In his autobiographical account of his early years, Born in Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described the refurbishment of his quarters at Dutsi Til:
“The tenth Trungpa Tulku’s rooms in the fort at Dutsi Til had been extremely simple and austere; their only decoration were the thankas hung on the silk covered walls. However, after his death my secretary and bursar wanted to change things. They employed some sixteen artists and wood-carvers of the Gabri school to re-design my residence. While this was being done, I had great fun watching the work, especially the artists painting, and the son of one of them and I used to steal their paints and make pictures ourselves, to our own great delight: I have loved painting ever since.
“When the work was finished there were cupboards all round the walls; their doors were beautifully painted with ornamental designs of flowers, birds, etc., and the general colouring was gold on a red background. The tops of the cupboards formed a shelf for the many gifts of bowls and offerings which were brought to me. Behind it there were recesses framed in deeply carved and lacquered wood to hold old and valuable images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and eminent Spiritual Masters. Above these was a second row of niches to house images of smaller size. The walls joined the ceiling with a deep gold painted carved cornice. The wooden ceiling was coloured. The furniture consisted of several long settees with deep piled up mattresses which, in our country, take the place of chairs. My bed was like a long box filled with cushions, so made that in the day time I could sit on it and work at a long table beside it…
“My bedroom served both for sleeping and for private study and meditation; it opened into a sitting room where meals were served and formal visits received. My raised throne was beside the door and a row of seats ran lengthwise down each side of the room; those nearest the throne had thick cushions for the more important guests but their size gradually diminished until the end of the rows, when they became merely rugs on the floor.”
Writing about the situation at Surmang more than a decade later, Trungpa Rinpoche wrote:
“My first endeavour on my return to Surmang [in 1957] was to carry out the last wish of the tenth Trungpa Tulku and to enlarge the seminary [shedra]… Khenpo Gangshar appointed four kyorpons (tutors) as instructors and also gave me authority to assist in the teaching… [I] told them how important Jamgon Kongtrul, Gyalwa Karmapa and myself considered the seminary to be in preserving our Buddhist way of life. I added: ‘Even if the Communists destroy the whole place, the seed of knowledge in our hearts can not be destroyed. Even if we build today and our building is torn down tomorrow, I will not regret the spending. It would be a greater regret if we hoarded and what we had hoarded was taken from us without any progress having been made in the spiritual understanding of our people… Although the Chinese menace seemed to be getting stronger… I called in silversmiths and goldsmiths and indicated the images to be made, and also arranged a meeting with the master artists, craftsmen and carpenters… By the New Year 1958 the building was finished.”
Quoted with the permission of Shambhala Publications.