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Posts tagged ‘Ordination’

The 8th Kopan Meditation Course

Group photo, Kopan, 1975From 1975: We Need a Foundation by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Two hundred people turned up for the eighth course, many of them veterans of several courses already. The more long-term students were increasingly serious about learning to control their minds and stop harming others. Marcel was appointed as the course leader and Jon Landaw was requested to conduct the discussions. “Lama didn’t give me any particular instructions,” said Jon. “He just threw me in there.” Yeshe Khadro, Thubten Pemo, Sangye Khadro, and John Feuille all returned to Kopan from a three-month Manjushri retreat at Lawudo to attend the meditation course.

Adrian Feldmann came to the course from his one-room cabin in the Australian bush where he had been doing solitary retreat. During his retreat he had not seen a single person. “I’d followed Lama Yeshe’s advice and started writing him letters when questions arose, but I never finished one of them. As soon as I started writing the answers just came to me. After the retreat I wrote to Lama and asked when I could become a monk. He told me to come to the course.”

Among the new students attending this course was John Cayton, an American college student. He was one of a group of undergraduates from The Evergreen State College in Washington State, USA, who had come to Nepal to engage in individual research. Most people called him Karuna; he had been given that name by a Hindu guru a few years previously. On his first night at Kopan he dreamed of a lama bowing and smiling at him in greeting. “The next morning I was going to breakfast and I saw this lama walking by, bowing to everyone and smiling. It was Lama Yeshe; he was the one I had seen in my dream. I’d never even seen a photo of him before,” said Karuna.

Andy Weber, who was studying thangka painting in Boudhanath, had met Lama Yeshe in Bodhgaya in 1974. This was his first Kopan course. “I didn’t like the first day—those pretentious Americans with their backpacks and superdown gear and polite palaver. Everyone looked so rich and neat,” Andy remembered. “It was like being at college in the West. The day before the course started I was standing beside the gompa looking down into the valley and wondering whether to stay. I turned around and there was Lama Yeshe’s beaming face at the window. He just nodded to me, but I felt a thud of blessed energy. I knew then that I had to stay. But I thought Marcel was a pain in the neck. Sometimes I just had to go down to Boudha for a chillum.

“I got very depressed during Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings. The only reason I stayed was because Lama Yeshe occasionally dropped in and gave one of his blissful talks, and because he sometimes called me to his room for a chat. His was the message we all wanted to hear. However, we also knew that we first had to walk the path Lama Zopa Rinpoche was pointing out, the same path Lama Yeshe had followed.”

Five friends from the seventh course had spent the year together in Dharamsala and had then returned to Kopan for more. “We were a wild bunch,” said Jimi Neal. Wildest of all was an intense young Italian, Stefano Piovella. “A lot of people at Kopan were very straight. They didn’t like Stefano because he was such a hippie,” said Jimi. “He spent most of the course crashed out in the front row looking totally out of it. Then every now and then he would jump up with the most amazingly profound or poignant questions. He just adored Lama Zopa Rinpoche. He told me that he was amazed at Lama Yeshe’s deep understanding of Italian psychology and culture after he had spent only two weeks in Italy.”

Some months later the somewhat unpredictable but charismatic Stefano was ordained by His Holiness the Karmapa. “Ha ha ha! You! A monk!” everybody exclaimed. “I’m glad you did it,” said Lama. “You’ll last two months.” And he did—to the day. Stefano later took ordination again, and disrobed again.

Jimi Neal was present on the day a student arrived at Kopan on a huge BMW motorbike. “Lama Yeshe might have seen one before but he certainly hadn’t ridden one,” said Jimi. “He got on it, put his hands and feet in the right places, and hunkered down as though the wind was tearing at his face. Marcel Marceau had nothing on him—he was a magnificent actor and a superb mimic.”

