On September 5, 2023, Douglas Mills, a Dharma instructor for Siddhartha’s Intent, a prolific translator, and an accomplished musician, passed away peacefully at Kyogle Memorial Hospital. Douglas was a larger-than-life figure in the global sangha, and many of us have keenly felt the loss of our eccentric, extraordinary, and beloved friend.
Douglas started studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism in the late 1980s and remained a colorful member of Siddhartha’s Intent Australia from the early 90s. The Australian sangha at that time mostly comprised a wild bunch of hippies—unsophisticated, unkempt, and unpretentious. Over the years Douglas became one of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s favorite sources of entertainment, often in the form of giving Douglas challenging and outrageous instructions. No matter how provocative Rinpoche’s directives were, Douglas would keep a completely straight face while he unhesitatingly carried out Rinpoche’s wishes.
Douglas was an accomplished musician. Over the years he played a number of instruments, including the sarod, banjo, guitar, Irish harp, tambura, and uilleann pipes, and he would often regale Rinpoche at Dharma events. For many years he earned money busking in the Blue Mountains. But perhaps Douglas’s most extraordinary quality was his very rare and precious enthusiasm for the Dharma. He was so hungry to read, appreciate, translate, and practice texts, he was always in the midst of translating at least ten at any given time. Douglas made it his mission to learn as much as he could about the great tertöns and yogis of the past. He had a very strong connection to Sikkim, the heartland of Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, and over the course of his life he made fourteen pilgrimages there to practice various termas of Lhatsun Namkha Jigme.
In December 2022, Douglas discovered that his body was riddled with inoperable cancer, and he had only six months left to live. So, he got his affairs in order, figured out what to do with his few belongings, spent time with the people he loved the most, and most importantly really readied his mind for death. He remained brave, full of devotion, and never lost his iconoclastic sense of humor, despite the increasingly excruciating pain he was enduring.
The love that surrounded Douglas in his final few months was beautiful. His hospital room had a large print of a kookaburra on the wall, a perfect fit for our renegade Kookaburra Lingpa. Here he got to spend quality time with his older brothers and with other close members of the sangha who took turns visiting him. It was a privilege to bask in the aura of his tender, outrageous heart during this time.
Douglas was one of Khyentse Vision Project’s contributing translators and we are delighted to publish one of the last texts he translated. Essence of the Beautiful Jewel Ornaments of Necessary Practices: The Four Supreme Skills Using Syllables contains instructions on practices using the Sanskrit vowels and consonants, based on the particular doctrines of the Shije (Pacification) lineage introduced in Tibet by the South Indian master Padampa Sangye. We are also currently in the process of editing his translation of the Rigzin Sokdrup cycle and will have that available sometime next year.