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Posts from the ‘1981:Public Life and Private Time’ Category

Our mind is like the surface on which we make a drawing

Lama teaching, CIN, 1976

Lama Yeshe teaching at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1976

From 1981: Public and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

That evening Lama Yeshe led a puja at Tara House. Two days later he gave a weekend course to eighty people on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a King. This was a letter written by one of Buddhism’s most highly realized scholar-practitioners to a king in India nearly 2,000 years ago. During the teaching Scott Brusso picked random questions from the audience out of a basket. “While he was answering one question, I was picking out the next,” said Scott. “I read it then decided it wasn’t very good. So I put it back and went to choose another. This was all quite invisible to everyone else and done below the lip of the basket. But Lama stopped in mid-sentence, turned to me and said, ‘Don’t discriminate! Give it to me now—that one!’”

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a King in Melbourne, 1981:

Nagarjuna explains how we control our anger by actualizing the paramita (perfection) of patience. He also says how it is very important in the first place that we not open up the door of any situation that may lead to anger. Why? Because the minute that we generate anger energy, its characteristic is to react again and again and again, thereby leading us into a miserable life. Simple, isn’t it?! So, on the other hand, Nagarjuna quotes Shakyamuni Buddha himself, who said in the sutras that if one abandons anger, there’s no need to worry about entering any situation; there is no need to worry about having a miserable life. Shakyamuni promised, and Nagarjuna quotes from Shakyamuni’s teaching. That’s interesting for me. At this particular place Nagarjuna says, “Shakyamuni says that if you don’t have anger, you don’t have to worry about entering any miserable life situation during this life or your next several lifetimes.” Interesting, isn’t it? I feel that this is really very important. Anger is the worst karma to have. Not only does it destroy your good-quality peaceful joyful life right now, but it also destroys your good quality next life as well. There is a reason that we are born in an unpleasant place, isn’t there? Due to causation, the mental energy of anger irritates and results in our physical situation, our physical bodies. Buddhists believe that everything has a reason, that everything has a history and an evolution.     

Lama teaching, MI, 1976

Lama Yeshe teaching, Manjushri Institute, England, 1976.

So for us it is very important to control our anger as much as possible. Anger is our worst enemy, you know, our worst enemy. I think that anger destroys all the good qualities of our human dignity. For this reason, it is very important to control it. For example, one moment of anger can destroy a good friendship of twenty or thirty years, a long-time relationship in which the friends shared everything. Anger can destroy this in just a moment. The angry mind has no appreciation for any of this. Can you imagine? It’s unbelievable, but even the shortest moment of anger can destroy the collected energy of twenty or thirty years of friendship and lead to misery. All these things are part of human experience, aren’t they? Therefore, since we like to be happy, Buddhism places much emphasis on the importance of controlling anger, so we can be happy. By controlling our anger we’ll receive only a human rebirth and we’ll go from happiness to happiness, from bliss to bliss. I think this is very sensible understanding.

      Patience, on the other hand, is the opposite of anger. To be patient is to not be irritated or angry. But in order to be patient, one must first understand the anger situation. In one of Shantideva’s verses, he writes, “If somebody beats me and punches me and then I become angry and punch him back…” He says that this is nonsense. “By reacting with anger, does the pain of the punch you already received disappear? Or not?” Shantideva sort of scientifically analyzes the situation. Maybe your nose is already broken. By reacting in anger, your nose doesn’t get fixed, does it?! In just this way you can analyze all the details of the situation. And because of this kind of analysis, Buddhist anger control is unique.

      Now I’ve been talking about control, controlling our anger. But is this the correct word? Sometimes I have a problem with language, with finding just the right word in English. Here, control does not mean you repress your anger. Control refers to a way to understand, a way to express.

      In Buddhism, it is highly advised that we not manifest anger physically or verbally. Because by the time it manifests it is already super strong, super intense. So before we express our anger verbally or physically, somehow we need to stand up and control it. Somehow we need to digest or abandon the emotion of anger, through meditation, through analytical wisdom, through whatever method we can use.    

