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We react, react, react

(13147_pr-2.psd) In the spring of 1978, Jan Willis arranged for Lama Yeshe to teach a course on Tibetan Buddhism at the University of California’s Oakes College on the Santa Cruz campus during the spring trimester, which ran approximately from mid-March through the end of May. Photos by Jon Landaw.From  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Discriminating Between the Middle and the Extremes, chapter 5, at Kopan, December 1980:

Up to now we have explained the calm abiding (shamatha) side so tonight we are going to continue with the side of penetrative wisdom (vipasyana) in detail.

 So regarding what are we deluded? We are deluded with regard to the truth, with regard to dependent phenomena. We discussed this previously. This refers to words, the names of things, and their meanings and how they are connected, how they are habituated and become concepts. We have to understand that the notion of interdependence is a conventional reality. Thus, it is important to know conventional reality, relative phenomena, and the way in which they exist. It is about this that we are deluded. This also includes how we ourselves exist; we are also deluded about what we are. You know, Chandrakirti, the great Indian pandit, himself said that understanding relative conventional reality is the method leading to an understanding of absolute truth. By understanding the structure of relative compassion, then we are able to transcend, to go beyond that. We are no longer caught in the bondage of the relative bubble.

So, it is with regard to the fundamental truth that we are deluded. Let’s take, for example, Jon. Because of the way that I am deluded, my superstition is mixed up about the name “Jon” and the meaning of Jon. When I hear the name Jon, then I get a sort of artificial picture of what I think is the reality of him. I cannot perceive his real reality because the means of my understanding is through words, through this name. But the name “Jon” is here (Lama holding his hand up in front of his face), like this, so it is through this that I must try to look, to find out his reality. But the name is not the reality, this artificial cloud picture is not the reality, so already I am deluded. I am deluded in the beginning and in the end. The result is that deluded imprints are repeatedly placed in the mind. You understand?

 (13070_pr-2.PSD) In the spring of 1978, Jan Willis arranged for Lama Yeshe to teach a course on Tibetan Buddhism at the University of California’s Oakes College on the Santa Cruz campus during the spring trimester, which ran approximately from mid-March through the end of May. Photos by Jon Landaw.Next, we have the characteristics of delusion. Delusion means the misconception or superstition that is characterized by the dualistic view of phenomena, even though what that dualistic view perceives does not exist. And from where does delusion come? Delusion arises from our consciousness. Of course, there is the philosophical view of the Chittamatrin school, which talks about the ground-of-all consciousness, which holds all the imprints of karma and delusion and whatever there is. Like a container it holds all these imprints, all our garbage experiences, all our good experiences, since we were born up to now. Everything is held there as in a container. It is a kind of foundational consciousness. Why do we call it “foundational”? It holds all the roots, you know? The roots of the manifestations are held there in consciousness and from there all those imprints can manifest all of samsara. All of samsara manifests from all those imprints. But leaving aside the philosophical points, according to our common sense we can say that delusions arise from consciousness, which holds the imprints of all our experiences, the karma from our bad experiences and our good experiences. Holding, holding. Until the necessary cooperative energies, conditions, come together, then these imprints simply remain there, latent. But when all the cooperative conditions come together, then the seeds are there and the cooperative causes are now present and bam! they manifest in an experience of samsara. They again become a samsaric reaction. We react, react, react. Okay.

      From that then deluded actions and functions arise. From just one moment of superstition, reaction after reaction after reaction, one after another after another, are accumulated. You know? Endless superstitious reactions. (Lama laughs as he winds his mala through his fingers.) Because of cause and effect, the functioning of causation, then from delusion comes delusion, delusion, delusion. In other words, hallucinations. In Buddhist terminology, we refer to this state of delusion as hallucination. In other words, we do not see reality but are always perceiving wrong projections.

      So what is the cause of the wrong projections that appear to the mind? The cause is the repeated perceiving of wrong view that creates imprints that are stored in our consciousness. They are manufactured non-stop, pam, pam, pam, pam, like a printing press publishing more and more imprints in every moment. Pam, pam, pam, pam. Then these are stored in our consciousness and they never finish. They are held there, like a treasure of superstitious imprints. It is from there that all delusions arise.

