Tashi Jong, Himachal Pradesh, India, SAMSARA

The lights are currently out and a magnificent storm rages outside. Tashi Jong is a Drukpa Kagyu community, and the symbol of the Drukpa Kagyu sect is the dragon — the druk in Drukpa — and it sounds like there’s some drunken druks waging war in the lofty skies above this usually tranquil valley. Tashi Jong means “Auspicious Valley”.

I thrive off storms like this — they make me feel energized, as if every thunderclap that resounds replenishes some vital energy within, one that can only be vitalized by thunder. Or perhaps it’s a special formula, an elemental elixir that feeds my hungry dynamic energies with one part thunder, one part lightning, one part rain… maybe one part general stormy ambience.

In the dark I’m left with almost no visual faculties to speak of. I now have the luxurious confinement of being forced to ruminate on dragons, ancient yogis, the effects of thunderstorms on mindstreams, and what’s happening in them there hills.

The Fifteen Yogis are out there in them there hills. Maybe they’re thinking of similar things. No doubt their thoughts, whether similar to mine or not, are imbued with more luminous transparency than mine.

The Fifteen Yogis. Usually, it’s the Thirteen Yogis, but for some reason two more are joining the fray right now, probably more for the sake of attaining enlightenment than for adding an unconventional twist to the numbers. Long ago, in a previous incarnation, Khamtrul Rinpoche was wondering how many yogis would be a suitable number to have as retreatants around his monastery. I’m not sure how he arrived at his numerical conclusion, but he ended up with 13. Ever since then, in each of Khamtrul Rinpoche’s lives, and presumably even between lives, it has been tradition to have 13 full-time, lifetime retreatants around Khamtrul Rinpoche’s monastery. I know not whether this is the first time that tradition has been slightly broken. I have a hunch that 13 is a minimum rather than a maximum.

According to Phopa Rinpoche, the Thirteen Yogis are generally retreatants for life, but one their main spiritual goals is to accomplish a 12 year retreat, focusing much of their time on attaining accomplishment in the Six Yogas of Naropa. The Six Yogas of Naropa includes such delightfully esoteric and impressive practices such as Dream Yoga, the Yoga of the Illusory Body, the Yoga of Transference of Consciousness, the Yoga of Inner Heat, the Yoga of Clear Light, and the Yoga of the Intermediate State. After completing the 12 year retreat, some of the yogis will come out from time to time to give teachings, conducts prayer services and ceremonies, and the like.

I wonder whether there is ever a shortage of aspirants for the job, thus forcing the monastery to start drafting people to reach the quota of 13.

“Khamtrul Rinpoche wants YOU to attain unexcelled, complete and perfect enlightenment! Join the 13 Yogis today! Special sign up bonus of 13 yaks for your family if you enlist before Losar!”

I’m even more curious about the possibility of meeting with one of the Thirteen Yogis.

The lights are still out. I contemplate what it would be like if the electricity never came back. There’s no doubt I’d spend less money, and also probably read, write, and study more. And wake up earlier.

I want to merge with the storm.

I want to be a giddy daka, jumping from raindrop to raindrop, being pushed this way and that by the fierce winds, but always in control, the skies above Tashi Jong my playground, the rain and wind my seesaw and swings, the lightning-trails a harmless obstacle course, the thunder a joyful punctuating din, adding a dramatic tone to my rythmic raindrop hopscotch.

I miss a step, miscalculate the direction a wind current will take me, and I slide into a grumpy cloud who’s still willing to break my fall: two backwards somersaults and I’m back in the game.

I’m a male sky dancer

I ride the waves of empty space

I’m a pawo: a hero, and all the gandharvas are there to test my resolve to have undistilled fun; all the dakinis are there to cheer me on, but I choose not to see them. I want this to be a lonely game tonight: I’m flying solo, just me and the storm.

The storm at once has no stake in the game, and yet displays giving rise to helpful and harmful intentions, all quite naturally. But all is calm in the storm’s heart. It knows what it is doing. And so do I.

Like the impossibility of the ultimate physical union which the sexual act unspokenly strives for, I attempt to blend seemlessly with the storm, even though I cannot — at least not fully. I take a little bit of it in, and it takes a little bit of me in. Some sort of child is produced by the twain, if nothing else but the exhilaration of contact, the exultation there in the trying.

I’m a sky dancer, baby.

And I’m ready to re-cognize my mind as endless space…

I look out the window. The sky pulses with a red-purple pigment, a kind of radiant opacity. I can’t tell if it’s my eyes playing tricks on me, but it’s thick, weird, surging, and sexy.

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