Lama at MI, 1976

Lama Yeshe teaching, Manjushri Institute, England, 1976

Nagarjuna explains how to deal with situations in which strong emotions arise. Each human being has the aspect of a different element, which manifests as a way of thinking, a way of perceiving, a kind of mentality. There are three basic types. Our mind is like the surface on which we make a drawing. Sometimes the mind where we draw an object is like water, sometimes it is like earth, and sometimes it is like rock or stone. Okay. So when this kind of superstition or delusion arises in the mind, sometimes it’s like drawing on water, isn’t it? It arises suddenly, and then phew! It disappears almost immediately. Sometimes it’s like drawing in earth; the delusion only disappears slowly, slowly. But sometimes, the impression left on the mind is like a drawing on rock or on concrete. In that case, it seems to stay; it seems like it is always there, doesn’t it? In the instance of drawing on the water, that kind of mind is unstable. Therefore, whatever deluded minds or emotions arise—anger or whatever—as much as possible we should try to make this like drawing on water. Okay? This is what Nagarjuna said. But when the profound wisdom that touches reality arises in the mind, you should make this like drawing on stone. You should develop this kind of stability so that you can become liberated. That’s very important.


Universal reality is like a seal, because there is no way out.

Meditation at Chenrezig Institute, 1975

Meditation at Chenrezig Institute, 1975.

From 1981: Public and Private Time by Adele Hulese, Big Love author:

The transition from family business to Buddhist center had not been completely easy, especially for Joyce Green, Ian’s mother. She had worked very hard for Sandhurst Town for some years. Suddenly, teams of young Buddhists had been foisted on her and were now invading her kitchen and her life. Aflame with righteousness, they threw out her mousetraps and fly-sprays and sometimes treated her less than respectfully. Her husband spent each week in Melbourne, but Joyce lived in a house immediately adjacent to the new center. During Lama Yeshe’s visit, Joyce graciously moved out so he could stay there in comfort. Max and Maggie Feldmann filled the place with orchids. Joyce Green ended up accepting the situation and generating the highest regard for Lama Yeshe, who gave her a beautiful Tibetan carpet.

About seventy people took the Heruka Chakrasamvara initiation, during which they all placed little bits of gum leaf on their heads instead of the traditional flower. Many had no idea what to do with the strip of red cotton cloth with which one covers the eyes at a certain point in the initiation. Some placed these cloth strips over their mouths, but those kinds of details didn’t faze Lama Yeshe who laughed all the way through. As he was about to give the students the bodhisattva and tantric vows he said, “These vows are a little bit dangerous, but don’t worry.”

The teaching began with a reminder that nothing could be achieved without reference to the four preliminaries: taking refuge, actualizing bodhicitta by being totally open to others, purification and the practice of guru yoga.

The term mahamudra has the literal meaning of “great seal” and Lama Yeshe explained this in his own unique style.

From Lama Yeshe’s Bendigo teachings on mahamudra, August 1981:

Universal reality is like a seal, because there is no way out. All levels of existence—organic, non-organic, permanent or impermanent—are of the nature of non-self-existence. Guru Shakyamuni said something like, “Not seeing is the perfect seeing.” Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Mahamudra is a strange thing that you have to learn. Not perceiving phenomena as dualistic is the perfect experience of seeing. Mahamudra is very different from shunyata, but the particular characteristic of mahamudra is an emphasis on how to experience shunyata, rather than explaining what it is.

When you have a small experience of mahamudra you drop out of heavy concepts, such as feeling that your body is a difficult combination of atoms rather than a transcendental experience. To develop mahamudra, concentration is not enough. Lama Tsongkhapa said, “Samadhi is not enough to eliminate the concept of ego.” We need the unity of concentration and mahamudra to achieve that, but first of all we need to neutralize the mind with breathing meditation. Then we slowly use the mind to watch our thoughts. But this is not watching in the usual sense. Language is a problem here. Take sunlight, for example. The sun doesn’t have to say, “I am shooting out sunlight.” Similarly, this “watching” doesn’t have a thinking process; it is just being.

