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You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

Seated on a teaching throne at the end of the beautiful old chapel with its immensely high ceilings and stained glass windows, Geshe Tegchok gave his first talk at Manjushri Institute while wearing the oddest square-lensed blue spectacles. Later, Lama Zopa Rinpoche conferred a Chenrezig empowerment, followed by Lama Yeshe’s Tara Cittamani empowerment and six days of commentary by Lama. This was held in what had been the billiard room of the old Priory. Peter Kedge and Connie Miller taped everything. Of the 120 people attending that commentary, 105 stayed on for the retreat.

Lama Yeshe taught twice a day, and although the text lay open before him he did not teach directly from it. There are several different types of commentaries that can be given on a meditative practice. Traditionally, the first teaching explains the meaning of each verse, line and word. Only later will a teacher offer an experiential teaching on the  practice. Contrary to tradition, Lama’s teachings were almost always experiential in nature.

Lama Yeshe’s descriptions of Tara were psychological and accessible, rather than textual. He presented Tara as a vehicle through which to discover one’s own intuitive knowledge and wisdom. “Men sometimes need contact with female energy, otherwise, they go crazy!” Lama explained. His language bridged the  worlds between traditional orthodoxy and modern desire. Tantra became exciting and available as Lama Yeshe brought it to life.

(16769_sl.tif) Lama Yeshe wearing a ceremonial crown of the five dhyani buddhas for the Tara statue procession, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976. Behind him is Yeshe Khadro (Marie Obst) on the left and Wendy Finster and  Ngawang Khyentse on the right.

Every day Jon Landaw led a review of the teachings. He had become an invaluable assistant, though  Lama still teased him mercilessly, calling him, “My Jewish genius!”

From Lama Yeshe’s 1979 Tara Cittamani teachings:

Sometimes Dharma becomes a complete hassle.  Let’s say you have promised to do this sadhana daily, you have commitment. But whenever you see Cittamani Tara you feel sick. “Oh, it’s already midnight!” And you are disaster. But if you can do it in two minutes, that’s okay. So instead of having guilt feelings, just go and do it. Sometimes Westerners take too many commitments and don’t know how to do them. In other words, they are lost again, lost in spiritual materialism. You don’t know what to do. Chenrezig and Tara and all these deities and you don’t know what on earth it means and you don’t understand anymore.

 Instead of becoming helpful for you, Dharma becomes your enemy. Dharma becomes cause for neurosis and guilt. I think that is useless.

In each sadhana you’ll find a refuge prayer, maybe three times, five or six bodhicitta prayers, and some kind of Vajrasattva practice. One good bodhicitta meditation is enough. Put your emphasis on one thing and go quickly over the others. Do this rather than allowing your practice to become a disaster.

 Atisha once said, “Tibetan people devote themselves to a hundred deities and don’t attain one, whereas Indian people devote themselves to one deity and attain a hundred.” I think Atisha is reasonable and correct. The Indian custom is much better than the Tibetan. That’s garbage. You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything.

     24982_ngTara is a perfect example. If you practice every day and do retreat for months, years—maybe you do only Tara retreat for fifty years—then in fifty years, by attaining the realization of Tara, you can do anything. But right now, you are ambitious for other things because you don’t have anything. And the same thing happens with the Dharma. Let’s say that somebody is giving a really high teaching. “Wow! I want to take this one—this one is really powerful!” When you say this you are really on a power trip. You want power. If you are not realistic, then this practice is useless. I’m sorry; I have no room for this. Such a student will never have any satisfaction no matter how many teachings he receives, because he won’t have any practical sadhana within himself.

Now you know who my boss is

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

 Zia Al Bassam

Zia Al Bassam

Lama Yeshe usually spent Losar at Kopan, but in 1979 he enjoyed the Losar holiday in Dharamsala. Elisabeth Drukier and the recently ordained Zia Bassam were sent ahead to clean his room at Tushita. Dirty rooms now made Lama sick very quickly. “Zia was a meticulous cleaner and we had to do it perfectly,” said Elisabeth. “Lama liked to have boxes of Kleenex everywhere and we learned to line wastebaskets with plastic bags. That was useful, as he was forever spitting. Every time he came back from the West his luggage was filled with boxes of Kleenex and plastic bags.”

“I used to try and tell Lama it wasn’t appropriate to spit into wastebaskets,” said Peter Kedge, “but even at the time I got the impression Lama had a reason for doing it, even if it annoyed people.”

Many of Lama Yeshe’s students and some Mount Everest Centre boys followed him to Dharamsala to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings and attend the big Losar puja. All the Sangha were given offerings of 100 rupees each, instead of the usual five or ten. The boys had never had so much money and were thrilled. But sure enough, as they piled into the new Jeep to go back up the steep road to Tushita, Lama calmly turned around from his front seat, held out his hand and said, “Okay, give me your money.”

Max Redlich also followed Lama to Tushita. “I always felt Lama would take care of me forever. He was performing a series of protector pujas at that time and every night I played the big drum for them. From where I sat I could peek through the lines and see Lama’s face. Every time he clashed the cymbals, I knew I had to bang the drum. These pujas went on for days. Sometimes Lama Zopa Rinpoche was there, sometimes he wasn’t. At the time I didn’t even know what kind of pujas they were. I’d go into daydreams with business plans for ‘when we get back to Tibet,’ which was a popular refrain. I was making all these plans in my head for hotels and making money to bring Dharma to the West. After one puja Gen Jampa Wangdu leaned over and rubbed his two fingers together in that universal money gesture, showing me he had read my mind exactly.
15864_sl“One afternoon Lama told me I didn’t need to attend that day’s puja. I felt a little left out and went off to my room. Suddenly I knew something was going to happen. I could hear the puja starting up, the drums going, but I just sat there, completely tense. Suddenly, Maureen came running in and said, ‘Quick, someone’s trying to set fire to all the building materials for Lama’s new house!’ I raced off and caught a guy just about to set fire to a pile of woodshavings. I managed to talk him out of it. I’m sure Lama had foreseen this, which was why he didn’t want me to be in the puja.”

