Lama Chökyi Nyima

Lama Chökyi Nyima
Lama Chökyi Nyima

Note: The following interview originally appeared on, Lotsawa House’s former sister site.

Lotsawa School: How did you first learn Tibetan?
Lama Chökyi Nyima: I was in college in Vancouver and was taking a combined major in Asian Studies and Comparative Religion. I had fallen into the habit of using my free periods and lunch hours to go into the library and look through grammars and dictionaries of Asian languages, from Arabic through to Japanese. I would just start playing with them. I found it completely fascinating and satisfying, even on that dilettante-ish level of just learning the rudiments of the script.

Then I came across The Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism by Lama Govinda, which was probably one of only about three books on Tibetan Buddhism available in English at the time. In that he has an essay talking about the structure of the Tibetan language, and I was so fascinated by how intricate and arcane it seemed that I wanted to learn more. He mentioned Jäschke’s grammar and, not realizing what a long shot it was, I went down to the Vancouver public library, and I actually found a copy in the rare book collection. Because it was considered a rare book they wouldn’t let me check it out. So I had to go down to the library and sit there taking notes. I went down time and again, and spent hours going over that book and teaching myself the script. This was before I had even met any Tibetan lamas. I actually got to the point where I was becoming moderately familiar with the alphabet and even some of the combinations of prefixes and suffixes.

I was starting to get the hang of it when a friend of mine told me that there was a “really far out old Tibetan lama” who was visiting Vancouver. Actually I had seen a poster for Kalu Rinpoche’s visit. This was in 1970. I think it was the winter of ’70/71, so I had just turned 18. There was a vegetarian New Age restaurant I used to eat at all the time, and I went in once and found a tiny photograph about the size of a large postage stamp with a little bit of cardboard and a tiny bit of writing. It said, ‘The Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche of Tibet is visiting Vancouver and teachings are being given at such and such an address.’ I kept thinking to myself that I should go and one day my friend and his girlfriend went for a private audience. In those days anyone could walk in at any time. He gave them little malas and blessed them. They came away totally floating—“Oh, what a wonderful wise old man, you should go see him” they said. I was living outside the city, and I didn’t have a car so it was hard for me to get in, but I had a friend drop me off one night at the house they were renting as Rinpoche’s centre. He had been in the city for months teaching every day, and I had missed it all, but I did see him twice before he left. One of the things I remember him saying was that people—especially if they were young enough and interested enough—should learn Tibetan, because there was going to be a lot of need for translators in the future.

Looking back, of all the lamas who have taught in the West, Kalu Rinpoche has left more of a legacy of students training in Tibetan, to some degree, and has produced more translators, I think, than any other lama. Other lamas have told me this too. Among Kalu Rinpoche’s students, there are a lot of translators or, at least, people who can hold their own with Tibetan, who can read a book, and have some facility with the language. And that is because he really pushed it.

So before I even thought of taking refuge, before I knew what taking refuge was, I was going to my first Tibetan class. The Tibetan lama that he left in charge was teaching and of course there were sixty or seventy people at the first class, and thirty at the second class, and fifteen at the third, and by the end of the first year there was just another friend and myself. We went a couple of times a week and he would teach us the basic grammar. He wasn’t a very good teacher of Tibetan, in the same way I probably wouldn’t be a very good teacher of English. It’s one thing to know a language; it’s another to know how to teach it. But I owe him an enormous debt. And also Ken McLeod, who was Kalu Rinpoche’s main translator into English at that point, was left behind to help run the centre with his wife Ingrid. They were both far more proficient than any of us in Tibetan. Ken is very bright and he was very quick to learn and he was always comparatively light years ahead of us and so he was another mentor. The lama would do the ‘nuts and bolts,’ and Ken would help us actually work with a text and show us where we were weak in terms of figuring out the connections between ideas and the flow of things and so forth. So with all that I started to gain a little bit of proficiency. This would have been when I was in my late teens or early twenties.

Then about four years after he had first come, Kalu Rinpoche came back to Vancouver, at the same time as the Sixteenth Karmapa came, so I got to meet both of them at once. I had seen Rinpoche across a crowded room before, but I hadn’t actually met him. By that time I had gained enough proficiency in Tibetan and had already taken refuge, finished my ngöndro practice, and was really on track to doing a three-year retreat. There were three things Kalu Rinpoche used to push: learning Tibetan, taking ordination and doing a three-year retreat. Those were his real three ‘career track’ messages to anyone who would listen, and so I did all three: I learned Tibetan, I asked him for vows, and I asked him for permission to do the retreat. That was in 1974. I started earning money to do the retreat, but at the same time I had such a passion for the language that I was always studying Tibetan. I couldn’t keep away from it. I had a mandate from somewhere to keep studying and reading and devouring stuff indiscriminately.

