An encounter with Lama Yeshe Rinpoche

I attended a talk today between Lama Yeshe Rinpoche and Rob Nairn, hosted by Cape Town Samye Zong, otherwise known as the Tibetan centre.

Lama Yeshe is of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the retreat master at the well-known Samye Ling centre in Scotland, the largest of its kind in the West.

When meeting a spiritual teacher, I unfortunately tend to go into judgement mode, and attempt to evaluate just how spiritual they are by my rather skewed reckoning.

Lama Yeshe passed all my tests. The first thing I noticed about him was how happy he was. While at best, most speakers may radiate a passion for the topic they’re discussing, Lama Yeshe took it further, and exuded happiness. Blissful happiness. He’s been described as the best meditation teacher in the west, and perhaps one reason for his skills is that he understands his pupils, having himself lived a version of the wild, hedonistic lifestyle so many of us have experienced in the west.

The discussion ranged across a wide range of topics, and his humility shone through, but without any false modesty. He was quite open about his achievements, and could happily explain what it felt like to have absolutely no material desires, while everyone else in the room does, but in a humble, matter-of-fact way, without ego.

Asked about crime in South Africa, his answer was simple. Karma. He explained how the consequences of the actions begun by the white settlers years ago has led to the current situation. Those who commit crime cannot be judged, as they are making the best decision available to them. They need to be helped to make a more helpful choice. Not perhaps an entirely popular answer. He displayed an interesting social awareness, throwing in a discussion of communism and capitalism before being brought back to the spiritual matters at hand.

Perhaps the comment that most struck home for me was the answer the question just how he’d achieved his state of being. His answer? Hard work. So many practice meditation for 15, 30 minutes a day, with great expectations. Meditation is just an optional extra, secondary to making money, career, etc. For him, his spiritual growth is the most important task. He practices 8 hours a day! And the humbling thing is that he helps run the Samye Ling centre, teaches meditation, tours the world, answers hundreds of emails from followers, achieving a lot more each day than I do in my oh so busy day, even with the 8 hours set aside for meditation.

Perhaps it helps that the meditation rejuvenates him sufficiently to only sleep for 3 hours a day!

If anyone gets the chance to meet him, please take it. He’s quite a remarkable man.

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  1. Samye Ling owns an island off the coast of Scotland called Holy Isle, which it operates as a retreat centre. I spent a weekend there last year – it was wonderful. There are some pictures of it on my Flickr site.
    I met a South African monk there.

  2. I also tend to go into judgment mode when meeting or hearing of people who are supposed to be spiritually ‘advanced’ – which of course makes it harder for me to learn much from them. I don’t think I’m ready to buy into ‘blissful happiness’ yet or to embrace hard work, but I have to admit that something of this man’s bliss does shine through your post. Thanks for that.

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