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Lama had great hopes

(15514_ng.psd) Lama Yeshe teaching in the gompa (shrineroom) at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1974. Photo by Ursula Bernis.1981:Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse,Big Love author:

A few days after Lama Yeshe returned to Kopan someone stole money from the donation box in the gompa. Moreover, local dogs were climbing in the low windows and eating food offerings from the altar. From a Buddhist point of view this was seriously bad karma for the young monks in charge of taking care of the gompa. Their duties included laying out offerings, caring for the butter lamps, keeping the statues and the room clean, filling and emptying the waterbowls, making sure the donation box was locked—in short, seeing to the overall care and safety of the meditation hall and its contents. Everyone knew the two boys currently rostered to that duty were lazy and often snuck off to Kathmandu to watch movies.

Lama Yeshe walked into the gompa during the middle of the morning puja, stopped the chanting and began lecturing to the assembled monks in Tibetan. “First he berated the two gompa keepers while walking around them with his big, heavy bodhi-seed mala going round and round in his hands,” said Karuna Cayton, who could understand Tibetan. “The talk was all about karma, responsibility and their laziness. Lama was very, very heavy. As he spoke he whacked the two boys around the head with his mala. The mala suddenly broke and beads flew around the gompa. This kind of corporal punishment was commonly used in all Tibetan monasteries.”

Lama mixing cement, Kopan, 1974Pujas were formal affairs and discipline in the gompa was for everyone. Even when a Western Sangha member arrived late for puja, Lama Yeshe would stop the ritual to scold that person publicly for being careless, insensitive to others and ego-tripping.

Lama Yeshe was full of fund-raising ideas. “We should build a supermarket in Kathmandu!” he told Max Redlich. There was no such thing in Nepal at the time, so this was a groundbreaking concept. “We should make ginger beer! All the centers should copy the same recipe!” He even sent Jacie down to Delhi to buy bottles and caps and told her to develop a label that used the words “healthy,” “natural” and “good for the stomach.”

“It didn’t work,” said Jacie. “The bottles kept exploding.”

As usual, Lama was ahead of common thinking in his views on healthy living and good food. There is every reason to think that a well-run ginger beer business would have been successful. Lama also wanted to start a flower farm in Delhi, noting it was very hard to buy good-quality cut flowers. That too could have been a successful business.

“Lama came up with all sorts of ideas and schemes,” Peter Kedge explained. “There was really no limit to the amount of Dharma activity Lama could envisage in both the West and the East, and no lack of enthusiastic people more than willing to dedicate themselves to the fulfillment of these activities. But we just didn’t have the training and business background to follow them up. Some Dharma organizations seemed to attract wealthy professionals, but the style and evolution of the FPMT took place differently. It initially attracted many so-called ‘hippies,’ those who had opted out of conventional society and therefore had spare time, rather than those who pursued professions and had careers. Later on, that changed. On several occasions Lama told us he wanted us to learn how to do business in order to support the Western Sangha, Mount Everest Centre and all the other centers. We were not lacking in enthusiasm, but fundamentally the organization lacked an economic base.”

Lama supervising construction, Kopan, 1974Around this time Lama gave Tenzin Dorje (Charok Lama) some jeans and a shirt and sent him to work in Marcel’s shop, Mandala, in Kathmandu. Tenzin Dorje didn’t wear robes for a whole year, after which Lama sent him to Dharamsala for three months of retreat before he was to depart for south India to study at Sera Jé. After that retreat, however, Tenzin Dorje, now eighteen years old, decided he didn’t want to be a monk anymore. Lama Yeshe asked him if he wanted to work for a Dharma center and he decided to remain at Tushita Retreat Centre, where he took over the shopping.

“Lama Yeshe never criticized my decision to disrobe and never tried to change my mind, nor did I think he would try,” said Tenzin Dorje. “Lama also got Gelek Gyatso a job in a Kathmandu garage where he spent a lot of time just watching what was going on and drinking Coca-Cola. I knew Lama had great hopes for Thubten Zopa Small. Gelek Gyatso and I were always running away, but Thubten Zopa only ran away once or twice, at Lawudo.” He ran to his family’s guesthouse and restaurant, which was in Namché Bazar, where Tenzin Dorje had come from as well.

Just let go. Don’t worry about it.

Lama with Nick Ribush, 1983 1980: Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
The FPMT was gradually maturing but Lama Yeshe still received plenty of criticism from Tibetan traditionalists for his popularity with the “rich Injis,” for holding hands and traveling with women and for his eccentric robes. The red down vest he wore in Dharamsala was untraditional in that it was a modern Western garment stuffed with feathers, but traditional in that it did not have sleeves. He also wore a fringed zen (monk’s upper shawl), when the rule is that it should have cleanly hemmed edges. Lama’s zen was also a funny fuchsia color and bore obvious signs of age, yet he wore it everywhere. “I guessed it was a special present from someone,” said one monk. It was. Mummy Max was the first to buy Lama Yeshe these fringed zens made of raw silk that came out somewhat more pink than dark maroon when dyed. Paul Bourke offered him one and there may have been others. One result was that you could always pick Lama Yeshe out in a crowd of Tibetan monks.