One person who didn’t show up for the course was the lamas’ Lake Arrowhead driver Teresa Knowlton, a devout and cheerful young girl from Seattle. Teresa had planned to take ordination and was expected to arrive at Kopan with gardening tools and a typewriter. Time magazine was one of the very few Western publications regularly available in Nepal and Lama Yeshe usually had the latest copy. One day he pointed to a paragraph about an Indian-Vietnamese man, Charles Sobhraj, who had murdered a number of young travelers and stolen their cash and passports, apparently for the sheer excitement of it. Among his victims, found drowned on a beach in Thailand, was Teresa Knowlton. “She wanted to practice Dharma,” said Lama, “but she never reached here.” The message was clear—anything can happen, so use your time well.

More new monks and nuns

Adrian Feldmann was preparing to take robes. His girlfriend was at Kopan and tried to get the lad to spend one last romantic weekend with her at the lovely lakeside town of Pokhara. “I had to check up very deeply,” said Adrian. “I took my girlfriend up to the astrologer’s hill and pointed to the North Star. ‘See that star?’ I said. ‘It never moves and the whole universe moves around it. It is the same as my determination to be a monk.’ She cried a bit and we had one last kiss and cuddle.”

Most of those seeking ordination had already received “Dharma names,” but Adrian hadn’t. He hadn’t even taken the five lay vows that were often given together with refuge. Lama Yeshe gave these vows to Adrian and to Scott Brusso, who also hadn’t yet received all five vows. Then Lama closed his eyes for a moment and gave Adrian the name Thubten Gyatso.

Elisabeth Drukier was on the way to becoming Lama’s first French nun. “I’m not sure about French people,” Lama told her, “I don’t know so many.” George Churinoff went to see Lama Zopa Rinpoche about whether to become ordained. “He told me, ‘For you it would be good.’ So that was that. I thought that becoming a monk was really the only way I could practice Dharma and I had no relationship responsibilities,” said George.

These three—Adrian, Elisabeth, and George—together with several more of Kopan’s Western students, were slated to be ordained by in Dharamsala early in 1976.

In the meantime, however, Lama Yeshe unexpectedly announced on November 17 that a preliminary rabjung ceremony would take place the very next day. This was the third group of Lama Yeshe’s students to request getsul ordination and Lama wanted to ensure that their monastic future was well planned. By receiving the eight barma rabjung vows early they would have some experience of having lived together as Sangha before committing themselves to the thirty-six getsul vows. On that day, George Churinoff, Adrian Feldmann, Elisabeth Drukier, Electric Roger, Karin Valham, Roger Wheeler, Peter Kedge, Scott Brusso, Suzi Albright, and Margaret McAndrew received barma rabjung ordination together. After the ceremony Lama told them, “From now on I am your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mummy, your daddy, your teacher and your best friend. You have no worries. Now you have a big party!”

“We went down to the Sangha gompa, which was the big room in the old house,” said Adrian. “There was a big table of food and Lama insisted that we sing and dance and play music, all of which are alien practices for ordained people. So we got out the few cassette tapes that we still had, such as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and drank lemonade and ate biscuits. We didn’t actually sing and dance and Lama didn’t come to the party.”

Lama Yeshe gave several talks to the Sangha about how to live together as a community. He also had them give Dharma talks to each other in the evenings, with question-and-answer sessions, in this way training his monks and nuns to eventually be able to teach in the West.

 

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The First Course at Chenrezig Institute

Lamas having lunch, 1975From 1975: We Need a Foundation by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe gave two lectures in Brisbane before arriving at Chenrezig Institute in time for a month-long course, the second such meditation course held outside Nepal. One hundred and twenty people had enrolled for it. Anila Ann and her team had all but finished building the gompa on that steep empty land at Eudlo. The work had been done mainly by volunteers, qualified tradespeople turning up just in the nick of time and seemingly out of the blue. Ann had raised the money to pay for every plank and nail, though she was still living in the old shed.

Once again caravans were hired for the lamas and Mummy Max, who was not impressed. “I said to Lama, ‘Oh God, Lama, what karma you have! These camper trailers, no roads, no nothing.’ ‘It’s not for me, it’s for them,’ he told me,” recalled Max.

Lama had a big vision for this center. In 1974 he had told them, “Think big! Think big!” That year, a horse called Think Big had won the world-famous Melbourne Cup. In 1975 Think Big won the cup again. No one had thought to place a bet.

