For David with Gratitude

David Petit

1955 – 2010
Let us go with you
Then let’s come back together soon

David Petit (1955-2010) died at his home, Hawk Hill Ranch adjoining Tara Mandala, during the early morning hours of July 22, 2010. Immediately upon the discovery of his body, Lama Tsultrim, Khenpo Urgyen Wangchuk, and Lama Gyurme began Phowa, the transference of consciousness practice. Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche was contacted in Taiwan and gave instructions for handling the body and performing cremation.
As family and sangha members were contacted and began to arrive, practice for David continued throughout the night. Lama Tsultrim’s son, Costanzo (Osel Dorje), was in one of the most remote areas of Tibet with his teacher Adzom Rinpoche, who told him of David’s death before the news had reached the monastery, and told him to prepare to leave. Costanzo received his advice and carried instructions from Adzom Rinpoche with him as he made the four-day journey back to Chengdu in thirty intense hours.
The day after David’s death, as tears fell, Tara Mandala was enveloped in heavy rainclouds and the sky opened to mirror the grief of the Sangha. The next morning, preparations began to construct a funeral pyre on the east side of the Stupa that David had built with his own hands. Sangha and family traveling throughout the day and night arrived for the sunrise cremation ceremony and were received by the dawning of a clear, Dharmakaya-blue sky. The glory of the procession, with Tibetan instruments, ceremonial hats and robes, five-colored silk scarves, and garlands of flowers, was beautiful to behold as David’s body was placed upon the pyre.
When the ceremony began, feather-like clouds started to dance in delicate, woven layers across the early morning sky. Gathered sangha offered juniper branches and silk scarves with blessings and prayers for David’s journey. Brilliant shafts of light emanated in all directions from the sun, as traditional offerings of oil, grain, and flowers were made to the fire while David was visualized as the deity Vajrasattva in the center.

For the next week a twenty-four hour vigil was held at the Stupa. During that time, rainbows appeared daily, and on the third night the rarest atmospheric phenomenon called a lunar rainbow stretched from the peak of Ekajati to Lama Tsultrim and David’s home.
For many days the fire smoldered and practice continued at the Stupa. On July 30th, a hot and dusty morning, Lama Tsultrim, Khenpo Urgyen, and Osel Dorje sifted through the ashes, discovering multi-colored fragments of bone and teeth. The next day, David’s ashes were offered to the river as the community gathered in practice and prayer. When the ashes were released, the previously flat river swirled clockwise, generating an auspicious, white, foam-like flower which traveled downstream along with many tears.
Each day during the 2010 Drub Chen, Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche poured purifying saffron water over the bones. In accordance with Rinpoche’s instructions, many have practiced merging with David’s mindstream. Tsoknyi Rinpoche said that upon liberation David became the three kayas, and whenever he is invoked, he will be spontaneously present. Lama Tsultrim lovingly refers to him as “Dharmadatu Dave.”
Two years before his death, Tsoknyi Rinpoche recognized that David was ready for the advanced Togyel (Leap Over) teachings. David’s diligence with this high level of practice allowed him to reach liberation immediately after death, as confirmed by all of his teachers. He sat every day from 5:00 to 8:00 a.m. and, when possible, at sunset again, always outside, resting in the vast Colorado sky. In wintertime, he would come in covered with icicles. This fruition of his path was supported by a life well lived and an intense dedication to the Dharma, his Sangha, and his loved ones.

Lama Tsultrim and David at Cafe Florian, Venice, Italy, 2002

I know we must have promised
to find each other again,
But where was that promise made?
Amidst temple ruins looking out to sea
on the isle of Rhodes?
Or in a bamboo and wattle hut
to the sounds of talking drums?
Or in an incense imbued yak hair
tent sitting on carpets in Tibet?
Or was it on a morning in early May
amidst wild poppies in Tuscany?

