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Controlling the berserk mind – that is difficult.


Lama Yeshe teaching at UCSC.

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

During an interview with Lama Yeshe, journalist Vicki Mackenzie suggested there must be some advantages to his new Western lifestyle.

“I think it is truly a challenge,” Lama Yeshe replied. “I want my life to benefit others, so I am hard-working and feel very satisfied. Otherwise, what else work I do? Sit somewhere, meditate? I don’t think that is good enough. So I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to serve by using this knowledge.”

“I enjoy all international Western food and apple juice is my favorite Western drink,” Lama continued. “I think Western things are good, especially cars. Otherwise, I cannot get around, you know. But I feel Western society is set up in such a way that material things are the only valuable things in your life. That makes the Western world unknowing, sad. It is not your fault but it is the way things are oriented through your entire life, since you born up until you die. That makes me little bit sad. An attractive outward appearance is the only thing you gain from all your material wealth. I find that very ugly and it’s not so good from generation to generation. It produces unstable minds. Human relationships are broken and unstable. There is no trust in the fundamental human relationship. Human relationship has become nothing now. It’s like you have a relationship with a piece of wood, you know.

“I talk about bliss to help people go beyond the mundane world. I thought if I explained bliss then at least Western people have a glimpse of something to think about. My thought is to introduce the inner quality. These are not secret teachings, nothing special. Westerners sometimes have superstition about the teachings.”


Lama Yeshe at Manjushri Institute.

Regarding his health, Lama Yeshe said, “I have already been alive for seven or ten years more than Western doctors said. They are completely mistaken. They administrate medicine. Forty doctors looked at my heart photo on television and decided I can only live three months, six months. Unbelievable, these people putting heavy trip, you know. I don’t have faith in Western doctors. I think they really make human beings sick. I don’t think they are bad. I believe what they saw in photo is true—three damaged valves in my heart. But even you have such a bad point of view, human beings are something special. You cannot make decision you are this, you are that.”

To Vicki’s question about an expedition of Western scientists to remote regions of India to test yogis for their ability to control body temperature, Lama Yeshe replied, “For the Western mind this is a very interesting subject. Heat comes from the mind. But putting heat into the body is not difficult. Also, we have physical exercises for this. Not difficult. But controlling the berserk mind – that is difficult.”


Renunciation is a little bit heavy for you.

Lama Yeshe, Kopan, 1980From  1981: Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe arrived in Adelaide on 28 July, guest of the small Tibetan Buddhist community there, which included Doc Wight, Neil Huston and several others who had attended Kopan courses. They put him up at a cheap, noisy motel which was all they could afford.

Doc was not really interested in Buddhism, but over lunch at the motel Lama asked him if he’d given any thought to becoming a Buddhist. “I can’t,” Doc replied, “I’m Jewish.” “Who cares about that?” said Lama. “Being happy won’t interfere with being Jewish.”

Lama’s teachings on the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment ran from 29 July to 31 July at a local venue called the Box Factory. The royal wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer also took place on 29 July 1981. Wil and Lyndy Abrams turned up at the motel to collect Lama and found him engrossed in the TV coverage. “We were looking at our watches and worrying about the time. Lama said he didn’t think anyone would turn up for the teachings. When we got to the Box Factory everyone there was watching TV. ‘I told you!’ said Lama. But they did go to his teaching.” Wil and Lyndy asked Lama Yeshe if they could start a center in Adelaide. “Yes, dear, but it’s up to the students,” Lama told them.

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on the three principal aspects of the path, Adelaide, 1981:

Now, we are going to talk about the renunciation of samsara. Renunciation is the mind that leads to liberation. That particular renunciation, that specific kind of renounced mind is not easy to achieve. Normally we do have a renounced mind. For example, we try to renounce situations where there is disease, such as tuberculosis or cancer, don’t we? We try to avoid unpleasant situations as much as we can. This is not a specifically human sort of ability. Even insects, dogs, chickens and pigs can do this, can’t they? But if we consider the meaning of renunciation in our human life, it means to renounce the causes of confusion and dissatisfaction—that is, grasping at temporal pleasure and expecting that it will last, permanently, even if you don’t put it into words. Even if you don’t say, philosophically, “My pleasure is going to last a lifetime.” Intellectually you may say, “Of course it won’t last a lifetime, yah yah yah,” but, inside, psychologically, you’re expecting that your pleasure will last as long as possible.

