Lama Yeshe's Farewell Teaching at EEC1

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Tushita Retreat Centre, Dharamsala, India (Archive #056)

This teaching is excerpted from Lama Yeshe's final talk to students at the First Enlightened Experience Celebration (EEC1), at Tushita Retreat Centre in Dharamsala, India, on April 28, 1982. Lama discusses bringing the Dharma to the Western world and encourages students to work together harmoniously. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.

Watch a video of the teaching on the LYWA Youtube channel.

Long-life puja for Lama Yeshe, Tushita Retreat Centre, Dharamsala, India, 1982. Photo: Dan Laine

So maybe I say something now to you all. All my Dharma brothers and sisters, all of you, I thank you so much for everything. I am very satisfied with how you people are trying to put your lives in the Dharma. Also, I’m very satisfied and convinced that we are all working together to share the Dharma with the Western community. We can do this; we should do this. Because of this Dharma Celebration, I have no hesitation in believing that we are all dedicated to this. We have met the most profound holy guru; therefore, I feel that we all have the strength and conviction to do this.

In particular, we are not on some kind of trivial trip. We are not doing this just because we don’t have anything better to do. We know that this is the way that leads to human beings’ satisfaction, to enlightenment. We know this, without any doubts or indecision mind.

So I should not only say thank you for what you have done. Also, I am saying that we are the ones responsible to bring the Dharma to the Western world, and this is what we have to do. OK? I want each of you to feel that you are responsible. Don’t think that Tibetan monks are responsible. This isn’t true. That all of you people have come together here, this entire organization—it was you who put this together. Not me. I just come and say a few words, and then I’m gone, goodbye. Isn’t that right? I have always been that way. But you people are the nuclear energy bringing the Dharma to the Western world.

This is nothing to be ashamed of; I want you to understand. You don’t need to be ashamed in any way to bring the Dharma to the West. When we offer the Dharma in Western countries, it brings incredible benefits to people there. And their need is so great! Don’t think that the Dharma only benefits a few people. It benefits all universal living beings. You know this.

Now you are here and you see what is going on in the West. In the Western world we have philosophy and religion and psychology—we do have! But many of these are incomplete in some way; they cannot give satisfaction from beginning to end. I am not putting them down. But Buddhism has incredible subject matter that shows how we human beings can be healthy and profound from the beginning to the end of the completion stage and how we can serve society.

Therefore, we should have the attitude that we are society’s servants. Otherwise, we are junk. I want you to understand this practically. We say “for the benefit of all mother sentient beings, for the benefit of all mother sentient beings, for the benefit of all mother sentient beings, for the benefit of all mother sentient beings,” yet we aren’t helping right here, where we are. Somehow the people next to us are left out. Where are these mother sentient beings? Who are these mother sentient beings? Who are they? Are they beggars? Is your connotation of all mother sentient beings the tigers and bears and animals in the jungle? What we have here, all around us, are all mother sentient beings. Both the monks and nuns and the lay people.

We monks and nuns have taken on a certain lifestyle, which is different from lay people’s lives, but that does not mean that we are hiding. We are not hiding. We are working for mother sentient beings. Understand? Working and serving other people is the Dharma. Sometimes people get the wrong conception that working is contrary to the Dharma, that Dharma just means to space out. Do you think that is the right understanding of what the Dharma is? That’s impractical! Dharma does not mean being only philosophical, without any practical application or obligation. Dharma should be practical. Within our Dharma community, we should serve each other. You have to act, use your hands. To merely space out is not enough.

Also, you need to exercise your judgment. I don’t want you not to make judgments. As well, I don’t want you to measure things using me or other lamas as your yardsticks. Don’t ask other lamas, “How do I benefit others?” I believe that you already know the answer to this question. Actually, I have to apologize. I have always felt that only I can decide what I should do. I never asked oracles; I didn’t ask my lama. But I know what to do because I listened to my lama for many years; therefore, I know what he wants me to do.

Are we communicating or not? You know what the Buddha wants you to do. Are you going to ask, “Buddha, what do you want me to do?” I think that is wrong—really. Actually, I think that we should know for ourselves. For months now you have been listening, listening. Still you haven’t gotten any answers? Whew! My goodness!

