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You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything

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

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Geshe Jampa Tegchok

Seated on a teaching throne at the end of the beautiful old chapel with its immensely high ceilings and stained glass windows, Geshe Tegchok gave his first talk at Manjushri Institute while wearing the oddest square-lensed blue spectacles. Later, Lama Zopa Rinpoche conferred a Chenrezig empowerment, followed by Lama Yeshe’s Tara Cittamani empowerment and six days of commentary by Lama. This was held in what had been the billiard room of the old Priory. Peter Kedge and Connie Miller taped everything. Of the 120 people attending that commentary, 105 stayed on for the retreat.

Lama Yeshe taught twice a day, and although the text lay open before him he did not teach directly from it. There are several different types of commentaries that can be given on a meditative practice. Traditionally, the first teaching explains the meaning of each verse, line and word. Only later will a teacher offer an experiential teaching on the  practice. Contrary to tradition, Lama’s teachings were almost always experiential in nature.

Lama Yeshe’s descriptions of Tara were psychological and accessible, rather than textual. He presented Tara as a vehicle through which to discover one’s own intuitive knowledge and wisdom. “Men sometimes need contact with female energy, otherwise, they go crazy!” Lama explained. His language bridged the  worlds between traditional orthodoxy and modern desire. Tantra became exciting and available as Lama Yeshe brought it to life.

(16769_sl.tif) Lama Yeshe wearing a ceremonial crown of the five dhyani buddhas for the Tara statue procession, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976. Behind him is Yeshe Khadro (Marie Obst) on the left and Wendy Finster and  Ngawang Khyentse on the right.

Every day Jon Landaw led a review of the teachings. He had become an invaluable assistant, though  Lama still teased him mercilessly, calling him, “My Jewish genius!”

From Lama Yeshe’s 1979 Tara Cittamani teachings:

Sometimes Dharma becomes a complete hassle.  Let’s say you have promised to do this sadhana daily, you have commitment. But whenever you see Cittamani Tara you feel sick. “Oh, it’s already midnight!” And you are disaster. But if you can do it in two minutes, that’s okay. So instead of having guilt feelings, just go and do it. Sometimes Westerners take too many commitments and don’t know how to do them. In other words, they are lost again, lost in spiritual materialism. You don’t know what to do. Chenrezig and Tara and all these deities and you don’t know what on earth it means and you don’t understand anymore.

 Instead of becoming helpful for you, Dharma becomes your enemy. Dharma becomes cause for neurosis and guilt. I think that is useless.

In each sadhana you’ll find a refuge prayer, maybe three times, five or six bodhicitta prayers, and some kind of Vajrasattva practice. One good bodhicitta meditation is enough. Put your emphasis on one thing and go quickly over the others. Do this rather than allowing your practice to become a disaster.

 Atisha once said, “Tibetan people devote themselves to a hundred deities and don’t attain one, whereas Indian people devote themselves to one deity and attain a hundred.” I think Atisha is reasonable and correct. The Indian custom is much better than the Tibetan. That’s garbage. You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything.

     24982_ngTara is a perfect example. If you practice every day and do retreat for months, years—maybe you do only Tara retreat for fifty years—then in fifty years, by attaining the realization of Tara, you can do anything. But right now, you are ambitious for other things because you don’t have anything. And the same thing happens with the Dharma. Let’s say that somebody is giving a really high teaching. “Wow! I want to take this one—this one is really powerful!” When you say this you are really on a power trip. You want power. If you are not realistic, then this practice is useless. I’m sorry; I have no room for this. Such a student will never have any satisfaction no matter how many teachings he receives, because he won’t have any practical sadhana within himself.

