By now many of you know that Colin Chase died on Saturday. Because it turns out that this man is extraordinary, this past week has been a surreal, heart-breaking, yet also curiously peaceful journey for many hundreds of people. I can’t begin to capture this collective experience, but I can share what I thought about it at the time it was happening.
Wednesday August 11th: A devoted disciple of Venerable Geshe Kelsang had a motorcycle accident last night, on August 10th, leaving him with catastrophic brain damage.
I can’t believe I am writing those words. Not least because Colin Chase is also one of my closest friends.
I am going to write stuff down now because I have been making non-stop prayers and I will be praying again soon, and in the meantime I don’t know where else to put myself. I am so very sorry for all of you close family and friends, I think I can guess at some of how you feel.
I just spoke to him via phone. I knew what to say. But it’s not enough time. There’s so much more that was supposed to happen. There were still so many more conversations to be had, so many more adventures in the mandala, so many more mountains to climb. I even want to tell him about the strangeness that is going on now.
Colin made me laugh and was kind enough to find me humorous too. He has been a very reassuring, loving presence in my life, and not just mine, of course. He was a great listener. He genuinely loved helping people. You could learn a lot from watching him interact with others even in difficult negotiations or tense situations – smart, worldly-wise, diplomatic, always thoughtful. His effortless kindness is the first thing I noticed about him many years ago, watching him in some interaction I’ve now forgotten at Manjushri KMC, before we’d even exchanged a word. There is nothing he would not do to help bring about Geshe-la’s wishes to establish a Pure Land for all living beings. “I’m a believer!” he joked with me recently, and this combination of devotion and love made his life amazing. He was kinda epic, to be honest.
All appearances in my dream teach me that all my appearances while awake do not exist. Thus for me all my dream appearances are the supreme instructions of my Guru. ~ Lord of all Lineages
Last week Colin reminded me of the vivid dream I had when he was visiting in June. He said he had been thinking about it all the time since then. This was the dream as I recorded it at the time:
I was standing on the edge of the virtual reality show of this life, but a vast abyss of empty space had opened up that I knew plunged to all my previous rebirths. I was tipping over – I could scramble back on to this life or I could let go. For some reason I decided to let go and fall to see what was there.
I fell fast and was seeing all my human rebirths, thousands of appearances and versions of me as a different human being in different places doing different things, sometimes male, sometimes female, etc.
I wanted to stop before I got to all my previous lower realm rebirths, starting with animal rebirths — that felt too scary, as if I may not be able to get out again. So I went for refuge to ask to return to the albeit even more obviously temporary appearances of this current life.
A special aircraft appeared and the pilot told me to buckle up while he flew me back up past all those lives. We stopped at one life where he introduced me to someone who I recognized, though he didn’t recognize me yet – I could tell he was a previous different-looking version of a someone I know in this life. In that life I was a woman with yellow hair and a round face.
I asked the pilot why I hadn’t gone all the way to the lower realms and why he was able to appear so I could get back up to my human life; and he said it was because I had purified a lot of the karma of killing, which was protecting me from lower rebirth. However, he also cautioned that I didn’t necessarily have enough good karma next time to come straight back up if I fell again. I had used some up and needed to create more.
Past and future lives exist, I have believed in them for as long as I can remember. I felt the need for all of us to go for very strong refuge because this life is entirely dreamlike, fragile, and impermanent. And where we go/what appears to us depends entirely on our karma.
Colin asked how if I, with all my merit, might not be able to get easily back into the human realm if I fell, what chance did he have? I replied that he had created astonishing merit, far more than me. He replied by generously listing all the things he thinks I’ve done. I replied by listing his good qualities and accomplishments. Anyway, you get the drift. He was always rejoicing in other people, never pulling them down.
Death on our minds
And in the last few months, death was on his mind. We had several conversations about it, and the fleeting nature of this life and our fragile silly bodies. Including his knees – he was due for double knee replacements next week (August 17), repayment for a lifetime of daredevil bodily risks. Talking of which, I said he’d be needing a wheelchair if he insisted on having both knees done at the same time. “No, I won’t. I’ll have crutches.” “You do know how crutches work, right?!”
And now he lies in Newark hospital, the need for knee surgery gone.
In an astonishing coincidence, the main spiritual director of Newark Hospital happens to be a New York Sangha member, Helen, charged now with taking care of Colin and the family. Her assistant is called Tara.
Testament to his outsized role in our tradition, at very short notice hundreds of people attended Tara puja live at KMC New York City and at the upstate NY and Grand Canyon World Peace Temples or tuning in online. We could see KMC NYC’s beautiful city temple on one side of the screen and Colin on the other. All the way through puja his chest was exaggeratedly inflating and deflating with the life support machine. Seared into many minds now is the image of his beloved mother Marsha, same cheekbones and red hair, sitting by his bed and stealing glances at his poor damaged head. What a gift she gave us in Colin.
Colin’s vital signs improved during puja. That has to mean something, right?
Conversations on life and death
Like I said, over the last few months we were having conversations about the brevity of life, how quickly each decade had flown by, and how little time we had left. We are moreorless the same age and have both been caring for our mothers lately, in the front row seats to great old age. I hoped we’d grow old together, hanging out, building centers (the architects’ drawings just landed for KMC CO’s new building, and I would love nothing more right now than to hear what Colin has to say about them). At the same time I kinda figured that Colin might not stick around for the ravages of extreme old age.
I am still taken aback by how early he checked out and, if I’m honest, a trifle annoyed. When I sent a photo of him in Colorado in June to a mutual friend, he replied: “Should Colin really be climbing trees?!” Of course not, nor ignoring my protests to climb onto the roof of KMC Colorado’s new building (the views, though, turned out to be worth it.) Nor should he have been riding motorbikes between hip and knee surgeries, but I have to acknowledge that this was typical Colin. He was probably always set to go out in a blaze of glory (from his perspective, not so much ours). Sitting it out in an armchair for years wearing slippers was probably never going to happen.
Maybe his mother knew this too. I hope she did. I guess we all have to accept now that he was made to live fast and die too soon.
I just re-read the last text I had from Colin yesterday afternoon (August 10) on my way up this mountain for a week to look after four dogs and cats while attending the remainder of the Summer Festival:
“I am very happy that you’re getting away!! When you get settled, please let me know when we might connect again. Enjoy the mountains, and please say Hello for me. I miss them, and look forward to returning soon!”
He didn’t reply to the text I sent back at 7.39pm MST. Turns out he was climbing onto his motorbike. And it also turns out that I am not the one who is getting away.
A friend of mine is part of a healing energy group and they just spent time tuning into him. I don’t know if you believe in these things or not, but I am going to share this anyway because it honestly does sound just like Colin.
Curiously to their minds, because they are not Buddhists and don’t know Colin, they kept getting a strong message from him, “Be joyful!” After helping to clear out his chakras they normally infuse the person with a lot of energy, but they said that he was already completely full of positive energy and there was nothing to add. (They had no idea about the Tara pujas being held for him worldwide.) They also said that he was very determined. And the word “Rinpoche” kept coming to them, even though they didn’t know what it meant. (“Rinpoche” is the Tibetan word for “precious” and is applied to reincarnate Lamas.)
Today, Thursday Aug 12, I woke up today feeling hopeful that maybe Colin can be healed after all. I understand that quite a number of people dare share this optimism, quoting Colin’s lack of boundaries, how many crazy accidents he has pulled through before, and the power of the prayers. A lot of people are praying for his full recovery in today’s Tara prayers. Helen said today: “In general you do not come back from this and, if you do, you wish you hadn’t. But I’ve seen miracles. He is in the right hospital.”
Later on Thursday: But now, later this same day, we have heard the deeply sad news that the doctors could not stop the bleeding. Colin is brain dead. Again, I cannot believe I am writing these words, but Colin will be taken off life support tomorrow. Powa is planned for just after he dies.
The last time we spoke on the phone, Colin told me he had just spent a 14-hour day at KMC NYC making sure everyone could tune in online to the Vajrayogini empowerment and teachings. He was very happy and we talked for over an hour. Thousands of people received these empowerments, and to begin with he was doing all the tech himself. Then he handed it off to 3 people he’d trained — rejoicing in them when he saw them on CCTV (he loved his CCTV, lol) – and headed off to see his family.
It is no wonder that there is an outpouring of people now, saying “he helped me”; he was always there to help. Within minutes of arriving at a Festival he knew everyone and everyone knew him. He has been instrumental in the success of KMC New York City, from the day he turned up and went off roller blading on the hunt for a new building. For Colin, nothing was a problem. No vision was too big. He found that beautiful space in a huge cooperative skyrise, and not only managed to acquire it for the Center but also became the most important board member in the whole building. Later Greg showed up and took on all the day to day volunteer projects, allowing him to be full-on visionary along with KMC NYC’s wonderful EPC Simone.
