Bonjuorno , cappuccino, spaghetti, mozzarella!
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:
Nowadays, 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.