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Now you know who my boss is

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

 Zia Al Bassam

Zia Al Bassam

Lama Yeshe usually spent Losar at Kopan, but in 1979 he enjoyed the Losar holiday in Dharamsala. Elisabeth Drukier and the recently ordained Zia Bassam were sent ahead to clean his room at Tushita. Dirty rooms now made Lama sick very quickly. “Zia was a meticulous cleaner and we had to do it perfectly,” said Elisabeth. “Lama liked to have boxes of Kleenex everywhere and we learned to line wastebaskets with plastic bags. That was useful, as he was forever spitting. Every time he came back from the West his luggage was filled with boxes of Kleenex and plastic bags.”

“I used to try and tell Lama it wasn’t appropriate to spit into wastebaskets,” said Peter Kedge, “but even at the time I got the impression Lama had a reason for doing it, even if it annoyed people.”

Many of Lama Yeshe’s students and some Mount Everest Centre boys followed him to Dharamsala to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings and attend the big Losar puja. All the Sangha were given offerings of 100 rupees each, instead of the usual five or ten. The boys had never had so much money and were thrilled. But sure enough, as they piled into the new Jeep to go back up the steep road to Tushita, Lama calmly turned around from his front seat, held out his hand and said, “Okay, give me your money.”

Max Redlich also followed Lama to Tushita. “I always felt Lama would take care of me forever. He was performing a series of protector pujas at that time and every night I played the big drum for them. From where I sat I could peek through the lines and see Lama’s face. Every time he clashed the cymbals, I knew I had to bang the drum. These pujas went on for days. Sometimes Lama Zopa Rinpoche was there, sometimes he wasn’t. At the time I didn’t even know what kind of pujas they were. I’d go into daydreams with business plans for ‘when we get back to Tibet,’ which was a popular refrain. I was making all these plans in my head for hotels and making money to bring Dharma to the West. After one puja Gen Jampa Wangdu leaned over and rubbed his two fingers together in that universal money gesture, showing me he had read my mind exactly.
15864_sl“One afternoon Lama told me I didn’t need to attend that day’s puja. I felt a little left out and went off to my room. Suddenly I knew something was going to happen. I could hear the puja starting up, the drums going, but I just sat there, completely tense. Suddenly, Maureen came running in and said, ‘Quick, someone’s trying to set fire to all the building materials for Lama’s new house!’ I raced off and caught a guy just about to set fire to a pile of woodshavings. I managed to talk him out of it. I’m sure Lama had foreseen this, which was why he didn’t want me to be in the puja.”

In May, when the teachings were over, Lama Zopa Rinpoche went off to Lawudo to lead a nyung-nay retreat, while Lama Yeshe stayed on at Tushita Retreat Centre. He loved being in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and Trijang Rinpoche were just down the road and Ling Rinpoche just around the hill, and where he was under less pressure than at Kopan or in the Western centers. He had great respect for his teachers and once told Jon Landaw, “If ever you need help deciding whether to do something or not, just consult Trijang Rinpoche. You don’t even have to tell him your question. Just formulate it in your mind, ask for a response, and he will answer yes or no.”

One day, Lama took Piero Cerri with him to meet Trijang Rinpoche. The conversation was in Tibetan, but afterwards Lama told Piero, “Now you know who my boss is.” Every Tibetan monk had a “boss” and Kyabjé Trijang Rinpoche was undoubtedly Lama Yeshe’s.

“Lama appeared to rely on logic rather than magic to predict a person’s future,” said Piero. “He’d say, ‘You are behaving like this, so you will end up becoming like this.’ It was a mixture of clairvoyance and common sense but very precise and sharp. Lama always knew exactly what I was up to.”

Max Redlich had no doubts on this score. “Sometimes Lama would walk around the garden. I found him so powerful I was too petrified to come out of my room in case I ran into him. Once when our paths crossed he just looked me slowly up and down, as he often did, and I knew he could see every atom of me.”

