By Robert Spellman, Associate Professor
During my sabbatical last summer, I left on a long-planned trip to India. I was going at the request of the Ven. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the eminent Tibetan Buddhist teacher and filmmaker, who wanted me to give him drawing lessons. I was never very interested in India as a destination, but this was an invitation I couldn't refuse. I flew from Denver to New Delhi, then on to Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayan foothills, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. After a drive of some hours I arrived in the town of Bir, one of the large settlements of Tibetans in exile.
It was all quite dreamlike: I was Lemuel Gulliver washing ashore in a strange land, swept by fortuity and grace into the protection of the local king who treated me with great cordiality. Dzongsar Rinpoche moves easily between the ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition of his birth, and the chaotic rush of modernity. He engages it all with humor and tireless passion; and he is, to my eye, the perfect mix of devotion and irreverence. It was a rare pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to "teach" someone of this caliber. He told me that he looked forward to our drawing sessions, that sometimes it was the only time during his busy days that he could relax. I had no agenda in the situation, which I imagine was a relief to Rinpoche, and this lent a relaxed ease to our sessions. I'm very grateful for the time spent in his company.