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The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant Paperback – July 1, 2006
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John Perks was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's butler, attendant, and personal secretary for seven years. This is a book about their personal relationship--a book Trungpa Rinpoche asked the author to write. ________ Quotes about the book: "Ven. Seonaidh Perks played a crucial role in the creation of many of the Vidyadhara's institutions and his story of their mutual dance is hilarious, wild, shocking, and poignant. This book is a rare thing." Douglas Penick, author of "Gesar of Ling," Wisdom Publications. "It is the first intimate and authoritative account of Chogyam Trungpa, arguably the most important spiritual teacher in America's last century..." Kidder Smith, Professor of Asian Studies, Bowdoin College
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As anyone reading this probably already knows, for seven years or so John Perks (or the venerable Seonaidh Perks as he now titles himself) was one of the key figures in the organisation that developed around the unique figure of Chogyam Trungpa. John was not only Trungpa’s butler and personal attendant, but also accrued titles such as Head of Household, Kusung Dapon, O.L.K. (Order of the Lion of Kalapa), Major Sir John A. Perks, Tsomak Dapon Commodore of the Navy (Trungpa was Admiral), Kushap Kyi Khyap and doubtlessly several others. As these titles may indicate, he had a significant influence on the development of the rituals in the Shambhala Court. He was one of just two people (initially) to accompany Trungpa on his nine month 1977 retreat and there can have been very few if any who had more day to day experience of Trungpa in the seven years of this close involvement.
For me, the most valuable aspect of the book is John’s struggle with the nature of personal reality and his desperate attempts to hang onto a sense of self in his close association with his teacher. This was not at all what he had anticipated and was immensely challenging. This is precisely why I value books such as this, as too often the process of deepening insight/ understanding is portrayed as progressing in a linear fashion to some kind of spiritual achievement. This in itself makes the book well worth purchasing.
In addition the book includes:
Touching memories of John’s encounters with the Karmapa, and with Khyentse Rinpoche
Some brief account of John’s experience of Vajrayana tantric practice
What it was like accompanying Trungpa on his 1977 nine month retreat
The first Shambhala expedition to Nova Scotia
Details of John's varied life before meeting Trungpa
And most importantly many memories of Chogyam Trungpa.
The book is not that long, and anyone hoping for mega-gossip and lurid detail will be disappointed. The author was in a position to write several volumes of such disclosure should he have wished, and he shows remarkable restraint in what he does describe. The value of the book is his account of his personal struggle with reality as he experienced it.
Many thanks John!
At times, clumsy; always honest: Chogyam Trunpa's butler talks about hanging out and hanging on to a force of nature. Of all the books I've read on Trungpa Rinpoche, this one really sticks with me.
_The Mahasiddha's Idiot Servant is not the most comfortable of reads. If you are looking for a gentle introduction to Trungpa or Buddhism, this is not the book for you. It's not a hagiography or a polished PR presentation. The beginning of the book with the author's problems growing up had me twitchy and portions dealing with the less pleasant parts of Trungpa's "crazy wisdom" were downright uncomfortable. (The dog and the potato in particular). But the further I read, the more and more engaging it became. There is also a ooo-EEEE-oooo scariness about Trungpa and his intensity that I don't know I ever picked up on before, though I can't say I've read all the accounts out there.
The book gives an ongoing feel of Trungpa through John Perks' eyes, with the definite feeling of the observed being modified by the observer ... I think because John never has any pretense of being an impartial observer. It's a rare honesty. I thought it was good in giving me an idea why Trungpa was such an impact on the people he encountered but also I wished there was some other perspective available for what John was writing about - what did Carl think was going on, what did somebody else in the same events think was up? There was a clear sense of Trungpa more as a force of nature than a human being, and also a ravaged being.
I think Trungpa was desperate to find a way to get traction with Westerners and he looked at any number of ways to imbue Buddhist belief with the same sort of qualities it had carried in traditional Tibetan society. Respect, authority, discipline, etc. _The Mahasiddha and his Idiot Servant_ was an education for me on this.