CREDOS : Turning to pain — III

James Kullander

Pema Chödrön: I started talking with Tsultrim, and I must have mentioned the article, or maybe she mentioned that her teacher was Chögyam Trungpa. She said that if I wanted to meet him I could come with her up to Boulder, Colorado, where he taught. I would have done it, but a few days later an old boyfriend of mine arrived at the Lama Foundation and told me that he was on his way to a Sufi camp in the French Alps. Because I was still in pain over my divorce, I went with him.

A Tibetan Buddhist lama came to the camp. His name was Lama Chime. When I saw him, I had the same experience that I’d had with Tsultrim. His talk didn’t make any sense to me, but the minute it was over I went up to him and asked, “Could I study with you?” He didn’t have a centre or anything like that, but he lived in London and said if I came there, he would give me some instruction. After I’d been with Lama Chime for two weeks, I took refuge, a vow through which one formally enters the Buddhist path. Then I took the bodhisattva vow, a personal vow to seek enlightenment and help others do the same. Two years later I was a nun, at 36.

JK: Do you recall having any early spiritual or religious inclinations?

I have no memories of any childhood spiritual aspirations, though I was raised Catholic. But some friends I grew up with say that they always thought of me as a spiritual person. One woman I know once said to me: “When my cousin died, you were the only one who really sat down with me and talked with me about the fact that my very close relative had drowned.” We must have been fifteen years old at the time. —