Rainbow over the gompa, 1975

A rainbow over the gompa (meditation hall), Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1975.

I want you to understand: Mahamudra is beyond words, beyond growing, beyond cessation. Don’t just trust my words. It doesn’t matter how much I use words, it still comes from my conception. So go…touch…then go beyond the words. Just watch and let go. Mahamudra emphasizes no intellect. At a certain point intellect is the enemy. Then the real transformation comes.

When I was first studying I thought that if one were to understand all of Buddhism—the philosophy, Madhyamaka and everything—then one would certainly knock out the ego. First I thought that, but then I checked and realized that my conception was not true. People could learn the words and ideas of the doctrine, by way of teachers, but somehow this did not stop all problems of the ego. That is possible. I was surprised. That’s why I feel that the mahamudra teaching is in touch with the heart.

Your view of yourself, your own intuition and simultaneously born ego—these have to be investigated. Fundamentally, you have to understand that anything you perceive on the basis of your five sense consciousnesses will be perceived dualistically as inherently self-existent. Everything. The moment you open your eyes everything is perceived in an entirely deluded, dualistic way.

Traditionally, when we teach mahamudra, instead of sitting inside meditating, the student walks around in order to be able to experience moment to moment. In that way the student captures the thief of the ego’s projections. So this time, even during the break times, you should try skillfully to investigate and discover the non-self-existence of the perceived absolute quality of the “I.” At a certain point, when you seek the I in that way, then you—the I that is being sought—and the seeker you, both are dissolved. Subject and object both dissolve. That is the experience. The fantasy concept of I that we hold is so built up that when it dissolves you may experience fear. This is a natural reaction. Leave it. Just let go.

Lama Tsongkhapa always emphasizes the unity of hearing, analytical checking and penetrative meditation. Take, for example, my own practice. I teach Westerners meditation, but some of my geshe friends think that first you have to study for thirty years, just as we Tibetan monks studied. After that you meditate. They negate what I am doing. But I just do. I don’t know why I do. That’s really my answer.

Now, in mahamudra the unique way of presenting universal reality is a particular emphasis on meditation on our own consciousness as the object. Normally our meditation object is something like Buddha’s image, the figure of a deity, and so on. But this time we contemplate our own consciousness. The characteristic of consciousness from the Buddhist point of view is its clean clear nature. It is like crystal, a mirror that takes on a reflection. Consciousness doesn’t have substantial physical energy. It has no color, no form. It is like space energy. Its nature is non-duality. Meditation on consciousness easily leads to mahamudra, which is why at the beginning you concentrate on your own consciousness.

Lama meditating by the ocean, Australia, 1974

Lama meditating by the ocean, Maroochydore, Australia, 1974.

First you clear your mind by focusing on your breathing. When you have reached a point where your mind is clear and quiet, then do not start thinking concepts like, “How beautiful, how wonderful.” No. You just rest there, being continuously mindful. It is not necessary to reach a state in which your mind is completely bright and clear. If you achieve the object to some extent, then that’s good enough; just let go. And at the same time use your subtle mind for analytical checking, such as perceiving whether the ego is existent or not. When you investigate such a concrete entity as the I, it naturally ends up disappearing, automatically. It cannot stand up to investigation. So at the same time you experience non-duality, or mahamudra.

This is the way to develop penetrative insight (Skt. vipasyana). Your own subtle mind moves like a fish, which swims through the water without disturbing the ocean. First it seems that the I has some sort of existence, but when you reach a certain point it dissolves. The experience is that both subject and object dissolve. At that point you let go. Lama Tsongkhapa says that at this point we should never allow any kind of object—such as form, color or deity—to arise. So even if a special fantastic vision comes, do not follow it.

Also watch Lama Yeshe answering questions on Mahamudra.



As a matter of fact we are always on an old trip.

