Happy Mother’s Day Lucille – A Book Review
Who would believe that a cigarette smoking white woman with only an eighth grade education, five children, and more than twice divorced could plant the seeds for Vajrayana Buddhist practice in the United States? But it is true, a little known story related, in all of its mysticism and contradictions, in the book Luminous Sitting, Torturous Walking, Lucille Cedercrans Schaible, by Gretchn Ann Groth, Dakini Wisdom, 2011. Hundreds of us who today practice Vajrayana Buddhism under the direction of His Holiness Shephen Dawa Rinpoche are the spiritual children of this unusual woman.
In 1948, some Americans were familiar with the teachings of Alice Bailey and Theosophy, but Buddhism and Tibet were by and large viewed as oriental magic. Lucille, at that time already a wife and mother, had no experience with mysticism, spirituality, or even religion. But, one day while taking a few minutes to rest from household chores, in the house alone, sitting in a rocking chair she had an experience that changed her life.
“Suddenlly, my mind opens up and merges with. . .with what? With a Presence. This Presence and I are one. . .But how could this be? . . .so peaceful and expansive. . . . So much energy. Radiant light that seems to be everywhere. . .I am infused with thoughts, concepts, and ideas that I have never considered. It is amazing . . .”
The following year she began teaching meditation in Boise, Idaho and developed The New Thoughtform Presentation of the Wisdom which she taught to groups around the country through the sixties. In 1973 she studied with Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche and he authorized her to teach Nyingma meditation techniques and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Three years later she met His Holiness Dudjom Jigdrel Rinpoche, Supreme Head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, father of Shenphen Dawa. Under His Holiness Dudjom’s guidance Lucille established Udiyan Maitreya Kosha in Denver, Colorado in 1978. Twenty years later I took refuge in that Center, unaware of the woman who made it possible.
Just as her life did not fit the image of the average American fifties female, her story is told in a unique way. Groth, who admits to not being an experienced writer, presents a well written book approaching the narrative in four ways. Lucille’s original writings, poetry, stories, and journal entries are interwoven throughout the book; some chapters are written by Groth using the techniques of creative non-fiction; in other chapters the writer describes and explains Lucille’s method of spiritual teaching and her influences; between chapters are personal reminisces by Lucille’s students, friends, and family members.
In the Buddhist interpretation, Lucille had experienced many reincarnations so that in this birth she was able to serve as a vehicle for spreading the spiritual teachings introduced by Sakyamui Buddha over a thousand years ago. Her story, however, is not one of a benevolent, long suffering compassionate saint such as the Dalai Lama. Groth documents Lucille’s insecurities, her resistance, and her manipulative use of others which manifested in physical illness. Despite, her weaknesses, Lucille’s commitment to sharing the spiritual truths and light she received succeeded in creating a living lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism in this country.
The light she experienced in 1948 continues in the lives and work of those who were influenced by her teachings and presence. One such example is Lea Groth-Wilson, daughter of the author. Lea is a translator of Tibetan texts, and now mother to a Tibetan-American son. Lea’s memory of Lucille illustrates the power of the light Lucille shone throughout her life.
“I don’t remember finding out that she died . . .what I remember most clearly, was the light. The sunlight seemed to be streaming into the temple from everywhere. . . It was this brilliant, sparkling, bubbling light, as though millions of circular rainbows were flooding through the walls and the people and the space and that empty chair. . .her funeral was not sad, not sad at all; it was magical, at least to my four-and-a-half year old eyes.”
Meditation and Tibetan Buddhist monks have become common place in the USA today and Lucille’s teachings pioneered that acceptance. But, for anyone who has little understanding of Buddhism, this book is an excellent introduction. Luminous Sitting, Torturous Walking, Lucille Cedercrans Schaible, by Gretchn Ann Groth is available for purchase at http://www.dakini-wisdom.com.