Embarking on the 1975 Teaching Tour
Leaving India behind, the lamas and Dr. Nick flew to Bangkok where they stayed at the YMCA. Very high temperatures and humidity left Lama Yeshe so exhausted that Nick became worried—it was the first time he’d observed the effects of heat on Lama. Nevertheless, no invitations were refused and the two lamas taught a weekend course to sixty people while they were there.
Lama Yeshe rushed here, there, and everywhere and never ceased patting women’s hands, which shocked some Thai monks, who never touch women. He also met with a Sera monk, Geshe Tengye, who would join Lama Yeshe’s organization a few years later, and with Zasep Tulku, a graduate of Freda Bedi’s Young Lamas’ Home School, who had come to Thailand to study vipassana meditation under direction from the Council for Religious Affairs in the Tibetan government-in-exile. “Oh, that’s too bad,” Lama Yeshe said to Zasep Tulku. “I need you. It would be nice if you could go to Australia.” A couple of years later, this would actually come to pass.
Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, and Nick arrived in Sydney on 19 March 1975. Electric Roger, a Sydney local, had rented a house for them in a quiet location for six weeks. Lama Zopa Rinpoche could do retreat there while Lama Yeshe taught. Then Lama could do retreat while Rinpoche taught. Roger acted as Zopa Rinpoche’s attendant at the house, but Lama Yeshe preferred to be alone and to do his own shopping.
A few days later Lama Yeshe and Nick flew to Melbourne to stay with Bea Ribush. All the old Kopan students in the area, mostly Nick’s friends, were delighted to see him. Bea too had become very devoted to Lama—so much so she failed to notice the way he treated her beloved son, which was abruptly to say the least. “Bring this! Get that! Now!” Nick tried hard, but Lama was unrelenting.
From Lama Yeshe’s talk at Melbourne University on 25 March 1975:
When I talk about mind I’m not just talking about my mind, my trip. I’m talking about the mind of each and every universal sentient being. The way we live, the way we think—everything is dedicated to material pleasure. We consider sense objects to be of utmost importance and materialistically devote ourselves to whatever makes us happy, famous or popular. Even though all this comes from our mind, we are so totally preoccupied with external objects that we never look within, we never question why we find them so interesting.
As long as we exist our mind is an inseparable part of us. As a result we are always up and down. It is not our body that goes up and down, it’s our mind—this mind whose way of functioning we do not understand. Therefore, we sometimes need to examine ourselves, not just our body, but our mind. After all, it is our mind that is always telling us what to do. We have to know our own psychology, or in religious terminology perhaps, our inner nature. Anyway, no matter what we call it, we have to know our own mind.
Don’t think that examining and knowing the nature of your mind is just an Eastern trip. That’s a wrong conception. It’s your trip. How can you separate your body or your self-image, from your mind? It’s impossible. You think you are an independent person, free to travel the world, enjoying everything. Despite what you think you are not free. I’m not saying you are under the control of someone else. It’s your own uncontrolled mind, your own attachment that oppresses you. If you discover how you oppress yourself, your uncontrolled mind will disappear. Knowing your own mind is the solution to all your problems.
* * * Meeting with psychiatrists and social workers * * *
That afternoon there was a question-and-answer session for thirty psychiatrists and social workers in the conference room of one of the city’s largest public hospitals. For ninety minutes Lama Yeshe explained the Dharma approach to mental problems to a critical and cynical audience whose questions were designed to trip up this Tibetan monk. After all, he was not a doctor. But what he said was impressively clear.
From Lama Yeshe’s discussion with mental health professionals at Prince Henry’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, on 25 March 1975:
By mental illness I mean the kind of mind that does not see reality, a mind that tends to either exaggerate or underestimate the qualities of the person or object it perceives, which always causes problems to arise. In the West you wouldn’t consider this to be mental illness, but Western psychology’s interpretation is too narrow. If someone is obviously emotionally disturbed you consider that to be a problem, but if someone has a fundamental inability to see reality, to see things as they really are and understand his or her own true nature, you don’t. Not knowing your own basic mental attitude is a huge problem. Human problems are more than just emotional distress or disturbed relationships. In fact these are tiny problems. It’s as if there’s this huge ocean of problems below but all we see are the waves on the surface.
Among the topics they discussed was the issue of anger and aggression.
Q: Some Western psychologists believe that aggression is an important and necessary part of human nature, that anger is a kind of positive driving force, even though it sometimes gets people into trouble. What is your view of anger and aggression?
Lama: I encourage people not to express their anger, not to let it out. Instead, I have people try to understand why they get angry, what causes it and how it arises. When you realize these things, instead of manifesting externally your anger digests itself. In the West some people believe that you get rid of anger by expressing it, that you finish it by letting it out. Actually, in this case what happens is that you leave an imprint in your mind to get angry again. The effect is just the opposite of what they believe. It looks like your anger escaped, but in fact you’re just collecting more anger in your mind. The imprints that anger leaves on your consciousness simply reinforce your tendency to respond to situations with more anger. But not allowing it to come out doesn’t mean you are suppressing it, bottling it up. That’s also dangerous. You have to learn to investigate the deeper nature of anger, aggression, anxiety or whatever it is that troubles you. When you look into the deeper nature of negative energy you’ll see that it’s really quite insubstantial, that it’s only mind. As your mental expression changes, the negative energy disappears, digested by the wisdom that understands the nature of hatred, anger, aggression and so forth.
Q: Where did the very first moment of anger come from—this anger that leaves imprint after imprint?
Lama: Anger comes from attachment to sense pleasure. Check up. This is wonderful psychology, but it can be difficult to understand. When someone touches something to which you are very attached, you freak out. Attachment is the source of anger.