After the CPMT meeting Ira Zunin left for Poona. He later returned to Tushita-Dharamsala to tell Lama Yeshe he wished to follow Shri Bhagwan Rajneesh. Ira’s interview was just at the end of Lama’s Mahakala retreat. “He was in peak form and utterly clear—he wasn’t at the end of a long tour, nor in a foreign country, nor finishing a big course and surrounded by people wanting things from him,” Ira said. “I was a bit nervous because I had agreed to do all these things for Lama and was about to walk away, but he said, ‘Sure, dear. That sounds good. I’m sure you can learn something down at Poona.’ When I asked about the Tibetan medical stuff we had planned, he said, ‘Oh, never mind. Just let go. Don’t worry about it.’”

Continuing, Ira said, “I then asked him what he thought would really be best for me but he said, ‘I cannot advise you at this time.’ I told him the toughest part for me was that I loved him so much. I felt he was my root guru and I didn’t feel that way about Bhagwan. Then he started berating me. ‘Come on! Don’t you get attached to my physical form! You know that you just have to visualize me and I’m right there!’ He pointed to a spot just above and in front of his crown chakra. ‘Right there, anytime. You and me, we are crystal clear. You can come back anytime.’ So that was it. I went off and joined the Rajneeshis. Poona closed down one month later.”

Lama Yeshe's room, Tushita Retreat Centre

Lama Yeshe’s big room at Tushita Retreat Centre.

Lama Yeshe turned to his correspondence. To a student who had not done as he told her he wrote, “You ask if you can still say mantras. Yes, of course, please do. About feeling guilty and about worrying—you are wrong. Do not feel guilty. Do not worry. Just do not do it. Just do not think negative. Have a good positive attitude of yourself. Eliminate the self-pity concepts that you hold and feel your dignity, feel the purity that you have. Can you be forgiven? Yes. You should not worry. Guilty is only a concept that you build up. You should not build up concepts of feeling guilty. You created your confusions and sufferings yourself by thinking unclear concepts, by not thinking of the totality of your own nature. You do have buddha-quality and you should recognize it both physically and mentally.”

A young woman had written to Lama. She had become worn out working as a schoolteacher but thought she should continue anyway, believing that Bodhicitta meant she should wear herself out completely for others. Lama wrote back, “Withdraw dear, while there is still something left of yourself. Strengthen yourself and come back, because if you go until there is nothing left, you can’t do anything for yourself or anyone else.”

We react, react, react

(13147_pr-2.psd) In the spring of 1978, Jan Willis arranged for Lama Yeshe to teach a course on Tibetan Buddhism at the University of California’s Oakes College on the Santa Cruz campus during the spring trimester, which ran approximately from mid-March through the end of May. Photos by Jon Landaw.From  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Discriminating Between the Middle and the Extremes, chapter 5, at Kopan, December 1980:

Up to now we have explained the calm abiding (shamatha) side so tonight we are going to continue with the side of penetrative wisdom (vipasyana) in detail.

 So regarding what are we deluded? We are deluded with regard to the truth, with regard to dependent phenomena. We discussed this previously. This refers to words, the names of things, and their meanings and how they are connected, how they are habituated and become concepts. We have to understand that the notion of interdependence is a conventional reality. Thus, it is important to know conventional reality, relative phenomena, and the way in which they exist. It is about this that we are deluded. This also includes how we ourselves exist; we are also deluded about what we are. You know, Chandrakirti, the great Indian pandit, himself said that understanding relative conventional reality is the method leading to an understanding of absolute truth. By understanding the structure of relative compassion, then we are able to transcend, to go beyond that. We are no longer caught in the bondage of the relative bubble.

So, it is with regard to the fundamental truth that we are deluded. Let’s take, for example, Jon. Because of the way that I am deluded, my superstition is mixed up about the name “Jon” and the meaning of Jon. When I hear the name Jon, then I get a sort of artificial picture of what I think is the reality of him. I cannot perceive his real reality because the means of my understanding is through words, through this name. But the name “Jon” is here (Lama holding his hand up in front of his face), like this, so it is through this that I must try to look, to find out his reality. But the name is not the reality, this artificial cloud picture is not the reality, so already I am deluded. I am deluded in the beginning and in the end. The result is that deluded imprints are repeatedly placed in the mind. You understand?

 (13070_pr-2.PSD) In the spring of 1978, Jan Willis arranged for Lama Yeshe to teach a course on Tibetan Buddhism at the University of California’s Oakes College on the Santa Cruz campus during the spring trimester, which ran approximately from mid-March through the end of May. Photos by Jon Landaw.Next, we have the characteristics of delusion. Delusion means the misconception or superstition that is characterized by the dualistic view of phenomena, even though what that dualistic view perceives does not exist. And from where does delusion come? Delusion arises from our consciousness. Of course, there is the philosophical view of the Chittamatrin school, which talks about the ground-of-all consciousness, which holds all the imprints of karma and delusion and whatever there is. Like a container it holds all these imprints, all our garbage experiences, all our good experiences, since we were born up to now. Everything is held there as in a container. It is a kind of foundational consciousness. Why do we call it “foundational”? It holds all the roots, you know? The roots of the manifestations are held there in consciousness and from there all those imprints can manifest all of samsara. All of samsara manifests from all those imprints. But leaving aside the philosophical points, according to our common sense we can say that delusions arise from consciousness, which holds the imprints of all our experiences, the karma from our bad experiences and our good experiences. Holding, holding. Until the necessary cooperative energies, conditions, come together, then these imprints simply remain there, latent. But when all the cooperative conditions come together, then the seeds are there and the cooperative causes are now present and bam! they manifest in an experience of samsara. They again become a samsaric reaction. We react, react, react. Okay.

