A Tribute to Lama Yeshe, 1935-1984

By Various lamas

In 1984, shortly after Lama Yeshe's death, Wisdom Magazine (the magazine of the FPMT, the precurser to today's Mandala magazine) paid tribute to Lama's life and work. There were 30 pages of news, tributes, teachings, poems and photographs. We have reproduced that tribute here. 

Tribute by Geshe Sopa

I didn’t come here to give a speech. I came here to participate in the ceremonies for Lama Yeshe, and Lama Zopa requested me to say a few words of advice to you as I have been Lama’s teacher for a long time. We have known each other for a long time as teacher and student, in Tibet, since he was a young boy, and we have always had a good relationship, since then right up till now. I have nothing much to say, just a few words, maybe.

During these past years Lama Yeshe has done so much beneficial activity for so many people, especially in the West. In fact, these two teachers, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa, have done such a wonderful job. The result is everywhere in the West — so many centers, so many students who follow the teachings seriously.

And because of all this activity the students have such a wonderful opportunity to meet other teachers, to receive many, many instructions and teachings. Even in Tibet we didn’t have that kind of opportunity! To have high lamas teaching all the time and giving high initiations, to have all this available is very, very rare.

So, when I see what has happened in the past few years, it makes me really happy, and I feel such admiration for Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa and for their students. It is very difficult to follow a new religion coming from a different culture. It is not easy to accept and to follow deeply, but I see so many of you people are doing so, enthusiastically and with faith. I am really amazed when I see all this, and I rejoice and am very happy.

Now, Lama Yeshe has passed away. While he was alive I think he always wanted to go to the West. It began with a small group in Nepal, then spread everywhere like fire. People would go back to their countries and they wanted to continue the same kind of tradition, the same kind of teachings, the same kind of atmosphere. And so for their benefit Lama Yeshe sent so many teachers. And so the teachings spread everywhere.

We have a saying in Tibetan that means that the Dharma, the teachings, is the only medicine to completely cure misery and suffering. So, if the teachings survive and spread everywhere there is great benefit to everyone, the most excellent way to serve the people. The Dharma only leads to the highest goal, happiness, it does not bring suffering or turmoil; it is the cure for suffering.

"We should be very harmonious and try to help each other. We should ask: How can I help? How can I serve? What is the best thing? What is not good?"
             - Geshe Sopa 

This was Lama Yeshe’s goal, and when he saw the teachings spreading he was very, very happy. He was happy when he saw all the places and the people following the teachings, people dedicating themselves and making sacrifices to help develop the teachings, not for themselves only but for the benefit of others. I can see this. I can see so many people really dedicating themselves towards the spreading of the teachings. All the centers, the people working to fulfil the wishes of the teacher. That is a wonderful thing, and I admire all these people, all of them. So now, Lama Yeshe has passed. But everybody hopes that the people, his students, will still continue to follow him and his teachings and try to develop the organization that he started in a right and proper way towards the goal that he wished to accomplish. His favourite son, Lama Zopa, is alive and here still and he can continue to help you people and teach continuously. I hope you will seek teachings and advice from him in the same way as from Lama Yeshe.

One of the main goals of the Buddhist teachings is the development everywhere of peace and calmness. So, we people should try to develop and practise the teachings. There are so many different traditions, different levels, and you should follow whichever without too much mixing. They all have the same goal, but sometimes mixing them just doesn’t work, like trying to get somewhere by car, then aeroplanes, then walking; mixing the systems is sometimes not a very good thing. So, if one follows a pure system then one will accomplish one’s goal.

There are many students everywhere at all the centers that Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa have established. It is so important to be very, very friendly towards each other, like children of the one spiritual father. We should be very harmonious and try to help each other. We should ask: How can I help? How can I serve? What is the best thing? What is not good?

We humans, we have such intellect; we can do so much if we think and examine in the proper way. If we have an earnest attitude towards whatever has to be done then we can accomplish an enormous amount. Because of our intellect we can also accomplish evil; humans are more powerful than any others. We should use our human intellect to achieve a spiritual goal, for the benefit of others and ourselves.

Therefore I think that harmony between religious friends, religious brothers and sisters is so important. To feel that we can help each other, to find the best way to help, that is one of the goals.

Of course, human beings sometimes make errors. When we see errors, problems, we can try to solve them. We can help each other to solve our problems, like brothers and sisters taking care of each other. This is so important. This way, we will be helping to continue Lama Yeshe’s projects. Already you will have experienced this generally, so we should continue to do, dedicate ourselves towards this goal: that would be a very excellent thing.

Of course, I know that so many people are working very hard and very earnestly to achieve his goals; putting their bodies and minds towards these goals. I hope everybody will follow in the same way to fulfil Lama Yeshe’s wishes. Each group should concentrate on doing whatever they can, each in their own way, developing. They should do things in the best way they can without interrupting others, but also to share good ideas and to help each other, that would be very good.

So, Lama Zopa is still here. Several years ago Lama Yeshe was with me in Madison and he was visiting hospital and having serious examinations and tests to decide whether or not to have the operation on his heart at that time. Anyway, then, I knew that he had the strong, strong wish to take care of Lama Zopa. Lama Zopa is very young. However, even though he is young, he is one of the young lamas who is special. He is a great practitioner, he has studied seriously and practised seriously, and can teach other people. I think everybody can see this. Anyway, Lama Yeshe wanted him to be successful, to be beneficial continuously.

It is important to help Lama Zopa; in certain areas he needs help. Already some people are a little bit worried. However, we should keep it in mind. His activities everywhere are great, sowing seeds everywhere for the development of this wonderful spiritual teaching that is most beneficial to sentient beings.