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Natural and uncomplicated

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

12877_slAfter the German course, the lamas departed for England. At Manjushri Institute, the lamas stayed in Monique’s cottage, named after Monique and Staffan Berghok, the couple who leased it for a tidy sum but rarely visited. The upstairs rooms were kept exclusively for the lamas’ use and the rest of the house leased to students. Manjushri was still an uncomfortable place to stay. Parts of the main building remained unsafe, the chemicals used to combat dry-rot stank terribly and everyone suffered from coughs and colds. Even Monique’s cottage had a dead crow stuck in the chimney.

A big change at Manjushri in 1979 had been the springtime arrival of Geshe Jampa Tegchok to teach the Geshe Studies Program. Geshe Tegchok entered Sera Jé at the age of eight. After escaping from Tibet to India he had been one of the principal teachers at Buxa Duar and then continued his own studies at Sanskrit University in Varanasi. Prior to accepting Lama Yeshe’s invitation, Geshe Tegchok had been lecturing at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. He and Lama Yeshe knew each other well. Geshe Tegchok was considered by all who knew him to be an exceptional geshe. Geshe Sopa had tried to lure him to America and Geshe Rabten had wanted him to come to Switzerland.

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

“I did not have any feeling of rejection for teaching Westerners. I thought it would be very good if Buddhism was taught to the very bright, intelligent people of the West,” Geshe Tegchok explained. “Not only would it help them, but the Chinese had said religion was poison. If we could prove to Westerners that Buddhism has worth, that it is not poison, then that would indirectly counter the Chinese view.”

“While I was in Sarnath I had many discussions with Lama Yeshe about teaching Westerners,” Geshe Tegchok continued. “He said to me, ‘You know, you have to teach anyway and it’s better to teach those who don’t know any Dharma at all.’ He said that to me quite often, even before Geshe Thubten Loden went to Australia. He even mentioned several places I could go, but I was too busy in Sarnath at the time. We talked about what kind of teachers to bring to the West and thought it would be best not to send the highest geshes to teach beginners. We thought that when a firm base was established, then more qualified teachers could be invited. There was also a general concern among the monks in Tibetan monasteries that if many of the good teachers were invited to the West, there would not be so many left for them. Their studies could be harmed. Since the monasteries are the base from which teachers arise, it would not be good if too many left.”

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

The first Geshe Studies course was on lo-rig, the basic psychology of the mind and its various functions. After his arrival, Geshe Tegchok first taught the topic of drub-ta, or the study of different schools of philosophical tenets, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Nearly all the monks and nuns who were resident at Manjushri at the time as well as several lay students participated in the Geshe Studies classes and met several times each week for lively discussions on the teachings they had received.

The moment Lama Yeshe arrived in any center the atmosphere around him became deliciously charged. Lama Zopa Rinpoche remained the thin ethereal ascetic, whereas Lama Yeshe was earthy and warm, with his jokes about chocolate and “preaking out.” His wide smile touched everybody, his shining face was a continual blessing and his style of teaching Dharma was natural and uncomplicated. He told the students it was more meaningful to take refuge sincerely in the bathroom every morning than to sit down Tibetan style. He did not want them pretending to be Tibetans.

The Manjushri students had built a special high teaching throne for him. “Cut it down to here,” he said, pointing low. The whole thing had to be taken apart and remade.

Everybody wanted a private interview. One girl was upset after hearing a story that Lama had said he planned to die on the steps of Manjushri Institute. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “When I come back, you can be my mummy.” A year later she was pregnant. “Remember what you said about my baby, Lama?” she asked him. “Yes, dear,” he said. “I said that to open your mind to the possibility of having a baby.” He then did puja on her stomach, rang bells and added, “You’ll get along very well with this baby – he’s a friend of mine.”

“It took forever to get an interview with him,” said Sharon Gross, who had stopped at Manjushri on her way from California to Dharamsala to study Tibetan medicine with Dr. Lobsang Dolma. “Piero was limiting interviews to ten minutes, after which he’d barge into the room, pick you up and throw you out. Then Lama told me it was better for me to stay at Manjushri, study Tibetan language and work in publishing. Whaaaat? Staying in the north of England was definitely not what I had in mind. ‘Also, dear, the West is better for your health,’ he said. That was true. I never went back to the East again.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim course, attended by nearly 200 people, ran concurrently with Frau Kalff’s Jungian course at which there were thirty-five students in attendance. The lectures were scheduled so people could go to both. Frau Kalff set up a sand-play room and Lama Yeshe tried never to miss her lectures. He encouraged the students to think about Western psychology in Buddhist terms—and to think about Buddhism in psychological terms. A few individuals chose to specialize in the psychology lectures, but most preferred taking teachings from genuine Tibetan lamas.22154_ng

Lama Yeshe was extremely interested in the modern psychological perspective. He respected Frau Kalff, whose lectures worldwide were attended by thousands of people. Lama’s broad-mindedness was also reflected in the range of books in the Manjushri Institute library, many of which had been donated by students. It was becoming a handsome and eclectic collection. Lama loved that kind of openness.