      From that then deluded actions and functions arise. From just one moment of superstition, reaction after reaction after reaction, one after another after another, are accumulated. You know? Endless superstitious reactions. (Lama laughs as he winds his mala through his fingers.) Because of cause and effect, the functioning of causation, then from delusion comes delusion, delusion, delusion. In other words, hallucinations. In Buddhist terminology, we refer to this state of delusion as hallucination. In other words, we do not see reality but are always perceiving wrong projections.

      So what is the cause of the wrong projections that appear to the mind? The cause is the repeated perceiving of wrong view that creates imprints that are stored in our consciousness. They are manufactured non-stop, pam, pam, pam, pam, like a printing press publishing more and more imprints in every moment. Pam, pam, pam, pam. Then these are stored in our consciousness and they never finish. They are held there, like a treasure of superstitious imprints. It is from there that all delusions arise.

      We have to understand this clean clear. Generally we think that when one delusion comes, it comes just once and then it is finished. No! It is not like that! One delusion produces a hundred delusions; one superstition mind has the ability to produce a hundred reactions. And that hundred has the ability to produce a thousand. This is why it is not easy for us.

     13013_pr-2_g In Western culture, we are almost forced to watch television. Everyone does it. And there are so many incredible things shown on the television and we watch them. It seems so simple. You just sit there, the TV is on, and you seem to be doing nothing. But as you watch, in each moment it is recorded, you know? Moment after moment, imprints are made, tremendous imprints. And tremendous negative imprints arise…unless you see and recognize these things as characterized by non-duality, as like a mirage or a dream. Recognize that! By doing so, instead of producing superstition, you produce wisdom energy. Then it is okay.

      But we are not able to do this. We are beginners and are not able. It is very difficult to transform our projected view into wisdom energy. It is possible; we cannot say it is not possible. But as we are beginners, we should be very careful about what we see, what we watch. We should be careful. Why? Because the object itself also has the power to delude, the power to be superstition, hallucination. The object also has power. Because we have magnetized the superstition energy inside, so objects outside also come together as delusional.

      Remember, in the Abhidharmakosha it says that the cause of delusion is incorrect imagination, or, as we have called it, superstition. You always imagine the object incorrectly. And it says that we have this incorrect imagination already. So as you already have this superstition that sees incorrectly within you, when the external object appears and you come in contact with it, then pam! Delusion arises.

      For example, since we are here in this primitive tent in Nepal, then you don’t have a certain particular New York pleasure grasping mind, do you? Because the object isn’t here. The particular object needs to be close by. So when the superstitious thought is there inside and the external object is in close proximity, then delusion arises. That is why I am saying that we are usually perceiving things unconsciously and thinking that it doesn’t matter what we are seeing, but everything matters. Our minds are uncontrolled. Thus, as I am trying to demonstrate, it is very difficult see objectively and not to be deluded.

      Good.  So now we understand what we are deluded in regard to, the characteristics of delusion, and from where delusion arises. Now it is clear.

I never doubted that he loved me

Lama with Fabrizio Pallotti, 1983

From  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

“Lama just had to look at the kids wrathfully and they shuddered,” Karuna Cayton said. ” I often didn’t want to be around him myself because he criticized me so much. Every morning I’d wonder what he was going to have a go at me about today. But I never doubted that he loved me. He was the only person who could make me feel those two things at once.

“Every night we had ‘money meeting’ with Lama Lhundrup, Lama Pasang and a couple of other monks, such as the driver. Lama Pasang went into Kathmandu nearly every day, because there was no refrigeration in Nepal. Inevitably, if he left with 2,000 rupees he would account for 2,500 or 1,400—never 2,000. So the books were far from being balanced and Lama insisted we keep good books.

“Every year when Lama came back to Kopan he wanted to know how much we had spent. The November course involved a lot of money—shopping for 250 people cost many thousands of rupees. So every night we’d all get together in this room. Lama Lhundrup sat there very quietly doing his mantras. He held the key to the safe. I had everything itemized: a code for petrol, a code for bricks, another for flour, milk, seeds for Lama’s garden. I had ninety different codes. Then Lama Pasang would say, ‘I bought steel rebar today,’ and I’d think, ‘Oh, I don’t have a code for that.’

Lama teaching at VPI, 1983“It seemed that my relationship with Lama was not like what he had with a lot of other people. It was not sweet. Anyway, one night at money meeting I was sick with a fever, it was 9:30 at night and raining. I hadn’t eaten and all I wanted to do was go home, but Lama Pasang was going through his day. I’d say, ‘I gave you 10,000 rupees and there’s only 8,200 accounted for.’ He’d pull out all these scraps of paper from various folds in his robes, with receipts like five rupees for a rickshaw, two rupees for tea and we’re that much closer to the figure. I’d ask for more and he’d start scratching his head and talking to the monks in Nepalese, which I spoke, asking how much they had spent on petrol that day. I was just exhausted.