      We have to understand this clean clear. Generally we think that when one delusion comes, it comes just once and then it is finished. No! It is not like that! One delusion produces a hundred delusions; one superstition mind has the ability to produce a hundred reactions. And that hundred has the ability to produce a thousand. This is why it is not easy for us.

     13013_pr-2_g In Western culture, we are almost forced to watch television. Everyone does it. And there are so many incredible things shown on the television and we watch them. It seems so simple. You just sit there, the TV is on, and you seem to be doing nothing. But as you watch, in each moment it is recorded, you know? Moment after moment, imprints are made, tremendous imprints. And tremendous negative imprints arise…unless you see and recognize these things as characterized by non-duality, as like a mirage or a dream. Recognize that! By doing so, instead of producing superstition, you produce wisdom energy. Then it is okay.

      But we are not able to do this. We are beginners and are not able. It is very difficult to transform our projected view into wisdom energy. It is possible; we cannot say it is not possible. But as we are beginners, we should be very careful about what we see, what we watch. We should be careful. Why? Because the object itself also has the power to delude, the power to be superstition, hallucination. The object also has power. Because we have magnetized the superstition energy inside, so objects outside also come together as delusional.

      Remember, in the Abhidharmakosha it says that the cause of delusion is incorrect imagination, or, as we have called it, superstition. You always imagine the object incorrectly. And it says that we have this incorrect imagination already. So as you already have this superstition that sees incorrectly within you, when the external object appears and you come in contact with it, then pam! Delusion arises.

      For example, since we are here in this primitive tent in Nepal, then you don’t have a certain particular New York pleasure grasping mind, do you? Because the object isn’t here. The particular object needs to be close by. So when the superstitious thought is there inside and the external object is in close proximity, then delusion arises. That is why I am saying that we are usually perceiving things unconsciously and thinking that it doesn’t matter what we are seeing, but everything matters. Our minds are uncontrolled. Thus, as I am trying to demonstrate, it is very difficult see objectively and not to be deluded.

      Good.  So now we understand what we are deluded in regard to, the characteristics of delusion, and from where delusion arises. Now it is clear.


“Use your own wisdom, dear.”

22842_ngFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche returned to Kopan from his Australasian tour before Lama Yeshe and in time to teach the thirteenth Kopan course. It ran from November 10 to December 10.

Hearing Lama Zopa Rinpoche for the first time, Dean Alper, an American attorney, was shocked to discover how tense he was and how short his attention span. He remained plunged in misery until Lama Yeshe appeared like a ray of light and reminded him that yes, there was laughter in the world. Dean returned for the next three meditation courses and became familiar with various student types: the ones who called everything “purification,” others who couldn’t make a decision about anything without consulting a lama. He noted how cleverly Lama Yeshe managed both the slavish and the arrogantly learned.

Many students had difficulty making up their minds about taking initiations, but Lama Yeshe just told them they should make their own decisions. “Next thing they’ll be wanting me to tell them when they can go to the bathroom!” His constant refrain was, “Use your own wisdom, dear.” Everyone knew that Lama Zopa Rinpoche threw mos (divinations with dice) all the time, but Lama Yeshe was openly displeased with those who asked for mos for trivial reasons.

12611_ng-2_gAfter studying Dharma for just a year, Merry Colony asked Lama Yeshe if she could become a nun. He gave her a hard, scornful look and asked her if she was quite sure she had “finished with men.” “Four years later I disrobed for a man, so apparently I wasn’t,” said Merry.

Sex was a common subject in interviews. A “man-hating” Italian feminist told Lama she only had women friends and felt alienated from patriarchal society. “I understand, dear,” he told her kindly. “Women do understand women better, but I think that when a woman’s energy is balanced she will like men.”

When Denis Huet asked if he could confess his faults, Catholic style, Lama Yeshe burst out laughing. “I shall never forget how much he laughed at that, but it wasn’t embarrassing. His laugh was full of love and fun.”

Everyone celebrated the end of the course with a picnic in the park opposite the famous Hindu temple, Pashupatinath. Rinpoche had the students meditating on the ghats by the side of the river, where corpses were burning. Lama Yeshe got them playing football. He gave one student a big good-bye hug, which seemed to carry some hidden message. “During the twenty-five minute walk to Boudha my back got hotter and hotter until it felt like it was on fire. It was an extraordinary sensation I never experienced again.”


