Study and Travel - 1975

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

During summer 1972 I attended a seminar,"The Ten Bhumis of the Bodhisattva Path," offered by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, an incarnate Lama who now heads the Naropa Institute, Boulder Colorado. In October, 1974, His Holiness the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism proclaimed the Dharma in the West. Mindful of the 80,000 Tibetans who have sought a precarious sanctuary in India as a consequence of the invasion of their homeland in 1959 by the Communist Chinese, the heart of our study is directed toward the compassionate reception of the teaching they exemplify.

Like a highly-polished diamond the self-conscious cultural paradigm contains self-referential features, as if to provides explicit instructions by which the seeds of the culture could be stored and transported, and then planted in some new fertile soil. As stated in the technical language of Vajrayana Buddhism, or in the iconography of Tibetan mandalas, thankas or mudras, we may discover precise correspondences with Western conceptual models. The time seems propitious for the activity of translation, for we now seem to have process models with sufficient clarity and simplicity (hence, profundity) to permit mapping with exactitude and thoroughness.

The trans-cultural domain of number is understood now by the pre-numerical laws of form. Or again, in music, our recently developed electronic recording capacities afford data-rich associations. Similarly, for the visual arts and photography, or the performing arts and TV tape, the technology complements our theoretical foundations for translation, transmission and transformation.

Mathematical parameters for this analytical approach to culture change are indicated by the fundamental relation between variables and constants in each mode of embodiment or transmission. Thus, for the translation of texts, from say Tibetan into American English, we are closely guided by the trans-lingual constants exemplified by number, icon , or musical function. While considerable work of this analy­tical sort has already been published in respective fields, no single unifying attempt has yet fulfilled a request for the mathematics of the processes of transformation themselves.

Laws of form enable us to distinguish several, sometimes intransitive "grammars," or sets of formal principles that seem to describe and clarify these interrelated processes, enabling us to map their functions to an emerging "Process Neuro-architecture" of the human brain. If we imagine the frontal neo-cortex as analog of the "learning/command data processing function," we may test for their common pro­perties (or most highly generalized, hence mathematical re­lationship) with respect to the imaginary function; further, we see that the processes of creative evolution--adaptation, feedback, cybernetic consciousness, as well as the conventional "creative" activities as embodied by the traditional fine arts--involves a "logic" of revealing intimate congruencies. This study directs attention to the clarification and generali­zation of such very large and very small events.


Plans for travel are focused on India, among the Tibetan refugee communities; in America, research visits to the established sites, such as Karma Dzong, Padma Jong and Tail of the Tiger communities and the Naropa Institute. However, as the process studied is toward general­ization, it is important to consider other close models. Thus for a control aspect, a period of time may be spent also among the Hopi communities which have maintained a highly formalized process of cultural transmission, and among perhaps the Huichol Indians of Mexico, who in the early years of this century suffered a radical relocation and endured the processes of cultural transformation in adapting to a new geographical setting with a consequent restructuring that may be identified specifically in the constants and modifications of the peyotl pilgrimage.

Refugee cultures reflect, in their adaptation to new spatial surroundings, the temporal changes undergone by cultures which remain in place. The refugee is a 20th Century archetype in which we may see our own process of transformation; like the Hopis, we are refugees in our own country.

The university plays a central role in cultural transformation. Our report will generate specific proposals for curriculum modification, new courses, and experimental campuses organized as learning communities.

Kurt von Meier
Circa 1975