Natural and uncomplicated
From 1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
After 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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Under 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].”