Protection was the last thing Lama wanted

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

16008_pr_gJohn Schwartz was a confident, successful man and fair game for Lama’s teasing, some of which came in the form of his nickname as “John Shore.” Lama Yeshe never called him anything else. As Lama Yeshe’s new attendant, John decided the students were overly protective of the lamas, especially with regard to Lama Yeshe’s heart ailment. “How I look?” Lama would ask people who worried about him, sticking his face out for inspection and turning to display his upper arms as if the diagnosis lay there. “What you think? I tell you, Western science, they don’t understand the power of mantra, the power of mind!”

John Schwartz: “I discovered that protection was the last thing Lama wanted. People worried about whether he was up too late or talking too much with one person or whether the interviews were tiring him out—but he never got tired of doing stuff like that. I’d tell people they had just five or ten minutes with him. When that was up I’d walk in on them and stand there. Lama would look at me, say, ‘Thank you, dear,’ dismiss me, and just keep on going. He didn’t want someone to chaperone him, he wanted someone to clear the path, to make it easy for him. He knew when to stop talking. If he’s with someone for a long time it’s because they need it.

06666_ng_g“Teaching was no problem for Lama. He could teach twelve hours a day. What sapped his energy were people’s problems, their sob stories ad infinitum. Before doing interviews he’d say to me, ‘Time to go to work.’ Then there were meetings with center people. He went over the land with them, inspected everything and gave them pep talks. Lama worked absolutely all the time, he never stopped.

“I never saw anyone work a mala like Lama either—he used one all the time, no matter what he was doing. He wasn’t secret or invisible about it either, you could see his lips moving, too.” Lama Yeshe had a wide selection of malas, often favoring a kind of “global” mala with a crucifix and several other religious emblems on it.

Sometime after the Grizzly Lodge course was over, a Dorje Khadro fire puja was held at the Jackson’s kitchen on the Vajrapani land. But despite their reputation as resourceful “bushie people,” they could not seem to get a fire going. Lama Yeshe took over, rebuilt it and lit it just fine. “We made fires all the time,” said Åge Delbanco, one of the Vajrapani pioneers, “but we just couldn’t get that fire to start.”

A picnic on the high ridge followed. Tom Waggoner’s little truck was the best of a sorry lot of vehicles and he was given the job of driving Lama Yeshe back down to the gompa. “He got in and I warmed the engine before taking off, because it’s tricky to get off the ridge—it’s steep, with a lot of loose gravel. Lama wanted to drive but I couldn’t let him because you really had to know what you were doing up there,” said Tom. “On the way down he asked me to stop so he could take a pee. ‘These students,’ he told me, ‘you sit up there on the throne and they offer tea and don’t ever think Lama has to go pee-pee!’”

06649_ng_gLama Yeshe spent the next few days at a house on Lake Tahoe, resting and hunting out local antique shops with Anila Ann. He loved buying pretty things, most of which ended up in Marcel’s shop. Spotting a red vase in one shop, he distracted the owner with half an hour of amicable chit-chat before casually asking the price. “He became very charming and the owner was so taken with him the price just plummeted,” said Ann. “Then he bought it.”


my Milarepas

15132_sl_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama sent letters to a number of his students advising them to attend the Dalai Lama’s post-Losar teachings in Dharamsala. Together with others coming from England was journalist Vicki Mackenzie. She had not received a letter and so told Lama, “I hope it’s all right that I’m here.” Lama Yeshe touched her forehead with his and said, “Never mind, dear. You and me have special communication!”

Feeling decidedly uncomfortable in his new robes, Jimi Neal followed the lamas to Dharamsala. “I was thinking how the zen was stupid and fussy when Lama Yeshe suddenly came up to me and said, ‘I hate them, too.’ He stood in front of me grinning, hands thrust into the slash pockets of the red jacket he favored. He wore a zen on formal occasions but his attitude to the traditional robes was unusual. Given the conservatism of most other monks it was fairly outrageous. Personally, I found his modern outlook a great relief.”

