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I think you can say the proof is in the pudding. I don’t feel I was exploited because this was not a casual encounter. This is something that developed into a deep, meaningful, lifelong relationship. It was not a frivolous encounter. On the other hand, one can’t emulate Rinpoche’s life. I think that would be very dangerous, and I’m certainly not saying that I would condone 28-year-olds sleeping with 15-year-olds. This was a special and unique situation with a special and unique person.

Steve Silberman: Your first stopping point en route to the United States was Canada, because you had visa problems. You were living in modest circumstances but received help from some of Rinpoche’s American students.

Diana Mukpo: The initial couple of weeks we hadn’t connected with anyone to help us. We were very, very poor. We lived in an old studio apartment in the university district of Montreal and we basically ate only rice. After a couple of weeks, we connected with students who were able to help us. These were American students who had studied with Rinpoche at Samye Ling, and they had decided to start a practice center in the United States.

Steve Silberman: This became Tail of the Tiger in Vermont. From your description, the atmosphere in the early days there was quite informal. People were dropping in and out at all hours. Rinpoche was wearing overalls and living very intimately with his students. Was this difficult for you at times?

Diana Mukpo: Well, at times that was difficult for me all the way through, even as the situation evolved over the years. Rinpoche was very, very patient with his students. Initially, he met people at their own level at a place where he could really communicate with them, and then gradually things evolved. One of the pivotal points was the visit of His Holiness the Karmapa in 1974, when the mandala Rinpoche created around him as a teacher changed. Rinpoche had so much devotion and respect towards His Holiness, and his students were able to observe that. They began to understand how they should express their devotion to Rinpoche, who had never asked for anything like that for himself.

Steve Silberman: After you moved to Boulder, Colorado, there was a tremendous evolution of the community in a very short time, with the establishment of the Naropa Institute and the growth of Rinpoche’s sangha. What was it like to be there as all of Rinpoche’s different programs flourished and people started coming from all over the world to study?

Diana Mukpo: You know, I didn’t have much of a conceptual reference point at that point. You have to remember I was very young. But I trusted Rinpoche implicitly, and it was wonderful to watch the richness that was coming into our lives. I watched his world grow and develop. The brilliance of his mind tended to magnetize all sorts of situations. It was very exciting. It was a very happening time.

Steve Silberman: At that point, did you consider yourself a student of Rinpoche’s or something different because you were his wife?

Diana Mukpo: I always considered myself—and I still do—primarily a student to Rinpoche. My relationship with Rinpoche was initially a spiritual connection, which evolved into a love relationship as well. But first and primarily I always felt that I was his student.

Steve Silberman: In a personal sense, what was it that made you fall in love with him?

Diana Mukpo: He was the kindest person I ever met. Sometimes I hear people talk about being afraid of him because he could be rough. Of course there were times he could be rough, and he had so much insight into people’s minds. You always felt he could read you like an open book, but he never misused his power. What he did was always based on empathy. He was an unbelievably kind, insightful, and intelligent person.

Steve Silberman: In a poem that Rinpoche wrote to you in 1982, he said, “You never hesitate to tell me the truth when you see the falsity.” What was it like to be in the position of standing up to someone like that, whom other people saw as close to infallible?

Diana Mukpo: First, Rinpoche always wanted feedback. He very, very much encouraged his students’ critical intelligence. One of the reasons that people were in his circle was that they were willing to be honest and direct with him. He definitely was not one of those teachers who asked for obedience and wanted their students not to think for themselves. He thrived, he lived, on the intelligence of his students. That is how he built his entire teaching situation.

From my perspective, I could always be pretty direct with him. Maybe I was not hesitant to do that because I really trusted the unconditional nature of our relationship. I felt there was really nothing to lose by being absolutely direct with him, and he appreciated that.

Steve Silberman: One of the things that people who knew Rinpoche often said about him was that he was not ordinary—that he lacked ego in the usual sense and that the habitual patterns of human personality were simply not present in him. What do you think about that? Did you relate to him as an ordinary human being as well as a great tantric guru?

Diana Mukpo: Actually, no, to be honest, not at all. Rinpoche wasn’t ordinary. There was nothing about him that was ordinary. I remember looking at him and thinking, I can never really predict how you are going to react to something. Generally, you know how people you are close to will react to things, but you could never predict Rinpoche’s reactions. On that level he was unfathomable.

Rinpoche didn’t have two personas, one out there with the public and one at home. He was always the same person. He was absolutely extraordinary, and I think I’m a good judge of that, having lived with him all those years. So no, there was no occasion in my entire marriage to him that I thought he was an ordinary person [laughs]. Sometimes I craved that. I’d say to him, “Come on, just be normal for one evening, take me to the movies,” and he would say to me, “I am going to stay at home because it is the best movie of all.” [laughs]

Steve Silberman: Did you ever go to the movies with him?

Diana Mukpo: I think we went to a couple of movies, which was pretty notable. I remember we went to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after we got married. We went to Love Story and we almost got thrown out.

Steve Silberman: Why?

Diana Mukpo: [laughs] Because he was making loud comments because he didn’t like the sort of… [laughs]. He was going “Yuck!” when she was dying. He was misbehaving in the movie theater and they told us that if he wasn’t quiet we’d have to leave.

Steve Silberman: Do you recall ever getting angry with him?

Diana Mukpo: Sometimes we would fight. We would have a really angry fight, and then the air would clear right away—we never hung on to our fights. We would get very mad at each other, and then an hour later everything would be fine. I think the only times I had some depth of anger with Rinpoche was when I felt he wasn’t taking care of his health. I knew that his primary commitment was to his students and to teaching, but it was painful for me to see him lose his health. Sometimes I was so angry that he wasn’t taking better care of himself.

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