From 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.
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.
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.