One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same any place in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear. — Dave Brubeck



Thursday, May 13, 2021

The funeral of Ösel Tendzin. Deliver us from cults.

My friend Barbara O’Brian alerted me to this article by Steven Butterfield, When the Teacher Fails. In 1990 when Ösel Tendzin died in San Francisco where he’d come for treatment of advanced HIV disease, I was living at Hartford Street Zen Center and working at Maitri AIDS Hospice. It felt important for some reason that Maitri, a Buddhist program set up for helping ease the pain of the AIDS epidemic, should be present for the funeral of an important Buddhist teacher who’d died from the disease. 

Shambala was going to conduct the elaborate funeral ritual at their center on 16th and Mission. So we phoned, asked if we could attend, and were given a time; we put on our rakusus and climbed to the second floor above a Jack-in-the Box. I can’t actually describe my shock. It may have been the first Tibetan ritual that I’d attended, but when we entered the hall and made our prostrations, there was Ösel’s corpse kind of trussed up in an awkward meditation posture, full regalia, barely masking the ropes and poles required to hold the body upright. I’d sat with many men who died of AIDS so it was not that the body itself showed the ravages of the disease which were not hidden. It was not that the ritual seemed foreign or exotic. It was, but it was a Tibetan ritual and I wasn’t expecting some low church Episcopalian service. 

What overwhelmed me was the absolute veneration of a man who had knowingly infected others with AIDS. Shambala had tried to mitigate the damage with some mystical smokescreen. It was rumored that some had spread the lie that the guru’s Vajra powers bestowed by the lineage would prevent reinfection, or that it was even an opening for the great enlightenment. But there was at least one teenage boy involved, a young man whose life was now cut short. Everyone present, and there were several hundred, knew that their Regent had knowingly infected people with HIV and that their deaths would be soon upon them. Somehow it was all supposed to be OK in the great scheme of things. The drums beat, the chanting began, and finally Steve Allen got up and motioned for us to leave. On the way down the stairs he said, “All that was missing was the bones in their noses.” 

We returned to Hartford Street, and I got up the next morning to take care of Bernie and JD, and the 5 other men in our care. And I have never picked up “Cutting through Spiritual Materialism” again or recommended it to anyone, and I never will.




When I was searching Google for a picture of Mr.Thomas Rich, I found this on vajraregent.org. I think that some people are still in deep denial. 

This is offered with love, appreciation and gratitude to Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and his Vajra Regent and dharma heir Ösel Tendzin, for the benefit of their present and future disciples, and all beings.

Through hearing, seeing and contemplating these teachings of the Vidyadhara through his Vajra Regent,

May we realize the essence of transmission from teacher to student.

May we hold precious this seed planting of Vajrayana dharma and Shambhala vision in the West.

Through their gestures and words, may we wake up on the spot.

May we not become confused by spiritual materialism in any form.

Now, practicing moment by moment until the end of this life and beyond, may we free all beings.

2 comments:

  1. On Facebook I responded to a comment: “hindsight is easy”
    I lived through that period of time, I took care of more than 100 men who died. My own teacher died. Of course it was difficult and of course it takes some time to sort it out. It took me years. And of course there were mistakes. However, and I think there's no passing the buck here, when there was arrogance and willful harm, we have to name it. So yeah of course hindsight is easier, but murder is still murder. Sexual abuse, of which I was the victim in my late 20's, is still abuse. People say, oh it was the 70's, Things were different. I have to strongly disagree. We knew that HIV was sexually transmitted for certain by 1983 when the virus was isolated by the Pasteur Institute in France. Osel knowing that he was positive for the virus had unprotected sex with a minor. Sorry. Call it what it was.

    ReplyDelete

"Finding God in All Things"

June 2, 2021 Bonnie Johnson Shurman Jan. 20, 1944-June 2, 2011 Today is the 10th anniversary of Bonnie's death. I am among t...