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Lama Yeshe

Lama Yeshe from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive

“I see that Western people are getting busier and busier, more and more restless,” Lama Yeshe said in Becoming Your Own Therapist. ”I’m not criticizing material or technological development as such, but rather the uncontrolled mind. Because you don’t know who or what you are, you spend your life blindly grasping at what I call ‘supermarket goodness.’ You agitate your own life; you make yourself restless. Instead of integrating your life, you splinter it. Check up for yourself. I’m not putting you down. In fact, Buddhism doesn’t allow us to dogmatically put down anybody else’s way of life. All I’m trying to suggest is that you consider looking at things another way.”

Read more from “Chapter One: Finding Ourselves Through Buddhism” of Becoming Your Own Therapist on the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

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The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) is an organization devoted to preserving and spreading Mahayana Buddhism worldwide by creating opportunities to listen, reflect, meditate, practice and actualize the unmistaken teachings of the Buddha and based on that experience spreading the Dharma to sentient beings. mandala200

We provide integrated education through which people’s minds and hearts can be transformed into their highest potential for the benefit of others, inspired by an attitude of universal responsibility and service. We are committed to creating harmonious environments and helping all beings develop their full potential of infinite wisdom and compassion.

Our organization is based on the Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa of Tibet as taught to us by our founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe and our spiritual director, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche doing full length prostrations at Light of the Path, Black Mountain, North Carolina, US, May 2014. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche doing full length prostrations at Light of the Path, Black Mountain, North Carolina, US, May 2014. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

“Lama Zopa: I found a note from Lama Yeshe saying ‘the real learned wise person is one who is truly humble.’”

A quotation from Ven. Roger Kunsang’s Twitter page, posted on May 9, 2014, at the Light of the Path retreat. You can watch Rinpoche’s teachings at Light of the Path online.

Ven. Roger Kunsang, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s assistant and CEO of FPMT Inc., shares Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s recent pith sayings on Ven. Roger’s Twitter page. (You can also read them on Ven. Roger’s Facebook page.)

More information, photos and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s homepage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche via email, sign up to Lama Zopa Rinpoche News.

by Lama Thubten Yeshe


Lama Thubten Yeshe gave this teaching in Brisbane, Australia, in April, 1975. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.



Many people misunderstand Buddhism. Even some professors of Buddhist studies look at just the words and interpret what the Buddha taught very literally. They don’t understand his methods, which are the real essence of his teachings. In my opinion, the most important aspect of any religion is its methods: how to put that religion into your own experience. The better you understand that, the more effective your religion becomes. Your practice becomes so natural, so realistic; you easily come to understand your own nature, your own mind, and you don’t get surprised by whatever you find in it. Then, when you understand the nature of your own mind, you’ll be able to control it naturally; you won’t have to push so hard; understanding naturally brings control.


Many people will imagine that control of the mind is some kind of tight, restrictive bondage. Actually, control is a natural state. But you’re not going to say that, are you? You’re going to say that the mind is uncontrolled by nature, that it is natural for the mind to be uncontrolled. But it’s not. When you realize the nature of your uncontrolled mind, control comes as naturally as your present uncontrolled state arises. Moreover, the only way to gain control over your mind is to understand its nature. You can never force your mind, your internal world, to change. Nor can you purify your mind, by punishing yourself physically, by beating your body. That’s totally impossible. Impurity, sin, negativity or whatever else you want to call it is psychological, a mental phenomenon, so you can’t stop it physically. Purification requires a skillful combination of method and wisdom.

To purify your mind, you don’t have to believe in something special up there—God, or Buddha. Don’t worry about that. When you truly realize the up and down nature of your everyday life, the characteristic nature of your own mental attitude, you’ll automatically want to implement a solution.

These days, many people are disillusioned with religion; they seem to think it doesn’t work. Religion works. It offers fantastic solutions to all your problems. The problem is that people don’t understand the characteristic nature of religion, so they don’t have the will to implement its methods.

Consider the materialistic life. It’s a state of complete agitation and conflict. You can never fix things to be the way you want. You can’t just wake up in the morning and decide exactly how you want your day to unfold. Forget about weeks, months, or years; you can’t even predetermine one day. If I were to ask you right now if can you get up in the morning and set exactly how your day was going to go, how you were going to feel each moment, what would you say? There’s no way you can do that, is there?

No matter how much you make yourself materially comfortable, no matter how you arrange your house—you have this, you have that; you put one thing here, you put another there—you can never manipulate your mind in the same way. You can never determine the way you’re going to feel all day. How can you fix your mind like that? How can you say, “Today I’m going to be like this”? I can tell you with absolute certainty, as long as your mind is uncontrolled, agitated and dualistic, there’s no way; it’s impossible. When I say this, I’m not putting you down; I’m just talking about the way the mind works.

What all this goes to show is that no matter how much you tell yourself, “Oh, this makes me happy, today I’m going to be happy all day long,” it’s impossible to predetermine your life like that. Automatically, your feelings keep changing, changing, changing. This demonstrates clearly that the materialistic life doesn’t work. However, I don’t mean that you should renounce the worldly life and become ascetics. That’s not what I’m saying. My point is that if you understand spiritual principles correctly and act accordingly, you will find much greater satisfaction and meaning in your life than you will by relying on the sense world alone. The sense world alone cannot satisfy the human mind.

Thus, the only purpose for the existence of what we call religion is for us to understand the nature of our own psyche, our own mind, our own feelings. Whatever name we give to our spiritual path, the most important thing is that we get to know our own experiences, our own feelings. Therefore, the lamas’ experience of Buddhism is that instead of emphasizing belief, it places prime importance on personal experimentation, putting Dharma methods into action and assessing the effect they have on our minds: do these methods help? Have our minds changed or are they just as uncontrolled as they ever were? This is Buddhism, and this method of checking the mind is called meditation.

It’s an individual thing; you can’t generalize. It all comes down to personal understanding, personal experience. If your path is not providing solutions to your problems, answers to your questions, satisfaction to your mind, you must check up. Perhaps there’s something wrong with your point of view, your understanding. You can’t necessarily conclude that there’s something wrong with your religion just because you tried it and it didn’t work. Different individuals have their own ideas, views, and understanding of religion, and can make mistakes.

