Skip to content
(401) 736-6500

DHARMA QUOTE of the WEEK-written by Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, translated by Ven. Dr. Gareth Sparham


One day the Dalai Lama went to Ganden accompanied by his security agent Kumbula. They went in ordinary clothes on ordinary horses and left Lhasa traveling east. When they got to the ferries they met with an elderly man heading back home from Lhasa where he had taken a load of wood on a donkey. The Dalai Lama entered into a conversation with him. "Where are you off to?" he asked. "I am going back home," the man replied. "I have taken a load of wood to the Norbulinka to the kitchens there." This was when a new building called the Chensel Palace was being constructed. New taxes had been introduced to pay for it and part of the tax was the requisitioning of pack animals to transport rocks. "He already has some very beautiful palaces but still he is building a new one. People have to spend a lot of their time there and use their animals for building this new palace. It is that fellow Kumbula who decided yet another palace is needed in Norbulinka even though there are a lot there already. He is not a bad fellow, this Kumbula," the old man continued, "but he really does load up the ordinary people with his taxes and requisitions. This fellow Kumbula, he always has to be starting some new project or other, he is that sort of fellow." Now Kumbula was right there with the Dalai Lama, and a bit later the old fellow started up again. "This Kumbula is definitely too quick to start up new projects, if you ask me; but you know, he is no fool either, and he is loyal to the Dalai Lama. He is useful to the Dalai Lama, no doubt about that." The gist of his remarks was that the ordinary man like himself found the taxation burdensome. The Dalai Lama was very pleased with the conversation.

"Rinpoche," the old man said, thinking the Dalai Lama was just a distinguished looking older monk, "have some tea with me." They had some tea and tsampa together and then the old fellow pulled out a bottle of barley beer and offered it to the Dalai Lama. "I am a monk, I do not drink beer," the Dalai Lama protested. "Do not be silly," he said, "a lot of the monks are drinking beer nowadays, go ahead and have a swig." "Is that so?" said the Dalai Lama. "A lot of the monks nowadays are drinking beer are they?" "Piles of them," the old fellow replied, "though I am pleased to see that you do not accept my offer.'' After the old man had downed his beer with some bread he was carrying, they set off in the direction of Ganden together, talking as they went. As they began to approach Ganden, at the place called Dechen, they caught sight of a large smoke offering and the monks of Ganden lined up to welcome a special guest. The old fellow said, "They are making a big welcome up there for someone today, I wonder who is coming." The Dalai Lama said, "I am not positive, but I suspect it is for me." Then the old fellow began to suspect that he was there with the Dalai Lama and he thought he had better make a run for it. As he tried to flee the Dalai Lama caught hold of him and would not let him go. He took the old man right in through the gates of Ganden Monastery and told the people there not to let him leave, but to give him a good meal and something excellent to drink. After he had been well-fed and looked after, the Dalai Lama sent word to bring him.

The old man was beside himself with fear, thinking he was going to be given a terrible punishment, but the Dalai Lama treated him as a friend and told him to sit down, right opposite to where Kumbula was sitting. ''Hey, old fellow," he said, "I must introduce you to Kumbula. This is Kumbula." He was overcome with embarrassment, but the Dalai Lama said that he should not be. "You spoke your heart, you spoke what you felt was true and there is no shame in that. You described faults as faults and good qualities as good qualities. Some people only complain but you did not do that. Some, again, cover up faults and say nothing but good and that is not right either. You spoke honestly and openly, and I am very happy." He gave him fifty white silver sangs as a parting gift, a large sum of money, and said that the problems would be looked into. It was from then that the levies on the people for Norbulinka building projects stopped.

Excerpted from:

Memoirs of a Tibetan Lama

written by Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, translated by Ven. Dr. Gareth Sparham,

pages 223–224.

Paul on Google+ August 8, 2016