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“Use your own wisdom, dear.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.



Protection was the last thing Lama wanted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

my Milarepas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Front veranda at Tushita retreat Center

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

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

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.


Who said Jesus didn’t teach shunyata?

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

The Mount Everest Centre daily schedule began when the boys were awakened at 6:00 am; they washed and dressed and then went to the gompa for puja. They had breakfast at 8:00 am and then cleaned the grounds until 10:00 am, shouting mantras all the time. This was followed by memorization until mid-day and a half-hour painting class until lunch. After lunch, they had Tibetan grammar classes and English classes. In the middle of the afternoon they had a tea break, after which there was Tibetan writing class, teachings on the various texts they were studying, and debating of those texts until dinner at 7:30 pm. After dinner the younger boys then debated in the gompa from 8:00 to 9:00 pm, when they would be sent to bed. The older boys often studied late into the night. In addition to their class studies, every boy, perhaps with the exception of the rinpoches, took their turn at working in the kitchen, helping with construction work around the monastery and working in the garden.

Pam Philip became one of the painting teachers and held an exhibition of the boys’ work, which was very bright and fresh. “Lots of people who had been at the November course came to the exhibition and bought paintings,” Pam recalled. “Lama was wandering about and came up close to me. Indicating a woman who had just been speaking to me, he said, ‘Let her have whatever she wants.’ Then he walked on. Well, this woman decided she didn’t want one of the boys’ paintings but instead wanted a very nice old thangka that belonged to the monastery instead. I told her it wasn’t one of the boys’ works. She offered to pay something for it. Remembering Lama’s words, I asked her how much and she said, ‘Three.’ I said, ‘300 rupees?’ ‘No, three rupees,’ she replied. I thought, ‘My God, what planet is she from?’ I said that I was sorry but this was a very old thangka and very valuable. Even 300 rupees would be ridiculous. Then she just started to freak out and cry and I realized I had blown it. She didn’t get the thangka, but I really felt I had not done what Lama had said to do. He had some insight into this woman and wanted to make her happy, and I hadn’t followed through. If it was some kind of test then I failed it.”

Pam Cayton and Karuna Cayton

Karuna Cayton and Pam Cayton

Pam continued, “I often watched how Lama dealt with people who were really difficult. Instead of rejecting them, Lama embraced them. On the other hand he often ridiculed those who you thought were so nice, embarrassing them in public. You were always wondering whether this was something to benefit that person or yourself.

“Lama often handed me a Time magazine and asked me questions about worldly affairs; I had absolutely no idea. Once he asked me to open this new suitcase he had, with a fancy latch. I couldn’t do it and he said, ‘Pam, I think you need to go back to the West for a while.’ I knew he wanted me to be of practical use in the world.”

Karuna had brought a copy of The Essence Gospel of Peace to Kopan with him. “They were beautifully written in verse and Lama loved them,” said Karuna. “When I read them to 200 students after the course, there was a stunned silence. Lama was sitting on the throne above me. He broke the silence by commenting, ‘Who said Jesus didn’t teach shunyata? This proves he did. Please put a copy of these in the library.’”

Elea Redel stayed on after the November course. “One night I felt I was just boiling over. I ran across Lama standing outside in his big fluffy monk’s cape and told him I was exploding. He slapped me on the shoulder with his mala and ordered, ‘You go to puja!’ It was about to start and I had planned to miss it, but I did feel better afterward. I was always escaping from things and running into Lama. When he asked me, ‘How are you?’ I muttered something about self-cherishing and he said, ‘Where is your self-cherishing mind?’ Just the way he said it made me realize I mustn’t exaggerate my ego.”

1978, 1979, Adrian Feldmann (Thubten Gyatso), Chombey, Karuna Cayton, Kathmandu, Kopan Monastery, Nepal

(L-R) Karuna Cayton, Adrian Feldmann (Thubten Gyatso), Thubten Ngodrub, Chombey, Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I wanted to retreat but I had ‘love problems,’” Elea recalled. ‘So, why aren’t you with this man anymore?’ Lama asked. I muttered about suffering and attachment and he said, ‘Attachment? There is attachment all the time. In Tibet we say there are three ways to work with attachment: you can cut your hair and change your dress, you can get married, or you can live alone, not need anybody and find the energies within yourself.’ Later, Lama asked me to go and work in the Italian center, because I spoke English. I said wouldn’t it be better if I went to France because I am French? ‘We need people all over the world’, he told me.”



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