“My friend Mike Lear died 18th March aged 84. He was the friend who supported me all the time I was in India – the one I left when I became a nun [as told in Lama Shenpen’s life story book ‘Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting – An English Woman’s Journey to Becoming a Buddhist Lama’ – see excerpt below.]
He was such an unselfish and generous man, I kept in touch with him by letter and phone over the years and spoke to him just a few months ago.
He became a Jehovah’s Witness because there was a very nice community of them in his neighbourhood and he appreciated their dedication to higher values than just the materialistic ones around him.
He tried to be a Buddhist for many years but said he found it too difficult to understand and his meditation sort of dropped off after a while. Nonetheless he greatly valued the Buddha image I gave him on my return from India and said it brought him peace and inspiration. So, when he became a JW he respectfully returned it to me and I have it near me to remind me of my connection with him as I pray he find the Dharma and we meet again in life after life working together to bring all beings to Awakening.
I have to add that he met Trungpa Rinpoche while I was running the Buddhist Society in Reading in the 1960s and that meeting left a very deep impression on him. So I think he will not lose his way in the bardo.
His ex-wife sent me the news of his passing on a beautifully handwritten bright yellow card with a sun with a smile on it and asking me to send him blessing to help him in his onward journey. I was very touched that she went to such a lot of trouble to inform me straightaway and indeed I am praying for him and dedicating punya for him and telling everyone who has read Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting so that they can pray for him too.
It is a blessing for us too to have a special connection with such a fine person – I think he is a Bodhisattva in fact!”
Lama Shenpen Hookham
Excerpt from the book – Mike Lear’s generosity to Lama Shenpen when she was a nun in India:
“Mike had been keeping in regular contact, sending letters to me at the nunnery. ‘I can tell from your letters that you are happy in your new life,’ he wrote, after I had been away for about six months. ‘If you intend to continue living as a nun then you can’t be proud and independent. I have decided to start sending you money monthly by money order. How much do you need?’ What incredible generosity and faith both in Dharma and in me. Gratefully, I asked him for £5 a month. This was a sizeable portion of his monthly salary as a post-office engineer, but it meant that I was no longer tied to the nunnery as a volunteer. I would be free to travel, study elsewhere, go on pilgrimage or whatever. ‘Well Sue,’ he used to say, ‘there is one thing I have always noticed about you. You always do what you say you will do.’ I was determined not to let him down…
There was only one other foreigner whom Rinpoche allowed to stay in the monastery at that time and she was an English lady who I made friends with, called Ruth Tarling. She had been a close student of Rinpoche’s for many years already, so he always made an exception for her. She only stayed a few weeks each year because she was working in London. I told her about Mike and she offered to take him a small gift from me. This turned out to be fortuitous.
She told him in conversation that she wouldn’t be able to live in India on the amount of money he was sending me. That was because she was eating the kind of food we are used to in the West, which is expensive in India. Anyway, without further ado he quadrupled what he sent me each month from then on. I told him I didn’t need so much money, and so was using it to make offerings to my lamas and to help my monastic colleagues, especially Karma Yangzom. At the end of his next letter he simply wrote, ‘Look after yourself and your friends.’ What an extraordinary person! He seemed naturally to have a Tibetan attitude towards Dharma practice. There were absolutely no strings attached – even if I wrote to him or sent him small gifts, he would write back saying that I was under no obligation to do so as I was practising the Dharma on his behalf.”
This is an excerpt from Lama Shenpen’s life story book ‘Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting – An English Woman’s Journey to Becoming a Buddhist Lama’ (ISBN 9781399910491) Copyright S. Hookham. The book is available to buy worldwide from all usual booksellers, online and in stores.
To read more excerpts of the book click here.
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