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I never doubted that he loved me

Lama with Fabrizio Pallotti, 1983

From  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

“Lama just had to look at the kids wrathfully and they shuddered,” Karuna Cayton said. ” I often didn’t want to be around him myself because he criticized me so much. Every morning I’d wonder what he was going to have a go at me about today. But I never doubted that he loved me. He was the only person who could make me feel those two things at once.

“Every night we had ‘money meeting’ with Lama Lhundrup, Lama Pasang and a couple of other monks, such as the driver. Lama Pasang went into Kathmandu nearly every day, because there was no refrigeration in Nepal. Inevitably, if he left with 2,000 rupees he would account for 2,500 or 1,400—never 2,000. So the books were far from being balanced and Lama insisted we keep good books.

“Every year when Lama came back to Kopan he wanted to know how much we had spent. The November course involved a lot of money—shopping for 250 people cost many thousands of rupees. So every night we’d all get together in this room. Lama Lhundrup sat there very quietly doing his mantras. He held the key to the safe. I had everything itemized: a code for petrol, a code for bricks, another for flour, milk, seeds for Lama’s garden. I had ninety different codes. Then Lama Pasang would say, ‘I bought steel rebar today,’ and I’d think, ‘Oh, I don’t have a code for that.’

Lama teaching at VPI, 1983“It seemed that my relationship with Lama was not like what he had with a lot of other people. It was not sweet. Anyway, one night at money meeting I was sick with a fever, it was 9:30 at night and raining. I hadn’t eaten and all I wanted to do was go home, but Lama Pasang was going through his day. I’d say, ‘I gave you 10,000 rupees and there’s only 8,200 accounted for.’ He’d pull out all these scraps of paper from various folds in his robes, with receipts like five rupees for a rickshaw, two rupees for tea and we’re that much closer to the figure. I’d ask for more and he’d start scratching his head and talking to the monks in Nepalese, which I spoke, asking how much they had spent on petrol that day. I was just exhausted.

“After two hours of this, the door flies opens and it’s my worst nightmare. Many people have described how Lama seemed to change sizes. Well, this night he burst through the door like John Wayne into the saloon. He was six foot six, I swear! Lama Pasang was so clever. Without a hint he just slipped out the door, because he knew that if Lama was in the office that late at night he meant business. Next, Lama Lhundrup asks Lama really politely if he’d like a cup of tea or something, and he gets out. So there’s just me, trapped behind the desk.
“This was the first time he’d come to the office at night after returning from being on tour. He sat across from me and started. ‘How much did we spend on powdered milk last year and how many kilos did we buy?’ I said that I didn’t know as I didn’t record kilos. But he steamed right on. How many yards of steel rebar, how many gallons of petrol—when things were sold in meters and liters. How much money did we save by growing our own cauliflowers? On and on for two and a half hours, going right through the books. When I couldn’t answer his questions immediately, he’d berate and belittle me, saying, ‘You’re from America, richest country in the world and you don’t know anything about money!’Lama at a family gathering, 1983

“Then he starts going through the drawers in the office, then through all the files. He even went through the rubbish bin, finding obscure pieces of paper and asking what they were. He was brutal! And I have this aching fever and I just want to go home. I didn’t want to be there! He finds these letters in a drawer written by someone in 1970 or something and he wants to know where that person is now. On and on and on…

“Finally, around midnight he said, ‘Okay, dear, you can go now but I want you back in the office at six o’clock in the morning, because I want to go through the coffee shop’s books then.’”

“I just went outside into the rain and cried. It was all I could do. Then I noticed a kitchen light was on. Kancha often worked until one in the morning preparing for the next day, when breakfast was served early and people taking precepts needed to have tea ready. I thought I’d better have some soup. So I went down and opened the kitchen door, took one step inside and there was Kancha—and Lama Yeshe. All I could think of was escape! But of course he turned and saw me. ‘Yes, dear?’ Like I hadn’t just spent three hours with him. ‘Come in, come in!’ I sauntered in, all defensive and he said, ‘Something?’ I didn’t say anything and he said, ‘You need to hear “I love you”?’”

Lori Cayton was at Kopan, sitting back quietly observing as usual. She could see why Lama tortured Karuna. “He was the one in our family who always got away with everything and had a knack for getting other people to do things for him. I always felt Lama’s method was to teach him how to take care of himself. Lama was the only person I ever saw treat Karuna like that.


Pam Cayton and Karuna Cayton

“I saw how Lama affected my parents, especially my mother who was so touched by him. Lama was so incredible with parents who were worried about cults and such things. People often asked my folks, ‘Is this what your kids are into?’ and they’d say, ‘No, no, Lama Yeshe is not like that at all.’

“But Lama was in Karuna’s face the whole time, often in public. I saw Lama hit him with his big mala several times. Lama never did anything like that to me because I was already so hard on myself. When I told him I wanted to do a three-month retreat at Tushita he said, ‘Oh, so much beating!’ and started hitting himself on the back. I thought, ‘Gosh, Vajrasattva is going to be really tough,’ but because that image of Lama beating himself stayed in my mind the whole time I kept wondering what it meant. Eventually I saw that I didn’t need someone to beat me, because I beat myself up the whole time.”


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