Geshe Rabten was visiting Dharamsala from his home in Switzerland and stayed at Tushita-Delhi, where on 11 April he had given a teaching on the twelve links of dependent origination, translated by his close disciple, Gonsar Rinpoche. While he was in Dharamsala Lama Yeshe offered Geshe Rabten a long life puja. Once again the students observed the incredible respect Lama showed his teachers. His every gesture was an offering.

Tushita looked beautiful because Lama had filled it with flowers. Every year, a few days after he arrived at Tushita, Lama visited a flower farm an hour’s drive from McLeod Ganj on the road to Manali. Lama Yeshe could never have enough flowers.

15180_ng_gAs a builder and jack-of-all-trades, Gabriel Forrer was a valuable asset, spending half the year at Kopan and half at Tushita Retreat Centre. He also got along well with Lama Pasang, who could be tough. “Lama Pasang was a doer,” Gabriel explained. “If he needed a piece of wood, he’d cut down a tree. I knew I couldn’t argue with him so I got Lama to plant more trees, many of which died because water was still a big problem. At Kopan I built a huge septic tank, the first floor of Tabsheling and a couple of smaller houses.
“When I first came to Tushita, there was just the main house and a row of rooms Lama had insisted Stefano Piovella build in order to purify his karma. But Stefano was no builder and the structure was very unsound and damp. Lama also said the rooms were too big—he wanted everything as small and simple as possible. Lama and I only ever talked about building. In early 1980 he grabbed me by the hand and we walked around to where a huge boulder lay. He told me he wanted a house built right there for himself and Lama Zopa.”

Removing the boulder was a project in itself. As the area was earthquake prone Gabriel reinforced the foundation with steel, though Lama Yeshe said that was too expensive. Peter Baker, an old student who had just come out of retreat, helped Gabriel. One day they walked onto the site of the half-built house and found Lama sitting up against the wall in meditation posture.

Peter Baker: “We worked really hard. One night Lama appeared and invited us into his room for dinner. I told him I thought I should be cooking dinner for him, but he looked at me very sternly and said, ‘I only do what I want, dear.’ He always called us ‘my Milarepas.’

“While we worked, Gabriel and I often talked about what to do next. Meeting the lamas had changed my life and I wanted to be of benefit to people. When I finally got back to the United States I bought a property in Vermont at a very good price and offered it to Lama. Pelgye [John Douthitt] told me later Lama did pirouettes around his room for half an hour after he got my letter. Then he sent Pelgye out to help me, with a sketch map of how the new center should be laid out and its name—Milarepa.”


Front veranda at Tushita retreat Center

“Now you have something to do,” Lama told Pelgye. “You can go and build this Milarepa Center and get Mahayana teaching started there.” Pelgye pointed out that there might not be any buildings there. “You put up tents and go into retreat. You get lam-rim teachings started, then you can come back.” Pelgye said he didn’t have any money and might have to get a job. “Please, don’t ever work just to feed your mouth. Don’t waste your time. You’ll always have enough food to eat,” Lama told him.

After receiving instructions from Lama Yeshe, Piero Cerri and Claudio Cipullo began a ten-day retreat at Tushita with orders to stay away from females. “After a few days people appeared to us as mere bundles of bones and meat with vibrations coming out of their mouths. We did not imagine this with our minds but saw it with our own eyes. As for Lama Yeshe, his appearance was different from that of any other human being. There was no doubt about it. Claudio and I did not make this up. After we finished the retreat we went to see him and I got a strong impression of him as one of those card-playing mavericks on a Mississippi riverboat. He was such a totally self-assured, solid person with no bullshit, no timidity and no fear,” said Piero.

Harmony is number one


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

The second international meeting of the Council for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (CPMT) ran at Kopan from 4 January to 15 January 1980. In addition to the meetings, the event also included a retreat. Lama Yeshe told the directors he wanted to get the geshes in the centers thinking about new ways of teaching the Dharma, such as to specific age groups or special-interest groups.

During this meeting a maturing CPMT drew up the following mission statement:

“Without Dharma, sentient beings lack the true means to happiness. The Mahayana tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa faces the danger of dying with the present lineage holders. The Dharma needs to be translated into Western languages and cultures in a similar way to when Buddhism moved from India to Tibet, for preservation’s sake. It needs to find a medium that will carry it beyond this present generation and out into many generations in the future.

To actualize this, participation at all levels of the organization is vital, each link working in conjunction with the next, sharing the bond of a common vision.

