E-letter No. 84: May 2010

By Adele Hulse
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

I hope you are well. Thank you for your kind support of the Archive.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York City
Last week I was in New York for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings, which were fantastic, of course, and even managed to get a wave from him. His Holiness has a new book on religious tolerance coming out, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths and had a related op-ed in the New York Times the other day.

Update on LYWA Books
In the meantime, here at the Archive work proceeds steadily on several new projects, including Lama Yeshe’s Life, Death and After Death, teachings from Geneva in 1983; and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas, the next book produced through our Publishing the FPMT Lineage project

A couple of new DVD sets are also in the works: the Life, Death and After Death teachings and also the 1975 teachings found in our recent free book Freedom Through Understanding.

Several of our most popular titles are almost out of stock and we would like to reprint them:

Becoming Your Own Therapist / Make Your Mind an Ocean
The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind
Ego, Attachment and Liberation
The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism
Joy of Compassion

If you would like to sponsor the reprint of any of these titles please let me know. Thank you so much.

Online Image Gallery: New Album: 1972
Sunrise at Kopan, 1972Thank you for your wonderful response to the launch of our new image gallery last month. This is a great new addition to our website and we will be adding to it continually. This month we've added a selection of some of our best images from 1972, like the one shown here. These are fantastic images; be sure to take a look.

New on the Web
Listen online to an excellent audio recording of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings on guru devotion and oral transmission of Pabongka Rinpoche's Calling the Guru from Afar in Singapore in April 1992.

We have also just posted another excellent recording of Rinpoche's teachings on refuge during a refuge ceremony at Maitreya Instituut, Holland, in August 1990. As always, you can follow along with the unedited transcripts for both these teachings.

We've posted a few new advices from Rinpoche: three on the Qualities of the Guru, including a praise of Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, and one in the Dharma and Worldly Activities section on blessing well water.

And while we're on the topic of new media, you can watch a recent teaching by our precious guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche on Bodhi TV

Our spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche has sent through this request. Please recite this practice if you can for the benefit of Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive and all our centers and projects in the FPMT.

Dear FPMT Directors and Coordinators,

This is an urgent request from Lama Zopa Rinpoche for all the centers, study groups, projects and services to please recite the Vajra Claws practice a few times, if they can. It can be done in a group in the gompa [if there is one], or at the individual's home.

It should be recited with compassion and strong prayers for the removal of all obstacles that could arise to harm the centers and other entities within FPMT.

You will find "The Dharani of Glorious Vajra Claws (Dorje Dermo)" from FPMT in English and Spanish versions. [Note: This practice is now available in the FPMT Catalogue in three languages.]

Rinpoche is sending his love and prayers and sincere appreciation to all for doing this practice at this time for the entire organization.

Thank you again for your interest. This time we leave you with an excerpt from the forthcoming (2011) Big Love, the official biography of Lama Thubten Yeshe.

Much love,
Nick Ribush

Excerpt From Big Love: Unsurpassed Dharma Land of Enlightenment (1972)
The previous year, 1971, was a year of new beginnings and consolidation for Lama Yeshe and his projects. The first month-long Kopan meditation course has taken place; this course will become well known around the world and will continue annually far into the twenty-first century. The lamas’ home base on Kopan hill was expanded and developed: more acreage was acquired and new buildings constructed. Lama Zopa Rinpoche returned to Lawudo and renewed his promise to the Sherpa people of Solu Khumbu by opening Mount Everest Centre, a monastic school for their children. Zina was making preparations to enter retreat.

In 1972, we’ll see a continuation of this consolidation and growth of Lama Yeshe’s evolving activities…

Massimo was becoming increasingly devoted to Lama Yeshe. The Coronas were now living at Ram's house near Kopan, on the back side of the hill where Robbie and Randy Solick had lived with Ram's cousin, Laxman Bahadur, and his family for almost a year. One night their baby daughter, Maitri Dolma, would not stop crying. Desperate, Massimo and Carol took her to Lama. "He looked at her for a few moments then reached over and pulled out a thorn lodged in the back of her knee. She stopped crying immediately," said Massimo. "I loved being around Lama Yeshe. I loved the sweet smell that just flowed from him."

Lama gave both Massimo and Carol the bodhisattva vows with a short puja and dedication, at the end of which Massimo urged him to eat some of the mountain of offerings they had brought him. He took only one cashew nut, murmuring, "It's too much, dear, too much."

Building Kopan Gompa
Now that it was winter, the track that passed for a road up to Kopan was dry. It was time to start building Kopan's gompa. Åge made a beautiful little architectural model of the proposed design. Monks from the newly re-established Gyuto Tantric College in Dalhousie happened to be in Boudhanath to bless the stupa, which had been under repair for many years after having been struck by lightning. Lama requested them to come and bless Kopan. The monks came up and sat around the hill, smiling at Åge's little model. They had never seen anything like it before.