The course ran from May 5 to June 1. Mummy Max did not attend. Nor did Kathy Vichta, with whom Lama Yeshe spent some time cooking. “He showed me how to save time by squashing things with your hand instead of cutting them up. It worked just as well. He made a casserole one day by opening cans and just squashing the contents into bowls and saying mantras over them. Lama always said mantras while he cooked. He put so much physical energy into mundane stuff, like it was a really important part of his life,” said Kathy.

Lama’s students presented him with an electric razor, despite the fact that he had only about twenty whiskers. He preferred the Tibetan method of plucking them out with a small engraved brass clip during quiet breakfasts with Mummy Max.

Cameras always appeared when Lama Yeshe was around. Everyone loved new photos of him—dancing on the beach, sitting in meditation, laughing, playing. With the idea of commissioning a statue of Lama, Max arranged for a series of shots taken just of his head, from every angle. He posed for these graciously and without any self-consciousness.

Pete Northend and Colin Crosbie worked hard on the new building but Lama Yeshe wanted his wild-partying, hard-drinking shing-zö to enter a thirteen-year retreat. “I just couldn’t do it,” said Pete. “No way!”

Meanwhile, Electric Roger was thinking of becoming a monk. “I spoke to Lama Yeshe about it in Sydney. He said that I should check up whether I could renounce everything, even food. He said if I wasn’t ready to do that I could start up a center in Sydney. When I got to Chenrezig, I had an interview with him in the gompa. He was sitting alone in the middle of the room. I knew I was supposed to prostrate to him, but I still couldn’t bow down to a person. So I turned and prostrated to the altar instead. When I told him I wanted to take robes he just said, ‘Now or at Kopan?’ I said I’d come to Kopan.”

Lama Yeshe invited Mummy Max to give a talk on what had led her to take ordination. Max was not used to this kind of thing. Lama further honored her by insisting she sit on the teaching throne while speaking.

Peter Fenner arrived in time for one of Lama Zopa’s specialities, the death meditation. “It shifted something for me,” recounted Peter. “I knew about my dark side, so I loved the idea of purification. I met Lama Yeshe alone in the gompa and asked him to be my guru. I had a list of questions I didn’t even get to ask because he answered them anyway. In the space of about twenty minutes he also articulated the next twenty years of my life. He suggested I come and live at Chenrezig with my wife and daughter. ‘I want you to become a university professor and teach Dharma,’ he said. It wasn’t exactly what I was planning, but I had total confidence in him,” said Peter.

On 24 May 1975, Lama wrote a letter to Judy Weitzner in California, asking her to write the book His Holiness the Dalai Lama had requested, Tibetan People Today:

Please choose right name that is perfect, suitable and pays attention. Maybe make a documentary movie? Please you set up and organize. Should we adopt a legal name? You put your ideas together on paper and send to me in California.

“Lama had spoken to me about this book before,” said Judy. “I told him I didn’t think I could do much. ‘Yes, you can. You’re Chenrezig. You have a thousand arms and you can do what you want,’ was his reply. I went to Kopan to live in Max’s house and taught the boys English. I planned to meet Lama again in Switzerland,” said Judy. In her quiet way Judy Weitzner was actually a political firebrand. The Free Speech Movement, which developed into the anti-Vietnam War effort in America, had its origins in her Berkeley apartment. Judy produced the first ever Free Tibet bumper stickers, but the book Lama Yeshe described never saw the light of day.

A week before the end of the course, to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday (Saka Dawa), Lama Yeshe asked everyone to come outside after a Guru Puja and to meditate together on the hill behind the gompa. “Lama and Rinpoche sat above us, right on the top of the hill,” said Adrian Feldmann. “We meditated for about fifteen minutes during which time I had a very strong vision of four-armed Chenrezig and a green lady. At that time I didn’t know about Green Tara at all. I’ve never had another vision like that one. It just appeared in my mind that Lama was Tara and Rinpoche was Chenrezig.”

