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 precursor to today's Mandala magazine) paid tribute to Lama's life and work. This commemorative issue features thirty pages of tributes, teachings, poems and photographs. We have reproduced the tributes here, or you can read the original version of this rare commemorative issue of Wisdom magazine here.

Tributes by Jeffrey Hopkins and Brian Beresford
"He showed what a difference a single person can make." 
- Jeffrey Hopkins

Lama Yeshe provided a means of entry into the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism for many, many persons throughout the world. Clearly, he had strong dedication to helping others so that they could partake of the richness of Buddhist teachings as known in Tibet. That commitment was not self-arisen or an uncaused gift, but a result of training — an imprint of his mind’s being affected by doctrines of love, compassion, and altruism. His vast activities in helping people from a number of walks of life are a measure of the greatness of his training and of the doctrines that inspired him.

Given the dictum of the first of the Four Reliances, ‘Rely not on the person; rely on the doctrine,’ it is appropriate that at this time of his passing (and of the passing of so many other great Tibetan and Mongolian teachers) we look to what made his greatness. His magnificence was the result, not of a special innate endowment, but of special hard work at embodying and expressing altruistic attitudes. Thus, our learning those teachings within working hard to embody and express them is, it seems to me, the most suitable form of memory of him.

Given the variety and complexity of the Tibetan teachings and the present crucial point in their history, it is important that we realise how much responsibility for the continued availability of this teaching even one person can assume. It is clear that Lama Yeshe did not wait for others to work at incorporating the doctrine; it is clear that he did not view the Dharma as a spectator sport, watching someone else and then second-guessing. Instead, it is clear that he decided that he would do what be could do. He showed what a difference a single person with sincere motivation can make. Even those who, like myself, were not formal students of Lama Yeshe, still have much to learn from his activities of compassionate energy.

‘Now here is a real yogi!’ 
- Brian Beresford

I would like to tell a story. I had the good fortune in 1978 to attend a private discourse given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Heruka tantra. There were only three Westerners there, the rest were abbots and tantric monks. His Holiness came to particular points in the text where he would stop and ask a question. This would happen several times and usually His Holiness would get an answer from the abbots.

However at one particular point His Holiness was not satisfied with the answers he got. He would go to this abbot, then that abbot, sometimes chiding them for not knowing the answer. Lama Yeshe was sitting four rows from the front. I could see him from where I sat. He shyly put up his hand, blushed red, and said ‘Perhaps Your Holiness means this, that.’ ‘Yes! Exactly!’ said His Holiness. ‘Now here is a real yogi!’