The Karmapa had traveled through Europe on his first trip to the West in 1975. I had followed along with a small group of people from Denmark through Germany, Holland and finally Paris. I had a growing sense that rather than just pursuing a great master and being in his presence as I had been doing, I should instead do some practice starting with finishing my ngondro.
I had begun my prostrations back in Denmark when I was 19 years old. Even though it was hard it brought deep joy and a lightness of being, together with a compassion and devotion that I had never known. I felt as if I was actually connecting with a living lineage of realization. Rather than just sitting quietly and developing a feeling of serenity, the ngondro seemed to give rise to a more intimate connection to the buddhas which I now wanted to strengthen. So, one January day, having decided to return home to get back to practicing, at Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Paris I went to have a final interview with the Karmapa to say good bye. I took along the bulb of a huge red flower that had four blossoms.
Entering his room I prostrated three times and then presented him with this potential flower and told him that I was returning to practice and to save up enough money to go to India. The Karmapa smiled, reached behind him and gave me a large apple the same size as the bulb. He then gave me a blessing by touching the crown of my head and through his interpreter said, “You will do good practice.” I left to start hitchhiking back to Denmark in the cold winter night.
Back in Denmark, I found work as a substitute teacher and did prostrations on a “prostration board.” It is not easy to continue the ngondro on your own, and after my initial enthusiasm waned I found myself getting disheartened and often finding excuses not to do my sessions. But I did my best and continued as I could. After three months, I received an inheritance from my mother which had been held in trust and immediately took it to buy a ticket to India. And off I went.