Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vimala Thakar

Meeting Vimalaji
I’ve met lots of them – Sai Baba, Ramesh Belsakar, the16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Amma Amritananda, Sakya Trizin, Guru Bhava, Achan Yantra, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Krishnamurti, Namki Norbu, U. Pandita - and the one who impressed me most was Vimala Thakar. The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh were close runners up while the others were strung out at various places down the line. The Karmapa was last. Now that he had divided himself into two reincarnations, I’d have to meet both halves before I could revise this impression. What do you call the two new Karmapas? His Holiness the ½ 17th Karmapa and His Holiness the Other ½ 17th Karmapa? I’m just a simple monk so I don’t understand the protocol of Tibetan monastic hierarchs.
I had gone to Mt Abu to meet Vimala Thakar and after a bit of looking around I found her house. I knocked on the door, her secretary appeared and when I asked if I could see Vimalaji, she bid me to wait and disappeared back inside. Reappearing shortly afterwards, she ushered me in and led me to a room where Vimalaji was sitting in a large easy chair. Vimalaji rose as I came in and greeted me warmly. She was short, of stout build, with grey hair and wore a wispy pure-white sari. She also had a slight but serene smile on her face and dark, alert but restful eyes. I introduced myself and after giving her greetings from mutual friends in Sri Lanka, we has had a discussion that went for about an hour and a half. As to what she said I will deal with some other time. It very similar to Krishmamurti’s teachings but without his double-bind ‘if you ask how to do it this shows you don’t understand’ and was delivered without his emphatic, impatient tone. Vimalaji was clear, consistent and gave the impression of speaking ‘as one who knows.’ While I was deeply impressed by what she said I was equally impressed by what she was. Unlike nearly all the other ‘great’ teachers I have met Vimala Thakar was natural, unassuming and completely without formalities. In many ways she was rather ordinary - which probably explains why she never had the high profile or celebrity aura of many other teachers. She didn’t even have a fancy hat like the Karmapa. I, a nobody, turned up unannounced at her door and was immediately able to see her. She gave herself completely to me while we talked and it was I, not her, who brought the discussion to a close. She was content to let me ask my questions for as long as I wanted. When I left and Vimalaji’s secretary accompanied me out to the gate, I noticed on the right a large banyan tree with a circle of seats around it. ‘If you are having discussions would it be okay for me to join?’ I asked. The secretary replied, ‘The discussions are finished for the year. In fact, Vimalaji is quite ill and is leaving tomorrow to go down the mountain. She was packing when you came.’ I apologized for interrupting Vimalaji’s departure plans. “Its perfectly okay” the secretary said with a smile. “Vimalaji is happy to speak with anyone who comes.”
In the Vimamsaka Sutta the Buddha encouraged the prospective disciple to carefully examine a teacher before committing oneself to him or her and to carry out this examination over a period of time. The purpose of such examination is to allow the disciple to see if the teacher has the attainments they claim to have and that they practice what they preach. It is increasingly difficult to do this with most teachers nowadays. Most are surrounded by (or surround themselves with) an ‘inner circle’ who jealously guard their position by trying to keep everyone else in the ‘out group.’ Should you penetrate this barrier you are made to think how privileged you are to have been able to meet ‘His Holiness,’ ‘Guruji,’ ‘The Master,’ ‘Rimpoche.’ Long before you even see the teacher or hear him or her speak, slick brochures, personal endorsements and grandiose titles (my favorite is ‘an emanation of Manjusri’), sets the tone. So when the big moment comes, you don’t know whether you are experiencing what’s there or what you were told would be there.
All my study of the Tipitaka gives me the impression that the Buddha was, in this respect, not unlike Vimala Thakar. He was accessible to anyone, nothing was concealed and no image was projected. What you saw was what was there. His presence was not magnified by golden thrones, silk brocade or hats made out of dakini’s hair. You didn’t even have to buy a ticked to hear him teach the Dhamma. Like I said, Vimala Thakar was the most impressive teacher I have ever met and I was able to learn something from her simply because I was able to meet her.


laurence said...

Dear Venerable, i am hoping you may be able to steer me towards a vimala contact. not her personally but someone who knows about mount abu teachings/discussions. also vimal's state of health - if she is still with us. particularly, times and dates and locations so i may benefit from seeing her again. ita been a long time. love laurence.

laurence said...

laurence's email address is:

cpepin said...

I would be as well very grateful to know whether Vimala is still aorund and how to goa nd visit her. I have heard that it is good to write before but don't have any mail address. Would you have an address to communicate ? my e-mail:

Thanks very much in advance,

Sahil said...

I have sad news - Vimalaji, or 'Maa' as we called her decided to leave her body today and is no more with us.

Love & Peace.