Therefore, make sure that the way you understand your religion’s ideas and methods is correct. If you make the right effort on the basis of right understanding, you will experience deep inner satisfaction. Thus, you’ll prove to yourself that satisfaction does not depend on anything external. True satisfaction comes from the mind.

by Lama Thubten Yeshe


Lama Thubten Yeshe in Bloomington, Indiana, 1975. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Dr. Nick Ribush.



Meditation is very simple. When hearing about meditation for the first time, you might think, “That must be very special; meditation couldn’t be for me but only for special people.” This just creates a gap between you and meditation.

Actually, watching television, which we all do, is a bit like meditating. When you watch television, you watch what’s happening on the screen; when you meditate, you watch what’s happening on the inner screen of your mind?where you can see all your good qualities, but all your inner garbage as well. That’s why meditation is simple.

The difference, however, is that through meditation you learn about the nature of your mind rather than the sense world of desire and attachment. Why is this important? We think that worldly things are very useful, but the enjoyment they bring is minimal and transient. Meditation, on the other hand, has so much more to offer?joy, understanding, higher communication and control. Control here does not mean that you are controlled by somebody else but rather by your own understanding knowledge-wisdom, which is a totally peaceful and joyful experience. Thus, meditation is very useful.

Also, if you exaggerate the value of external objects, thinking that they are the most important things in life, you ignore your inner beauty and internal joyful energy; if you look only outside of yourself, you neglect your most precious human qualities?your intellect and your potential to communicate in higher ways. Thus, meditation shows you clean clear which objects of attachment confuse you and with which kinds of mind you relate to them.

Furthermore, meditation is a very quick method of discovering the nature of reality. It’s just like a computer. Computers can check many things extremely quickly, put them together and all of a sudden, pow!?we’re on the moon. Similarly, meditation can quickly make things clean clear, but we don’t have to go to the trouble of learning by trial and error through laboratory experiments. Many people seem to think that making mistakes is a very important part of learning. My point of view is that this is a misconception. “To learn the reality of misery, you have miserable experiences”?I say that this is not so. Through meditation we can learn things clean clear, without having to experience them.

Thus, meditation does not mean the study of Buddhism philosophy and doctrine. It is learning about our own nature: what we are and how we exist.
Some books say that the purpose of meditation is to make us conscious, but despite the usual Western connotation, the terms “awareness” and “consciousness” are not necessarily positive. They can be selfish functions of the ego. Awareness and consciousness do not mean the fully awakened state of knowledge-wisdom. Awareness can be simply an ego-trip. I mean, many times we’re aware and conscious, but since we possess neither wisdom nor understanding, our minds are still polluted. We think that we’re conscious, but our minds are foggy and unclear. Therefore, awareness and consciousness are not exclusively the result of meditation. What has to happen is that through meditation, awareness and consciousness must become knowledge-wisdom.

Another idea that many people have is that meditation is beautiful because it produces calm and relaxation. But calm and relaxation are not necessarily the result of meditation. For example, when we are asleep and our mind has sunk to an unconscious level, we are relaxed. Of course, this is not the same relaxation that meditation brings.

Meditation releases us from the uncontrolled, polluted mind. Automatically, we become joyful and can see meaning in our life. Hence, we can direct the energy of our body, speech and mind in beneficial directions instead of wasting it through not knowing what we want.
In fact, most of the time we don’t know what we want. We try something, but then, “Oh, I don’t want this.” So we try something else, but again, “I don’t want this either.” Our life is constantly changing, changing, changing; again and again, our energies are sublimated into one thing, then another, and we reach nowhere?doesn’t this sound familiar?

We should make sure we understand our behavior. We put ourselves on so many different trips and into so many life-situations with no understanding of what direction is really worth going in, thus wasting enormous amounts of time. Meditation purifies and clarifies our view, enabling us to understand the different life-styles and beliefs of basically every sentient being in the universe. Thus we can see which are worthwhile and which are not. A human being, sitting at one place in meditation, can see all this. It is definitely possible.

When our minds are clean clear, we can choose a beneficial way of life.


by Lama Thubten Yeshe


Lama Thubten Yeshe gave this teaching at Assembly Hall, Melbourne, Australia in April 1975. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.



The way we live and think everything is dedicated to material pleasure. We consider sense objects to be of utmost importance and materialistically devote ourselves to whatever makes us happy, famous and popular. Even though all this comes from our mind, we are so totally preoccupied by the external objects themselves that we never look within, we never question what makes them so interesting. However, this mind is an inseparable part of us; as long as we exist our mind is there within us. Thus we are always up and down. It is not our body that goes up and down, it is our mind—the mind whose way of functioning we do not understand. Therefore, sometimes you have to examine yourself; not just your body but your mind, which is the thing that is telling you what to do. You have to know your own psychology, or, in religious terminology, perhaps, your inner nature. But no matter what you call it, you have to know your own mind.

Don’t think that examining and knowing the nature of your mind is only an Eastern trip. That’s a wrong conception; it’s not an Eastern trip, it’s your trip. How can you separate your body, or the picture you have of your self, from your mind? You can’t say, “I have the material power to separate my body from my mind.” That’s impossible. You think you are a free person in the world, enjoying everything. That’s what you think, but you are not free. I’m not saying that you are under the control of someone else; it’s your own attachment, your own uncontrolled mind that you are oppressed by. If you can discover how it oppresses you, the uncontrolled mind will disappear automatically. Thus knowing your own mind is the solution for your mental problems.

One day the world is so beautiful; the next day it is so bad. How can you say that! Scientifically it’s impossible for the world to change radically like that. It’s simply your mind that makes this happen. Don’t think that this is religious dogma; our going up and down is not religious dogma. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about the way you lead your life, which is what sends you up down. The people and the environment don’t change radically; the changes are in your own mind. Surely you can understand that—it’s so simple.

Similarly, one person thinks that the world is beautiful and people are wonderful and kind, but another thinks that everything and everyone are horrible. Who is right? How do you explain that scientifically? It’s just their individual mind’s projection of the sense world. Hence you feel, “Today is like this, tomorrow is like that; this man is like this; that woman is like that.” But where is the absolutely fixed, forever-beautiful woman? Who is the absolutely forever-handsome man? They are non-existent; they are simply creations of your mind.