A couple of days before the course ended, Phra Somdet, abbot of Wat Bovoranives, who had offered lunch to the lamas in Bangkok two months earlier, visited the center. He was accompanied by Phra Khantipalo, Ayya Khema, and some Thai monks from Sydney. Lama instructed his students to line up and formally welcome them, while he bounced around with his camera taking photos and laughing freely, in total contrast to the very sober demeanor of his visitors. The abbot gave a Dharma talk to the Westerners who were still there at the center; Lama Yeshe sat in the very front row for the talk.

At the end of the month-long course, fifty people took refuge with Lama Yeshe. Also, fifty-eight received a Chenrezig empowerment and forty-five received a Tara empowerment.

A number of those who had attended the course planned to do group retreat together but Adrian Feldmann wanted to do retreat alone. “I went to see Lama in his caravan and told him. He said that was fine, adding, ‘Whenever a question comes into your mind I want you to write me a letter.’ I said, ‘Okay,’ even though I knew I was going to be in an extremely remote spot and miles from any letter-box.”

One of the lamas’ last tasks in Queensland was to write to Peter Guiliano in Melbourne, thanking him for his many services:

Dear Peter Juliyana, thank you so much for your giving pure Dharma. As much as possible practise wisdom light and giving energy to other students. Please write what everyone is doing nowaday. I want to check up your daily life. So report! Keep continuously energetic wisdom bell ringing. Chenrezig Institute is fantastic!

See you next year, psychic kiss.

Love love love love Lama Yeshe

 

On the way to the airport, Lama Yeshe stopped to buy an orange plastic mug for everyone at Kopan. “These are very good, dear; not too hot to hold,” he said. The lamas then missed their flight to Sydney. Anila Ann felt sad about the lamas’ departure. “Don’t you like it here?” asked Lama. “Oh, Lama,” said Ann, “you know all I want to do is live in your pocket.”

Back at Chenrezig, the retreaters settled into a regimen of silence and a diet of macrobiotic food. Lama Yeshe had left a taped message for them, which they played every day:

Good morning, golden flower students. Enjoy divine wisdom chanting as much possible, cultivate or activate wisdom action and stay in the universal compassion wisdom, never come down in supermarket. Worthwhile. See you soon in the everlasting peaceful sky. Stay.

 

Such simple words filled their hearts and minds with more satisfaction than years of formal education ever could.

The Dromana Course

Lama adjusts his robe, 1975From 1975: We Need a Foundation by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe’s students in Melbourne booked a facility in the bayside town of Dromana, on the Mornington Peninsula. Eighty-five people attended a five-day course there over Easter, with Nick teaching the “lower realms and suffering” part in Rinpoche’s absence. It was a sophisticated crowd including many friends of people who had been to Kopan and who were wondering what on earth their mates had gotten themselves into. Lama Yeshe was ready for them.

 

From Lama Yeshe’s teachings at Dromana, Australia:

Not only are you people mentally strong, you are also skeptical. That’s good. Lord Buddha’s teaching is skeptical too. This meeting of skeptics is excellent. Do you understand what I mean by skeptical? I mean you don’t easily believe or accept anything. You check and experiment to see if something works or not. If it doesn’t, you keep checking, checking, checking, using your brain, your wisdom. In that way you grow. This is all part of the path of inner freedom, liberation and enlightenment. Just believing what someone tells you emotionally, without understanding, has nothing to do with any religion. Even though you might pretend: “I’m a such and such”, it’s just a label and still an ego trip.

The two departments of ego and attachment work together in your mind and as long as they do, whatever sense pleasure you enjoy, wherever you go, whatever friends you have, nothing lasts. Your ego makes a wrong projection on an object and your attachment follows without hesitation and gets completely stuck on, or tied to, that object. This splits and severely agitates your mind.

I’m sure you can philosophize intellectually that things are impermanent, but if you check more deeply into how your ego interprets objects, what it projects onto them, you will find that it’s expecting them to last and perceiving them as permanent.