But those thoughts are unrealistic. As long you have such an unrealistic grasping attitude, holding such a concept that regards pleasure as permanent and lasting, there is no space to liberate yourself, to achieve eternal peace or whatever you would like to call it. This is why renunciation is a little bit heavy for you. But that’s the way it is. What do I mean by heavy? Heavy means quite difficult to understand, because the ego doesn’t want to understand this. Because normally we see pleasure only in that unrealistic way. That is what is real for us. We don’t see anything else, any other alternative.

However from the Buddhist point of view, to eliminate the desire that craves temporal pleasure is essential in order to discover eternal peace or liberation. Otherwise, our situation is endless. Remember we’ve talked about the cycle of existence; that is what samsara means. We repeat our situation again and again, which gets us nowhere. The only result is dissatisfaction. Now, according to Buddhism, we need to use our intelligence. In a way Western society means well, using the intellect to develop whatever is best to give you the most pleasure, isn’t it? This is what we are chasing, aren’t we? We try. Similarly, Buddhism says that human beings can achieve indestructible peace and pleasure. We are capable. The problem is that we are always grasping for small pleasure. And this interferes with our being able to discover everlasting pleasure and peace.

(15514_ng.psd) Lama Yeshe teaching in the gompa (shrineroom) at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1974. Photo by Ursula Bernis.This is why you should use your wisdom to check up what is the best way to produce happiness in your life, in your mind. That’s the main point. We waste our life by focusing on such temporary business that results in such little pleasure, so little pleasure. We spend so much energy and effort but the result is almost all confusion. This is what we do, you know. I do this too, even though I am monk. Check up. You check up.

So, now, those who understand, those who have realized renunciation of samsara, no longer have any ambition for something missing. Do you understand what I mean? Normally, it doesn’t matter how much pleasure we experience, we still always feel like something is missing. But those who have really gained a deep realization of samsara, they no longer have this kind of ambition. They don’t wish for New York pleasure, they don’t wish for California pleasure, they don’t wish for Australia pleasure. Once you have reached that understanding, then you can rest. You rest because there is less contradiction in your mind. That’s the way to be liberated.



We need to eliminate that ego because it makes our life sick

Lama at a family gathering, 1983From  1981: Public Life and Private Time by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

In Lama Yeshe’s last week at Chenrezig Institute he taught on Chenrezig guru yoga. He also gave a talk on tantra, conferred a thousand-armed Chenrezig initiation and held a question-and-answer session. On 22 July Lama Yeshe also gave a Mahakala initiation.

“When Lama put the vase on my head during that Chenrezig initiation I thought I would physically explode,” said one student. “I had to concentrate every ounce of my energy as I felt a force like a blissful thunderbolt, a cyclone, a volcano, synthesize in my head. A few seconds later I was aware that my memory of this experience was already fading in an exponential wave. I knew that if I multiplied whatever memory I could rescue of it by a hundred, it still wouldn’t be anything near the experience. Somehow, that made me feel very secure. It became my personal quality control as the most amazing experience of my life.

“That standard of pleasure Lama had set for me didn’t so much make me detached as put pleasure into perspective. Now I find the only way to solve the suffering of attachment to pleasure is certainly not to try and be detached while practicing asceticism, but to experience what real pleasure is. Then the rest can be seen for what it is. For me, no orgasm, however ‘spiritual,’ can come close to a Chenrezig initiation.”

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara at Chenrezig Institute, 1981:
Your conscious psychic energy is transformed into Avalokiteshvara. This is the tantric method that serves to eliminate the heavy energy blanket of concepts. One identifies with such a profound emanation in order to connect with the profound non-duality image. Of course, you can argue that the blanket of concepts is still there. But by understanding that its characteristic nature is non-duality, then there is no heavy blanket of concepts.

Throughout our history we’ve never had any chance to experience ourselves as totally developed buddhas, have we? Avalokiteshvara is a buddha, is he not? So when you transform into Avalokiteshvara, you emanate as a buddha. Have you ever experienced yourself as a buddha, having a total understanding of shunyata, with no dualistic concepts? Well, this is the time to bring enlightened experience into the actual moment. This is why tantra is so very powerful. We bring Buddha’s experience into the path to enlightenment.