“After two hours of this, the door flies opens and it’s my worst nightmare. Many people have described how Lama seemed to change sizes. Well, this night he burst through the door like John Wayne into the saloon. He was six foot six, I swear! Lama Pasang was so clever. Without a hint he just slipped out the door, because he knew that if Lama was in the office that late at night he meant business. Next, Lama Lhundrup asks Lama really politely if he’d like a cup of tea or something, and he gets out. So there’s just me, trapped behind the desk.
“This was the first time he’d come to the office at night after returning from being on tour. He sat across from me and started. ‘How much did we spend on powdered milk last year and how many kilos did we buy?’ I said that I didn’t know as I didn’t record kilos. But he steamed right on. How many yards of steel rebar, how many gallons of petrol—when things were sold in meters and liters. How much money did we save by growing our own cauliflowers? On and on for two and a half hours, going right through the books. When I couldn’t answer his questions immediately, he’d berate and belittle me, saying, ‘You’re from America, richest country in the world and you don’t know anything about money!’Lama at a family gathering, 1983

“Then he starts going through the drawers in the office, then through all the files. He even went through the rubbish bin, finding obscure pieces of paper and asking what they were. He was brutal! And I have this aching fever and I just want to go home. I didn’t want to be there! He finds these letters in a drawer written by someone in 1970 or something and he wants to know where that person is now. On and on and on…

“Finally, around midnight he said, ‘Okay, dear, you can go now but I want you back in the office at six o’clock in the morning, because I want to go through the coffee shop’s books then.’”

“I just went outside into the rain and cried. It was all I could do. Then I noticed a kitchen light was on. Kancha often worked until one in the morning preparing for the next day, when breakfast was served early and people taking precepts needed to have tea ready. I thought I’d better have some soup. So I went down and opened the kitchen door, took one step inside and there was Kancha—and Lama Yeshe. All I could think of was escape! But of course he turned and saw me. ‘Yes, dear?’ Like I hadn’t just spent three hours with him. ‘Come in, come in!’ I sauntered in, all defensive and he said, ‘Something?’ I didn’t say anything and he said, ‘You need to hear “I love you”?’”

Lori Cayton was at Kopan, sitting back quietly observing as usual. She could see why Lama tortured Karuna. “He was the one in our family who always got away with everything and had a knack for getting other people to do things for him. I always felt Lama’s method was to teach him how to take care of himself. Lama was the only person I ever saw treat Karuna like that.

lwi0457-tif-Edit

Pam Cayton and Karuna Cayton

“I saw how Lama affected my parents, especially my mother who was so touched by him. Lama was so incredible with parents who were worried about cults and such things. People often asked my folks, ‘Is this what your kids are into?’ and they’d say, ‘No, no, Lama Yeshe is not like that at all.’

“But Lama was in Karuna’s face the whole time, often in public. I saw Lama hit him with his big mala several times. Lama never did anything like that to me because I was already so hard on myself. When I told him I wanted to do a three-month retreat at Tushita he said, ‘Oh, so much beating!’ and started hitting himself on the back. I thought, ‘Gosh, Vajrasattva is going to be really tough,’ but because that image of Lama beating himself stayed in my mind the whole time I kept wondering what it meant. Eventually I saw that I didn’t need someone to beat me, because I beat myself up the whole time.”

 

“Use your own wisdom, dear.”

22842_ngFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche returned to Kopan from his Australasian tour before Lama Yeshe and in time to teach the thirteenth Kopan course. It ran from November 10 to December 10.

Hearing Lama Zopa Rinpoche for the first time, Dean Alper, an American attorney, was shocked to discover how tense he was and how short his attention span. He remained plunged in misery until Lama Yeshe appeared like a ray of light and reminded him that yes, there was laughter in the world. Dean returned for the next three meditation courses and became familiar with various student types: the ones who called everything “purification,” others who couldn’t make a decision about anything without consulting a lama. He noted how cleverly Lama Yeshe managed both the slavish and the arrogantly learned.

Many students had difficulty making up their minds about taking initiations, but Lama Yeshe just told them they should make their own decisions. “Next thing they’ll be wanting me to tell them when they can go to the bathroom!” His constant refrain was, “Use your own wisdom, dear.” Everyone knew that Lama Zopa Rinpoche threw mos (divinations with dice) all the time, but Lama Yeshe was openly displeased with those who asked for mos for trivial reasons.

12611_ng-2_gAfter studying Dharma for just a year, Merry Colony asked Lama Yeshe if she could become a nun. He gave her a hard, scornful look and asked her if she was quite sure she had “finished with men.” “Four years later I disrobed for a man, so apparently I wasn’t,” said Merry.

Sex was a common subject in interviews. A “man-hating” Italian feminist told Lama she only had women friends and felt alienated from patriarchal society. “I understand, dear,” he told her kindly. “Women do understand women better, but I think that when a woman’s energy is balanced she will like men.”

When Denis Huet asked if he could confess his faults, Catholic style, Lama Yeshe burst out laughing. “I shall never forget how much he laughed at that, but it wasn’t embarrassing. His laugh was full of love and fun.”

Everyone celebrated the end of the course with a picnic in the park opposite the famous Hindu temple, Pashupatinath. Rinpoche had the students meditating on the ghats by the side of the river, where corpses were burning. Lama Yeshe got them playing football. He gave one student a big good-bye hug, which seemed to carry some hidden message. “During the twenty-five minute walk to Boudha my back got hotter and hotter until it felt like it was on fire. It was an extraordinary sensation I never experienced again.”

 

The way to seek shunyata

16769_sl_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

To emphasize the possibility of transforming even negative energy into Tara’s wisdom, Lama pointed out that many of his students had been hippies yet had turned out differently.

The Western hippy movement lasted ten, maybe fifteen years. These hippies tried everything, every pleasure. They tried everything, this, that, politics, drugs, communism. But they reached a certain point where they discovered something and then they become good persons. Very good persons. The things they did were garbage things but then suddenly they turned out to be strong, transformed. So many hippies were creative, extreme extremists. They had a kind of power, super-samsaric power, that created nuclear energy. But when they became practitioners they stopped that super samsara and used that energy to become kind of super Dharma practitioners. Some of my students are just quiet and peaceful and their Dharma practice is slow, very slow. But this is just common sense. The main point is to look subjectively rather than objectively and in that way to recognize that every appearance in our life, every desire thought or hatred thought or ego thought has an inborn non-dual nature. Its nature is clean clear like the ocean. Each one has the character of non-dual blissful wisdom.

Of course when we are dealing with the world we are not strong enough to see non-duality. It is natural for us to see dualistically. But we can make a strong determination within ourselves to recognize the duality that appears to us for what it is. One cannot avoid thinking dualistically; it comes through our habitual perceptions. But inside we can have the determination that this is illusion. This is dualistically appearing illusion. That we can do. That we should do.

09598_sl_gLama Yeshe spoke to his students about their dreams:

Usually we forget our dreams. This is not good. Dream comprehension is very important. Why are we so slow to become enlightened? Because half our life is spent unconscious, asleep. Maybe a quarter is spent eating, unconsciously. In tantra, practically speaking, we can make every important movement of energy become wisdom. It becomes awareness, mindfulness. It is very important to become mindful of our dreams. So before you go to sleep, make strong prayers to Tara to give you inspiration to be mindful of your dreams and to recognize your dream as a dream. This is good enough. Then put your head in Mother Tara’s lap and fall asleep like that. In this way, your sleep becomes more conscious, less unconscious. This is the best way to sleep.

Using every possible example from daily life, Lama continuously strove to bring home the core Buddhist understanding of emptiness to his students.

Perhaps if I explain it in a simpler way: The minute you check up with ego how you feel, how you are, what you think about yourself, you can only think about the previous you. The previous one is (snaps his fingers) gone already. Isn’t it! It is non-existent. The ego is very slow, I tell you. It doesn’t matter how intelligent the ego may be; it is too slow. It thinks that yesterday’s me is somewhere around here still. That’s too late. Even from the relative point of view of time and space it’s unrealistic. In Buddhism when you seek shunyata, in that moment when you are aware, that mindfulness cuts the self-existent appearance, which is totally non-existent. That is the way to seek shunyata. The skill is how to observe the ego’s interpretation.

     16051_ng-2_g Whenever there is emotional excitement and the ego manifests, the I-projection strongly arises. That is the moment when you get the chance to recognize it—for example, when you are angry. That is a very important moment.

      Remember. Philosophical doctrine is not important. Intellectual religion is not important. That’s why many intellectually religious people—intellectual Buddhists, intellectual Muslims, intellectual Christians—they miss the point. Just making things philosophical doesn’t work. Destroying the intellectual ego and making another one is just sublimating. The main business is our intuitive inborn ego.

 

 

Protection was the last thing Lama wanted

From  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

16008_pr_gJohn Schwartz was a confident, successful man and fair game for Lama’s teasing, some of which came in the form of his nickname as “John Shore.” Lama Yeshe never called him anything else. As Lama Yeshe’s new attendant, John decided the students were overly protective of the lamas, especially with regard to Lama Yeshe’s heart ailment. “How I look?” Lama would ask people who worried about him, sticking his face out for inspection and turning to display his upper arms as if the diagnosis lay there. “What you think? I tell you, Western science, they don’t understand the power of mantra, the power of mind!”

John Schwartz: “I discovered that protection was the last thing Lama wanted. People worried about whether he was up too late or talking too much with one person or whether the interviews were tiring him out—but he never got tired of doing stuff like that. I’d tell people they had just five or ten minutes with him. When that was up I’d walk in on them and stand there. Lama would look at me, say, ‘Thank you, dear,’ dismiss me, and just keep on going. He didn’t want someone to chaperone him, he wanted someone to clear the path, to make it easy for him. He knew when to stop talking. If he’s with someone for a long time it’s because they need it.

06666_ng_g“Teaching was no problem for Lama. He could teach twelve hours a day. What sapped his energy were people’s problems, their sob stories ad infinitum. Before doing interviews he’d say to me, ‘Time to go to work.’ Then there were meetings with center people. He went over the land with them, inspected everything and gave them pep talks. Lama worked absolutely all the time, he never stopped.

“I never saw anyone work a mala like Lama either—he used one all the time, no matter what he was doing. He wasn’t secret or invisible about it either, you could see his lips moving, too.” Lama Yeshe had a wide selection of malas, often favoring a kind of “global” mala with a crucifix and several other religious emblems on it.