In May, when the teachings were over, Lama Zopa Rinpoche went off to Lawudo to lead a nyung-nay retreat, while Lama Yeshe stayed on at Tushita Retreat Centre. He loved being in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and Trijang Rinpoche were just down the road and Ling Rinpoche just around the hill, and where he was under less pressure than at Kopan or in the Western centers. He had great respect for his teachers and once told Jon Landaw, “If ever you need help deciding whether to do something or not, just consult Trijang Rinpoche. You don’t even have to tell him your question. Just formulate it in your mind, ask for a response, and he will answer yes or no.”

One day, Lama took Piero Cerri with him to meet Trijang Rinpoche. The conversation was in Tibetan, but afterwards Lama told Piero, “Now you know who my boss is.” Every Tibetan monk had a “boss” and Kyabjé Trijang Rinpoche was undoubtedly Lama Yeshe’s.

“Lama appeared to rely on logic rather than magic to predict a person’s future,” said Piero. “He’d say, ‘You are behaving like this, so you will end up becoming like this.’ It was a mixture of clairvoyance and common sense but very precise and sharp. Lama always knew exactly what I was up to.”

Max Redlich had no doubts on this score. “Sometimes Lama would walk around the garden. I found him so powerful I was too petrified to come out of my room in case I ran into him. Once when our paths crossed he just looked me slowly up and down, as he often did, and I knew he could see every atom of me.”

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Trijang Rinpoche

When Peter Kedge found some tapes of Trijang Rinpoche’s commentary on Heruka, Lama immediately went into retreat with them in his big room. He completed that retreat on 9 May 1979 and began making a batch of blessed pills. A student typed up a list of the astonishing ingredients in those pills: Lama Tsongkhapa’s hair and bone, Lama Tsongkhapa’s robe, Swiss cheese, mud, Heruka Yamantaka mandala sand from the Dalai Lama, Sera Hayagriva torma, Trijang Rinpoche’s dutsi (blessed nectar) pill, white raisins, mango, geranium, Dutsi Chömen from the Dalai Lama, whiskey, butter, saffron, honey, “Evening in Missaula” tea, peppermint, elder flowers and snakegrass were just a few. The finished pills were the size of a small blueberry.

On 26 March 1979 Lama had written to Massimo Corona to inform him that Geshe Yeshe Tobden was now ready to go to Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa.

“It was actually His Holiness the Dalai Lama who sent me to Italy, not Lama Yeshe,” said Geshe Yeshe Tobden. “Claudio Cipullo lived near me in Dharamsala while I was quite sick. He was moved by seeing I was a very serious monk and meditator, so he and Piero went to the Dalai Lama and asked him to send me to Italy. Claudio was the main one. I am a Sera Mé monk and knew Lama Yeshe from Buxa. He had repeatedly asked me to go to Italy, but I never agreed with him. Then His Holiness asked me to go and said it would be very beneficial. I stayed two years in Italy. Nothing shocked me about Westerners because I had already seen so many in Dharamsala.”

Everyone knew Lama Yeshe was visiting the meditators in their stone huts above Dharamsala in search of geshes to send to the West. Rumor had it he accused one of them of just sitting in the mountains thinking about his bank account, which was exactly what he was doing. His brother had just left him some money and he was sitting in his hut thinking about what to do with it.

Lama Yeshe’s half-brother, Geshe Tsering, had left Kopan and was now living at Tushita Retreat Centre. Students who wished to offer money to him were instructed by Lama to put it into his own account instead. Max Redlich thought this a little unfair, but Lama told him, “Dear, I look after them all from birth to the grave. Who takes care? I take care!”

Geshe Tsering: “The only thing Lama Yeshe ever sent me from the West was a book of postcard scenes. When Geshe Thinley and I were in Sera we didn’t have one paisa, so I wrote to Lama Yeshe about how when we came from Tibet we are five people with only seventy-five rupees between us, which I had shared around evenly. So Geshe Thinley and I wrote to him together saying, ‘If you want to help please do so right now, not after we are dead.’ After that he sent us 600 rupees, but said he had to keep money for his small disciples. I was always fighting with him over money. Eventually he gave me pocket money of 100 rupees a month, but he didn’t give anything to Thinley.”

Geshe Tsering at Tushita, 1979

Geshe Tsering

However, Lama had set Geshe Tsering up for life at Tushita and he also had a job for Geshe Thinley at Chenrezig Institute in Queensland. When Geshe Thinley heard this he asked his brother for some clothes, as he owned almost nothing. But that was his style. Lama gave him a shirt, a zen (monks’ shawl) and a shemtab (monks’ skirt).

“Lama loved Geshe Thinley,” said Peter Kedge. “He spent time with him and really looked after him. One time I was at Tushita and Geshe Thinley was in the room. Suddenly Lama said to me, ‘Ask Geshe Thinley some Dharma questions.’ I don’t think I came up with anything too profound, but Lama was keen to show Geshe Thinley that his students were studying and had some Dharma understanding. I suppose that was also part of persuading him to go to Australia.”

Some Westerners were even more poverty-stricken than the Tibetans, and received a lot less sympathy. An American monk, Jampa Gendun, formerly Sanford Jaffe and known by most as Chaitanya, had worked on the first English translation of Lama Chöpa, The Guru Puja. Now he was penniless.

Jampa Gendun: “I was an IMI monk, though I had been ordained by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. I was so broke I was about to go to Tehran to teach English because the money there was so good. When Gareth Sparham told Lama Yeshe about this plan he said, ‘No no no, he musn’t go. Tell him I’ll give him what he needs to stay.’

“My parents were dead and I had nobody to help me, so I accepted Lama’s offer to stay at the FPMT’s Inji Gompa. I ran up a bill of eighty rupees a month until the monk in charge threw me out, with a warning not to tell Lama Yeshe about it. It was terribly unfair.

“I spoke Tibetan and knew that many Tibetans were openly critical of Lama Yeshe, but not of Geshe Dhargyey, although both of them had been personally requested by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to teach Westerners. The Tibetans thought this was a total waste of time. Their resentment of Lama was based on jealousy, because he was successful.”