As times become darker and degeneration more apparent, the mind will find it increasingly difficult to turn toward virtue. A self-sufficient community on the scale of a town or village would provide the environment and cultural protection necessary for the propagation of the Mahayana tradition.

The basis of the community would be families. The focus of Dharma activity would be the monastery or college of Buddhist studies, open to all.”

On 4 January 1980 Lama Yeshe gave a four-hour address to the CPMT. He began by talking about the purpose of these meetings of center directors and by describing some of the more important aspects of center directors’ responsibilities.

It is a good idea for us to meet together because we are all working and putting energy toward the same goal. So it is important that there is harmony and good mutual understanding between us and that we respect each other. Then we can have one mandala, one harmonious whole.

 15131_sl_gOur aim is to spread good vibrations through giving our body, speech and mind to others. This is our only reason for establishing centers. It is really important that center directors see each other as brothers and sisters and help each other. If one center becomes a disaster, then the other centers help. We share and we learn from each other. Until we open our hearts to each other we are not learning anything. The center director has such a huge responsibility. It is not easy, not a part-time job directing and fulfilling people’s needs. It is not enough just to have a good heart.

 It is good if each director communicates with all the other centers, making sure they are happy. Why? Because we are all one mandala. You shouldn’t just make sure that your cup has tea and not care about anyone else’s. You should be open to each other and say, “Okay, if you make a mistake then you tell me.” That is the purpose of meeting—to see others’ perspectives rather than only your own view. We all have different notions but in the Dharma we are completely unified. We don’t need to think we are special or beautiful—we show what we are by our actions.

 The center director is responsible for harmony in the center. When trouble comes, you should point it out—it doesn’t matter where or what it is. Wherever there is disunity it is as if all the potential of a place has been burned so that it cannot progress. It is possible that people may come to your center just to take advantage. Harmony is number one—only then can we build up our centers. You should nurture the attitudes that give the center energy, not those that take from it. If you’re working just to have possessions, that’s garbage. You center directors should have the attitude that you’re getting nothing for this lifetime except energy for your enlightenment. I feel grateful for your incredible dedication. Anyone who is not happy should dedicate this way: ‘This time I cannot do but I hope to be able to do in the future,’ and dedicate. Don’t worry about whether Lama Yeshe will be disappointed. My concern is that everybody should be happy and make their own dedication. I don’t like other people telling me what to do either—I have my own way of dedicating.

 Eventually, we want to place two geshes in each center: one as the program director who keeps our family in the center happy and looks after visitors, and the other who more strictly gives teachings, such as geshe training. But many of my centers are not yet professional, not yet stable. Gypsy centers are not responsible enough to take on having a geshe. First the foundation needs to be stable.

 Center directors should be like the sun and moon—without discrimination or favorites, embracing all people. No matter who is at the center, you should pay equal attention to them. Whether person is ugly or beautiful, you should think, ‘This is my child, my mother sentient being.’ If you think like that, then it is very good. This doesn’t mean you cannot have your friends. That is a personal thing. When you are unhappy, your friend gives you cheesecake.

15130_pr_gAlso the center director should not be hippie looking, childish looking. But this does not mean that when childish people come you do not give them time. We should be sympathetic to young people who are difficult or mentally disturbed. These people are human beings, with power like Buddha. You give these people time, love them, give them a house and a job. They understand what you are doing; they know you are making special consideration for them. From being broken-hearted they transform; then they are successful. Centers should include hippies, professional people, unprofessional people, married people, unmarried people, everybody. So the center director’s attitude should be to expect anything.

I always say that centers should have job creation. I think we should be creative. Our twentieth-century people are so creative, but they are also dangerous with aggression and frustration. My opinion is that this is a difficult time. It would be very good if at each of our centers we can do something for those young people who are lost on drug trips or angry at society and so on, providing them with activities and tasks that they can enjoy. Our program for them can also include counseling by a psychologist, short meditations and other appropriate things that can slowly, slowly lead them to a healthy mind.

 When we can afford it we should have places for families, for single people, as well as for monks and nuns. You can say, ‘We put you here; this is your place. You stay here; you do your business and lay people do their business. You do not come down this other place.’ Whether lay or ordained, each person can choose a different lifestyle to live.


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