Who said Jesus didn’t teach shunyata?
From 1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
The Mount Everest Centre daily schedule began when the boys were awakened at 6:00 am; they washed and dressed and then went to the gompa for puja. They had breakfast at 8:00 am and then cleaned the grounds until 10:00 am, shouting mantras all the time. This was followed by memorization until mid-day and a half-hour painting class until lunch. After lunch, they had Tibetan grammar classes and English classes. In the middle of the afternoon they had a tea break, after which there was Tibetan writing class, teachings on the various texts they were studying, and debating of those texts until dinner at 7:30 pm. After dinner the younger boys then debated in the gompa from 8:00 to 9:00 pm, when they would be sent to bed. The older boys often studied late into the night. In addition to their class studies, every boy, perhaps with the exception of the rinpoches, took their turn at working in the kitchen, helping with construction work around the monastery and working in the garden.
Pam Philip became one of the painting teachers and held an exhibition of the boys’ work, which was very bright and fresh. “Lots of people who had been at the November course came to the exhibition and bought paintings,” Pam recalled. “Lama was wandering about and came up close to me. Indicating a woman who had just been speaking to me, he said, ‘Let her have whatever she wants.’ Then he walked on. Well, this woman decided she didn’t want one of the boys’ paintings but instead wanted a very nice old thangka that belonged to the monastery instead. I told her it wasn’t one of the boys’ works. She offered to pay something for it. Remembering Lama’s words, I asked her how much and she said, ‘Three.’ I said, ‘300 rupees?’ ‘No, three rupees,’ she replied. I thought, ‘My God, what planet is she from?’ I said that I was sorry but this was a very old thangka and very valuable. Even 300 rupees would be ridiculous. Then she just started to freak out and cry and I realized I had blown it. She didn’t get the thangka, but I really felt I had not done what Lama had said to do. He had some insight into this woman and wanted to make her happy, and I hadn’t followed through. If it was some kind of test then I failed it.”
Pam continued, “I often watched how Lama dealt with people who were really difficult. Instead of rejecting them, Lama embraced them. On the other hand he often ridiculed those who you thought were so nice, embarrassing them in public. You were always wondering whether this was something to benefit that person or yourself.
“Lama often handed me a Time magazine and asked me questions about worldly affairs; I had absolutely no idea. Once he asked me to open this new suitcase he had, with a fancy latch. I couldn’t do it and he said, ‘Pam, I think you need to go back to the West for a while.’ I knew he wanted me to be of practical use in the world.”
Karuna had brought a copy of The Essence Gospel of Peace to Kopan with him. “They were beautifully written in verse and Lama loved them,” said Karuna. “When I read them to 200 students after the course, there was a stunned silence. Lama was sitting on the throne above me. He broke the silence by commenting, ‘Who said Jesus didn’t teach shunyata? This proves he did. Please put a copy of these in the library.’”
Elea Redel stayed on after the November course. “One night I felt I was just boiling over. I ran across Lama standing outside in his big fluffy monk’s cape and told him I was exploding. He slapped me on the shoulder with his mala and ordered, ‘You go to puja!’ It was about to start and I had planned to miss it, but I did feel better afterward. I was always escaping from things and running into Lama. When he asked me, ‘How are you?’ I muttered something about self-cherishing and he said, ‘Where is your self-cherishing mind?’ Just the way he said it made me realize I mustn’t exaggerate my ego.”
“I wanted to retreat but I had ‘love problems,’” Elea recalled. ‘So, why aren’t you with this man anymore?’ Lama asked. I muttered about suffering and attachment and he said, ‘Attachment? There is attachment all the time. In Tibet we say there are three ways to work with attachment: you can cut your hair and change your dress, you can get married, or you can live alone, not need anybody and find the energies within yourself.’ Later, Lama asked me to go and work in the Italian center, because I spoke English. I said wouldn’t it be better if I went to France because I am French? ‘We need people all over the world’, he told me.”