The English translation of The Guru Puja (Lama Chöpa), written by the First Panchen Lama, was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in June 1979. Garrey Foulkes did the cover illustration and the translators included Alex Berzin and Judith Diane Short, Jampa Gendun’s girlfriend from their Rajneeshi days, known in those days as Priya. Over thirty years later this translation is still in use around the world.

Right view is everywhere, anywhere!

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

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Lama Yeshe and Harvey Horrocks , ILTK

Lama again stayed at Joyce Petschek’s Casalone up the hill from Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa(ILTK) and Joyce drove him to the center every day. Zia was officially the lamas’ cook and housekeeper for the tour, but Francesca Piatti cooked for them in Italy, simply because Lama liked having her around. Petty jealousies surfaced among the other students and it was decreed someone else should have the privilege of preparing the lamas’ meals. Lama settled this particular brouhaha by simply refusing to have anyone but Francesca in the kitchen. “Lama told me that being with me was like being with his mother,” she said.

In Madison he had told Petey Shane the same thing. Sometimes it seemed Lama Yeshe preferred the company of some people to others, given this is the common interpretation of preferential treatment. Over time however, it became clear he had no favorites and kept by him those people who needed him the most—and they were not necessarily those the most determined to see him.

Lama was certainly a mother to Lama Zopa Rinpoche. One student visiting Casalone left in a sulk because Lama had not met her expectations. “I felt left out in the cold, insulted. I was looking for my shoes outside when I looked up through the window and saw Lama Lama Zopa Rinpoche sitting at lunch. He had just lifted his spoon and I could tell that he simply couldn’t put it in his mouth. He just stared at it. Somehow I immediately knew Rinpoche was seeing all the beings in the universe who suffer from hunger and cold and that was why he was unable to eat. My sulky tantrum melted away. At that moment Lama Yeshe spoke to him in the tenderest voice, telling him again and again to please, please eat for his own benefit. It was in Tibetan, but I could understand enough. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Franco Piatti, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, Pomaia, Siliana Bosa

Franco Piatti, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, Pomaia, Siliana Bosa

In 1979 Franco and Francesca Piatti moved their jewelry business and silver workshop to ILTK. “We realized there would soon be quite a few permanent residents there and we were in a position to provide some of them with employment,” said Franco. “We renamed the business Shiné, which in Tibetan means ‘calm abiding.’ Lama said that was a good name.”

Lama Yeshe set about transforming his Italian hippie students into serious and responsible citizens. In Milan, Raffaello Longo was working for Massimo Corona’s fashion business, Karma. “I didn’t want to be there,” said Raffa, “but Lama told me it was good for me. He said, ‘I want you young people to learn some proper job so you have confidence in yourself and confidence to reach enlightenment. If you can’t do a simple job, then how are you going to become Buddha?’ I went back to Milan but every year I asked Lama when I could come back and live at the institute again.”

Marco Cipullo was an inveterate hippie. When Lama Yeshe spotted him working in the ILTK office he immediately told him to cut his long hair and wear a proper tie and jacket to work. “I cut my hair and changed my clothes the very next day,” said Marco, “but I was still suffering because I was from a rich family who had given me a proper fascist education. I was the only one there with a clean jacket and good clothes. I said to Lama, ‘The hippies are killing me because of the jacket!’ Lama told me, ‘If you want to communicate with hippies it’s not difficult, because you have the same culture. But with the straight people you have to try harder.’”

Before moving to Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Piero Siriani had never lived anywhere but Rome. With no knowledge whatsoever of gardening, Piero began to tidy up the grounds. His original intention was simply to clear the construction debris, but he soon began thinking about flowers. Naturally, Lama Yeshe noticed this and the two went off to buy things and make plans. To Lama’s delight the center soon had fruit trees and a vegetable garden.

Cherry Greene (Ven. Thubten Chodron)

Cherry Greene (Ven. Thubten Chodron)

Lama Yeshe conferred an empowerment into the highest yoga tantra practice of Damtsig Dorje (Skt. Samayavajra) to fifty-five people, followed by a commentary on the meditation practice. The special quality of Damtsig Dorje is to purify negative actions in relation to guru devotion.

Lama Yeshe wanted his students to acquire a realistic understanding of tantra, a word much misunderstood in Western society. He began slowly.

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings in Italy, July 1979:
For the next thirty minutes, you just check up what you feel. I want you to meditate on your own experience. I don’t want you to think about Buddhism, about lam-rim, tantra, yoga, lama or any idea. You just watch; check up whatever you experience. Maybe you have pain. We generally feel the energy of pain as sort of concrete, but if you check up it is also like space energy, like light. I want you to just comtemplate that experience, meditate on that. Or if you feel happy, check up in the same way. Just contemplate. Don’t think that pain is bad, pleasure is good. Don’t engage in such emotional reactions, good or bad. Just emphasize natural contemplation, concentration, without too much intellect. Even if there is depression, just look at that depression in the mind. I want you to contemplate that depression, which is in the mind, not in the physical. At a certain point, that pain becomes space; you become space. Pain becomes space; pleasure becomes space. You become space, like the sky. If you contemplate like that, without emotional involvement, eventually you can have this experience. And that is the time you should not be afraid. Just hold. You don’t worry; I don’t want you to worry. Just contemplate continuously without being afraid. And in that moment you experience losing your ego.lwb1610

      Every sense object that we experience always appears to us as a concrete entity. There is a kind of concreteness that appears from the object itself. Normally we say that whatever we perceive in the world is real. “Everything I see or hear or touch is true, true, true!” We never question this at all. But this is wrong. So now we are checking philosophically. You might think that checking philosophically is difficult…right view, wrong view. It’s not difficult; it’s simple. Whatever appears to your eye, to your ear, and so on…instead of accepting it, believing it, you are skeptical. You don’t accept at face value how things appear. Be a little suspicious, a little bit “I’m not sure.” To find the right view, you know, you don’t need to look at space, you don’t need to look at your lama’s face or at Buddha’s face. You need to look at the face of your normal way of looking at things, your normal view. When you observe your view, you see that the right view isn’t there. In other words, you find the wrong view in your normal way of looking at things.