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Trijang Rinpoche

When Peter Kedge found some tapes of Trijang Rinpoche’s commentary on Heruka, Lama immediately went into retreat with them in his big room. He completed that retreat on 9 May 1979 and began making a batch of blessed pills. A student typed up a list of the astonishing ingredients in those pills: Lama Tsongkhapa’s hair and bone, Lama Tsongkhapa’s robe, Swiss cheese, mud, Heruka Yamantaka mandala sand from the Dalai Lama, Sera Hayagriva torma, Trijang Rinpoche’s dutsi (blessed nectar) pill, white raisins, mango, geranium, Dutsi Chömen from the Dalai Lama, whiskey, butter, saffron, honey, “Evening in Missaula” tea, peppermint, elder flowers and snakegrass were just a few. The finished pills were the size of a small blueberry.

On 26 March 1979 Lama had written to Massimo Corona to inform him that Geshe Yeshe Tobden was now ready to go to Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa.

“It was actually His Holiness the Dalai Lama who sent me to Italy, not Lama Yeshe,” said Geshe Yeshe Tobden. “Claudio Cipullo lived near me in Dharamsala while I was quite sick. He was moved by seeing I was a very serious monk and meditator, so he and Piero went to the Dalai Lama and asked him to send me to Italy. Claudio was the main one. I am a Sera Mé monk and knew Lama Yeshe from Buxa. He had repeatedly asked me to go to Italy, but I never agreed with him. Then His Holiness asked me to go and said it would be very beneficial. I stayed two years in Italy. Nothing shocked me about Westerners because I had already seen so many in Dharamsala.”

Everyone knew Lama Yeshe was visiting the meditators in their stone huts above Dharamsala in search of geshes to send to the West. Rumor had it he accused one of them of just sitting in the mountains thinking about his bank account, which was exactly what he was doing. His brother had just left him some money and he was sitting in his hut thinking about what to do with it.

Lama Yeshe’s half-brother, Geshe Tsering, had left Kopan and was now living at Tushita Retreat Centre. Students who wished to offer money to him were instructed by Lama to put it into his own account instead. Max Redlich thought this a little unfair, but Lama told him, “Dear, I look after them all from birth to the grave. Who takes care? I take care!”

Geshe Tsering: “The only thing Lama Yeshe ever sent me from the West was a book of postcard scenes. When Geshe Thinley and I were in Sera we didn’t have one paisa, so I wrote to Lama Yeshe about how when we came from Tibet we are five people with only seventy-five rupees between us, which I had shared around evenly. So Geshe Thinley and I wrote to him together saying, ‘If you want to help please do so right now, not after we are dead.’ After that he sent us 600 rupees, but said he had to keep money for his small disciples. I was always fighting with him over money. Eventually he gave me pocket money of 100 rupees a month, but he didn’t give anything to Thinley.”

Geshe Tsering at Tushita, 1979

Geshe Tsering

However, Lama had set Geshe Tsering up for life at Tushita and he also had a job for Geshe Thinley at Chenrezig Institute in Queensland. When Geshe Thinley heard this he asked his brother for some clothes, as he owned almost nothing. But that was his style. Lama gave him a shirt, a zen (monks’ shawl) and a shemtab (monks’ skirt).

“Lama loved Geshe Thinley,” said Peter Kedge. “He spent time with him and really looked after him. One time I was at Tushita and Geshe Thinley was in the room. Suddenly Lama said to me, ‘Ask Geshe Thinley some Dharma questions.’ I don’t think I came up with anything too profound, but Lama was keen to show Geshe Thinley that his students were studying and had some Dharma understanding. I suppose that was also part of persuading him to go to Australia.”

Some Westerners were even more poverty-stricken than the Tibetans, and received a lot less sympathy. An American monk, Jampa Gendun, formerly Sanford Jaffe and known by most as Chaitanya, had worked on the first English translation of Lama Chöpa, The Guru Puja. Now he was penniless.

Jampa Gendun: “I was an IMI monk, though I had been ordained by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. I was so broke I was about to go to Tehran to teach English because the money there was so good. When Gareth Sparham told Lama Yeshe about this plan he said, ‘No no no, he musn’t go. Tell him I’ll give him what he needs to stay.’