Openness was very much the theme of the talk he gave at a residents’ meeting. Manjushri Institute was to be a place for everybody, with room for families as well as Sangha. Lama praised the huge organic vegetable gardens. Craftspeople had set up all manner of workshops in the outbuildings.

Ronnie King still ran the Manjushri kitchens. Lama was about to give teachings on Tara Chittamani again and she wanted to attend. He told her, “Don’t do it. Better you are there in the kitchen, then I know everything is all right.” Ronnie had assembled a good team of cooks, which included Susanna Parodi. Susanna had decided not to return to Italy after all.
Susanna Parodi: “I was happy there, just cleaning and waiting for Lama to come. But after a while I worried I was ruining my hands. My stupid vanity! When Lama arrived he came into the kitchen, as he always did, then he grabbed my hands and looked at them closely. ‘Susanna, don’t worry. They are not ruined,’ he said, and hugged me really hard.

“One day someone delivered a wonderful chocolate cake for Lama. Piero and I decided to try just a little bit but oh, it was so good! So we tried a bit more. The next thing we knew we had eaten it all! Lama gave us some trouble over that!”

Lama also gave Piero some more trouble over his driving, finally declaring, “I will never ride with you any more!” Some years later Piero lost part of a leg in a car accident in India.

25013_ngUnder the direction of Ngawang Chötak, Publications for Wisdom Culture presented Lama Yeshe with a list of the teachings they wanted to publish. “You people, you make the books,” Lama told them, indicating he did not have to know every detail of their program. He told Robina, “I want my books in the supermarket!” He wanted them read by all kinds of people, not just the spiritually inclined. Harvey Horrocks had long discussions with Lama Yeshe over the intricacies of copyright as it applied to FPMT center geshes, translators and teachers.
Robina was having a hard time. “I was terribly unhappy with so much personal garbage in my head. I didn’t ask for an interview because I knew Lama could see what was happening for me. He saw my bad mind, saw me lose control. I shouted at people and abused them. And I was jealous of Chötak because he was the director [of Publications for Wisdom Culture].”

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The first thing is to be practical

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

(16690_sl.tif) Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, Pomaia, Italy, 1979.

Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, Pomaia, Italy, 1979.

On 17 July 1979 Lama Yeshe held a meeting with the Sangha. He began by explaining three steps in learning the lam-rim: First the teacher gives the outline, then the students discuss it, and third, they apply it in daily life.

From Lama Yeshe’s talk to the IMI Sangha at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in 1979:

I advise you people not to take high commitments. It is not necessary. Our Western culture civilization can be very difficult. Last year we were incredibly fortunate to invite Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, who is absolutely Buddha. It was incredible, so fortunate, and many people took initiations. But this year many are coming crying to me, saying, “Lama, I broke my vow!” I understand. I cry too. When I come to the centers, there are so many things to do that sometimes it overwhelms my time. But I cry differently. So it is important that we not take so many commitments to do heavy sadhanas. The first thing is to be practical, not just to make a Tibetan trip. Ritual is unimportant. Even though some lamas say that ritual is important…well, yes. It’s not necessary for you to be revolutionary, saying, “I prefer spaghetti life; I want Italian Dharma, not Tibetan Buddhism anymore!” The truth is, we are Italian sentient beings practicing to become enlightened. That’s all. You didn’t become Tibetan monks and nuns.

      Once you have taken a certain initiation you should check up. You should ask the lama, “What does this mean? What is this initiation? What is its purpose?” If you receive that empowerment, then you should get the benefit of its purpose. So in order to get that benefit, you should make a retreat, shouldn’t you? Each time you receive an initiation, you should make a satisfactory retreat. Then it becomes warm inside. We should be practical and then we’ll be happy. This is how we take the peaceful comfortable path to enlightenment.

Claudio Cipullo and Piero Cerri, ILTK, 1979Lama recommended the Sangha find a house of their own close to the center. Then the discussion moved on to the role of the gekö (disciplinarian). The Italians wanted an Italian gekö, but a vote was taken and it was agreed that American nun Thubten Chodron (Cherry Greene), who had gone there to be spiritual program coordinator in 1978, would keep the role for six months. Finally, with regard to wearing robes Lama told his monks and nuns to practice discretion and wear Western clothes when appropriate. “For example, one can dress in the common way to go and visit your family,” he told them. “Also, if you are looking for work you cannot go dressed as a monk. If someone has to visit a public office he can wear normal clothes and change after.” It was all wonderful common sense.

