After Lama Thubten Yeshe gave a lecture in 1982, he answered questions from the students in attendance.
The preceding talk can be found here.
Q: If you think that detachment is necessary, non-attachment is necessary, why should we be attached to one philosophy?
Lama: We should not be attached to any philosophy. We should not be attached to any religion. We should not have any objects of attachment. We should not be attached to God. We should not be attached to the Bible. We should not be attached to Buddha. That’s very good. Thank you; that’s a very good question. That question is very important. It shows us the character of Buddhism. Buddhism has no room for you to be attached to something, for you to grasp at something. Buddha said even grasping at or having attachment to Buddha is wrong.
As long as you are sick, even if you possess diamonds, you are still sick. All symptoms of attachment have to vanish for you to become a completely liberated human being. For that reason, Buddhism has room for any philosophy, any religion, any trip-as long as it is beneficial for human growth.
Q: What is the difference between attachment and compassion?
Lama: Compassion understands others’ lack of pleasure and their suffering situation. Attachment is “I want; I want”—concern for our own pleasure. Compassion is concern for others’ pleasure and the determination to release other sentient beings from their problems. But many times we mix our compassion with attachment. We begin with compassion but after some time attachment mixes in and it then becomes an attachment trip.
Thank you; thank you so much.
Q: Are non-duality and bodhicitta the same thing?
Lama: No. Remember what I said at the beginning: it is not enough to have just renunciation and loving kindness bodhicitta. That’s not enough for us. We need wisdom to cut through dualistic concepts and see the universal reality behind them. This is very important.
Without wisdom, our bodhicitta and love can become fanatical. If we understand non-duality, it’s all right-bodhicitta can develop easily.
Q: There’s a Zen koan that says if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him. Would the interpretation of this be that if you see the Buddha on the road, you have attachment to Buddha, so kill the attachment, not the Buddha?
Lama: No. But this can be interpreted in many different ways. Let’s say I see you as the Buddha. I probably have an incredible projection, so it’s better that I kill that.
First of all, the way to seek the Buddha is not outside. The Buddha is within; that’s where we should seek. When we begin, we seek in the wrong place. That’s what we should kill.
But we should not kill like Jim Jones did, by poisoning his followers.
Q: Is it enough if we stop the conceptualization of the mind so that the “I” ceases to exist?
Lama: Yes. For practical purposes, yes. But philosophically, it’s not so clear. Practically speaking, whether we talk a lot about it or not, we know that in our own lives, it is extremely difficult to stop our obsessed concepts. And we are not flexible. Therefore, it is better to stop them as much as you can, but you can’t stop them completely, just like that-unless you completely extinguish yourself.
Q: Is mantra important to destroy the ego?
Lama: Yes. But of course, it has to be an individual experience. By the time you’re a first stage bodhisattva, you no longer need mantra. Then, there’s no such thing as an external mantra. You yourself become the nuclear essence of mantra, because at that time you have discovered the absolute mantra. At the moment, we play around with the relative mantra, but let’s hope that we eventually discover the absolute mantra.
Q: I understood from what you said before that emotions are negative, but is not the quality of the emotions the qualities of the person, him—or herself?
Lama: I said if your daily life is tremendously involved in emotion, you are completely driven by them and psychologically tied. Therefore, you have to learn to sit back instead of being impelled by your emotions.
Also, I did not say that emotions are necessarily negative. Emotions can be positive too. But what I’m saying-and I’m making a generalization-is that in the Western environment, when we relate with each other we get tremendously emotional.
In other words, our physical emotions get too involved and we don’t understand the functioning of our six sense consciousnesses.
Q: How can we live without attachment and without desire? It’s too difficult.
Lama: I agree with you! Yes. It’s too difficult. That’s why we human beings do not find it easy to develop responsible attitudes and stop our own problems-we need to be involved in doing this our entire life. Being mindful, being conscious, is not an easy job. You’re right. But there’s a way to transform desire, a way to transform attachment. In that way, the energy of desire and attachment becomes medicine, the path to liberation. It’s like when you mix poison with certain other medicines it can become medicine. What is an example? Marijuana and hashish can be medicine, can’t they? They may not be good, but when you can transform their energy they can become medicine. That is the beauty of the human being; we have powerful methods for transforming one thing into something else.
Tibetan Buddhism has many methods for transforming desire and attachment into the path to liberation. We place great emphasis on these methods. Red chili, for example, is not so good alone, but when you mix reasonable quantities of it with your food, it becomes delicious.
Therefore, I want you to understand this question.
According to the Buddhist point of view, there is no human problem that cannot be solved by human beings. Each one of you should understand this personally and encourage yourself by thinking, “I can deal with all my problems; I can solve my problems.”
That attitude is essential for your spiritual growth. Even though we may not be much good as meditators or spiritual practitioners, I truly believe that if we have some understanding and encouragement, we can all solve our problems. Most of the time, we fail to understand our own capacity. We put ourselves down. That’s why in Tibetan Buddhism we see ourselves as Buddha. I’m sure you’ve all heard that kind of thing. Don’t make a tremendous gap by thinking that Buddha is way up in the sky and you are way underneath the earth.
That is good enough.
From Lama Yeshe’s The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism, a series of lectures given in California in 1980 and France in 1982. Edited by Nicholas Ribush. Freely available from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
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