Lama at a family gathering, 1983Every day, we criticize our bodies, don’t we? Relatively, our ego is never satisfied with our own body. There always seems to be something wrong, always. So we criticize, always saying things like, ‘My body is blah, blah, blah,’ and ‘I am this, this, this.’ This is one way we have to build up and energize our ego. We develop it in that way.

Carl Jung explained that every group of people living in a common environment develops a kind of individual ego. I think in a way it is true: In each different environment the people develop a similar ego in the way they criticize, the way they grow, the way they experience difficulties and problems. In my own experience, the ego conflicts of Himalayan mountain people and those of modern Western society are different. I am not sure but this is my observation. Both are ego, but the specific ways of the ego, the way the ego criticizes is different. Therefore, I think that each civilization has a different group ego. I think if you understand this it can help you to understand Buddhism better. That is what I say.

Nevertheless, whether we are talking about a group ego or an individual ego, there is a great need to eliminate it. We need to eliminate that ego because it makes our life sick. It becomes the heavy blanket of concepts that plagues us and makes us sick. So the reason that tantra uses such a particularly profound quality emanation is to demonstrate reality so that we can change. The vision of Avalokiteshvara serves to demonstrate the reality, to demonstrate non-duality, to demonstrate our ego’s vision, to demonstrate our own pre-conceptual ideas. I really feel that if one has the experience of identifying oneself as Avalokiteshvara’s form, it becomes so very, very profound.

First of all, it is kind of a peculiar form isn’t it? A thousand arms, so many eyes…it is quite peculiar. If you imagine yourself in that form for one hour and then go out into the outside world, maybe you will feel that the outside world has become strange, that you no longer belong to the outside world. So instead of your ego being strongly involved as the group ego and individualistic ego were, this identification starts to break down. Maybe you experience things as very strange. Perhaps you think to yourself, “Maybe I am a human being, maybe not.” Sometimes such an experience happens. It is really quite interesting. If you have good sessions when in retreat, this experience can be quite strong, unbelievably strong. When you have a good session, it can be painful to come down from such an experience—for example, when you talk to somebody during the break between sessions. Also your old ego, the previous group or individual ego, considered many things in life as being so important. But when you are in retreat and when you come out at the session break time, there are none of the normal importances. They don’t belong to you any more; they belong to somebody else. It is like when somebody you know has changed and now you can’t take it. This is the experience.

      For this reason we imagine ourselves emanating as white radiating light of compassion and we identify with the non-duality character nature of Avalokiteshvara’s body. For example, when we look at a rainbow, at rainbow light, somehow we don’t grasp as strongly as usual. When that light disappears we just think, “Oh, it’s gone!” We seem to be able to let go of the experience in a normal, reasonable sort of way. But usually we don’t let go of other things so reasonably. We don’t let go of chocolate so easily, do we? Our grasping for some things is so strong, isn’t it? So, it is very important in one way.

      Lama Yeshe in Sweden, 1983Just as I said before, your ego’s criticism of the body is actually very bad. “I am sick, I am this, I am that, I am no good, blah, blah, blah, blah.” All the time you are putting yourself down. No one else puts you down like that. Your ego develops by constantly thinking, “I am not good quality.” So, that makes you ugly, doesn’t it? You are no longer handsome. So when we strongly emanate ourself as and identify ourself as Avalokiteshvara, we also emanate as white radiating light. When you worry, you get many wrinkles, don’t you? But if you strongly emanate yourself as Avalokiteshvara, after one hour the wrinkles will disappear. (Lama laughs.) I believe so. Because in one way the wrinkles are from being too tight. The nervous system is not flowing because of the tightness. Because you are uptight you get wrinkles. I am sure I must have quite a few, don’t I? (Lama laughs again.) I think I am bad example. Never mind. It is really possible.

      I have interviewed many students who have done retreat about their experiences. They have already had these kinds of experiences during retreat. For this reason I am very convinced that Westerners can practice tantra effectively. If we Tibetans present tantra in the simplest way so that it is therefore understood in a simple way, not only can Westerners understand and practice it but they experience exceptional results. So I am really confident that you can all practice tantra and experience the profound positive results.

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.”


The way to seek shunyata

16769_sl_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

To emphasize the possibility of transforming even negative energy into Tara’s wisdom, Lama pointed out that many of his students had been hippies yet had turned out differently.

