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Putting up with difficulties

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by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche

You people have no idea what monastic life was like in Tibet; it was really hard. By comparison, your life here is almost a god-realm existence-even though almost every day you find something to complain about: "There's no running water.

blah, blah, blah. we don't have comfortable beds.." Go down to the village and see how the poor Indian people live, how they just put up their simple cots and sleep in the street. In Tibetan monasteries, the monks would sometimes have to sit all night on the cold ground in winter. When it was necessary, we underwent many hardships. It's not that we'd create all these hardships on purpose, just for the sake of putting up with them; that would be stupid. But when there's some benefit, you should be prepared to struggle, and it should not bother you. You should have the attitude, "As long as it contributes to my growth and benefits all mother sentient beings, I'll put up with this hardship as best I can."

That's reasonable, isn't it? I'm not saying that you have to undergo an extreme Milarepa trip, but somehow you should face difficulties with the attitude, "As long as it's beneficial for others, I'll put up with it; it doesn't matter.

After all, that's the reason I became a monk, a nun. I've given up serving just one person; one woman, one man. What I really want to do is to serve for the benefit of the majority, for all sentient beings, as much as I possibly can."

That is truly the right attitude. I am not criticizing you. When people gather from all over the world, the dualistic mind is naturally there. Some eat tsampa, some eat pizza, others like hamburgers. There are many cultural distinctions.

It is difficult; I'm not blaming you for anything. It's understandable that being in a group such as this can create difficulties; we can't make our differences into some kind of multicultural soup. But although these differences exist, we're trying not to emphasize culture here. Instead, we're trying to focus on the essential aspects of Buddhadharma. That is the most important thing; that is why we've gathered here for this Dharma Celebration. Lord Buddha's Dharma wisdom is the only reason we've come together. Why else would you bother with a Third World Tibetan monk? No; you have Dharma in your hearts, so we've all come here to live together in the spirit of the lam-rim, understanding that all mother sentient beings are equal in desiring happiness and not wanting misery. To the extent that we all share this attitude, we're very fortunate.

The responsibilities of the Sangha community leaders


The abbot and the gekö should also have compassion for the Sangha community, thinking, "What is the best way for me to help them with their education, to make them happy, and at the same time, how can I make them comfortable?" Being an abbot or a gekö is an incredibly big responsibility, and to do this job you have to understand how to take care of monks and nuns both physically and mentally. If you're concerned with only their mental well-being, there will be difficulties; if you think they should be leading an ascetic, Milarepa-like existence, it will be extremely difficult. We're not living in Tibet. In French society there is no room for Milarepas.

If you try to live like Milarepa in France, they'll arrest you. You just can't do a Milarepa trip in the developed world. You can see, it's not easy to take care of the Sangha community. The Sangha community doesn't involve only yourself; it involves everybody, hundreds of people. The abbot, the gekˆ, and the monastery management should know how to care for both the physical and the mental requirements of monks and nuns. It is important to be concerned with both, and not to become a Dharma fanatic. The abbot, the organizers, and, in fact, every Sangha member who has some ability and talent should have the attitude, "Besides pursuing my own education, it is important that I serve the Sangha,

especially future generations. I can see through my own experience how beneficial it is to be a monk or nun, so I want to serve the Sangha by ensuring that those who come after me have perfect monastic facilities for study and practice."


The Catholic Church provides an excellent example of how to take care of monks and nuns. They put incredible emphasis on this and have a lot of valuable experience. Don't look at Catholics as examples; that's a mistake. We should take advantage of the good aspects of Catholic monasticism by integrating them into our Dharma communities. The Sangha community leader needs to be flexible. If some Sangha members prefer to do certain kinds of work, provided they are

qualified, you should let them do it, rather than forcing them to clean or do something else. Take people's wishes and abilities into consideration. As time passes, people's attitudes and behavior change, so as people develop, you can change their jobs accordingly. In some ways the Sangha is like a baby. Babies grow, babies change; their minds and abilities develop. The leader should also remember this when assigning tasks in the monastery. However, monks and nuns

themselves have the right to determine the best schedule for themselves; they have the right to say whatever they want, as long as it benefits the majority. It is wrong for the abbot or gekö to force some nonsensical schedule onto the

community. All of us have to take responsibility. Especially you people; you are no longer young, so try not to act like children. You should both dedicate yourselves to and act for the benefit of the majority. I feel that you have incredible potential and are largely responsible for establishing Dharma in the West for the benefit of future generations. I have great expectations of you, and my expectations are realistic and not at all exaggerated. There are different ways of practicing and growing in the Dharma. Some people can meditate; others are better at organizing. Both can become Dharma. Mahayana means the great view, the universal view. There is an enormous amount of space in the

Mahayana to accommodate different forms of practice, almost enough room for each person to have his or her own unique individual path. Such was Lord Buddha's incredible skill. So don't think that monastery rules are oppressive and that they prevent you from expressing your own intuition. That is wrong. We should-in fact, we do-allow you to express yourself. Don't think of the monastery as a concentration camp. On the contrary, monastic life is blissful, I tell you.

It's true. We say that people who live in monasteries are completely protected; monastic life allows you to progress in the right direction without interference. That's what a monastery is really all about. For people whose lives are a disaster, though, monastic life is like a thorn in their side, like being in a concentration camp. Certain aspects of monastic life can be changed. You yourself can change things for the better, and since we exist in order to benefit

others, even the general public can make suggestions, as long as they are offered with great compassion and with an eye to the future.