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