The Western hippy movement lasted ten, maybe fifteen years. These hippies tried everything, every pleasure. They tried everything, this, that, politics, drugs, communism. But they reached a certain point where they discovered something and then they become good persons. Very good persons. The things they did were garbage things but then suddenly they turned out to be strong, transformed. So many hippies were creative, extreme extremists. They had a kind of power, super-samsaric power, that created nuclear energy. But when they became practitioners they stopped that super samsara and used that energy to become kind of super Dharma practitioners. Some of my students are just quiet and peaceful and their Dharma practice is slow, very slow. But this is just common sense. The main point is to look subjectively rather than objectively and in that way to recognize that every appearance in our life, every desire thought or hatred thought or ego thought has an inborn non-dual nature. Its nature is clean clear like the ocean. Each one has the character of non-dual blissful wisdom.

Of course when we are dealing with the world we are not strong enough to see non-duality. It is natural for us to see dualistically. But we can make a strong determination within ourselves to recognize the duality that appears to us for what it is. One cannot avoid thinking dualistically; it comes through our habitual perceptions. But inside we can have the determination that this is illusion. This is dualistically appearing illusion. That we can do. That we should do.

09598_sl_gLama Yeshe spoke to his students about their dreams:

Usually we forget our dreams. This is not good. Dream comprehension is very important. Why are we so slow to become enlightened? Because half our life is spent unconscious, asleep. Maybe a quarter is spent eating, unconsciously. In tantra, practically speaking, we can make every important movement of energy become wisdom. It becomes awareness, mindfulness. It is very important to become mindful of our dreams. So before you go to sleep, make strong prayers to Tara to give you inspiration to be mindful of your dreams and to recognize your dream as a dream. This is good enough. Then put your head in Mother Tara’s lap and fall asleep like that. In this way, your sleep becomes more conscious, less unconscious. This is the best way to sleep.

Using every possible example from daily life, Lama continuously strove to bring home the core Buddhist understanding of emptiness to his students.

Perhaps if I explain it in a simpler way: The minute you check up with ego how you feel, how you are, what you think about yourself, you can only think about the previous you. The previous one is (snaps his fingers) gone already. Isn’t it! It is non-existent. The ego is very slow, I tell you. It doesn’t matter how intelligent the ego may be; it is too slow. It thinks that yesterday’s me is somewhere around here still. That’s too late. Even from the relative point of view of time and space it’s unrealistic. In Buddhism when you seek shunyata, in that moment when you are aware, that mindfulness cuts the self-existent appearance, which is totally non-existent. That is the way to seek shunyata. The skill is how to observe the ego’s interpretation.

     16051_ng-2_g Whenever there is emotional excitement and the ego manifests, the I-projection strongly arises. That is the moment when you get the chance to recognize it—for example, when you are angry. That is a very important moment.

      Remember. Philosophical doctrine is not important. Intellectual religion is not important. That’s why many intellectually religious people—intellectual Buddhists, intellectual Muslims, intellectual Christians—they miss the point. Just making things philosophical doesn’t work. Destroying the intellectual ego and making another one is just sublimating. The main business is our intuitive inborn ego.



Make yourself a complete human being

01174_ud_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

In May 1980 Lama Yeshe taught the week-long course he mentions in his letter to Jacie. It was held at Grizzly Lodge in Portola, a beautiful spot in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Lake Tahoe. Seventy-five people took the great initiation of thousand-armed Chenrezig.

Lama Yeshe also gave two lectures on tantra. The following is from his introduction to the subject.

From Lama Yeshe’s Grizzly Lodge, California, teachings in 1980:

We mean well; we want to practice Mahayana. We’d like to be as open as possible. We want to go that way, even with hardship. But the narrow mind is overwhelming. It keeps on coming all the time. Maybe intellectually we try to be as open as possible but the narrow mind overwhelms us yet again. Therefore, it is not easy to be a Mahayanist. Both Atisha and Lama Tsongkhapa said that it is not enough for a person’s religion to be Mahayana; the person himself or herself must become Mahayana.

      So the business at hand is that both Hinayana and Mahayana practitioners are seeking liberation by understanding the nature of samsara, but one of them is making tremendous effort on the basis of, “I am the suffering one; I cannot stay there in this way. I want to liberation myself.” The emphasis is on liberating me. Great vehicle practitioners, Mahayanists, don’t cry so much. Even though they have problems, they are more concerned about other people’s problems than their own. That’s the difference.

