Skip to content

Archive for

The Little Man in Red

23053_ng_webFrom  1977: The more meditation, the more happy! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Ibiza, in the Balearic Islands lying about fifty miles (80km) off the coast of Spain was a sleepy peasant farming community until the 1960s when large numbers of world travelers made it their summer destination. Rents were cheap, the beaches pristine, the climate perfect and the locals tolerant.

At the end of the first week of October the lamas arrived into the relaxed Ibiza atmosphere to teach a ten-day meditation course. Jampa Chökyi, Lama’s first Spanish nun, had spent the previous two months there helping Philippe and François Camus prepare a gompa. She had also given simple introductory teachings in Spanish to the 150 people who had enrolled for the lamas’ course. Assisting her was another Spanish nun, Angeles de la Torre, and Kopan students Antonio Pascual and Jasmin Ubinas.

François Camus and his wife ran a health food shop on Ibiza. Philippe Camus and his wife, Linda, ran a local restaurant. Through those two businesses the two couples got to know many people from the cosmopolitan crowd and promoted the lamas’ upcoming course with great enthusiasm.

21637_pr_crop  The Camus family was in the wine and spirit trade and had used a geodesic dome for a recent exhibition. With money he had received as a wedding present, Francois arranged to have a similar dome built and delivered to Ibiza just two days before the course began. The white plastic-covered dome was set up in a field close to the beach. The organizers insisted the lamas needed to stay in a decent place of their own. The more bohemian types argued that if they were so unattached their accommodation hardly mattered. Arguments quickly became heated, but Jampa Chökyi had a fiery Spanish temperament and was able to stand up to anyone, so the matter was soon sorted out. Philippe and Linda Camus gave up their best rooms, though Lama Yeshe had said “some little corner” would do. Even so, their house was still rather primitive with no bathroom or running water, so a hole was dug in the ground to serve as a toilet with cane fencing erected in a spiral around it to provide some privacy. Lama Yeshe was not impressed.

Jampa Chökyi noticed that Paco Hita, one of the people living at Can Tirurit (a Payesan house that was a kind of alternative altruistic community center located nearby), was always very polite and accommodating. Paco was asked to be the chauffeur for the lamas and as a result became the person who spent the most time with Lama Yeshe in Ibiza. François Camus waited at his house while Paco collected the lamas from the airport. “The moment they arrived,” recalled François, “the person who had been the most difficult came to me in tears saying, ‘Now I understand.’ This man hadn’t even spoken to the lamas yet but he was totally changed.”

“I had worked from the age of eight until I was twenty-five when a great restlessness arose in me,” said Paco. “Although I had very little education and only the few skills employment had given me, I was determined to search for something to give meaning to my life. In Ibiza I began to live again, free of prejudices and material possessions.21670_pr_web

“I imagined the lamas as barefoot, begging for food and wearing very little clothing. The first sign of action was when they sent us this hurricane, this demanding little Spanish nun. She quickly got a group together to sew a large thangka of Guru Shakyamuni. They also made a canopy and cloths for the altar. She taught us all how to sit, how to visualize and how to meditate and gave courses on how to draw Buddhist images.

“My job was to drive the lamas to and from the course grounds, fetch the food supplies and have the car always available for them. Rinpoche taught in the mornings and Lama in the afternoons. During the fourteen days they were on the island I did not leave their side except to retire at night. I did not understand or speak English, so I was not able to talk with them at all. With Lama Zopa Rinpoche that was no problem, because he never spoke—except once when I was driving rather fast because we were late. That time he turned and said something. Later I asked someone to translate it. What he had said was, ‘Are you in a hurry to attain enlightenment?’

23051_ng_web“Rinpoche spent all his free time in his room emitting little sounds that seemed like profound laments to me. His replies to Lama were always in this timid whisper that seemed to come from the depths of the earth. As I watched the two of them together Lama was like the sun and Rinpoche like a candle softening in its heat and bending irresistibly toward him.”

Paco continued, “Words were not necessary with Lama Yeshe. We developed our own communication. Occasionally, when he came out from a lecture he would put his arm over my shoulders and say, ‘Good?’ I would answer, ‘Very good!’ Then I put my right arm around his waist and felt how he was transmitting energy that filled my whole being with joy. I sat in the front row for his talks so I could get him whatever he needed. I hardly understood what he was talking about, even though it was translated into Spanish. The concepts were light years away from my mind. But now and then Lama pointed to me and told the others that if they had questions they should ask me, because I understood. I felt nothing could be further from the truth, but what I did understand was the respectful, kindly and affectionate way he treated people.