I’m also going to go right ahead here and call out the quiet heroine Laurie, assistant AD, who worked tirelessly by Colin’s side the whole time he was there — never one to steal any limelight, she was nonetheless the right-hand woman to the right-hand man.
The barefoot Bodhisattva
In his occasional day job, Colin was a fixer for the one-percenters, so he often had plenty of resources. (Sometimes he was broke, too). However, that wasn’t his lifestyle and he was usually just trying to give money away. Colin’s leased apartment wasn’t really his – and indeed it never looked very lived in to me. Instead it hosted everyone and anyone who came through town, if they needed a place to stay. Colin was always barefoot, unless the occasion demanded shoes, such as the opera, when he might wear flip flops. He only drank sparkly water, no tea, coffee, or any other beverages. He would often camp at Festivals despite being easily able to afford something more comfortable. He loved sailing on the open seas. He loved the freedom of his motorbike. A few years ago he wanted to go riding in the Rockies:
Colin: Maybe you will consider taking a ride with me, through the mountains, if I reschedule my visit. xx
Me: haha, i may consider it — but not sure about my precious human life 😃
Colin: You don’t trust me?!?!
Me: aha, i do.
Colin told me, and I witnessed several times, that he didn’t really mind physical pain. During a painful lung infection a few years back, for example, he replied to my text: “In truth, I am fine now. My body just has a few challenges. There are so many people out there, who are truly suffering.”
He was astonishingly successful and made everything fun at the same time. A friend told me that he reminded her of what Heruka would be like if you met him:
“He managed to make everyone feel happy and strong. When you were around him, that was the quality he had. He was heroic and gave you what you needed, whether that was a hug if you were cold or helping to negotiate a million-dollar building. And it wasn’t like there was anything in it for him.”
Within seven lifetimes
Last week Colin called me with a question about Vajrayogini practitioners definitely going to Keajra within seven lifetimes, asking if that was a rumor or was it true. I replied that it is in The New Guide to Dakini Land:
It is said that even those with the least fortune who do not attain Dakini Land in the intermediate state will be led by Vajrayogini to her Pure Land within seven lives.
He was very excited for some reason, and wanted to know which lifetime I thought he might be in. I said not the first, because it is unlikely that he could have all these unusually good conditions coming together in his life on a first encounter with Guru Vajrayogini, given that each of them needs a lot of good karma to create. “So, who knows, maybe your 4th or 5th, or perhaps even your 7th!” Turns out that might have been right.
When this picture was taken of Colin and Helen in front of Compassion Buddha Avalokiteshvara, no one had a clue that she would be able to orchestrate at his bedside not only all the Tara pujas but the transference of consciousness puja, when Avalokiteshvara could lead him to the Pure Land.
Helen is a force of nature herself. She trained hard for years to be a Buddhist Chaplain, the very first person in the Kadampa tradition to do so. She landed this job very quickly afterwards because she excelled in her training. I asked her yesterday how many people and families she had helped die, and she said hundreds. She tries to make the right situation for people to die peacefully, and I asked her how. One woman wanted so badly to go home to die in Puerto Rico, but could not be moved. Helen asked her what exactly about home she missed and, upon hearing that it was the scents and the plants and the food, she recreated that for her in the ICU.
She didn’t have time for attention to detail last year, however, when she had to help six or seven different people and their families every day during COVID. “That was a different world.”
What a meaningful job! Venerable Geshe-la has said that helping people die well is the kindest thing we can do. And helping their families find some measure of peace at one of the very worst times of their life is also no small feat. If any of you are looking for a career path … but I do believe this is not for the faint-hearted.
Helen said that she hopes that Colin’s death will also spark conversations about the end of our own lives and whether or not we want DNR and so on. (I did my Living Will a couple of months ago, it only took about 15 minutes, FYI.)
“Nothing gets in the way of that!”
It is thanks to Helen that I was able to talk to Colin in his last two days. I asked if I could say a few words into his ear and she did one better, organizing a WebEx between the end of visiting hours at 6 p.m. and the nighttime shift at 7 p.m. Talking to him for what turned out to be well over an hour was surprisingly not difficult. Here is the jist of some of what I said.
“Hello my beloved friend, and farewell for now, just for a short while though, I will see you on the other side. I know you’re going to enjoy being in Keajra so much sending emanations to help us all and everyone else — it’s what you’ve been practicing for the whole time I’ve known you, you were made for the Pure Land! You will so enjoy helping Geshe-la help everyone now on a grand scale. I do believe this was your seventh and final lifetime in samsara, just like we were speculating the other day.
Thousands of people have been praying for you because it turns out that you helped too many people to count. People are wondering when you had the time?!
Your family were very happy to discover about your life, and the powa we are doing tomorrow will bring your birth family and your Sangha family together in a way that you would love. The mother of all sendoffs awaits you, you created the cause for hundreds of people to send you the Pure Land. We insist you go. You are going anyway, but we’re going to make sure of it.”
I did make him promise us two things because he always liked to keep his promises: (1) he needed to visit us all with his emanations, including KMC NYC and KMC CO to finish those projects he started; (2) if he insisted on leaving early, he needed to set things up for me and everyone else to join him in the Pure Land. After all, that’s what he did. As he texted himself the other day:
This is Geshe la’s work, and NOTHING gets in the way of that!!!
Before I left, I asked the nurse to touch his heart to indicate we are all going with him, and then to touch his crown.
I thought that was it, but the following morning one of Helen’s assistants called again unsolicited to see if I’d like to talk to him. Of course I wanted to. Then again in the afternoon, I got this rather wonderful call:
Hello L, this is Tara. I have Colin here. Will you talk to him?
So that was lucky for me.
I also talked to him a lot about what the Pure Land is like from things I’ve read, “without even the name of mistaken impure appearance”, where even stepping on the ground gives rise to bliss. How it is full of all the things he loves, but all completely pure and known to be illusory, like dream oceans and dream mountains. How he will send emanations. It was me doing all the talking, of course, but a conversation nonetheless, because, along with Helen, I believe that people in this situation can hear “beyond words and sounds” as she put it. This is not least because I had this experience with Bob — his brain was also gone when Cheryl and I talked him into the Pure Land, yet “it worked”. That story is here.
I also shared with him several beautiful messages, such as from Sara Wendt, his “little red-headed childhood friend”, who did us all the big favor of introducing him to our tradition. And this one from Gen Samten:
“Please tell him that a life lived with kindness is a life lived without regrets. Please tell him that he has brought happiness to so many people in so many places. And please tell him that it is time for him to leave now, to let go of this life and to move on to a pure world where he can work with Geshe-la to bring happiness to many people.”
August 14th: I dreamt vividly of Colin last night, he was very youthful and joyful, it was blissful to see him, and it felt like he was on his way to the Pure Land.
In a dream, a girl meets a boy and sees that he is dying. She is happy to meet him but unhappy to see him dying. We should understand that all phenomena are like this. ~ Buddha
I have been contemplating how Colin is mere name not other than emptiness and therefore can be Heruka. It is worth pointing out that all this has been going on during the retreat section of the Summer Festival, (good timing Colin!), where Gen Rabten has been giving profound instructions, including on what Buddhas experience. The suffering hallucinations of Colin’s gross mind are about to be all over for him, and indeed could be for us too, if we really want them to be.
Accepting the sorrow
Talking to myself … There are a million ways to transform this sadness, but I have to accept that it is there first, not paper over the cracks. Use the heartbreak to allow my heart to grow. Practice the yoga of equalizing samsara and nirvana. Not be attached to my sorrow, nor the ordinary narrative of our friendship.
Accepting the suffering means not repressing it, but at some point we know it is empty and we let it go, to be replaced by compassion and joy. I did this this morning, which is the day of his powa.
It is our joy, compassion, love, wisdom, and pure view that will help Colin get to the Pure Land, not dragging him with our sadness. But this is a process for everyone, it has to be natural, not forced nor pretended. We can’t tell people who are grieving: “Think like this and you’ll stop being sad”, and assume that’ll work. We cannot be disconnected from our sadness; it is the sadness which gives us the realization that suffering is unbearable. From there we can develop authentic renunciation and compassion, hence “Suffering had good qualities.” Then we can also view it as mere name. It is mere mistaken appearance blocking us from seeing the truth of bliss and emptiness.
The powa, 2.25pm EST, August 14th
Nearly 1,000 people attended Colin’s powa, joining in from all over the world. And it was very powerful. This has got to be a first. Who were you, Colin Chase?! As a friend said:
“Colin really did get a Powa Express, not too many have 500+ people on stand-by for your last moment in this life to send you off to the Pure Land. His kindness & bodhisattvaness touched countless beings ”
I think many people now feel deeply supported to know that we are united not only in our grief but also now in the knowledge that we can do this for each other – we can send our friends, Sangha, and family to the Pure Land. It is inspiring to see how our Sangha is open-ended because everyone is welcome, and that none of us has a monopoly over anyone else’s affection or memory, we are all learning to love one another.