      Don’t think “Wrong view is in Italy but right view is in the Himalayan Mountains.” Don’t think, “Buddha, Buddha, Buddha. Buddha has right view so if I always look at Buddha then somehow I’ll discover right view.” Not like that. Right view is everywhere, anywhere! The beautiful face of shunyata (emptiness) is existent within all phenomena.

      Of course we understand that this concrete appearance of ego cannot be extinguished immediately; it takes a long time to eliminate it completely. There are gross levels and subtle levels to be purified. What we can do right now is to loosen our tight conception a little bit, our uptight view, little by little. Even though the concrete appearance is still there, by understanding how it is wrong, then you loosen your tight conception that holds it to be true. “Of course it appears, but it’s not true. It doesn’t exist as it appears.”

      So then you contemplate, What is my consciousness? Consciousness is not concrete. It is like a lake, having the ability to reflect. It is not form, not color, but it is always there. Even if you have a dull, dark experience, the consciousness perceiving that darkness still has the nature of clarity. I want you to contemplate that. When you observe your concrete experience, somehow it automatically disappears and the object is the clear consciousness again. When you observe that it disappears, you should think that this disappearing is more real. This gives an injection to the mind.

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Song Rinpoche, ILTK

 So what I’m saying is that the clear energy of consciousness is with you twenty-four hours a day. Even when you are angry, clarity is there. It is basic fundamental human nature—pure, beautiful. Our consciousness is like the ocean. In that space is the potential for ego—whether positive, negative, good, bad, or ugly. It has the ability to reflect any kind of thing you want to see.


Tantra shows that human beings have the capacity for limitless enjoyment and at the same time the ability to be free from the grasping mind. I want you to understand that Buddha’s teaching is not saying that human beings should not be happy or that they cannot have pleasure. The problem is that the unclear ego grasps at concrete entities, which are non-existent. If you didn’t have this grasping, then you could have as much enjoyment as possible, any kind of pleasure, any kind of bliss.

Lama was totally behind the idea

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

23298_ngFrom Sydney, the party went directly to Chenrezig Institute, just in time for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim course for 120 people. No one could ever have guessed this would be the last time the two lamas would visit Chenrezig together. At the end of the month Frau Kalff was scheduled to teach a seminar called The Mind in Jungian and Buddhist Psychology. This was her only visit to Australia. Lama Yeshe encouraged Patrick Jansen, an Australian Jungian analyst, to give talks at Chenrezig and Tara House, using the sand-play method and dream analysis.

Chenrezig was booked out. Geshe Loden and Zasep Tulku, whose teaching contract was about to expire, had been living in what was called the Geshe House at the top of the hill. When Lama and Rinpoche arrived at Chenrezig Institute, they were housed in a second house, the Sangha House. A library and new dormitories had been built below the gompa and work on a communal laundry and a family center was underway. Yeshe Khadro was still Chenrezig’s director and American monk Scott Brusso was working as the spiritual program coordinator.

The Family Centre was Denise Fenner’s project. Denise, her monk husband, Peter, and Lindsay Pratt undertook most of the fund-raising and construction work. Those without children were not really interested. “Things were not good for children at Chenrezig,” said Denise. “The ‘serious meditators’ had no time for them, they were a nuisance.” But Lama was totally behind the idea. At a meeting on August 9 with Yeshe Khadro, Peter Kedge and Chenrezig’s parents, Lama shared some of his views about caring for and educating the children in FPMT center communities:

Loden Geshe, Lama Yeshe, Zasep Tulku

Zasep Tulku, Lama Yeshe and Loden Geshe

In our centers there are many children, but because parents are so busy the children don’t get much attention. Instead people tell them, “Don’t come near!” Sometimes the children don’t get fed on time, or to bed on time. So we need time for this, time for that. Any education system for children should create some kind of stability for them and bring harmony and balance. Also it shouldn’t be extremely external or extremely internal. We should develop a kind of education in which we put Buddhist philosophy into scientific language and in a simplified form. How the mind works, how karma works, and so on. In this way, we produce a different kind of human being.

      In the West, there are so many books for children. But some of these books need some kind of transformation so that they communicate a better way of thinking. You can produce such books and stories yourselves. You know Dharma. The contents can be in more scientific language, rather than in too heavy a religious aspect. Sometimes a religious presentation can be heavy. Your stories should be light, gentle, and yet at the same time precise to convey clear thinking to the children.

      You should have a place for the children that is beautiful, with nice grass and flowers, like a park. It is a bit dirty around here. The environment should be clean, not dusty, so the children will stay healthy. There is no need to buy more land; there is already much land here that isn’t being used. 

Loden Geshe and Zasep Tulku

Loden Geshe and Zasep Tulku

After maybe twenty years our generation will disappear, so we need to be concerned for the next generation, the generation of our children. It is a big job. My black nun, Max, has written a paper on this, but now she is in America making business. So maybe you can start children’s education from here. It would be good if you insist that parents have to take responsibility, that they help with the school and with what is taught there. Obviously, they don’t have to teach, but the school should be a collaborative effort.

 

 

Natural and uncomplicated

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

12877_slAfter the German course, the lamas departed for England. At Manjushri Institute, the lamas stayed in Monique’s cottage, named after Monique and Staffan Berghok, the couple who leased it for a tidy sum but rarely visited. The upstairs rooms were kept exclusively for the lamas’ use and the rest of the house leased to students. Manjushri was still an uncomfortable place to stay. Parts of the main building remained unsafe, the chemicals used to combat dry-rot stank terribly and everyone suffered from coughs and colds. Even Monique’s cottage had a dead crow stuck in the chimney.

A big change at Manjushri in 1979 had been the springtime arrival of Geshe Jampa Tegchok to teach the Geshe Studies Program. Geshe Tegchok entered Sera Jé at the age of eight. After escaping from Tibet to India he had been one of the principal teachers at Buxa Duar and then continued his own studies at Sanskrit University in Varanasi. Prior to accepting Lama Yeshe’s invitation, Geshe Tegchok had been lecturing at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. He and Lama Yeshe knew each other well. Geshe Tegchok was considered by all who knew him to be an exceptional geshe. Geshe Sopa had tried to lure him to America and Geshe Rabten had wanted him to come to Switzerland.

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

“I did not have any feeling of rejection for teaching Westerners. I thought it would be very good if Buddhism was taught to the very bright, intelligent people of the West,” Geshe Tegchok explained. “Not only would it help them, but the Chinese had said religion was poison. If we could prove to Westerners that Buddhism has worth, that it is not poison, then that would indirectly counter the Chinese view.”

“While I was in Sarnath I had many discussions with Lama Yeshe about teaching Westerners,” Geshe Tegchok continued. “He said to me, ‘You know, you have to teach anyway and it’s better to teach those who don’t know any Dharma at all.’ He said that to me quite often, even before Geshe Thubten Loden went to Australia. He even mentioned several places I could go, but I was too busy in Sarnath at the time. We talked about what kind of teachers to bring to the West and thought it would be best not to send the highest geshes to teach beginners. We thought that when a firm base was established, then more qualified teachers could be invited. There was also a general concern among the monks in Tibetan monasteries that if many of the good teachers were invited to the West, there would not be so many left for them. Their studies could be harmed. Since the monasteries are the base from which teachers arise, it would not be good if too many left.”

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

The first Geshe Studies course was on lo-rig, the basic psychology of the mind and its various functions. After his arrival, Geshe Tegchok first taught the topic of drub-ta, or the study of different schools of philosophical tenets, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Nearly all the monks and nuns who were resident at Manjushri at the time as well as several lay students participated in the Geshe Studies classes and met several times each week for lively discussions on the teachings they had received.

The moment Lama Yeshe arrived in any center the atmosphere around him became deliciously charged. Lama Zopa Rinpoche remained the thin ethereal ascetic, whereas Lama Yeshe was earthy and warm, with his jokes about chocolate and “preaking out.” His wide smile touched everybody, his shining face was a continual blessing and his style of teaching Dharma was natural and uncomplicated. He told the students it was more meaningful to take refuge sincerely in the bathroom every morning than to sit down Tibetan style. He did not want them pretending to be Tibetans.

The Manjushri students had built a special high teaching throne for him. “Cut it down to here,” he said, pointing low. The whole thing had to be taken apart and remade.

Everybody wanted a private interview. One girl was upset after hearing a story that Lama had said he planned to die on the steps of Manjushri Institute. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “When I come back, you can be my mummy.” A year later she was pregnant. “Remember what you said about my baby, Lama?” she asked him. “Yes, dear,” he said. “I said that to open your mind to the possibility of having a baby.” He then did puja on her stomach, rang bells and added, “You’ll get along very well with this baby – he’s a friend of mine.”

“It took forever to get an interview with him,” said Sharon Gross, who had stopped at Manjushri on her way from California to Dharamsala to study Tibetan medicine with Dr. Lobsang Dolma. “Piero was limiting interviews to ten minutes, after which he’d barge into the room, pick you up and throw you out. Then Lama told me it was better for me to stay at Manjushri, study Tibetan language and work in publishing. Whaaaat? Staying in the north of England was definitely not what I had in mind. ‘Also, dear, the West is better for your health,’ he said. That was true. I never went back to the East again.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim course, attended by nearly 200 people, ran concurrently with Frau Kalff’s Jungian course at which there were thirty-five students in attendance. The lectures were scheduled so people could go to both. Frau Kalff set up a sand-play room and Lama Yeshe tried never to miss her lectures. He encouraged the students to think about Western psychology in Buddhist terms—and to think about Buddhism in psychological terms. A few individuals chose to specialize in the psychology lectures, but most preferred taking teachings from genuine Tibetan lamas.22154_ng

Lama Yeshe was extremely interested in the modern psychological perspective. He respected Frau Kalff, whose lectures worldwide were attended by thousands of people. Lama’s broad-mindedness was also reflected in the range of books in the Manjushri Institute library, many of which had been donated by students. It was becoming a handsome and eclectic collection. Lama loved that kind of openness.

Openness was very much the theme of the talk he gave at a residents’ meeting. Manjushri Institute was to be a place for everybody, with room for families as well as Sangha. Lama praised the huge organic vegetable gardens. Craftspeople had set up all manner of workshops in the outbuildings.

Ronnie King still ran the Manjushri kitchens. Lama was about to give teachings on Tara Chittamani again and she wanted to attend. He told her, “Don’t do it. Better you are there in the kitchen, then I know everything is all right.” Ronnie had assembled a good team of cooks, which included Susanna Parodi. Susanna had decided not to return to Italy after all.
Susanna Parodi: “I was happy there, just cleaning and waiting for Lama to come. But after a while I worried I was ruining my hands. My stupid vanity! When Lama arrived he came into the kitchen, as he always did, then he grabbed my hands and looked at them closely. ‘Susanna, don’t worry. They are not ruined,’ he said, and hugged me really hard.

“One day someone delivered a wonderful chocolate cake for Lama. Piero and I decided to try just a little bit but oh, it was so good! So we tried a bit more. The next thing we knew we had eaten it all! Lama gave us some trouble over that!”

Lama also gave Piero some more trouble over his driving, finally declaring, “I will never ride with you any more!” Some years later Piero lost part of a leg in a car accident in India.

25013_ngUnder the direction of Ngawang Chötak, Publications for Wisdom Culture presented Lama Yeshe with a list of the teachings they wanted to publish. “You people, you make the books,” Lama told them, indicating he did not have to know every detail of their program. He told Robina, “I want my books in the supermarket!” He wanted them read by all kinds of people, not just the spiritually inclined. Harvey Horrocks had long discussions with Lama Yeshe over the intricacies of copyright as it applied to FPMT center geshes, translators and teachers.
Robina was having a hard time. “I was terribly unhappy with so much personal garbage in my head. I didn’t ask for an interview because I knew Lama could see what was happening for me. He saw my bad mind, saw me lose control. I shouted at people and abused them. And I was jealous of Chötak because he was the director [of Publications for Wisdom Culture].”

