From the Dr. Ajari book project file…
Over the weekend I spoke with Sister Mandarava, who has been a student of Dr. Ajari’s since 1969. She and Sister Nairatma were the only students still living with Dr. Ajari when he died in 1993, and they were left with all of his belongings, including what Mandarava dubbed “the lama letters.”
I’ve heard plenty of stories about Dr. Ajari’s support — monetary and otherwise — of various Tibetan Buddhist lamas who came to the San Fransisco area in the 1960’s and ’70s. But the stories vary, and I don’t have much in the way of specifics. However, the sisters have boxes of letters from various lamas thanking Dr. Ajari and his Order for various good deeds. These lama letters will serve as hard facts to accompany the stories his students tell from memory.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Mandarava, like every other student of Dr. Ajari’s I’ve spoken with, said Dr. Ajari’s history before he arrived in the U.S. is the stuff of myth and legend, even his family history and education. Ouch. I’ve known all along that this would be tough information to track down, but I’d hoped that the sisters might have something concrete, some tidbit that would at least give me direction. But it looks like I’m on my own researching Dr. Ajari’s supposed medical school education, his supposed time in the Royal Air Force and his supposed assistance in the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet.
At least everyone can confirm his penchant for using his larger-than-life stories to teach even larger points about dharma.