      That’s why we say that bodhicitta is the door to enter the Mahayana vehicle. That’s why bodhicitta is the principal, most essential need for stopping the problem of the self-pitying, self-cherishing thought. Therefore, if you are a Mahayanist, you have bodhicitta. What makes you a bodhisattva is having the realization of bodhicitta.

   12729_sl-2_g   There are two things. A bodhisattva has two goals, two destinations: to help other people and to become self-sufficient by receiving enlightenment, by becoming totality. If we grab that—“It is more important that I become enlightenment”—it’s partial. But still we have to do it. It’s not the principal thing, it’s partial, but we still have to get the ticket in order to solve problems and help other sentient beings. I think this example is clear, isn’t it?

      Normally, Western people say, “I need so much love; nobody loves me.” They say that kind of thing, don’t they? Use that expression in the reverse way: We need the totally opened attitude. It takes care of all the problems that the narrow attitude brings. If you have this attitude you make yourself a complete human being—that’s a better way of putting it—because you have complete comprehension. Otherwise, you’re in the dark shadow of ignorance. You can see one thing but the rest is in the dark. You know that. When we don’t see totality we can’t see how everything is interrelated—when we move one thing, everything else moves too. We have to know that.

      The enlightened attitude of bodhicitta allows your energy to expand universally. You develop a broad view. Now, one who has bodhicitta can follow one of two vehicles, the Paramitayana and the Tantrayana. The Paramitayana is like the lam-rim, where you understand karmic causation and recognize your own profound ability, or potential, to solve completely all levels of ego problem, not just those on the human level. The Paramitayana takes you through the three principal paths to enlightenment and your job is to actualize the six paramitas. Practicing in that way leads you to enlightenment. But don’t think that the enlightenment the Paramitayana path leads you to is a small enlightenment, whereas Tantrayana leads you to a great enlightenment. The enlightened experience that results from following both these yanas is the same; the way they function is where they differ.

      Paramitayana and Tantrayana differ in that Tantrayana has the skillful wisdom by which you put totality together. Tantrayana has that kind of key. The Paramitayana also has a key, but its path is slow. The Paramitayana practitioner cannot put two things together simultaneously and keep going. To do that is difficult. Like my cook, Babaji—he can’t be in the kitchen and here listening to teachings at the same time! That’s his problem. The practitioner of Tantrayana has the skill and intelligence to both see reality clean clear in a penetrative way and simultaneously keep going in a unified way. There’s a great difference between the two.

      The difference between Paramitayana and Tantrayana is that the Tantrayana has the skillful methods whereby you can use desire objects that usually bring reactions of confusion and dissatisfaction in the path to enlightenment; by practicing tantric yoga, you can transform the energy of desire into the path to enlightenment. We call it taking desire as the path to enlightenment, but it is dangerous if you do not understand what these words mean; it takes some research to understand them correctly.

    11753_ng-2_g  The person practicing tantra has to have the skill to transform daily pleasures into the path to enlightenment. Let’s take our body as an example. As a matter of fact, our body comes from the functioning of desire, doesn’t it? Desire made this body; ego made this body. Our grabbing ego made this body manifest, come out. However, instead of looking at it negatively, we should regard it as precious. We know that our body is complicated, but from the Dharma point of view, instead of putting ourselves down with self-pity—“My body is a heavy burden; I wish it would disappear”—we should appreciate and take advantage of it. We should use it in a good way.

      So despite where the body comes from, the way it manifests, despite the fact that it’s not so easygoing, that it’s complicated, this body has great ability; it can do so much. With this body, not only can we take care of our food and clothing, but we can also reach beyond that; we have the opportunity to gain the eternal goals of liberation or enlightenment. That’s why our human body is precious; that’s the point. We can use it in a good way, even though it is potentially poisonous in that it can create more complications, confusion, suffering, loneliness, dissatisfaction and samsaric rebirths for us. If we can change in a positive way, we can feel grateful for having this body and make it worthwhile.

      When you practice tantra, instead of thinking, “I’m a problem; my ego’s a problem; I’m a weak person; I need…,” instead of thinking of yourself with self-pity, think, “I am the Buddha; I am Chenrezig; I am universal compassion.” The difference is unbelievable. Somehow you become transcendental; you bring the enlightenment experience into the now. That is the beauty of Tantrayana.