Sometime after the Grizzly Lodge course was over, a Dorje Khadro fire puja was held at the Jackson’s kitchen on the Vajrapani land. But despite their reputation as resourceful “bushie people,” they could not seem to get a fire going. Lama Yeshe took over, rebuilt it and lit it just fine. “We made fires all the time,” said Åge Delbanco, one of the Vajrapani pioneers, “but we just couldn’t get that fire to start.”

A picnic on the high ridge followed. Tom Waggoner’s little truck was the best of a sorry lot of vehicles and he was given the job of driving Lama Yeshe back down to the gompa. “He got in and I warmed the engine before taking off, because it’s tricky to get off the ridge—it’s steep, with a lot of loose gravel. Lama wanted to drive but I couldn’t let him because you really had to know what you were doing up there,” said Tom. “On the way down he asked me to stop so he could take a pee. ‘These students,’ he told me, ‘you sit up there on the throne and they offer tea and don’t ever think Lama has to go pee-pee!’”

06649_ng_gLama Yeshe spent the next few days at a house on Lake Tahoe, resting and hunting out local antique shops with Anila Ann. He loved buying pretty things, most of which ended up in Marcel’s shop. Spotting a red vase in one shop, he distracted the owner with half an hour of amicable chit-chat before casually asking the price. “He became very charming and the owner was so taken with him the price just plummeted,” said Ann. “Then he bought it.”

 

Make yourself a complete human being

01174_ud_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

In May 1980 Lama Yeshe taught the week-long course he mentions in his letter to Jacie. It was held at Grizzly Lodge in Portola, a beautiful spot in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Lake Tahoe. Seventy-five people took the great initiation of thousand-armed Chenrezig.

Lama Yeshe also gave two lectures on tantra. The following is from his introduction to the subject.

From Lama Yeshe’s Grizzly Lodge, California, teachings in 1980:

We mean well; we want to practice Mahayana. We’d like to be as open as possible. We want to go that way, even with hardship. But the narrow mind is overwhelming. It keeps on coming all the time. Maybe intellectually we try to be as open as possible but the narrow mind overwhelms us yet again. Therefore, it is not easy to be a Mahayanist. Both Atisha and Lama Tsongkhapa said that it is not enough for a person’s religion to be Mahayana; the person himself or herself must become Mahayana.

      So the business at hand is that both Hinayana and Mahayana practitioners are seeking liberation by understanding the nature of samsara, but one of them is making tremendous effort on the basis of, “I am the suffering one; I cannot stay there in this way. I want to liberation myself.” The emphasis is on liberating me. Great vehicle practitioners, Mahayanists, don’t cry so much. Even though they have problems, they are more concerned about other people’s problems than their own. That’s the difference.

      That’s why we say that bodhicitta is the door to enter the Mahayana vehicle. That’s why bodhicitta is the principal, most essential need for stopping the problem of the self-pitying, self-cherishing thought. Therefore, if you are a Mahayanist, you have bodhicitta. What makes you a bodhisattva is having the realization of bodhicitta.

   12729_sl-2_g   There are two things. A bodhisattva has two goals, two destinations: to help other people and to become self-sufficient by receiving enlightenment, by becoming totality. If we grab that—“It is more important that I become enlightenment”—it’s partial. But still we have to do it. It’s not the principal thing, it’s partial, but we still have to get the ticket in order to solve problems and help other sentient beings. I think this example is clear, isn’t it?

      Normally, Western people say, “I need so much love; nobody loves me.” They say that kind of thing, don’t they? Use that expression in the reverse way: We need the totally opened attitude. It takes care of all the problems that the narrow attitude brings. If you have this attitude you make yourself a complete human being—that’s a better way of putting it—because you have complete comprehension. Otherwise, you’re in the dark shadow of ignorance. You can see one thing but the rest is in the dark. You know that. When we don’t see totality we can’t see how everything is interrelated—when we move one thing, everything else moves too. We have to know that.

      The enlightened attitude of bodhicitta allows your energy to expand universally. You develop a broad view. Now, one who has bodhicitta can follow one of two vehicles, the Paramitayana and the Tantrayana. The Paramitayana is like the lam-rim, where you understand karmic causation and recognize your own profound ability, or potential, to solve completely all levels of ego problem, not just those on the human level. The Paramitayana takes you through the three principal paths to enlightenment and your job is to actualize the six paramitas. Practicing in that way leads you to enlightenment. But don’t think that the enlightenment the Paramitayana path leads you to is a small enlightenment, whereas Tantrayana leads you to a great enlightenment. The enlightened experience that results from following both these yanas is the same; the way they function is where they differ.

      Paramitayana and Tantrayana differ in that Tantrayana has the skillful wisdom by which you put totality together. Tantrayana has that kind of key. The Paramitayana also has a key, but its path is slow. The Paramitayana practitioner cannot put two things together simultaneously and keep going. To do that is difficult. Like my cook, Babaji—he can’t be in the kitchen and here listening to teachings at the same time! That’s his problem. The practitioner of Tantrayana has the skill and intelligence to both see reality clean clear in a penetrative way and simultaneously keep going in a unified way. There’s a great difference between the two.

