Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who is K'Anpo Rinpoche?

"The old man must die, and the new man will discover to his inexpressible joy that he has never existed." (Cho-Je, aka K'Anpo Rinpoche)

K'Anpo Rinpoche is a timelord from the planet Gallifrey, encountered by the Third Doctor in the episode PLANET OF THE SPIDERS. At first the Doctor does not recognise the Rinpoche, but soon realizes that he is an important figure from his own early years on Gallifrey. K'Anpo Rinpoche advises the Doctor that he must confront his greatest fear (death) in returning a mystic crystal to the "Great One" (a giant spider being) residing in the Blue Mountains of Metebelis Three. The Doctor does this, defeating the Spiders in their plan to become masters of the universe, but in the process he is "killed" and forced to undergo a regeneration into the fourth Doctor. Rinpoche himself regenerates in this episode into Cho-Je, another Buddhist monk, but remains a Buddhist practitioner and teacher in the Tibetan tradition.

K'Anpo was first referred to in the Doctor Who story THE TIME MONSTER, in an account that is a clear allusion to the classic Buddhist account of the founding of Zen Buddhism. In this story the Buddha silently - and with an enigmatic smile - proceeds to offer a teaching to his followers but instead of speaking merely offers them a lotus flower (a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment). Only Kashyapa fully understands the Buddha's import, thereby becoming the first Ch'an/Zen master and establishing a lineage of Ch'an/Zen teachers through a tradition know as the "direct transmission of the lamp". This refers to the wordless nature of the Buddha's teachings (the Dharma) and the necessity of passing such enlightened insight through a direct teaching method - lamp to lamp, from enlightened master to pupil in an unbroken lineage. K'Anpo, and his significance for the Doctor, is recounted in the following dialogue between the Third Doctor and his assistant Jo Grant (from the episode the Time Monster):

"JO: It makes it seem sort of pointless, really, doesn't it?

DOCTOR: I felt like that once when I was young. It was the blackest day of my life.

JO: Why?

DOCTOR: Ah, well, that's another story. I'll tell you about it one day. The point is, that day was not only my blackest, it was also my best.

JO: Hmm? Well, what do you mean?

DOCTOR: Well, when I was a little boy, I used to live in a house that was perched half way up the top of a mountain. And behind our house, there sat under a tree an old man -- a hermit -- a monk. He lived under this tree for half his lifetime, so they said, and he learnt the secret of life. So, when my black day came, I went and asked him to help me. JO: And he told you the secret? Well, what was it? DOCTOR: Well, I'm coming to that, Jo, in my own time. Ah, I'll never forget what it was like up there. All bleak and cold it was -- a few bare rocks with some weeds sprouting from them, and some pathetic little patches of sludgy snow. Yes, it was just gray -- gray, gray, gray. Well, the tree the old man sat under was ancient and twisted, and the old man himself was... he was as brittle and dry as a leaf in the autumn. JO: Well, what did he say? DOCTOR: Nothing, not a word. He just sat there silently, expressionless, and he listened whilst I poured out my troubles to him. I was too unhappy even for tears, I remember. And when I'd finished he lifted a skeletal hand and he pointed. Do you know what he pointed at? JO: No. DOCTOR: A flower -- one of those little weeds. Just like a daisy it was. Well, I looked at it for a moment, and suddenly I saw it through his eyes. It was simply glowing with life, like a perfectly cut jewel. And the colours -- well, the colours were deeper and richer than anything you could possibly imagine. Yes, that was the daisiest daisy I'd ever seen. JO: And that was the secret of life -- a daisy? Hmm. Honestly Doctor. DOCTOR: Oh yes, I laughed too when I first heard it. So later, I got up, and I ran down that mountain, and I found that the rocks weren't gray at all. Well, they were red, brown, purple and gold. And those pathetic little patches of sludgy snow -- they were shinning white -- shinning white in the sunlight. You still frightened, Jo? JO: No, not as much as I was. DOCTOR: That's good."

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