Do you remember Zong Rinpoche? You remember who he is? Remember the first teaching he gave was about the relative guru, what it means to rely on the relative guru. Do you remember or not?

Then, second, he taught that we must go beyond the relative guru to rely on the scriptures, to rely on our research into the teachings where all the details are explained. Do you remember this?

But then, third, what is the third reliance? Who is it? It’s your inner wisdom. Remember? Rang sem lama, which means “your own mind is the guru.” Your own mind is the guru to rely on. Remember—this is what Zong Rinpoche taught us. I think this is super! This tells you the complete truth … that you are the Buddha! You are the guru, you are the Dharma, you are the Sangha.

So actually, you know what you have to do. You should feel confidence in yourself. I’m not saying that you should never ask anyone anything. Certain advice you will need from time to time, of course. But the main things, the principal things, you know these already from the Buddha’s teachings. So, thank you all so much for your dedication and your sincerity in listening to the Dharma teachings. Also, thank you for the long-life puja. Thank you for doing these things, even though I am not a suitable object to request to have long life. I don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next minute! But you people are sincere, so it is OK—I have to accept. But I am already gone, aren’t I? Still, it is a social obligation, isn’t it? True. I feel it is that way, that it still benefits.

However, if you want to offer the real long life, then that is for you to truly be yourself and to serve others together. We have to organize how to serve others. Understand? If we want to serve two people, it needs more organization than if we only want to serve one. To serve three people, we need even more organization. So we do need an organization.

Therefore, as much as possible please serve your Dharma organization in order to benefit the propagation of the Dharma. It is not that we have some kind of ambition for ourselves. It is that people’s needs are so great. Therefore, be practical and benefit others as much as possible in time and space without wasting your time. That is the real meaning of offering long life for me or any other lama. That is good enough.

Be practical; be practical. We need to put energy into working together. We need to put the working class together. We cannot form a Dharma organization if everyone is spaced out on a Milarepa trip. In that case, how can we organize? How would the Dharma Celebration have come together if all the organizers had been on a Milarepa trip? Practically speaking, nothing would have happened. But because many people put in their energy, we are now having a good time and so many people have benefited. This is the kindness of mother sentient beings’ energy.

At any time, some people can space out and some people can work; in that way we share, right? We share. But sometimes it seems that some people always work and never have space for retreat and so on. And some people space out all the time; they never work but complain, blah, blah, blah.

That is wrong. I’m talking now about some of our problems. Therefore, we should share. We should all be sympathetic to each other. Since some people don’t get a chance to do retreat, why doesn’t someone else say, “I’ll work in your place so you can do retreat”? OK? Our Dharma group should be balanced. We should be kind to each other. We are Dharma vajra brothers and sisters.

Most of all we should be harmonious, our nuclear energy bringing the Dharma to the Western world with harmony. It is most important for Dharma groups to be harmonious. Only in that way can we create good vibrations. If we emanate bad vibrations, putting out lots of intellectual energy is a waste of time.

Also, when we are involved in organizing something together, each of us should be able to give up, to give in … I don’t know the exact English words. When someone says to us, “You are wrong,” you should be able to say to them, “OK, yes, I’m wrong.” You have to accept. We just have to make the determination to be ready to do this. If you aren’t ready to give in like this, if “I am always right” is always there, then you can never be harmonious. Not giving in is the characteristic of the ego. You should be ready to give in; this is the lamrim teaching. If somebody tells you, “You are wrong,” you should be ready to say, “That’s true.” You should be ready to accept that you are wrong.

I think this is very important. To progress in the Dharma, to accomplish anything in life, to achieve any success at all, you need to engage in this kind of practice. This is what I call a healthy humanistic situation. You accept when you’ve done a wrong action or engaged in wrong thinking. You accept by saying, “You are right; I was wrong.” This in itself is right thinking. And this is very important when you are working together with others in a group. In this way you will be happy. I want you to be happy working together with your Dharma brothers and sisters. I want you to work with happiness, OK? If there is misery and disharmony and a lack of confidence, then it’s better not to work under those conditions, isn’t it? It would be better to be numb, to become like wood or iron. That would be much better. Instead, I want you to be happy and to work together happily. This is my prayer for you.