      The difference between Paramitayana and Tantrayana is that the Tantrayana has the skillful methods whereby you can use desire objects that usually bring reactions of confusion and dissatisfaction in the path to enlightenment; by practicing tantric yoga, you can transform the energy of desire into the path to enlightenment. We call it taking desire as the path to enlightenment, but it is dangerous if you do not understand what these words mean; it takes some research to understand them correctly.

    11753_ng-2_g  The person practicing tantra has to have the skill to transform daily pleasures into the path to enlightenment. Let’s take our body as an example. As a matter of fact, our body comes from the functioning of desire, doesn’t it? Desire made this body; ego made this body. Our grabbing ego made this body manifest, come out. However, instead of looking at it negatively, we should regard it as precious. We know that our body is complicated, but from the Dharma point of view, instead of putting ourselves down with self-pity—“My body is a heavy burden; I wish it would disappear”—we should appreciate and take advantage of it. We should use it in a good way.

      So despite where the body comes from, the way it manifests, despite the fact that it’s not so easygoing, that it’s complicated, this body has great ability; it can do so much. With this body, not only can we take care of our food and clothing, but we can also reach beyond that; we have the opportunity to gain the eternal goals of liberation or enlightenment. That’s why our human body is precious; that’s the point. We can use it in a good way, even though it is potentially poisonous in that it can create more complications, confusion, suffering, loneliness, dissatisfaction and samsaric rebirths for us. If we can change in a positive way, we can feel grateful for having this body and make it worthwhile.

      When you practice tantra, instead of thinking, “I’m a problem; my ego’s a problem; I’m a weak person; I need…,” instead of thinking of yourself with self-pity, think, “I am the Buddha; I am Chenrezig; I am universal compassion.” The difference is unbelievable. Somehow you become transcendental; you bring the enlightenment experience into the now. That is the beauty of Tantrayana.

      So by using a skillful method, it’s possible for your life to become a transcendental experience. Your life can perhaps become an enlightened experience. Maybe I shouldn’t use those words, but I think it can become an enlightened experience.

my Milarepas

15132_sl_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama sent letters to a number of his students advising them to attend the Dalai Lama’s post-Losar teachings in Dharamsala. Together with others coming from England was journalist Vicki Mackenzie. She had not received a letter and so told Lama, “I hope it’s all right that I’m here.” Lama Yeshe touched her forehead with his and said, “Never mind, dear. You and me have special communication!”

Feeling decidedly uncomfortable in his new robes, Jimi Neal followed the lamas to Dharamsala. “I was thinking how the zen was stupid and fussy when Lama Yeshe suddenly came up to me and said, ‘I hate them, too.’ He stood in front of me grinning, hands thrust into the slash pockets of the red jacket he favored. He wore a zen on formal occasions but his attitude to the traditional robes was unusual. Given the conservatism of most other monks it was fairly outrageous. Personally, I found his modern outlook a great relief.”

Geshe Rabten was visiting Dharamsala from his home in Switzerland and stayed at Tushita-Delhi, where on 11 April he had given a teaching on the twelve links of dependent origination, translated by his close disciple, Gonsar Rinpoche. While he was in Dharamsala Lama Yeshe offered Geshe Rabten a long life puja. Once again the students observed the incredible respect Lama showed his teachers. His every gesture was an offering.

Tushita looked beautiful because Lama had filled it with flowers. Every year, a few days after he arrived at Tushita, Lama visited a flower farm an hour’s drive from McLeod Ganj on the road to Manali. Lama Yeshe could never have enough flowers.

15180_ng_gAs a builder and jack-of-all-trades, Gabriel Forrer was a valuable asset, spending half the year at Kopan and half at Tushita Retreat Centre. He also got along well with Lama Pasang, who could be tough. “Lama Pasang was a doer,” Gabriel explained. “If he needed a piece of wood, he’d cut down a tree. I knew I couldn’t argue with him so I got Lama to plant more trees, many of which died because water was still a big problem. At Kopan I built a huge septic tank, the first floor of Tabsheling and a couple of smaller houses.
“When I first came to Tushita, there was just the main house and a row of rooms Lama had insisted Stefano Piovella build in order to purify his karma. But Stefano was no builder and the structure was very unsound and damp. Lama also said the rooms were too big—he wanted everything as small and simple as possible. Lama and I only ever talked about building. In early 1980 he grabbed me by the hand and we walked around to where a huge boulder lay. He told me he wanted a house built right there for himself and Lama Zopa.”

Removing the boulder was a project in itself. As the area was earthquake prone Gabriel reinforced the foundation with steel, though Lama Yeshe said that was too expensive. Peter Baker, an old student who had just come out of retreat, helped Gabriel. One day they walked onto the site of the half-built house and found Lama sitting up against the wall in meditation posture.

Peter Baker: “We worked really hard. One night Lama appeared and invited us into his room for dinner. I told him I thought I should be cooking dinner for him, but he looked at me very sternly and said, ‘I only do what I want, dear.’ He always called us ‘my Milarepas.’

“While we worked, Gabriel and I often talked about what to do next. Meeting the lamas had changed my life and I wanted to be of benefit to people. When I finally got back to the United States I bought a property in Vermont at a very good price and offered it to Lama. Pelgye [John Douthitt] told me later Lama did pirouettes around his room for half an hour after he got my letter. Then he sent Pelgye out to help me, with a sketch map of how the new center should be laid out and its name—Milarepa.”

