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) 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!