When two people get married their ego’s interpretation is that they should be together forever in life, and even in death. This is so exaggerated. It’s impossible for people to make that decision. It’s not up to them, it’s up to karma. Uncontrollably, karmic energy makes the decision whether one partner lives and the other dies. When one finally does, the other misses him or her so badly and suffers enormously.

All that worry and weeping, missing and memory comes from the two mental departments of ego and attachment. Not understanding the impermanent nature of phenomena, and expecting to live happily ever after as interpreted by ego and attachment, brings the reaction of misery. That is a karmic result or effect. If you understand impermanent nature there’s no upset, miserable reaction. You accept death as a natural thing. In fact, you expect it to happen. With understanding there’s no worry. You know separation is natural.

Therefore, instead of blindly following the grasping and attachment that result from the way your ego interprets things, it’s better to renounce. Perhaps you think that when I tell you to renounce, I mean that you should get rid of all your possessions. But true renunciation isn’t physical, it’s mental. It doesn’t refer to what things are worth monetarily, but to how your mind views them. Your mind makes things seem very important because it does not see their reality and overestimates their nature.

When you know that phenomena are changeable, transitory and impermanent by nature, you expect things to disappear. Of course, everyone knows this intellectually, but when you meditate on the sensations of your body and mind you experience their automatically changing nature. That’s not intellectual philosophy, but your own personal experience. Other objects, such as your family, friends, material possessions or whatever else may be your biggest object of attachment, are the same in nature. Everything is transitory and momentary. Nothing lasts. We cling to these things because we think they are helpful, but try to ascertain whether they really help or harm your mind. Perhaps, instead of inducing peace they disturb your peace of mind. You check up.

 

A camper trailer—what the British call a “caravan”—had been rented for Lama and it was there that Adrian Feldmann had his first private interview with Lama Yeshe. “I sat down beside him on the bed and told him that I had taken refuge and wanted my life to be as close to the Dharma as possible. I saw two ways of doing that. One was to become a monk; the other was to live with someone, share Dharma, and develop with them. I was hoping he’d recommend the second option, but all he did was roll around on the bed laughing. When he stopped he said, ‘Possible, dear, but very difficult. Instead of one crazy mind you have two, three, four crazy minds, plus all the problems of food and education.’

“‘So what about ordination,’ I asked. Again he rolled around the bed laughing, then sat up. He glanced at the sky with a shrug and said, ‘Practice Dharma twenty-four hours a day.’ I knew this was the real answer to my question and felt this iron hand grip my heart as I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to be a monk.’”

Back at Bea Ribush’s Lama Yeshe made himself at home. He watched TV, played with Bea’s little poodle, Bobik, and did some cooking. He telephoned Tibetologist David Templeman and once again invited him to tea.

“I only had some very low-grade Tibetan tea that time, but I brought it,” said David. “We sat in front of the TV with a huge pile of cakes and watched the coverage of the chaos taking place at the end of the Vietnam War. Lama was not agitated as we watched people fleeing for their lives, but sitting beside him I noticed him becoming warmer and warmer—more than warm. It was like sitting next to a furnace. He didn’t try to hold back the tears and neither did I. Then he turned to me and said in English, ‘Now they are refugees, just like me. Now they will have big sufferings.’ I got the impression he was right in there with them, that he was one of them, going through every second of their pain. It was a very strong experience.”

A New Tradition: Public Examinations

IMI monks and nuns, Kopan 1974From 1974: Introducing Adamantine Being (Vajrasattva) by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe was very keen for his own students to be examined. Now that most of them had been studying for at least two years, Lama began holding public examinations at Kopan starting in December of 1974. The dates on which these were to be held were even advertised in Kathmandu. Each person was given a lam-rim subject, sometimes not until the exam was just about to begin. He or she had to give a talk on the topic in front of all the other students and then had to debate with Lama Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche. These proved to be very interesting and successful events, where Lama carefully boosted the confidence of those who needed it. He was still constantly amazed at the lack of self-confidence among the apparently powerful Injis. This was also one of Lama’s teaching methods aimed at preparing his monks and nuns eventually to be able to teach the Dharma in the West.

