From Geshe Jampa Gyatso, resident teacher at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, August 1987.
I was here six years before, then went to the West, so we are meeting again after six years. I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Lhasa and Rinpoche said it would be very helpful if I gave some advice to the boys in Kopan. I don’t really have any advice and I already sent cassettes from Italy, sometimes advising you and sometimes scolding. I was far from here and thought it would be helpful to send a cassette from a far place.
Guru devotion is very important – it is the root practice of Buddhism. If we were together and I said guru devotion is very important, you might think I’m saying you have to serve me and such things like this – then it becomes very awkward. Therefore, I sent one tape from far away.
Guru devotion is very beneficial for this life and future lives. If we don’t have proper devotion to the guru and if we have anger to the guru and make problems for the guru’s body, speech or mind, then later it will happen to us – that is the nature of dependent arising. Therefore, correct guru devotion is very important.
When studying the scriptures, their meaning and one’s mind have to become one. That mind has to become the antidote to our afflictions. If you have great desire, what is the antidote? You have to meditate on the explanations given in the texts. If you have great anger, what is the antidote to that? It is said in Madhyamaka that the antidote is patience, therefore you have to meditate on patience. How can we meditate on patience? It is already explained in so many texts how to meditate on patience and by doing that one can abandon laziness and anger. Likewise we have much difficulty with ignorance. What is the antidote to ignorance? It is emptiness and dependent arising and these are explained in the great scriptures. There is no method to tame the afflictions other than that which is contained in the five great scriptures. If we keep to one side the scriptures we have been studying and practicing and we search in another scripture for some meditation, this is a completely mistaken approach. That is like we have an ocean of water in front of us and we search for more water in the imprint of a cow’s hoof.
It is very important to keep the teacher’s advice in the heart, and after hearing what they teach, we should practice contemplating and meditating. If we don’t do this it becomes difficult to meditate later. Following the instructions of the teacher, one should study according to one’s ability. If you cannot follow your teachers’ advice, you should say that you cannot. It’s alright to say like this as they are your gurus. You can say, “It’s very difficult for me to do this,” but you shouldn’t go against their advice. If their advice is not suitable for you, maybe you are tempted to not tell them directly but then you speak about them behind their backs. This way one will create negative karma and the result will be conflicts, and conflicts we don’t like.
Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche established this monastery for the future benefit of Westerners, to teach Dharma without depending on translators. So they incorporated different subjects, including English. If you don’t know Dharma, merely knowing the language doesn’t help. Also, if we know Dharma but not the language, it’s difficult. Like me, I know Dharma but not the language, so I have to depend on a translator. If the translator translates well the students may think today
Geshe-la gave very good teachings. If he doesn’t translate well they might think today Geshe-la didn’t give very good teachings.
So I went to the West. The Westerners’ view and thought is that it is very easy to reach buddhahood. They think after five or six days practicing and meditating they may get some kind of realization and achieve buddhahood. Most of them have this kind of expectation to get enlightened in one life. They are thinking that through practicing and meditating they will gain realization, so when they don’t get this result they get tired and think, “What kind of practice is this?” and then there’s the danger of giving up Dharma. They think Tibetan buddhahood is available instantaneously. We Easterners don’t have this kind of thought. According to the sutra system, Buddha showed the twelve deeds thereby accumulating merit over countless great eons. In this way he attained buddhahood. So it is not that easy to attain buddhahood.
But one aspect of the Westerners’ approach is very good: if they hear some teaching, they immediately meditate and practice. That is very good, and this is something we are not doing. Even if we receive many teachings and initiations we don’t remember to recite the mantra or do retreat. We just talk about senseless things. If we have some commitment to recite sadhanas or Six Session Yoga, we recite very quickly, blah, blah, blah – it becomes like a tax, something that has to be done. If Westerners have commitment to recite a sadhana, they meditate. They say things like, “It is very difficult to meditate on Yamantaka because he has many heads and legs and hands and weapons.” They say even though it is very difficult; without visualizing they are not satisfied.
Young people who go to the West find it very difficult to comprehend Westerners’ knowledge but very easy to comprehend their faults. Westerners have great attachment and jealousy, and these are very easy to develop oneself; the younger monks who go to translate [are in] danger of losing their vows.
In the West I have many problems. Not with food, clothing or shelter, but my problem is that every day Westerners come with their problems, at least five or six every day. “I’m sick, I have cancer, what can I do? I wish to have a beautiful husband, what should I do? I wish to have a beautiful wife, what can I do?” They really come like this to say, “Please make an observation.” Sometimes they bring pictures to check with me, “Will I get this lady or not?” There are many of these kinds of problems. Then they get married and then fight, and she wants to keep the children, he wants to keep the children. Then they become a separated couple, and then they go to court about the child and the wealth. Many of these problems they have in the West.
Also, many young people there inject drugs. They have many problems and suffering, so in order to dispel them, they take injections. They have to pay much money for one injection, so sometimes they steal, or even kill people. Some steal everything from their parents’ home. Then they take the injection, and they become very dark and skinny, and some even die, and their parents suffer so much. Some parents bring their children with these problems to the center. Then there is danger for the center as the government thinks it is supplying drugs. But if we say we can’t keep your child here, the parents say, “What kind of people are you? You say your center is helping other people, why aren’t you helping my child?” These are the conflicts of Westerners.
Some Westerners ask me, “You said you became a monk at seven years. Did you become a monk by your wish or your parents’ wish?” I say I had a desire to become a monk, my parents couldn’t force me. To become a monk is very good – simple life, no problem with food or clothing. In our center we have made three parts: one side is for monks, one for nuns and one for lay people. From this year the monks are cooking their own food. They, of course, have good food; they become very healthy. In any case, the monk’s life is easier than lay people’s lives.
It is difficult to find sponsors for Western monks and nuns, but quite easy for Tibetan Sangha. If you take pictures of Tibetan monks to show Westerners they will agree to give a small amount of money each month, which is enough to live on here. But Western Sangha live in the West and you can spend that much on one lunch there! People say they’d don’t earn so much money themselves so how can they sponsor? Therefore, it is very difficult to get sponsors for Western Sangha.
Now, depending on friends like renunciation, bodhichitta and the wisdom realizing emptiness, we have to subdue the enemies of attachment, anger and ignorance. One should realize that to eradicate the three poisons it is important to have hearing, contemplation and meditation. That way one will gain happiness.
In summary, we are the followers of sacred beings, therefore we should practice as those higher beings practiced, and our task is to become like those beings. Monks and nuns, particularly, should have less desire and more contentment. Without this, no matter how much wealth we have, we will experience more mental suffering. We will not be happy; we’ll wish to have more and more wealth. For example, no matter how much one drinks salt water it only increases one’s thirst. Therefore, it’s very important to have less desire and more contentment. Then you should practice the advice of your teachers. It’s very important to engage in one’s practice, to keep pure morality and to follow the discipline of the monastery.
We say in Tibet that the white cloth which has no stains can be dyed any color. So now you are like that white cloth. You are very young. You can choose whichever color you wish. You have the choice because you have a good base. That’s all I have to say. Thank you very much.