoche and showed me a scarf he had given him. Aha, you too, I thought.
I began to form a picture of the different people’s reactions and there was something in the way Rimpoche had shook up everybody that I liked. For myself I felt I had learned that it was OK to be open about one’s desires and act on them, and also something about the tediousness of sexual obsession. It looked to me as if Rimpoche was using his lust to give hands-on practical teachings (pun intended). He stirred things up radically, but he took all the blame on himself. And he had a lot of fun!
A few days later Pawo Rimpoche left and the French nun burned bundles of incense in his room and in front of the castle to exorcise the unclean spirits.