Cornflakes or Weetabix?

Sonia Moriceau

“Long before I was to meet the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche I heard of a tall Canadian monk from my first teacher, John Garrie Roshi, through a story which impressed me a lot at the time. Little did I know then that decades later I would be at the receiving end of similar exchanges, being in fact a mode of communication our teacher used.

The story that J.G. Roshi told was, during a retreat in England led by Rinpoche then known as the bhikkhu Ananda Bodhi, a conversation between the two of them took place at night during sleep/dream time. Rinpoche was ‘standing’ at the end of John Garrie’s bed and asked him, "What do you want for breakfast, cornflakes or Weetabix?’. Come breakfast time Rinpoche turned to J.G. and said, "It was Weetabix, wasn't it?", to which he replied, "No, cornflakes!".

This type of communication, these mind exchanges, between Rinpoche and his students were, I believe, common.

Over the years I have worked with Namgyal Rinpoche, and especially during the one-year retreat I undertook in 2001 in Canada, many times I was in communication with him in this way. There is no doubt that this is how he was able to communicate individually and simultaneously with a large group of students all gathered to listen to his teaching and be in his presence.

Imagination? Illusion? Rinpoche could be quite specific and practical as in the story with Roshi as to leave you in no doubt that some words had been exchanged without even needing to voice them aloud or even be in the same room!

One simply heard Rinpoche's voice very clearly, for example asking you to pass the water, to close a door, or giving you his preference as to what sort of accommodation he'll require when next in England.

I remember during one of those wonderful evening events at his home to raise money for the Dharma Centre when Rinpoche ‘asked’ me without needing to move his lips or even look in my direction to pass a plate of food around. As I ‘heard’ clearly the words, I stood up and reached for the plate glancing at him for some reassurance that I had ‘heard’ correctly. I was then met with a very satisfied smile! His ability to communicate in this way was also how he knew in detail what was going on in one’s practice.

During an insight retreat I was alone in my cabin practising a particular aspect and meeting some difficulty. The following day, Rinpoche looked directly at me and told me how to approach this quite specific point yet I had not spoken to him. I was merely inquiring in the privacy of my own mind, or so I thought!

During this same retreat I was practising the slow walking exercise in my cabin, naming each movement of the foot and leg like raising, lifting, moving, ropping, touching, and placing as instructed. At both ends of the walking path I practised standing and noting where the intention of moving came from — the body or mind — then continued with the naming of turning. I was breaking down the action of turning in many small movements accompanied with the naming. The next day in class Rinpoche told me that it was not necessary to do it like that. Simply to name turning as one movement was enough! How did he know I was doing it in such details?

The list is endless and all ‘conversations’ could be verified.

It was a wondrous form of intimacy in communication, so clear, direct, and consistent; so unencumbered and also so scary. In his presence I had to be careful or mindful of what I'd think or wish for. As in my experience all wholesome wishes I made in his presence were fulfilled. Similarly all my shortcomings were exposed vividly.

Do I dare use language to describe this oh so fine ability of an Enlightened Mind? His was the pure state of Dharmakaya, a clear, luminous Mind from which there is nothing to hide, nothing to add or take away, just surrendering and allowing one’s mind to fuse with the Teacher’s Mind in Bliss and Emptiness.

This was the biggest teaching I received and am still receiving from Rinpoche. Although his physical presence is no longer here, his voice is still manifesting clearly. The last time I heard his voice clearly was in 2007. When I began a longlife practice, the Mandarava sadhana, Rinpoche gave me clear and lengthy instructions on how to find the Mandarava lake. At the time I did not know that there WAS a Mandarava lake!

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