“My parents were dead and I had nobody to help me, so I accepted Lama’s offer to stay at the FPMT’s Inji Gompa. I ran up a bill of eighty rupees a month until the monk in charge threw me out, with a warning not to tell Lama Yeshe about it. It was terribly unfair.

“I spoke Tibetan and knew that many Tibetans were openly critical of Lama Yeshe, but not of Geshe Dhargyey, although both of them had been personally requested by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to teach Westerners. The Tibetans thought this was a total waste of time. Their resentment of Lama was based on jealousy, because he was successful.”

The English translation of The Guru Puja (Lama Chöpa), written by the First Panchen Lama, was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in June 1979. Garrey Foulkes did the cover illustration and the translators included Alex Berzin and Judith Diane Short, Jampa Gendun’s girlfriend from their Rajneeshi days, known in those days as Priya. Over thirty years later this translation is still in use around the world.

Right view is everywhere, anywhere!

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

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Lama Yeshe and Harvey Horrocks , ILTK

Lama again stayed at Joyce Petschek’s Casalone up the hill from Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa(ILTK) and Joyce drove him to the center every day. Zia was officially the lamas’ cook and housekeeper for the tour, but Francesca Piatti cooked for them in Italy, simply because Lama liked having her around. Petty jealousies surfaced among the other students and it was decreed someone else should have the privilege of preparing the lamas’ meals. Lama settled this particular brouhaha by simply refusing to have anyone but Francesca in the kitchen. “Lama told me that being with me was like being with his mother,” she said.

In Madison he had told Petey Shane the same thing. Sometimes it seemed Lama Yeshe preferred the company of some people to others, given this is the common interpretation of preferential treatment. Over time however, it became clear he had no favorites and kept by him those people who needed him the most—and they were not necessarily those the most determined to see him.

Lama was certainly a mother to Lama Zopa Rinpoche. One student visiting Casalone left in a sulk because Lama had not met her expectations. “I felt left out in the cold, insulted. I was looking for my shoes outside when I looked up through the window and saw Lama Lama Zopa Rinpoche sitting at lunch. He had just lifted his spoon and I could tell that he simply couldn’t put it in his mouth. He just stared at it. Somehow I immediately knew Rinpoche was seeing all the beings in the universe who suffer from hunger and cold and that was why he was unable to eat. My sulky tantrum melted away. At that moment Lama Yeshe spoke to him in the tenderest voice, telling him again and again to please, please eat for his own benefit. It was in Tibetan, but I could understand enough. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Franco Piatti, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, Pomaia, Siliana Bosa

Franco Piatti, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, Pomaia, Siliana Bosa

In 1979 Franco and Francesca Piatti moved their jewelry business and silver workshop to ILTK. “We realized there would soon be quite a few permanent residents there and we were in a position to provide some of them with employment,” said Franco. “We renamed the business Shiné, which in Tibetan means ‘calm abiding.’ Lama said that was a good name.”

Lama Yeshe set about transforming his Italian hippie students into serious and responsible citizens. In Milan, Raffaello Longo was working for Massimo Corona’s fashion business, Karma. “I didn’t want to be there,” said Raffa, “but Lama told me it was good for me. He said, ‘I want you young people to learn some proper job so you have confidence in yourself and confidence to reach enlightenment. If you can’t do a simple job, then how are you going to become Buddha?’ I went back to Milan but every year I asked Lama when I could come back and live at the institute again.”

Marco Cipullo was an inveterate hippie. When Lama Yeshe spotted him working in the ILTK office he immediately told him to cut his long hair and wear a proper tie and jacket to work. “I cut my hair and changed my clothes the very next day,” said Marco, “but I was still suffering because I was from a rich family who had given me a proper fascist education. I was the only one there with a clean jacket and good clothes. I said to Lama, ‘The hippies are killing me because of the jacket!’ Lama told me, ‘If you want to communicate with hippies it’s not difficult, because you have the same culture. But with the straight people you have to try harder.’”