Lama Yeshe teaching, 1975From  1981: Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Ninety people attended Lama Yeshe’s teachings on powa at Chenrezig from June 6 to 15. Powa is the practice of transferring one’s own or another’s consciousness at the time of death to ensure a positive rebirth. Lama Yeshe taught powa in order to preserve the tradition and so his students could develop some idea of what one could accomplish through cultivating the concentrated power of the mind. Lama often encouraged his students to feel they could accomplish anything they put their mind to.

Lama supplemented his teaching on powa with an explanation of Buddha’s doctrine of dependent origination, presented in terms of the twelve links of dependent arising.

From Lama Yeshe’s 1981 Chenrezig Institute teachings:

Today I thought that my subject would be dependent origination—that is, how and why we are existent on this earth. I think that many Western people question why they have come on this earth. It is difficult sometimes to find the answer to this. Buddhism has an answer to why we are existent. That is why I feel that sharing this explanation with you is so important.

When Shakyamuni Buddha gave this teaching on interdependence, he held up one flower, like this, demonstrating that because this flower is existing, there must be a seed from which it came. Thus, because there was a seed, now there is this flower. Isn’t that true?

This is a very simple way of explaining. We have to understand that all phenomena are existent in this way, that all phenomena arise from causes. Every phenomenon is related to other phenomena; every phenomenon comes from something else. All of us have a father and a mother; we are dependent on our father, our mother, genetics and the energy of the four elements. Thus, it is important to know the interdependent cycle of existence. In this way, according to Buddhism, we can eventually discover the totality of shunyata (emptiness). If we don’t understand the interdependent relationship of all existence, then shunyata becomes just words and it’s not possible to discover this profound totality.

I’m sure that all of you have studied the science of botany and biology and those things. If you have this kind of knowledge then it is easy for us to understand the Buddhist explanation of dependence. Subjectively, this is an explanation of how we sentient beings are interdependent. Objectively, for example, science clearly explains how trees are interdependent. So simple. So, the Buddhist explanation pertaining to sentient beings is that of the twelve links of dependent origination.

First of all, in Buddhism the primary cause is ignorance. Ignorance is the creative cause of all worldly, or samsaric, beings. Ignorance means the ignorant mind. It is the mind that is unclear, that does not understand reality. This is the meaning of ignorance. Don’t think that ignorance is somewhere in space, somewhere “out there.” In very simple terms, all of our human energy—physical, mental—could not exist without interdependent causation. All our energy came from a previous energy, which in turn came from yet another previous energy, and so on. So we are linked.

Procession to Eudlo, 1974So ignorance is the main cause of life existing. It is the cause that produces the seed of life. Now one can have either a good life or a difficult life. We all know this. A difficult life comes from ignorance but also a good life, a life filled with temporal pleasure, comes from ignorance as well.

We can talk about different types of ignorance and different degrees of ignorance, can’t we? If you eat muesli, then this might indicate that you know how to take care of your body. But you might not know how to do anything more than that to stay healthy. So beyond that knowledge, you are still ignorant, aren’t you? Thus you shouldn’t think that ignorance means something totally black. I don’t want you to think that way. It’s not true.

From a Buddhist perspective, we are all considered to be fortunate beings. As human beings, we are of especially profound good quality. But still our source is ignorance. Nevertheless, as good human beings we have potential, great potential. That’s why we can progress, because we can use our energy to develop that potential.

Ignorance is very dangerous because it produces extreme minds: extreme in both overestimating and underestimating reality, and in projecting mistaken characteristics on reality. Because of ignorance we judge and project wrong values, wrong motivations, and then we act mistakenly and again bring ourselves more trouble. So from ignorance arises motivation, that is, what we call karma. Karma means to make active, active and shaking. It also means to shape and to change. That is karma. So from the unclear mind comes shaking, perhaps in the form of extreme hatred or extreme attachment. That becomes our motivation. This motivation then leads to another and to another, until after an hour that motivation passes and you seem to be okay. But actually you are still not okay because one hour of extreme negative energy is still left in the ocean of your consciousness. The imprints are left there and you are still carrying them. Month after month, year after year, you continue to carry everything you have done. It is so important to comprehend this, to gain that comprehension. Most of the time we ignore this. We think that it is all gone, but it is not gone. The emotional disturbance has gone but the imprints, the reality imprints are published in our consciousness. Then, after a thousand years, because of those imprints in the mind, again we react in the same way. Our reaction comes out from this confusion left in the mind.