Also, you should not expect material objects to satisfy you and make your life perfect; that too is impossible. How can you be satisfied by even vast amounts of material objects? How can you be satisfied by sleeping with hundreds of different people? It’s impossible. Satisfaction comes from the mind. Your dissatisfied mind wanting to keep changing from one person to another, from one trip to another, can never satisfy you. This is just your mind.

So you see, if you don’t know your own psychology, you might ignore what’s going on in your mind until it breaks down and you go completely crazy. People go mad through lack of inner wisdom, the ability to examine their own mind. They cannot explain themselves to themselves; they don’t know how to talk to themselves. Thus they are constantly preoccupied with all these external objects while their mind within is running down until it finally cracks. They are ignorant of their internal world; their minds are totally unified with ignorance instead of being awake and engaged in self-analysis. It is so necessary to examine your own mental attitudes; it is essential that you become your own therapist.

You people are intelligent: you know that material objects alone cannot bring you satisfaction. However, you don’t need to embark on some emotional, religious trip to examine your own mind. Some people think they do; they think that this kind of self-analysis is something spiritual or religious. To do this it’s not necessary to classify yourself as a follower of this or that philosophy or religion. But if you want to be happy you do have to check the way you lead your life. For this you don’t need to put yourself into some religious category; your own mind is your religion.

When you check your mind, you should not rationalize or push. Relax. Do not be upset when problems come. Just be conscious of them and their origin, knowing their root. Introduce the problem to yourself: Here is this kind of problem. How has it become a problem? What kind of mind has made it a problem? What kind of mind feels that it’s a problem? This is so simple, and when you check thoroughly, the problem automatically disappears. That is simple, isn’t it? For that to happen, you don’t have to believe in something. Don’t believe anything! All the same, you can’t say, I don’t believe I have a mind. You can’t reject your mind. You can say, I reject Eastern things—I agree. But can you reject yourself? Can you reject your head, your nose? You cannot reject your mind. Therefore, treat yourself wisely and try to discover the true source of satisfaction.

When you were a child you loved and craved chocolate and cake, and you thought, “When I’m old like my parents, I’ll have all the chocolate and cake I want, and then I’ll be happy.” You made that kind of mental decision. Now you have so much chocolate and cake, but you’re bored. So you decide that since this doesn’t make you happy you’ll get a car, a house, television, a husband or wife—then, you’ll be happy. So now you have everything, but there are more problems. The car is a problem; the house is a problem; the husband or wife is a problem; the children are a problem. You realize, Oh, this is not satisfaction.

Then, what is satisfaction? Go through all this mentally and check; it’s very important. Examine your life from childhood to the present—meditate. This is meditation, analytical meditation. At that time my mind was like that; now my mind is like this. It has changed this way, that way. You see, your mind has changed so many times but still you have not reached any conclusion as to what really makes you happy. My interpretation of this is that you are lost. I don’t care that you know your way around the city, that you know how to get home, that you know where to buy chocolate; as far as I’m concerned, you’re lost; you can’t find your goal. Check honestly, you’ll find that this is so.

Therefore, Lord Buddha is saying that you only have to know what you are, how you exist; that’s all. You don’t have to anything. Just understand your mind: how it works; how attachment and desire arise; how ignorance arises; where the emotions come from. It is sufficient to know the nature of all that; just that gives so much happiness and peace. Your life changes completely; everything gets turned upside down; what you interpreted as horrible becomes beautiful. It’s truly possible.

I’m sure that if I told you that all you were living for was chocolate and ice cream you’d think I was crazy. No, no, no, your arrogant mind would say. But look deeper into your life’s purpose. What are you here for? Gaining a good reputation? Collecting possessions? Trying to be beautiful? I’m not exaggerating— check for yourselves, then you’ll see. Through thorough examination you can realize that if your entire life is dedicated to seeking happiness through things like chocolate and ice cream, there is no significance in your being born human. Birds and dogs have the same kind of attitude to life. If you think you’re intelligent you should dedicate your life to goals higher than those of chickens!

I’m not deciding your life for you, but you check up. It’s much better to have an integrated life than to live in mental disorder. Otherwise your life is not worthwhile, not beneficial to yourself or others. Ask yourself what you are living for—for chocolate? For steak? Perhaps for education. But that also comes from the mind. Without the mind, what is education, what is philosophy? A philosophy is somebody’s way of thinking, thoughts put together in a certain way. Without the mind there’s no philosophy no doctrine, no university subjects. These things are mind-made.

How to check the mind? Just watch how your mind perceives or interprets any object that it contacts; what feeling—comfortable or uncomfortable—arises. Then you check: When I perceive this kind of view, this feeling arises; that emotion comes; I discriminate in such a way. Why, This is how to check the mind; that’s all; it’s very simple.

When you have checked your own mind properly you stop blaming others; you recognize that actions come from your own defiled, deluded mind. When you are preoccupied with material, external objects, you always blame them and others for your problems. Then you become miserable because you project that view onto external phenomena instead of seeing their reality. So you can realize your fade-conception view—the attitude, or nature, of your own mind.

You might think that this is all very new for you, but it’s not. Whenever you are going to do anything, first you check whether to do it or not and then make your decision. Since you do this already, I’m not giving you something new; the difference is that you are not doing it enough. You have to do more checking. To do this you don’t have to sit in some corner on your own—you can be checking your mind all the time, even while talking or working with other people. Also, you shouldn’t think that examining the mind is something only for those who are on an Eastern trip. Don’t think that way.

You should also realize that the nature of the mind is different from that of the mesh and bone of this physical body. The mind is like a mirror, reflecting everything without discrimination. If you have understanding-wisdom you will control the sort of reflections you allow in your mind-mirror. If you totally ignore what is happening in your mind, it will reflect all kinds of garbage—things that make you psychologically ill.

Your checking-wisdom should distinguish between reflections that are beneficial and those that bring psychological problems. Eventually, when you realize the nature of subject and object, all your problems will dissolve.