Before moving to Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Piero Siriani had never lived anywhere but Rome. With no knowledge whatsoever of gardening, Piero began to tidy up the grounds. His original intention was simply to clear the construction debris, but he soon began thinking about flowers. Naturally, Lama Yeshe noticed this and the two went off to buy things and make plans. To Lama’s delight the center soon had fruit trees and a vegetable garden.

Cherry Greene (Ven. Thubten Chodron)

Cherry Greene (Ven. Thubten Chodron)

Lama Yeshe conferred an empowerment into the highest yoga tantra practice of Damtsig Dorje (Skt. Samayavajra) to fifty-five people, followed by a commentary on the meditation practice. The special quality of Damtsig Dorje is to purify negative actions in relation to guru devotion.

Lama Yeshe wanted his students to acquire a realistic understanding of tantra, a word much misunderstood in Western society. He began slowly.

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings in Italy, July 1979:
For the next thirty minutes, you just check up what you feel. I want you to meditate on your own experience. I don’t want you to think about Buddhism, about lam-rim, tantra, yoga, lama or any idea. You just watch; check up whatever you experience. Maybe you have pain. We generally feel the energy of pain as sort of concrete, but if you check up it is also like space energy, like light. I want you to just comtemplate that experience, meditate on that. Or if you feel happy, check up in the same way. Just contemplate. Don’t think that pain is bad, pleasure is good. Don’t engage in such emotional reactions, good or bad. Just emphasize natural contemplation, concentration, without too much intellect. Even if there is depression, just look at that depression in the mind. I want you to contemplate that depression, which is in the mind, not in the physical. At a certain point, that pain becomes space; you become space. Pain becomes space; pleasure becomes space. You become space, like the sky. If you contemplate like that, without emotional involvement, eventually you can have this experience. And that is the time you should not be afraid. Just hold. You don’t worry; I don’t want you to worry. Just contemplate continuously without being afraid. And in that moment you experience losing your ego.lwb1610

      Every sense object that we experience always appears to us as a concrete entity. There is a kind of concreteness that appears from the object itself. Normally we say that whatever we perceive in the world is real. “Everything I see or hear or touch is true, true, true!” We never question this at all. But this is wrong. So now we are checking philosophically. You might think that checking philosophically is difficult…right view, wrong view. It’s not difficult; it’s simple. Whatever appears to your eye, to your ear, and so on…instead of accepting it, believing it, you are skeptical. You don’t accept at face value how things appear. Be a little suspicious, a little bit “I’m not sure.” To find the right view, you know, you don’t need to look at space, you don’t need to look at your lama’s face or at Buddha’s face. You need to look at the face of your normal way of looking at things, your normal view. When you observe your view, you see that the right view isn’t there. In other words, you find the wrong view in your normal way of looking at things.

      Don’t think “Wrong view is in Italy but right view is in the Himalayan Mountains.” Don’t think, “Buddha, Buddha, Buddha. Buddha has right view so if I always look at Buddha then somehow I’ll discover right view.” Not like that. Right view is everywhere, anywhere! The beautiful face of shunyata (emptiness) is existent within all phenomena.

      Of course we understand that this concrete appearance of ego cannot be extinguished immediately; it takes a long time to eliminate it completely. There are gross levels and subtle levels to be purified. What we can do right now is to loosen our tight conception a little bit, our uptight view, little by little. Even though the concrete appearance is still there, by understanding how it is wrong, then you loosen your tight conception that holds it to be true. “Of course it appears, but it’s not true. It doesn’t exist as it appears.”

      So then you contemplate, What is my consciousness? Consciousness is not concrete. It is like a lake, having the ability to reflect. It is not form, not color, but it is always there. Even if you have a dull, dark experience, the consciousness perceiving that darkness still has the nature of clarity. I want you to contemplate that. When you observe your concrete experience, somehow it automatically disappears and the object is the clear consciousness again. When you observe that it disappears, you should think that this disappearing is more real. This gives an injection to the mind.