      So by using a skillful method, it’s possible for your life to become a transcendental experience. Your life can perhaps become an enlightened experience. Maybe I shouldn’t use those words, but I think it can become an enlightened experience.

Lama called me daughter

13142_pr-2_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

By this time Jan Willis was a professor of Buddhist studies, had published two books and was working on some oral histories of living sages. At Lama Yeshe’s request she was also working on a translation of the life stories of the Gelug mahasiddhas.

As Jan described in her autobiographical book, Dreaming Me, “Lama called me daughter. His mission was to make me feel that specialness and to teach me to trust my own power.”

Jan gave a lecture one evening at Kopan to a group of Westerners in which she mentioned that some texts say that the mother of one of the great Indian pandits, Asanga, had been cursed to be born a woman. Quite a few of the women attending the talk protested strongly, saying they had also heard that some other Buddhist texts say it isn’t even possible to attain enlightenment in a woman’s form. At the time, Jan had replied, “On, come on, now. Just look at Lama Yeshe, look at your own experience. Have you ever experienced that?”

“Some days after that,” Jan wrote, “Lama Yeshe and I were having lunch together and having a discussion about the set of life stories I was then translating. At some point we walked out together onto the upper deck of the monastery. There were a number of Western students milling about in the courtyard, on a break from the day’s activities. Suddenly, Lama Yeshe grabbed my arm and began calling out to all of them below. In a booming voice, he called, ‘Look, all of you! Look! Look! You want to see women’s liberation? This is’—pointing at me and patting me on the shoulders—‘this is women’s liberation! This is women’s liberation!’ It was both a very wonderful moment and a very awkward and humbling one.

13011_pr-2_gJan later recalled from the same period, “Then I got a letter saying I had been granted a year’s fellowship worth US$20,000, which is a lot in Nepal. ‘That’s wonderful, dear. Pantastic!’ said Lama. I had two days to reply and rushed off to Kathmandu to send a telegram.”

Lama was leaning toward not going on tour that year, though many were asking him to. Very early one morning I stood out in the courtyard in the mist while Lama came down from the gompa, wearing his huge sunhat. I watched him cross the courtyard and go into the kitchen and up to the dining room. I don’t think he saw me. I followed and watched him laughing and joking with the young monks, when just days before I had seen him smack them for not studying. The boys were lapping it up as he went from one to the next, tapping them on the head. I thought how rare and fortunate it is for us to have such a glorious teacher like Lama Yeshe, so wise, so smart, so compassionate that he can make joy wherever he is when it is needed.

“I bowed to him, handed him a check for $1,000 and asked him to please accept it and go on tour. And he cried. He just cried. Tears fell down his face as he said, ‘No, no, I can’t accept this.’ I said, ‘Lama, please, I’ve come into all this money.’ ‘No no,’ he said, still crying. He was so tender and so incredibly humble. Finally, he did accept it and he did go on tour.”

 Jan continued. “I rented a house in Maharaj Ganj in Kathmandu. Lama loved to come and visit, so I arranged a large guest room for him there. I also employed a cook, Kanchi, whom Lama flattered no end. She adored him. All he had to say was, ‘Kanchi, I want you to cook kala dhal for me today,’ and she’d get hysterical and rush out into the market to buy black dhal. I had a watchman too and the house was very peaceful. I was pleased that my house could be a haven for Lama.

12989_pr-2_g“One day Lama turned up with a Jeep full of Kopan boys and took them on a tour of the house, pointing out his room, the living room, bathrooms, my room and so on. Then he told me he was to give a talk at Kopan that night and asked me to write the lecture for him. My knees buckled and I asked if he really thought I could do that. ‘Oh yes, daughter. I want you to do it with all the Sanskrit equivalents to the Tibetan terms. I’ll be back in two hours. Have it ready.’ He strode off before I could blurt out my fears. It was a talk on the Medicine Buddha. I put together as much as I could in the time, gave him the notes and he hurried back to Kopan with them.”

During another visit to Maharaj Ganj, this time with Jacie, Lama Yeshe described how the Dharma would transfer into Western culture. He said pujas would endure because Westerners were learning the value of group prayer. Deities and the auspicious colors used in meditation and paintings, as well as the dorje and bell, would also last. He said the red Tibetan robes, however, were just a cultural phenomenon.



Education in the centers

13097_pr-2_gLama spoke at length about education in the centers—programs and teachers, philosophy, outreach and integration.