But now as I see a pair of red-tailed hawks
Fly below my cabin
Setting sun reflecting liquid gold off tail feathers
I know it doesn’t matter
I have this one moment to taste
the warm honey of your shoulder
heated by spring sun
One moment to feel that
soft curve of your waist
To taste the sage on your hips
All these tell me of the promise
To weave our threads of light
Together…under this vast sky.
-Tsultrim Allione, Spring 2001

Wild Pony Boy

When I think of you my heart swells
Turning to the sun
I find refuge resting my head on your
Your arm strong and gentle
Around me
Leaning against your old white shirt,
Never ironed
Torn at the tail by scrub oak
On some wild ride to Laguna
Its single pocket stained black by a leaking pen,
Always there for me to borrow
Collar turned up framing your face
Golden and deeply lined
Like the streaked arroyos after rain
Resolve deepening with time
Like the hardened ponderosa snags
That stand as totem sculptures
Between the living trees

Setting sun draws broad strokes
Of pink across the horizon
Feather clouds against robin’s egg blue sky
You are the place I call home

-Tsultrim Allione, Valentine’s Day 2005

Let Us Ride with You David

There’s no way to thank you now
And yet we feel you everywhere
You are in the soft breeze coming through the window in late afternoon
You are making rainbows and rain
You are the three kayas
Dancing in space
And you are in everything that is here
From the first stones turned into the stupa to the last instructions
for the cabinets in the temple
But your body is gone now from this place
You were the one we relied on when things were difficult
You were our protector
You knew how to hold a line
You felt the spirits of this land
And were guided by them
We danced and played with you

The beginning of making a garden is the hardest part
The digging and pulling out weeds
There seems to be nothing there when you plant seeds
Just dirt and work
You lived to see your garden flower
But not to eat the fruit of the trees you planted
Yet those fruits many beings will eat for years to come
Your merit is immeasurable
And your vision so vast
Let us ride those wind horses with you back to the Land of the Dakinis
They gave you to us and now they’ve taken you back
But let us go with you and then let’s come back together soon

-Tsultrim Allione, August 22. 2010

Celebrating Luna Violet’s Birthday, New Years Day 2009

 Top Row, L-R: Sherab’s Husband Eric Adolphi, Lama Tsultrim, David Petit

Bottom Row, L-R: Costanzo Allione, Sherab Kloppenburg, Aloka Sands, Trevor Sands, Luna Violet Sands

Excerpts from David’s journal
Italy on the Mediterranean near Grossetto 7.15.92

“Many gulls and no others  to swim my whole body in the silken sea tasting salt the builder of life  moving in silence celebrating the gratitude swelling in my heart.”

Later same day

“…deep blue sea-ness of such long life cannot hold sway as we watch the world spin in time as meaning unfolding forever beyond this moment of ‘awake awareness’ cannot be known the cause clause in answering questions of eternal-eternal  expect nothing and all things will reveal themselves to the knower of the remember life-past into remembered future of right action  love in the center heart self of today forever more being only words the sounds of which carry worlds of forming life as they form us  we create all that we become are becoming because the nature of this bliss is elusive  To walk through walls or cliffs  the labyrinth of love  love  creating embracing moving placing…”

In Homage

I feel sluggish
my mouth
mouthing words
that can’t say
the sadness I feel
As Lama Tsultrim
is my spiritual mom
so you were
my spiritual dad
And like a son
though older than you
Scorpio and Leo
we’d bump heads
then work it out
and be friends
Not an easy friendship
but if anything can be
real, that was real
You could be
a tough taskmaster
but when the work
was done and when you
said it was good
I’d know it was good
You set the standard
on horseback or
with a chöd drum
And you could dance
a soft side of self
you seemed reticent
to show, but you
moved with winged feet
Go, now, liberated
as they say
but come back

-Jampa Dorje, July 2010

For David Petit

My heart against Her ground
Radiant ash
cloaks my skin
A sound of Fire
deep within
You rise
and I rise with You
Radiant Body
Empty Smoke
I breath You in
and I become You
Mother, Father, Child
the One who offers and the Offering
Surrounded by the Wisdom Beings
Gone beyond.

-Josephine Doig, July 2010

The Artist David Petit

The artist David Petit began painting in Bali in 1990 and continued his work whenever he had free time, especially during his Colorado years, 1994 – 2010.
David was born in Salem, Massachusetts to Margaret and Robert Petit. He was the third of six children. The family later moved to New Hampshire where he was raised. At the age of sixteen, David traveled alone to Europe and began studying in the Anthroposophic communities of England and Germany which were founded by Austrian philosopher, social thinker, and architect, Rudolf Steiner.
David graduated from Eurythemeum College in Stuggart, Germany in 1981 where he studied Eurythmy (an expressive movement art), acting, choreography, directing, music, literature, and philosophy. He stayed in Europe for a total of thirteen years and became a well-known performer and director of plays that toured throughout Western Europe, East Germany, and Poland. While living in Germany, he also studied Waldorf pedagogy and eventually taught theatre to high school students. He returned to the United States in 1986.
David was a beloved husband, devoted father to three beautiful step-children, and co-founder of Tara Mandala. He was an accomplished Dzog Chen practitioner, dancer, and horseman known to chase wild horses and ride through places “where angels fear to tread.” He was debonair and exceedingly mysterious. David Petit was also, to no one’s surprise, a secret artistic master.

