The Attendant Who Pledged Her Life
Buddhist history: Met Lama Yeshe in 1977. Attendant to Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa (1978 – 1984). Co-founder of Vajrapani Institute, California (1977 – 1978). Director of Tushita Mahayana Meditation Center (1985 – 1986). Founder of Tubten Kunga Center, Florida (1987).
I never saw Lama (Yeshe) as a man, and I never thought of myself in terms of a woman. Anatomically, Lama was a funny, pudgy little man, but I knew that was just the outer casing for a fully developed enlightened mind.
One day Lama asked if I knew why he spent 24 hours a day with me. “You think I spend 24 hours a day with you because you are my girlfriend?” he asked. “I spend 24 hours a day with you, because it is useful for all kind mother sentient beings!” When Lama finished the sentence, my heart became the prayer to be just as Lama had said, to be useful for all kind mother sentient beings.
I (had) met Lama Yeshe in 1977, in answer to my prayers, and requested that Lama lead me down the Bodhisattva’s path resulting in Enlightenment. In exchange, I pledged my life in service, promising to do whatever was necessary to make Lama’s efforts more effective at reaching and serving sentient beings.
We hardly ever talked, and certainly never about my personal matters. Yet, despite the lack of conversation, the communication was clear. Lama turned me from a hippie back into the daughter my parents had raised. He encouraged me to wear Western clothing, and presented me one day with a plastic ring with a large pink piece of plastic on it, and said, “Here, I want you to wear jewelry like this.” I accepted the symbol of opulent Western wealth and retired my silver and turquoise (Tibetan jewelry). “You twenty century modern Western woman,” he said.
(With me) fashioned in a Western image, Lama showed me off — to his female students in particular — and encouraged them to look like me. For some, Lama’s instruction was to wear red nail polish. To another, Lama would prescribe blue eyeliner. To all, the message was clear: there is no value in running away from one’s culture and heritage.
Lama (taught) that one could have anything and do anything, as long as it was for the sake of others. “For example,” Lama said, “when you practice Dharma, you can go to the beach and get a beautiful tan. You can wear expensive clothes and jewels and make yourself gorgeous to others. But you have to do this with the motivation to hook them, and when you have them hooked, you can help them, you can teach them Dharma. This is successful.”
I never served Lama from the position of a woman needing equal rights. I was a human being longing to subdue the poisons in my mind. Lama was the method. I would have done — and would still do today — anything for Lama.
I hoped for a clue from Lama as to what my future would hold. I would hear Lama advise one student to be “great center director,” and instruct another to “go to business school and be great business man for Dharma,” and I would hope for some profound instruction, as well. Instead, he said, “You make good American mama.” This is not what I had hoped to hear!
In 1986, I was pregnant and returned to America to be a “good American mama.” Fraught with worry over my circumstances, my ability to manage, and my fear of being separated from the Dharma, I prayed to Lama from the very depth of my heart to give me a sign that Lama was with me, guiding and protecting me. “Lama,” I prayed, “give me the baby on Christmas Day.”
Although the due date for the child’s arrival was January 13, 1987, the baby arrived on Christmas Day, 1986. (I named her) Felicity Noel. I knew her Christmas Day birth was no accident. I knew it was from the love of Lama, and my devotion to this child became equal to my devotion to Lama.
Tags: fpmt history, lama yeshe