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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.