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August 1981 with Lama Yeshe
Garrey Foulkes remembers ...
1981 was the last time many of us saw Lama Yeshe.
There was a course being held in the church at Sandhurst town and my family were staying in a caravan nearby. It rained very steadily for the entire time and being in a small caravan with two very young children was no fun.
Some of us needed to talk with Lama about some ideas we had for building a new gompa for Atisha centre. Some very useful building materials had been offered by Sandhurst Town so I had made a quite detailed scale model of what we had in mind for this new gompa utilising these materials to cut down on costs. We had also been given a set of plans of Boudhinath stupa by Harry Sutton.
Lama was staying at Ian's Mum's house and we all went down for dinner one night to show Lama the model and discuss plans for the centre. The model was in a big cardboard box but Lama seemed more interested in the plans of Boudinath stupa and wanted to know if we could do something like that but with a gompa inside; at some stage I recall saying something like " but Lama, something like that, even one fifth the size of Boudha, would probably cost at least a million dollars". He leapt out of his seat, rattling the table and shouted "pive times Boudha, pantastic dear!" (Tibetans are not good with "f"). Any attempts to try and explain the difference between 1/5th. and five times were of no interest to Lama and the beautiful model never came out of the box.
Lama Yeshe wanted us to have a big open day celebration at the end of the course 'bring all of the people dear" and I was given the job of organising this which involved a lot of advertising and spending quite a lot of money, which we did not really have, on food and other essentials to keep visitors occupied.
As the end of the course neared the weather was not shifting one bit, it had rained consistently for over a week, so, despite my scepticism, I asked Lama if he could do anything about it, to which he agreed.
After a nervous nights sleep in the soggy caravan I awoke at first light and took a peek out at the weather which was exactly the same as the days before, slate grey sky and continual drizzle. The window faced down towards were Lama was staying and I noticed this figure in the early morning light, it was Lama Yeshe in a pair of huge gumboots with his robes hitched up out of the mud swinging a heavily smoking "swagman's billy" in great loops and chanting. I'm sorry to say that my immediate thought was "yeah, well good luck Lama".
By about 8:30 the sky was clear over Atisha Centre though a few Kilometres away in all directions it was not. The day was a great success and lessons were learned, especially for one old friend who was one of Lamas earliest students at Kopan whose practice had dropped-off a bit since living in Melbourne. He took a lot of pictures of all and everything that was happening on the day including many of Lama Yeshe in different locations. Not one of the pictures of Lama came out.