I was recently blessed to have the opportunity to meet Garchen Rinpoche as currently I am living at his sangha, The Garchen Institute in AZ. The experience was one of a kind; let me tell you about it.
When he arrived with his group of assistants and monks, a group of us sangha members were there with white scarf offerings to greet him. With obvious joy he greeted us one by one with enormous affection: hugs, smiles, handshakes, and of course draping the scarfs around our necks and around Drupon Rinche Dorjee's hair tuft (this made me laugh). When he greeted me with a handshake and a hug, he commented on the coldness of my hands with silly, loving compassion (seriously, they're like 20 degrees colder than the rest of my body) that immediately put me at ease.
After this greeting I was standing outside of the house not really knowing what to do and his translator (Garchen only speaks Tibetan as far as I know), Ina, invited me inside the lama house. Stepping inside and taking off my shoes, H.E. immediately told me to sit down at the dinner table where he was going through some mail and doing other perfunctionary household things. So of course I sat.
Trying to remain unobtrusive, I slowly took in my surroundings. His assistants were beginning to make dinner, playing on their iPads, doing work on the computer, and Rinpoche was continually happy making silly faces and seemed to be doing about the same thing I was, except of course for the prayer wheel next to him on the table which never stopped spinning the entire hour and a half I was there (what mindfulness!). Eventually he asked, with the help of Drupon Rinche Dorjee, where I was from, if I'd been there before, and since I hadn't, that I should stay for dinner to welcome me to the place. So of course I stayed.
Apparently, because it's a cultural thing here, they eat meat here, so the dumpling-like soup had beef in it, which I hadn't ate for about seven years, and it also had onions in it, which I was allergic to. However, at the end of the night, my stomach couldn't have been more content. Before the meal, H.E. make a smoke offering which he pushed a clip of papers (I have no idea where they appeared from) in front of me so I could attempt to follow along while he chanted. Fortunately, though I could never find the verse he was on, there were translations, so some of the beautiful meaning wasn't fully lost on me.
Throughout the little time I spent there, he continually gave me things. First, a beautiful mala that smelled amazing (he made me smell it before he put it on my wrist); then, a bag of pecans; and finally, a yellow t-shirt. I also asked what practice would be most beneficial to work on to which he replied the Thirty Seven Bodhisattva Practices. I have little doubt that if I had stayed any longer, I'd probably have more gifts in my possession. The air simple teemed with love, generosity, and acceptance; I couldn't have been happier.
When the meal ended, there was no dilly-dallying. Garchen Rinpoche and a group of his assistance got up and left the house on apparent urgent business. The moment was over. I gathered my new belongings, offering to help clean up (which was continually denied), thanked everyone again profusely, put on my shoes, and returned to my work-study room feeling light and extremely happy.
That, my friends, is what it's like to dine with a living Buddha. There was not a moment of lapse of mindfulness, love, generosity, or acceptance. What blessed people we are to have masters like he teaching the profound Dharma.
Thank you for reading my story; I hope it brightened your day as it has my week.