Lotsawa School: What did you find most difficult about learning Tibetan?

Lama Chökyi Nyima: At that point, it was the lack of any resource material. You had Jäschke’s grammar, which is useless; you had Hannah’s grammar, which is even more useless because all the examples are taken from the New Testament; then there was Mr. Lhalungpa’s grammar of colloquial Tibetan, but it is all Lhasa dialect and not particularly geared towards a practitioner learning Dharma Tibetan and how to read books. I never really found the language baffling. My first wife knew six languages with some degree of facility—classical Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German and Russian—but she could not learn Tibetan to save her life. She said it was like hitting a brick wall. There was something about the way of thinking in the language. I remember one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students asking him, “What do I need to learn Tibetan?” and he said, “A new mind”. You have to learn to think in a different way, and I didn’t have problems doing that.

For me, the difficulties presented by the Tibetan language have been fairly surmountable. They haven’t been major obstacles, but back then the problem was having no resources to rely on. I would go to the teacher with a grammatical question and he could not answer it. He knew what was correct and incorrect, but he couldn’t tell me the reason why something was wrong. I was left to figure it out for myself.

By the time I went into three-year retreat in France in 1976, I was reading sadhanas and prayers, and I could hack my way through some simple commentaries on the practices that we were going to be doing in the retreat. We were all trying to improve our language skills, because everything was going to be in Tibetan. So I thought, “Well, what better way to prepare than by reading some of the books we’ll be using in retreat?” I remember trying to work with a Chöd commentary by Jamgön Kongtrul– it’s a short dmigs rim [ed.—step-by-step guide to visualization] for the Zurmang Chöd—and there was such a thrill or frisson of feeling that I could actually put together a few sentences and understand what the visualization was supposed to be. That was the level I went into retreat with, rudimentary reading and almost non-existent speaking. Any misconception I had that I could make myself understood in Tibetan was immediately destroyed any time I tried to speak to Kalu Rinpoche. I would say a sentence to him and each time he would look at his nephew, Gyaltsen, and said, “Eh? What’s he saying?” Then Gyaltsen would say what sounded to me like exactly what I had just said, but Rinpoche would understand. So there was that frustrating period of time when I thought I was making sense and I obviously wasn’t. Part of it seemed to me as though he was not ready to hear Tibetan coming out of my mouth. He looked at this round-eyed kid in front of him and thought, “No, he can not be speaking Tibetan, so I’d better check with Gyaltsen.” And part of it was probably that my accent was horrible and because of my choice of vocabulary. I realize now I would choose literary words which you don’t use in a colloquial context.

In the retreat everything was in Tibetan, so by the time I came out I was fairly comfortable with books, or at least a lot of books, which were more practice-oriented and therefore not as challenging as something more philosophical. Then Kalu Rinpoche took me around Europe and then to India for over a year to translate for him. That’s where my skills really improved very quickly. I was put in a situation where most of the people I saw during the day were Tibetans or Bhutanese, who spoke virtually no English. Nowadays the problem is that more and more of them are speaking some level of English and they’re keen to learn more. So you go there to learn Tibetan and you end up teaching them English! The old model of “go and live with the Tibetans” isn’t working any more.

So I spent a year and a bit in India and travelled with Kalu Rinpoche for almost two years after that, and that’s when I really started to develop oral fluency. For me the most significant determining factor for keeping up with Tibetan is my obsession with it. Every once in a while I teach something through David Curtis’ Tibetan Language Institute and people ask me how I learned Tibetan. I say, “Far better than doing five hours every Sunday is to do fifteen minutes every day.” You learn more if it is regular attention to the process. I had no trouble doing that because I was obsessed—in a very benign and helpful way. I was completely obsessed with learning the language, and learning more and more, and I still am. I don’t believe a day goes by when I don’t look at something in Tibetan, and usually something that pushes the limits for me, in terms of learning new terminology, new phrasing, new idioms. I am just fortunate that way. I had an inclination that I just followed and indulged.

Lotsawa School: What were the greatest challenges in the beginning?