From Lama Yeshe’s lecture to the IMI Sangha in preparation for the first public examinations:

“I think it is necessary that you know why we are going to hold examinations of IMI Sangha.

Since you took ordination, your life, your body and speech, do not belong to you, nor do they belong to Lama. They belong to all universal living beings. It was because of your understanding that you decided to live in the thirty-six vows, to renounce samsara. Lama did not push you. Therefore your duty is to integrate your body, speech and mind as much as possible into Dharma knowledge-wisdom and to give that light to all mother sentient beings. To do this it is not enough to spend all your life sitting on the mountain, doing a “Milarepa trip.” Nor is it enough to receive teachings on just one particular book—for example, the Vajrasattva text—and then spend your life studying that small information just for your own knowledge. To think that work such as this is the purpose of your life is a wrong conception.

You need to be able to explain the basic psychological Dharma wisdom terms that are found in the Prajnaparamita texts of Lord Buddha and in the commentaries written by Nagarjuna, Maitreya and Atisha. Those teachings have been integrated into the graduated path to liberation, the lam-rim. So the IMI Sangha have to at least know Lama Zopa’s lam-rim teaching completely.

The aim of establishing the Institute was to make sure you had the opportunity to study those teachings. You have to know and be able to explain these subjects at least intellectually. If you cannot even answer questions on an intellectual level, how can your actions become practice? First comes hearing, then intellectual understanding, then the experience, the realization.

So in order to have a clean-clear understanding you have to be able to express your thoughts and engage in debate. Many times you may think that you know the answers, you may even think you are Buddha. But when someone questions or contradicts you, then your words are nothingness, because of your limited mind. That can be very dangerous because you are thereby making Dharma wisdom tasteless, even making it smell like ka-ka. So by having deep understanding you have to be able to meditate and also to express yourself within the Sangha. In that way you keep your intellectual understanding and realizations together. You keep both your heart and your speech clean and working simultaneously.”

 

“Those public examinations were terrifying,” said Thubten Pemo. “Sometimes we were not told in advance what the topic would be or who was going to be examined. I remember speaking about impermanence and Rinpoche interrupting with questions. Dr. Nick called out and asked me something like, ‘Where does the ignorance go when we realize emptiness?’ and I replied, ‘Where does the darkness go when we turn on the light in the room?’ And everyone laughed.”

Lay Precepts

Lama Yeshe teaching, Kopan, 1973From 1973: First Steps First Students by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

One hundred and eight people completed the fourth Kopan course—and for once, everyone paid. 108 is an auspicious number relating to the 108 volumes of the Kangyur, the collection of the words of the Buddha. There is a popular Tibetan Buddhist prayer entitled One Hundred and Eight Verses in Praise of Great Compassion and there are also commonly 108 beads on a Buddhist mala.

Near the end of the course Lama Yeshe gave a talk on refuge and precepts, which left everybody weak with laughter and filled with enthusiasm for living a different kind of life. As usual, a number of those in attendance opted not to take the precept to abstain from taking intoxicants. Hash was still just too much fun for some.

From Lama Yeshe’s talk on the lay precepts from the fourth course:

There are some people here who want to take the five precepts. Ordination is beneficial for oneself and for sentient beings. The lamas’ experience is that before taking and giving these precepts we should have some understanding of what they are and why we take them. It is not just a samsaric custom.

We all want perfect peace, happiness, everlasting satisfaction and liberation. Since that’s our goal, we should head in that direction. Otherwise we’re just hypocrites—we say we want, we want, but act completely opposite to our desire. A simple example: In the West, people with severe psychological problems are put into mental hospitals, which is pretty radical treatment. What they need is soft, peaceful treatment. Putting someone in jail is wrathful treatment, neither soft nor peaceful. Lama’s rule is that mental hospitals are okay, but they should be peaceful and the patients should be treated with understanding. They should come to understand themselves slowly, slowly, not by force.

By constraining ourselves with ordination we can gradually develop our mind. We are not ready for immediate development by forced meditation and so forth. We need to create peaceful conditions for ourselves so that our mind will develop in a certain way and gradually become more stable, not up and down. From there it can be liberated without having to come down into the samsaric world.