The first thing is to be practical

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

(16690_sl.tif) Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, Pomaia, Italy, 1979.

Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, Pomaia, Italy, 1979.

On 17 July 1979 Lama Yeshe held a meeting with the Sangha. He began by explaining three steps in learning the lam-rim: First the teacher gives the outline, then the students discuss it, and third, they apply it in daily life.

From Lama Yeshe’s talk to the IMI Sangha at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in 1979:

I advise you people not to take high commitments. It is not necessary. Our Western culture civilization can be very difficult. Last year we were incredibly fortunate to invite Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, who is absolutely Buddha. It was incredible, so fortunate, and many people took initiations. But this year many are coming crying to me, saying, “Lama, I broke my vow!” I understand. I cry too. When I come to the centers, there are so many things to do that sometimes it overwhelms my time. But I cry differently. So it is important that we not take so many commitments to do heavy sadhanas. The first thing is to be practical, not just to make a Tibetan trip. Ritual is unimportant. Even though some lamas say that ritual is important…well, yes. It’s not necessary for you to be revolutionary, saying, “I prefer spaghetti life; I want Italian Dharma, not Tibetan Buddhism anymore!” The truth is, we are Italian sentient beings practicing to become enlightened. That’s all. You didn’t become Tibetan monks and nuns.

      Once you have taken a certain initiation you should check up. You should ask the lama, “What does this mean? What is this initiation? What is its purpose?” If you receive that empowerment, then you should get the benefit of its purpose. So in order to get that benefit, you should make a retreat, shouldn’t you? Each time you receive an initiation, you should make a satisfactory retreat. Then it becomes warm inside. We should be practical and then we’ll be happy. This is how we take the peaceful comfortable path to enlightenment.

Claudio Cipullo and Piero Cerri, ILTK, 1979Lama recommended the Sangha find a house of their own close to the center. Then the discussion moved on to the role of the gekö (disciplinarian). The Italians wanted an Italian gekö, but a vote was taken and it was agreed that American nun Thubten Chodron (Cherry Greene), who had gone there to be spiritual program coordinator in 1978, would keep the role for six months. Finally, with regard to wearing robes Lama told his monks and nuns to practice discretion and wear Western clothes when appropriate. “For example, one can dress in the common way to go and visit your family,” he told them. “Also, if you are looking for work you cannot go dressed as a monk. If someone has to visit a public office he can wear normal clothes and change after.” It was all wonderful common sense.

 

 

Even your breath in the West gives benefit

13893_udFrom  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

One day a telegram arrived at Joyce’s house. At first Piero thought it was from some Dharma hippie. “It read something like, ‘Your compassion is beyond the limits of the mind. At this time I think I have to meditate, so I cannot come to teach on the courses in Europe. Anyway, Piero is with you and he can teach as well as I can.’” It was signed, “Zopa.”

Piero Cerri: “I couldn’t believe it really was from Rinpoche. I didn’t want to show it to Lama but later, when we were in the taxi going to Oxford Street, I read it to him. As I read it out the meaning became clear to me, because Lama was repeating the words and stopping all the time. Then I realized. ‘Rinpoche says he wants to meditate,’ said Lama. He didn’t budge an inch. He was unsurprised and totally cool, but it was a serious thing. We had courses booked at Manjushri Institute, at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, in Holland and in Spain. All the advertising had already gone around and the airline tickets were arranged. Rinpoche backing out was a major upset. Lama went to his class and sent me off to send a telegram. The tone was like, ‘Yes, I understand. But this time everything is ready and you have to come. So, please come.’ It was very well written and not heavy and I had to send it ‘most urgent’, which cost UK£40 back then.

“Later Lama said to me, ‘Lama Zopa Rinpoche is not playing games. In reality he is putting himself down as the lowest of the low.’ He told me once that whoever doubts Rinpoche doubts Buddha.”

The telegram was delivered to Kopan where Jacie Keeley received it. Peter Kedge was in India, having left instructions that if Lama Zopa Rinpoche didn’t return from Lawudo by a certain date, Jacie would have to go up and fetch him back.

13917_ud

Lawudo Retreat Centre, Nepal, Solu Khumbu, Thangme Gompa

Jacie Keeley: “That date came and went. I was facing a difficult situation, so I went to see Serkong Dorje Chang at Swayambhu. He made observations with the dice and said, ‘If you don’t get Lama Zopa Rinpoche now, you will never get Lama Zopa Rinpoche down.’ I borrowed money from Marcel and hired a helicopter.” The monsoon weather had already started and flights to and from the mountains would stop completely once the monsoon rains arrived in full force.

“The sky was terribly overcast,” Jacie continued, “until we swerved and the clouds opened like the Red Sea. We landed below Lawudo Gompa, because there was no place to land beside it. I ran up the path to the cave, still weak with hepatitis while the pilot was shouting from below, ‘Run faster, the clouds are coming!’ I got to the top and there was Rinpoche. He said, ‘Didn’t you get my letter? I’m not coming this year.’ I told him I didn’t know about the letter and he didn’t have to come if he didn’t want to, but then he said, ‘Let me make some observations.’

“The Sherpas packed Rinpoche’s things, grabbed some food and a thermos and raced down to the helicopter. By the time we got there they had a little folding table and a chair set up so Rinpoche could have a cup of tea. He had to sit down, drink the tea and get into the helicopter. There he sat, not looking at anybody. Rinpoche’s mother and sister were hanging off the helicopter, tears pouring down their cheeks. They only let go at the last moment.

“We got to Kathmandu safely and when we were in the taxi Rinpoche told me, ‘I have never prayed so hard in my life not to have to go to the West. But the whole time I was making these prayers I could feel there were stronger prayers being said and that mine wouldn’t work.’” Rinpoche said later that just before the helicopter arrived, which was at the end of his morning session, a vision of a row of Westerners appeared in front of him, chanting the first line of the dedication prayer, Ge wa di yi nyur du dag (“Due to the merits of these virtuous actions…”).[1] He thought this meant his retreat was probably over. He also commented that Jacie had been very respectful in the way she presented the situation to him.