“One afternoon when I was driving him home he let me know he wanted a driving lesson. So I stopped and invited him to sit behind the wheel. The car was a Citroën belonging to a Saudi girl, Zia Bassam, who was living on Ibiza and also had an aunt who lived there. After confirming he understood how it worked, we set off. Lama tore up the dirt road with violent jerks and raised clouds of dust because he was holding the clutch halfway down at the same time that he stepped on the accelerator. I made him stop and scolded him firmly. ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’ he said. He went a little better then. But when we came to a hill, the car stalled. Lama mistakenly stepped on the clutch thinking it was the brake and we rolled down into a dirt mound next to the gutter. With more instruction he drove all the way home. The next day he wanted to do it again, but on the first turn after leaving the course grounds he crashed into a stone wall and the car was crumpled.”

Lama and Paco returned to the house laughing their heads off. “Oh Zia! Car! Zia! Car! We broke the car! Ha ha ha!” When Zia came to see Lama, he confessed to the accident and offered to pay, but she said no.

Out of the blue Mummy Max’s ex-husband, Marty Widener, suddenly turned up. He was staying on the nearby island of Formentera where he had seen a poster advertising the course. “I came bursting into their room telling Yeshe how happy I was to see him, while he kept bumping foreheads with me. They invited me to lunch the next day and the three of us just sat around and yacked and laughed and cackled. It was wonderful,” said Marty.

“One day Lama suggested a picnic at a little cove by the sea near Philippe’s house,” Paco recounted. “We brought bread and many ingredients, spread a cloth and Lama began to construct these high sandwich towers, offering them to us one by one. We were about to start eating when Lama pointed to a spot in the distance where we could see the outline of a person sitting on the rocks contemplating the sea. Lama made it clear he wanted me to invite him to eat too, so I walked over and gave him Lama’s message and he shared the food with us. We all talked enthusiastically and laughter rebounded off the rocks. When we left the stranger thanked us and said those moments had actually been life-changing for him.

“On another day we visited a country store that sold everything from rope sandals to codfish. The owner was a perpetually bad-tempered woman who mistrusted everyone. I had never seen her smile. Lama wanted to buy presents, so we went inside and he began sniffing around the open shelves. When the woman came out from an inner room he transformed himself completely, bent double, face to the floor and hands joined at his forehead to greet her. He was so humble that she too was transformed. Her hard little eyes warmed and her mouth formed a surprisingly sweet smile. By gestures, Lama asked if he could look around. She indicated he could look wherever he liked, even behind the counter. Lama ended up buying nothing but the woman looked as if she had made the best deal of her life. From that day on she never ceased to ask me about the little man in red.”

Advertisements

Bonjuorno , cappuccino, spaghetti, mozzarella!

Lama teaching, Yucca Valley, 1977From  1977: The more meditation, the more happy! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

From India, the lamas arrived at the new Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa. Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught for ten days on lam-rim and thought transformation and Lama Yeshe gave a ten-day course on The Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy (Ganden Lha Gyäma), a central Gelug prayer invoking the blessings of Lama Tsongkhapa and his two chief disciples.

Pino Corona was pleased with the purchase of the castello and delighted that he and Massimo, his eldest son, were once again on excellent terms. Initially, the building was divided into a number of apartments, four of which were made available to the lamas and their students. The others were still occupied by tenants of the previous owner. He too was still in residence and turned out to be rather difficult to get along with.

During this visit by the lamas a large bronze statue of Shakyamuni Buddha arrived from Nepal and was installed with much ceremony in the temporary gompa.

Lama Yeshe adapted quickly to this Mediterranean culture, becoming as Italian as the Italians. “We could feel this universal quality in him immediately. I could easily imagine that when in America he would be just like the Americans,” said one student.

Bonjuorno [sic], cappuccino, spaghetti, mozzarella! Italy is fantastic,” Lama wrote to Susanna Parodi in Nepal via Peter, who added, “Lama says in April you come here and be spiritual director.” However, this prospect terrified the world’s first Italian Mahayana Buddhist nun. “I had only just learned how to do the mandala offering and had barely started on the long Chenrezig mantra,” Susanna later explained. “One year earlier I had been shooting heroin. Maybe I could be a kitchen manager or maybe I could live with Marcel’s tailors and show them how to cut a pattern, but spiritual director? I burst into tears, grabbed a taxi, put my zen over my head and bought a packet of cigarettes. Then I smoked every one of them while driving round and round the Ring Road in Kathmandu.”