At my deathtime may the Protectors, Heroes, Heroines and so forth,
Bearing flowers, parasols, and victory banners,
And offering the sweet music of cymbals and so forth,
Lead me to the Land of the Dakinis. ~ The New Guide to Dakini Land
During his death and for about an hour after I had an unexpected and good experience that I won’t share here, but that was in keeping with everything else that has been happening these last few months and days. It convinced me that Colin is now in the Pure Land of the Dakinis.
For such practitioners, death is just mere name – they are simply moved from the prison of samsara to the Pure Land of Buddha Heruka. ~ Heruka Root Tantra
I will just say that we are usually so dualistic about samsara vs nirvana, for the Pure Land is mere name away at all times. We go where our mind goes. How many different ways has Guru Heruka explained this to us?!? He couldn’t have made it clearer.
Enlightenment is reality, it is right here. So of course the Pure Land is right here.
Living meaningfully, dying joyfully
I feel that Colin’s life and death have had a large impact on our Kadampa tradition, that something has shifted for a lot of people. It was a meditation on death par excellence, our own life of approx 4,000 weeks not to be taken for granted, not even a day of it. Of course we all die – we don’t all die on a stage, though, in a five-day drama watched by hundreds of practitioners. It revealed what happens if you do spend your whole life being kind — living meaningfully does mean you’re going to die joyfully. We have seen the power of the Guru and the power of the Sangha. We can do this for each other.
When someone I love and respect dies, I try to honor them by adopting some of their good qualities; and that may merit another article. Colin would read this blog from time to time and generously told me: “Your writing draws people into their heart, and leaves them yearning for more. That, my dear lady, is an unparalleled talent.” So perhaps he will be reading this along with all the comments I hope you will leave below. Please leave comments! Tell your stories. Let us be encouraged by this man’s life and works.
(Since I posted this, a lot of you have kindly sent inspiring comments below, thank you! This includes people (and good writers!) who knew Colin well such as Greg and Michelle — very well worth reading if you get the chance.)
Colin, if you are reading this … you may not fully appreciate how much you are loved and by how many. That, and riding a motorbike, might be the worst faults you had. But it doesn’t matter now because the Guru and Dakinis have you. I know we’re going to be hanging out again in the mountains of Keajra one way or another. We’re all going to be having endless fun with the Heroes and Heroines of Geshe-la’s mandala, a mandala that you’ve already been a huge part of creating. It is your home, where you belong, where we and our families all belong. Indeed, where else could you be now but there already, inseparable from your beloved Spiritual Father — paving the way, as ever, for us all to see through the illusion and join you.
Colin gave me sparkle ice cream from the pure land. Sounds crazy, right? But in reality NOT having sparkle ice cream is the crazy thing.
As Colin was about to take off on his motorcycle that night, I imagine he was thinking about the things he was going to when he got home…. But the next morning, that unbelievable text started circulating. And the International Kadampa Festival being broadcast out of KMC NYC took on a whole new meaning.
Tuning in to the Tara puja broadcast from Colin’s bedside in the ICU with hundreds tuning in, I could feel that Colin was already partying. It was as if he was hanging out with me in my mind, helping me to dissolve some of my troubles. As they were melting away, he seemed to be saying, never stop working to spread the Dharma. As if it was the only thing that has any real meaning in life – and with such incredible benefits. We just abided together in that vast understanding, beyond words. Connected through the bliss of our Gurus heart.
While Colin’s life remained supported by a machine, it seemed as if the thick, heavy cloth had lifted temporarily, leaving just a thin veil between my mind and reality. I had a vision of being a kid in the monastery with Je Phabongkhapa. Loving to learn Dharma, playfully, enveloped by fatherly love and such a close feeling, inseparable. Like Je Phabonkhapa was putting Dharma directly into my heart, so that the seeds could ripen later on through faithfully trusting. Yet I wasn’t the only one in that monastery – my perspective shifted and panned out so that I could see hundreds, thousands, even millions of disciples, all having similar experiences across the universe. And now here we are, together again, united by our Spiritual Father of this life. The incomparably kind Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche.
Now we have participated in what was quite possibly the most epic Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and Powa ever to take place in this world! I had a friend visiting for festival and the day of Colin’s Powa was our last day together. My friend wanted to visit the Washington monument before he left. We hadn’t done any sightseeing the entire week he was here because we were focused on festival. And although I didn’t know Colin very well, from everything I was learning about him, from all those who love him, I could tell he would want my friend and I to go do something fun with our remaining time together rather than solemnly wait around for him to take his final breath.
Trying to maintain the experience of being in Heruka’s mandala, my friend and I approached the Washington monument and viewed it as being like the central channel of the nation – and perhaps – judging by the faces of our fellow sightseers – the whole world. We were thinking, we gotta get in there and get everyone in there! And we kept imagining that we were surrounded by heroines and heroes, smiling from ear to ear. Sometimes, when looking at them from the periphery, we could see them smiling back from Keajra.
Then the Powa was scheduled to begin. We tuned in from my phone and started walking along the National Mall. When Simone signaled that the machine had been turned off and tubes removed, we sat down on a bench and prayed. I could hear the annoying music from the ice cream truck. The same tune being repeated over and over. I was thinking about how Colin and the Holy Beings would be hearing that sound as a blissful melody. And I tried to impute my experience as the same which became easier as the prayers began and my concentration started to function. Our imagined mandala seemed to come to life during that transference of consciousness.
Yet there was still this thread of attachment trying to pull me back to samsara. Trying to get me to think about what I was going to do afterwards. Then the song of the ice cream truck would return. “Mmmm, yeah I want ice cream!” I thought, “but this isn’t about me, this is about Colin and liberating all living beings! Just a tad more important…” Then I cracked a smile, the sky filled up with sparkle ice cream that I enjoyed with Colin in my heart. As if he was inviting me to relax and enjoy, recognizing that we are all already there. Already part of the pure lands, each of us, because that is who we really are. Give up this dream of samsara. How? Like Gen La Dekyong said, stay on the Dharma side. Please stay my friends! Sparkle ice cream is way better 😃
Fantastic comment, dear Dakini.
(Your friend is teaching tomorrow.)
“When someone I love and respect dies, I try to honor them by adopting some of their good qualities…”
Everything contained here serves as a testament to Colin’s powerful and moving influence on others. He was a clear example of someone who lived the Kadampa way of life. With love and respect, I’ll try to honor him by adopting two bits Atisha’s advice which Colin practiced perfectly:
“Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.”
“Friends, there is no happiness in the swamp of samsara, so move to the firm ground of liberation.”
Dear Colin, your physical presence will be missed…but you will always remain in our hearts.
I love this.
thank you so much for this very reflection on our lovely friend Colin … when I think of Colin now I experience his laugh almost immediately … as I wrapped his mala around his wrist I experienced something similar … in a split second (it appeared) he looked at me with a big grin, thumbs up, and said “I got this” .. “yea I know you do man, I know you do” I replied as I smiled at him in the way that you do when you know it may be the last time you see someone, but deep inside hope it isn’t … I have no doubts about where he is now … he passed so seemlessly … in moments surrounded by such love. Colin worked so hard to support me in my training to be a chaplain, it was an honor to be able, in some small ways, to be able to repay his kindnesses
Not a small way, not at all.
Helen — Thank you and Simone, for putting us on call with the hospital that week for prayers for Colin. You said something like, we can’t be afraid to see this. I’ve never known or seen a practitioner pass. (Grace was before my time.)
There have been so many emotional debates around the morality of death this year, this resets everything for me and was a strong dose of reality. Thank you so much for doing that for us.
Not so small love. What a gift. My goodness! So much love and gratitude to you.
Many OSGs ago, in a land called Chakrasambara Buddhist Center, a barefoot Buddhist with mischief in mind and offering the Guru Plate came to my cushion to deliver my plate of offerings. And on this tiny tiny paper plate were stacked three huge ears of unshucked corn. The next OSG it was my turn to deliver the goods…in that case I went with a full-sized Toblerone bar barely balanced on its little tiny paper plate. And so was born a mini-tradition between myself and Colin…the most heaped-high food-sculpture offering that could somehow be perched or stacked on those small plates. Always delivered with the straightest of faces (even if others nearby were trying not to crack up).
This is simply to note that our super-dedicated servant-of-Geshela was also never far from mirth. All last week there was no question in my mind that Colin would not have wanted us to feel despondent on his behalf. That was not how he rolled. I’m sure he’d be the first to remind us that he remains on the joyful path. Thank you, Luna, for “platforming” Colin’s potent legacy.
Oh thank you for reminding me of this wonderful tradition which I had the pleasure of joining in on –
Food heaped as high as a mountain, in the land of Chakrasambara.
I was looking forward to your comment, Tim, and it did not disappoint 😆
Tim — So, that’s what that was going on! I remember you guys laughing about something together during OSG. That’s so beautiful and powerful.
Thank you for this so beautiful testimony. I have the good fortune to met him in Portugal in 2013 and we talked about the ” meditatwork” we wanted to do in KMCParis ….He had a special “solar energy”… So special man and with all the good qualities we want to get !. I was with all of you for the powa … NKT is really powerfull and out of frontiers ! May this “appearance of Colin” help us to obtain strong realisations!
“Out of frontiers”, indeed!!! I second that, may this appearance help all of us become better and more joyful Bodhisattvas.
I’m very sorry for the loss of your beautiful friend Colin. I didn’t have the good fortune of knowing him personally, but after reading your beautiful tribute to him (a few times!), I wish I had. The pictures ring a bell of familiarity for me, so I must have some memory of seeing him around at Festivals at Manjushri. Like so many others, without knowing, I benefited from his great kindness. Thank you Colin!
In the Spring of 2013, a dear Sangha friend, Y, was diagnosed with liver cancer. He immediately decided he had to go to Summer Festival to receive HYT empowerments for the first time. He and I travelled together from Canada to Manjushri. I myself had been on the fence about going, but when I heard that Y was going, I decided to go with him, to help him navigate the way there & home. Just over one month after returning from Festival, Y died, around 5pm on a Monday. That evening at TTP, our RT shared with us the news of his death. After class, a small group of us went to Y’s home and did powa for him, gathered around his bed. It was beautiful. Not long after we finished, two men from the funeral home arrived to take away his body. I watched as they first carefully wrapped his head and face in white cloth, then placed his body in a beautiful jewel-toned royal blue bag. I thought about how this is how statues of Buddhas are protected for transportation, their heads wrapped in white cloth. I felt like this scene was an emanation, indicating to us that Y was now a Buddha. Some days later, our RT heard from Y’s sister, who is not Buddhist, had not been at the powa and didn’t know about HYT. She wrote that she had a dream where Y appeared to her. His body was blue and he told her that his name was Heruka. I thought this was Y’s way of letting us know he had made it to the Pure Land. If he had appeared to one of his Sangha friends in this way, we may have thought it was possibly just wishful thinking on our part. Appearing to his sister who knew nothing of HYT was his way of making sure we believed.
Thank you for sharing the story of Colin’s life with us. It is so inspiring and makes me want to be more like him.
So happy you shared this incredible account — appearing to his sister like that. Wow.
We know these things are possible, we are even aiming at them! We just gotta remember to (disbelieve the ordinary conceptions and) believe.
Magnifique, merci ! 🙏
Thank you, Luna Kadampa, for journaling the unimaginable in “real time” and sharing your process. It was very helpful to observe someone I greatly admire be so candid with their thoughts and feelings. As Kadampas, I know we train for moments like this, but this time it was Colin who, I agree, “was kind of epic”.
I worked closely with Colin at our Center for more than three years, right up until the time of his death. He was the visionary, the faithful disciple working to bring about Geshe-la’s wish and I was the implementer.
Colin demonstrated a single-pointed conviction in the quote from his text that you shared: “This is Geshe-la’s work, and NOTHING gets in the way of that!!!” So powerful was this driving force that I can’t quite move beyond the belief that so much more was meant to happen.
It wasn’t just the big things we would do together. It was also the little things that only friends can share. Colin sometimes expressed a sensitivity about his thinning hair. As someone who has struggled with hair loss for decades, I took comfort in knowing that one day Colin and I would be old, completely bald men, hobbling about but still working together to fulfill Geshe-la’s wish.
But Colin gifted me with something that I didn’t see coming. He left an indelible mark that crept up on me like drops of water slowly filling a bucket. The slow and gentle magic of Colin.
Early on, Colin began referring to me as “my brother” or “my friend.” It’s not my nature to call someone “my brother” or “my friend”, even my own birth brother or lifelong friends let-alone someone I barely knew. Yet he used those words so naturally and with such warmth. I can’t say I was totally comfortable being referred to in those ways, but I can tell you his words were touching me on a deep level. Drops in the bucket.
As I spoke with others this past week I noticed certain themes arising. One was that pretty much everyone thought they had a special relationship with Colin. From my side, my special relationship included a level of emotional intimacy that I have found to be special and rare with other men. Yes, we discussed visions, plans and strategies. Yes, we dealt with challenges or “opportunities”. And, of course, we talked Dharma. But we also shared vulnerabilities. We talked about our weaknesses. Shattered dreams. We talked about regrets. Nothing was off-limits with Colin.
Our relationship was complex, but pure at the same time. I sometimes shared thoughts I should have kept to myself. I’d nag him for answers. Other times I’d be sullen or silent. Or I wouldn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to reveal messy, painful or unhelpful emotions. But Colin always knew what I was thinking, anyway. He would draw me out with phrases like, “I know you don’t agree.” I learned that when there is mutual respect and affection, disagreements can draw two people closer. I always felt totally understood by Colin and completely accepted in his presence.
Colin encouraged me when I lost my faith. He lifted me when I was down. He leveled me out when I was too high. He revealed his skeletons when I felt guilty. He hooked me back when I walked away. And always, always, always, Colin inspired me.
Another theme that arose was that Colin appeared tough on the outside and yet was kind and gentle on the inside. Things moved him deeply. When he heard a sad story he would mist up and pound his chest, as if a gentle acknowledgement of his feelings or to tamp them down. If something pained him, he would wince. If someone got into trouble he might squirm, roll his eyes, make a goofy face or roll his head before shaking it off and then addressing it.
Mostly I loved his childlike and infectious joy. My favorite moments were when I got to share good news. It didn’t have to be big for Colin to rejoice. The thing that seemed to please him most was when someone would step up to volunteer. Whenever I’d share something especially good he would vibrate and say, “I’m getting goosebumps!”
Colin never stopped giving to me, mostly in the form of validation. Even when I complimented him he would give it back with ten times the force. It would fly out of his mouth like a tennis ball being lobbed back, always a variation of, “No, YOU’RE amazing!” And since he knew me well, he knew my favorite gift was our occasional night out at some exotic, tucked away NYC restaurant that only Colin seemed to know existed. On those warm and magical evenings dining on the most delicious food imaginable under the twinkling lights of the City, I would be struck by a sense that I didn’t know Colin as well as I thought. It was as if there was another Colin who, once he stepped outside of our Center, walked in an alternate universe.
Pretty soon after I realized something was seriously wrong with Colin, a thought popped into my mind that I didn’t want to think. And it had to do with the running of our Center. Initially, when I was full of hope, it was how we would piece things together as he recuperated. And when I was forced to let go of the dream, how we would go on without him.
Obviously, there was much to be worked out and quickly, but it seemed maybe this time things should stop. At least for a while. Because this time it was Colin, and to me Colin WAS the Center. But by now I knew the refrain by heart. “This is Geshe-la’s work, and NOTHING gets in the way of that!!!” But still…
And then I heard Colin’s voice in my head, clear as a bell. What I heard was, “Don’t waste any time worrying about me, my brother. I’m good. There are so many people out there suffering. They need you, my friend! Get back out there!”
As I think about all that Colin meant to me, the things I learned from him, and the way he inspired me to calibrate my sights a little higher, a mixture of thoughts and emotions arise. Tears well in my eyes, I pound my fist to my chest and I’m getting goosebumps!
Thank you my friend!!!
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your posting this. You “captured” him so accurately and eloquently, it was like watching a video of Colin highlights.
Colin may have been a major figure in several almost compartmentalized universes — since this happened, it has become clear that, quite aside from the effect he has had on umpteen Kadampas, he was also a hero to his family, his childhood friends, his sailing buddies, his clients, and who knows who else.
That special relationship thing — exactly. How did he pull that off?!! Definitely in training for a Buddha’s equal and unchanging — yet personal — affection for all beings.
In the last year or two I have taken to calling people “my friend” — I wasn’t sure why, I’m British after all, but it simply happened. I just realized from your comment that I probably caught that from Colin 😆
That’s funny you mention that, Luna Kadampa. A few weeks back I heard myself say, “Okay, my friend” to someone I barely knew. It took me by total surprise the way it just sort of flowed out. I love the practice you described: “When someone I love and respect dies, I try to honor them by adopting some of their good qualities.” I imagine many of us are already doing that to some extent with our dear friend, Colin. And something tells me he will continue to appear in random ways and at unpredictable times for a very, very long time to come (where’s the “rainbow emoji” when you need one?).