In our centers we offer the prajnaparamita teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. We also invite other teachers for the purpose of integration. We know that integrating Western philosophies is good. We do not, however, invite rubbish teachers with cynical vibrations who just create contradictions. Some people are ridiculous, fighting and being political. The director must know these things and decide. We do not have time for disharmony. If some people want to negate what we have in our community then we simply don’t invite those people. But at the same time we do not put other teachers down. They do their trip, we do our trip. The director can say, “You go study that trip at another place. You do not pull that trip in here!”

  For example, I have invited teachers of Jungian psychology to our centers. But it is not because Buddhism doesn’t have psychology. Buddhist psychology is super profound. But sometimes students can see that some things are helpful while other things are not. Jungian psychology helps them to integrate these things in their life.

      When certain students become fanatical and narrow with their spiritual trip, that is not good. We are not asking our Western students to follow some kind of Tibetan trip. Being a fanatic is not a healthy way to become a Buddhist. You people can see who becomes that kind of student. I am very concerned about this. These students do not last. For these reasons it is good to bring Jungian teachers to show their methods. 

13084_pr-3_g (1)When geshes come you cannot require that every geshe should teach the lam-rim in Lama Zopa’s or Lama Yeshe’s way. Each geshe has a different personality, so they cannot teach in the same style. After Guru Shakyamuni died, eighteen new traditions arose. That was just fine. Sometimes a new geshe comes to the West, popping up like a mushroom and knowing nothing about Western minds and Western culture. You may blow their minds, but maybe the geshe blows your mind, too. It is possible; you should expect this. I’m not criticizing, not at all. Sometimes presenting the teachings entails problems, so don’t freak out. It is normal.

Our education program has a clear direction, but we do not follow blindly. First we present introductory lam-rim teachings. To anyone who wants higher teachings you first introduce the lam-rim. The reason for this is that intellectual Buddhism is already existent in the West. Our aim, however, is not intellectual; our aim is to establish communities. When real transformation happens in a student, then dedication also comes. Many people know blah blah blah in Tibetan, but they are not Buddhist; their hearts are empty. Knowing the Tibetan language does not make a person precious. If he does not integrate something positive into his life, then what is his purpose? It would be better for him to eat cheesecake! You people know all this already; I’m just telling you again. The main teaching in our centers is the practice of lam-rim—whether in the sutra aspect or tantra aspect—in accordance with the prajnaparamita, from the beginning right up until enlightenment.

      The first thing we do is take refuge. The subject of taking refuge is incredible vast, big. Normally the tradition is that we take refuge 100,000 times, but at the beginning this is difficult for the Inji mind. We should practice the proper way of taking refuge in lam-rim. It is so useful. Then we do 100,000 mandala offerings, then 100,000 water bowl offerings. It seems easy, but for most Injis this is difficult. Then 100,000 prostrations. It is good if one can do these in a retreat, but if the situation is too difficult for that then you accept the situation. If you can only do a hundred in the morning and in the evening, that is fantastic. There is a constructive way to do these things. Then we do 100,000 guru yogas, then 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras.

13086_pr-2_g    Chenrezig initiation is very good for developing loving kindness–compassion. Then we do Manjushri initiation, which wakes up the comprehensive intensive wisdom. Next it is good to do Vajrapani, to increase power. These three initiations are one person’s path of development to enlightenment.

      Each year our directors and old students should do a short retreat in order to keep your hearts warm and to progress in the practice. Retreat is super useful. If you do not do retreat then something is missing. You become sort of distant from the Dharma, unless you learn to become super skillful and make every action a Dharma action. Otherwise, in this twentieth century we all need an injection to keep the Dharma alive in our hearts. I cannot always say to students: ‘You do this; you do that.’ I am only one person. How can I guide a couple of thousand people? Each center director and spiritual director can give that advice, if they understand. I know that it can be very difficult for people to organize a retreat but I think retreat is very important, especially when people do retreat together as a group. It doesn’t matter if it is short or long.

      For monks and nuns to think that they are better or that they should have a better education than lay people is wrong. We cannot be jealous. Lay people are equal with monks and nuns who say they want to give their body, speech and mind to all sentient beings. That’s what they have said. But lay people did not say like that; they say they are not ready. They say, “I want to give my body a little bit for my wife, my husband, and it is good I give for them.” Lay people say, “I do the best I can.” The purpose of education for monks and nuns and lay people is completely equal.