Lama Chökyi Nyima: I think everyone has an easier time with written Tibetan because it stays still, it sits there on the page and doesn’t change, whereas the first thing you encounter when you are an oral interpreter is dialect. I was fortunate in a way because almost everyone I was dealing with was a Khampa of some sort. I was exposed fairly early on to Dezhung Rinpoche’s Gapa dialect and Kalu Rinpoche’s Horpa dialect. Not only was Kalu Rinpoche a Horpa, but he had false teeth that didn’t fit well. So his accent was extremely tricky at times, but I think it stood me in good stead. For example, he would pronounce the words for water (chu), dog (khyi) and dharma (chos) in exactly the same way. They were all ‘chi’. So context was all important.

I made mistakes a lot of the time in the early days and there were times when I had to ask him to repeat himself, or I would turn to Gyaltsen and say, “What did he just say?” So the hardest part from the oral point of view was dialect and the fact that Tibetans are unable to drop their dialects. That is fair enough, it’s the same with English-speaking people. People from Britain can’t speak like an American and vice versa. People from the Deep South here can’t lose the drawl just because it is inconvenient. You just have to learn to roll with it. It plagues me to this day, but not as badly. My first introduction to Golokpas was in the ‘90s, and fortunately the first few had fairly mild accents, but when I met Khenpo Jikpun I couldn’t understand him. It’s not easy even now. I listened to him on tape just the other day and I knew the gist of what he was saying but so much of it seems to be superfluous dialect ‘grunts and whistles’ that don’t really serve any grammatical purpose, other than to indicate that you’re from Golok. So you have to learn to filter those out and that was hard for me to learn right away.

You have to learn to filter out those dialect words or quirks. It’s a bit like ‘Valley speak’ of “you know” and “like”. When you hold a conversation with a lot of younger people in America you have to filter out half of what they say, because it is superfluous, it makes no difference to the meaning, it is just a verbal tick. Most Tibetans have that too to some extent, so you have to be patient.

I think the problem that a lot of people have when they first start is that they try to be as accurate and as true to the teachings as they can, and they don’t realize the teacher is making that enormously hard for them without meaning to, just by virtue of how he or she is speaking. A lot of that has nothing to do with the message, and you have to learn to give yourself the slack to eliminate a lot of what they are saying. Or they’ll repeat themselves, often because they want to make sure you as the translator get it. The audience doesn’t need to hear it three times over. Actually the audience does need to hear it three times over, but they don’t think they do because they’ll get bored. So you have to allow yourself that judicious role of editor, like a film editor cutting out raw stock and dropping it on the floor. It’s kind of ironic because people are usually accused of taking far longer to say in English what the teacher said in Tibetan, but it’s also the case that with some teachers I would end up leaving so much on the cutting room floor and try to get to the core of what they’re saying. That’s something you only learn the hard way. You get up in front of an audience and waste a lot of time figuring out where that line falls. And it is different from teacher to teacher and it’s different from subject to subject. Sometimes a teacher will be perfectly clear on one subject and be all over the map on another. It’s really a hard call.

I remember a group of us involved in Tibetan translation were talking with Trungpa Rinpoche back in the 1970s in Vancouver. I always remember he said [mimicking his voice], “You want to be kind of a window. You don’t want to be a door; you want to be a window.” He said you should be as transparent as possible, but on the other hand you don’t want to make it too easy. Somebody asked him about interpolating a lot of useful information when you translate, so that people will be able to understand something the teacher said that was very terse. He kind of twinkled and said, “You don’t want to make it too easy.”

You have to find that line between putting in too much of your own presence and ego—for want of a better word—and at the same time doing it so literally the message never gets through. So it’s not a clear call. I don’t have any hard and fast rules; I don’t even have any snappy guidelines, except that you have to be an ‘intelligent window.’ You have to be as transparent as you can be.

Lotsawa School: What have been your most memorable positive and negative experiences translating?

Lama Chökyi Nyima: I don’t think I can isolate the single most positive or negative experience for oral translation. The single most positive experience for books is getting them finished. I mean there is a joy that comes from just exploring the book, but the real sense of satisfaction comes when you are holding the printed version in your hand.

For oral translation there have been a few times when, without having any sense of personal ego involved, I could do no wrong. I was ‘on’, so to speak. The teacher was connecting with the audience and I was the reason he or she was connecting.