Looking forward to your article 😉
This is a stunningly beautiful and spot on tribute to our friend – our brother – friend and brother to all. Thank you for perfectly expressing the inexpressible 💜
Thanks, Lesly. Colin used to tell me he liked the way I wrote. Writing this seemed like the best way to honor him. As I was composing it I could hear him telling I should be spending the time helping our precious Center, instead. When the thought arose I would push it aside and say, “No, Colin. Just this once. It’s going to be about YOU!”
Greg — I found this was so incredibly moving, how you bonded as friends and how you express it personally. You pinpoint feelings as a practitioner I sometimes can’t put into words, less express publicly. I generalize but I think dharma men don’t usually express closeness the way dharma women do (we have a host of dakinis who make that connection very well). I sensed Colin had that innate sensibility. I wasn’t close to him but like your metaphor of the drops in a bucket or sometimes maybe KL uses drops in an ocean, his life as a big picture has come into view.
JJJ – I’m glad the tribute I wrote about my friend was meaningful to you. Partway into my friendship with Colin I shared some of the judgements about males I’d been carrying since boyhood. I showed him some of my scars. What he said in response was not just a drop; it was a gallon. Before knowing Colin I would have taken one Dakini over one thousand Dakas. Now? I’m not so sure.
Somehow in my years at the NYC center, I never really met Colin. But I would see him around, barefoot and busy, and I know now how much I benefited from all that he worked for. His was a beautiful example of a meaningful life. An inspiration…
“barefoot and busy”! Love that.
This is astounding. Thank you for all the detail, your thoughts and visions. My heart is so full reading this, especially at the end I feel like my heart is expanding out. The Pure Land must be right there! Just beyond the illusion! And Colin and Geshe-la and Vajrayogini and Heruka are just there, so close.
We attended the powa online and were blown away at how many people were also there virtually. It was beyond beautiful. I didn’t know him personally, but I had the same feeling you did, a certainty I’ve rarely felt, that Colin was THERE, in the pure land, and it was an easy, seamless send-off.
Incidentally, we are on vacation with non-Kadampa friends, one of whom was deeply moved overhearing the Powa. She’s been a close friend for a long time, and in the 20 years I’ve been practicing within NKT, she’s never expressed interest, until Saturday after Powa, when she had questions and requests to learn more!
I do hope our sangha can do this for each other more frequently, now that the Covid-inspired technology is so good. We are such a special family, known and unknown to each other.
Lastly, thank you so much for the reminder that Geshe-la has promised to take care of our families. I’d forgotten this. It brings me to tears that he sent a message to Colin’s family, and to imagine that he is holding all our loved ones with his boundless strength and compassion.
Can’t wait to see how the new CO temple will look! And to visit there!
Blessings to you and everyone —
Thank you for this very beautiful comment, Hilary!
And do please come visit KMC Colorado! Colin was immensely inspired and inspiring about this project — building Heruka’s Pure Land in the Western Land of the Snows. He took me up on the roof to show me that we would be encircled by mountains, at which point I was totally sold. A place worthy of Heruka, he said, and he had a vision of people lining up to join in.
That sounds absolutely incredible, both the experience and vision with Colin and the actual place that is coming. I can’t wait to go there. How far out of Denver is it?
Also, reading other people’s comments about Colin, I realized I do actually have a memory of him. One summer at Manjushri I stayed in the same house as Kadam Morten, who of course always had a lot of people around him. Colin was one of them, and though we must have met, he was *solely* focused on Morten. They talked a lot about dharma and non-dharma things, and the one thing I remember most, b/c I was a rollerblader too, was Colin offering to locate the fastest wheels for Morten’s rollerblades so he could get to and from the center faster. On NYC streets! I thought it was very cool and a little nutty, b/c NYC streets.
Lastly, I wonder if you or someone else could help me connect with Helen? I have a client dying of ALS, and I’ve been contemplating how to help her with dharma.
Hi Hilary, I have used FB to message you Helen’s email address so as not to make it public.
Thank you so much for sharing this and all of your posts. It broke my heart to hear about Colin. The outpouring has been beautiful. To see the way this Bodhisattva touched so many lives. I remember seeing Colin at the Brazil festival and it was the only interaction I ever had with him. He helped answer questions about prostrations and was so happy to show us. Truly a blessing. Thank you sharing his inspiration. 🙏🙏🙏
Thank you for this lovely comment, Dennis. I do find it inspiring to see how possible it is to touch so many lives.
He always appeared to emanate an inexhaustable abundance of joy! What a being. What a life.
Kindness knows no bounds. There are people in Florida right now, able to enjoy meditation class on-line, despite increasing Covid, thanks Colin’s kindness. He shared all the hours of research and testing from KMC NY, to help KMC Florida quickly choose a suitable camera, for it’s long term video broadcast solution.
I have happy memories of earlier day, sitting in Manjushri Temple while Geshe-la taught and seeing Colin walk around barefoot sometimes, keeping an eye on things. What a cool idea, on a summer day!
Thank you for this, Angus!
You might have been the earliest adopter of online classes in the NKT, seeing its potential, as we broadcast teachings from FL coast to coast was it 20 years ago?! — not a lot of people know that, lol.
For me, technology helped Florida’s growth, but Kadam Lucy’s teaching, nurturing and the teachers that followed, are what ultimately established the centers we see today.
I can imagine someone’s partner or work colleague enjoying the gift of their good company. That ‘someone’ attended an online class, clearly seeing, hearing and experiencing the teaching. They may never have met or heard of Colin, but they experience his kindness and on it radiates.
I remember Kadam Lucy quoting Venerable Geshe-la… ‘one Bodhisattva in a community is like a teaspoon of honey, that sweetens the entire pot’. Colin’s ‘community’ appears boundless.
Both heart warming and hard for me to read. Made me recall how hard it was to watch my Aunty die but also feel happy we had Tara at her heart, JP on her crown and mantras in her ears. Also how difficult it will be to remove the grasping and fear from the mind as the body does it’s thing; lungs filling with fluid and the suffocation. Oh my, just awful! I have thought about death every day since and pray I’ll be able to do what I need to do to move on. My Aunty’s words run round my thoughts telling me how awful attachment is and forcefully saying ‘Never come back Marcella’. How fortunate we are to have such amazing sangha support and guidance and how truly amazing to rally so many people together to help Colin on his way. I am a believer, thank you for making me revisit my faith in Powa and our loved sangha jewels in pure lands 🙏🏼
‘Never come back Marcella’. Wow.
Malcolm and I love Colin. We were lucky, after not seeing him for a long time, we reconnected recently. Two weeks ago I met him in the office at KMCNYC before teaching a GP class and he gave me one of his huge bear hugs. He told me how excited he was to be doing the tech for the HYT teachings alone and to give the others a chance to concentrate on the empowerment’s without distraction. I don’t think I understood what a big job it was, so he explained that he was responsible for the East Coast of North America all the way up to Canada. Wow! The timing had to be perfect and it was.
He told me that he had had a cracked hip for decades before his hip surgery and now the doctors were going to do the double knee surgery. I asked him if his knees were bone on bone he said yes which meant that he was in extraordinary pain but I never heard him complain once. In fact I’ve never met Colin at the center when he didn’t have a huge smile on his face! I quietly hoped that all the medical stuff would keep him off his bike.
I’ve also never seen Colin in shoes. My private nickname for him was “ surfer dude.” Although his button down shirts were impeccably ironed over his blue jeans- his uniform- it was almost as if you could smell and feel the ocean, wind and sand when he walked by. He was part of the landscape both natural and urban, climbing on top of trees and the atrium roofs to clean the glass panes. Laurie who worked with Colin for years, told me that he went dumpster diving to salvage beautiful beams of wood to create a wall at the Center. Another volunteer told me that Colin had recently finished all our Center renovation projects and was beginning to work on the plans for the Colorado center. The timing of how he exited samsara is amazing.
I’ve only had a few instances of working with Colin but one that stands out was a diversity committee meeting with the administrators at the Center during BLM protests. Colin teared up as he told us that he had personally taken a diversity training course and he felt that it was critical that our Center strategize to be more accessible to our communities of color. I felt his genuine compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings.
Colin loved Malcolm. They shared the same profession… working on building Geshe la’s temples. They shared their Scottish ancestry and many years volunteering for Geshe la. He kept trying to find Malcom a job where he would not have to do physical labor. He was always thinking of how he could help others. Malcolm saw him the Sunday of the HYT empowerments where they had a quick chat!
My only regret was not following through on the dinner invitation I promised. He wanted to come over to Brooklyn and hang out with us. His accident inspired me to reach out to many sangha who loved and worked closely with him. It’s made me think about my priorities and my refuge practice. Even my Catholic mother asked me for his photo so she could pray for him. He was sangha family, friend and fearless leader. His devotion and faith was inspiring. He was emanation Heruka! The day after his powa at our center, I imagined him “surfing the dharmakaya” on his way to Keajraland paving the path for the rest of us!