Up at Kopan, Lama Pasang’s brand new and very large block of toilet stalls included a septic tank. The young monks discovered methane gas came out of the vent. If you held a lit match near it, you could get quite a flame. They had tried this a few times in the past, to their delight. While the lamas were still away in Italy and most of those on the hill were in the gompa with Geshe Sopa, one young monk, Thubten Ngödrub, held a match to the vent to watch the methane burn off. But somehow the flame was sucked back into the pipe and the entire concrete structure blew up in a massive explosion. Chunks of concrete were later found in the fields at least fifty yards from the tank and excrement was blasted all over the hill. The young monk flew through the air and miraculously, was unhurt. An emergency international fund-raising effort succeeded in gathering sufficient funds to quickly repair the damage before people fell ill from the pollution and lack of facilities.

Almost all the Italian students had been raised as Catholics and many had a rather conservative attitude toward spiritual matters. But there were also quite a few less inhibited Rajneeshis among the newer students, the Rajneesh movement being popular in Italy at the time. At the conclusion of the lamas’ teachings, thirty people received refuge vows and eighteen received lay vows, after which Lama told them to hold a big party with music and dancing. Lama cleverly guessed that a party was a perfect opportunity for the dancing “orange people”—as the Rajneeshis were known—and the traditional Catholics to relax together.

“I was the uninhibited Aussie rocker playing Gloria on my guitar,” said Gabriel Knox, who had come down from Manjushri Institute. “Lama spat on my guitar to bless it. He told us that if we really liked dancing and music then to do it, but to offer the enjoyment for the happiness of all sentient beings.”

Finally, an ordination ceremony was held for three Italians—Claudio Cipullo and two others, Beppe Molinari and Dario Tesoroni—who were all ordained as getsuls, or novice monks. The day before, a tragic accident had occurred when Claudio’s car had broken down on a freeway. A passing motorist had stopped to offer assistance only to be struck down and killed by another vehicle as he crouched beside Claudio’s car. It was a horribly vivid reminder of impermanence.

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Lama Tsongkhapa in Italy, 1977:

Portraits of Lama, 1977Nowadays, many people in the West are interested in somebody telling them what to do. So when you engage in this practice of guru yoga, if you pose a serious question before you fall asleep, even if it is not clean clear, then the answer will come. This is the experience of meditators. So it is very, very useful.

      When you visualize Guru Tsongkhapa, some kind of communication takes place between the dharmakaya and you. The dharmakaya is not visible to the eye; it is not an object of our sense perceptions. Nevertheless, Guru Tsongkhapa comes with his great compassion and deep wisdom so that when you contact him a kind of communication happens between the dharmakaya and you. Thus, whenever you pose an intensive question, you receive an answer. It is natural.

      With the dualistic mind, when you see Guru Tsongkhapa and know his history, your mind instinctively creates a distinction between Guru Tsongkhapa and yourself. You think, “He must be very special, completely special. I can’t possibly do what he can do; I can’t possibly be like him.” You completely put yourself down. Do you understand? You don’t believe that it is possible for you to benefit all sentient beings. You think, “I am not worthy, I am nothing!” The dualistic mind creates a gap between this absolute being and the relative you; you make a separation.

      Guru yoga is a method to cut through this joke and to unify your consciousness with what is truly pure, with the absolute guru or whatever you call the transcendental blissful fully awakened enlightened mind, which is manifesting as Lama Tsongkhapa. Each time we practice guru yoga we are unifying in this way.

      When students are living close by their lama, they say, “I like to practice the gradual path to enlightenment.” But when they go back home and are no longer in physical proximity to their lama, when their lama is no longer there, then the lam-rim is also not there. The lama isn’t there, so the lam-rim isn’t there; meditation isn’t there. You understand? For some people if they aren’t physically close to their lama, then they don’t feel in contact. Sometimes they can’t see or feel their lama at all, not even in their meditation. Why?

