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Trungpa-Rinpoche-teaching-in-North-America-circa-1970-photographer-unknown-240x300

The University of Colorado in those days had the reputation of being a second-tier school with a few stand-out departments, such as engineering. It was known to be popular with undergraduates who wanted proximity to Colorado’s ski areas, as well as the overall opportunity to play and party. So our expectations for the class were not high, and we were not disappointed. My memory was that 40 or so students sat slumped in their chairs (the kinds with an enlarged arm for notepads), giving the impression of sleepiness and apathy. In fact, a few of them later became devoted students of Rinpoche. You just never know.

The room was large, stark, bare, and brightly lit, both by the overhead fluorescents and the Colorado sunlight streaming in through out-sized windows. Rinpoche wore a sport coat and tie, portly with tousled hair. He stood before the class, blackboard behind him, the Flatirons visible through the windows, rising 1,800 feet into the clear blue sky. Marvin and I sat in the front row, to the side.

Rinpoche presented basic Buddhist doctrine, but with an emphasis on the teaching of “spiritual materialism,” which he felt was particularly relevant to his audiences at that time. America was in the throes of the counter-culture revolution, protests against the Vietnam War, and the invasion of Eastern religions from India, Tibet, Southeast Asia and Japan. Think Satguru, Maharishi and the Beatles, Yogi Bhajan, Hare Krishna on street corners and in airports, Zen Beats, macrobiotic diets, of course yoga and meditation and kundalini energy and much more. We were all so naïve, ready to ape the cultures of these imports, hoping that, by adopting their to-us-exotic forms, we would enjoy some benefit or release from unhappiness. Rinpoche spent a lot of his time debunking that notion: he once told an audience, almost apologetically, “If I told you to stand on your heads 24 hours-a-day, you would do it!” A lot of the Hindu teachers preached happiness/bliss/love, etc. Rinpoche called that “love and light.”

The lecture that most stands out in my memory – because it was so revelatory for me personally and so brilliant – was the one he gave on the trikaya, a Sanskrit term that refers to the three (tri) bodies (kaya) of the buddha: the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya, which are to be understood at various levels. This was not a lecture on spiritual materialism...

The Three Bodies of the Buddha | Shambhala Times Community News Magazine

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