His Holiness

His Holiness

He’s back and better than ever. Telluride Inside… and Out is delighted to welcome Rob Schultheis back to our family of writers. Among Telluride’s many talented makers of marks on paper, Rob is an alpha male. In his regular columns and in his many books, he reclaims that turf over and over again with steady barrage of satiric, muscular, insightful, brash, bold prose.

Rob Schultheis received an MA in cultural anthropology at CU Boulder in 1972. In 1973, he traveled to India where he studied at the Dalai Lama’s newly opened School for Westerners, Gangchen Khyishong. Soon after returning to the U.S., he moved to Telluride, but continued to travel much of the time, to Nepal, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, etc. etc. From 1984 to 2008, Rob covered the wars in Afghanistan for Time, The New York Times, CBS News, Smithsonian Magazine, and more, spending at least five months out of every year in Afghanistan and the Tribal Area of Pakistan. In 2004, Rob spent ten months with a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team in Baghdad. He has published six books and is currently working on two more. And he is a gifted painter.

Below, Rob looks wistfully over his shoulder at a naive past, a daunting present and an unhappy future for his world, our world. The words are beautiful; Rob’s thoughts, jarring. But then, that is who Rob is.

Rob Schultheis

Rob Schultheis


When the 14th Tenzin Gyatso

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Slips free from his present body

And what remains is burned

The sweet smoke vanishing

High in the sky.

And the usual tales of dakinis,

Invisible bells and singing rainbows

Are passed back and forth

As we seek to console each other,

What shall we do?

Whatever shall we do?

I’m asking, for I have no idea

Because frankly I’m terrified

Though I guess I shouldn’t be

(“The Dharma is like a life boat

That carries you safely to the other shore

And then vanishes”—

Geshe Ngawang Darjay,  Dharmsala, 1972),

But since then I’ve forgotten

A hundred times more than I’ve learned,

And back then I had no clue

That things would go so terribly wrong

On our green and gracious planet,

And now I haven’t the foggiest

Ghost of a notion of what to do

To keep fear from freezing my heart,

Or rage at our fate from turning

Me into a clown of a demon

Who slays himself with a rusty sword

(I’ve been there done that already

In Iraq Afghanistan and elsewhere

For too many wasted years

Thinking I was “saving the world”

Sil vous plait)…

I’m one of the simpletons,

The simple ones

Who need to see the Word made Flesh;

No Kasapa or Bodhidharma,

I need Someone

Who embodies the Truth

With a smile that circles the earth,

Someone I can see and hear

And who with luck could someday

Sit with and drink yak butter salt and soda

Tea as the moon illuminates

Imaginary peaks with snows

That are eternal  (yes, I know

I’m asking the impossible,

That nothing lasts);

But still I’m asking

What we’re supposed to do

When there’s no one left

To  show us the Way?

And I won’t stop asking.

When the trail fades away

Into no trail at all,

And the guide walks away

As he must some day

And the cold and darkness

Are all that’s left,

Does anyone out there have

Any ideas, any answers at all?

Even a hint, the scrap of a map

Would be better than nothing.

You can write it sing it or

Weave a pattern of pebbles and sticks,

Twist it into a riddle,

Or put antlers on your head

And dance it on the mountaintop…


You out there,

Who else

But you?


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