15182_pr_g

Front veranda at Tushita retreat Center

“Now you have something to do,” Lama told Pelgye. “You can go and build this Milarepa Center and get Mahayana teaching started there.” Pelgye pointed out that there might not be any buildings there. “You put up tents and go into retreat. You get lam-rim teachings started, then you can come back.” Pelgye said he didn’t have any money and might have to get a job. “Please, don’t ever work just to feed your mouth. Don’t waste your time. You’ll always have enough food to eat,” Lama told him.

After receiving instructions from Lama Yeshe, Piero Cerri and Claudio Cipullo began a ten-day retreat at Tushita with orders to stay away from females. “After a few days people appeared to us as mere bundles of bones and meat with vibrations coming out of their mouths. We did not imagine this with our minds but saw it with our own eyes. As for Lama Yeshe, his appearance was different from that of any other human being. There was no doubt about it. Claudio and I did not make this up. After we finished the retreat we went to see him and I got a strong impression of him as one of those card-playing mavericks on a Mississippi riverboat. He was such a totally self-assured, solid person with no bullshit, no timidity and no fear,” said Piero.

Lama called me daughter

13142_pr-2_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

By this time Jan Willis was a professor of Buddhist studies, had published two books and was working on some oral histories of living sages. At Lama Yeshe’s request she was also working on a translation of the life stories of the Gelug mahasiddhas.

As Jan described in her autobiographical book, Dreaming Me, “Lama called me daughter. His mission was to make me feel that specialness and to teach me to trust my own power.”

Jan gave a lecture one evening at Kopan to a group of Westerners in which she mentioned that some texts say that the mother of one of the great Indian pandits, Asanga, had been cursed to be born a woman. Quite a few of the women attending the talk protested strongly, saying they had also heard that some other Buddhist texts say it isn’t even possible to attain enlightenment in a woman’s form. At the time, Jan had replied, “On, come on, now. Just look at Lama Yeshe, look at your own experience. Have you ever experienced that?”

“Some days after that,” Jan wrote, “Lama Yeshe and I were having lunch together and having a discussion about the set of life stories I was then translating. At some point we walked out together onto the upper deck of the monastery. There were a number of Western students milling about in the courtyard, on a break from the day’s activities. Suddenly, Lama Yeshe grabbed my arm and began calling out to all of them below. In a booming voice, he called, ‘Look, all of you! Look! Look! You want to see women’s liberation? This is’—pointing at me and patting me on the shoulders—‘this is women’s liberation! This is women’s liberation!’ It was both a very wonderful moment and a very awkward and humbling one.

13011_pr-2_gJan later recalled from the same period, “Then I got a letter saying I had been granted a year’s fellowship worth US$20,000, which is a lot in Nepal. ‘That’s wonderful, dear. Pantastic!’ said Lama. I had two days to reply and rushed off to Kathmandu to send a telegram.”

Lama was leaning toward not going on tour that year, though many were asking him to. Very early one morning I stood out in the courtyard in the mist while Lama came down from the gompa, wearing his huge sunhat. I watched him cross the courtyard and go into the kitchen and up to the dining room. I don’t think he saw me. I followed and watched him laughing and joking with the young monks, when just days before I had seen him smack them for not studying. The boys were lapping it up as he went from one to the next, tapping them on the head. I thought how rare and fortunate it is for us to have such a glorious teacher like Lama Yeshe, so wise, so smart, so compassionate that he can make joy wherever he is when it is needed.

“I bowed to him, handed him a check for $1,000 and asked him to please accept it and go on tour. And he cried. He just cried. Tears fell down his face as he said, ‘No, no, I can’t accept this.’ I said, ‘Lama, please, I’ve come into all this money.’ ‘No no,’ he said, still crying. He was so tender and so incredibly humble. Finally, he did accept it and he did go on tour.”

 Jan continued. “I rented a house in Maharaj Ganj in Kathmandu. Lama loved to come and visit, so I arranged a large guest room for him there. I also employed a cook, Kanchi, whom Lama flattered no end. She adored him. All he had to say was, ‘Kanchi, I want you to cook kala dhal for me today,’ and she’d get hysterical and rush out into the market to buy black dhal. I had a watchman too and the house was very peaceful. I was pleased that my house could be a haven for Lama.

12989_pr-2_g“One day Lama turned up with a Jeep full of Kopan boys and took them on a tour of the house, pointing out his room, the living room, bathrooms, my room and so on. Then he told me he was to give a talk at Kopan that night and asked me to write the lecture for him. My knees buckled and I asked if he really thought I could do that. ‘Oh yes, daughter. I want you to do it with all the Sanskrit equivalents to the Tibetan terms. I’ll be back in two hours. Have it ready.’ He strode off before I could blurt out my fears. It was a talk on the Medicine Buddha. I put together as much as I could in the time, gave him the notes and he hurried back to Kopan with them.”

During another visit to Maharaj Ganj, this time with Jacie, Lama Yeshe described how the Dharma would transfer into Western culture. He said pujas would endure because Westerners were learning the value of group prayer. Deities and the auspicious colors used in meditation and paintings, as well as the dorje and bell, would also last. He said the red Tibetan robes, however, were just a cultural phenomenon.

 

 

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