The Hardest Teaching: An Attempt at Clarity from a Muddy Mind (Reflections on the Passing of our Teacher)

by Namdrol Miranda Adams

(May 31, 2023)  For many days I have been aspiring to put into writing what this has been like. But I’ve been unable to; instead I’ve swung between the states of deepest grief and quiet resignation. Neither of those places makes me feel like writing a single word, particularly. But today I will try to express a few thoughts, briefly.

I’ve been deeply considering how foolish I have been in this lifetime to think, with some assurance, that at certain points in this existence my heart would never break again. If I step back a bit I see that I have made a version of this error frequently, and with abandon. When I was small I thought for certain I would never learn to drive. In my twenties, I thought I would never leave my sweet and humble meditation room. And even today I am guilty of this assumption, as I sometimes look at the gifts around me and revel in how I have, finally, attained them, for good. The assumption that things will always stay the same has been such a gentle, constant companion in my life!

And although I’ve done meditation practice for years and can analyze impermanence inside, outside, and upside down with the best of them, and even though I count a rudimentary understanding of it as a primary motivating factor for my turn to the Dharma early on, I have to admit, this one came as a shock to me.

Our most precious teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, was truly a being like no other.

In Rinpoche, we saw a living example of what it means to hold the benefit of others as your highest priority. For what matters an empty belly, a call for sleep, a broken body when the welfare of all beings is at stake, and can and should take precedence?

In Rinpoche, we saw the truth of the subtle interconnectedness of all things. Many a journey was stopped, many a path diverted, as Rinpoche moved about the world with absolute conviction that an aspiration, a prayer, a mantra would make all the difference to some small being in the road. Of course, we think, he was a holy being. Of course it made a difference. But Rinpoche’s holiness, while often mystical, and otherworldly, was also grounded, earthly, and fully physical, reminding us time and time again in the deep connectedness of all living things, inspiring us to marvel at the vision that he held, in the vastness of his view.

And as you can probably see from this missive, I, like many of my human friends and Dharma brothers and sisters, am completely unraveled by all of this.

On the one hand, my heart is broken, I could cry for hours, or eons maybe, and I hear myself calling, wailing, really, all the time: Please don’t leave us, please come back. We are not ready! We need you!

And on the other hand, I remember Rinpoche insisting on full prostrations to the altar even when he needed quite a bit of help to stand up again, or a worm in a driveway somewhere.

And I realize he’s never really left, and it’s time to get serious about the business of understanding all that that implies.