Together with Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa they performed a solemn puja, harmonic multiphonic single-voice chords echoing around the valley as they called on all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors, and landlord spirits to bless the hill and the building to be erected there. Lama Yeshe told his students that every place has its own specific landlord spirits. The gompa at Kopan was given the name Ogmin Jangchub Chöling, which means Unsurpassed Dharma Land of Enlightenment.

Afterward, Ann asked Lama what he had prayed for during the puja. "I prayed that if this gompa is going to be really beneficial and benefit countless beings, then may it be built right away without any obstructions, because I don't have much time and I don't want to waste my life. But things look good. During such pujas, we look for auspicious signs. Did you see the two horses galloping up the hill during the puja? One of them was white. That is a very auspicious sign!" he told her.

Construction began with Lama Yeshe taking the role of foreman. He supervised everything. His students had donated the funds to build this gompa, and he wasn't going to waste one penny. Max spent every spare moment of her time purchasing building materials—and ferrying them up the hill as well. The Nepali contractors would leave everything at the bottom of the hill, refusing to even attempt the terrible Kopan road. Fortunately, Max had recently bought a small Jeep through a contact at the King's Palace.

Steve's Tower
An American student, Steve Malasky, returned to Kopan with some money he had received from a health insurance payout. He wanted to use his money to build a Tibetan tower at one end of the Kopan land. Lama Yeshe approved the plan and design and gave him permission to go ahead and build his fantasy. "First of all I had to find enough rock," said Steve. "One day Lama Zopa came over, pointed to a particular spot, and said, 'Dig there!' The Nepali crew I'd hired dug down and found this immense granite boulder. When cut and chiseled it provided just enough blocks for the tower walls."

Steve had first met Lama Yeshe some months before and had taken him to a late dinner in a cheap Swayambhu restaurant. Since there was no transportation back to Boudha at night, no taxis or mini-buses, Steve offered Lama a car seat where, wrapped up in his zen, he spent the entire night. Tibetans weren't able to pronounce Steve's name correctly so at Kopan he was always called "Esteeb." Steve then went traveling, returning to Kathmandu with hepatitis. Lama Yeshe had recommended a Tibetan doctor who quickly cured him. Tibetan medicine (and Ayurvedic medicine from which Tibetan medicine was in part derived) are both particularly effective in the treatment of hepatitis and other liver ailments.

Soon afterward Steve began to realize something of Lama Yeshe's power. "When he was giving me directions on how to get to the doctor, he held up his hand," said Steve. "I was into palmistry in those days and noticed a rare line that indicated intuition. When he realized I had noticed this, he dropped his hand and grinned at me. When I recovered, I knew that I should go and thank him for the help he had given me, but I held off because I knew that if I saw him again, my life would change."

Steve continued, "Some time later I was selling woodblock prints. I heard that Lama Yeshe wanted some, so I took a taxi to Max's house that evening. She put me in his room to wait for him. I watched a wonderful sunset from the picture window, then sat in the dark meditating. Next thing I heard, 'What can I do for you?' I thanked him for fixing my body and said I was wondering what he could do for my mind. He didn't answer. We just sat there in complete silence in the dark while I felt this incredible warm glow seep through me. I was just blown away."

Two small huts were also built at Kopan; one was for Max and ?ge moved into the other. The gompa itself included rooms for the lamas. Then there was "Esteeb's tower." "Lama never stopped teasing me about that tower. It ended up costing more than the gompa!" said Steve.

Lama Yeshe's next project was a little row of retreat rooms. While these were in the planning stage, Ann asked Lama how big they should be. He lay down on the ground indicating that she should draw a line, one at the top of his head and another at the soles of his feet. That was enough room for anybody, he said. Lama Yeshe was not a tall man, though people often thought he was huge. Over the years many of his students reported that his apparent size would occasionally change quite dramatically. This seemed to be one of his powers.

A two-stall Indian-style toilet was constructed next to the retreat rooms and painted white. ?ge carefully painted "Sam" and "Sara" over the doors—an Inji play on samsara, the Sanskrit term for suffering existence, and a cause of many smiles among Kopan's Western visitors over the years.

The Second Kopan Meditation Course
Word spread that Lama Zopa was about to give a second meditation course in March 1972. More students arrived at Kopan, among them two English engineers from the Rolls-Royce aeronautical division, Peter Kedge and Roy Tyson.

