Posted by: Bruce Proctor | July 9, 2010

“Tibetan Chief Brings Rain”

I lived at Marpa House in Boulder, Colorado, it must have been 1977, for a year, part of Trungpa Rinpoche’s community, in a converted frat house, which housed say forty of us.

During that time His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu spiritual lineage, came to Boulder on an extended visit. We rented and remodeled a mansion we called the Wedding Cake House for him and his entourage. (I remember working one whole afternoon scrubbing the copper or brass on the inside trim of one doorway.)

The following tale was told to me by Peter Kola, a remarkable wildlife painter and friend, who went along on the trip, and told me about it afterward. I want to make clear that this is my memory of Peter’s tale, and my putting this on record, although I’ve told it as straight as I remember it, is a secondhand account. Ellipses are mine, to help give the reader a little context.

His Holiness wanted to visit the Hopi country while he was in the United States, in Boulder. [Many have noted similarities between the looks of these two peoples, their landscapes, lifestyles, and symbols, even though they’re separated by half the planet.] An entourage gathered, Peter among them, and drove down.

At the edge of that country, at a canyon overlook, His Holiness asked to stop. Everyone stopped and got out. It was the height of summer, and The Hopi were experiencing an extended drought. [The Hopi live in a desert environment, and rain ceremonies are held in the spring. If the rains do not come, the results can be devastating.] As the entourage milled about, a cloud formed at the end of the canyon and after fifteen minutes or so, it began to rain.

When His Holiness arrived at the Hopi village, he was met by elders of the tribe. He wanted to see the underground kivas which are generally jealously guarded from outsiders. I got the impression from Peter—something that I had not known before—that there were Hopis down there for extended periods doing sacred practices.

When His Holiness came back to the surface, he was deeply troubled at the spiritual emptiness he sensed down there now, and decided on the spot to offer one of his signature empowerment ceremonies to the Hopis that evening. [To set the scene: such ceremonies are public occasions, with blaring traditional horns, monks chanting, and His Holiness seated high upon a decorated platform and throne. At some point, people will file past His Holiness with an offering, and he will bless each of them with a touch, and likely a smile.]

Peter said that even though many folks are remote and had no telephones, Hopis began arriving, many with gifts, that afternoon from all over the reservation, and that evening the ceremony took place.

The following week, the banner headline of the Hopi weekly paper read “Tibetan Chief Brings Rain.”

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