Some people think they are religious, but what is religious? If you are not examining your own nature, not gaining knowledge-wisdom, in what way are you religious? Just the idea that you are religious—I am Buddhist, Jewish—does not help at all. It does not help you; it does not help others. If you have knowledge-wisdom, you can really help others.

The greatest problems of humanity are psychological, not material. From birth to death, people are continuously under the control of their mental sufferings. Some people never keep watch on their minds when things are going well, but when something goes wrong—an accident or some other terrible experience—they immediately say, God, please help me. They call themselves religious but they’re just joking. In happiness or sorrow, a serious practitioner maintains constant awareness of God and their own nature. You’re not being realistic or even remotely religious if you forget yourself when you are having a good time, surrounded by chocolate and preoccupied by worldly sense pleasures, and turn to God only when something awful happens. That doesn’t help.

No matter which of the many world religions we consider, their interpretation of God or Buddha or whatever is simply words and mind; only these two. Therefore words don’t matter so much. What you have to realize is that everything—good and bad; all kinds of philosophies and doctrines—comes from mind. The mind is very powerful; therefore it requires strong direction. A powerful jet plane needs a good pilot; your mind-pilot should be wisdom understanding the nature of the mind. Then powerful energy can directed to benefit your life instead of being allowed to run uncontrollably like a mad elephant, destroying yourself and others.



by Lama Thubten Yeshe


Lama Thubten Yeshe gave this teaching in Brisbane, Australia, in April, 1975. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.



These days, one of the main reasons that a man and a woman become friends is sexual. They get together for sexual pleasure. In earlier times, marriage had a divine quality—a couple came together out of respect, with the aim of creating a kind of totality. That gave meaning to getting married, and marriages made with such purpose became good ones.

Many of today’s marriages become disastrous because they lack purpose; there’s no worthwhile goal for coming together. A couple should not come together out of grasping at each other; there should be more meaning to it than that. But our craving desire and lack of wisdom work together to create an extreme situation that finishes up causing conflict: the woman agitates her man; the man agitates his woman—in either case, it ends in “goodbye.”

These days, I travel the entire world and many young people come to see me to discuss their relationship problems, but they all boil down to people’s coming together out of the wrong motivation. Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s important that there’s not too much grasping in your relationship, that you don’t agitate your partner. Extreme grasping at sexual pleasure is a problem; sexual pleasure is an irritant. You can see.

However, many couples aren’t together for the sex. Their relationship is deeper than that, so their attitude is different. They are very comfortable, free, somehow, with no tremendous expectations of each other. Therefore, they have a good relationship. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of such couples, where there’s not much grasping.

In my limited experience of the Western world, many Christians, who believe in God, have very respectful marriages. They believe in something deeper than themselves and are not living for sense pleasure alone. I would say that such couples have been blessed by God or Jesus.

Of course, many people these days believe that Coca-Cola is better than God. “What’s the point of religion?” they ask; “Coca-Cola is more refreshing than God or the Bible.” This is their problem. What to do? I’m joking!

The next day:

Thousands of people the world over get married every day out of craving for sexual pleasure. Others get married principally for reputation: “He’s world famous; he’s great.” Still others marry for wealth or power. Those are all wrong motivations for marriage. The purpose of marriage should be to avoid extremes and gain balance in your life. However, it often turns out the complete opposite.

These days, perhaps as many people get divorced as get married. Don’t think divorce is easy. Psychologically, divorce can be hell. It’s not a simple as “OK, bye-bye,” and it’s over. It’s not like that. First there’s a huge build-up of psychological pressure and when it releases it’s like falling into hell. So, sentient beings are suffering like this.

We criticize modern society for such ills, but it’s not society’s fault. There’s nothing wrong with society—it’s our mental attitude that’s mistaken. We create all kinds of fantasies, grasp at sense pleasure and everything finishes in disaster.

Buddhism explains that we circle from one life to another because of craving desire and that we can put an end to cyclic existence, to rebirth in samsara, by abandoning desire. Craving is what makes the wheel of life go round and it’s our own clinging that binds us to it; nobody else makes us cycle from one suffering life to another.

The twentieth century example of this is those ladies and gentlemen who get married, experience problems, grasp at another person, then at another, and another…maybe they cycle through four or five marriages in a single lifetime. Some people have hundreds of lovers in their life. Why can’t they stop? Why do they keep on grasping? There’s nobody driving them to do this; they drive themselves. They hang on continuously; non-stop. Desire is fickle in nature. Freud tried to explain sex as the basis of most human problems. Buddhism disagrees. The main human problem lies much deeper than that.

At a course on mind and mental factors, Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, 1978


Question: Lama, is it possible to teach married people on the spiritual path some form of modified tantric practice to help deepen their spiritual and sexual relationship?

Lama: Yes, it’s possible. But as the texts explain, you have to approach these things gradually. Still, if married people study properly, they can learn the great significance of tantric practice, have a good relationship and, in a simple way, experience some kind of unity.

However, I can’t be specific about this because it depends greatly on the level of development of the individuals involved. It’s similar with people who want to be celibate: just because you’re intellectually ready for a certain type of practice, the scientific reality—what Buddhists call the interdependent origination of it—may be against it; the physical nervous system, which comes from the mind, may not be ready. In such cases, the nervous system can crack under the strain.

Therefore, whatever practice you’re trying to achieve, you need to go slowly, slowly and develop yourself organically. It’s not something that depends only on ideas. If you take it gradually, any practice can become easy. You should not push or squeeze yourself. If you pump yourself too hard, you run out of space, freak out and go crazy.

Question: Some people take teachings and then decide to live on the world and practice Dharma without becoming a monk or nun. Is it easy to integrate worldly responsibilities with spiritual practice?

Lama: That, too, depends on the individual. For some people it’s beautiful experience. They get married, the marriage is good, they try to help and share with each other. I think that’s beautiful; such couples are also a good example to others.

Many of my married students were experiencing unbelievable suffering and conflict when I met them. All I could do was to try to help them be happy and have as good a relationship as possible. But, sometimes the circumstances are against it. Basically, both people are unhappy; they have much conflict and many problems within their marriage. I think this is common. It’s not just confined to my students. Many Western people experience this. I think the grasping, sexual relationship is one of the greatest problems Western people face, whether they are religious practitioners or not.

