Thursday, October 23, 2008


I was driving home happily, when I asked Susan if she thought I was tolerant, very tolerant or intolerant. She replied that she thought I was intolerant though I thought I was very tolerant.

As usual, I didn't like it.

As usual, I brewed over it.

As usual, she was right.

I then wondered how I could become more tolerant. The answer was easy - to apply Rinpoche's teachings. It wasn't rocket science. I simply had to care more for others. To be more patient. To be more harmonious. To not let ego get in the way.

That's all.

Work in progress.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


No number of superlatives can capture the five day experience I had in Nepal. I had wanted to visit this spiritual land for years, and to do so under the guidance of my Lama was an incredible privilege.

When I initially asked Ruby about this trip more than a year ago, it was meant to be a small group - maybe five people - and possibly Rinpoche. When we finally arrived in Kathmandu, we had 61 pilgrims on the trip! And, the whole of KMP (and KIM) was able to go! Even Howie, Ms Han's wonderful cameraman, came. And Joan, a long time friend of mine, who decided to cancel her appointments and busy schedule to come on this trip.

On the first day, we had an audience with a stunning White Tara statue. HH Trijang Rinpoche had said that if you could see only one holy site, you should see this one, so we did. We were even fortunate enough to receive her blessings as the temple caretaker let Rinpoche put the holy red powder on our foreheads.

Rinpoche at the White Tara Chapel

Susan and I were blessed!

We visited four holy Vajrayogini chapels, made extremely sacred and secret aspirational prayers at these sites with the deep wish to be able to do the powerful practice of this Diamond Dakini. We touched our hands to where Guru Rinpoche's handprint burned into the outside of the cave where he gained Enlightenment, and made prayers inside the cave.

Guru Rinpoche's handprint

We made prostrations and offered butterlamps at many sacred sites - at the self arising Tara at Pharping. Here an image of Tara had miraculously manifested out of a rock. The local people built a shelter around it and this has since evolved into a temple. Other images of Tara are emerging and it is said that eventually all 21 Taras will arise from this rock.

Self Arising Tara

Highlights of the journey included a night visit to Tilopa and Naropa's caves where they achieved attainments from meditation. One of the Vajrayogini holy sites we went to at Sankhu also contained the ashes of a Nepali lady who had achieved Vajrayogini. When I visited places like this, it made Enlightenment seem achievable and so tangible that I could almost touch it.

From caves to stupas to chapels to hilltops and valleys - we literally ran across from Kathmandu to its environs, bumping through potholed roads (I'll never complain about a pothole in Malaysia again!) - every moment was an experience which words do no justice. Thank Buddha I did the prostration retreat before this trip - it made me just a bit fitter, at least I'd like to think anyway.

Emotions swelled and tears welled at the most inopportune moments but no one really gave a damn because we were all so drunk by the spirituality that is infused in Nepal. The whole trip was amazingly well organised. It is no mean feat to bring 7 vans of us around the narrow Nepali roads. We even had to change hotel in mid trip! The only medical casualty was Yek Yee who twisted her ankle and the only item which was lost was Ruby's glasses. Not too bad in the overall scheme of things. The Protector must have been with us every step of the way.

The blessings of this whole journey was all due to the generous compassion of our Lama, who selflessly took this bunch of spiritual wannabes and tirelessly explained the significance of every holy site, leading us through prayers which have planted seeds that are now up to us to nurture and cultivate.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Final Dedications

Wednesday night was our audience with Rinpoche when he would do the final dedications for our Prostration retreat with us. There was some nervous excitement in the air. A certain anxiety because on this day of all days, the Liaisons had received some disturbing news which would slow down Rinpoche's work. I was thinking that KMP really does have obstacles. KMP has been having so many obstacles to get an audience with Rinpoche and on this day of all days, when it should be a celebration of our Dharmic commitment and perseverence, there was a dark cloud in the corner of the sky. Everything is perception and we've learned that we should focus on the moment, not dwell on the past or future, so I decided to focus on the session at hand.

