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by Ken Holmes

England, late 1977
 
I think we were in Birmingham at the time … but not sure. It was towards the end of the six-month trip around Europe, during which Katia and I served the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa as multi-tasking aides: getting visas, cooking, fixing, promoting… Throughout the journey, His Holiness had been buying birds and I sometimes accompanied him on bird-seeking excursions. Jamgon Rinpoche explained to us that this was not just a hobby of His Holiness but that the birds were his former disciples, now blessed to be born close to him. I have particularly fond memories of evening returns from long avian sorties, with His Holiness next to me and Jamgon Rinpoche behind, fulfilling their daily commitment to Mahakala practice, reciting it by heart, making mudras and occasionally clapping theirs hands as I drove them through the dark.
 
One evening, Tsultim Namgyal, His Holiness’ personal attendant at the time, sought us out to usher us into a dimly-lit room in the house lodging the party. He made a gesture to keep quiet. There was a bird cage on the far side, with two good sized birds on a perch, next to each other, physically dead but mentally in deep samadhi. The feeling around them and all over the room was one of immense stillness and the sense of a profound centre that cuts through everything and carries you into somewhere timeless.
 
When birds die in normal circumstances, they keel over and you find them dead – stiff on the cage floor. The fact that these two died together and standing so perfectly in samadhi was a living proof of His Holiness’ power of “liberation through contact” and of his ability to draw beings into his inconceivable blessing. The birds stayed in samadhi for a couple of days. Then, their minds liberated, their bodies eventually fell down.
 
Ken Holmes
Director of Studies
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery

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by Rager Ossel

In 1976 I got off a truck at Rumtek Monastery. No one knew I was coming but apparently His Holiness asked a monk to go down into the fields to pick me up. The monk took my luggage as we ran uphill towards the Karmapa’s summer palace. They pulled me, ‘Come, Come,Come’. As I passed the guesthouse the jalings started. His Holiness was outside in front of the summer palace, sitting on a small throne with a wall behind him, holding the Black Crown in his hands. He waited for me to sit down in front, looked at me and then he put the Crown on his head. I had no idea about anything. That was the first meeting. It was like everything was synchronized; the timing was exact.
He entered into a deep (meditation) .. it was like we melted.. It was a meeting in which I went into his being, his world. Everything danced like that, very spontaneously.

We were going shopping for birds in the countryside of Holland driving towards a well-known breeder. En route we drove through a small village. His Holiness said stop here. We went to the door of a very simple house and rang the doorbell. The wife opened the door. I asked if they had birds. And she said yes and invited us through the house to the back yard. Her husband was there. Birds were sitting on his hands and shoulders. His Holiness especially loved golden finches. The man was at one with the birds and soon they were both talking continuously to the birds. Their sound was so beautiful; it was an experience to hear it. The man brought out a huge bird cage and placed a very ill bird into His Holiness’ hands; immediately it flew away. He put a few birds into a cage and gave it to His Holiness. So we got his birds but we never made it to the shop and we actually didn’t meet the big bird breeder at all.

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