However, some people understand each other and try to live with loving kindness, but that’s really up to the individual. Some people can lead a beautiful married life; others can’t. It really depends on the individual’s needs at the time.

From an interview with a Catholic theologian, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1977


Question: Lama, many people have problems with their marriage. Do you have anything to say about this?

Lama: Do I have anything to say? Yes! They don’t understand each other. They lack good communication. That creates many problems. Many people, especially young ones, marry for very superficial reasons: “I like him; let’s get married; I like her, let’s get married.” There’s not much thought given to how they’re going to spend their life together or much analysis of each other’s personality. People are too influenced by external appearance; true beauty lies within. People’s faces and behavior are constantly changing; you can’t rely on them.

Because we lack the knowledge wisdom to understand each other’s inner, human qualities, we easily disrespect our partner. When things don’t work out as planned, when our partner no longer appears attractive, our marriage fails. That’s because it was built one hundred percent on ego; it was totally an ego-based relationship. No wonder it didn’t work.

A marriage built on mutual understanding, good communication and sincere efforts to help each other has a much better chance of lasting. Mental communication is much better than physical. That is very important. Superficial relationships, those based on mainly external factors, never last.

Let’s say a couple buys a new piece of furniture. The husband says, “Put it here,” the wife says, “No, put it there,” and a huge fight ensues. Here, there, what difference does it make? It’s foolish and narrow-minded, but that’s how things go.

At a public talk in Los Angeles, 1975


Question: Lama, what do you think about marriage?

Lama: Marriage is good; because of marriage, you and I exist on Earth. Without marriage most of us wouldn’t exist. I have some Christian friends I like and respect very much. Many Christian couples have a good relationship because they keep love of God in their heart. I’ve also heard they have the attitude that sex is for reproduction, not for pleasure. I think that’s a very good idea.

Question: What about contraception?

Lama: I’m not going to talk about the Buddhist point of view; I’m going to talk about this monk’s point of view. I have to be careful. However, my observation of the Western world is that contraception is a very good thing because many young people are not ready to have children and when they do, instead of growing, they go crazy. I have students like this. They are young, super-intelligent and well educated, but as soon as they have babies they become unbelievably miserable. I’ve seen intelligent, worldly-wise girls suddenly become terrible, with no capability, no happiness, and no love for their man; they hate everything. It’s incredible. If those girls hadn’t had babies, over time, they could have become incredibly spiritually developed.

Parenthood brings with it many societal obligations; having a baby is a big responsibility. So, for those who cannot control their desire for sexual pleasure, contraception is essential. Also, if you can prevent an unwanted pregnancy from occurring, you eliminate the possibility of having to consider killing the fetus by abortion. Buddhism explains that for a sentient being to come from the intermediate state into a human rebirth the mother’s womb should be healthy and unobstructed. In other words, the conditions should be perfect. If you interrupt the conditions through contraception, it’s OK. It’s certainly better than madness. This is my own observation; I hope it doesn’t upset anybody.

Question: Well, Lama, what about abortion?

Lama: For Buddhists, abortion is difficult. It’s a question of morality, or ethics. But still, it’s a relative question. Let’s say that you don’t have an abortion and that the next twenty years of your life are miserable. And even more misery comes from that. Yet you think nothing of killing fish and small animals. Relatively, which is worse? Good and bad are relative; good karma and bad karma are relative. I’m not making any statement here; it’s just something for you to think about.

At a course on death and rebirth, London, 1981



“When I said ‘they can change their minds and they can become more harmonious.’ Lama didn’t speak but he put up his hand strongly. Somehow he just didn’t accept. This was quite close to the time of his passing away.’”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche


Lama Zopa Rinpoche talked briefly to the people attending Lama Yeshe’s funeral, Wednesday March 7th,1984 at Vajrapani institute.

Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche I am just very numb, I can’t think of anything. But I thought I would try and say a few words regarding the recent happenings.

This year, not only our incomparably kind guru, Lama Yeshe, but also His Holiness Ling Rinpoche and his Holiness Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche have passed away. And other lamas not common to us, other high lamas have passed away as well, this year in India. Whatever other people say, I don’t know, but my own way of thinking is that because of our karmic vision there were great obstacles in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s forty ninth year. So, it became kind of a choice, according to our karma; either His Holiness passes away or other lamas pass away.

The main thing is: we sentient beings who receive guidance from these high lamas, these holy beings, we simply don’t have enough merit. You see, the vase, the vessel, is too small. Even if there is one very large pot of nectar, all of it cannot fit into that small vessel. I think that is the main problem. These high lamas, His Holiness and all these high lamas, including Lama Yeshe, they do not fit us, they do not fit. Because of our small merit, they just do not fit. They are like a huge burden that we cannot carry.

We need to have incredible merit for all these holy beings guiding us to have a long life. But there is a shortage of merit—even if there is no dharma contact and we do not have guru-disciple relationship. And to those with whom we have had dharma contact we have done many things to cause a shortage of their lives, for them to not stay in that aspect to guide us. We have caused it.

As it is with high lamas, so it is the same regarding Lama’s passing away. And it is not something that suddenly happened. Lama planned it some time ago; there have been many preparations. Last year when Lama was in France, for example, he told Denis Huet, the director of Vajra Yogini Institute—he is very close to Lama, in Lama’s heart—he told Denis: ‘I will leave my body at New Year.’ I said to Denis, ‘But Lama must be joking!’ He said, ‘No, Lama is serious.’ I told Denis that he should write to Lama and explain to him all the reasons why he should live long.

So, it’s not as if Lama was an ordinary person without any choice in death, not like that. And recently, just before Lama left Dharamsala, almost every day, over and over, he would be saying things like, ‘If I don’t die then I will do this; if I don’t die…’ Always death, always conversations involving death, all the time.

That morning, just before completing the past year, also Lama’s forty-ninth year, Lama asked me to do the Heruka sadhana with self-initiation with him. Even though Lama was in the aspect of heavy sickness he was able to keep straight and do the Heruka self-initiation. I know that if I had had such problems I would not even remember om mani padme hum. Even when I am healthy I cannot remember it; when I am sick— impossible! I would only have thoughts of my sickness, nothing else.