      Also we do not distinguish between men and women with regard to who should receive a good education. You cannot judge who should be educated; it is completely individual. All centers should provide equal education to all and each person can participate to the extent that they have time. The center is for everybody. If people do not take advantage that is their problem, but from the director’s side we provide for people equally.

Lama’s whole being was about service

06666_ng_gFrom  1980: The teachings are all about you! by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe held a special concern for the children of his students and their care and education. He specifically addressed this issue with his center directors.

Concerning families and children, if we have the resources we should make a school. The center directors should have a plan for this. If you do not express that this is what you would like to do then no one will know, so you should write it down in big huge letters: THIS IS WHAT WE WANT TO DO! And as much as possible you should do it. But energy is like dreams—sometimes it comes suddenly then it suddenly disappears. You never know who will give you energy and who will not. I truly believe that lay people love their children and that they want a Buddhist-style education for them. It is a pity if we do not put that together for them. So far we have tried but what we have done is not really sufficient. Sorry! We should put this into reality.

In Buddhism we have such material for children’s education. It is a pity that no one has developed it, because we have the potential and the methods for making books and other things for children. There is so much material, so much information, but instead of using it we are wasting so much energy. It is especially good if our center directors take an interest in this. I’m not criticizing, I understand that energy builds up slowly, slowly. First we have to take care of our urgent fundamental needs. Then when we have extra energy we can spread out into other endeavors. But even now we should have a broad view of what we want to accomplish when we have sufficient energy. Center directors should have a broad view rather than a limitation mind, which can keep the center from growing. Also, you shouldn’t keep this total view inside your mind. You should put it out there. Write it down and let people know.

11736_ng_gMax Redlich (now Thubten Gelek) paraphrased Lama’s speech for the first edition of a magazine published by Tara House in Melbourne. (Tara Magazine produced fourteen issues over four years, then folded.)

The very next day after Lama gave specific rules for the establishment of new centers, he broke them, cutting right across his own guidelines to give someone permission to start a new center. Everyone was a little bewildered by that, but knew Lama’s mind was without bounds. The CPMT also issued a formal invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, inviting him to tour Europe later in 1980 and give ten-day courses at each of the FPMT centers there. The invitation was extended to include a similar tour of Australian centers in 1981.

Max Redlich (now Thubten Gelek) paraphrased Lama’s speech for the first edition of amagazine published by Tara House in Melbourne. (Tara Magazine produced fourteen issues over four years, then folded.)

The very next day after Lama gave specific rules for the establishment of new centers, he broke them, cutting right across his own guidelines to give someone permission to start a new center. Everyone was a little bewildered by that, but knew Lama’s mind was without bounds. The CPMT also issued a formal invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, inviting him to tour Europe later in 1980 and give ten-day courses at each of the FPMT centers there. The invitation was extended to include a similar tour of Australian centers in 1981.

12729_sl-2_g“At the CPMT meeting Lama drew a square diagram of what the ideal center should look like,” Peter Kedge recalled. “It should be away from town but not too distant, and on elevated land with a view, which is important for the mind. The gompa, monastic and teaching areas should be in the middle with the lay community at the periphery. Lama was very specific that communities should grow in this way.

“In the early days when centers were being established and people became residents, it frequently happened that their initial gratitude at having this opportunity changed to claiming ‘rights’ as tenants. Lama was very clear. The reason centers were established was to serve. As soon as they turned into what he called ‘clubs for people who have been to India’ or private homes where people forgot about giving service, he preferred to have those people gone and the centers empty. Sometimes people in centers formed cliques, which Lama put a stop to very quickly.”

Peter continued, “Lama’s whole being was about service. When he spoke to new monks and nuns he explained to them that their purpose was to serve. It wasn’t to become a yogi or a retreater or to escape from anything—it was to serve others. And you could see that’s exactly what Lama and Rinpoche did. I found a tremendous difference in the vibration at Kopan to the great monasteries in the south, or even in Dharamsala. People would go to those places to become monks and study, but Kopan was different. And what made it different was this huge underlying emphasis on the lam-rim and the practice of bodhicitta, on going out to serve. Of course there were wonderful monks in the big monasteries, but the overriding feeling was that those places were centers of academia rather than service.”


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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