History in the making
It’s September 1975, and the lamas fly to the picture postcard village of Les Bayards in the Swiss Jura, accompanied by Nick Ribush. There, they are to teach a two-week course to 120 students. Adele Hulse’s story of the life of Lama Yeshe continues …
Swiss students Chris and Barbara Vautier had rented a beautiful house for the lamas in the countryside, about twenty minutes from Les Bayards. Åge Delbanco, who had not seen the lamas for two years, came to cook for them. “I drove them back and forth,” he said. “Whenever we arrived for teachings or left afterward, students ran out to surround the car. Bent over in devotion, they rushed to be the one to open the car door. Once Lama Yeshe exclaimed, ‘Ho! This “guru” business!’ as if to say, ‘Why can’t they just relax and be natural?’ Lama was so sweet to me then, but he treated Lama Zopa like he was a little boy. There was a lot of ‘What are you doing! Do this! Do that!’” said Åge.
The eight Mahayana precepts were taken every morning during the second week of the course. This was challenging, so Lama Yeshe came along the day before to give everyone courage.
“Today is Dharma nightclub,” he joked. “Many times we are talking and not acting. But today we are not playing. When you act, Dharma becomes real. When you don’t act, it is complicated. It is like when you don’t understand a language. Then the grammar book is something big and bad. But when you understand, it is little.”
Lama always said he never rehearsed his talks, never knew what he was going to say until he sat on the throne. As the attendant, Nick was in charge of all the mundane matters, such as seeing that everything ran to schedule, especially lunch. During precepts, lunch was the only meal of the day and was supposed to be finished by noon. With five minutes to spare, Nick discreetly reminded Lama of the time. Twenty minutes later, he had to do so again, because Lama had taken no notice.
After Nick’s third interruption one day, Lama Yeshe rounded on him. “In Tibet when someone is being a nuisance, we do this to them!” He made a squishing gesture with his thumb. Nick stayed quiet.
“When the session was finally over, I walked down the stairs behind Lama,” said Nick. “My mind was just about to boil over when Lama turned, giving me a look full of real fear for my future lives and said, ‘Don’t say a thing!’ Then he walked off.” …