Rinpoche gave a splendid talk on sutra and tantra. He said that in ancient times, tantra was very secret. He then gave a brief background on how Buddha's sutra and tantra developed. In olden days, the rule of law was fairly inconstant in many kingdoms. When Kings changed, the laws usually changed. The only rules which tended to remain constant were those imposed by religion. Religious practices became beneficial to society as a moral policeman. There was actually a deeper spiritual meaning than just for establishing an ethical society, which was a only a side benefit of spiritual practice. However, this deeper meaning was often forgotten and only the focus on the rules remained.

In those days, there were lots of rules around religious practice; ladies couldn't pray when they were menstruating, you couldn't have sex during the full moon or near your Guru (the latter kind of made sense!), no anal or oral sex (so many rules about sex... strange) etc.

Buddha found that these 'rules' brought people a lot of suffering. People were focusing more on the rituals rather than the meanings, motivation or aspirations of spiritual practice.

So when Buddha wanted to teach, he skilfully introduced the Sutras, which was very much focused on the EXTERNAL. It was specially designed to appeal to the larger group who likes external rules. Up until today, Asians are very focused on the external, such as on etiquette and preservation of face.

The lower tantras and sutras have strict rules - these sutras are to be chanted at this time, practitioners can only eat this at this time, and what foods to eat or not to eat etc.

In the higher tantras, there are less rules as the focus is on the INTERNAL.

True tantric practitioners see you as you are. Rinpoche said that the immediate, not ultimate, objective of tantric practice is to 'blow your mind about what is right and wrong'. To blow all your concepts away to make your mind let go of what should or should not be.

Our minds are always so fixed. Even though I always prided (yes, the ego has landed) myself on being broad minded or open minded, Susan rightly pointed out to me the other day that I was NOT being broad minded or open minded because I was effectively judging those I deemed NOT open minded and I had felt superior to those who I thought was less open minded. Of course I didn't like it at the time, but when I contemplated on it, Susan was right.

Rinpoche added that the way we think things should be has made us depressed, lonely, greedy, angersome and jealous. All these emotions arise not from the object but from the subject and our subjective perception of the object. This is simply illustrated by comparing the perceptions of pork to different religions. To Jews, pork is anathema, but to the Chinese, a suckling pig would indicate a huge celebration or wedding. All these rules which have existed for years was fine when contained in each area throughout the ages. However, when the world opened up from technological advances which made travel easy, conflict arose from different points of view.

What concepts do we have to blow away, we may ask?
That we don't have to be sneaky to be happy.
That we don't have to hurt others to be happy.
That we don't have to protect ourselves to be happy.

then ultimately,
That we don't have to cherish ourselves to be happy.

To remove this self cherishing mind takes many lifetimes. When we start to go to that level of selflessness, tantric powers arise. These tantric powers are then put to use to help others.

We will develop great awareness, alertness, the ability to see things clearly because of great care. This will help us avert problems for others. This will help us not burden others. And yes, some people do have great awareness but they use it to steal and con others.

Tantric powers arise as an extension of care for others. Tantra is faster because it's more direct. A tantric Guru is more of a challenge to the students because the Guru will challenge your concepts and perceptions. People who get very happy also have a lot of fear. These emotions are two sides of the same coin. The intensity of feeling is the same. When we have great fear, it means we have a great ego.

Tantric practice is a direct method where the Guru will surface all our emotions; anger, jealousy, lust, animosity, confusion, happiness. The Tantric Guru will awaken your mind to see who you really are. Many students run because they don't want to face who they really are.

We now live in degenerate times and for me, at least, there's no time left for the slow path. I have humungous fears. A monumental ego. And I'm trying to chop it down as fast as I can before Rinpoche gets his vajra hands on it!