Anyway, soon after we had finished the sadhana I had some kind of hesitation in my mind, a feeling that something heavy might happen. But I couldn’t decide on the basis of Lama’s holy body whether he was going to pass away. So I said to Lama, ‘Please, you should consider recovering soon because the students understand the dharma. They’re very intelligent and they can change their minds and they can become more harmonious.’ When I said ‘they can change their minds and they can become more harmonious’ Lama didn’t speak but he put up his hand strongly. Somehow he just didn’t accept. This was quite close to the time of his passing away.

So I think we can understand from Lama’s signal, quite tough, that he could not accept. We can see from that, it is clear.

Recently, I heard that if you make a mistake with one guru, that pollution will cause you to make mistakes with other gurus, even though in the first place the mistake was only with one.

However, the main point is that Lama did not accept, he did not respond. But since our mind is not oneness with anger, not oneness with ignorance, not oneness with attachment, as everybody knows: since they are not mixed with our mind, since it is possible to separate them from our mind, then I think we should attempt to subdue the mind and develop a good heart. And in that way harmony will come. This, then, becomes pleasing to Lama—even though no longer the same aspect—and becomes the best offering and a cause for him to reincarnate quickly and guide us. Again we will be able to enjoy the continuous nectar of the profound and extensive teachings of Lama.

I think the most pleasing thing at each center, the first thing, the most important thing is to be able to develop one’s own mind, to practice bodhicitta and patience as much as possible, to develop a good heart. Then, you see, that center will really develop, it will have an incredibly good vibration, harmonious and with no confusion, and just by being there people will be able to generate realizations easily. People will want to stay there, they will want to do retreat, they will want to do things. This is the best way to develop a center.

Just to talk generally about the development of the center, about teachings, without relating it all to one’s own mind, makes the dharma something in the sky. You can’t point out the teachings somewhere in the sky. We must relate them to our own mind, our own life. That is the best offering to the Lama, that is fulfilling Lama’s wishes.

If you were to have a competition between the centers it should be in relation to dharma practice and the development of the mind, not material.

Three years ago, when Lama was in Spain, he gave some instructions to Jampa Chökyi about what we should do when he passed away. First, he requested her to translate texts to be used when he passed away, then there were ceremonies to do. The students should recite Vajrasattva mantras and do Vajrasattva practice for one year at Lama’s holy body, ‘then they can keep my body for one year.’ I have discussed this with His Holiness Song Rinpoche and he advised that we have a cremation. But I think that Rinpoche’s wishes and Lama’s wishes are the same thing, there is no problem. ‘Then, wherever my body is, all the students should come and they should do Vajrasattva. recitation for one year without interruption.’ Lama told Jampa Chökyi. This means that people can come and go, as long as there are people there continuously reciting.

Lama requested that the students receive a Vajrasattva initiation: His Holiness Song Rinpoche will give one tomorrow. ‘After my death there should be a Vajrayogini self-initiation’: that is exactly what happened already. Then, Hayagriva initiation: this is difficult to do here. Then, Yamantaka initiation: we will do a Yamantaka self-initiation this evening. Also, Lama wanted us to do Cittamani self-initiation and Guyasamaja self-initiation. And yesterday, we did Heruka self-initiation.

I think we should discuss the Vajrasattva meditation. Either everybody can come to the place and do the one-year retreat or, if that’s not manageable then I think we can make a statue of Lama at each center and the students of that country gather there to do the retreat. Otherwise I think we can do it at Kopan. According to the observations made, the choices were either Kopan, Spain or New Zealand retreat centers, but Kopan came up twice. I think it’s because it’s the place where all the centers started, you see.

Lama’s relics will be distributed to all the centers and can be put in either a stupa or a statue of Lama. We are planning to make a large statue of Lama in the form of a monk but having the Vajrasattva mudra holding bell and vajra. Also His Holiness the Dalai Lama has advised us to make one statue of Lama and a thangka of the Thirty-five Buddhas. So, everything comes to the same thing, I think it is something that the organizers can discuss.

Mainly I thought I would talk a little about how Lama is learned: about his enthusiastic perseverance, his loving, good heart. But I don’t need to say much, you have met Lama so many times, so you know. I don’t need to repeat again Lama’ qualities.

However, all the dharma knowledge that we have, all our opportunities to purify, to accumulate merit, to plant seeds of the entire path to enlightenment by practicing sutra and tantra—all this comes from Lama. Before we heard Lama’s teachings our mind didn’t have the dharma. There was no refuge no understanding of or faith in karma, no understanding of happiness and suffering. Our mind was completely dark. Now, we have some dharma knowledge, we have opportunity to practice even such profound methods as tantra every day. All this, all merit, all this dharma knowledge, came from Lama. First we listened to his lecture then inspiration came. So, we should re member the kindness of Lama all the time.

His Holiness Song Rinpoche said, even we have studied with other geshes at the centers, the centers that Lama started, it is all due to the kindness of Lama, it all cam completely from Lama.

I would like to thank everybody who sent money for Lama’s operation, all the donations. And to thank you so much for all the prayers: all the time I was sending instructions to the centers to do this and do that. So thank you for everything you did. Maybe it is because of those prayers that Lama lived even a few more months.

And I would like to say thanks from m heart to the Vajrapani people who have worked so hard, in the past and now at this time. They have worked with such dedication, doing their work so well without confusion, being so harmonious together. would like to offer thanks to the nurses who took care of Lama, they had such hardship And the doctors: thank you so much to them.

I think that’s all. If we follow Lama’ wishes, every piece of advice, if we put it all into practice, then I think it will become the quick cause for Lama to reincarnate soon. Maybe he will even come to America! I’m not sure!


“We should be very harmonious and try to help each other. We should ask: How can I help? How can I serve? What is the best thing? What is not good?.”

Geshe Sopa


I didn’t come here to give a speech. I came here to participate in the ceremonies for Lama Yeshe, and Lama Zopa requested me to say a few words of advice to you as I have been Lama’s teacher for a long time. We have known each other for a long time as teacher and student, in Tibet, since he was a young boy, and we have always had a good relationship, since then right up till now. I have nothing much to say, just a few words, maybe.

