THE GROUND 275 Then something extraordinary happened. An incandescent, milky light, looking like a thin and luminous fog, began to appear and gradually spread everywhere. The palace temple had four large electric lamps outside; normally at that time of the evening they shone brightly, as it was already dark by seven o'clock. Yet they were dimmed by this mysterious light. Apa Pant, who was then Political Officer to Sikkim, was the first to ring and inquire what on earth it could be. Then many others started to call; this strange, unearthly light was seen by hundreds of people. One of the other masters then told us that such manifestations of light are said in the Tantras to be a sign of someone attaining Buddhahood. It was originally planned that Jamyang Khyentse's body was to be kept in the palace temple for one week, but very soon we started receiving telegrams from his disciples. It was 1959; many of them, including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, had just arrived in exile, having made the long and dangerous escape from Tibet. They all begged that the body be kept so that they could have a chance to see it. So we kept it for two more weeks. Each day there were four different prayer sessions with hundreds of monks, headed by Lamas of all the different schools, andoften with the lineage holders presiding, and thousands upon thousands of butter-lamps were offered. The body did not smell or start to decay, so we kept it for another week. India is fiercely hot in the summer, but even though week after week went by, the body showed no signs of decay. We ended up keeping Jamyang Khyentse's body for six months; a whole environment of teaching and practice evolved in its holy presence: teachings that Jamyang Khyentse had been giving, which were incomplete when he died, were finished by his oldest disciples, and many, many monks were ordained. Finally we took the body to the place he had chosen for the cremation. Tashiding is one of the most sacred sites in Sikkim, and stands on top of a hill. All the disciples went there, and we constructed the stupa for his relics by ourselves, although in India all grueling manual work is usually done by hired laborers. Everybody, young and old, from even a master like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to the most ordinary person, carried stones up the hill and built the whole thing with their own bare hands. It was the greatest possible testimony to the devotion he inspired.
276 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING No words would ever be able to convey the loss of Jamyang Khyentse's death. In leaving Tibet I and my family lost all our lands and possessions, but I was too young to have formed any attachment to them. But losing Jamyang Khyentse was a loss so enormous that I still mourn it, so many years later. My entire childhood had been lived in the sunlight of his presence. I had slept in a small bed at the foot of his bed, and woke for many years to the sound of him whispering his morning prayers and clicking his mala, his Buddhist rosary. His words, his teachings, the great peaceful radiance of his presence, his smile, all of these are indelible memories for me. He is the inspiration of my life, and it is his presence as well as Padmasambhava's that I always invoke when I am in difficulties or when I teach. His death was an incalculable loss for the world and an incalculable loss for Tibet. I used to think of him, as I thought also of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, that if Buddhism was destroyed and only he remained, nevertheless Buddhism would still be alive, for he was the complete embodiment of what Buddhism means. With Jamyang Khyentse's passing, a whole epoch, sometimes it seems a whole dimension of spiritual power and knowledge, passed with him. He died when he was only sixty-seven, and I often wonder how the entire future ofTibetan Buddhism would have been different if Jamyang Khyentse had lived to inspire its growth in exile and in the West with the same authority and infinite respect for all traditions and lineages that had made him so beloved in Tibet. Because he was the master of masters, and since the lineage-holders of all the traditions had received initiations and teachings from him and so revered him as their root-teacher, he was able naturally to draw them together, in a spirit of devoted harmony and cooperation. And yet, a great master never dies. Jamyang Khyentse is here inspiring me as I write this; he is the force behind this book and whatever I teach; he is the foundation and basis of the spirit behind everything I do; it is he who goes on giving me my inner direction. His blessing and the confidence it gives me have been with me, guiding me through all the difficulties of trying to represent, in whatever way I can, the tradition of which he was so sublime a representative. His noble face is more alive to me now than any of the faces of the living, and in his eyes I always see that light of transcendent wisdom and transcendent compassion that no power in heaven or earth can put out.