On the Path of the Karmapa

I first approached a meditation center with great reluctance. I felt shy and kind of embarrassed about my interest in meditation, particularly being in proximity to chanting which I thought of as some weird Third World affectation. Modalities such as therapy and drugs (prescribed and recreational), the usual litany of Western dysfunctions and self-medications were no big deal to talk about and, of course, pursue.

The orange paint and thangkas in Tibetan centers can be a bit much. However, the uber-precision in the Zen scene echoed a bit too closely to my experience with control freaks who'd made rationalization a high art form so I got used to the orange paint.

I've never liked portrait photographs: looking beatific on demand doesn't quite work for me. But unscripted shots carried a sense of special moments. My favorite shrine photo was an "action" shot of the Sixteenth Karmapa, who I knew nothing about at the time, who exuded an easy and natural joy.

The unraveling of whatever mental knots from practice led to getting pulled into the tractor beam of dharma over time. When the high tech market melted down, I found myself with an excess of time, energy and churning discursiveness that became a fertile ground for conceiving and mapping some original projects.

Research for a book led me to ask people questions about their experiences with the Great Masters. The expected tales of maximum chill down in the presence of His Intergallactic Magnificence appealed to my cliched notions of "The East." But then a new consistent line came up: Karmapa could utterly terrify teachers who in turn could have me snap to attention. Now that was interesting.

Apparently unemployable at the time, I stopped trying to tell the stories of enterprise software. It made perfect sense to spend scads of money, throw my belongings in storage and resume my restless, gypsy ways.

It was interesting that my exposure to analytics and optimization technologies heightened my comfort level to ask questions about how one relates to their mind. B. Alan Wallace and Matthieu Ricard sometimes refer to "optimization" in their works. The algorithmist and Chief Science Officer where I used to work frequently talked about how less robust mathematical methods would introduce biases and distortions, undercutting the quality of conclusions.

Along the way, I started crossing paths with benevolent Stanford mathematicians in the Buddhist world and on its periphery. In one meeting, Alan Wallace was the guest of a former Stanford Business School professor, a self-described "freelance mathematician." Another time, I visited a prison dharma group and the person I wound up talking to the most was a one-time math professor at Stanford. Turns out that he'd also been a former professor and employer of my old boss, "The Algorithmist." Connections so disparate and weird that the Tibetans call them tendrel, auspicious coincidence. The "You for real?" file gained new entries.

Tendrels were a major theme in my life and a major theme in teachings I'd received from Khandro Rinpoche so Tendrel Films I became.

The 25th anniversary of the Sixteenth Karmapa's passing or parinirvana was two years out at the time so I began seeking out the great Kagyu teachers. All very simple and matter of fact. When you focus entirely on the logistical and content requirements, what it will take to execute what is implied in the premise, you can lose sight of the outlandishness of what you're proposing. Or so I've been told.








Coming Shows
Ojai, CA
4pm screening at the Ojai Playhouse with Director Q&A after. Sponsored by Osel Nyingpo.

Albany, NY
7pm at the Doane Stuart Auditorium. Sponsored by Albany KTC.

San Luis Obispo, CA
Venue to be announced. Sponsored by Diamond Way San Luis Obispo.

Bratislav, Slovakia
Official Selection: Buddhas in the City Film Festival

Recalling a Buddha at the Rio in Santa Cruz

From the Santa Cruz show
in November