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Some Tibetan teachers will tell you that a moderate amount of practice is better than nothing if that’s all you can do. Khandro Rinpoche, however, is not one of those teachers. As Jann Jackson says, “She is completely uncompromising about the dharma.” But Khandro Rinpoche understands how hard it is to juggle responsibilities. She has two children herself—two adopted daughters—both under ten. She has students all over the world whom she travels to teach every year (about 500 in North America), and who come to see her on a regular basis. She takes care of her father’s monastery in Dehra Dun, and she runs the Karma Chokhor Dechen nunnery in Rumtek and the Samten Tse retreat center for nuns in Mussoorie.
When you ask her what the most enjoyable part of her “job” is, she tilts her head and looks at you uncomprehendingly. “Do you enjoy teaching?” you ask, and she says, “I wouldn’t say ‘enjoy’ or ‘not enjoy.’ It’s what I seem to be doing lately.”
“It’s hard work,” you offer.
“No,” she says, “it’s not. It’s the easier part. Back home it is harder work: It’s always harder work when you reach home base because there you have all the different responsibilities, right down to the plumbing, the flat tires, the bills, the electricity—everything. That’s tiring.”
And that brings you back full circle: What is it, you ask, that she is working on now in terms of her own practice and her own life? and she says, “the simplicity of resting.”
But what is that? you ask her. What is “simplicity” in this crazy world? What is “resting”?
“I think it is not being so worried about things,” she says, looking you in the eye. Then she points to a flower arrangement—a spare assortment of roses and tulips in a shallow dish—and says, “It is a beautiful ikebana.” She leans forward and looks more closely at the flowers. Then she says, “If I were alone in this room with nothing to do, I would probably rearrange it a little bit.” She sits back and looks at you again. “But it doesn’t need rearranging.” She folds her hands. Her nails are long and clean. “It’s just that there’s a certain quality of unnecessary restlessness, sitting here with that flower.”
She stands up. “The restlessness is just something to keep you preoccupied, and then you lose simplicity.” She holds out her hand. “O.K.?” she says. You give her your hand, and she shakes it. Then she adjusts her robe across her shoulder and heads out, maybe to rest, maybe not.
Trish Deitch Rohrer is the former executive editor of the Shambhala Sun. Her previous stories for the Sun included profiles of Richard Gere and Sharon Salzberg.
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