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Zong Rinpoche, ILTK

 So what I’m saying is that the clear energy of consciousness is with you twenty-four hours a day. Even when you are angry, clarity is there. It is basic fundamental human nature—pure, beautiful. Our consciousness is like the ocean. In that space is the potential for ego—whether positive, negative, good, bad, or ugly. It has the ability to reflect any kind of thing you want to see.


Tantra shows that human beings have the capacity for limitless enjoyment and at the same time the ability to be free from the grasping mind. I want you to understand that Buddha’s teaching is not saying that human beings should not be happy or that they cannot have pleasure. The problem is that the unclear ego grasps at concrete entities, which are non-existent. If you didn’t have this grasping, then you could have as much enjoyment as possible, any kind of pleasure, any kind of bliss.

Lama was totally behind the idea

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

23298_ngFrom Sydney, the party went directly to Chenrezig Institute, just in time for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim course for 120 people. No one could ever have guessed this would be the last time the two lamas would visit Chenrezig together. At the end of the month Frau Kalff was scheduled to teach a seminar called The Mind in Jungian and Buddhist Psychology. This was her only visit to Australia. Lama Yeshe encouraged Patrick Jansen, an Australian Jungian analyst, to give talks at Chenrezig and Tara House, using the sand-play method and dream analysis.

Chenrezig was booked out. Geshe Loden and Zasep Tulku, whose teaching contract was about to expire, had been living in what was called the Geshe House at the top of the hill. When Lama and Rinpoche arrived at Chenrezig Institute, they were housed in a second house, the Sangha House. A library and new dormitories had been built below the gompa and work on a communal laundry and a family center was underway. Yeshe Khadro was still Chenrezig’s director and American monk Scott Brusso was working as the spiritual program coordinator.

The Family Centre was Denise Fenner’s project. Denise, her monk husband, Peter, and Lindsay Pratt undertook most of the fund-raising and construction work. Those without children were not really interested. “Things were not good for children at Chenrezig,” said Denise. “The ‘serious meditators’ had no time for them, they were a nuisance.” But Lama was totally behind the idea. At a meeting on August 9 with Yeshe Khadro, Peter Kedge and Chenrezig’s parents, Lama shared some of his views about caring for and educating the children in FPMT center communities:

Loden Geshe, Lama Yeshe, Zasep Tulku

Zasep Tulku, Lama Yeshe and Loden Geshe

In our centers there are many children, but because parents are so busy the children don’t get much attention. Instead people tell them, “Don’t come near!” Sometimes the children don’t get fed on time, or to bed on time. So we need time for this, time for that. Any education system for children should create some kind of stability for them and bring harmony and balance. Also it shouldn’t be extremely external or extremely internal. We should develop a kind of education in which we put Buddhist philosophy into scientific language and in a simplified form. How the mind works, how karma works, and so on. In this way, we produce a different kind of human being.

      In the West, there are so many books for children. But some of these books need some kind of transformation so that they communicate a better way of thinking. You can produce such books and stories yourselves. You know Dharma. The contents can be in more scientific language, rather than in too heavy a religious aspect. Sometimes a religious presentation can be heavy. Your stories should be light, gentle, and yet at the same time precise to convey clear thinking to the children.

      You should have a place for the children that is beautiful, with nice grass and flowers, like a park. It is a bit dirty around here. The environment should be clean, not dusty, so the children will stay healthy. There is no need to buy more land; there is already much land here that isn’t being used. 

Loden Geshe and Zasep Tulku

Loden Geshe and Zasep Tulku

After maybe twenty years our generation will disappear, so we need to be concerned for the next generation, the generation of our children. It is a big job. My black nun, Max, has written a paper on this, but now she is in America making business. So maybe you can start children’s education from here. It would be good if you insist that parents have to take responsibility, that they help with the school and with what is taught there. Obviously, they don’t have to teach, but the school should be a collaborative effort.

 

 

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