Thank you dearest Kadam Lucy for your beautiful tribute to our Colin,and for allowing us to contribute ❤️❤️❤️❤️
This brought me to tears.
Michelle — You’re always so eloquent. The long relationship you and Malcolm had with him is inspiring. He was a cool meritorious dude, out of a Cohen Brothers film.
Love you so much Michelle ❤️
Thanks Luna so much for this wonderful piece. I tried to join the NYC Powa but didn’t have the karma. I did drag my body into the temple though here at Manjushri for the Powa. Was very nice. Going through my whatsapp messages I re-read the last conversations I had with Colin. After reading your words it brings home how humble and genuinely kind he was. It is thanks to his generosity that I had many wonderful experiences – Visiting New York and being able to be a part of the opening of the Commercial space, staying in the mansion for the Portugal Festival…the list goes on. It didn’t 100& dawn on me how kind Colin really was because everything he did was so natural and effortless. He was too pure for my ordinary mind to really appreciate but he will be in my heart more than ever now. If I do have to take another human rebirth I cannot think of another person I would rather model myself upon. I can only pray that I have one tenth of his qualities. Colin is dead, long live Colin. Lekpa x
Beautiful observations. Yes, that celestial palace!!! Very happy memories of us all. Colin viewed you as a good friend.
Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to Colin. I didn’t know him personally but he was a presence at all the Festivals I attended – keeping us safe in the Temple as he quietly walked around in his flip flops.
I only found out about his death and POWA after it took place so have made prayers this morning.
Thank you for reminding us that our sadness is not to be suppressed as it’s “rocket fuel” for our minds of compassion and Bodhichitta.
Colin’s transference to Keajra is such a beautiful example and encouragement to us all in our HYT practice ❤️💎❤️💎❤️💎
Thank you for this lovely comment, Kate.
We need to use that rocket fuel, we really do. Otherwise we are disconnected and our hearts remain closed.
Thanks Luna. I met Colin a couple of times when I was EPC for Glasgow. I was super impressed with his incredible ease and power to make things happen. He was lovely to hang out with too. Nothing was too much trouble and he was so kind and encouraging. Thank you for sharing so much about him so I can rejoice in his incredible merit, his attachments and his wisdom. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I feel very lucky to have him as a great example of a kadampa to aspire to.
So true, nothing was too much trouble. Colin is definitely good subject matter for one of your rejoicing posts — which, by the way, I find very inspiring, and I’m sure a lot of other people do too.
I was very touched by your testimony about Colin and I wanted to fully associate myself with your prayers and dedications. Your anecdotes are very inspiring. So, thank you a thousand times!
When I read your testimony, I have the feeling that Colin was not an ordinary being but an émanation of VGL, even though VGL recites the Amitayus mantra in his ear, even if he asks you about the possibility for a practitioner of Vajrayogini to be reborn in the pure land of Keajra in a maximum of 7 lifetimes etc. It is a strong feeling that I have. Have you ever asked yourself the question perhaps?
His death and the circumstances of his death (during the festival) are in any case real teachings (no guarantee of not dying today, precious ephemeral human life, need to give it all its meaning, danger of inferior and samsaric rebirths. …). These are teachings that were given to us moreover during the festival.
For those who haven’t listened to these teachings very well, then Colin’s death is THE catch-up!
I send all my best thoughts to his family and countless friends.
About the Powa and the strength of the prayers, I wanted to tell a personal anecdote if you will allow me:
I discovered the tradition in 2004 when my father had cancer from smoking for a few months. We did not have very strong bonds between us because of a difficult family context (death of the mother early in my life, absence of the father, family life turned upside down …) but I had kept affection for him and above all, I have always been worried about him because my father did not have a healthy life, have smoked a lot, liked festive alcohol, slept little, took a lot of excess, partying too …
After my mom, who I lost when I was 11, I always thought I was going to lose my dad soon, always.
When he got sick I started having bad dreams almost every night where I saw him wasting away, soon dying. It was very tiring, exhausting. This lasted for 3 years until his death in 2006.
And I was all the more worried about his rebirth because in the last months of his life he had found no better idea than to have fun shooting pigeons with a rifle from his apartment.
But luckily I had encountered the tradition.
A few days before his death, I was in Manjushri for the summer festival. I had taken care to buy a very beautiful card for VGL, chosen with love, in which I thanked him of course for everything he gave us but also to ask him to kindly help my dad so that he is reborn in the pure land of Amitabha. I left my card on the offering table.
During the festival, I continued to make prayers for my dad, to dedicate for him, I also made beautiful and long circumambulations around the temple, during the breaks, imagining myself hand in hand with my father and my deceased mother as well as all living beings. We were very numerous to turn around the temple! It was very powerful! But fortunately, there’s room for everyone thanks to the imagination.
However, I continued to have bad dreams about my father.
And then, I came home at the end of the festival, on a Friday.
On Saturday, I began to buy beautiful offerings to prepare for the Powa that seemed imminent to me.
I wrote a letter to my dad in which I thanked him for everything, with love. I tried to reassure him, to awaken positive thoughts in him because I was very, very worried about his future rebirth. In my eyes, he had done so many negative actions … I never thought I would write such sweet words to him, but it was my duty to do so.
On Monday, I call my dad around 6:00 p.m., he is at home, refuses to go to the hospital, cannot really eat or drink anything, he is exhausted, on morphine, so for 1 minute I tell him affectionate, reassuring words, and told him that tomorrow he will receive my letter, I told him what I wrote, you never know …
In the evening, I practice Tara for him, more concentrated than ever. I imagine streams of nectar flowing from Tara on him.
He will finally die in his bed 45 minutes after the end of the practice.
The next day, I take the train to go to the Paris region where he lives, I will find in the letterbox, the letter I had sent him the day before. It is still at home, I never opened it….
I asked the friends of the Sangha for a powa, I was so afraid for its rebirth! Guen Lhamo, who was teaching in the south of France at the time, would have the immense kindness to take his time to make a powa for my dad, the very day the information was communicated to him! Incredible !
Two or three nights after my dad died, I had a dream about him: we were sitting around the table in his dining room. I was aware that he was no longer of this world. He was super strong as before (my father was a force of nature), with his big arms and his white t-shirt, in great shape, I was worried because I didn’t know what I was going to do with his chandelier in crystal and I asked him about this embarrassing object. He smiled at me without saying a word and looked up at the sky.
When I woke up, I had this unshakeable belief that my daddy was reborn in the pure land of Buddha Amitabha thanks to the intervention of VGL. There was no doubt for me. A non-Buddhist person around me and close to my father also had a similar dream that day where he saw my father in poor health who was hungry.
I was relieved and happy, so happy, so grateful to VGL. I even believe that VGL allowed me to live my festival to the end, keeping my daddy until the end of the festival. This is my belief!
I kiss you.
(very sorry for my English, Google traduction, a very good friend, has helped me to send you these few words…)
I so appreciate you for sharing this and I know others will too.
I am a believer.
So beautiful! Thank you Luna. I met Colin when I moved to NYC almost 15 years ago and joined TTP at Chakrasambara Center. He was always smiling, gave the best hugs and was just a quiet and loving presence. When I heard of his accident, I had the strangest feeling of him talking to me. To be honest and totally transparent, I have been so busy with my life and not practicing as I use to. On Friday…i told my colleagues that I could not attend a meeting and joined the puja. My whole office was filled with the prayers and Tara’s mantra. I believe he came to me and said Mimi, time to come back. He is truly an emanation. Feel such gratefulness ❣️
Time to come back. 😍😇😊
I forgot to mention that during the Powa there was a most incredible cloud formation outside my window. Literally billowing clouds like in the picture of Je Tsongkapa. It was surreal and beautiful x
Whilst I never met Colin I felt honoured to be part of the huge Sangha that joined in prayers for him during his last days in Samsara. From the moment I heard about his accident and the way the Kadampa community gathered together to support him and his family, I felt that something special was happening. I said to some Sangha friends that whilst it was incredibly sad from a ‘worldly’ point of view, I couldnt think of a better way to go having just received an HYT empowerment and being joined by the incredible family of Kadampa practicioners in Tara prayers and then Powa to transfer his consciousness to the Pure Land. Although as you say, it doesnt sound like he needed much help given the amount of merit he had accumulated! I rejoice in his life and his death. May we all be as fortunate to have such a wonderful send off. Having said that I send my condolences to you and all his dear friends and family who feel his loss so deeply. Thank you for the most incredible and I would say ‘life changing’ words and for sharing your intimate last moments with Colin. Sending much love x
Thank you Sara, I think you expressed perfectly how many people felt, even those who didn’t know him directly.
We do have a huge amount of support if we choose to believe it — may everybody come to experience it.
Your article has opened the door in many more peoples’ hearts to Colin, so that even more affection and good wishes can pour through for him. I imagine these good wishes showering down on him as blue Upali flowers in his Pure Land. May he remain in pure happiness and walk barefoot on perfumed flowers always. 💙
Thankyou! I bet Colin is loving walking around on those flowers!!!
I hope and believe the doorway goes in both directions.
Thank you so much for sharing this! Right before I moved to LA I had the good fortune of attending what felt like a private day retreat at KMC NYC: Kadam Morten teaching, Colin holding the fort down and me, enjoying all of it. That one day made me wonder why I had not spent much time with him before, what a great guy he was and what a shame it was that it was my last day there. He clearly took Geshe-la’s words to heart “Go there (Keajra) soon” and I’m happy to know that there’s no other place he could be. What a beautiful heart who even in his death benefited our Sangha by bringing us all together to see just how powerful our faith can be. 💛
I don’t think anyone felt they had spent enough time with Colin. That is what people are telling me. It is a teaching in itself.
I read this when I opened my email this morning , it is such a beautiful piece of writing and drew me right into Vajrayogini’s Mandala
So much love,wisdom and kindness
Thank you so much 🙏💚🖤♥️
May you stay in the mandala forever.
KL – We knew you’d pull through with such a loving and thorough tribute. A flood of memories came to mind on seeing him on screen for Tara prayers. His commitment to use his know-how to establish a consistent home for dharma was hands on. He loved seeing the Center buzzing: he loved when the Gen-las came to town, and big turns out for New Year’s Eve. He cherished the shrine and was always making refinements to the gompa with Wagner and Jonathan. He was devoted to practice: offering the guru plate or spirit offering for OSG. On reflection, it’s as if in the culmination of a human life, the meaning of how he used his life is: this is the time you’ve got, this is how it’s done. Having led a team to facilitate Summer Festival for the NE region, his passing while we were engaging in retreat sessions, became a real time ripening of all those transmissions. There was a palpable sadness but also a ripening of wisdom felt throughout the day of his powa. Colin’s heart in all he accomplished, won’t be forgotten. Jx
Thank you, lol. This article kinda wrote itself.
I really appreciate you sharing some of these details here. This IS how it’s done.
And he did have an impeccable sense of timing.
I forgot to add: Thank you for sharing the last hours (Thursday night and Friday morning) you had conversing with his very subtle mind. That extra effort is truly beyond words.
Colin is as you described and also indescribable based on his vast vision within Geshe-la’s vision. It feels undeniable that he is in Keajra! He was selfless with a big, giving heart. Our hearts have been deeply touched with your open heart — Colin was right, you have an unparalleled talent!
I appreciate you saying so, even though I don’t, lol. But I do agree that it is proving hard to describe Colin, seems there was more to him than met the eye.
Colin’s life and death were meaningful. Love from JPGF, “Appearances are deceptive and our own opinions are unreliable” — it’s a mantra.
Oh Colin! You always appeared to look tough on the exterior but I knew that you were a marshmallow. We always had kind moments of exchanges, you always thanked and shared your gratitude to all of us! Always reminding us of our pure potential.. Thank you !
Oh, Colin’s! Even during your death you steal our hearts! You left samsara with a bang, no more sorrows, no more fears, no more heartaches, no more tears, as you swiftly arrive in keajra , you enjoy the great bliss, dancing with the dakas & dakinis, singing om om om Sarwa Buddha dakiniye, warnaniye vajra berozianiye hum hum hum phat phat phat soha!
Bliss and emptiness of infinite Conquerors who, as if in a drama,
Appear as so many different visions in samsara and nirvana;
From among these you are now the beautiful, powerful Lady of Dakini Land.
I remember you from my heart, please care for me(us) with your playful embrace.
Thank you from the depth of my heart for spending the time and wisdom and love and self-reflection to help all of us who loved and now miss Colin so much.
I would just like to contribute, in a popular but mundane way, my experience in sharing my relationship with Colin. As a selective and low-profile Facebook poster, I occasionally collect a hundred or so responses to particularly dramatic Dharma post or an irresistibly cute picture of a new grandchild or a pet dog. Maybe 150 on a really good day. I posted my tribute to Colin as he was dying. The responses have been tearful and heartfelt and, as of yesterday and counting, have exceeded 1,100. I can see Colin laughing at the outpouring of love and appreciation that he never needed (or wanted) to perform the bodhisattva’s mission.
With love and appreciation,
Thank you Chuck. I know how much he meant to you.
Yes, he didn’t need this outpouring of appreciation, not at all; but I actually think he would be loving it, lol.
Sincere gratitude Lucy for your generous sharing of Colin, stories, his greatness of mind, strengths & wonderous qualities. I know only his face. Now i know more and surely more with reflection. Inspired to prepare for death, differently; or should i say, ‘finally’. To follow in imagined footsteps beginning with kindness ; by adopting or imagining his ‘bare feet mind’ and forgetting about my own. such tiny pain from the pebbles but for such a great purpose ~ OTHERS. is one point. There were many. Feels like a big wave splashing ~ saying waste no more moments of mind, life force, or energy on ‘tending’ to this one. even emptiness of this one aside for a moment. Because someone who so loved so many, and his Guru, was just ‘lifted above’ and left a priceless teaching jewel of kindness. thank alot! xo
I love the poetry in this comment.
Yes, OTHERS. xxx
Heartwarming tribute to Colin Luna. And it’s helping me feel connected and healed from the sadness, thank you. 🙏❤️ I didn’t get to know Colin personally, But I saw him often at the festivals and events at Glen Spey and KMCNYC. I wanted to get to know him, he seems so kind and sweet and gentle. But I was always kind of shy and he seemed so popular. But one time a few years back I had a dream about him and he was asking me to help him with something. I woke up feeling very compassionate toward him and wondered if there was something he needed my help on. So I emailed him and explained the dream to him and explained that we had never spoken but that he probably known me to see me, and I said that I wondered if there was something I was supposed to help him with and that I hoped he didn’t think I was weird for saying this. I never heard back from him by email. Maybe he didn’t read it or maybe he just felt that he would rather not be the one to be helped because he was the consummate helper, from what I hear. To be honest I never knew how extraordinary a person he was I just admired his sweetness his gentleness which was very apparent. When I heard about the accident I was very sad and it hit me very hard I was really surprised and didn’t understand why it hit me so hard. I have had a lot of loss in my life and recognize grief, I know the feeling very well and was hit pretty hard with grief, spent a lot of time crying during the week. I decided when I was doing myself generation practices during the week I will just decide or declare that he was coming with me so I said it out loud “Colin I want you to merge with me and come to Keajra now”, I thought of it as a Vulcan mind meld, and it felt very genuine and I felt empowered by it and I really believed that when I did the 3 bringings he was with me. So then it occurred to me that maybe that was how I was supposed to help him, maybe this was the answer to my question in that email to him 8 years ago “Is there something I’m supposed to do to help you?” The answer had just become clear. After my practices I requested that now that he was actually in Keajra that he please be with us Kadampa at our death time to greet us, I said now I’m asking you for help Colin.
Then I attended the virtual powa and was overcome with a joyful and powerful confidence that Colin was definitely getting to the pureland and again I felt honored to be part of his liberation. A newfound energy came over me and I’ve been feeling more enthusiastic than ever about Dharma although anybody that knows me knows that I’m pretty into it, but the feeling kicked up about 10 levels after the powa. And I’ve been feeling that I need to get more involved and help dharma centers (like I used to).
I do have to wonder though, maybe I didn’t help Colin get liberated, maybe all along he was already in emanation, an example for us to be inspired by. Either way, I feel like some other folks have expressed here in these comments, that I’m changed by Colin’s death and his life. I hope I can be more like Colin and be of more service to Venerable Geshla and our Kadampa family. ❤️🙏
What a stunning comment! I love it so much. Thank you for sharing this. I do think that dream ended up being deeply significant.
Wow Lucy. This cuts straight to the heart (of wisdom!). Thank you for giving us all permission to have a process and not repress our sadness while offering such clear guidance and reason as to how to transform it. I have had so many wonderful Colin memories swirling in my head but I think my favorite to share would be early on as an FP student in Sara Wendt’s class when Collin took us all on a field trip from Chakrasambara on 26th St to the new raw space that is now our beautiful center on 24th St. absolutely beaming as he guided us through imagining what would be what and where; and how and why! Over the years I got to know him – he was so kind to come to shows and was my main Sangha text “go to” as my mother was dying. Always there for everyone. Not long ago I had to report to him that we destroyed the new wooden floors of the children’s school where we were having our Harlem branch class and he told me “don’t worry as long as no one was hurt”. He never told me what it cost and I found out later (gulp). Thank you for taking us all on this beautiful journey with you and Colin and for giving us the opportunity to share our own special Colin moments and to find not only more peace around his death but to rejoice in our admiring faith around his life. What a gift you have given us with this blog. Colin had you pegged you big time. ❤️❤️❤️
“don’t worry as long as no one was hurt”. That is very typical and very moving. I wonder if he just footed the bill, probably 😄 and no doubt happily.
(How did he manage to be the “go to” for all of us?! He had stretchy time.)
Thank you so much for sharing this dear Dana. I look forward to giving you a big hug soon xxx
Thank you for your beautiful and helpful sharing.
I met Colin while living at KMC NY and more than once at Manjushri. Each time we met, I experienced a warm, sweet and gentle heart connection, a loving kindness arising equally from both our hearts and we both received each other from this inner space. Although we did not have lengthy in-depth conversations, this sweet and joyful heart connection was always present. When I read that he was involved in a motorcycle accident, my heart became heavy and a deep sorrow enveloped me. I immediately made fervent prayers to BA upon reading of his passing from his last lifetime in samsara. I know Colin Chase is rejoicing and delighting in KP adventures. Dear Colin, we shall meet again, and have a delightful party in Kearja Pureland with all the Dakas and Dakinis. Thank you for loving kindness and your steadfast devotion to our Guru in your consistent joyful efforts of helping to spread KD far and wide.
That’s beautiful, thank you 😍
Such a beautiful written accountant of your relationship, what you shared and the conclusion to his time in this form body.
Such a tragedy and definitely has one contemplate merit and karma particularly when I think of the generous and dedicated practitioner as Colin is.
In the past I had done volunteer hospice work since as a practitioner I wanted to help where there is the most suffering. I discovered it was the ones left behind that were mostly suffering.
As I practiced the powa while Colin left this plane I had an incredible image arise of Colin looking at all of us in amazement and being so surprised and joyous that some many of us were with him as he transferred on. He was free, happy and not suffering.
Thank you for sharing and sending all sentient being happiness and well being.
What an inspiring vision!, thank you for sharing that.
May I become just like him. I did not know Colin, but was fortunate to participate in the Green Tara puja for him on Thursday. I am so inspired by his example and by the way that the Kadampa Sangha have come to gether. We now all know what we need to do and who we need to be, and that it is more than possible. Whatever suffering life brings, and however and whenever it ends, may we all live meaningfully and die joyfully — like Colin.
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.
I have a photograph I would like to post that may bring some piece and understanding to those reading this article. I do not know how to do this. As a retired photographer, it is the photo of a lifetime. I never have ever seen anything like what I was blessed to see it and to record it during a visit to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in tiny, Hall Indiana where my soulmate, parents and beloved siblings are buried. It spoke to me then and it will, I believe comfort others. I feel compelled to share it. However, I see no way to attach it here.
Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org !!!
He touched us all, individually, collectively and deeply. Our “go to” guy. This has been a powerful week and this beautifully written tribute is opening our hearts even more. ❤️
I agree, what a week! Thank you, my friend, and sending you lots of love ❤️
What a beautiful, thoughtful and loving tribute to a beautiful, thoughtful and loving man. I feel like I know him so well through you. Thank you dear Luna. 🙏❤️
Thank you dear Jeff, I’m glad to hear you say so. See you soon!
I did not know Colin in this life, but have faith I have known him in spirit in the past. What a beautiful tribute.
Thank you so much for sharing! This is so powerful and inspiring. I always love hearing stories about pure practitioners and rejoicing in their good qualities and deeds
Modern day practitioners set such an important example for us.
What a deeply blessed being he was. And what deep blessed kindness your writing is, to share these insights, to capture all this love. I never met Colin but I knew his face from festivals. His death has been a huge teaching. And the stories now of his life an even bigger one, just from his joyful example and his dedication to building a center for so many. I hope to be like Colin. You are right about the heart needing to break, to compel us to walk the Bodhisattvas path. You are right about everything in this article! It made me pause and cry numerous times. It felt filled with wisdom and compassion. I wonder how many enlightenments will happen more quickly because of Colin. I sense countless. Thank you Luna 🙏💙
Thank you so much. This article pretty much wrote itself. It is Colin who is touching people’s hearts.
I feel changed by this week, and my faith and commitment have definitely deepened. And this beautiful post is a part of that, too. Thank you for writing it. And thank you, Colin.
Thank you Sharon. I would love you to write a little story about him to add to the comments if you have time 🙂
Ah, adding a Colin story! Which to choose? When I first starting teaching here and there, I had a lot of delusiions about it all and sometimes I would focus so much on my notes I would forget to do important things (like Heart Jewel!) I felt I never had enough time to prepare. Around this time I mentioned to Colin only that I was a bit nervous teaching and he related a time he found out he was going to teach somewhere and had almost no preparation time at all and just did Heart Jewel over and over. I never forgot that — it went to the essence of what I was forgetting to do, as if he knew, and I never forgot again…he was also so kind to find the office upstairs in the building we did the tweens classes in for a while, and always made sure that we got in and smoothed things over when (at least a few times) we got a bit wild up there! There was no sense of “we don’t have the space for those classes”— he manifested the space!) Doug spoke to him very recently about their moms and Colin mentioned how you didn’t want to repress feelings of sadness at any sickness (or in Doug’s mom’s case, death) but also that these kinds of raw moments opened us up to blessings and teachings. And that’s what’s happening now for so many.
Thank you for obliging! I particularly value what he said about not repressing the sadness, so true. Please give Doug a big hug from me.
This piece brought me to tears and I’ve never met Colin. But I’ve seen versions of this dedication and effort within our Kadampa family, and I deeply, deeply rejoice! Thank you so so much for telling us about him. ❤️
My pleasure. I agree, we have some amazing people around us. Good to realize that even before they die!
Beautiful, thank you.
My pleasure. I almost posted the picture of us in the mansion in Portugal. Maybe i will in a future article. xxx
Just reading this has filled me with a great peace – as though Colin were a modern day Jesus, whose (tragic on the one hand) death has great meaning. Thank you Colin and all the kind Kadampa’s working so tirelessly for the benefit of all. I FELT Colin (or whoever he is) today. Thank you all
There are emanations everywhere.
Thank you too!
Endlessly beautiful…. Thank You !!!!
I’m sorry I can’t comment right now more than thanking your for this. Ok – maybe just this —-> Gen Samten said, “if Colins death doesn’t change us, then his death was meaningless.” I feel profoundly changed by Colins death, and I promise not to go back to my ordinary self.
Love you Lesly 😘
Wow. Not ordinary at all.
I was so so SO sad all week, that Colin was hurt, that he wouldn’t like waking up to his new body/life, mostly that WE would lose such a fantastic person and driving force in the NKT.
During powa when we got to the part where Colin dissolves into Avalokiteshvara who dissolves into Amitabha I just felt a WHOOOOSH and felt he had been swooped up by the Buddhas and I have felt so happy & peaceful since. I’m sure he’s in the Pureland. Not sure he’ll take a day off there either before he starts doing SOMETHING.
Yes, I have been wondering too when he’ll be getting back to work 😄
Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story of Colin’s life and example.
It brought me to tears in many times as I was reading both with sorrow and joy.
I’m sure he’s in Keajra Pure Land blissfully with all the Dakas and Dakinis.
Maybe he was an emanation that came to teach us so much.
May we all develop the good heart and devotion he showed,
may all suffering quickly cease and may all living beings experience great bliss.
Thank you for this beautiful comment, Edna. Yes, we never know who anyone is.
Thank you for this beautifully written piece to celebrate Colin’s life. There is so much love and wisdom embedded in your writing. I didn’t know Colin well, but I have certainly benefitted from all his hard work and commitment to our center. My daughter died in my arms three years ago this month. Grief stays, but it gets lighter as we move forward. We will see them on the other side…
I am so sorry for that enormous loss. Sending you huge love. What you say is true.
Such a beautiful gift you have given us and Colin’s family and friends in writing this. Each paragraph contained yet another Dharma lesson. It does indeed honor your beloved friend and sets a standard in terms of honoring the death process and showing how each of us have our roles in supporting dear Sangha and all beings through it. Thank you from my heat to yours. Colin – thank you for your life well lived. Val 🙏🙏
Aw, I’m so glad. Thank you for this generous comment. We do have our roles.
This is a stunning piece Lucy; thank you for this. I will read this again and again….just beautiful❤️
I appreciate you saying so. I hope to do him some credit.
I never had the pleasure of knowing Colin, but he’s been a part of my life at festival for many, many years. You couldn’t now know of him, not equate his beautiful face with arriving home to Manjushri. Truly an emanation, even in death. Thank you for this article, my gratitude for Geshela has deepened.
I love this!
When I saw his photo I knew him. There was such a wonderful warm feeling of connection at the heart. Thank you for sharing your experience of him❤️🙏🙏🙏