David worked privately, almost never showing his work to anyone. And, though we knew he was imaginative and abstractly ingenious, most who knew him were unaware of the large body of work that he had developed until his collection was revealed after his death.
David’s collection reveals his soul’s journey, his inner struggles, and his path into the light. Such extraordinary images in art might have the propensity to alienate or unnerve the psyche, but in the David Petit gallery this is not the case.
Mystifying and spontaneous, David’s work creates in us space for the exploration of light and shadow. Viewing the images that continue to surprise, we have little choice but to relinquish conceptual limitations.
David was capable of anything. When he was with us, we were often delighted and amazed by even the smallest interaction. Light on his feet and cryptic with his words, David gave us the experience of the unexpected.
To those who knew, loved, and admired him, David remains a mystery. Let his work tell you some of what lay beneath the surface of this complex, generous, beloved man.

 David performing Sang (Frangrant Juniper Smoke Offering)

Prayer Flag Ridge, Summer 2009 (Photo credit: Michael Ash at

How like the sun
He was.
Hair framing his face
Like a corona.
At once rugged and elegant.
How we took joy
when bathed in the warmth of his attention.
Or even
By his glare.
His light
Gave us life.

-David Laufer, July 2010

A Song of Liberation:

Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond
Death is the final liberation
Death is our greatest teacher
David’s passing is his greatest teaching
He is everywhere and nowhere
Meet him in the space of the Dharmadatu
The space of awareness beyond duality, he is there!
Let’s meet in the dancing ground of the dakinis
Where we dance the divine dance
Of creation and destruction
Of hope and fear
Of existence and nonexistence
And we move beyond duality and rest in bliss emptiness
And we too feel our bodies dissolve
Dissolve back into the five elements
Returning home is the greatest liberation
May we rejoice in his grand finale, his final performance!
Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Swaha!

-Chandra Easton, July 2010


Sharp mind
Warm Eyes.
Smiling Tenderness.
May your mind hold and protect
Lama Tsultrim and Tara Mandala

-Gudrun Binder, July 2010

Wind Horse Haiku

“I think we were probably the last people to leave after the Chod retreat, & we were camping up in the trees on the edge of the meadow, when David flew by on a large horse, at full gallop. It was very impressive. We went, “wow.” I wrote this little haiku for him on the spot, at the time. I hope you like it.”

Wind man on wind horse,
turning earth to sky.
three jewels flaming on his back

-Preston Chase, July 12, 2009

I see you in the spring planting trees.
I see you in the summer garden.
I see you in the autumn at sunrise sang.
I see you in the falling snow.
Body, speech and mind lithesome and working hard,
Intent on liberation for all.
Planting trees, conserving the land, building fires, pulling everyone’s cars out of the snow banks,
Riding horses in boundless presence and joy.
Lama Tsultrim’s beloved husband,
I miss you so much.
Meeting us all now in the Dharmata,
Thank you for this parting gift that will never cease.
by your vast generosity,
May all beings be free.

-Carol Hoy, Gendun Drolma, July 2010

For David Petit

Dear Man
Arrow Man
Valiant Man
Easy in the saddle Man

Horse Man whose animals crop the grass at dawn
Hat Man whose broad brim slices light and shade
Builder Man who alcoves relics of the Dharma
Fire Man who tends the sacred, now be tended by it
Rainbow Man, arch on the walking rain
Seeing Man, offering the body: sound, light, rays

-Mary Gilliland, July 2010

THIS PRECIOUS LIFE: A Celebration of the Life & Passing of David Petit from Chariot Videos on Vimeo.

Please follow this link if you would like to make a pledge or online donation

to the David Petit Sustainability Fund.


P.O. Box 3040
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
©Tara Mandala
September 9, 2010