      The way that your guru benefits you is to guide you and explain to you the nature of reality, the nature of what you are and how you exist. That is your lama’s duty to you. Otherwise, if you are always trying to be around your lama, this shows that the recognition of the reality of the absolute guru is somehow missing. You have to know what your lama has instructed you to do, what your guru really wants you to do. YOU HAVE TO KNOW! After you have received teachings from your guru, you cannot then say, “I don’t know what to do! He didn’t give me anything to do.” Do you know what I mean? At the end of the course, if somebody comes up to the lama and says, “You didn’t tell us anything! I don’t know what to do with my life!” then your lama is going to burst out laughing!

      The guru teaches every student differently according to their level. What each student understands is their own interpretation. So when you are truly listening to the teaching, you almost have to listen beyond the words. The words kind of disappear somewhere. But the true reality, the real teaching, is not in the words. The way one listens makes an enormous difference. The way that some people listen, when it comes time to listen to the lama’s words, they are already realized. Then when the lama talks, they completely come to the point, entering totally into samadhi. This is possible. But if you only listen for the words, words make you too rigid, because words come from dualistic superstition. Words are a function of superstition thought. So the conceptual mind can become an obstacle. If you are listening somehow beyond the words, you can penetrate the meaning of what the lama has taught and you can contemplate that. Possible. For some people it is possible. But that is according to the individual. Understand?

      You can see now that the actual guru, although appearing as the tathagata Guru Tsongkhapa, is actually YOU. Your method-wisdom is the guru. Your close waking state wisdom is the guru and the path and the elevator to reach the center of the dharmakaya. It is the path to reach your God, your enlightenment, your liberation.

Lama manifests Manjushri

Portraits of Lama, 1977From  1977: The more meditation, the more happy! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

One English businessman found Rinpoche’s demanding teaching style excruciating. “My marriage was collapsing, I had nowhere to live, I had never sat cross-legged in my life, everything hurt and here’s this monk in front of us stuttering and coughing his way through two weeks. All I heard was ‘cough cough suffering cough cough suffering.’ Yet the people around me were madly writing it all down. I couldn’t understand a word and was so miserable Dieter arranged an interview for me.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche had arrived at Manjushri separately from Nepal and his two-week lam-rim course preceded Lama Yeshe’s arrival. “Lama Zopa Rinpoche was sitting on a bed. I offered him an orange and told him that my marriage wasn’t working. ‘Marriage not working—ha ha ha!’ he said. Then I said I was thinking of separating from my wife. ‘Thinking of separating from your wife—ha ha ha!’ he said. He giggled at everything I said and finally made a few inconsequential comments. I thought, ‘Well, this is very trivial.’

“I left the room and halfway across the lawn, I suddenly stopped. Something seemed to hit me hard in the heart, almost like a switch being turned on and I thought, ‘Gosh, he’s right.’ When I came back into the hall all these people said, ‘What’s happened to you? You look amazing! You’ve seen Rinpoche, haven’t you!’ I told them I didn’t want to talk about it. During the interview I had told Rinpoche I didn’t understand a word he was saying in the teachings. I did notice though, that he didn’t cough once while I was with him. After that, everything he said was absolutely clear and I too started taking pages and pages of notes.”

Peter Kedge’s parents were on the platform at Rugby station when the train to Cumbria made a brief stop. They had come specifically to greet Lama Yeshe for the first time.

Although it was mid-summer when Lama Yeshe and Peter arrived at Manjushri Institute, the climate inside that enormous dry-rot permeated Gothic building remained bone-chillingly cold and damp. The teachings were held in a large front room blessed with a Jotul brand wood burning stove. There was another of these excellent stoves in the dining room and one in the Oak Room, which had become the center library.

Manjushri now had a permanent community of thirty, including three mothers with young children. The cost of repairing the dry rot turned out to be four times the original estimate and in addition, more money had to be found for other essential renovations. The residents removed rotten beams, scraped walls, scrubbed and painted and injected foul-smelling chemicals into the dry rot. In some rooms entire walls and floors had to be removed. The Priory became a place where you could open a door to find nothing on the other side.

Harvey had developed a remuneration system that charged residents room and board according to how many hours they worked each day. Those who worked an eight-hour day received free room and board. Some of the young men became quite angry because they had gone there to receive Dharma teachings and found themselves doing all this heavy physical labour. At least the work kept them warm.

On 29 July 1977, the day after Lama Yeshe arrived, he gave refuge to twenty-eight students, lay vows to nineteen and the next day, a Manjushri initiation to fifty people.

The transformed note-taking English businessman was in for a further surprise. During the initiation he swore that when he looked at Lama Yeshe he appeared to be transparent. “I could see right through him,” he said. This was a very conservative, absolutely drug-free, professional man.