Geshe Sopa and Lama Zopa Rinpoche at cermonies for Lama Yeshe. During these past years Lama Yeshe has done so much beneficial activity for so many people, especially in the West. In fact, these two teachers, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa, have done such a wonderful job. The result is everywhere in the West – so many centers, so many students who follow the teachings seriously.

And because of all this activity the students have such a wonderful opportunity to meet other teachers, to receive many, many instructions and teachings. Even in Tibet we didn’t have that kind of opportunity! To have high lamas teaching all the time and giving high initiations, to have all this available is very, very rare.

So, when I see what has happened in the past few years, it makes me really happy, and I feel such admiration for Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa and for their students. It is very difficult to follow a new religion coming from a different culture. It is not easy to accept and to follow deeply, but I see so many of you people are doing so, enthusiastically and with faith. I am really amazed when I see all this, and I rejoice and am very happy.

Now, Lama Yeshe has passed away. While he was alive I think he always wanted to go to the West. It began with a small group in Nepal, then spread everywhere like fire. People would go back to their countries and they wanted to continue the same kind of tradition, the same kind of teachings, the same kind of atmosphere. And so for their benefit Lama Yeshe sent so many teachers. And so the teachings spread everywhere.

We have a saying in Tibetan that means that the dharma, the teachings, is the only medicine to completely cure misery and suffering. So, if the teachings survive and spread everywhere there is great benefit to everyone, the most excellent way to serve the people. The dharma only leads to the highest goal, happiness, it does not bring suffering or turmoil; it is the cure for suffering.

This was Lama Yeshe’s goal, and when he saw the teachings spreading he was very, very happy. He was happy when he saw all the places and the people following the teachings, people dedicating themselves and making sacrifices to help develop the teachings, not for themselves only but for the benefit of others. I can see this. I can see so many people really dedicating themselves towards the spreading of the teachings. All the centers, the people working to fulfill the wishes of the teacher. That is a wonderful thing, and I admire all these people, all of them. So now, Lama Yeshe has passed. But everybody hopes that the people, his students, will still continue to follow him and his teachings and try to develop the organization that he started in a right and proper way towards the goal that he wished to accomplish. His favorite son, Lama Zopa, is alive and here still and he can continue to help you people and teach continuously. I hope you will seek teachings and advice from him in the same way as from Lama Yeshe.

One of the main goals of the Buddhist teachings is the development everywhere of peace and calmness. So, we people should try to develop and practice the teachings. There are so many different traditions, different levels, and you should follow whichever without too much mixing. They all have the same goal, but sometimes mixing them just doesn’t work, like trying to get somewhere by car, then airplanes, then walking; mixing the systems is sometimes not a very good thing. So, if one follows a pure system then one will accomplish one’s goal.

There are many students everywhere at all the centers that Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa have established. It is so important to be very, very friendly towards each other, like children of the one spiritual father. We should be very harmonious and try to help each other. We should ask: How can I help? How can I serve? What is the best thing? What is not good?



We humans, we have such intellect; we can do so much if we think and examine in the proper way. If we have an earnest attitude towards whatever has to be done then we can accomplish an enormous amount. Because of our intellect we can also accomplish evil; humans are more powerful than any others. We should use our human intellect to achieve a spiritual goal, for the benefit of others and ourselves.

Therefore I think that harmony between religious friends, religious brothers and sisters is so important. To feel that we can help each other, to find the best way to help, that is one of the goals.

Of course, human beings sometimes make errors. When we see errors, problems, we can try to solve them. We can help each other to solve our problems, like brothers and sisters taking care of each other. This is so important. This way, we will be helping to continue Lama Yeshe’s projects. Already you will have experienced this generally, so we should continue to do, dedicate ourselves towards this goal: that would be a very excellent thing.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at cermonies for Lama Yeshe. Of course, I know that so many people are working very hard and very earnestly to achieve his goals; putting their bodies and minds towards these goals. I hope everybody will follow in the same way to fulfill Lama Yeshe’s wishes. Each group should concentrate on doing whatever they can, each in their own way, developing. They should do things in the best way they can without interrupting others, but also to share good ideas and to help each other, that would be very good.

So, Lama Zopa is still here. Several yea ago Lama Yeshe was with me in Madison and he was visiting hospital and having serious examinations and tests to decide whether or not to have the operation on hi heart at that time. Anyway, then, I knew that he had the strong, strong wish to take care of Lama Zopa. Lama Zopa is very young. However, even though he is young he is one of the young lamas who is special He is a great practitioner, he has studied seriously and practiced seriously, and c teach other people. I think everybody see this. Anyway, Lama Yeshe wanted him to be successful, to be beneficial continuously.

It is important to help Lama Zopa; certain areas he needs help. Already so people are a little bit worried. However, should keep it in mind. His activities everywhere are great, sowing seeds everywhere for the development of the wonderful spiritual teaching that is most beneficial to sentient beings.



“When we were young together, I had no idea of what was going to happen. No one ever dreamed that things would turn out as they did. But it happened.”

Geshe Jampa Gyatso


Lama Yeshe was thirteen and I was sixteen when we first began studying together in the same class at Sera. We knew each other in class at that time but were not yet friends outside of class. Lama Yeshe was known for his humility and his loving mind towards others, even then. Lama lived at that time (and until he had to flee from Tibet) with his uncle, who was his gegen (teacher). Who provided him with food and clothing and instructions about the monastery.

With Geshe Jampa Gyatso and Geshe Jampa Wangdu, Tushita, Dharamsala, 1983.Sometimes monks who were very good students were given the very special privilege of debating in front of the entire assembly of Sera monks. The monastery chooses the subject that one must debate. But one can decline if one so wishes. When Lama was still quite young, he was honored with this opportunity, and was given a particular chapter about Maitreyanath to debate on. There is said to be something very auspicious for the monk who receives this debate subject, since it concerns the coming Buddha. But Lama Yeshe declined to debate this time.

Lama Yeshe and I studied in exactly the same way (the same texts, etc.) until we both had to flee Tibet. The only difference was that we had different teachers. According to the monastery rules, monks are not allowed to go and listen to teachings in places other than in their own classes. Nevertheless, Lama Yeshe sometimes went to listen to other teachings anyway.