So ordination is the method of achieving this. Lord Buddha never said we have to follow any rule without knowing its purpose. He said that if you keep this kind of precept it will give you this kind of mental feeling, safety from certain problems. The five precepts are not killing, not lying, not stealing, not becoming intoxicated and not engaging in sexual misconduct. Lord Buddha never said, “Don’t do these five things.” Rather he explained what kind of mind, what kind of confused mental attitude, engages in killing and so forth; what kind of selfish motivation causes us to engage in such actions.

Before taking the five precepts our mind is dissatisfied, kind of berserk. Lord Buddha said this confused mental attitude brings conflict. If we’re in control of our mind, actions such as killing, lying and so forth, never bring the reaction of conflict in our mind. He never said, “Stop doing that forever.” He just said that avoiding it is useful for your mind. When we reach enlightenment we don’t need ordination rules. For example, small children are told not to touch electricity—their mothers make a kind of rule against it—but older children don’t need such rules; they already know. It’s the same thing for the higher consciousness, the liberated, stable consciousness. It doesn’t need that rule, it is already free from that condition. “If you have an uncontrolled, deluded motivation, do not do such actions.” That’s all Lord Buddha said.

Ordination is helpful not just because a lama gives it to us but because we take it ourselves. If we have great determination, if we understand the nature of the samsaric mind and the way the wrong-concept mind reacts and take the ordination with great psychic mental determination—not just ignorantly saying, “I want this,” but having perfect determination through understanding—then that mental power can lead us in a positive direction for a long time. Samsara comes from the power of the mind, as does the result of liberation. The whole thing is mental attitude; the whole thing is really simple.

Lord Buddha also asked, “What do we need to be qualified to take ordination?” And gave the answer, “Renunciation of samsara.” It’s nothing external, such as robes and so forth. However, we all have a different idea of what renunciation is. My connotation is that renunciation is on a mental level. It means not to give something with mental attachment, not to give an object with the mind still in it, such as when we think, “I wish I hadn’t given that.” This way of thinking only gives trouble. We can renounce lunch but still eat it—renunciation is on the mental attitude.

It’s difficult but possible, it varies from person to person, but some people have very high consciousness; they have control over negativity and problems, and at the same time act in unity with phenomena. But others, when they touch electricity they get burnt. Similarly, some experience suffering when they contact the negative mind—we can call it karma, mental reaction, karmic result of action, causation, mental attitude, or movement of the mind. How can we develop our consciousness? If we always put our mind into unconscious situations, we cannot develop higher consciousness. We make it possible by putting our mind into a peaceful atmosphere through ordination. Then we can realize how our mind tricks us. “I thought I was like this but now I see I’m like that.”

Ordination is like a test. For example, perhaps we have no idea and always think, “I am perfect, pure; I don’t tell lies,” but when we put ourselves into a situation where we are always aware, we realize that our negative mind is very much involved in what we are doing. When we lie, we are trying to change another’s mental attitude. Although we don’t say the words, “I am always right,” our mental attitude says that we are. Until we can trust ourselves there is no truth at all. For example, we can have an experience, a flash, in meditation, but that doesn’t mean we have found the truth.

Also, keeping precepts is basic, fundamental to samadhi meditation because when we live in ordination our body, speech and mind are already in a positive, relaxed atmosphere. Out of this basic atmosphere we can guide our mind into the peaceful path of liberation. If somebody is agitating us all the time, it’s an impossible situation for developing control. Therefore, cut the agitated situation and create the atmosphere you want.

I’m not pushing people to take ordination; pushing people is not the Buddhist way. We don’t care if people become Buddhists or not. But those who want to should understand why and how. If you don’t want to take precepts then it’s better that you don’t.

