The Precious Dog, the Precious Minister

Rinpoche with Pema in 2004
We were meeting up with Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche for lunch. I’m not boasting, just trying to give you some context for how it was the Scout met his guru. Scout wasn’t looking his best—I’d cut off all his hair with dull kitchen scissor a couple of days before during the heat wave, and he looked like he’d been attacked by moths. I like the way he looks, don’t get me wrong—especially the bald spots.

Scout in better days
Anyway, Scout dodders sideways now, his head tilted to the right and down, like he’s ashamed of himself. He walks so slow, and with such mincey little steps, that it looks like he’s walking in place on tip-toe. A UPS guy in Greenport was so nonplussed (whatever that means) by it the other day, that he pulled over to the curb while Scout and I were out for a stroll, just to tell me that he hoped I was heading home with my dog—he said he thought my dog looked like he’d been in the heat too long. But he hadn’t: that’s what he looks like.

In any case, Rinpoche, who was sitting in a rocker low to the ground, gestured for Scout to come over, and Scout doddered a couple of hesitant, wary, and sideways steps in Rinpoche’s direction. Rinpoche reached out to him and lifted his moth-eaten, curly ear, and started whispering stuff in Tibetan or Sanskrit—I couldn’t hear what. Scout came closer.

I turned away, but the next thing I knew Scout was sitting on Rinpoche’s lap, looking at me like, “WTF.” He had the same look on his face that he used to get when I made him swim—like he still loved me, even though I was trying to drown him.

Rinpoche’s not like a lot of the guys you meet in New York City; he’s super chilled out and warm, and seems really happy, and he makes you feel known. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to cross him. Yesterday, after Scout’s meeting with him, I had a stomachache like no other. Julia reminded me that this is what happens after I see Rinpoche: I call it my “hairball.” I feel like I’m going to puke, but what ends up coming up are several lifetimes worth of sorrow. It’s the strangest thing.

Before the hairball, though, Rinpoche coaxed Scout into another room, and I heard lots of chanting and cracking and banging,* and a few minutes later Rinpoche emerged from the room alone, and said that Scout had circumambulated a Guru Rinpoche rupa (that’s one of those small statues that you put on your shrine), and a Buddha, three times.

Brilliant! You see, Scout can’t stop spinning, and Rinpoche just used that symptom of Scout’s ill-health towards his enlightenment. I’m sure there were blessings, too, when Scout went over to a tiny bowl of nuts and dried fruit that Rinpoche was noshing from, and delicately (as is his want) licked the figs. Maybe that’s like in Tibet, when people throw stones at the lamas to insure a connection with them in future lives. Maybe Scout will get to be a real boy someday, after all.

*Not really!