Feb 26, 1975

The Great Adventure Awaits

After graduating from high school, I bought an airline ticket to the Himalayas. I had spent several months looking at maps and atlases, tracing routes and looking at pictures of mountains imagining what an adventure it was going to be. As I personally wasn’t aware of anyone like this who lived in Denmark, when I turned 20, I received a small inheritance from my mother who had passed away many years before. My mother had passed away, and on my twentieth birthday I received an inheritance of $1000. So I used this money to buy an air ticket to India. It wasn’t much, but enough to buy a roundtrip ticket to India and stay for seven months.

As I had no ties to Denmark, my plan was actually to stay in India and never return. During my senior year in high school, we were each given a box with all the choices of professions such as doctor, lawyer, businessman etc. However going through them all there wasn’t a single one which interested me. I only wanted to connect with Padmasambhava’s teachings. So with my $1000 I bought a ticket, and felt like a rich man with whatever was left over. In fact, on the advice of a friend, I exchanged some of this into Lebanese currency as its value was on the rise at the time, which wasn’t the best advice. The rest I changed into German marks, which was better but I soon discovered that in India, unlike American dollars, this currency could only be exchanged in New Delhi.

Before leaving for India, a wonderful friend named Jack Hurtigkarl, who had spent a lot of time in India and Nepal, had given me a list important places to visit and people to meet there and in the Himalayas. This list included Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and he was also the person who explained how to get to Sikkim to meet the Karmapa. Also on my list was Sonada, where Kalu Rinpoche whom I had met in Europe resided, as well as Rewalsar in Himichal Pradesh, the sacred Lotus Lake known in Tibetan as Tso Pema. I went to most of the places and met many of the people he had suggested, but I also met many other people I never expected to.

Feb 25, 1975

Saying goodbye to Karmapa

The Karmapa had traveled through Europe on his first trip to the West in 1975. I had followed along with a small group of people from Denmark through Germany, Holland and finally Paris. I had a growing sense that rather than just pursuing a great master and being in his presence as I had been doing, I should instead do some practice starting with finishing my ngondro.

I had begun my prostrations back in Denmark when I was 19 years old. Even though it was hard it brought deep joy and a lightness of being, together with a compassion and devotion that I had never known. I felt as if I was actually connecting with a living lineage of realization. Rather than just sitting quietly and developing a feeling of serenity, the ngondro seemed to give rise to a more intimate connection to the buddhas which I now wanted to strengthen. So, one January day, having decided to return home to get back to practicing, at Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Paris I went to have a final interview with the Karmapa to say good bye. I took along the bulb of a huge red flower that had four blossoms.

Entering his room I prostrated three times and then presented him with this potential flower and told him that I was returning to practice and to save up enough money to go to India. The Karmapa smiled, reached behind him and gave me a large apple the same size as the bulb. He then gave me a blessing by touching the crown of my head and through his interpreter said, “You will do good practice.” I left to start hitchhiking back to Denmark in the cold winter night.

Back in Denmark, I found work as a substitute teacher and did prostrations on a “prostration board.” It is not easy to continue the ngondro on your own, and after my initial enthusiasm waned I found myself getting disheartened and often finding excuses not to do my sessions. But I did my best and continued as I could. After three months, I received an inheritance from my mother which had been held in trust and immediately took it to buy a ticket to India. And off I went.