By Ty H. Phillips
In 2011 I was ordained in the Celtic Buddhist lineage.
The lineage, much like the pioneer that created it are controversial. The Celtic Buddhist lineage is an offshoot of the Chogyam Trungpa lineage, itself somewhat controversial. It seemed like a perfect fit for me—both my background and my story are somewhat cloudy at best.
The decision to take ordination was not an easy one. I had spent years as a hard-nosed atheist, a man of science and skepticism. The lack of deity and faith in the tradition made it easier for me to embrace and its stance in reason and moral action helped give me guidance and peace among a stage in my life where death was thought immanent.
Leading up to my ordination and directly after, I began having dreams that were odd, to say the least. However, the week after I took vows, I had the Trungpa dream—a dream that would stand out to me, move me, haunt me and even confuse me for years to come.
The dream started when I found myself at the bottom of a large cliff, surrounded by night and darkness. The face of the cliff was covered in vines that led to a door of light at the top. As I looked around, I was faced with emptiness or the option of climbing to the door. As I neared the top of the cliff I heard a voice coming through the door, solid, yet ethereal.
“Will he choose to come again?”
The question came through the door of light, like a warm but distant covering. I found myself facing the opening and again the voice confronted me, “Will he choose to come again?” As I stood there, I turned again, looking at the darkness behind me and stepped through the door.
Stepping through, I found myself sitting on a large deep-red throne at the end of a long hall, with a baby on my lap. At the end of the hall, the floor covered in a long rich maroon carpet, stood two men holding flags of red and gold with Tibetan symbols on them. The voice rang out again, asking me both if I was choosing to come again and if I knew the child.
I looked down at the baby in my lap. He smiled up at me with a warmth and familiarity of an old friend. He touched the crown of my head and inside of my head I heard the child say yes with a mischievous laugh.
The next thing I knew, I was standing in my home answering the door where the full grown Chogyam Trungpa stood asking me to take a ride with him. He touched my head and laughed.
As we sat in the back seat of a sedan he talked and laughed, asking me questions that were both familiar and uncomfortable. Before I knew it, we were at what seemed like an old church building or business office. We walked inside and he introduced me to a man he called his father,
We walked the halls laughing, sharing, telling stories of dinners and parties that I feel like I remembered yet seemed foreign to me.
Soon, we found ourselves in large auditorium style room, red carpet, chairs encircling the main area and a screen with pictures of the Trungpa’s life being shown. I sat and watched for a while, enraptured in scenes that I knew yet didn’t know. There was a sense of eerie familiarity to them and yet it felt as if I was seeing them for the first time, too.
As I watched, I found myself sitting alone, off to the right in high-backed maroon chairs clad only in my underwear and the Trungpa and his father standing in front of me. Together they handed me an envelope with four golden coins in it. As I looked at the coins they insisted that I guard them with my life and cherish them. I nodded in understanding and felt a smack on my head again.
As I looked up, I was alone once more. I held the envelope and the coins and heard only mischievous laughter.
Immediately, after the dream was over, I woke up clutching an invisible envelope to my chest. When I looked around, I realized that I was still sitting in meditation, having drifted off or being taken over. To this day I do not know if it was anything more than Freudian projections or a meaningful encounter.
Maybe I never will.
Five years into being ordained and working with others, this dream remains in the front of my mind, like a pricker in a sock. I’ve sat with teachers from many lineages, shared meals with friends and students, grown and faltered and all the while, that mischievous laugh is with me.
I can still feel that playful thump on my head.
I’ve shared the dream with lamas and laymen and some feel it is of great importance and some feel it is nothing but a dream. Either way, the symbolism of it holds true. Holding the dharma close, taking refuge, trying to teach and learn by example and encounter. To smile and laugh when I notice myself clinging and stuck in attachment.
I hear that laugh now…we laugh together.
Editor: Dana Gornall