13900_udJacie stayed on at Kopan with Karuna Cayton, Maureen O’Malley and the boys throughout the summer monsoon. Every day she trudged up the hill from Chötak’s house, through mud and leeches and pouring rain to endless meals of potatoes—boiled, fried or mashed. Monsoon food. She repainted the office, added bright cushions and taught the boys basic geography, so they could know where their lamas were in the world.

“Americans are so insulated. Even though I was a college graduate I told them Greece was an island. I showed them a picture of downtown Chicago in rush hour and asked them if they had ever seen anything like that before and they said, ‘Yeah, Asan Tole!’ In their minds flashy cars were the same as ox-carts, goats and box-wallahs,” said Jacie.

When Lama Yeshe met up with Rinpoche again in Europe he told him, “Even your breath in the West gives benefit.” This is similar to what people used to say to Lama Tsongkhapa.

[1]    This Tibetan phrase begins a common dedication prayer, which has been translated as: Due to the merits of these virtuous actions / May I quickly attain the state of a guru-buddha / And lead all living beings, without exception, / Into that enlightened state.

Do your own thing but don’t forget bodhicitta

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

12839_slLama Yeshe wrote a letter officially appointing Jacie Keeley his secretary. She had changed her style a lot, but Lama wanted more. He told her to stop wearing Indian hippie jewelry and to dress up. Jacie went all the way with make-up, skirts and stockings, even a few diamonds—a look that had never been seen at Kopan before. Lama also told her to cut off the fading hunk of red Tibetan blessing threads around her neck. “Ugh, lice!” he commented.

Jacie did exactly as she was told and hung on Lama Yeshe’s every word. “He was the perfect mother and father to everybody,” she observed. “He said he felt his teachings were successful when the students loved their parents more and practiced their own religion. Students often wrote to Lama after they had returned to the West, telling him they had decided to practice their religion of origin. Lama always congratulated them and when replying would caution, ‘Do your own thing but don’t forget bodhicitta. Go wherever you want to go, do whatever you want to do, but always have bodhicitta in your heart.’ He was always saying that,” said Jacie.

One of her principal tasks was to help Lama Yeshe with his correspondence. It was not uncommon for him to get several hundred letters a week and everyone received replies in Jacie’s novice typing.

To a student in Santa Cruz, Lama wrote,

In Buddhism even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. Even worms are contributing for us to have pleasure. You should not worry about practicing Dharma. If you recognize everyday life is to bring happiness and serve others, that is Dharma. The important thing is to practice clarity, so you keep your mind focused on the blue Hum and receive blue radiating light within and outwardly. This gives more clarity and satisfaction by eliminating confused thought. You shouldn’t worry. Pills enclosed.

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12th Meditation Course, 1979, Jacie Keeley, Kathmandu, Kopan Monastery, Nepal

The pills to which Lama referred were either the tiny red mani pills made at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s temple—over which 100 million om mani padmé hum mantras had been said—or they were blessed pills that Lama Yeshe had made himself. These exotic medicines always seemed to reach their destination, despite the strict customs laws of the various countries to which they were sent.

To a student who had joined a different religious group, he wrote,

My love has not changing whether you are Hare Krishna or whatever you call this Rajneesh or Christian. Buddhism has a liberated attitude to love all the human beings without regard to color, religion, philosophy and other things—as you know. Plus Buddhism loves all the animals. You have no spontaneously born wisdom as long as you have grasping attitude on the sensory objects, the sensory pleasures.

In the same spirit of appreciation for other religious traditions, Lama frequently reminded his students that Transcendental Meditation had broken the ground for the establishment of Buddhism in the West.

When Jacie first started doing the mail she had permission to deliver Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s letters to his room at any time, often very late at night. Jacie was one of those rare folk who are naturally able to manage on no more than three or four hours’ sleep.

Jacie Keeley: “Then one day out of the blue, Lama Yeshe decided that Lama Zopa Rinpoche should no longer receive any mail. It was difficult having to withhold it. Rinpoche received the most painful letters because he was the one who did the divinations (mos) for people who were dying or about to undergo an operation. The writers of those letters believed that he would receive them, but Lama Yeshe also didn’t read them. No one did. They just piled up higher and higher. So when I knew Lama was likely to be involved in something else I would try to sneak a few letters in to Rinpoche. But every time I’d find Lama standing at his door like a rock, legs braced and mala going—click click click. Lama told me Rinpoche had more important things to do than answer all these letters.

22821_ngNext, Lama announced that no females at all were to enter Rinpoche’s room, though I was still allowed to go in sometimes. From his side Rinpoche would have seen anybody at all, but there was something about the karmic imprints of his having been married in a previous life. Of course, Rinpoche was completely ascetic. Ants made little trails across his room and he’d stop everything to avoid hurting them. He also had mice living in his room and always gave them food.”

Intellectual Mount Meru

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

24710_slEveryone knew Lama Yeshe was going to give a Cittamani Tara initiation. This was the highest yoga tantra practice of the deity Tara. He had never given his students this highest yoga tantra initiation before and several of them, whose visas were about to expire, hung around Kopan waiting for it. Then Lama announced they must wait another month. It seemed he wanted them to really value this experience, not just add it to their esoteric collection of initiations.

Lama often ruffled the feathers of some of the older students, accusing them of arrogance. For some, Buddhism had become just another arena of self-importance. Lama said such students were actually too lazy to confront their egotistic habits.

George Churinoff was unable to extend his stay. “Before leaving I went to Lama’s room, made three prostrations, offered a khata and asked if he had any advice for me. He looked hard at me and said, ‘Intellectual Mount Meru isn’t worth ka-ka!’ It was an important message for me—a Penn State and Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysics graduate. I had to learn that,” said George.