I can remember one occasion in particular, which stands as a high point in my career as an interpreter. Kalu Rinpoche was invited in the early 1980s to go to Trungpa Rinpoche’s seminary, which was a three month program held every year. He would do hinayana the first month, mahayana the second month and vajrayana the third month. I don’t know at what point we came, but it was by invitation. We had dinner with Trungpa Rinpoche, which was quite a scene in itself with his butler wearing white gloves and serving the food from silver salvers. Then the next morning Kalu Rinpoche was asked to address the sangha. I remember it was on that occasion that Allen Ginsberg decided to play devil’s advocate, and said, “What is the dharmic or a-dharmic reason for Trungpa Rinpoche’s drinking? And, as his students, how should we relate to that?” Of course, a deathly silence fell over the room, and I think the vajra guards were ready to jump him and cut his tongue out, but I translated it for Kalu Rinpoche. Rinpoche sort of smiled and said, “Well, let me tell you first about Padampa Sangye. Padampa Sangye was a real boozer and a lot of his students had a problem with that, and one of them finally asked him why, if he was an enlightened master, he was always drunk. And Padampa said, ‘Ah, the Padampa may be impaired, but the döndampa (absolute) is not.’”

So often the things that die are the jokes. They’re the things that would make the talk happen, but they don’t work in English if you are doing too literal a job. In this case, it just fell into place, and the audience loved it. Then he was able to say, “Now having said that, I myself am concerned about Trungpa Rinpoche’s health. I have no concerns about the morals or ethics of him drinking. I am concerned about his health and I think you as his students should be too. And you could go to him and say, ‘Please sir, we have absolute faith in you as our teacher, but for the sake of all beings, please consider extending your life by cutting back on your drinking.’” He said once you’ve accepted someone as your vajrayana teacher, you can’t speak to them from a perspective of ‘I am right and you’re wrong. You’re making a mistake and doing something bad and I insist that you change.’

He was only able to get that message across so kindly because of the set-up with the joke. It was only a small talk that went on for about an hour, but during it I felt as if I was a conduit. My whole personal sense of “me” checked out somewhere, and I was just a conduit whose only job was to turn one language into another and it just flowed through. It’s happened in other circumstances too, but that certainly was one of the most positive experiences, if not the most positive. It’s when the juice is flowing, when you feel you are able to exercise your skill without any of your ‘stuff’ getting in the way. And I don’t know of any formula to make it happen. I am sure that something like practising or praying before going on stage would tend to facilitate that, but it doesn’t always work. It really has to just be in the moment, in the circumstances.

Contrariwise, I would say that the most negative experiences I have had fall into two categories. One is when you can’t really understand the teacher and you are dancing so fast just to keep a coherent flow of English coming out that it hurts. It is painful to be up there when you can’t really understand what the teacher is saying. And the other is the flip side of the positive one—when your ego is really in the way and you can’t do anything about it. It is all so clunky. You can tell that you are making things up. The teacher is not really saying that, you’re messing with it, you’re editing, you’re interpolating, and therefore you’re impeding.

When I have been in those situations I have once or twice had people catch me doing it. Sometimes they have said something right away, for example in an interview, when I have anticipated what the lama was going to say. I remember once somebody asking something to Kalu Rinpoche. Rinpoche said something to me, and basically I was fed up with this woman. I thought she was just being self-indulgent and needed to be told so. And so he said something of a mild nature, and I basically let her have it. I said something very pointed and she said, “Did he say that?” She caught me right on the spot and it was very embarrassing. But in all honesty I had to admit it, because you have a professional sense of ethics. You have to do that. You can’t pretend. I think it is very important that we not try to present ourselves as perfect. We do make mistakes. We are trying our best, and we do make mistakes. The moment you start pretending that the lama said something he or she didn’t, it’s a slippery slope to perdition. So it is one thing to genuinely make a mistake and think the teacher said something he or she didn’t, and it’s another thing to deliberately obfuscate because you’ve been caught in a bad decision. There were times when people came up to me after a talk and said, “Did Rinpoche really say all of that? Because it really sounded artificial and awkward.” So you are not always ‘on’.