This is why we understand that ignorance is the first and primary cause, which then creates the reaction of karma, leaving imprints on the consciousness. Thus the potential for the cycle to continue is there.



Lama had great hopes

(15514_ng.psd) Lama Yeshe teaching in the gompa (shrineroom) at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1974. Photo by Ursula Bernis.1981:Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse,Big Love author:

A few days after Lama Yeshe returned to Kopan someone stole money from the donation box in the gompa. Moreover, local dogs were climbing in the low windows and eating food offerings from the altar. From a Buddhist point of view this was seriously bad karma for the young monks in charge of taking care of the gompa. Their duties included laying out offerings, caring for the butter lamps, keeping the statues and the room clean, filling and emptying the waterbowls, making sure the donation box was locked—in short, seeing to the overall care and safety of the meditation hall and its contents. Everyone knew the two boys currently rostered to that duty were lazy and often snuck off to Kathmandu to watch movies.

Lama Yeshe walked into the gompa during the middle of the morning puja, stopped the chanting and began lecturing to the assembled monks in Tibetan. “First he berated the two gompa keepers while walking around them with his big, heavy bodhi-seed mala going round and round in his hands,” said Karuna Cayton, who could understand Tibetan. “The talk was all about karma, responsibility and their laziness. Lama was very, very heavy. As he spoke he whacked the two boys around the head with his mala. The mala suddenly broke and beads flew around the gompa. This kind of corporal punishment was commonly used in all Tibetan monasteries.”

Lama mixing cement, Kopan, 1974Pujas were formal affairs and discipline in the gompa was for everyone. Even when a Western Sangha member arrived late for puja, Lama Yeshe would stop the ritual to scold that person publicly for being careless, insensitive to others and ego-tripping.

Lama Yeshe was full of fund-raising ideas. “We should build a supermarket in Kathmandu!” he told Max Redlich. There was no such thing in Nepal at the time, so this was a groundbreaking concept. “We should make ginger beer! All the centers should copy the same recipe!” He even sent Jacie down to Delhi to buy bottles and caps and told her to develop a label that used the words “healthy,” “natural” and “good for the stomach.”

“It didn’t work,” said Jacie. “The bottles kept exploding.”

As usual, Lama was ahead of common thinking in his views on healthy living and good food. There is every reason to think that a well-run ginger beer business would have been successful. Lama also wanted to start a flower farm in Delhi, noting it was very hard to buy good-quality cut flowers. That too could have been a successful business.

“Lama came up with all sorts of ideas and schemes,” Peter Kedge explained. “There was really no limit to the amount of Dharma activity Lama could envisage in both the West and the East, and no lack of enthusiastic people more than willing to dedicate themselves to the fulfillment of these activities. But we just didn’t have the training and business background to follow them up. Some Dharma organizations seemed to attract wealthy professionals, but the style and evolution of the FPMT took place differently. It initially attracted many so-called ‘hippies,’ those who had opted out of conventional society and therefore had spare time, rather than those who pursued professions and had careers. Later on, that changed. On several occasions Lama told us he wanted us to learn how to do business in order to support the Western Sangha, Mount Everest Centre and all the other centers. We were not lacking in enthusiasm, but fundamentally the organization lacked an economic base.”

Lama supervising construction, Kopan, 1974Around this time Lama gave Tenzin Dorje (Charok Lama) some jeans and a shirt and sent him to work in Marcel’s shop, Mandala, in Kathmandu. Tenzin Dorje didn’t wear robes for a whole year, after which Lama sent him to Dharamsala for three months of retreat before he was to depart for south India to study at Sera Jé. After that retreat, however, Tenzin Dorje, now eighteen years old, decided he didn’t want to be a monk anymore. Lama Yeshe asked him if he wanted to work for a Dharma center and he decided to remain at Tushita Retreat Centre, where he took over the shopping.

