The black crows

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In 1992, Panchen Otrul Rinpoche visited Toronto. He gave a number of teachings and initiations at Tengye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Temple and was then heading off to Lindsay to visit a number of Tibetan families who lived there. I volunteered to drive him and several Tibetans who were accompanying him.

I picked everybody up on a sunny spring morning from Mrs. Tulotsang’s house where he was staying and we set off down the 401 and then up 35. What do you do to entertain a high lama on a road trip? How do you stay calm when you know you are responsible for the welfare of an emanation of the Panchen Lama? I popped in a cassette I had made of “Lama Choepa,” by Panchen Chökyi Gyaltsen, the first Panchen Lama (in an excellent English translation set to music by Robert Preece) and sang along out loud for my passengers.

The trip and the puja both took a bit more than an hour to complete. Along the way, just as we came to climax of the tsok offering, I saw two huge black crows at the side of the road feasting on a dead animal’s fresh carcass. The timing could not have been more perfect, yet the entire event was over in an instant as we whizzed past. Knowing crows as emanations of Yamantaka and as special guardians of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I was profoundly moved – to the degree that even now, almost 20 years later, I can still picture those two crows. In fact, every time I see a crow I say a prayer because of what happened that day.

We arrived safely with many well wishes all ’round and I drove back to Toronto, my knees shaking.

A Sumeru story

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