E-letter No. 63: August 2008

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Surrey, England September 1975
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our next e-letter, a slightly shorter one than usual, in deference to summer (or winter, depending on where you are).

Books in the Works
On the book front, we’re about to send our newly designed reprints of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Virtue & Reality and Lama Yeshe’s The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism to the printer. Please let us know if you would like copies; as usual, they’re free.

In the meantime, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Heart of the Path is undergoing final review by Rinpoche, so we hope to put that into the production pipeline soon.

A new free book (as yet untitled) of Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings at Royal Holloway College, England, in 1975 is in the final editing stages. This was a weekend seminar of teachings introducing people to the path to enlightenment. We give you a taste below. It was also videotaped—the earliest known video footage of the Lamas—and we are in the process of preparing DVDs from the videotapes as well. Please stay tuned.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s new book from Wisdom Publications, How to Be Happy, which was prepared by LYWA editor Ven Ailsa Cameron, is about to ship from the printer and will be sent to all LYWA members automatically, so members, look for it in the next 4–6 weeks.

Happiness and Its Causes
The next Happiness and Its Causes conference—coming for the first time to the USA—will be held in San Francisco November 24–25. Early bird special registration is available until September 15, so if you’d like to go, please book now! Proceeds will benefit our sister FPMT affiliates, Liberation Prison Project and Tse Chen Ling Buddhist Center.

We recently received an update on Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s extremely compassionate Animal Liberation Project. Please support this worthy cause if you can.

Thank you so much for your kind interest in and support of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

Much love,
Nick Ribush

\"The Bliss of Avoiding Extremes

Having a feeling of equilibrium with all universal living beings is really powerful, as is the experience of sending all your goodness to others and bringing in all their sickness and problems. The result you get is incredible joy. Your mind is really balanced and you enter the middle path. Attachment and hatred are exaggerated extremes, so if you can travel the middle way between them it’s really worthwhile. And if you can deal with humans on this basis, it’s most beneficial, because most of our problems arise from dealing with other human beings.

Check up: Lord Buddha said that we should not be attached to even the realizations of nirvana or enlightenment. He also said that his followers should not be dogmatically attached to his doctrine. He said that’s wrong; it’s another type of psychological sickness or disease.

That’s incredible, isn’t it? Most of the time we think, “My idea’s good,” but if somebody says, “Your idea is bad,” we freak out. That’s attachment. Lord Buddha said, “I don’t want any of my disciples to be attached to concepts, such as the highest goal of enlightenment or any of my other philosophies or doctrines.” Also, in Tibetan Buddhist tantric yoga there are vows forbidding us to criticize the doctrine of any other religion. Can you imagine? Lord Buddha has us take vows against that; it’s incredible. This is a fantastically skillful method and shows how wonderfully well he understood human psychology. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

I mean, worldly people are going to say, “My idea is best” and if you contradict them they freak out. That’s because of their attachment; they’re not realistic. Lord Buddha says that instead of freaking out, don’t have attachment in the first place, because as long as you’re attached to your religious ideas and philosophies you’re setting yourself up for inner conflict, which will destroy your inner peace and joy.

Therefore we should take the middle path and avoid extreme views as much as we can. That’s the real path to liberation, the true path to liberation, enlightenment or whatever you call it; the words don’t matter. If you reach beyond attachment and self-cherishing I can guarantee that your life will be free of physical and mental problems and there’s no way that you’ll engage in mistaken actions—the door to all that will forever be closed. But whenever you open the door of attachment and self-cherishing, you also open the door to all problems.

The greatest human problems are actually rebirth, aging and death, but if you are free of attachment you can even die with much pleasure; dying is like going home. If you die with attachment to your material possessions, friends and reputation your death will be miserable; if you don’t have attachment you’ll have an incredible death; your experience of dying will be blissful, joyful.

Really, Buddhism teaches us how to die. Buddhist education starts at the beginning of life and continues all the way through to its end; it’s a total experience. Actually, it’s not that difficult; it’s easy. If you have the skillful method and wisdom to release attachment and self-cherishing your life will always be happy. You don’t need to pretend; it will be natural. Happiness will be natural; control will be natural—you won’t have to pretend.

If you plant a seed it’s natural for it to grow. Similarly, if you plant the seeds of the knowledge-wisdom solution to releasing attachment, it will automatically develop. That’s why I always say the human mind is very powerful—positively powerful and negatively powerful. You can direct it either way; it’s flexible. The energy of the human mind is not fixed.

You can see how the energy of attachment and selfishness is like a needle in your heart; when you release it you feel incredible joy. There’s no longer an uptight tendency in your heart and you’re physically relaxed.

Through meditation we can really reach a state of everlasting joy, so if we don’t do something to get there we’re really foolish, aren’t we? And we can reach that joyful state without having to spend any money. But we forget that and instead are overly concerned with material things and exaggeratedly run after sense world objects of attachment. We’re totally unrealistic.

Do a comparative check: which offers you more, material things or knowledge-wisdom? Of course, material things do give you some level of comfort, but you spend your whole life working for them and when you die you end up with nothing. On the other hand, developing your mind progressively in knowledge-wisdom and releasing attachment and self-cherishing is incredibly powerful. Your entire life becomes content. Even if the earth goes up into the sky and the sun and moon come down to earth, no matter how the external world changes, control and wisdom are always with you. Material things always cheat you; they’re sometimes there, sometimes not. Many times rich people die hungry. It’s never certain; money is no insurance or guarantee against hunger. I think you know that, but it’s important. Really check up, seriously.

So for at least a short time every day, compare the benefits of chasing materials with those of developing your mind. You have plenty of time to do so. You just need to meditate and train your mind for ten minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour every day in the meditation techniques we’ve been teaching you. This practice is incredibly powerful. In just a short time you can produce such joyful energy in your heart. That’s much more worthwhile than running after transitory samsaric pleasures, which simply bring one miserable useless result after another.

The potential for pleasure and joy is already within your mind; you don’t need money to buy it. You can’t buy that kind of joy; it’s already there within you. If you use that energy skillfully it will always be with you. Whether you go up into the sky or down into the ground, you always take it with you. Material possessions are the total opposite.

That’s also much easier than going to the supermarket. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but think about it. Going to the supermarket is not necessarily that easy. First, you can’t walk; you have to go by car. Then maybe your car doesn’t work. Anyway, you know; I don’t have to go into details. There can be all kinds of difficulty in getting to and from the supermarket. Check up. In contrast, a short meditation can immediately relax you and keep you consciously aware all day. That’s really worthwhile. It can bring you everlasting joy. Physically you may be old but mentally you can be experiencing an incredibly joyful awakened state of mind. It’s so worthwhile. We’re all going to get old but we can make sure that when we do, our life will still be joyful. It’s possible and therefore so worthwhile that we abandon collecting garbage with attachment, which is so unreasonable.

However, I’d like you to check up for yourselves; I’m not trying to push my ideas onto you. You’re intelligent, so check up for yourselves. Actually, Western people aren’t that easy. You have much learning but you’ve also picked up a lot of garbage. But now you can look into that garbage and learn from it; you have much experience to check on. It’s much more difficult to teach primitive people the kind of things we do to. They find it much harder to understand the things that Western people can.

Lama Yeshe gave this teaching 21 September 1975 at Royal Holloway College, Surrey, England. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush.