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:
Lama 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.
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.
“Next, 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.”