Memorial: Bob Morrison

Bob Morrison

NDF Dharma Teacher, Margha Program Co-Director, Mitra

Bob was a writer living in Northampton, Massachusetts. Since meeting the late Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche in 1994, he studied and practiced primarily in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism with numerous teachers both Western and Tibetan, including Lama Willa Miller, Lama John Makransky, Brendan Kennedy, Lama Surya Das, Charles Genoud, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and Anam Thubten.

As a teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship since its founding, he co-directed its Margha program (with Camille Hykes), offering year-long trainings in natural meditation and bodhicitta practices. He is also was a guiding teacher with Foundation for Active Compassion, sharing Tibetan-based practices of wisdom and compassion adapted by Lama John Makransky.

As an avid hiker and shamanic explorer, his special interests included the awakening power of nature; and throughout his battles with cancer, he embraced the life-threatening illness as a spiritual opportunity.

His writing included a passion for chronicling the “magical display of appearances” offered by our world.

A Letter from Lama Willa

October 12, 2021

In loving memory of Bob Morrison
 
Dear Sangha and Friends,

Our dear dharma brother Bob Morrison died peacefully in the afternoon on October 12, 2021. When he passed, he was with his beloved wife of 34 years Robin Merrill, along with their two cats Drala and Tingsha. He had been visited by his teachers and sangha members Lama John, Lama Liz, Julie Forsythe, Camille Hykes, Jai Levy, Jane Vecchio, Steve Bagley, and me in the last 24 hours.

On Monday, he was still speaking, smiling, chanting, recognizing the many people who were circling him. We chanted Tara, Prajnaparamita, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Poa for and with Bob, who could at that point barely speak but managed to hum along. The pointing out instructions were whispered in his ear several times before and at the moment of his death.

Throughout his illness, we all felt that he was surrounded by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, by his benefactor Tara, and by the guides who had supported him all throughout his life. His longtime friend Dan Clurman also felt present from afar.

Bob was a deep practitioner who embodied the essence of boundless love and wisdom. His peace and the depth of his practice resounded like thunder in the room immediately after his passing.

Sangha Prayer Circle - Daily Bardo Practice Sessions

The bardo or antarābhava is an intermediate, transitional, or liminal state between death and rebirth. Please join us as we offer 49 days of practice to honor Bob’s journey through the bardo.

Each session will be 30 minutes, with the exception of Sundays which will be about 45 minutes.  We will continue practice until Monday, November 29, 2021.

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 8:15 AM ET
  • Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays: 12:00 PM ET
  • Sundays: 7:00 PM ET

SCHEDULING NOTE: 

  • Thursday, Nov 25 (Thanksgiving) session will be at 8:15 am
  • Monday, Nov 29 will be the final session. Instead of 8:15 am, we will start at 7:00 pm and this will be a longer session.

ZOOM INFO:

All sessions will be held on Zoom. The same link will be used for all sessions so please be sure to save it to your calendar.  ZOOM LINK:  Please email info@naturaldharma.org for the link.  

Bardo Prayer

As I roam in samsara, driven by my habitual patterns,


May the Light of transcendent Wisdom draw me forward,


Leading me on the path of radiance,


The pristine awareness of the spaciousness of reality.


 

May the compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas support me from behind.

Thus encircled, may I be protected


From the fears and projections of the bardo


And be guided to the domain of an awakened one.

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Bob Morrison, our dear dharma brother, friend and teacher (and hall stenographer) is so very deeply missed. What a beautiful blend of a renaissance man and a bodhisattva emanating wisdom, joy and generosity. Many rich retreats together… Many conversations ranging from dharma and spirituality to sports, music or Seinfeld… Changing form yet always with us, Bob is to be celebrated. ❤

Bob’s Bright Future – A sunspot came to see me

I thought of Bob often in his final months, especially in the woods behind my house. Walking there just a few days before his passing the thought arose, “Bob you have such a bright future ahead of you. All the goodness you have manifested here will propel you on.”

Then I was stopped on the path by a single sunbeam slanting through the trees, illuminating a bright spot of moss in the gathering shadows. That single shaft of light, so perfectly placed and synchronously timed, felt like a communication from the universe – an affirmation of Bob’s bright future.

Bob’s presence in this world was a light, a breath of wisdom that touched each and every person he encountered. He was the walking embodiment of bodhicitta, and he will live on forever in my heart.

During my first Wonderwell retreat, Bob Morrison led a hike to the Royal Arches cave through forests carpeted with marvelous mosses. Years later he was able to point out the “reality” of mystery to skeptical me and shared the wonder of synchronicity, during a Margha interview (up in the old closet bookstore). The very day after he passed, Lama Liz led this year’s hiking retreatants through that same enchanted mossy wonderland. What a display of mystery and the magic of synchronicity, as Bob continued to teach us with his presence.

This body is not me,
I am not caught in this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I shall never die.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations of my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are just a game of hide and seek.

So, laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say goodbye,
say goodbye, to meet again soon.

We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source at every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.

This poem is comprised of parts of a sutra that the Buddha gave. One of Thict Nhat Hahn’s nuns created it. 

I believe Bob was transformed by the nature in which he immersed himself, as Anam Thubten describes:

“Nature has the power to wash away all ego-centered mental chatter, worries, and anxieties, allowing us to feel a deep serenity and to see the way things are in the grand picture of reality. Nature’s magic lures us to tap into a greater truth that is not polluted by manmade theories and concepts, and liberates us from the shackles of conventions that often go against the purity of our hearts.”

Bob was my first Margha mitra and the first person I’d send my writings to for critique before submitting them for publication. Bob also would often pick me up for nature hikes when I visited the UMass Amherst campus. He was so generous with his knowledge and his wisdom. I will always miss his presence but will remember him with an abundance of gratitude and a full heart.
I first met Bob in March 2010 while attending NDF event. From that Friday night in Cambridge until Bob moved to Northampton, I had the pleasure of spending time with Bob, at weekly NDF meetings, on retreat, and some very enjoyable social events. Bob & I both took refuge at Garrison in Aug 2010. Our mutual historical love of the Grateful Dead took us to see several Further & Dark Star Ochestra shows in MA & NH. A few movies & of course poker games at his house. Bob took me to my 1st Red Sox game. Emaho!
 

It has been a very long two weeks since Bob’s death.

I was with Bob a lot during his cancer treatment, hiking when he was still healthy, driving him to appointments at MGH, doing qigong with him in his lovely backyard. I saw him more than ever and it was an incredible blessing. He just became clearer, more loving and more radiant as the going got tougher and tougher.

Honestly, Bob showed me straight up how to live with adversity, how to keep the mind skylike and the heart wide open, how to let the Dharma infuse your whole being. This blessing and inspiration continues full on, and as the feelings of loss subside, there is only gratitude.

I spoke with Bob only once. But his presence at Wonderwell was palpable to me in a remarkable way. For me, a relative newcomer, I sensed a very big Soul, a generosity that permeated the space around him and a delight in every moment of living. I regret that the opportunity to know him more deeply has now passed. But I will never forget him as the essence of what it means to be a deeply compassionate Buddhist.

The Ash trees, the ancient apple

Leaves that have fallen

Frost shadows disappear with the sun’s passing

Friends we will not see again in the meditation hall

They too are the essence of this place

Ever present, ever changing

I draw continual inspiration from Bob’s enthusiasm for life, his ability to live fully, openly and lovingly, and the positive, optimistic presence he carried into and through the circumstances he faced.

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