Peter Kedge: "With our friend, fellow engineer Harvey Horrocks, we had spent six months driving a Land Rover from Britain to Nepal, with many adventures on the way. One morning in Afghanistan, after setting up camp in complete darkness, we awoke to find that we had stopped right in front of the huge buddha statues carved into the cliffs at Bamiyan, the same statues that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

"Contact with Tibetans from one of the refugee camps in Pokhara awoke my interest in spirituality and some friends introduced us to what became for a time my personal bible, Ram Dass's Be Here Now. One night on a trek in the Solu Khumbu Everest region of Nepal, I sat in a freezing cold Sherpa lodge and by candlelight tried one of the practices in this book. This was to visualize Guru Rinpoche (which I mispronounced 'Rinposh') and basically inhale white light and exhale all physical and mental negativities in the form of black fog. It seemed really strange.

"After ten days in that area, where everywhere one looks there are prayer flags, mani stones, monasteries, and ascetics' caves, we returned to Kathmandu and heard about a meditation course in English and a Canadian nun at this place called Kopan. Roy and I decided to go there. Harvey went on to Australia.

"We arrived on the first day of the course, just in time for thirty minutes of full-length prostrations led by Anila Ann. We threw ourselves on the floor in front of a huge appliqué thangka of Buddha Avalokiteshvara, the one with a thousand arms, all amid billowing clouds of incense smoke.

"There were about a dozen people there, and when I saw them assembled at the first breakfast, I remember thinking that compared with Roy and me, who were pretty conservative, they looked like very seasoned travelers in their Indian, Nepali, and Afghan clothes, their braided long hair and beards and so forth. I do remember feeling at the time that I didn't belong there, but that feeling changed."

The ground floor of the gompa was completed just before the course began, which was held in the old gompa. Lama Yeshe stayed at Kopan this time, keeping one eye on the construction team and the other on the meditators. Losang Nyima ran the kitchen and Ann McNeil rushed about typing up the most recent text translations on an ancient typewriter that someone had found in Kathmandu, checking up on the builders, and attending Rinpoche's lectures.

Besides Peter and Roy, others attending the course included Massimo and Carol Corona, ?ge, "Esteeb" Malasky, and Jhampa Zangpo (a.k.a. Mark Shaneman), Englishman Harry Luke, and a young woman called Lolly Smith, who had been trekking with Peter and Harvey. Chris Kolb had permission to attend only the morning sessions, as Lise had just had a baby boy, whom they named Thor. There was also a young man, Ron Brookes, who wore his hair tied up into a bun on top, which he covered with a small cloth, like a Sikh. He later took ordination from Trulshik Rinpoche (who also ordained Chris Kolb) and came to be known by his ordination name, Ngawang Khedup. Others attended occasionally, such as an austere French girl called Dominique, whom Max sponsored. Dominique spent a lot of time in retreat up at Nagi Gompa, the small monastery associated with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche that is located on Mount Shivapuri behind Kopan.

Lise Lotte came to the teachings once and Zina came for just one afternoon. "I turned around in the gompa to see who had come in late and made brief eye contact with Zina," said Peter Kedge. "My impression was that this was someone quite heavy."

On 14 March 1972, Lama Yeshe wrote to Robbie and Randy Solick:

For the last two months I have given no lessons and have been construction Lama. Every day I get up at 7:00 am and work with Nepalese to build a center for my golden flower students. All day I supervise the workers until 6:00 pm, then I retreat and work on books until bedtime. Now we have just about finished the gompa and we have finished nine small retreat houses and the outhouse. Soon at the halfway of April, Zopa and I will go to the gompa and open it to students and after two weeks I will continue my teachings.

Now Zopa is giving a month-long meditation course to about twenty students. It will end at the end of March.

I am so glad you are continually taking teachings with lamas, putting your mind into the true path. Dharma is most truthful, more than external development. Lord Buddha shows unlimited method by unlimited sentient mind. So I also pray for you to realize in a most psychic true nature, your own psychic. Give my regards and true love to my daughter Losang Chökyi [Jan Willis's Tibetan refuge name]. I am now Swiss banking Lama—I have a bank account in Geneva, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested to Thubten Zopa Rinpoche.

Don't worry about my health. Limited knowledge of doctors cannot give right prediction of subject. Anyway I don't believe as they say. I would like to come to America but only if I can be of benefit to mother sentient beings. If an arrangement with an ashram or a center could be made so that I could lecture, or a lecture tour of universities could be made, it would be very good. Anyway we have lots of time to speak again about this subject. Slowly slowly.

Zopa Rinpoche added a typically self-deprecating note:

I am so sorry for my long silence because I have been sleeping all the time so I did not want to make mistake or write dreams.

Read more excerpts from the forthcoming biography of Lama Yeshe, Big Love.