The negative experiences are of those two categories: you either can’t understand the teacher at all or you are making it up. You are in the way: you are not the transparent window, you are the thick, solid door that people are banging on trying to get at the teacher and they can’t. Both of those are very painful experiences. In my own case, by and large, I have always been trying to do my best job, but sometimes you are going through something personal, or you and the teacher are having a bad day, and it not only isn’t flowing, but you are really obstructing the process of transmission. And because people’s practice hinges on it, it becomes a crucial issue. If you were talking about baseball or the weather, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but because you are imparting information that people are going to base perhaps a lifetime of practice on—it might be the only time they meet this teacher or it might be years before they get to check back with him or her—and they are going to go away and everyday they are going to sit down and get their sadhana books out and do whatever you said they should do, there is that responsibility. It is really like being a doctor or a shrink. It certainly is when you are the lama, but because the lama also needs a conduit, it also is when you are the translator. You need a real sense of professional ethics. When translators really think they know more than the teacher and the student and are either showing off or just not giving the job the care and attention it deserves, I think it’s deadly. I think they should be in another line of work. They should go and take up auto-mechanics.

Lotsawa School: Do you have any advice for people just beginning?

Lama Chökyi Nyima: For an oral interpreter, the ideal circumstances are at first to keep your ears open and your mouth shut, and try to put yourself in a situation where you are surrounded as much as possible by spoken Tibetan, which is not easy these days. It never was easy, but at least you could go to Asia and find those kinds of situations. Now that is getting harder and harder to do.

But more than anything, I think, regular exposure is the key, whether it’s studying written material to help you understand spoken Tibetan more and use it more, or whether it is just listening to tapes or live spoken Tibetan. That’s the single biggest factor: regular exposure. You know, they have this theory that the nadis shape themselves when you are growing up to conform to the language that you are learning and when you learn another language, what’s happening is that the tips of your nadis are being slightly re-programmed. I mentioned earlier that when people ask me what the most important factor is in learning Tibetan I say regular exposure. Fifteen or twenty minutes a day is far better than a few hours at the end of the week. If you cram at the weekend and do nothing the rest of the week you don’t get the same re-shaping or re-configuring of the nadis that you do when you hear it everyday. Beyond that, it is up to the individual. If people are learning Tibetan so that they can work with a specific teacher as that teacher’s translator then they don’t really need too much exposure to other dialects. But if they want either to be a professional interpreter who travels the globe doing gigs for various lamas or if they just want to be able to talk to lamas about practices or about books, then they really need to seek exposure to different dialects. Even though most Tibetans in exile seem to lose the rough edges on their dialects, it is still very useful.

Another thing to remember is that, as nerve-racking as it can be, by and large, you are preaching to the choir. People who come to hear a teacher are not particularly cynical or aggressive or out for blood, they are there to be entertained if nothing else, and edified, and so they are very receptive. It is always possible to step out of character and say to the audience, “I am still in training. Please be patient with me. I need to check this point with the teacher.”

I think often people don’t feel like they have that freedom, so they end up collapsing. They end up doing a meltdown in front of everybody and that’s really deadly, because any kind of flow of information is completely interrupted. If you just hit the pause button, and say “I am not quite getting this” and go back, then hopefully it resolves itself within a few minutes.

I just thought of another negative experience. It was the first time I ever translated for Kalu Rinpoche orally in a group. It was at Kagyu Ling in France right before our retreat and he was teaching on Chakme’s Aspiration Prayer for Sukhavati. If you are familiar with the prayer you know it is very misogynist. Chakmé was a monk and he was talking about monks. So Sukhavati only has monks in it, thank you very much, and none of these lower births. There was a whole group of Danish and German women that had come down with Ole Nydahl. I was already nervous and a little bit off because I couldn’t understand everything Rinpoche was saying. Lama Denis was translating into French, and he would translate first, so that I could listen to his French. which I understood far better than I understood the Tibetan, and then I would translate into English. But there were a couple of times when I simply did not get it and Lama Denis had to lean over and, in a stage-whisper, feed it to me in English. This did not help my credibility with the crowd or my sense of being at ease. But the thing that really rattled me was when Rinpoche said, “And the next line is: In Dewachen there are only monks, and no women.” When that came out in English, this phalanx of valkyries stood up in the back and went “No!” and shook their fists at him. Even he was a little non-plussed. I thought they were going to tear me limb from limb. I wanted to say: “Don’t shoot me, I am only the messenger.”

Very rarely someone might disagree with something the teacher says so violently that they pipe up and say, “That’s bullshit,” or “I don’t believe that,” or “How could you say that?” But that happens very rarely. People usually have better manners. But if it happens, you’ve got to deal with it.

Lotsawa School: The last question is about how you work, what your process is.

Lama Chökyi Nyima: I used to think that it was a smart idea to read through a work from start to finish before even touching it, but I have never done that. I tend to dive right in at the first page and start translating. If I am translating a written work, I just sit in front of the computer and have the book open in front of me and I just start to type something in. Then during the course of a text, I sometimes find myself having to read ahead through a section and get the gist of it. You obviously can’t just read a sentence, type a sentence, read a sentence, type a sentence; but it tends to be more like that for me than reading through the text entirely a few times to familiarize myself with the material first. Possibly I should try that, but at this point, I am sufficiently conversant with most topics that there aren’t enormous surprises for me.

Most people who are doing written work begin by reading a lot of books first anyway, before they sit down to actually try and translate. In fact, I would recommend that to people: that they not try and translate too early on. You might even set up a negative reinforcement thing in your mind where you make so many mistakes and have such a hard time that it puts you off the process.

For oral interpretation I take copious notes these days. I never did before but I had the advantage of working with Kalu Rinpoche, who used simple sentences and never spoke for more than a minute at a time. He usually spoke in a very predictable way. So once I was used to the topics he covered and how he covered them, I could just sort of sit back and almost go on auto-pilot. Other teachers are different. Sometimes they’ll throw you something completely out of left field. But I found that as I got older, partly because I was working with teachers who would go on for forty-five minutes without a break, and sometimes because I was just getting older and losing my memory, I had to start taking notes. I noticed that the percentage of stuff I was forgetting was increasing. As long as it is 10%, I figure that you are still doing an okay job, but when it starts to creep up and you are leaving out significant points, particularly if it is a point in a progressive argument that is really valuable to that argument, then you need to start taking notes. I developed a short-hand which is unique to me. Nobody else could read it, let alone use it. It is a combination of mathematical symbols like ‘therefore’ and ‘leads to’ and ‘equivalent to’ and ‘equals’ and so forth, and things like ‘B b’ for buddhas and bodhisattvas, ‘s-b’ for sentient beings, ‘phb’ for precious human birth. So whenever stock phrases come up, as they inevitably do in a language as formulaic as Tibetan, I already have my little list of abbreviations. I manage to get down all the main nouns and verbs and the flow of the argument, and any kind of consequential statements ‘because of this, therefore this’ and just get the flow of it. Then you come back with it right away and it’s fresh in your mind and the thing triggers. If I look at it the next day, it often doesn’t make very much sense, and I have to really think about how it all fit together, but in the moment it works. I don’t try to take anything verbatim. You can’t, they speak too quickly.

Lotsawa School: For your written translation, do you make use of much reference material?

Lama Chökyi Nyima: Oh gosh, yes. I use the Tshig mdzod chen mo dictionary a lot. I realize that for people starting out a Tibetan-Tibetan dictionary is not that helpful, but inevitably it will become enormously helpful. I have a number of those chos kyi rnam grangs dictionaries that have the twos and the threes and so forth, which I acquired in Tibet and elsewhere. And because a lot of the work I deal with is full of quotations from Indian sources and so forth, I have all the ACIP stuff in Wylie. I have all the gzhungs and make heavy use of that. And I have the 17 Tantras in Valby’s entry. I rely heavily on those and I have an extensive library too of hundreds of books and a fairly good mental map of where things are in those books. I don’t make any claim to have read most of the books, but when I buy a book, I’ll often flick through the index and the table of contents and get a sense of what it covers. So if I come upon something about Tibetan horsemanship in the 3rd century I have an idea where to look. I rely heavily on research materials. It’s not that it helps me figure out better how to translate that section in the text, but it gives me a cosy feeling of knowing there’s all that support structure. I find myself looking something up in the dictionary and I know perfectly well what it is going to say, but there is almost a reassuring feeling of confirming that I know what it is going to say. I am completely self-indulgent on that level, I use resource material like crazy.

This interview took place in a Japanese restaurant on 2nd Avenue, New York on April 24th, 2004.


  1. Great to read this Chökyi (Chevre) …hope you are well and happy. I´s a long time ago … Chateau de Plaige, Kagyu- Ling…Lama Sherab Dorje …Julie (the cook at the time) and little Isabella who gave all the monks names of animals…so, your name was Chevre and Hugh was Autriche. Well Chökyi all the best, take care, Julie

  2. Chökyi Nyima is an old friend from long ago when he did the retreat in Kagyu-Ling / France

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