I've been thinking the last few days about the idea of "feet of clay". The adopted son of the founder of Shambhala has been in the news. Ashoka Mukpo is an NBC journalist, recently transported home for treatment of Ebola. He seems like a decent person, working very hard to bring some attention to an often ignored part of the world.
His adopted father was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala Buddhism. He's the "feet of clay" I have been ruminating about this week. He is such a contradiction for me. He was a wise man, an excellent dharma teacher, with a beautiful vision for the realization of an enlightened society. His teachings form the basis for the buddhist training I have been pursuing the last couple of years. He was also a deeply flawed human being. He reputedly died from his alcoholism. He drank to excess, he smoked, he had affairs with his students, he abused his power as a spiritual leader.
This is the foundation on which I have built my path. I am old enough to realize that few people are wholly good, or wholly bad. And I know the teachings to be sound, even if the teacher was not all that I would wish for. But part of me is embarrassed by the connection. I have turned it around and looked at it, and I think it is this -- I worry that his actions reflect badly on Shambhala, and that because this is my practice, it somehow reflects back on me. I hate to feel foolish. I hate to feel "duped". And on some level, this week, that is what I felt.
Oddly, I also felt more of a connection to the man than I did before. I have always preferred sinners to saints -- they are more human, more real to me. I cannot aspire to sainthood, but I can be a sinner who sticks to the path as much as I am able. I can be flawed, I can be damaged, and still not be disqualified from enlightenment. This is powerful, and freeing.
I don't know if the man was a terrible example, or a perfect one.