Lama Yeshe especially enjoyed reading the verses and songs written by great yogis about their experiences. Lama, another monk named Jampa Thinley (who is now dead), and I were very good friends by this time. Lama would go into Jampa Thinley’s room and lock the door and read the songs of great meditators, or their biographies. He and Jampa Thinley would open the door only for me, not for anyone else.

When we were together in the class on Paramita (Abhisamayalankara). Lama Yeshe and I both developed huge sores like carbuncles on our cheeks. Very painful. But we both went to debate anyway. At this time Lama Yeshe had to take the position as the respondent (the debater who is seated). When he would become excited and answer loudly during the debate, his boil would burst open, and pus would spurt out, and Lama would cry from the pain. Sometimes we would lament our sickness together, and start to cry about our bad karma, since no one else had unbelievably painful boils like we had. The doctors could not cure them at all with their medicine. Then we met one monk called Ate. He used mantras, reciting and blowing on our cheeks. He cured our sores in just a few days. When he would be treating us and saying mantras and blowing, our minds would feel very happy and we would feel a certain coolness from his breath.

One time, Lama Yeshe had the idea to make two debating groups among our friends. We could practice debating together, and we could exchange positions, one group posing questions and the other responding, then vice versa the next time. Lama Yeshe could not even stop long enough between our debating sessions to eat something. One time I was the respondent and Lama Yeshe was the questioner, and he won. He jumped on my shoulders and tumbled over my head exclaiming. ‘Now I am going to give you the vase initiation!’


When we fled into exile in India, we traveled very close to one another. We came from south Tibet through Bhutan and into India. Lama Yeshe fled Tibet with the Sakya lama who was at that time holding the Sakya lineage called the ‘Palace of Auspiciousness.’ Lama Yeshe told the border police when he arrived in India that he too was a Sakya monk. That is why in his Indian IC it was written that he was a Sakya lama. Soon after reaching India, this Sakya lama went to America. I think that maybe he recommended to Lama Yeshe to go to America too.

Lama Yeshe ended up in Buxa camp, as did I. There were many Sera monks there, as well as some monks from Drepung. Most monks had left Tibet wearing a chuba instead of their monks’ robes, and they still only had their chubas to wear in Buxa. Lama Yeshe was a very wrathful debater, with his chuba sleeves tied around his waist! We had begun our practice of debate again in Buxa. Lama Yeshe spent about seven years in Buxa in all.

In Buxa, our debating sessions began at 9am. Lama was always late, or else he sometimes did not show up at all. This was because Lama Yeshe was sleeping. Why was Lama sleeping so late in the morning? Because he didn’t sleep during the night. What was he doing all night long? Lama Yeshe was studying English. However, if you asked him what he was doing all night long, he would answer ‘Nothing.’ If you unexpectedly walked in and caught him reading his English book, he would quickly try to hide it under his pillow, or behind him. Many of his classmates, when they found out what he was doing, scolded him, saying, ‘Why learn English? What are you doing that for?’ They suggested that he learn Hindi instead. Actually, he also studied Hindi.

After about two years in Buxa, Lama Yeshe met Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Chompel (the cook at Kopan) was in the same class as Lama Zopa, and was the one who introduced Rinpoche to Lama Yeshe. The first time Chompel took Lama Zopa to see Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa went with empty hands; he forgot to bring an offering. (Now Rinpoche wonders if by that action of negative karma he didn’t create the cause not to receive many teachings from Lama Yeshe in this lifetime.)

In 1967 Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa went for a trip to Darjeeling, where Lama studied Tibetan astrology, grammar and poetry. Lama Yeshe went to Darjeeling several times during this time, and it was on one of their later journeys there that they met Zina, and she requested them to give dharma teachings to Western people. Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa decided at this time to go to Solu Khumbu to reclaim Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Lawudo monastery. They arrived in Solu Khumbu with many difficulties. Lama Yeshe left Buxa for good in 1968.

In 1970 I met Lama Yeshe again in Bodh Gaya and we stayed together in one house. Lama was there with Zina and some other Western people from Kopan. Again we debated together. There were almost twenty monks together with me, including my own teacher, Geshe Tashi Bum. Everyone was pitted in debate against Lama Yeshe and only two other geshes. Laughing, the other monks told Lama Yeshe that he was only pursuing money now, instead of his practice. In fact, Lama Yeshe never cared much about his belongings or his money. He always shared everything with others without any problem.

At one point I was cooking food outside for everyone. Suddenly some Sherpas appeared, and they asked me in their very thick dialects, ‘Lama, have you seen our Nyingma lama?’ To this I replied (a bit with tongue in cheek, as I knew they were asking for Lama Zopa), ‘There is no Nyingma lama here!’ Having heard this, Lama Zopa came out of the door, and the Sherpas all fell on their faces and started to prostrate fervently. Lama Yeshe and I were both laughing very much.

Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa had bought some leavened bread and butter, some tomatoes and vegetables. So they proceeded to butter the bread and to make a salad out of the vegetables, without really doing very much cooking. The other monks joked very much with Lama Yeshe, saying that as he got more money, then he became more and more miserly. ‘Now you won’t even spend money on food!’ But my teacher, Geshe Tashi Bum praised Lama’s diet very much, saying how healthy it was, and that if he didn’t have some kind of stomach malady that prevented him from eating raw food, he too would enjoy eating in that way.

During our stay in Bodh Gaya, Lama Yeshe asked me if I would like to go to the West. But at that time I said no. Then he asked if I didn’t want to go to the West, would I come to Kopan? I replied that I would not come at that time, but would like to consider it for the future.

I met Lama Yeshe again several times in India over the next few years. Every time we met he would ask me to come to teach in the West or to join him in Kopan. Eventually I came to Kopan, and it was here that I met Lama Yeshe once more. He was completely changed from the Lama Yeshe I had known when we were young. His way of thinking and his way of doing things had changed greatly.

To conclude, I just want to say that Lama Yeshe was of the greatest benefit to the West. When we were young together, I had no idea of what was going to happen. No one ever dreamed that things would turn out the way they have.