Saturday, 21 November 2015

Meg Taylor's bequeathment

Recently the Drala Jong was the recipient of a generous bequest from a former Aro member Meg Taylor/Dawa Khandro,  of a collection of wonderful Dharma books, her bell and dorje and a calligraphy by Lama Bar-ché Dorje. Below Naljorma Rin'dzin Pamo shares her memories of a remarkable person and someone who we are extremely grateful to for her devotion, generosity to the Lineage.

some of the titles given by Meg
 I first met Meg in London in 2006. She joined the Aro gTér membership scheme and I became her mentor. One of the purposes of the membership scheme is to make the lineage available to people who can not otherwise access it. Meg had multiple sclerosis and was house bound. She had been to open retreats when she was still able to walk and felt a strong connection to Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen. At the time we met, she was paraplegic. She could not move any part of her body voluntarily, other than her neck and head. She still had full cognitive capacity and could talk. In fact, she was always eloquent and articulate and we never lacked conversation. I was her mentor for seven years, until she died. We became good friends during that time.

During the three to four years that I lived in London I visited Meg most weeks. We had much in common. She had been a student at LSE (London School of Economics), like me. We talked about art, psychology, creativity, writing, music, documentaries, food, wildlife, the environment, birds, gardening, tribal communities, euthanasia, development, governance: pretty much everything. The heart of our relationship was Meg’s spiritual path. It included an avid interest in all these things. She was a true tantrika. Although she was limited in agency due to the physical circumstances of her life, she did not lose her capacity to enjoy. We laughed a lot. Sometimes we ate together and relished the different tastes and textures of the food. I would take fruit or something that was in season, and she often had some special culinary treat ready - she liked olives particularly. I acquired a taste for bananas with hummus from her. I think that almost every time I visited her she asked after Ngak’chang Rinpoche and the Aro sangha. She enjoyed hearing about retreats, though she was not able to participate.

She spent more than those last seven years of her life sitting in a chair, not moving. Meditation was, unsurprisingly, excruciating for her – at times. She had a beautiful voice, and I will never forget the first time that she sang for me. I introduced her to the yogic song of the Aro gTér, so that she could sing as her meditative practice when silent sitting was too ironically frustrating. She said that her voice had deteriorated due to the MS and she would only sing alone, but it sounded perfect to me.

When I moved away from London in 2010, we continued to correspond. She had the Nuance Dragon  voice recognition software. It worked pretty well for emails even though it was fairly early voice recognition technology. She called it the pet dragon. The dragon was sometimes temperamental and she’d have to shout very clearly to get him to form coherent sentences. But she trained him well, and he improved over the years. She wrote, and had published, articles exploring psychology and midwifery. She had planned to create a website and make her work available, but I don’t know if that ever happened.

When I was visiting her regularly, sometimes we discussed death and dying. She knew that she would take her own life when she started to lose cognitive function. She had, of course, discussed this with her husband and two sons. At that point she didn’t know exactly how that would be. We discussed traveling abroad to a country providing euthanasia services. There’s some risk that a British citizen can be arrested for aiding suicide, even in another country where it is legal. In the end, she decided to starve herself to death, perhaps to avoid this possible inconvenience. Or maybe because she wanted to die at home. She wrote to tell me that’s what she was doing, and carried it out with the same determination of will as she had done everything in life. I came back to Britain in time for her funeral and attended it with Mé-tsal. It was in Epping forest. There were squirrels and birds around, and the grass was fresh with rain. We read a piece on dying by Ngak’chang Rinpoche and I remembered her savouring olives in her kitchen, watching the birds build a nest in the garden hedge.  

Although she had little contact with the Aro sangha due to her circumstances, she had a strong connection with the practices and style of the lineage. She gave financial donations to Sang-ngak-chö-dzong, the British charity of the Aro gTér, and she left her collection of Buddhist books, some instruments and a calligraphy, to Drala Jong.  I was always impressed by her active, creative generosity: in communication and dialogue as much as in material gifts. I learned much from her in that respect. Although I was officially her mentor, I sometimes think I learned more from her than she could ever possibly have learned from me.

Here is the text read by Rin'dzin and Mé-tsal during the funeral:

We would like to thank Garry Saunders who has been so kind in handling the practical aspects of this bequest. You can learn more about Meg here in her website:

The Drala Jong project seeks to create a home for the Aro gTér Lineage. Please see the Appeal page for more information about the Drala Jong project and how to help.

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