 

 

Even your breath in the West gives benefit

13893_udFrom  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

One day a telegram arrived at Joyce’s house. At first Piero thought it was from some Dharma hippie. “It read something like, ‘Your compassion is beyond the limits of the mind. At this time I think I have to meditate, so I cannot come to teach on the courses in Europe. Anyway, Piero is with you and he can teach as well as I can.’” It was signed, “Zopa.”

Piero Cerri: “I couldn’t believe it really was from Rinpoche. I didn’t want to show it to Lama but later, when we were in the taxi going to Oxford Street, I read it to him. As I read it out the meaning became clear to me, because Lama was repeating the words and stopping all the time. Then I realized. ‘Rinpoche says he wants to meditate,’ said Lama. He didn’t budge an inch. He was unsurprised and totally cool, but it was a serious thing. We had courses booked at Manjushri Institute, at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, in Holland and in Spain. All the advertising had already gone around and the airline tickets were arranged. Rinpoche backing out was a major upset. Lama went to his class and sent me off to send a telegram. The tone was like, ‘Yes, I understand. But this time everything is ready and you have to come. So, please come.’ It was very well written and not heavy and I had to send it ‘most urgent’, which cost UK£40 back then.

“Later Lama said to me, ‘Lama Zopa Rinpoche is not playing games. In reality he is putting himself down as the lowest of the low.’ He told me once that whoever doubts Rinpoche doubts Buddha.”

The telegram was delivered to Kopan where Jacie Keeley received it. Peter Kedge was in India, having left instructions that if Lama Zopa Rinpoche didn’t return from Lawudo by a certain date, Jacie would have to go up and fetch him back.

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Lawudo Retreat Centre, Nepal, Solu Khumbu, Thangme Gompa

Jacie Keeley: “That date came and went. I was facing a difficult situation, so I went to see Serkong Dorje Chang at Swayambhu. He made observations with the dice and said, ‘If you don’t get Lama Zopa Rinpoche now, you will never get Lama Zopa Rinpoche down.’ I borrowed money from Marcel and hired a helicopter.” The monsoon weather had already started and flights to and from the mountains would stop completely once the monsoon rains arrived in full force.

“The sky was terribly overcast,” Jacie continued, “until we swerved and the clouds opened like the Red Sea. We landed below Lawudo Gompa, because there was no place to land beside it. I ran up the path to the cave, still weak with hepatitis while the pilot was shouting from below, ‘Run faster, the clouds are coming!’ I got to the top and there was Rinpoche. He said, ‘Didn’t you get my letter? I’m not coming this year.’ I told him I didn’t know about the letter and he didn’t have to come if he didn’t want to, but then he said, ‘Let me make some observations.’

“The Sherpas packed Rinpoche’s things, grabbed some food and a thermos and raced down to the helicopter. By the time we got there they had a little folding table and a chair set up so Rinpoche could have a cup of tea. He had to sit down, drink the tea and get into the helicopter. There he sat, not looking at anybody. Rinpoche’s mother and sister were hanging off the helicopter, tears pouring down their cheeks. They only let go at the last moment.

“We got to Kathmandu safely and when we were in the taxi Rinpoche told me, ‘I have never prayed so hard in my life not to have to go to the West. But the whole time I was making these prayers I could feel there were stronger prayers being said and that mine wouldn’t work.’” Rinpoche said later that just before the helicopter arrived, which was at the end of his morning session, a vision of a row of Westerners appeared in front of him, chanting the first line of the dedication prayer, Ge wa di yi nyur du dag (“Due to the merits of these virtuous actions…”).[1] He thought this meant his retreat was probably over. He also commented that Jacie had been very respectful in the way she presented the situation to him.

13900_udJacie stayed on at Kopan with Karuna Cayton, Maureen O’Malley and the boys throughout the summer monsoon. Every day she trudged up the hill from Chötak’s house, through mud and leeches and pouring rain to endless meals of potatoes—boiled, fried or mashed. Monsoon food. She repainted the office, added bright cushions and taught the boys basic geography, so they could know where their lamas were in the world.

“Americans are so insulated. Even though I was a college graduate I told them Greece was an island. I showed them a picture of downtown Chicago in rush hour and asked them if they had ever seen anything like that before and they said, ‘Yeah, Asan Tole!’ In their minds flashy cars were the same as ox-carts, goats and box-wallahs,” said Jacie.

When Lama Yeshe met up with Rinpoche again in Europe he told him, “Even your breath in the West gives benefit.” This is similar to what people used to say to Lama Tsongkhapa.

[1]    This Tibetan phrase begins a common dedication prayer, which has been translated as: Due to the merits of these virtuous actions / May I quickly attain the state of a guru-buddha / And lead all living beings, without exception, / Into that enlightened state.

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