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After first seeing Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in Bodh-Gaya in the winter of 1985, i felt that i had to take refuge

with him. However there were so many people in BodhGaya that year that i decided to follow him to Nepal to his Monastery in Boudhanath in order to make my request. Taking refuge with ones chosen Master, is something akin to the Buddhist equivalent of taking communion in the Christian tradition. It is a commitment to take refuge in the Buddha, to endeavour to practise His Teachings, the Dharma, and to honour his followers, the Sangha. But more than this, taken with a strong and clear intention, in front of the Master, one promises to tread the path to liberation for the benefit of all sentient beings. It is advisable to take refuge with a teacher in whom one perceives all the qualities of an authentic Master, as this is a connection that will continue not only for this lifetime but for however long it takes to reach 'enlightenment'. Therefore making a careful and confident commitment is of the utmost importance. There are as many paths to 'truth' as there are beings to 'realize' it. But our journey can be dramatically shortened by following a Master in whom we have complete faith. Thus there is the potential in the 'refuge' process for not only powerfully focusing our intention to attain 'enlightenment' but also gaining thereby, the complicity, protection, guidance, and inspiration of the Master. The Buddhist tradition has its own particular appeal. For many it clearly addresses an issue that we are all very familiar with, namely that of 'suffering.' But more than this, it offers a means with which to free ourselves from this cycle of 'suffering'. Taking 'refuge' is like stepping into an 'ark'. At the 'helm of this mighty ship is the Buddha, all the various Masters and lineages that emanate from Him are like ministers and boatmen who keep the ship afloat and moving. The Dharma can be likened to the 'vessel' itself and the 'sangha' to all those who have climbed on-board. This mighty ship is just a speck in the vast ocean of 'being' and ultimately all those who have climbed on-board are tossed over the side and into that ocean. However for a while there is the comfort and companionship of the 'sangha'; sustenance of the 'teaching' and protection of the Buddha. Personally, i am not very religious. Although i respect most of the great religious institutions, i feel they are a means to an end and not the end itself. After all 'enlightenment' is the simplest and ultimately most natural of things. A drop of water emerges from the ocean and eventually is absorbed back into it. It does not need to change its nature or 'become' something else. It is already 'that', the very same essence as the ocean from which it has sprung.

When i first saw Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche i was not a Buddhist and had no particular idea of becoming one. However Rinpoche was very much a part of this religious tradition. I found that its many precepts enhanced my path, therefore i saw no reason not go through the formal doorway of 'refuge' and become a Buddhist. As soon as i arrived in Boudhanath, a town on the outskirts of Kathmandu, i made my way over to Shechen Monastery where Khyentse Rinpoche was residing. Rinpoche's rooms were above the main temple and consisted in a series of large chambers, all of which opened into a big hall-like waiting room in the centre of the building. Khyentse Rinpoche sat most of the day in a wooden meditation box near a window in his main room which opened into the waiting room via a series of full length glass doors which could be rolled back when need be. It was a well thought out arrangement, as during teachings and empowerments the doors could simply be moved so that Rinpoche's room became an extension of the waiting room and many more people could then partake in what ever was happening at the time. After first making my offerings i requested Rinpoche to give me the refuge vow. He immediately assented but said i should wait outside in the main hall until he called for me. At first i thought this would be a matter of some few minutes, or hours at the very most. However it turned out that i was to sit in that hall for three whole days before being summoned.

Waiting outside Khyentse Rinpoche's room for three days, turned out to be no great hardship at all. In fact i learnt a lot about Rinpoche, and the various people who were visiting and life in the monastery in general. During those first three days i would come early in the morning, and after making three prostrations to Rinpoche, he would

beckon me to come near him, and then extend his huge hand and touch it to my head in blessing. I would then go to a favorite seat i had chosen outside his room. From this vantage point i could not only watch his every move, but i could watch everyone else's comings and goings as well. I only took occasional breaks to visit the bathroom or go to my room for meals. Somehow i found the life going on around him endlessly fascinating. There was no boredom in this waiting at all. In his presence one felt oneself inside a vast mandala, nothing was accidental, nothing could be taken for granted. Nothing was overlooked. Nevertheless by the end of the third day i began to have a niggly little doubt and wonder if i should remind him of my request. It seemed unlikely that he could have forgotten, especially as i was sitting right outside his room and peering in at him most of the day! There had been an endless stream of visitors since i had first arrived and these never seemed to lessen. It was amazing to see how effortlessly he could accommodate everyone. There was no sense of hurry or tension, or weariness. The people just came and went and each seemed to get what he wanted, and i am sure a few got more than they bargained for as well. I decided it didn't matter how long i sat there, i would just wait and see what would happen. Then, on the morning of the fourth day, his attendant suddenly called me to go into Rinpoche's room. It was the auspicious day of the 25th of the Tibetan month and i realized that he must have been waiting for this. In general Tibetans are very mindful of auspicious dates, and astrological concurrences and such things, so this was all quite in keeping with tradition. What surprised me however was that the room was suddenly empty. This seemed to have happened as if by magic, as there was seldom ever a moment when other Lamas, or visitors were not present. It impressed me deeply that Rinpoche had lost no time at all in calling me in and taking advantage of the quiet space that had opened up. After making several prostrations he beckoned me to approach him. I can still see that enormous finger with its long nail motioning me to come closer and closer. All the while he was watching me with a peculiar little grin which was very characteristic. One corner of his mouth would rise, and he would squint with one eye, while the other remained normal. I was totally in awe of him. Trembling shamelessly from head to foot. There was something unspeakably powerful in his presence and it touched me in a way that i had never experienced before.

Only when i had crept right in front of the big wooden meditation box, did the beckoning finger cease to move. There was something of the extra-ordinary about Khyentse Rinpoche's hands. I had never seen hands like these before. Not only were they very large, but they were also wonderfully graceful. There were no clumsy movements, these hands had a power and grace all their own. One finds this about the movements, and gestures of a 'realized being'. Potentially even a seemingly insignificant gesture can have the power to stop ones mind. After the beckoning stopped i remember Rinpoche's hand coming down on top of my head, pulling it right in, so that the sound of his chanting of the mantras seemed to flow and reverberate through my entire being. For as long as it took to recite the prayers and mantras of the refuge ceremony, some five or ten minutes, the hand remained firmly in place. If i had been a cat in that moment, i would have been purring loudly. All sense of the ordinary had long since disappeared and yet there was something so profoundly familiar, so inexplicably part of what is, that in the highest use of the word 'ordinary' as in ' unaltered' or uncontrived, there was a complete naturalness in this communion. There was no doubting the validity or the profundity of the simple ceremony of refuge. If one can be likened to a drop from the 'ocean' of being, then it trembles in the proximity of that 'ocean'. The ocean will as surely swallow it up, erase all traces of the false self, irresistibly take it back and claim it as its own. Such is the importance, the power and the potential of the sacred vow and bond of taking refuge... "The ultimate teacher, the Absolute, is never separate from us, yet immature beings, not recognising this, look outside and seek Him far away.

Sole Father, with your immense love you have shown me my own wealth; I, who was a pauper, constantly feel your presence in the depths of my heart." Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.