“I was within a month of having my head shaved and becoming a monk,” David Bowie said.
He was talking about 1966 when he was only 17 years old and had been hanging out with Buddhist lamas. In those days Bowie visited the Buddhist Society in London (the only Buddhist center in England at that time) up to four times a week, where he remembers “this Tibetan monk sitting in front of me at a desk.”
That was Lama Chime Rinpoche, who Bowie studied with and remained close to. But instead of becoming a monk, Bowie was advised by Chime to remain a musician, that this was the right path for him. It was the first step on Bowie’s path to becoming the world-class humanitarian who gave a voice to the voiceless.
Deb grew up in London at the same time as David Bowie, who was just a few years older than her. She also knew and studied with Chime Rinpoche.
Lama Chime had escaped from Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese invasion. He came to London with both Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche. Akong supported them all and their life in a small flat in Oxford by working as a hospital orderly. They later established Samye Ling in Scotland, now the largest Tibetan Buddhist gompa in Europe.
Apart from teaching extensively, Chime worked for 16 years at the British Museum as Curator of Ancient Tibetan Manuscripts alongside Deb’s stepfather Richard, who was the Curator of the British Library. Chime was very close to Deb’s stepdad and a dear friend to her mother, as well as a friend and teacher to Deb.
One of Deb’s favorite moments was sitting in a meditation group Chime was leading at his center, Marpa House (near Cambridge) when a man at the back spoke up.
“I don’t want to keep meditating,” the man said. “I know that if I keep meditating then I will stop wanting things, and I don’t want to stop wanting things.”
Chime Rinpoche roared with laughter.
“Look at me,” he replied. “I have been meditating a very long time but I still want things. I still want good food to eat and clean clothes to wear; I want a warm house, and to be with my wife and family. The difference is that if I don’t get these things then it just doesn’t matter.”
That was in 1975 and that teaching has stayed with Deb for the last 40 years, influencing her every desire: if the wanting is not fulfilled then it just doesn’t matter
There is much misunderstanding regarding meditation; people have many confusions about this practice of just being still, sitting quietly and paying attention. Yet when the mind is quiet, our awareness goes deeper and inner treasures and virtues become available. A quiet mind is peaceful, joyful, and compassionate because these qualities already exist within us. Meditation simply enables us to connect to them.
Chime Rinpoche offers his prayers in remembrance of David Bowie in this heart-warming video.
Author: Ed & Deb Shapiro
Editor: Caitlin Oriel