Here Comes Chögyam
By Diana Mukpo

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and I were married on January 3, 1970, when I was 16 years old and he was thirty. We arrived in North America in March of that same year. There couldn't have been a bigger contrast between the difficulties of our final days in Scotland and the chaotic but cheerful energy we encountered on the North American continent.

This was a period of great change in Rinpoche's life, which brought with it considerable difficulty and upheaval. Following a car accident in 1969, Rinpoche had decided to give up his monastic robes and become a lay teacher. This was the beginning of a transformation that was crucial to his pivotal role in bringing the Tibetan Buddhist teachings to North America. Rinpoche was unique in the way he taught, in that he presented the Buddhist teachings without the cultural trappings of his upbringing.

Buddhism per se does not have a cultural identity, because it is about mind, which has no particular cultural allegiance. Rinpoche made a statement in the way that he lived his life-that the buddhadharma was not bounded by its cultural situation or origins. He showed that the buddhadharma is applicable to all people as long as they have minds to work with.

I see Rinpoche as a pioneer in bringing Buddhism to the West, in much the same way as Padmasambhava first brought the teachings of Buddhism to Tibet with fresh and outrageous energy. It's easy to see this in retrospect. But at the time we were married and then moved to America, things were not all that easy for us.

From "Here Comes Chögyam," by Diana Mukpo. Shambhala Sun, November 2003.