“Lama Yeshe never criticized my decision to disrobe and never tried to change my mind, nor did I think he would try,” said Tenzin Dorje. “Lama also got Gelek Gyatso a job in a Kathmandu garage where he spent a lot of time just watching what was going on and drinking Coca-Cola. I knew Lama had great hopes for Thubten Zopa Small. Gelek Gyatso and I were always running away, but Thubten Zopa only ran away once or twice, at Lawudo.” He ran to his family’s guesthouse and restaurant, which was in Namché Bazar, where Tenzin Dorje had come from as well.

Just let go. Don’t worry about it.

Lama with Nick Ribush, 1983 1980: Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
The FPMT was gradually maturing but Lama Yeshe still received plenty of criticism from Tibetan traditionalists for his popularity with the “rich Injis,” for holding hands and traveling with women and for his eccentric robes. The red down vest he wore in Dharamsala was untraditional in that it was a modern Western garment stuffed with feathers, but traditional in that it did not have sleeves. He also wore a fringed zen (monk’s upper shawl), when the rule is that it should have cleanly hemmed edges. Lama’s zen was also a funny fuchsia color and bore obvious signs of age, yet he wore it everywhere. “I guessed it was a special present from someone,” said one monk. It was. Mummy Max was the first to buy Lama Yeshe these fringed zens made of raw silk that came out somewhat more pink than dark maroon when dyed. Paul Bourke offered him one and there may have been others. One result was that you could always pick Lama Yeshe out in a crowd of Tibetan monks.

After the CPMT meeting Ira Zunin left for Poona. He later returned to Tushita-Dharamsala to tell Lama Yeshe he wished to follow Shri Bhagwan Rajneesh. Ira’s interview was just at the end of Lama’s Mahakala retreat. “He was in peak form and utterly clear—he wasn’t at the end of a long tour, nor in a foreign country, nor finishing a big course and surrounded by people wanting things from him,” Ira said. “I was a bit nervous because I had agreed to do all these things for Lama and was about to walk away, but he said, ‘Sure, dear. That sounds good. I’m sure you can learn something down at Poona.’ When I asked about the Tibetan medical stuff we had planned, he said, ‘Oh, never mind. Just let go. Don’t worry about it.’”

Continuing, Ira said, “I then asked him what he thought would really be best for me but he said, ‘I cannot advise you at this time.’ I told him the toughest part for me was that I loved him so much. I felt he was my root guru and I didn’t feel that way about Bhagwan. Then he started berating me. ‘Come on! Don’t you get attached to my physical form! You know that you just have to visualize me and I’m right there!’ He pointed to a spot just above and in front of his crown chakra. ‘Right there, anytime. You and me, we are crystal clear. You can come back anytime.’ So that was it. I went off and joined the Rajneeshis. Poona closed down one month later.”

Lama Yeshe's room, Tushita Retreat Centre

Lama Yeshe’s big room at Tushita Retreat Centre.

Lama Yeshe turned to his correspondence. To a student who had not done as he told her he wrote, “You ask if you can still say mantras. Yes, of course, please do. About feeling guilty and about worrying—you are wrong. Do not feel guilty. Do not worry. Just do not do it. Just do not think negative. Have a good positive attitude of yourself. Eliminate the self-pity concepts that you hold and feel your dignity, feel the purity that you have. Can you be forgiven? Yes. You should not worry. Guilty is only a concept that you build up. You should not build up concepts of feeling guilty. You created your confusions and sufferings yourself by thinking unclear concepts, by not thinking of the totality of your own nature. You do have buddha-quality and you should recognize it both physically and mentally.”

A young woman had written to Lama. She had become worn out working as a schoolteacher but thought she should continue anyway, believing that Bodhicitta meant she should wear herself out completely for others. Lama wrote back, “Withdraw dear, while there is still something left of yourself. Strengthen yourself and come back, because if you go until there is nothing left, you can’t do anything for yourself or anyone else.”

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