Zina is Ordained

From 1967: Thubten Yeshe Meets a Russian Princess by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama Yeshe: “Zina had decided to become a nun. I thought that was a good idea. But since according to the Vinaya, novice ordination requires the participation of at least four monks in addition to the preceptor, Lama Zopa and I couldn’t do it ourselves, so we went to Dharamsala to ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He couldn’t do it either but arranged for some other lamas to ordain her…”

Thubten Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche returned to Darjeeling and then went to Calcutta to meet up with Zina. This trip must have given them their first sight of the ocean. The trio then traveled to Dharamsala. There they went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and make offerings. This was only the second time Zopa Rinpoche had seen His Holiness; the first time had been outside the Dalhousie school, when he had come to meet Mrs. Bedi.

During this audience, Zina took off all her jewelry and offered it to the Dalai Lama. Afterward, her thick blonde hair was shaved off and on 31 July 1968 she was ordained by Kyabjé Trijang Rinpoche at his home, Nowrojee Kotee Villa. She was given the name Thubten Changchub Palmo.

Two weeks later, on August 14, 1968, traveling papers issued by the Indian government arrived for Thubten Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche. The papers stated that “Serjhey Thubten Zipa Tulku R.C. No 284/Buxa and Serjhey Thubten Yeshey R.C. No 869/Buxa are invited to Ceylon for one year by Mrs. C. Rookes, St. George, Kandy, who will meet the cost of their journey and also their maintenance in Ceylon.”

Yet after all that, they did not go. Lama Yeshe: “For some reason I felt uneasy about going to Ceylon, so I suggested to Zina that we go to Nepal instead. It was close to Tibet and beautiful, peaceful and quiet. Environment is very important and I thought that since Zina was now a nun, she needed to be where she could lead a simple life. Taking ordination alone is not enough; after leaving life in the big samsara, you need time to adjust to life as a monk or nun, and your surroundings are very important in this.”

There were additional reasons why they did not go. Ceylon and Tibet adhere to traditions of Buddhist practice—known respectively as Theravadan and Mahayana—which, although they derive from a common source, evolved along different lines. Endeavoring to establish a Mahayana monastery in a Theravadan country may therefore have resulted in difficulties. As well, Ceylon’s climate was hot and humid and Zopa Rinpoche’s health was still quite fragile. Also, Zina no longer controlled large sums of money; in fact, she was often close to broke.

But they couldn’t stay in India, either. Indian government spies still watched Zina’s every move. Four or five spies lurked constantly, and another, who had a classic curly moustache, had even sat with them in the same train carriage on their way to Dharamsala. The Indian government refused to give Zina another visa.

So it was decided they should go to Nepal, where Lama Zopa had been born. Nepal had other advantages—there were mountains, and it was cold and beautiful and close to Tibet. So they left Dharamsala and traveled to Delhi where Zina put them all up in the new Hotel Oberoi Intercontinental. They arrived in Nepal in October 1968. A message was rapidly dispatched to Losang Nyima in Buxa to please come and bring the rest of their belongings, which consisted mostly of Tibetan pecha (loose-leaf Tibetan texts).

Many of Thubten Yeshe’s peers were deeply shocked that a monk of his stature would walk out of his monastery before completing his geshe degree and run off to Nepal with an Inji female. But every move Thubten Yeshe made was personally approved by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his two tutors, Kyabjé Ling Rinpoche and Kyabjé Trijang Rinpoche.

Zopa Rinpoche was his constant companion and Thubten Yeshe committed himself totally to this exceptional student. That year, the committee at Buxa decided to make early nominations for the geshe exam entrants; they included Thubten Yeshe’s name in that list. But he never returned to Buxa. When his classmates and friends received their geshe degrees, they remembered their friend. “This was how he had chosen to use his time,” said Geshe Jampa Tegchok. “There is a lot of waiting around for the geshe degree and he was already very knowledgeable in all the subjects. In fact, he had all the qualifications of a geshe and many monks called him by that title despite his never officially receiving the degree.”

Once again Thubten Yeshe had made his own decision against the advice of others, such as his teacher Geshe Sopa, who had advised him to stay on and complete the degree. “But he left anyway, taking Lama Zopa, who also had to study. And then they met this Zina!” said Geshe Sopa. It was all most irregular.

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