Burying the hatchet

End this war; give peace a chance

Although this has been the least pleasant section of “Approaching the Aro gTér,” I can end on a hopeful note.

The negative gossip about the Aro tradition mainly came originally from a few of Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s fellow students from twenty years ago. They appear to have been motivated by rivalries that developed in the emotional intensity of relating to their “wrathful” teachers. Some members of the Aro sangha who were around in those days have negative feelings about these critics as well. I have explained this by analogy to the similar rivalries among the students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

My hope is that everyone can let go of these old resentments. After twenty years, maybe it is time to bury the hatchet? It is easy for me to say that, since I was not around then, and I have no bad feelings about anyone. But the experience of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s students suggests relaxing old hatreds is possible. Twenty years after their teacher’s death, they are finding reconciliation. And, after all, that is supposed to be one of the effects of Buddhist practice.

Jeremy Hayward, one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s closest students, recently wrote that—with time and extensive practice—he was able to let go of the old conflicts. And:

I too saw such softening and opening among many of my friends and colleagues; and, as well, I saw a growing strength and joy. I have seen many of Rinpoche's students change in this way almost miraculously . . . They are not different from who they always were. It is as if at last we are able simply to be who we always were, without constantly wanting to be something else—better or greater or whatever it may be. There have been fellow students who for many years I could barely stand to be with for ten minutes. Even though I knew they were good people and struggling on the path just as I was, their rough edges, whether of angry self-righteousness or seductive “come-hither,” were just too unpleasant to be around, at least in my perception. Then, years later, suddenly I would see them again—just the same people, yet those same characteristics that had seemed so unpleasant to me had subtly changed, as no doubt had I. The inner core of “look at me” seemed to have dissolved a little and there was genuine communication and even affection between us . . .

“The definition of Buddhist Alzheimer's is that you can't remember why you hated someone!”

(Warrior-King of Shambhala, pp. 398-399.)