I am starting a new series on here. Over the past few years I have been speaking with an old yogi here in Charlottesville, who for obvious reasons will remain unnamed, and I have been collecting some of his many colorful stories. It is very incredible – despite not having ever left the United States, this yogi has met with some of the most respected Buddhist Masters of the past 50 years.
This particular story is about Geshe Donyo, who was teaching at Deer Park, near Madison Wisconsin. One day, Geshe la was teaching a full six hours on all the levels of vows – inner, outer, secret, the Pratimoksha, the root downfalls, the minor downfalls, etc. The only text this Geshe had in front of him, which he never turned a page of, was a very thin pecha (Tibetan scripture). Therefore a woman was curious about it.
At the end of the teaching, she asked Geshe la, “what text are you teaching from? Because you have been speaking today about dozens of topics and yet that text in front of you is so thin! Can you tell me which text it is?”
Geshe la looked down at the text in front of him. He picked it up, slowly analyzing it. Then he smiled at her, “Oh! This is a tantra (meaning it contained nothing of which he had been teaching). I feel it is auspicious to have a text in front of you when you teach the Dharma, so therefore, this morning, I just grabbed it off the top of the stack when I was coming to teach.” This meant that he had everything memorized from that six hour teaching and that the thin little text was just a spiritual support.
The yogi I spoke with believed that Geshes like Geshe Donyo may have tens of thousands of pages memorized… Wow! Actually, Geshe Donyo went on to become the Abbott of Sera Je monastery, and then Abbott of one of the Tantric Colleges at the Monastery (a highly respected, intellectually demanding post).