The Tantric Guru will press all my buttons to see who I really am out of great compassion. The Guru has great compassion because he or she has no fear for what us normal people usually hold dear - our reputations. Gurus courageously put themselves in the line of fire because they want to help those who may not want to help themselves. Not many people like to hear criticism, constructive or not. Not many people like to change, whether warranted or not.

All I know is my Guru will take me to Enlightenment, and I'll really try and make his job as easy as possible so he doesn't have to drag me to Nirvana, kicking and screaming!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Penultimate Day of Prostration retreat

Today, we have (almost) finished our Prostration Retreat at Kechara House. After 10 weeks of prostrations without a break - some days, we did a few hundred, some days we did three, but everyday, we would make at least three prostrations. And finally, we have (almost) completed 100,000 as a group retreat.

I keep saying almost because tomorrow evening, we will be officially completing the retreat at Ladrang with Rinpoche. All the retreatants are quite excited about tomorrow. We are quite an excitable bunch anyway but to have the blessings of the Lama at the end of our retreat is stupendous.

The whole experience was quite amazing. We went through ups and downs - changes in personnel, changes in our office, personal changes etc. And we made it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Eight Verses (again)

Today I meditate on the Eight Verses (again)... focusing on slapping my ego down and giving the victory to others. In the end, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong but how to work together harmoniously. Especially in Dharma, I have to be more Dharmic. Sigh.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.

I will learn to cherish all beings of bad nature
And those pressed by strong sins and sufferings
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.

When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take all loss
And offer the victory to them.

When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.

That's why it's called practice.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Update on Prostration retreat

It's our 10th week of prostrations, and our total so far is 96042. We still have to complete 10% extra to make up for any prostrations which were not done properly, so roughly we need to do another 15000.

Despite only getting 2 hours sleep last night, I managed to do 150 prostrations, bringing my personal total to 5247. That averages at about 500 a week, so if I continue at that rate, I will complete my prostration preliminary in about another 190 weeks!! Argh. That's like 4 years!! To be more realistic (and optimistic), I did 1370 prostrations last week, so if I can do 1000 a week, that's another 95 weeks, which is roughly 2 years.

Anyway, back to the KMP retreat, the members of our prostration group has changed somewhat. Joe and JJ have left KMP and joined Ladrang. Joey has left KIT and is being looked after by Fat Monk. However, JJ and Joe are still contributing their prostration count towards our retreat. So everything is on track as we hope to complete our 100,000 before we go on our Nepal trip in a couple of weeks.

So we need to madly prostrate away. I guess I have a lot to purify anyway.. so bring it on!

Why Buddhists talk about suffering and death

Last night, Rinpoche said that one of his Gurus, H.E. Lati Rinpoche, was once asked why Buddhists were so morbid, always talking about death and suffering. Why not talk about positive things? The answer was that it's not whether it's morbid or not but it's the truth. Positive or negative, morbid or not, all these are merely perspectives which can change instantly, depending on our mind. Also when we meditate on the impermanence of life and the imminent coming of death, we would be inspired to do more Dharma - or activities that would benefit others. If you had one day left to live - what would you do for that day?

This morning, Rinpoche said "I live everyday thinking when will i die. My time is soon. I wish i can do more. Time is short. I am not paranoid about it, but VERY AWARE ABOUT IT. It's scary sometimes. What i hate about life is death."

Rinpoche also added, "the sad thing is that the positive things, if you look closely, are really not positive at all and are based on self cherishing and leads to more self cherishing. That is the problem. Self cherishing....."

How true. Everything we hold dear, everything we fear, everything we love, everything we worry about - it all comes from the self-cherishing mind. To not want to face the ugly side of life is a form of cowardice and simply playing ostrich.

The irony of life is the inevitability of death and that every second and every minute, we are moving towards that finality. So I guess I'd better get my arse in gear and do more!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

KMP reopens!

We had another all night Liaisons' meeting with Rinpoche. We started around 8pm and officially ended around 7.30 am and we invited Rinpoche to see the new KMP. Our new offices were still in a mess but Rinpoche liked the decor - all done by our wonderful Margaret Lee and contractor Koon.

After a short chat, Rinpoche invited us all to breakfast at the vegetarian cafe across the field from KMP. Finally, around 11am, Susan asked that if JJ leaves KMP, can we request for KMP to be opened sooner than 2 weeks. Rinpoche replied that yes she could request. So she requested and Rinpoche said YES!

KMP staff were all very happy, especially as Rinpoche said that KMP will not ever close again. There is a very special team spirit in KMP - all of us love the Dharma and love working with the Dharma under Rinpoche's kind guidance.

After breakfast, we went to KH1 to do our prostrations - after a night of no sleep, Shin, Yek Yee, Susan, Jamie, Annette, David, Sio Chian and I only managed 7 each. Together with May Woo's and Prof Choi's 21 each, we only managed 98! Of course, we have to get Ms Han, Julia and Chris' counts still. Achieving our 100,000 prostrations seem very far away at the moment. But considering the purification we have been going through, I think it's still okay!

Monday, August 25, 2008

KSK hits Penang

The idea for a KSK fund raising dinner in Penang came from KH member Patsy Gooi, who is the sister of KSK Head of Fundraising, Liaison Ruby Khong. It was appropriate to have a fund raiser in Penang because it was there that H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche had first mentioned that it would be a good idea to have a mobile soup kitchen when he saw some homeless people in the streets. Rinpoche has been feeding the homeless for many years on his own accord, having suffered from homelessness and hunger as a teenager. In 2006, some of Rinpoche’s students decided to distribute a few packets of food to the homeless in KL and from then, Kechara Soup Kitchen was born. KSK wishes to purchase or rent a building in the centre of KL as permanent premises for a soup kitchen so that hot food can be served on a daily basis. In order to achieve this dream, funds need to be raised.

On 24 August 2008, the KSK fund raising dinner event at G Hotel, Penang, began with cocktails at 7pm. Guests consisting of Penang’s most charitable ladies and gentlemen, established corporate figures, high society ladies from KL and friends of Ruby and Patsy came glamorously dressed up to the nines. Kechara Media & Publications had a small table displaying the coffee table book, ‘If not now, when?’, where 30% of sales would be contributed to KSK. We sold three books only but better than nothing.

After a screening of KSK’s short presentation, Ruby Khong gave a short welcome speech. As she recited Shantideva’s dedicational prayer, which is always recited before KSK food distribution, the hall fell silent in respect for this inspirational prayer.

Dressed immaculately in a stunning Eric Choong creation, Celebrity TV host, Xandria Ooi, was the MC for the evening, and gave a brief history of KSK to the rapt audience.

Dinner was then served and the evening’s entertainment began with a dance performance by the Flower Girls, consisting of my mum, aunt, grandma and cousin. This was followed by a couple of songs from the guest of honour, YB Datuk Dr. Victor Wee, Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. He played the guitar and gave a wonderful rendition of ‘Vincent’ and ‘Jambalaya’. He was followed by another guest of honour, the blogger turned politician, YB Tuan Jeff Ooi, MP for Jelutong, who sang a Malay and then a Mandarin song.

Other performers included a group of high society ladies, led by Datin Maylene, who were friends of KSK Hon. Treasurer, Julia Tan. They had come from KL especially to attend and perform at the event.The ladies sang solos, duets and gave a group performance. Datin Irene and Datin Maylene were even sponsored RM1000 to sing another song.

The musical talents of Patsy and Soon Lee’s son, Gavin, were showcased as he performed his own composition on a keyboard. Our very own singing superstar, James Long presented two songs – ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘Sway’. James was then sponsored to give an encore for RM5000!

Although it was a Sunday night and the program ended late, the guests were all extremely happy with the evening. One gentleman, the husband of the lady who sponsored James’ encore, even pledged RM50,000 if KSK was to start up in Penang. Rinpoche was very happy to hear this and hopes that one day KSK will manifest in Penang and anywhere else so that people will never go hungry.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Everything Changes, Nothing Changes

Everything Changes, Nothing Changes?

