Tashi Armstrong moved to Karme Choling , a Buddhist Meditation Center under the direction of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1984 at the age of 21 and began his formal training then.
He had an initial experience of what he calls "non reference point experience" at 17 during an Outward Bound Sailing Program in which he did a three day "solo" on an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. He completely failed at the survival techniques that were taught during the program but wound up looking directly at his mind during that time with no meditation background. When he came back he noticed a difference in his experience of reality.
As Tashi would recount, "The basic set-up was that we were dropped on an island all alone. We had 10 matches, a coffee can for a stove and a blue tarp for a tent. I quickly used up my 10 matches trying and failing to get my stove lit. Then I just hung out trapped with a constant awareness of my mind's ramblings for three days. I had never not had some kind of entertainment to occupy my mind. But here I was trapped with myself at 17 years old. Later, doing solitary retreat, it was the same. We could call this "non meditation" if we want to be fancy about it. And I do not think it is an uncommon experience. The result of this practice was the vipashyana experience-- nonreference point. Going back to my home in Brunswick, Maine with my parents felt weird in a particular way. Understanding this experience and how "non meditation" reveals it is the important thing. Being a practitioner is all about this. I feel I was introduced to the nature of mind in a powerful way through this period of being alone on the island-- which was not particularly pleasant-- and re-entering my old habituated life. That transition was important in what I would later understand as shamatha-vipashyana training. I don't feel that anyone teaches this nowadays.
As cliche as it sounds, this was a seminal event for me. The most important realization for me ,and why I still practice, was that meeting Trungpa Rinpoche's mind, his lineage, was the same experience.
All of them, Khenpo Gangshar, Shechen Kongtrul, The Regent, and The Vidyadhara, they knew this experience. Their teachings met me there and guided me."
He received empowerments and instruction from Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin while in residence at Karme Choling from 1984-1987 and during the 1986 Vajradhatu Seminary at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.
Tashi was stationed at Gade Gar as a Dorje Kasung during the preparation and parinirvana -cremation of Trungpa Rinpoche at Karme Choling and did service in the Purnachandra.
Tashi has lived continuously within Trungpa Rinpoche’s mandala from his early days at Karme Choling and at the major metropolitan centers of that mandala, including Boulder, Colorado and Halifax, Nova Scotia. He volunteered to staff the 1992 Seminary as a cook at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado and worked on the staff at that Center in 1993-94.
He has received the abhisekas of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the lung for the Sadhana of Guru Padmasambhava from Trime Lhawang, Patrick Sweeney. He has also recieved numerous transmissions and teachings from Kalu Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche and others. In 1994 he returned to his home in Maine.
In 2006 Tashi established the Dzogchen Meditation Center which is dedicated to engaging the pith teachings of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Osel Tendzin, Jamgon Kongtrul and Khenpo Gangshar Wangpo within a retreat setting.
Tashi was introduced to Lotsawa Eric Pema Kunsang's translations in 1990 which were extremely helpful in giving context to the powerful, direct experiences he had with his root gurus the Vajra Regent and Trungpa Rinpoche. He attended a month long Trinley Nyingpo retreat with Eric and his wife at Gomde Denmark in 2008.
Tashi is not a Lama. He does not give formal transmissions to his students.
Tashi began studying kyudo --the contemplative art of zen archery-- in 1987 with Shibata Kanjuro Sensei within the mandala of Trungpa Rinpoche. He lived at Sensei's house in Boulder, Colorado for six months in 1994 helping with Sunday classes at the dojo. Shibata Sensei made Tashi an instructor in 2000 in the Heki Ryu Bisshu Chikurin-ha school of Japanese Archery. He is no longer an active member of Zenko International but teaches "mind Kyudo" through annual retreats and personal instruction at Dzogchen Meditation Center.
When not helping to facilitate retreats at DMC Tashi works as a carpenter/handyman. He co-manages a small hotel adjacent to the meditation center with his wife, Susan,who also was a direct student of Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent. They met at Karme Choling.
Tashi and Susan are nakpas or householder yogins. They have two grown children.
Between Two Places
I will meet you between
Here and there
but please remember
It might be different than you think
Rest your mind on the outbreath.
Cultivate bliss, clarity and nonthought as synchronized body, speech and mind.
We should go on a road trip.
Sleep in the car-- homeless.
Feel the edge of loneliness, boredom,
This is not a self-improvement project.
When I walk into Dunkin Donuts to pick up my coffee from Jasmin
Do I see her qualities
As they are?
This is Sacred world
-- the only one--
Proven at the nadir of this
Me and Jasmin.
Thank you. Have a nice day.
Written by an orphan son of the authentic lineage wandering alone in the Charnal Ground of Dunkin Donuts.