Mainly because of having just inherited a superb Citroen DS (same model as the French President’s), I got to drive HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa in Paris, a city he did not know. One day, he wanted, as he often did, to go and buy birds. We were told that these were sometimes reincarnations of his previous disciples, with the mixed karma of being reborn an animal but an animal nevertheless close to the Buddha. I took him to the famous Quai de Mégisseries, with its row of bird shops but he quickly perused all of them without interest. We left and he started directing me, “Left here, now right…” into completely unknown territory. After some ten minutes, I assumed he was having a huge joke at my expense (he had a wonderful sense of humour), as there was no way he could have any idea of the layout of Paris. My tangible anxiety at being totally lost changed briefly to relief and a sense of triumph when he said “Left” and I could see the street sign saying it was a cul-de-sac: joke over. Delighted, he got out of the car and walked straight into the pet shop at the end of the street and directly to the birds he wanted. Back in the car, with the birds on board and seeing me completely lost, His Holiness directed me skilfully home to where he was staying. I simply marvelled. Better than SatNav? Of course – who wouldn’t want a SatNav with the Karmapa’s beautiful voice and protective presence?
Director of Studies,
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery.