Sunday, December 30, 2007

A blast from the past

On 27 Dec, I received an email from an old friend, Karen Currie. We were at Queenswood together - a tiny boarding school in Hertfordshire that no one's ever heard of. She was in the upper fifths when I was in the thirds so I didn't really know her well but knew who she was. Anyway, we met up again a couple of years ago, when she joined the Oxbridge society but even then we didn't really get to know each other.

I was delighted to hear from her though and immediately invited her to a dinner cum seminar function on Emotional Intelligence, organised by Shirley, that was happening that evening. The proceeds for the dinner was for KSK - Kechara Soup Kitchen - and there were a couple of spare seats at my table so I invited her. I didn't really expect her to appear as it was such a last minute invite and as the evening started I became wrapped up in other things. So it was a lovely surprise at the end of the day when she showed up.

She liked the short KSK video and when I told her I was in a Buddhist publishing house, she said she was interested in Buddhism and of course, that made me ecstatic. On the spur of the moment, I wondered if Rinpoche was around KMP. That day was also the day of the inaugural KL pilgrimage tour, led by Rinpoche, and if he hadn't reached KMP yet, I wondered if it was possible to just let Karen slip in at the back of the room to have a glimpse of the Buddha. I smsed Susan and Su Ming and there was no reply. So I smsed Ruby and she said she was at KLIA and Rinpoche was at Dame Khang. I then called Ruby and asked if she thought it would be okay for me to take Karen to KMP and see Rinpoche. Not for anything in particular but just to be a part of the crowd and be blessed by his presence. Ruby said that she thought it was okay because earlier, some people met Rinpoche at various parts of the tour.

So Karen and I immediately hopped into our respective cars and tore our way across town - from Shangri-La to Bandar Utama. When we arrived, JP and Su Ming were outside KMP and I asked them if it was okay for us to go in to see Rinpoche. JP aka Harry Potter said that it wasn't appropriate because it was a private function. I must say that at the time, I was rather disappointed - especially after the adrenaline of rushing across town. I had thought that Karen and I could just slip into KMP while Rinpoche was looking around KMP. At that time, I didn't know that Rinpoche didn't go to KMP and that what JP said she couldn't join was the visit to the Ladrang, which was fully understandable. The tour attendees then filed out of KMP and were milling outside waiting to go into the Ladrang.

So I thought I'd give Karen a tour of KMP and she was quite impressed with everything. She even bought a couple of DVDs ("Journey to Gaden" and "Nothing Changes")JP then came by and suggested that I write to request audience with Rinpoche if Karen wanted to meet him so, there and then, I did.

Then on Saturday night, we took her to Kechara Saraswati Arts where we showed her what Saraswati did. The place was buzzing as Raj the tailor was visiting and giving the first class on how to sew a pandit's hat. Eric Choong, head of the Kechara Sewing Dept and celebrity fashion designer was also there. They were filming Raj's work and someone suggested Karen go into the shot so we look very international.

We were really all amazed at Raj's sewing skills and Karen and I even slipped into the group photo which we didn't really deserve to be in, especially as we didn't do anything! But KSA was so generous to include us charlatans.

Karen and I then rolled a few mantras to purify our sins and KMP people - JJ, Jamie, Yek Yee - were all there in KSA, though we hadn't planned on it. Again, Karen was impressed that all these volunteers would come in their spare time and after work and she said she loved the energy of these departments.

Wait til she feels the energy of the Buddha!!

I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sean takes Refuge


Lama Tsongkhapa Day - the day Lama Tsongkhapa went to Parinirvana - fell on 4th December, Sean's birthday this year. I was a bit worried that he would be disappointed that we couldn't go out for dinner on his birthday but I should have given Sean more credit. When I told him his birthday was the same day as Lama Tsongkhapa Day, he was thrilled and immediately asked if Rinpoche was going to give a talk. I hedged and said yes, probably, but no guarantees. As we all know in Kechara House, anything can happen! He was very happy that Rinpoche would be giving a talk so I kept my fingers crossed that all would be well.

On 4 December, Sean and I actually got to KH around 5 to check on my fund raising table and see if there was any help needed. KH looked wonderful - the Tsongkhapa statue was resplendent in brocade and silk and his new (just arrived the day before!) altar was full of offerings. Many KH members had worked throughout the night and over past weeks to make our centre look great. Sean asked what he could do so Paulyne, the KH admin, asked him to help with candles. He also went round helping sell khatas and before we knew it, the program had begun and we didn't even have time to have dinner. Again I was a bit worried about the little (ok, not so little) fella. But he seemed to be fine. At the announcements at the beginning, one of the items was that Rinpoche was giving refuge that night.

Sean came up to me and asked if he could take refuge. I asked him if he knew what it meant. He said that Rinpoche would be his root guru. I asked him what did he think that meant. He said that Rinpoche would take him to Enlightenment. I told him to think carefully about it as it's a serious matter and he said he did. So I asked him to ask JT and frantically smsed Susan and Jenny to ask what to do. Refuge seekers had to attend a talk/briefing before the ceremony which Sean hadn't taken so I didn't know if he could still take refuge. I didn't ask him if he had wanted to take refuge because .. well, I guess it just didn't occur to me that he would.

Anyway, I was told that Sean's name would be submitted for consideration so that was that. When it was time to take refuge, the refuge seekers went to sit up near Rinpoche's throne. Sean also followed.

Then I was told that it was too late for Sean. But he was already sitting up there. I felt quite bad for him but thought that at least he'd get a blessing.

Rinpoche explained the refuge vows and the meaning of refuge to the refuge seekers and granted them refuge. He then distributed the refuge names to all the seekers. Except for Sean, of course.

When it was all over, I didn't know if Sean had taken refuge or not. He had gone through the whole ceremony but he hadn't been given a refuge name. Perhaps he'd get given one later.

Anyway, when the program ended around 2am, people queued up to offer Rinpoche khatas. By the time that was over, it was about 3.30am. Rinpoche was talking to some people and I decided to carpe diem and asked Rinpoche what was Sean's status.

Rinpoche immediately asked for a chair and said he would give Sean refuge now. I was completely overwhelmed with his kindness. Rinpoche said to Sean that it was because "You matter." That sums it up for me - how Rinpoche, in his compassion, always makes people feel like they matter. And that's what we should also emulate.

Sean sat on the floor in front of him and Rinpoche led him through a beautiful visualisation. He then gave him refuge. Sean's refuge name is Tenzin Khenchen, which means holder of the Dharma with very great knowledge.

After the ceremony, Rinpoche chatted to Sean for awhile and I was sweating bricks because I didn't know what Sean was going to answer! And he was too far away from me to kick his butt!

There was a touching moment when Rinpoche asked him about the visualisation and Sean said that he visualised it and it was very beautiful and he started to cry. I think it was overwhelming for him too!

In any case, by the time we got home, it was about 5.30am and Sean had stayed awake the whole time with no dinner and no complaints. In fact, he said it was the best birthday ever and I was very proud of him.

I'm so grateful to Rinpoche for his kindness in granting Sean refuge at such a late hour. It was so meaningful to be given on Lama Tsongkhapa's Day and Sean's birthday too. What more can one ask for? :D

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tsem Ladrang, Gaden

Last night, Rinpoche told Susan that he liked our website for my latest project - Tsem Ladrang to raise funds for building Tsem Ladrang in Gaden. I was so excited, it inspired me to write in my blog!

I've been so busy these few months that I haven't had time to write.. I can't believe I haven't written it since August.. and so much has happened since that I don't even know where to backtrack but.. let's talk about Tsem Ladrang today. Early in November, I had to good fortune to go to Gaden again. The first time I went was April 2006, and that was an incredible one day trip.

This time, I was invited but almost didn't make it.

Joe had asked if I had wanted to go to Gaden, and I said yes I'd love to but I can't make it if it's the first week of November. I didn't tell him that on November 4th, my mother was performing in her annual alumni do, for which I'd designed the invitation cards and had promised that Sean and I was coming. I'd even told Sean's school that he wasn't going to school that Monday since we were going to Penang for the show. On November 6th, I had bought tickets for 'Chicago'.. and invited William for his belated birthday treat too. On November 8th was our grand SIPJ (http://www.sipj.org) fund raising event - i had bought a table for 3k and also had invited supporters of SIPJ's previous events to join. Of all the weeks in the whole year, this was my busiest week. Anyway, I didn't hear about Gaden for awhile then I heard that the group was leaving on November 3rd and returning on the 10th. Almost exactly encompassing the three dates that I had planned. I was still humming and hawing and wondering if I should cancel my appointments. I am ashamed to say that I didn't immediately scream cancel everything and hop on the plane to heaven.

Anyway, I stewed over it for about a day, then I asked Ruby if it was too late to get a visa for India because the others had already submitted their passports for the visa. Ruby said it was probably too late. Then I heard that Jenny may be going and she had to get her visa done so I then quickly decided that I wanted to go. Throwing samsara to the wind, I asked Joe if it was ok. He said yes, but I had to pay my own way since I had said I couldn't make it, he had offered my place to Jamie. That was the least of my worries! Anyway, to cut the long story short, my visa came through, Joe's visa came through and off we went on the most amazing trip ever.

Boy was I glad I decided to go. Even though my mum was a bit disappointed,and I'm sure President Kim of SIPJ was a bit disappointed, I wouldn't have missed Gaden for the world.

I'm in the middle of finishing my book on Dharmapala Lord Setrap.. and when I went into the Setrap chapel at Gaden Shartse Prayer Hall and asked him to help me with the book, I was suddenly overcome with tremendous emotion. I can't even begin to describe the feeling. Even thinking about it now makes me feel emotional.

We also had the fantastic opportunity to meet some high lamas, like the Abbot of Gaden Shartse Monastery and one of the highlights was to personally be there to request a foreword for Yek Yee and my Setrap books (Yek Yee has written one in Mandarin which was launched to a fabulous reception last Saturday) from the ex-Abbot, Kensur Konchok Tsering, who emanate such kindness that it humbles you. And we met Gen Gelong, the ex-disciplinarian of the Monastery, who spoke so highly of Tsem Rinpoche that it made me cry.

From the kindness of Tsem Rinpoche, we stayed at the comfortable house of Kalden Rinpoche, in Gaden Jangste Monastery. There was only a small group of us - Joe, Yek Yee, Jamie, Jenny, Shin and I. If there were more of us, we wouldn't be able to stay at Gaden and wake up the the melodious chants of prayer. We spent three days in Gaden and strangely enough, I didn't miss home at all. Just before we left for Gaden, Rinpoche had mentioned that he wanted a fence built for the land where his ladrang would be built but funds were lacking. When we left Gaden, I felt very inspired to find sponsorship for the fence. And by the time we got home, I wanted to build the whole ladrang.

Tsem Rinpoche is a High Lama of Gaden Shartse and it is high time that his students build a ladrang for him in his home monastery. Please look at the simple site http://www.tsemladrang.com and contribute if you can - you don't have to be a student to contribute, though if you do want to contribute, you probably have some previous life connection already with Rinpoche.

For me, personally, it's a great honour to build a ladrang for Rinpoche, and when Tsem Ladrang in Gaden manifests, many more will have the opportunity to visit Gaden and really have a glimpse of heaven.

Monday, August 13, 2007

TCM

It's been three days since i stopped taking my diabetic medication. I had gone to a TCM doctor in Kota Damansara, a Dr. John Low, who had been trained in Beijing and had proven cases of curing diabetes. He didn't seem to think my case was problematic at all. The possibility of not having to take my medication and curing my diabetes was something I hadn't thought of at all. Some of my friends are very skeptical but for me, I had nothing to lose. I would track my sugar level carefully over the treatment period to make sure I wasn't going out of control.

So far so good.

The first day, I had a spinal realignment and acupuncture on my leg for gall bladder and appendicitis inflammation. Apparently spinal misalignment is a major cause of many ailments because the central nervous channel is blocked, and organs start to malfunction. He pressed several points on the back of my knees and asked how painful it was, on a scale of 1-10. Mostly it was 6-9! After realigning my spine, he pressed on the same points again and strangely enough, there was no pain. Similarly, he pressed several points on my abdomen and asked if it was painful. Yes it was! He then said my gall bladder and appendix was inflamed. After he put in the five needles, he pressed on the same points and it didn't hurt. Magic!

I felt very tired after the treatment though and wanted to go to sleep. But I had an SIPJ Business meeting at my house that evening so had to truck on.

The next day we were invited to go to Melaka with Rinpoche to meet his long time student, Dato' Eric Tan. I had a session at Dr. Low's in the morning and told him how tired I felt. He said that it was probably because i got the chills. After acupuncture and spinal realignment, we are not supposed to touch water or wind (i.e. shower or be near direct fan or aircon). This is because the treatment opens up our pores and water and wind can enter our body and give us chills. He gave me some medication for it and did some acupuncture on my head to realign the energy. I actually felt faint. Susan also felt the same thing and we both had to go lie down. We felt better after awhile and went off to Melaka for the day. Dr. Low had also advised that we sleep early for 100 days after the start of treatment. This was because our body regains its energy during 10pm-3am. If we are awake during those hours, our body doesn't get the chance to recuperate. However, that day after Melaka, we only got home after 3 and slept at 4am!

On the third day I was off my medication, my fasting sugar level was 9.2. Yes, way off what it's supposed to be, but workable. We didn't get the chance to go to Dr. Low's because he was booked up all day.

Yesterday was my fourth day, and my fasting sugar was 7.3. I had stayed at Dr. Low's clinic all day, being poked for my sugar level almost every hour. I also had acupuncture - one needle on my head and five in my right leg.

We had vegetarian food all day. Vegetarian food was also the rule of the game. Apparently meat was toxic to us and as i have been eating 39 years of meat, it would take 10 years of vegetarian diet to put me back to normal!

I can do the sleep early, I can do the no smoking, but no meat?! Actually he also said no sex but...

Anyway, it's not JUST vegetarian - we cannot eat protein of any kind, even in vegetables. So no soya bean either. And no garlic and no onions. And no spices so even Indian vegetarian food was out. Susan and I looked through a whole vegetarian cookbook and found nothing we could eat. Which meant we had to write our own cook book!

So far all I could eat was cabbage soup (with no onion), grilled zucchinis, aubergines, peppers. Fried vegetables with ginger. Mashed potato. Bland are us!

For the sake of health, i'll grin and bear it.

Today is Dr. Low's day off so tomorrow it's back to being poked. Watch this space.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meeting Dzongsar Khyentse



I received an sms from an old friend, Min Seang, who said his 'high profile guru was having a low profile talk in KL'.. the last i heard of it, he had told me his guru was none other than the high lama, Dzongsar Khyentse. Naturally i was quite excited and immediately asked Susan if she could ask Rinpoche if we could go and hear the talk. Susan then replied that Rinpoche said it was ok for us to go. Wow. We had studied Dzongsar Khyentse in the DVD 'Words of my perfect teacher' during book club and we were going to meet him!! There was barely any time to get ready. Then Susan told me Rinpoche wanted to come but only if he could be incognito as he did not want to detract from Dzongsar Khyentse. I tried to contact Min Seang, but he was unreachable. So I called Mr. Chuah, the host of the talk, who was so friendly and welcoming on the phone. He was actually driving when i called so the conversation was brief. I basically asked if I could bring a couple of friends and he agreed. So I relayed this back to Susan and it was decided that Rinpoche, Seng Piow, Susan and I would go. Simply because if other people found out who Rinpoche was, he would not be just with two females. Fine by me. I was thrilled that Rinpoche was coming too. Then at the last minute, Joe was also invited so we all piled into my little toyota and headed over.

I imagined a small terrace house and wondered how many people could fit. I don't know why I thought the house would be small. We drove past a huge mansion lit up like a Christmas tree.. and that was the address we wanted.

Rinpoche, ever humble, stayed in the car while Joe and I went to hunt for Min Seang and see where we could sit. We bagged some cushions right at the back of the hall which was already filling up with people. It was around 7.45pm by then. The talk would start at 8pm sharp, Min Seang had assured me.

Around 7.50pm, Susan smsed me to ask if they should come in and I said yes. I went outside to look for them and the lights in the house then went off! How auspicious! The electricity flickered on and off several times and we were starting to think that the talk might have to be conducted in candle light. Finally, everything turned back on and we all came in and settled down.

There were about 100 people in the hall. Dzongsar Khyentse emerged on time and it was lovely to see him. He looked rather tired, and I had been told that he had been travelling for the past few days and was going off to US first thing tomorrow morning. How kind he was to spend the evening with us when he had every valid reason to be resting.

He started by asking if anyone had any questions. He seemed to be waiting for someone to arrive said he'd take 5 questions in the meantime. The questions posed were quite vague - like what is Enlightenment? What is Dzogchen? To which he answered very wittily, please read the first two pages of the Tao Ter Ching and come back in three years!

He then started his talk at 8.30, on the subject of 'aspirations'. He first talked about wishes - how we wish each other happy birthday, good bye, safe trip etc. These are all prayers, he said. And the opposite being curses. He asked rhetorically if these prayers worked. He said when people receive birthday wishes, they get happy, so those prayers must work!

He also talked about bigger aspirations, for example, if one of your neighbour's house was on fire, a small aspiration would be if you prayed that your house wouldn't catch fire. A bigger aspiration would be that the neighbourhood didn't catch fire. The bigger aspiration would encapsulate the smaller one, because if the neighbourhood didn't catch fire, your house would automatically be safe. Joe pointed out later that the story also illustrated the interdependency of life.

After the talk, Rinpoche had a brief meeting with DK and presented him with some gifts. We then went to Starbucks for coffee and a chat about the evening. Rinpoche shared his exciting future plans for KMP (watch this space!) and how he felt it his personal responsibility to look after the people working there to spread the Dharma.

The evening ended earlyish - around 2am - after Rinpoche bought ice-cream for the hardworking people still at KMP. On the way home, I was exchanging smses with Ruby and shared that we'd just seen DK and didn't think much about it. Only when I got home, Susan said that I shouldn't have said anything because I should have let Rinpoche tell the story.

I panicked and smsed Ruby back but of course, she'd already told Rinpoche :( Luckily she was the only one I told. Sigh.

That kinda spoilt the rest of an otherwise fabulous evening for me. Sometimes I'm so stupid, I stun myself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Peace Through Yoga

Woke up this morning at 5.50am for the Peace through Yoga event, organised by Carol/Iza (Oh i can't get used to her new name!). It was still dark when we arrived at KLPAC and several people were already there helping to set up.

Kim, our SIPJ President, had fallen down a couple of days ago and was in tremendous pain. As President Elect, yours truly had to fill her rather large shoes. Being one who always shys away from the limelight (why be President Elect then, you may ask... that's another story), I was not looking forward to it but was just resigned to reading Kim's speech and hoping I didn't make too much a fool of myself (my ego overfloweth). I also had not practiced any of the yoga moves as I did NOT expect to have to do any on the day. I had expected to just help out in the background and sit and watch everyone else do the yoga. Kim being out of action meant I also had to fill in for her in doing the yoga - and not just doing the yoga, but doing it up front! I didn't know whether to be more nervous about the speech or the yoga and fortunately that dilemma made me less worried about both!

We were quite short-handed so I ran around helping out. By 8am, when we were officially supposed to start, I was high on adrenaline. The Deputy Minister of FInance I, Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen, arrived quite punctually and the day began. Fortunately, I didn't feel too nervous by then and managed to deliver my speech, then I sat down next to Datuk and found that my social retardiness reared its ugly head. I simply did not know what to say to the Deputy Minister. Susan said afterwards that I did what I usually did when I was nervous, which was sit there with a stupid grin on my face. Kim sat on my left and apparently she was grimacing in pain but trying to smile and then there was me with the glassy grin. Hmmm.

Anyway, the morning breezed by and soon it was all over. It was a tremendous effort from all - especially the volunteers and Carol/Iza. You can see photos at the SIPJ website.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Helen!!

Oh my God!! (said in the best Yek Yee manner.. nevermind)

I was idly watching 'The Queen" dvd which is starring Helen Mirren, and suddenly I saw my old school mate, Helen McCrory as Mrs Cherie Blair!!!!

What can I say except......... WOW!!! Way to go, Helen!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Joe's birthday, kitchen and house warming party

It is Joe's birthday party today so we threw him a surprise bash... we also decided to celebrate Seng Piow aka God's birthday too since it's a few days away. I also thought I'd continue my birthday celebration too... why not!

I woke up early to go marketing, buying roast pork, vegetables, chicken etc. The theme was RICE - i.e. all things chinese, since Joe is a chinaman at heart. So I made tumeric chicken, Umi made roast chicken, fried veg and mustard green soup, Kim and GL bought roast duck, Heruka House (David, Paul, JT) brought red bean soup and chick kut teh.

In the afternoon, I also got myself a present, courtesy of my dad of course - a hitachi plasma TV, which looks absolutely fabulous in my living room. Together with the latest pioneer surround sound system, I can really say my living room ROCKS! Of course I have some Dharma motivations e.g. we can show Rinpoche's teachings much better on the bigger TV although Susan helpfully reminded me that most social events will be held at Buddha Oasis when it's ready.

Anyway, when the guests started trickling in, we put on a Laura Fygi DVD (not pirated, of course!) to try out the system. It was fab!

Jamie made cupcakes for Joe - stacked up like a mandala, which worked out quite well and much cheaper than the RM3,000 we were quoted for making a mandala cake.

We opened a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate our new kitchen and repainting of our house too.

Any reason to celebrate!

Pat's birthday

Pat invited Susan, Sean and I to Tony Roma's at the Curve for dinner on Saturday to celebrate her birthday. QQ, Pat's ex, was in town and coming to dinner too! I was really looking forward to meeting QQ after hearing so much about her.

We went to the Curve which was PACKED! Tony Roma's was PACKED and I really wanted to have ribs :( ! We then trudged around looking for another place to eat. Actually, if we had just stayed put, we would've gotten our table the time it took us to walk around and settle at Marche! And we'd have bumped into Rinpoche! But our merits were obviously not enough.

Josephine also joined us for dinner, which was nice. It was her birthday the day before, so we got her a gift too, which was a fridge magnet making kit. For Pat, we gave her 'The Good Heart' which is HH Dalai Lama's perspective on Christianity, and a can of Oolong tea.

Susan and I had rib eye steak and shared a fondue. It was soooo yummy. We really ordered and ate like there was no tomorrow. QQ bought dinner too! Though I don't think she expected it to come up to RM380!!


After dinner, we adjourned to Starbucks at Centrepoint. QQ came in our car and Audrey was at Starbucks waiting for us.

Pat came soon after she drove Joshua and Sean back to TTDI and dropped Josephine back to her dad's. We had some pleasant banter then I can't remember how the topic came up, I think Pat was telling us about Anne and the baby and suddenly QQ told Pat that she shouldn't be doing what she was doing. That the baby would be affected. Of course Pat believes that she is just loving the child as an auntie, but I did think that aunties don't usually sleep with the child's mother. Gender is irrelevant really. Pat could be a man, and if he/she was sleeping with the child's mother, while the mother was still married to the father, it would be a very complicated relationship.

QQ had earlier said she hadn't smoked for 11 years and suddenly she picked up a cigarette and smoked quite a few!! Her hands were shaking - she was so emotionally against what Pat was doing. QQ was very into the family unit and she felt that Pat was intruding on the family and she should stop having a relationship with Anne and boot Anne off to China to be with her husband. Of course Pat disagreed.

Previously, I had thought that if anything, Pat was old enough to look after herself and if she chose to make bad choices, it's none of my business. I hadn't thought about it from the child's perspective until QQ brought it up. She said that if the family unit broke up, the child would hate the mother and hate Pat. If the family unit didn't break up, there was no where for Pat to feature in the family picture.

So it was a lose-lose situation.

I felt quite sorry for Pat - to be mentally whacked round the head so thoroughly by QQ. On her birthday too. What a birthday present. But then I thought, only QQ may be able to talk some sense into her and if she managed to talk an ion of sense into Pat, then that really would be the greatest birthday present she could give Pat.

Friday, June 29, 2007

39

I hit 39 yesterday. I felt ancient.

It's just a number, but as Rinpoche is so fond of reminding us, it marks another milestone on our inexorable march to the grave.

Lovely jubbly.

Anyway, as I am wont to celebrate anything and everything, there was a Kechara House party at Star KTV and I decided to make my birthday party there too. I must say my corner was the rowdiest. Shirley bought Susan, Jamie and myself tickets as well as a slew of other people. Wills came too.. and I totally forgot that I bought his ticket and told him Shirley bought it. But nevermind. Buddha, can I please have more RAM for my birthday?

Kim, GL, Carol, Zahrul, Beng Siang came.. Pyng and Sheryl couldn't make it, but I'd celebrated with them the night before. Unintentionally though, because I went to pick up something from their house and stayed and chatted awhile and before I knew it, it was past midnight and Pyng was popping champagne.

Susan gave me a Canon printer and a keyboard cleaner (so romantic... and yes, I do love it, darling), Kim, GL and Tina gave a set of crystal glasses, AP and Ester gave a key chain, Sean a block of diabetic chocolate as usual (I wonder when he'll grow out of that) and Beng Siang a cushion from British India.

I'd given myself a whole new kitchen, a study and a paint job.

Not bad really. Could be a lot worse (though Rinpoche's words keep ringing in my head - why do you want to redecorate your hotel room.. i.e. everything is impermanent so why spend so much time and resources on in)

Anyway, I digress.

I was feeling a bit down earlier because of my own personal issues, real or imagined but like all illusions, felt pretty real to me. Anyway, lucky I am a Dory sometimes and soon I forgot all about it and swung into the party.

I had a fabulous time. Susan surprised me with a fantastic profiterole cake and Carol also baked her famous chocolate cake. She and Kim also got quite plastered with Whisky and beer (yes, together in the same glass) and we finally ended past 2am with a dedication. Best of all, we found that we had also raised RM12k for KHEC.

Not too bad at all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sigh

It wasn't the Ikea people after all.

Yesterday morning, I asked Umi again - did she take it? She said no, so I called up Ikea - said I couldn't prove anything and just wanted them to be aware if other people complain. The lady I spoke to, Nadia, was very nice about it. I had 'let go' and didn't expect to see my laptop again.

Then in the evening, I was having a meeting at KLPAC for the yoga event this Sunday, and Umi rang and said an Ikea guy came by the house and the laptop appeared on my desk. At first I was elated. Then as I thought about it, I decided the story sounded distinctly fishy.

Firstly, if the guy stole it, he wouldn't risk returning it, he'd just dump it.

Secondly, if the Ikea people found it, they would've called me first before delivering it.

Fingers were starting to point in a different direction.

So I spoke to Susan about it and we decided to both talk to her the next morning.

This morning, we asked her again and she insisted that the Ikea man did come and he was in a small car etc.

So that was that.

Susan left for work. I went upstairs to work.

Then Umi came and said she wanted to talk to me. And she confessed that she took it.

I was relieved and quite calm about it. I told her that it wasn't about her or me - but the poor guys who were blamed for something they didn't do. I also told her that she had a pretty easy time working with us - and I was so easy going with her. If she had wanted to borrow it, she should have asked.

Then I had to call Ikea and tell them that it was my maid and apologise deeply.

Sigh.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stolen Laptop

I had a horrible shock today. I discovered that my previous Sony Vaio laptop was gone... I had put it on my shelf in my new 'study' which is on the landing on the first floor of my house. I hate to run on assumptions without proof but currently, it looks like fingers are pointing at the Ikea installers who came to assemble my new desk and office chair just this past Friday.

Why? Because they were left alone in my study for an extended period of time. While I have been renovating my kitchen, none of the kitchen people have spent time upstairs over the past few days. The Ikea workmen might have assumed that they could get away with it because it was very obvious that my house was under renovation and there were plenty of workmen around and they wouldn't be the only strangers around. Little did they know that the painters of my house were loyal members of my Buddhist centre and therefore not of any risk at all.

It disappoints me that people are so greedy - I have to try and be compassionate about it but I will still call Ikea tomorrow to lodge a complaint. It is impossible to recover the laptop since they could have or would have disposed of it by now but at the very least, they could be stopped from robbing others.

Sigh.

School, Ghostbusting and Setrap

The day started bright and early with a visit to Sean's school to see his form teacher about his report card. It wasn't as bad as I thought though of course he has tremendous room for improvement. He dropped in his class ranking and came 38/47, which I was a bit disappointed at. GL kindly came to translate since my Mandarin was so rusty. Susan came along too but she was saying that my methods were not working, which of course upset me - Sean being my achilles heel and my feeling that I don't do enough for him already. So when we got home, we talked about Sean's progress (or lack of) and discussed several issues which had been brought up and never resolved. After throwing what we thought of each other's parenting roles at each other, which is the usual case, I said I would be more supportive of her and would try to make joint decisions.

I reminded myself NOT to have expectations. Although I am now wondering whether if I do not have expectations of someone, I then take full responsibility which means I am pretty much a solo act. Hmmm.

Anyway, we decided to check out Sri KDU as an alternative for his schooling.

Ghostbusting
In the afternoon, Susan and I went to Tania's house for a bit of ghostbusting. Funnily enough, I wasn't scared at all, though usually I am! We chatted for awhile then performed the ceremony before Tania's kids came home. The actual process was quite fast. We said 10 rounds of 'Om Dhrum Soha', made some offerings to the spirit, burned Rinpoche's hair and the whole thing was done in about half an hour. We left around 5, dropped by Burgerking for a burger (for me!) because I was ravenous by then. Dropped off the citibank visa payment, then went home to rest before the Setrap teaching at 8.

Dinner
My second cousin, Cheng, called and we agreed to have dinner so we had to leave at 6.45pm to eat near KH. We met his friend Belinda and then took at table for 5. Then Jenny, JJ and Shin joined us, so we changed to a bigger table. Then May Woo and friend joined in and we had a full table! The food was ok - and very reasonably priced.

Setrap Teaching

When we got back to KH, I was told that I was to make Body, Speech and Mind offerings to Rinpoche! I think I broke out in cold sweat! I hadn't done it before and I wasn't sure what to do. Maple gave me a quick run down but I was still nervous as hell.

Then Rinpoche arrived and I made the three prostrations but Rinpoche then took my hand and said there was no need to make those offerings but he would touch foreheads with me. Wow.. I was so happy! No need to worry about not turning around the objects properly and I get a blessing!!

As usual, he gave a Dharma talk about making priorities for the Dharma. Nothing new but a timely reminder to all of us about the inevitability of death, and the inconsequence of our indulgences.

Then he talked about Setrap - plenty of useful info for me for my book though I think I need another session with him to elaborate on certain things. At the end of the teaching, around 12.30 am, he then said that Setrap's practice was not as important as Dharma practice. He said that Setrap supports Dharma practice but he is not the main practice, which is why his chapel is always on the side. So we should focus on Dharma and propitiate Setrap for help to do more Dharma.

After question time, we finally finished around 2am - quite an early night really!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

To Sir with Love

I hadn't slept much on Tuesday night - so when Webby told me that Rinpoche had invited us to a movie last night, I wasn't as thrilled as usual. I know it's so evil of me. It wasn't that I didn't want to go. I was just so tired and I was hoping to have an early-ish night after the KHEC meeting but... who wouldn't want to go to a movie with the Buddha?!

Webby told me that we were meeting at 1Utama GSC at 10.20pm, but during the KHEC meeting, she kept telling me to hurry the meeting along. I only discovered later that she had looked wrongly at the time and thought it was already 10.30 when it was only 9.30! Since I am queen of being anal over time, I asked her whether she thought it strange that I wasn't in the least bit stressed if we were so late!

Anyway, we toddled to 1Utama with time to spare. I hadn't had dinner because I was so tired before the KHEC meeting so I quickly scoffed a meat pie before the others arrived. Jenny had bought all the hot dogs and popcorn and drinks for everyone. What movie were we going to see? I knew it was a horror flick - Rinpoche's favourite - but which.

It turned out that the movie was a Korean production called "To Sir With Love". The story starts with some policemen discovering multiple murders at a house. There were two survivors who were sent to hospital - a young girl and an older lady. The young girl is not seriously hurt and recounts the story to the policeman. She said that the older lady was a retired teacher, Mrs. Parks, whose students had a reunion at her house to celebrate 'teacher's day'. Apparently Mrs. Parks had a child who was born deformed and she kept him in the basement, and the children were not allowed to play with him. Mr. Parks committed suicide in the basement of their house because he couldn't cope with having a deformed child.

It turned out that the students who were visiting the teacher all had deep issues and were all angry with her for the way she treated them when they were children. Mrs. Parks is wheelchair-bound and subjected to death threats by each of the dysfunctional students in turn. As it is a horror flick, the students expectedly start to die gruesome deaths one by one.

To cut the long story short (and here is the spoiler), later it is found that the young lady telling the story is rather psychotic and she had made up the story about all her classmates. She had poisoned them all and all the dysfunctional behaviour attributed to them was actually about her. Mrs. Parks does not remember the incidents and is generally bewildered by the accusations. The movie does not reveal whether the deformed child was real or a figment of the story teller's imagination. And if he was real, what happened to him is not addressed - either deliberately or accidentally.

As usual, one can find a Dharmic angle on almost any story and for me, I thought that this movie was about our attachments to wrongs against us. We create our own sufferings by reliving all the real/perceived wrongs done against us, while the perpetuators of the suffering generally go on with their lives in happy oblivion.

The movie also lightly looks at a few issues: Firstly, how we perceive being teased - the damage to young and fragile egos by the cruelty of children and adults. Secondly, that poverty is demeaning and children from poor families will feel a lack of self worth commensurate with their financial status. Thirdly, that the pressure to conform to societal demands for physical beauty and slimness is also overwhelming for children. The reactions of the children to the deformed boy is terrible and yet so common.

Anyway, the movie was more of a thriller than a horror, and I was glad I went. After the movie, Rinpoche of course invited us all to have a chat and all 21 of us then adjourned to KP.

After Midnight at Kechara Paradise

Rinpoche played what's the new news - where we all had to come up with a new piece of news (surprise surprise) and if it wasn't a good story, we had to come up with 2 more! When it came to my turn, I thought I'd tell him about my Angel documentary with an Australian lady, Tania, and said that we could perhaps portray him as an expert from the Tibetan Buddhist side. "Portray?" He said, "Portray?!"

I don't know how it came about but I suddenly brought it up that Tania said she was having a spirit in her house which was disturbing her daughter. So Rinpoche asked me what I did, so I truthfully said that I had referred her to Master Yap Cheng Hai, but I didn't know if she had called her. I said that I would have asked Rinpoche but Rinpoche was not taking audiences at the time. Rinpoche explained that he needed divination secretaries and a correspondence secretary and that candidates excluded myself, Jamie and Andee (I didn't ask why), and until he found these valuable support staff, he could not carry out his work properly.

Then he suddenly asked for his divination box and popped an Olivia Newton-John CD on. It was really surreal - Rinpoche doing divinations while Olivia belted out 'You have to believe we are magic... Nothin' can stand in our way... You have to believe we are magic... Don't let your aim ever stray... And if all your hopes survive... Your destiny will arrive.... I'll bring all your dreams alive... For you.'

He explained that music can be an offering to the Dharma Protector. 'I honestly love you', another Olivia classic, can also be like a praise to the Protector, Rinpoche said. Enlightened beings perceive things differently.

I believe him.

We finally finished around 5.30am - just in time for us to get home to see Sean off to school then go to bed. But unfortunately, my day was not yet done. Sean hadn't done his homework properly so I made him re-do it, which meant he missed his bus and I had to take him to school. I only got to bed around 8am though I know a few others like Jenny would have had less sleep than I.

Oh what a night.

By the way, here are the lyrics to 'Magic' - I didn't realise that it could really be a song from our Guru to us Dharma chickens until I read it through:


Come take my hand
You should know me
I've always been in your mind
You know that I'll be kind
I'll be guiding you
Building your dream
Has to start now
There's no other road to take
You won't make a mistake
I'll be guiding you

You have to believe we are magic
Nothin' can stand in our way
You have to believe we are magic
Don't let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive
Your destiny will arrive
I'll bring all your dreams alive
For you

From where I stand
You are home free
The planets align so rare
There's promise in the air
And I'm guiding you
Through every turn I'll be near you
I'll come anytime you call
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll be guiding you..

RINPOCHE ROCKS!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Impermanence of Love

When love is born
celestial choirs
fill the air
of every moment.
A hastened heart beat,
the happy stress
of waiting for one's beloved
to float into sight
like stepping on rainbows
drifting in the sky.

When love starts to die,
the face that once
brought joy,
now brings sorrow.
No orchestra plays
and the only sound
one hears
is the silent trail
of tears
and the long, sad sigh
in the memory
of a love gone by.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Termites :(

FM and Justin came to paint the house today - and found we had a termite infestation :( i was rather upset because I'd hired Rapidkill Pest Control to deal with this and they had stuck these green tubes in the ground. I had been a bit dubious because most of the land around my place was concrete so how would the termites get to the tube? Anyway, I let them handle it.. and today, behind the skirting board, there's loads of them!! Now FM says he'll deal with them... but I don't think it's a permanent solution because to really get rid of them, we need to locate the queen. I've just called up Rapidkill and spoken to someone who sounds like they just woke up so I think Rapidkill could be a homebased business. Not that I'm averse to someone working from home but only if they're doing their job. And in our case, they obviously aren't.

:(

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cell Group Meeting - finally

We finally had our cell group meeting with the Buddha last night. I planned to pick Jan up from Bangsar LRT at 6.30pm - eerily reminiscent of the pick up a few days ago - it felt a bit like groundhog day! JJ was also a bit worried that she may not show. Not out of anything else but circumstance. But fortunately, this time she was there! We then picked Susan up from KMP for dinner at Pizza Uno at Centrepoint, and were joined by Jamie and her friend from London, Sarah. In the end, Meng Kiat and Shirley also joined us for dinner. I can't remember how it came about but I reminisced about a weekend Shirley took me to Langkawi. That was such a fabulous trip... *sigh*

Anyway, while we ate and chatted, we kept a tight watch on the clock as we definitely did NOT want to be late this time.

Our cell group, Ekazati, had to join forces with the Shakyamuni group because there wasn't enough time to schedule more meetings. Jan and Shirley were off on Wednesday for Melbourne and Singapore respectively, and book club was on Friday.

Rinpoche talked about the Buddhist Arts and Culture festival and our presence there, and of course our own Tara and Dzambala! He also talked about the urgency of Dharma work, and how futile the pursuit of what we in Samsara deem important - like money, prestige and enjoyment.

He also said that we shouldn't use our children to justify not doing Dharma work - instead, if we really did care about our children, we SHOULD do more Dharma work. And that how interested our children are in Dharma is how much we ourselves are interested in Dharma because we are being the role models for them.

Susan asked whether sex and monogamy is overrated. My favourite question. Rinpoche answered that it was actually more a social and cultural thing. Monogamy was necessary because of social order. This comes from people's wrong view that they owned their partner. If their partner has sex with another, they feel their ego is challenged and become jealous and then they may become angry and even violent to the point of killing. Because of this, religion adopted the law of monogamy/anti-adultery to keep peace.

So sex is all about ego. People who are promiscuous are usually those with low self esteem. They need to feel desired. So it is less about the physical act than the need to be wanted. Additionally, he said that sex is the same as other attachments, such as gluttony. If we enjoy food very much and spend time thinking about what we're going to eat and rejoicing in eating, it's also negative because it has no basis and is impermanent. Likewise with sex.

I so agree with these points!! I was dozing off a little but completely woke up when this question was raised. Rinpoche also said that the questions reflect the attachments of the person who asks them - uh oh. But it's no secret - I have always thought that monogamy was overrated. Why are people so obsessed with it - relationships are torn because of it, when it can be just an activity like having a good meal.

One may go out and spend exhorbitant amounts on fine dining but then one eats at home more often than one goes out. Yes, yes I am attached to so many frivolous pleasures.

Anyway, the cell group meeting was suppsed to end at 10.30 because there was another group after us. I had planned to meet I-Jin again before she left for Singapore the next day but Rinpoche decided to invite the next group to join us.. so there were 3 cell groups in the audience room. I thought I'd just send I-Jin an sms to say I didn't think I was going to make it.

I was right.

The meeting finally ended around 2am and that's considered early!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday is day of rest (with a temporary storm)

Today was KMP's day off. We got to sleep in - yay!

I was awake around 9am though - designing invitation cards for my mum's alumni annual dinner and finalising info for Oxbridge AGM. Susan and I went for a nice lunch at Bon-ga in Bangsar and a long awaited foot reflexology and shoulder massage. On the way back to the car, we stopped at an Indian restaurant for a drink. When the bill came, I asked Susan if she had any cash and she said no, so I reacted badly and chucked a hundred bucks at her. Not very Dharmic of me at all. Sigh. But I was just mad that I'm always having to be the one to have cash on me. Still - no excuse for childish behaviour. It was a culmination of several events. And I didn't observe the infallible tenet - thou shalt not carry baggage from previous incidents. Anyway, so what started off as a nice, leisurely day kind of descended into a stormy (at least psychologically) one. I guess I should've apologised. Lots of should haves. Oh well. My bad as always. Work in progress.

At least by dinner time, the clouds cleared a bit. Though knowing Susan - she can just make as if nothing's wrong. Anyway, we missed Setrap puja but managed to meet up with my ex-Uni mate, I-Jin, and PG. I was able to justify it by saying to myself that we needed to pick up the KMP things from PG, who had just driven down from Singapore today. I-Jin also just came down from Singapore today. So we could see them both for dinner and kill all birds with one stone.

We met up for dinner at Neroteca - with Kim, Carol and Zahrul. Dinner was ok only. They were out of the suckling pig so I ordered the rib which didn't have much meat on it. It wasn't very satisfactory, but company was good and we had some champagne, so no complaints really.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Grande Finale

Today was the last day at the MINES. Last day of festivals and book fairs. Last day of wearing 'Dharma that Bites' T-shirts, which I have been wearing every day since May 25. We had a smashing end to the festival, with KMP grossing RM8075 of sales, which was our highest daily total yet.

One of the highlights was Amber Chia's visit to our booth, which got a LOT of attention. Some people, who shall remain unnamed, were chanting "Amber, Amber" which got us like the 4th warning letter from the organisers of the festival.


Sean looking pleased as punch with Amber

Yesterday and today, Susan and I worked 13 hour days and after we closed up, did the group dedication, packed our boot with paraphernelia, we drove home and went over to La Bodega in BSC for some supper and drinks.

A couple of sangria later, we were feeling decidedly relaxed and ready to hit the sack.

What a blast. I was quite sad that it's over - all the rushing to the various exhibition areas for the past 20 days or so! We can finally rest - but actually, I must confess, I will miss it!

Dzambala Jr.and Green Tara manifests at the MINES

Today was fantastic - we got to try putting body paint on Sean - he looked more like a little cherub rather than Dzambala but nevermind. The chipmunk phone holder was the only mongoose-like animal our dear President, Sio Chian, could find, and a lemon in place of the bijapura fruit that Dzambala holds in his right hand. Sean was so serious about being Dzambala though - he was so cute. People started to put donations into the slit of the chipmunk and he said "May Dzambala bless you" with a very serious face.
Dzambala Jr and Tara went walkabout the hall and Kechara promptly received a warning letter saying that we were NOT allowed to give public blessings. This was before Sean started receiving donations! When Sean finally sat down and some bright spark put a singing bowl in front of him and money began to go into the bowl, we were given a stern warning NOT to solicit funds. I wondered what was the difference between that and the multitude of donation boxes around the other booths. Oh well. Do we get a prize for having most warning letters?
Dzambala and Tara had to go scrub off - kind of a dampener on the festive atmosphere.

Dzambala Jr. manifested!

Dzambala and Green Tara..

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Friday night book club meeting with the Buddha.. not

Ekazati, our cell group for Book Club, was supposed to meet Rinpoche tonight. We had all been looking forward to it. JJ, Susan and I left the Mines around 4.30pm and went to Czip Lee, the stationery shop in Bangsar to pick up some stuff to make a tiara for Sean. On the way home, Susan dropped JJ and I off at BSC to pick up some flowers for Rinpoche. I smsed Jamie and Jan to see if they wanted to carpool to the meeting. Jamie said she was going directly, but Jan said she'd come over by 7.30pm so we'd get to Rinpoche's by 8pm.

Anyway, everything was going to plan. I went home and dealt with some issues for Oxbridge while Susan caught a nap. At 7, we had a bite to eat and I was expecting Jan to turn up soon. She called at about 7.20pm to say she was running late and would take an LRT to Bangsar, so I said we'd fetch her from the station. She said she'd call when she's at Sentral so we'd leave the house then and everything should run like clockwork. Keyword: should.

Around 7.30pm, Tashi called to ask if we were coming yet. Meng Kiat was already there so they were concerned where the rest of the gang was. The line was really quite bad so I couldn't hear what she was saying much. Anyway, I assured her that we'd be there by 8pm.

Hah.

After I hung up with Tashi, I called Jan again and she said she was almost at Sentral, so we all hopped in the car and headed for Bangsar LRT. Everything was still on schedule. Good thing I buffered a bit of time in.

We arrived at Bangsar LRT at 7.45pm and .. no sign of Ms Drew. So I called and found the she'd taken the wrong train! So she said she'd grab a cab. I said ok and headed back. As we turned round the corner, I pulled over and discussed with Susan and JJ whether Rinpoche would wait til Jan arrived before starting. We decided that he would, so perhaps it was better that we wait for Jan and drive her over, in case she couldn't get a cab or the cab didn't know where KMP was.

So we waited for about 5 minutes. Jan finally called around 8 and we picked her up and scrammed through Friday evening traffic to BU. To top it all off, the petrol light in my car started flashing, showing that it was running on almost empty! I was like... ok.. if the car dies, we'll just get out and run! Anyway, by the time we arrived, it was about 8.30 pm.

Then the proverbial sh*t hit the fan. Rinpoche suggested that we reschedule because we were late. I was quite upset but not surprised. I think it was a culmination of circumstances - that Rinpoche had specially rushed back to be on time for us and we were late. That several cell groups had been late before us. That we did not inform him that we were running late. Perhaps our collective karma was the reason. Whatever it was, we just had to accept that we weren't going to see the Buddha tonight.

Susan and I trooped off home, after visiting the petrol station safely along the way. I spent the rest of the evening making a tiara. Why? Watch this space!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The MINES and our cell group meeting

Barely home and we've already got another exhibition on our hands. There is a Buddhist Culture and Arts exhibition at the MINES convention centre which starts tomorrow (or later today). So in the morning, Susan and I went off to the MINES to see how the set up was going. Kechara Paradise had taken one booth and KMP had taken the adjoining one and there were already lots of KH elves there - Milly, Ruby, Henry, Suzan, Chia, FM, David, Shin, Rajendran and Suresh.

Like in Singapore, we were next to the toilet (why, Buddha, why?) and right at the back of the hall. But unlike Singapore, the area leading to the toilet was dirty and the door to the toilet was locked so I couldn't go in. I sent an sms to Jamie saying she's going to love this 'Malaysian character'!

After helping unpack, Susan and I went off to get Metta and the kittens back from the vet. I was still madly reading the five chapters for Book Club from Dragon Thunder as we had our cell group meeting in the evening. At 7, Sean and I went to collect some pizza for the night.

The cell group meeting started around 8.30pm - with Meng Kiat, JJ, Jamie, Jan, Shirley, Susan and myself. We tried to keep on topic but kept getting distracted by a host of other side discussions! I was also on MSN with my sister, Stephanie, who lives in Melbourne. She said she was planning to visit KL en route to Penang in October, so I suggested she come for Rinpoche's birthday, which falls on 24th.

Anyway, the meeting finally wound up around 1am, when Jan and JJ found out that they live next door to each other, so they headed off to get a cab.

Fortunately Susan and I are not on duty at MINES on Wednesday so we could have a one day break. Though we still might visit them and see how things are going!

Last day in Singapore and back to KL

Monday was the first morning in 10 days that we could sleep in, but I woke up at 8am anyway. The others were all sleeping so I tried to pack as quietly as possible. I also tried to finish off left overs in the fridge so that Ros doesn't get any nasty surprises when she gets home. Susan, Yek Yee, Sean and I then took a cab to Liang Court to meet Fun, Jenny's cousin, for lunch. Poor Shin had to go off to work so she couldn't join us.

Fun took us to this fabulous Japanese restaurant in a Japanese supermarket called Meidi-Ya. It was reasonable and they had my favourite sashimi - Uni!! A small bowl of Uni and Ikura on rice was about SGD14++ which was definitely value for money. I was a happy camper.

After lunch, we popped over to see Sheila in Circular Road to say goodbye and then we took a cab (with a garrulous cab driver!) back to Monk's Hill Road for the last time.

It was tough fitting everything into the boot, Jamie, Yek Yee, Susan, Sean and my luggage plus some POS stuff for KMP plus some gifts for Jenny from her cousin. I ended up with my laptop bag on my lap for the whole journey back to KL.

During the drive, Jamie and I were discussing about the sterility of Singapore versus the mamak culture of Malaysia. I have never lived in Singapore but I did love the cleanliness, organisation and architecture of Singapore. Jamie said that it was too perfect, it's like living in a theme park and that it was too competitive in Singapore. The people were all in a rush, while in Malaysia, the people were more laid back. I replied that the people were too laid back in Malaysia - sometimes I can't bear it.. in shopping malls, the people in front of me are walking so slowly. The shop assistants move slowly, talk slowly. It drives me nuts. Needless to say, I get extremely frustrated with the educational system and how it is not meritocratic.

But I shan't get on my soap box today. I think I was a bit upset because we'd just left Singapore and it's perfectly manicured landscaping and the first stop we took in Malaysia had horribly dirty toilets. After that, we'd gone to A&W at Ayer Keroh rest stop for dinner and the root beer was flat, and they were out of hot dogs and chilli sauce. Sigh. Welcome to Malaysia.

As I ranted, Yek Yee said that's so sad. And I caught myself and tried not to be so negative. After all, what gain does it give me. I was here to stay in Malaysia - as long as my parents were there, and as long as Rinpoche was there. So I would just have to get with the program!

We got back to KL by 8.30pm, and went straight to Setrap Puja at KH. They were in the middle of it already so we quietly joined in. At the end of the puja, Umze Krystal said a welcome back to us, and it was just really nice. People came up to give us welcome back hugs and it really was like coming home. So yes, I'm glad to be home!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Last Day at the Book Fair and Sean gets his wish

The last day at the Book Fair saw a huge discount on our titles. It was quite heart wrenching to see Dharma on discount but it was apparently what happens at the Book Fair on the last day and we wanted to reach as many people as possible as well as reduce our stocks to take back to Malaysia!

Susan, Sean and I were on the early shift - from 11am-4pm. It was not very busy but we made a few sales. I looked through my phone book to see who I could cajole to come visit us and Sean suddenly said, why don't you ask papa. So I said ok, you call him. And he went off with the phone. He came back and said Tom said he would come. I was immediately worried that Tom would say he would come but FFK at the last minute. I tried to tell Sean, don't get too excited cos papa is very busy and may not come. He was so excited, which made me even more anxious. But things got busy at the booth and I became distracted.

We finally left around 5 to grab lunch and walk around Suntec. We went to Pepper Lunch - one of my favourite discoveries this trip. Here you are served your choice of meat on a sizzling plate so you can cook it to your choice of doneness, which in my case, is just lightly seared on both sides.

After a satisfying meal, we wandered around Suntec to look for shorts for Sean. Susan asked if I'd heard from Tom and I said nope. As time ticked by, I was worried that my anxiety would become justified. Susan said he wouldn't be so mean to say he would come and not. I said I am just expecting the worst.

Anyway, we distracted ourselves with shopping and came across a DC shop - selling clothes with DC comics trademarks, eg Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman etc. We went to town in that shop, each of us picking a few things. Susan bought 3 tops, I had 2 and Sean had 1 t-shirt and a pair of shorts.

We went back to the booth after that and saw that other booths had started to wrap up even though it was only 8pm! We decided to put together some boxes and get ready to wrap up too. Around 9pm, I had a tap on my shoulder and it was Tom. My dear ex-husband. Susan sprinted down to get Sean who was heading off to see something down the other side of the hall. I saw Sean turn and run back and it really tore my heart open. He ran up and hugged Tom and I saw that Tom was a bit emotional too. I had to turn away by then because I was really going to cry.

Tom and Sean chatted for awhile. I was packing up so I didn't really hear what they were talking about. Now and then I'd pop by and be nosy - once, I found them talking about pool! Tom was drawing some angles on a piece of paper on where to hit the ball.

*blink blink*

Anyway, we finally finished packing at about 10.30pm and I asked if Tom wanted to go for a drink but he said he had to go. He helped us take some stuff down to a taxi and we went off.

When we got back to the apartment, Sean was in really high spirits. While he was in the shower, he was singing away and said it was his happiest day. He also put aside the paper that Tom had drawn on and said he was going to keep it very carefully. It broke my heart to see how happy he was - because I don't know how much Tom can invest into their relationship and I really didn't want Sean to be disappointed. But I guess it's for Sean to conquer his own battles and I will just be there to hold his hand along the way.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Penultimate Day at the Book Fair and a party at the end


Here's Sean talking to more (bewildered looking) people.


Sheila, our Hindu Priestess, came to visit and as usual had a deep chat with Susan.

Today was a lovely day because I met up with an old friend from University, I-Jin Chew. I had googled for friends I could possibly invite to the Book Fair and out of the cobwebbed recesses of my mind came a few names from Uni. The only one I managed to find was I-Jin, and dropped her an email. She tried to call me but as usual, I didn't hear my phone (and yes, Susan keeps wanting to get me a hearing aid). Anyway, through several smses, she finally could make it at 4ish on Saturday so I was quite excited to see her. I hadn't seen her since Uni, in 1989... which makes it 18 years ago?!

Anyway, she came and I was so excited I forgot to take a picture! But she is coming to KL next week so I hope my memory kicks in by then and I'll snap one for posterity.

She left around 5pm and then we had to rush to Carrefour to do a mad shop for our KMP party late that night. Everyone was coming over to Ros' flat for some drinks and snacks when the book fair closed for the night. Susan and I had dinner plans with PG at 7, so we had walk over to Carrefour, shop and get back by then.

We got home just in the nick of time and were whisked off by PG to eat yummy food at some Hong Kong restaurant on Thompson Road. After stuffing ourselves silly, we went back to Ros' and prepared the snacks etc. On offer was smoked salmon and cheese roulades, apple ham and cherry tomato mini sandwiches, olives, lay's salt and vinegar crisps, strawberries and chocolate dip, a bottle of Gewurtstraminer (however spelt)and a bottle of Shiraz, 2 bottles of coke and some cakes.. all for SGD145. Not too bad really. Though the budget was SGD100!


Here's the spread...


Happy KMP (and guests, PG and TLS)!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sean arrives!

Susan and I were on standby today, which meant we didn't have to be at the booth for a whole shift. So we went to Orchard Road - how can we visit Singapore without a pilgrimage to Orchard Road!

I took Susan for lunch at Lawry's - my favourite place for Roast beef in all of Asia, so far anyway. After that, we walked across to Takashimaya and then to Borders at Wheelock Place, where we bought a couple of Dharma magazines. We then found ourselves gravitating towards Suntec to see what was going on. Also, Shirley was dropping Sean off at Suntec on her way to the Fullerton. I was so excited that he was coming! Their flight was delayed though and only arrived at around 6.30pm.

He came upstairs to our booth and immediately changed into a 'Dharma that bites' T-shirt and swung into action. He was remarkably successful, I think because most adults find it amusing that a kid is telling them about Dharma! Anyway, I was very proud of him.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Green Tara appears for Vesak!

KMP had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Vesak Day twice this year – once in Malaysia and again today in Singapore! In the morning, as it was a public holiday, there were more visitors to our booth than over the past few days.

To celebrate Vesak, KMP super writer Jamie “Paris” Khoo decided attract more attention to KMP’s booth as well as fulfil a long time fantasy of hers to dress up as her favourite Buddha, Green Tara – and wow, look at how fabulous she looks!

Not only did she look great, she also drew quite a crowd to our booth. People actually came to ask for bookmarks and postcards. She walked around outside the Book Fair hall too, going up and down the escalators, from the ground floor to the top floor, accompanied by her wannabe dakinis - Shin, Susan and I. We imagined ourselves going up to the heavens and down to the three lower realms (as we were on the 4th floor)!

Some youngsters asked for postcards and then threw them in the dustbin, which they found very amusing and we didn’t. We simply thought that maybe even holding the postcards may give them an affinity for Dharma in the future.

We even met a Tibetan thangka seller who marvelled at our own Tara and asked to take a photo with her! Here on the left is a picture of our Tara and a Tara Thangka!

While sales weren’t that many, there were lots of visitors and we even closed late today because there were still browsers in the booth at 10pm! Our book sales were a bit better than the previous couple of days, and total sales came to SGD650.

Yek Yee and JJ shared that a lot of visitors were intrigued by the ‘Greedy’ title of the Chinese book. Some were actually challenged why we used the title, saying that we shouldn’t use ‘greed’ with Dharma. However, once, Yek Yee had explained to a mother about the rationale behind the Be Greedy title, and the mother understood and explained it to her child. It is fantastic that KMP has the opportunity to share with people about changing mindsets.

The KMP volunteers and staff received a wonderful sms message from Rinpoche which was very touching : “I am excited and happy for all of you. All of you are like in a retreat during this period like a 10-day retreat. Your body moving, packing, unpacking, showing, sleeping, eating, travelling for dharma. Your speech, nearly all words direct and indirect is increasing dharma. And your mind single-pointedly focused on talented, skilful ways to bring dharma to others! I am truly happy from my heart. Beautiful.”

To end the day, HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche’s Chinese book, Be Greedy was found by Shin and Joseph to be displayed in the New Book section in Kinokuniya. Let’s hope it’s a best seller!

No Signboard and BS

PG took us to have crab again last night at No Signboard - we had pepper and chilli crab but I preferred Jumbo's pepper crab while Susan preferred No Signboard. PG's friend, Aline, came along for awhile too. She's quite good fun - but had to go off to BS (bible studies). We kept telling her - don't call it BS... it sounds too much like you've go to go for BullSh*t... no offence meant at all!!!

Susan got to share with them about her missionary experiences and how she made the connection between Christianity and Buddhism. She said she is still very much a Christian but now a Buddhist too! I think this aspect of Susan's will be key to many people who are confused or divided over the different theologies. Just earlier that day, she had spent a lot of time talking to a retired gentleman who was a staunch Christian but who's son was a Tibetan Buddhist. From her chat with the gentleman, she said that he was actually very Buddhist in thinking - especially his openmindedness in letting his son pursue his own path.

If only people could stop putting labels - on religions, thoughts, there'd be less divisions..

On an even happier note, Shirley is coming to Sg tomorrow and she's bringing Sean.. yayyyy

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jumbo Seafood

On a happier note, later this evening, Ruby invited Susan and I to join her and Mr Poh for dinner - at his restaurant Jumbo in Kallang Stadium. We had originally planned to meet with PG, but Ruby asked us to invite her to join too, so we did. Boy, was I glad we did. The food was F A B U L O U S! We had geoduck sashimi (one of my faaavourites), Sri Lankan crabs in two styles - black pepper and chilli. I preferred the pepper but chilli was good too. We also had these amazingly yummy drinks - like green slush. Apparently it's a vegetable drink with no sugar added. I loved it. I could drink my veges everyday! Heck, I have to get back to Jumbo before we go home..

I am so attached to food. Damn, this is slowing down my progress to Enlightenment. I'll work on it.. in the meantime... where's that crab!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Missing Sean

I had been away from my little rascal for almost a week and I missed him terribly. I called him to see how he was and had a quick chat. I don't think he missed me at all but nevermind! After my phone call, Webby said - now I'm going to call my baby. I was thinking.. yea yea.. she's going to call the bl**dy vet.. (one of our cats, Metta, is pregnant and boarding at the vet while we're in Sg) but to my most fantastic, pleasant surprise, she had called home and was talking to Sean.

I was so incredibly touched. For a whole 10 seconds. Then I realized that she had called home by mistake. And she confirmed it was a mistake.. she HAD intended to call the vet (so it wasn't just MY assumptions!)

I was then incredibly crushed. Talk about the transience of emotions. The illusory nature of assumptions, expectations and hope. This is my biggest battle on a personal level - to wish that my partner would treat my son according to what I think my partner should. We have discussed this issue to death and I am (still) trying to let go of my judgemental behaviour and just let things be. Whether she loves Sean or not, I should just take her word for it and not read into her behaviour. That's my logical, trying desperately to be Dharmic mind thinking. But it's not easy. Usually I just go with the flow and try not to have expectations, but today, when that phonecall happened, it was like a knife in my guts.

Oh well. Life is for learning. Isn't life fun? Where's that equanimity when I need it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Joseph and Susan


After a long day at the booth, KMP Head and co-conspirator look all puckered up...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Meeting the Editors and meeting Kristy

Our first “Meet the Editors” session and launch of “Compassion Conquers All” was at 11am on Sunday morning. Susan Lim kick started the session with a brief power point presentation to introduce HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche to the audience.



There were about a dozen non-KH faces in the audience, which wasn’t bad, considering it was the first session of the day and it was a Sunday morning! As you can see in the picture, some people didn’t want to sit down but merely hovered in the back, some even standing beyond the barricades. After Susan finished her presentation, she passed the mic over to Andee Uetz, who introduced the ‘Compassion Conquers All’ book, followed by Jamie Khoo, who read a chapter of the book.

A few of the people who attended the session came to visit our booth so it was time well spent. Well done to Susan, Andee and Jamie! The only question that was raised during the Q&A was from Jamie’s aunt, who asked.. Why does the Rinpoche have hair? She said she asked that because others would’ve wanted to know.

This hair issue came up again later, when a man asked Shin at our booth the same question. After Shin explained, he seemed to accept her points, but still refused to buy anything from us – saying, “I don’t want to buy anything because Rinpoche has hair.” Truly hair raising!

After the Meet the Editors session, Susan and I met up with an old friend, Kristy, who I hadn't seen for a long time. The last time I remember seeing her was in Bali, at May Lynn and Ledand's wedding.


We had a lovely Japanese lunch and caught up with a LOT of news. She came back to the booth after lunch and listened attentively to Susan's explanations of the Gaden video and others. She bought quite a few items and I hope she enjoys them as much as we enjoyed putting them together!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A champagne party for Dharma

After a long Saturday at the booth, JJ and Jamie had invited us to go 'PLAY' - a happy club. It was Joy and Justin's last night in Singapore too so they wanted to go out (hmmm just noticed that they are the four Js!). Susan knows how much I love to go out so she was very sweet and seemed quite gungho about going out.

So Shin, Susan and I tentatively agreed to go out though we were feeling quite tired so we headed back to shower and get changed. Yek Yee wisely said she was going to stay home. When we got back to Ros' apartment, we found our hostess having a party. We had been invited when we had first arrived but we got back, we felt a bit shy and grubby in all our sweaty t-shirts!

However, after we showered, we felt even more lazy to go out and sent our FFK sms to the Js. I must have been really tired to turn down going out. Instead, we squirreled away in our room on our respective computers but there was soon a knock on the door and we were reluctantly dragged out to be sociable. Actually it wasn't really that reluctant - how can we say no too many times to champagne? That would be too rude!

We met Ari, a charming Singaporean banker who is based in Hong Kong, a Malaysian in manufacturing and another Singaporean who works for General Electric. Altogether there were eight people. When asked what we were doing in Singapore, we shared with them and showed them the Compassion book. Immediately, Ari said the eight of them would buy a copy each. At SGD22 each, we raised another SGD176! What a fabulous day!! I was so glad we didn't go out in the end and stayed in for the party. Below is a photo of us celebrating the sale and we hope that Ros and her generous friends will have lives touched by the Dharma.


Tomorrow we will have our first “Meet the Editors” session – and we will be meeting up early to regroup before the session.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Our first day of the Book Fair

Today was the start of the Book Fair proper. In the morning, there was a Singapore Book Industry seminar entitled ‘Get Rich With Books’, which was attended by Joseph, Susan, Shin and Yek Yee. It was a good opportunity to network with distributors and Joseph was even approached by aspiring writers once they heard he was a publisher! One of the other publishers based in Singapore came over to visit our booth after the seminar and said that he was impressed with our displays and book covers and congratulated us.

At 2pm, the doors to the Book Fair opened and people started to trickle in. Ben, David, Chia, Joseph, Susan and I were officially on duty during the first shift but there were quite a few of us in our spanking new KMP ‘Dharma that Bites’ T-shirts as you can see in the photo above, which was taken at the start of the Fair!

Our booth was in the ‘Books of Special Interest’ section, near the Chinese Books area, so we deduced that many English speaking potential customers may not venture down our end. So Susan, Paris and Irene stood outside the booth and took turns wandering through the halls, distributing bookmarks and inviting people to visit our booth, while I happily stayed put and played cashier.

The crowd was expectedly quiet as it was still a working day and school holidays hadn’t started yet. Our friend, Nan, who works in PR had kindly sent out our press release on our behalf and visited our booth in the evening. Sheila, who had introduced us to Nan, also came with her mum and it was lovely to see her again after so long! She is a Hindu priestess and we had shared many long nights discussing spirituality and the meaning of life.

Bigger crowds are expected tomorrow onwards. At the end of the day, which finished at 10pm, total takings were SGD522, which was considered by all to be a fairly respectable figure. As usual, we made a dedication and prayed that the next day would bring more people to the Dharma through Rinpoche’s teachings.

Friday, May 25, 2007

KMP goes to Singapore!

Wednesday, May 23, Susan, Jamie, Yek Yee and I piled into my Altis, fully loaded with KMP promotional stuff, and set off for Singapore! The drive was uneventful and we had dinner at KFC on the Malaysian side (our last cheap meal!) but when we arrived at the Singapore border, I was told my autopass card had expired! They needed to check my road tax. After they made sure it was kosher, I then tried to get a new card. After half an hour of fluffing around, they said that since I'd already clocked in with the expired card, I should use this card until the next time I come to Singapore, when I can get a new one. Oh well. Obstacles. Rinpoche always says that whenever we do anything meritorious, there will be obstacles.

We then proceeded to customs where they checked our handbags thoroughly and opened our boot. When they saw the printed postcards and bookmarks, they asked to see the invoice. I was like what invoice. There was no invoice, so I had to call Joe to ask him what to do. He said we didn't have any invoices. I was like.. what shall we do? Talk about obstacles. In the end, the customs officer let us off, but advised us that if we were to bring anything that was printed outside Singapore into the country, we needed to bring an invoice.

Finally, we could enter Singapore.

Anyway, after a few detours, we finally arrived at 44 Monk's Hill Road, which was where our very kind hostess, Ros, was staying. She was Kelvin, another writer's sister, and had offered to put us four girls (Susan, Yek Yee, Shin and I - Jamie was staying with her aunt) up. We'd never met so to let four complete strangers into her home was extremely generous.

We had a room with a sofa bed, and shared a bathroom with Ros. Since there were 4 of us, we scratched our heads on how to sleep. Fortunately, Susan and I brought our pillows with us! We decided to sleep horizontally across the bed, which was a small double bed, with our feet dangling off the side. That allowed all four of us to sleep on the bed!

When we woke up though, Yek Yee was sleeping on the bare floor with her jacket over her. We went off to Suntec Convention Centre by cab. I got it wrong though and had just asked the driver to take us to Suntec City. I didn't know that it was a huge complex and the Convention Centre was a different building. Poor Susan had to carry a humungously heavy bag full of KMP catalogues up and down some stairs.





When we finally got to the Exhibition Hall to set up the booth, there was no aircon. It was very still and hot in the Hall and JJ, Ben and Irene were already setting up there. We sweated away, putting labels on our DVDs - can you believe it - they were rated PG (Parental Guidance). As Rinpoche would say, 'Oh dear'.



Finally, about 8 hours later, the booth was well decorated and everything set up.
We were all hot and tired (and did I say sweaty?) but we loved how our booth looked. Here's a picture of all of us (ok, so you can't see much of the booth but nevermind - you get to see US!)

To end the day, Joseph generously said that KMP would treat the remaining coolies to a delicious dinner at Tony Roma's! Now, we were ready for the Book Fair tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My parents meet the Buddha

My mum rang up on Wednesday and said they may come down to KL on Friday to see 'My Fair Lady', which was on at the KL Convention Centre. Might, I asked? Please let me know.. She confirmed on Thursday and asked if she could bring her friend. I said of course and promptly went into overdrive, cleaning up the house. Her friend would take my master bedroom, my parents take the guest room and I would sleep with Sean in his room. Since the driver was coming too, the maid would sleep in Sean's room too as he would occupy the maid's room. Webby had to move to Pyng's place - for the sake of simplicity rather than duplicity. It would just be too complicated to explain. And the house was full anyway!

I asked my mum - since you're in KL, would you like to meet Rinpoche? She was lukewarm at first but appeared to be slightly more enthusiastic later, saying her friend was also keen to meet Rinpoche. So I contacted Ruby to find out if the audience was possible on Saturday evening - probably the only time conducive for Rinpoche. There was no news. My parents had to plan their time because they were just there for the weekend. When my parents arrived on Friday and mum asked me again, I just said I thought it was unlikely because it was too short a notice. I asked Ruby again and she kindly confirmed that there was still no news. Finally I just told my parents to go ahead with their plans and they decided to have dinner with the GM of Park Royal Hotel and his wife.

On Saturday itself, Ruby (poor Ruby - always so busy on other people's behalf) smsed me - Rinpoche did agree to a meeting at 10.30pm! I quickly asked if it could be more towards 11pm, to give us time to get from Park Royal to KH. It was all set! I didn't know if I was happy or nervous.. maybe a combination of both. It was like presenting the one you love to your parents and hoping for approval on both sides.

Finally, at 11pm, we got to KH. The all night migtsema session was in progress and I introduced my parents to KH, Setrap as well as many of my KH friends. At around 11.30pm, we were finally ushered in to see Rinpoche.

Rinpoche greeted them and the four of us - my dad, Puan Sri, my mum and I - sat down in front of him. After some small talk, Rinpoche asked if they had any questions, to which there was no response. Rinpoche then asked me if there were any questions of a spiritual nature that they had asked me before. Actually there weren't any because we didn't really discuss anything much anyway, whether spiritual or not! I said that while we were Buddhists, we didn't actually do anything Buddhist except for Ching Ming, which wasn't a Buddhist ceremony anyway. My mum said that she did it by rote but didn't really see the point of it, especially as she did not know her mother-in-law, who had passed away before she met my dad.

Rinpoche proceeded to give a brief history of Ching Ming and that it was mostly about filial piety. He also gave a brief description of the death process, which struck a chord with my parents. Also, when we make offerings at Ching Ming, it's to say thank you to the ancestors for loved ones - in this case, thanking her in-laws for her husband. Talking about filial piety, Rinpoche brought up that I was doing a lot of Dharma work and dedicating it to my parents, and that my hope was for them to learn more about Dharma. And that I was not just concerned about this life but their future lives as well. I got a bit emotional at that point and so did my Dad.

When my dad first came in, he had his arms crossed and I wasn't sure how he would react to Rinpoche, but later on, he relaxed and was even nodding at what Rinpoche was saying. When my dad wept, my heart really went out to him and I hope Dharma seeds will be planted for my parents so they can benefit forever.

As always, I was - and am - truly grateful to Rinpoche for spending the precious time with my parents, despite his busy schedule. And for the precious gift of touching them with the Dharma.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Taking Refuge

I took Refuge with HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche on Vesak Day 2007.

Why Refuge
Why take Refuge, many friends - Buddhists and non-Buddhists have asked. The explanation is simple. In order to have opportunities for us to have spiritual growth, we need merits. In order to get merits, we need to do various Dharma activities. One of the ways to earn merits is to hold vows. For example, if we don't lie anyway, we don't get merit, it's neither positive or negative. But if we take a vow not to lie, and we uphold that vow, we earn merits to help us in our spiritual journey.

Missed Refuge
I had wanted to take Refuge when Rinpoche first offered it on Tsongkhapa Day in December 2006. He is not known to give Refuge easily but i had long planned to go skiing in Canada in December.. I was wracked by guilt for months after that perhaps i should have canceled my frivolous trip and stayed to take refuge. After all - what does it say about my priorities? Anyway, on that trip, I had my share of purification, skiing by day and transcribing CDs of Rinpoche's marathon 3 day talk by night. I fell sick by the third day and didn't ski for 3 days. Could barely transcribe even - although Susan and I managed to finish our allocated CDs within the agreed timeframe. But i digress.

So when JT sent an email around a couple of weeks ago to ask if anyone wanted to seek Refuge as Vesak day was coming up, I was quite excited and asked Susan if she wanted to take Refuge too. I felt it was a momentous decision and not one to be taken lightly.

Almost missed Refuge (again)
Ironically, I might have missed this Refuge opportunity too, as a good friend of mine, Pat, had asked me to join her and Adam to go to Tibet. She is based in Shanghai and planned to take the train from Shanghai to Tibet - a journey which would take around 52 hours but go through some amazing scenery. In spring, the views would have been spectacular. We would be gone for about 10 days - right through Vesak day and beyond.

I really wanted to go. I'd always wanted to go to Tibet. I absolutely love travelling with Pat - my dear and completely mad friend, with whom I have had many a memorable vacation. I hadn't spent time with Pat for years. She was stationed in Bangkok for the longest time and I had never made it to visit her - somehow there was never enough time. And now she's moved to Shanghai. So spending 10 days together would have been so great.

I had asked Susan and GL if they wanted to join on this trip. When the trip was first canvassed, Susan was in Ladrang, so it was unlikely that she could get leave - even though Rinpoche had said that as long as each person's duties were covered, they could take leave. Then nothing changes, everything changes - Susan was assigned to KMP (Kechara Media and Publications) so again, I thought maybe she could still come to Tibet. Or maybe I'd go to Tibet without her. After asking GL a few times, I felt that she wasn't really keen either. So when the question of refuge came up, I was glad I didn't commit to go to Tibet after all!

Preparing for Refuge
After shopping for offerings at YMT (Yogini Mystical Treasures in Lot 10), I was very excited and looked forward to Vesak day to seek refuge. However, obstacles always arise as usual - and we heard from JT that actually Rinpoche wasn't granting refuge on Vesak day but that the names of those who were requesting refuge would be submitted to Rinpoche on Vesak day.

I was crestfallen.

Why, why, why can't he grant Refuge on Vesak day? I asked with childish impatience. Because the events of the day was too packed already was the answer. JT said that Rinpoche could grant refuge on the real Vesak day which falls on 31 May. Real Vesak day? You mean this year's is not real? Apparently, Malaysia had decreed that Vesak day be held on May 1st this year while normally it's on 31st. I was quite dumbfounded by this but was quickly resigned to it and took it in my stride.

Vesak Day - Refuge at last
Then on Vesak day - when Rinpoche came to give a Dharma talk in the evening, he said he would grant Refuge that very night! Wow - it was so unexpected. Susan slipped out home to get our offerings and came back in time. Technically speaking, we received Refuge on 2 May as it was already about 1am when we were conferred refuge, but since 1 May wasn't really Vesak day, I guess it didn't really matter!

Rinpoche gave a short talk about Refuge and invited anyone who was present to join in. The initial group of people seeking Refuge were 14 - in the end there were almost double that number. Even a couple who had come to KH for the first time that day came to seek Refuge.

Rinpoche led us through the vows of Refuge - simple common sense rules to life - to not kill, lie, steal, not perform sexual misconduct (hmmm that one's a killer.. sigh)...no intoxicants (no booze, no drugs... )

When we recited our vows three times, we were granted Refuge, and we were given our Refuge names. Mine was 'Yangchenma'. Most people had two refuge names, Rinpoche said, but mine would be just one. Yangchenma is the Tibetan version of Saraswati - the Goddess of the Arts and Music. Then Rinpoche said add 'Tenzin' in front of 'Yangchenma' - but very small and in parenthesis. So it's like (Tenzin) Yangchenma.

He then gave us the oral transmission or 'lung' of Migtsema and the long and short mantras for Lama Tsongkhapa. Oral transmission is central to the transmission of teachings in the Tibetan tradition. When a prayer is given to a student from a qualified teacher in the form of a direct oral transmission, the benefits of the prayers will be amplified for the practitioner.

From today on, I can say 'I am a Buddhist' with conviction. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So here we go!