In December 1994, George Churinoff was Lama Osel’s tutor. “One day he was riding his tricycle around and he rode up to me. I bent down and asked him if he had something to tell me. He pulled my head down and whispered in my ear: “I don’t know anything about kaka!” The hairs just stood up on my head.” I had never forgotten Lama Yeshe’s words back in 1979, when he had looked at me so hard and said: “Intellectual Mount Meru isn’t worth kaka!” I knew it was terribly important at the time, but not that it would come back like this,’ said George. 25351_ng-1

Finally, at the conclusion of the lam-rim retreat that had begun after the eleventh meditation course, Lama gave the longed-for initiation to fifty people. This was followed by a commentary on the Cittamani Tara meditative practice from 24 January to 4 February 1979. During the initiation Alnis Grants, a Latvian student residing in Germany and not normally given to vain imaginings, had an unusual experience. “At one stage Lama’s dorje was taken around and lightly pressed against our hearts. When it touched my chest it vibrated, a physical sensation I definitely never experienced again. Years later Lama Zopa Rinpoche told me that it was Lama’s blessing.”

Tantric practices are based on dissolving the concrete view of a self-existent I or ego, and replacing it with a visualization of oneself as a buddha—in this case, Tara. It is not our limited sense of “I” that becomes a buddha because that limited “I” has been dissolved through analysis in meditation.

Tantra holds that there are 72,000 psychic channels, or nadis, within the body, of which the main three are the right, the left and the central channel (also known as the shushumna). At various points along the central channel are energy centers known as chakras. These inner elements were introduced at length in the instructions on the vase meditation technique. We have all had experiences that indicate the presence of these chakras and the concentration of energy they contain. Examples include the “lump” in the throat, the uncomfortable sensation in the pit of our stomach we often feel when we are upset, the pulsations we feel in the lower chakra when sexually aroused. While these give us a rough sense of the existence of these centers of energy along our body’s central axis, it requires empowerment, training and extensive practice to be able to penetrate the central channel through these chakras and experience the transformative results.

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Cittamani Tara [1]:

22921_ngAccording to tantric science, there are different explanations of how to enter into the sushumna, how to stay there and how to dissolve into it. When the energy enters and stays in the sushumna there is no movement of the breath because the energy is so gentle. We move and breathe so wildly now because we are not balanced; but the person whose energy has entered the sushumna is very subdued and their breath almost stops completely.

This is a difficult concept for the Western mind—if one is not breathing then one is dead. A Western doctor would probably debate with me. “What are you saying? Someone in whom there is no movement of energy is alive? That’s outrageous. You are stupid, a Himalayan dreamer, and we are the international rest of the world!” That’s a point of debate.

When I was still young, my uncle fell sick and it looked as if he had passed away; his breathing had stopped. Then a Dharma friend came to our house. He burned some tsampa and the smoke rose up and suddenly my uncle opened his eyes and started breathing again. That happens to many people. You think they are dead but suddenly energy comes back and they come to life again. Even in the West there are many stories like this. So sometimes it’s difficult to say who is dead and who isn’t.

Tibetan tantra has incredible technical meditations that bring about different experiences; you yourself can see how they function. The explanation of yoga tantra and Western science are coming together. Even Western doctors have discovered that there is a painkiller inside you, that you do not need injections. But they should also discover how to access the blissful energy as well. Our project here is to discover this blissful energy, which is already there, within us.

[1] A transcript of this teaching is available from the LYWA website

 

Liberating pleasure

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama meditating at Borobodur, Java, 1979Lama Yeshe loved listening to the radio and kept in touch with world events. The BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Australia all reached Nepal. Lama was also interested in contemporary issues such as feminism, a subject he raised with Sylvia Wetzel. “I told him,” said Sylvia, “he always gave me the feeling that although he was a monk in a patriarchal tradition, his attitude to women was not merely tolerant acceptance but real encouragement to be different, to be strong, emotional and confident. I also pointed out that while there are some truly wonderful Tibetan teachers, one could not help noticing that Tibetans clearly preferred having monks around them rather than women. My opinion was that there were really very few teachers in philosophy, psychology and religion, or in Buddhism, who were as open to women as he was.”

Lama was always open to honest enquiry and Sylvia took the opportunity to complain about all the traditional “fiddling about” with the dorje and bell during prayers. “I can’t relate to all this Indian stuff and I don’t want to do it. I just want to meditate on the sadhana,” she said. Lama Yeshe suggested she create a drawing of a dorje and bell, put it in front of her and occasionally look at it. “That’s good enough,” he told her – that kind and frequent response which students experienced as warm and total acceptance of their efforts.

One day a student asked about the meaning of the traditional seven water bowls—offerings to the buddhas that include water for drinking, water for washing the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume and food. Music is the eighth offering, but as sound is not a tangible object it is not always represented by a water bowl. “Nothing special,” Lama replied. “When friends come to your house you open the door, ask if they would like to wash their hands, and then offer them a drink or some food. You put nice flowers in the dining room for them and even in the West you use incense and perfumes for the house. You have electricity, but you still light candles. You also play music. So these are the offerings. You already offer those things naturally. There’s no need to make a big deal out of it as some Eastern cultural thing.” The point is to offer these objects of the senses, rather than to take the pleasure of experiencing them only for oneself. In this way pleasure becomes liberating rather than simply increasing attachment and as a consequence, suffering.

Daja with Max, 1979

Daja with Max, 1979

One day Lama told Max Redlich (now Thubten Gelek) that he would one day be in Time magazine. “Oh, come on, Lama, why would they put you in Time?” said Max. “What?” said Lama. “You don’t believe?” As time would tell, Lama was not joking.[1]

Susanna Parodi had been living and working at Manjushri Institute under the care of Nicole Couture for quite awhile. She was doing much better, although she was still in fragile health. Now she wanted to return to Italy. On 15 January 1979 Lama wrote to Susanna Parodi in his peculiar idiom.

Dear Susanna my daughter,

We receive your letter. I am very happy you stay in Manjushri Institute up until now. We all happy here. As you wishes you can go with Nicole but the conditions are you cannot go to Milan or to Rome, you can only go to Lama Tzong Khapa Institute. Otherwise I will come and chase you.

Fine, as you wishes,

Your Yeshe

[1].    Lama Yeshe never appeared in Time magazine during his own lifetime. However, after the birth and recognition of his reincarnation, Osel Hita, Time did an extensive article on him in which Lama Yeshe was featured in detail. CN

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