I hit you, my problem. You get angry, your trouble.
From 1978: Mahayana, Mahayana, Mahayana! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
While in Dharamsala, Lama’s student Gyatso (Dr. Adrian Feldmann) took Lama down to a big hospital in Lower Dharamsala for a medical check-up. “The X-rays revealed Lama’s heart was so massively enlarged it filled his chest cavity,” reported Adrian. “Non-functioning heart valves make a lot of noise, a whooshing sound. I listened to it with the Indian doctors who all shook their heads very solemnly. It was a very frustrating day. The staff took ages to do anything and I was becoming increasingly irritated—until I caught Lama’s eye. That was enough to quiet me because in that moment I saw his fragility and the power he used to simply stay alive.”
At this time Gyatso was in charge of shopping at Tushita Retreat Centre, but he wasn’t especially good at bargaining. “One lovely day Lama came outside and said to me, ‘I take you shopping!’ He stood right out in the street and took over completely, ordering this and that and bargaining the price down hard every time. Everyone just stood around and watched him. You could see the sellers were really happy to do business with a real pro! He showed me that to get what you want you have to be strong.”
That February, a foot of snow lay on the ground when a dozen Injis showed up to do a four-week Green Tara retreat. Among them was Sylvia Wetzel, the German feminist from Berlin. “Lama began doing a retreat of his own at the same time, yet every day he would check up on us, making sure we were not too tense, too silent, too uptight. Some evenings he came in with some chocolate and asked each one of us how we were doing, often recommending specific foods for certain people,” said Sylvia.
Australian Robina Courtin, dressed in nuns’ robes, had also arrived from Kopan to participate in the retreat, having received her rabjung vows from Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the beginning of February. Lama Yeshe then organized a getsul ordination ceremony for Robina and two others—Vicky from Sydney, Australia, and Stefano Piovella—which was to take place on March 9. As Robina recalled later, “Lama had requested Ling Rinpoche, His Holiness’s senior tutor, whose house was a five-minute walk from Tushita, to run the ceremony but Rinpoche was busy, so Tarab Tulku gave us the vows. As it was a novice ordination, there needed to be at least five fully ordained monks [there were no fully ordained nuns in the Tibetan tradition at the time], so Lama and Rinpoche were two of the five. I was very glad they were there! Afterwards, out back near Tushita’s kitchen, my friend Sylvia Wetzel grabbed her camera, handed me a rhododendron, which flourish in the area, and took a photo.”
“At Kopan and Tushita all we wanted to do was study, learn Tibetan and practice becoming saints,” Pelgye continued, “but Lama wanted bricklayers, toilet-cleaners, English teachers, gardeners and business people. When we complained he would tell us, ‘Fine. If you don’t want to do all these things, if you just want to be in retreat then I’ll go back to the mountains and do retreat too.’
“But if that happened, who would answer our questions? Lama laid great emphasis on the fact that he had worked hard to provide this opportunity for us. If we didn’t want to work so others could also hear the teachings, well then, he’d be happy to stay in retreat for the rest of his life. On the other hand, if we helped him build centers he would always help us. We would discover when to do our own long retreats in our own good time.”
Pelgye went on. “One day at Kopan I witnessed Lama Yeshe swatting two young boys who had been caught playing hooky. He ordered them to bend over and brought this bamboo ski-pole whizzing down through the air. Crack! I was aghast. Catching my eye Lama gestured for me to come forward, bend over and get whacked too. I found the cane made a lot of noise but didn’t really hurt; it was just a good show. I straightened up and thanked him politely. He gave me a fierce look and said, ‘That’s right. If I hit you, that’s my trouble. If you get angry, that’s your trouble.’ I got the message. It seemed like a really core teaching on karma.”