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Jeffrey Hopkins, Buddhist scholar, Tibetan translator, author and professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia in the United States, suffered in 1991 from the debilitating and sometimes fatal Lyme disease. He talked to Ven. Robina Courtin in Kathmandu, Nepal in June 1993 about being close to death and of the experience of subtler states of mind.
Robina: When did you get sick, Jeffrey?
Jeffrey: I showed my sickness on March 17, 1991. I had for quite some time thought that something was wrong. I remember getting in my car at the university one day and thinking: “I’m not playing with a full deck!”
It was 10:30 in the morning. I had worked out with my friend and he was making breakfast. I was working on a book on colloquial Tibetan, which we have subsequently named Fluent Tibetan, but my problem was I wasn’t fluent! I was correcting something and trying to write the letter ya and I couldn’t write it. And I thought, “That’s strange.”
Then I went and lay down on my bed and suddenly the right side of my body was paralyzed. Even the right side of my tongue, which was amusing! It happens that, the night before, I had told my friend that if I ever got ill he should call Bill Magee, a student and friend of mine. I was in and out of the paralysis, so at some point I called out and said, “Call Bill! Now is the time!” At first he thought I was joking.
… On that first day they did a procedure to check whether my carotid artery was blocked; it wasn’t. They also did a spinal tap, which is that essentially they stick a shish kebab skewer into your spinal cord and withdraw fluid under a local anesthetic. It isn’t too painful if it is done well; I ended up having it done seven times, and one of them wasn’t done well and was painful for a few days.
You’re not supposed to have any white blood cells in the spinal fluid; if the count gets up to eleven, they feel that’s serious enough to be treated. My count was 144, which indicated a severe brain infection. They guessed encephalitis, so they began treating me with Cyclovir intravenously.
That first evening I was in the intensive care unit of the neurology section. For the most part I was floating in golden light.
Robina: Floating in golden light …
Jeffrey: It’s a reflex of a deeper experience, but with the deeper experience you don’t have the feeling of floating in something, you are the something. I did sometimes have an impression of a hospital, a little bit of surroundings, imagined. They talk about all appearances gradually disappearing at death …
From Mandala May-June 1995
FPMT News Around the World
Ganden Do Ngag Shedrup Ling Director Massimo Corona reports the recent uncovering of a VHS tape from a decade ago, featuring the former CEO of FPMT Mongolia Ueli Minder and Thubten Gyatso (Dr. Adrian Feldmann). The rough but fascinating video documents some of FPMT’s early contributions to the restoration of Buddhism in Mongolia. The 13-minute video, now available on FPMT Mongolia’s YouTube channel, includes footage of the renovation of a historic monastery located near Ulaanbaatar where Drolma Ling Nunnery, the first residential Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in Mongolia, was established. Also making a brief appearance in the video is Ven. Bakula Rinpoche, who greatly contributed to the return of Buddhism in Mongolia.
The history of Buddhism in Mongolia is rich, going back to the third century B.C.E. But with the rise of communism in the 1920s and Mongolia’s close alignment with the Soviet Union, Mongolian Buddhists suffered heavy oppression, witnessing the extensive destruction of monasteries and temples and the purging of an extraordinary number of monks and lamas in the late 1930s. The relighting of the lamp of Buddhism in Mongolia signifies the strength and determination of Mongolians to reclaim this nearly lost aspect of their cultural heritage.
Be sure to check out more of Mandala’s recent coverage of Mongolia.
With 160 centers, projects, and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
FPMT News Around the World
It is with sadness that we share the news of Gunjiimaa Ganbat passing away. After struggling with a very difficult to treat form of drug-resistant tuberculosis, Gunjiimaa died in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on April 1, 2012. Gunjiimaa made significant contributions to the development of FPMT Mongolia, including serving as an FPMT Mongolia translator, as Ven. Thubten Gyatso’s (Adrian Feldmann) Mongolian translator and as the previous director of the FPMT center in Ulaanbaatar, Ganden Do Ngag Shedrup Ling, founded in 2000.
“Gunjii,” as she was fondly known, was also the driving force in connecting MK Sen, current CEO of FPMT Mongolia, with several parties able to offer the help and assistance needed for Rinpoche’s priority projects in Mongolia. Gunjii was part of the special team overseeing these projects. Her immense personal contributions to ensure the success of each project will remain as testimony of her faith and devotion to her guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. As MK puts it, “Gunjii will be irreplaceable and a great loss to FPMT Mongolia. We pray for her blessed rebirth.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was reached very soon after Gunjiimaa’s death and was able to give advice to those near her. Rinpoche also immediately did Vajrayogini powa and other prayers and then requested Khadro-la to also do the necessary prayers and practice for Gunjiimaa.
When reading an obituary or an announcement of death in Mandala, Lama Zopa Rinpoche advises that students make prayers for the recently deceased that they “find a perfect human body, meet a Mahayana guru and become enlightened quickly, or be born in a pure land where the teachings exist and they can become enlightened.”
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