Lama Yeshe then gave a two-week commentary on the yoga method of Manjushri. Manjushri represents enlightened wisdom and holds above his head a flaming wisdom sword that cuts through our delusions. For the first half of the course Lama concentrated on raising the students’ awareness to a point where they could see that what is generally held to be concrete is merely perception, which is dependent upon a shifting range of variables.

Lama also taught Manjushri’s mantra, om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. Mantra was a new subject for Westerners. One visualizes the seed-syllable, dhi (pronounced “dhee”), as a red-yellow flame upon the tongue. The syllable is then repeated 108 times at the end of the mantra, in one exhalation. Those students who had spent time at Kopan were familiar with this mantra as it was the one the Mount Everest Centre boys shouted as they swept the courtyard every morning: “Dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi!’

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on the Manjushri yoga method in August 1977:

Lama teaching, Yucca Valley, 1977These days, in the West, we hear a lot about the open heart, about opening your heart. This is common. From the Buddhist point of view, in order to open your heart, you have to realize something. “I want to open my heart, but how?”—this is the question. Opening has to do with realization; no realization, nothing opens. It doesn’t matter that you say, emotionally, “I’m open. I love you; you love me so much.” That doesn’t mean you’re open. We say that kind of thing, don’t we? “No matter how much I open myself up to you, you never open yourself up to me.” It’s a joke. It’s not true.

      Well, perhaps it’s true in one sense, but actually, true openness implies space—your consciousness embracing some kind of wide totality. This experience of embracing totality itself becomes the solution, or antidote, to the narrow, fanatical, conceptualizing dualistic mind.

      But then there’s the danger of the attitude, “Wow! Universal reality is incredibly special,” arising. We get the impression that shunyata is a really special, fantastic phenomenon. This attitude is wrong. Instead of, “Oh, non-duality is special, up there; the ordinary, relative bubble of samsara is down here,” which is completely wrong, our position should be more realistic: whenever there’s the appearance of the bubble of relativity, we should simultaneously see non-duality within it.

      When we’re in a conducive environment, we find meditation easier—because we’re free of the vibration of the conflict of duality. When we’re out and about, in contact with the objects of the bubble of relativity, our hearts immediately begin to shake; sense objects make uncontrolled energy run rampant within us. Because we don’t see the non-duality of universal reality within the bubble of relativity, our reactions to objects in the sense world are fragmented. If we could see reality, we wouldn’t shake every time there was a change in our external environment.

      Why, when the environment changes, does your behavior change immediately as well? You know, I like talking about this. For me, this is much more realistic than talking philosophy. So, why do we change like that? Well, look at what happens to you here. As soon as you leave the meditation hall and go into the dining room, you manifest as something else completely. You’re almost another person. Why? Because you differentiate between the deepest, essential nature of the meditation hall and that of the dining room. If you could see the universal reality of these two rooms—and essential reality is non-differentiated; it has a unified quality—you would not change so easily. You see, we are completely intoxicated by the dualistic mind; the dualistic mind completely overwhelms us. The vibration of each different environment too easily influences us. We think we’re in control; we’re not in control.

      When I look at a lovely flower, I’m too influenced. I’m intoxicated by it. When I look at something else, that, too, intoxicates me. I’m completely dominated by my dualistic mind; I have no control. I’m completely influenced by the external world and, from my own side, am totally helpless. We’re all the same—we’re constantly under the influence of whatever we see and hear outside. It’s incredible. The dualistic, relative mind intoxicates us, while our wisdom realizing universal reality is in a deep sleep. Now is the time to reveal and activate that wisdom.

      Our dualistic minds are so rigid. As soon as the environment changes, our reality changes. While we’re here at the center, it’s all Dharma. When we go into town to have fun, the sense world bubble of the dance club becomes our reality. Why am I taking this negative approach? Because it’s more realistic. This is our experience. If I just talk abstract philosophy, you can’t relate, because it’s not your experience. I like to talk about experience. Why, when the environment changes, does your reality change? That’s all I’m asking.

      You must really understand this yo-yo mind. The yo-yo mind is always up and down, and that’s how you spend your whole life—going up and down. The relative environment changes automatically; there’s no unchangeable environment. So as the relative bubble of your external environment constantly changes, your reality constantly changes, and you really believe that this is this and that is that. You have no universal understanding. That’s what makes you and all other sentient beings suffer.

%d bloggers like this: