is the same man that’s building the Cremation Site stupas 25 years later – Tom Waggoner.
Adele Hulse, the author of Lama’s upcoming biography ‘Big Love‘, recently sent me an account of Lama’s cremation. It tells the story of Tom in his white pick up truck driving Lama’s body in a casket half way across California. The scene it depicts would seem too far fetched for a movie- and yet here they were. Whatever myriad obstacles would normally manifest didn’t materialize. Not that day, nor the previous day when John Jackson magically pulled off a permit for burning Lama’s body.
I leave you with the account of those two days – excerpts from ‘Big Love’
Sunday, March 4th
John Jackson flew back to Vajrapani to begin preparations for the cremation. What authority did they need to cremate at Vajrapani? And how could they find out, as it was a Saturday and all the offices were shut. The mortician called the Governor of California’s office and the Boulder Creek environment protection office, who said they simply needed a two-dollar fire permit. ‘We told them it was to burn a body, but they said it was the same permit to burn brush,’ said John Jackson. ‘We said thank you so much. It was astounding that we were able to pull that off. Later it turned out there had been a misunderstanding, and they would have felt very differently about burning a body. But by then it was too late.’
Lama Yeshe’s death certificate stated his occupation as ‘Buddhist monk’ and the number of years in such employment as ‘life’. His employer was listed as ‘Mahayana Buddhism’ in the industry of ‘Religion’.
More students gathered at the Los Angeles mortuary, all of them noting the bliss and serenity on Lama’s face. ‘Lama looked really beautiful,’ said Lennie Kronisch. ‘There wasn’t a line on his face, his eyes were closed and slightly turned up at the corners like a beatific Buddha. You could just feel the energy coming off his body. For the first twenty-four hours after he died there was this incredible radiance and I thought: this stuff is all true!’
Lama Zopa’s instructions were not to embalm the body. Lama’s holy body now lay in a simple chipboard casket covered in grey cotton felt, over which a magenta silk robe was draped along with the yellow chogu. Lama Zopa and the students spent the night there doing Thirty-Five Buddhas practice, Vajrasattva mantra, prostrations and meditation until dawn.
TAKING THE HOLY BODY BACK TO VAJRAPANI
Monday 5th March
Tom Waggoner packed the casket with dry ice, with instructions from Rinpoche to replenish it when necessary and take great care. The box was then carefully loaded onto the back of Tom’s pick-up truck and tied down, the tailgate left open to accommodate its length. (…)
Around midday Tom set off for Vajrapani, Rinpoche following directly behind in Doren’s van and two cars of students behind that. They stopped at a gas station just out of Los Angeles, where everyone carefully washed Tom’s white truck until it was immaculate. At meal stops they parked the truck right under the restaurant window. They needed to see it. The journey lasted some thirteen hours.
There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas.
May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.