“Far from this ancient life of ordered study and esoteric wisdom, yet just around the corner, lay the very worldly pleasures of Kathmandu. On the last Thursday of November 1968 Zina set off with Clive Giboire for an all-American Thanksgiving Day party at an art gallery right next to the American Embassy. Max’s Gallery was the first commercial art gallery in Nepal.
Its owner, Max Mathews, an African-American woman, worked as a teacher in the American diplomatic service’s international schools division. The job at Kathmandu’s Lincoln School paid very well, and Max definitely had a taste for the high life. No hippie, she lived in a beautifully furnished apartment above the gallery. She had arrived in Nepal only four months earlier, following a posting in Russia where she had acquired the impressive collection of icons and fine modern paintings now hanging in her new gallery.
Max was dynamite and Zina was nervous about meeting her again. They had originally known each other on Mykonos, where Max had spent her summer vacations, first while she was teaching in Germany and then when she moved to a new teaching position in Athens. “Zina had been gorgeous beyond belief,” said Max. “Astoundingly, traffic-stoppingly beautiful, with platinum hair. She wore things like a full-length mink coat with nothing underneath. She also wore a lot of black because she’d gotten involved with this witchy coven stuff in Paris.”
Max was pretty gorgeous herself, a small woman with a wonderful figure, twinkling black eyes, and a vivaciousness that stood out in any crowd. Max draped herself in luxurious brocades and exotic jewels. She was more conservative than Zina, but no less noticeable.
Despite the difficult history between them, they enjoyed meeting again in Kathmandu. “Well hi! Will you look at you!” they said to each other and settled into a pleasant evening of eating, drinking and talking. It was all extremely friendly. Max found Zina still elegant, despite her dramatically changed appearance. “She had gotten huge, massive. I was kind of shocked to see her in nun’s robes. When I launched into a description of my latest disastrous love affair with yet another married man, Zina said to me, ‘Come and meet my lamas…they’ll give you some advice.’ I promised to get in touch,” said Max.
Zina took Max along to Samten Ling to meet “my lamas,” which is how she always referred to them. “They were sitting on the floor in a very bleak little room. Lama Yeshe folded his hands, bowed and smiled,” said Max. “The next thing I knew I was on the floor, sobbing. I just cried and cried. I cried for hours. Zina and Lama Zopa were both there and I didn’t even acknowledge them. It was just bang! Instantaneous! When I finally stopped crying, I felt incredibly relieved, with no problems, no pain or questions. I felt I had come home and that Lama Yeshe was my guru. He just opened me up completely. I felt balanced and whole, like I was walking on air. I also felt committed. There was no going back,” she said.”