Make Believe: Virtual Hobnobbing
In his post, “Wind Divination” on Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar on Thursday, July 1, we have yet another example of William Cassidy’s (aka Tenpa Rinpoche) strange mixture of interesting facts, gratuitous self-promotion, and outright fabrication to make himself look important and associate himself with well-known lamas. He does this often, offering up something that appears interesting (and often actually is) and then mixing in his own blend of insidious suggestion and bravado to reel the reader into his web of lies.
After describing a Chinese movie he watched, Red Cliff, a recent (2008) John Woo production based on a crucial episode in ancient Chinese history which was decided by a feng jiao wind divination, Cassidy describes an alleged conversation he had with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971, also claiming that the Vidyadhara had “officiated” at his (Cassidy’s) wedding in Barnet, Vermont (where Tail of the Tiger, now known as Karme Choling, had been established in 1970). There is, of course, no way to verify that such a meeting ever took place or indeed that Cassidy ever had a conversation with Trungpa Rinpoche. Cassidy claims to have been a “drinking buddy” of Trungpa around that time, though no one at Shambhala who was around in those days has any memory at all of Cassidy. In fact, in 1971 Trungpa Rinpoche was very occupied with setting up Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado, as well as the birth of his first child that year. More likely, this is yet another attempt by Cassidy to associate himself with an important lama, and since Trungpa Rinpoche passed away in 1987, virtually impossible to refute or verify at this late date.
He then gives a description of how feng jiao works, claiming along the way that he had written a “small booklet” on the subject way back in 1980. No evidence exists that he ever wrote such a “booklet”, however, other than, of course, his word. He did write a “small booklet” on it in 1998, however, so perhaps he got his dates confused. There have been several scholarly works written on or including feng jiao, however, including the one by Michael Loewe and others by Alan Berkowitz, Joseph Needham, Livian Kohn, Clifford Pickover, and many others.
Feng jiao appears to have been originally practiced by fangshi, Chinese alchemists who attempted to control nature through the use of various divination techniques. These techniques were then adopted by Taoists. It is interesting how Cassidy’s interest in feng jiao is very much intertwined with his interest in crow divination, all of which fits into Cassidy’s obsession with black magic, which he admits to practicing. Crows have long been associated with black magic, usually as a messenger of some sort or a protector but also as an agent of a curse or spell. By his own admission he uses black magic to accomplish his ends. Unfortunately for him, however, all his black magic and con artistry will never gain him what he really lusts after – to be recognized as enlightened, and specifically to be recognized as a tulku.
He closes with his usual mumbo-jumbo pseudo-Buddhist interpretation of what he has just been discussing. One can take it for what it’s worth, which isn’t much.