I don't know about that. It's been a month since I had cheerfully written on the beginning of our prostration retreat. Since then, we have had quite a tumultous time at KMP. Joseph has since left KMP to join Ladrang - a change of portfolio that was felt by all to be the best for Joe personally and professionally. Most importantly, for the sake of his spiritual growth.

Since then, we've also lost Joey - he was finally fired after continuously refusing to be more effective and efficient. Due to his attitude, lack of performance and not following due process for issuing invoices, he was finally asked to leave. Due to Rinpoche's kindness, he was asked to stay on at Naropa House and was given a retreat to do. Unfortunately for Joey, his karmic obscurations are still preventing him from carrying these out.

JJ has also been in trouble. As he is able to perform, he was given a chance to reform his attitude but yesterday, he was up to his old tricks again. It's extremely sad that he has such great potential yet refuses to change.

On Friday, Susan, Shin, Jamie and I came to Penang for the weekend. We had been madly packing as KMP is moving to its own building. We had planned to come to Penang for a long time already - I was going to see my mum perform and help out at the Penang Home for the Aged and Sunday was the KSK fund raising dinner. Although we had agreed to vacate KMP old building by Friday, there was still some stuff lying around. Jamie and I had mopped the kitchen floor on Thursday and the place needed a once over after everything had been left.

Anyway, we had carelessly left David and JJ in charge of cleaning up KMP and happily sailed off into the sunset.

Big mistake.

On Saturday, Rinpoche asked where JJ was. As far as we knew, JJ was in KL. Of course, we had naively trusted that JJ would listen to Rinpoche's instructions to clean up KMP properly and leave for Penang on the last bus on Saturday night. Boy were we wrong. At 2pm on Saturday, JJ was already on his way to Penang and we were the last to know. Worst of all, it had to be Rinpoche who told us where JJ was.

I felt incredibly embarrassed. Not only was I negligent to check on the whereabouts of a reputedly unreliable staff, I also failed to oversee the condition of the property or leave someone competent to supervise and conduct a proper handover. And worst of all, I have to be reminded of my lack of awareness by my Guru. A Guru should not have to do mundane things like make sure a place is clean or check where the staff are. That should've been our job.

Then Rinpoche asked why Shin had to be in Penang so early since the KSK dinner was on Sunday. This was totally my fault as I had strongly persuaded Shin to come with us as we wanted to discuss JJ's issue on the drive down to Penang. I immediately told Rinpoche that Shin had wanted to stay behind but it was me who persuaded her to come to Penang.

After a few smses back and forth, Rinpoche said that KMP new building would be closed for two weeks because of JJ's actions and our lack of responsibility and ownership.

At 2.30am (Sunday morning by then), we had a two hour conference call with Rinpoche, who brought many home truths to us about our issues. All in all, it was a positive call. Suffice to say I learned a lot about responsibility and care. A bit of a late lesson but it's never too late to learn and I can safely say we will not do it again.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Entertaining at Penang Home for the Aged

My mum and aunt, in their 60's, have been doing charity performances in Penang and KL for a couple of years now. Today, they performed at the Home for the Aged and Infirm in Penang.

Despite the un-airconditioned hall, the performers with their costumes put on a fabulous show. Many of the old folks were glued to their seats and I was a bit worried that some of the older men might get palpitations when some of the performances were a bit risque!

The star of the show was really my 88 year old grandma in her debut performance!

Above is the pic of my mum on the left, my grandma in the middle and my aunt on the right. Below is a closeup (mum on left and grandma on right)!

On the far left is my cousin, Adrian, a medical doctor and dermatologist, who flew in from Sydney for a few days just to perform. My aunt, Adrian's mother and my mum's sister, is the one on the far right.

I was very proud of my family - to see the looks on the old folks' faces when watching my family perform was simply marvellous.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KMP's prostration retreat

Yesterday, KMP / KIT / KIM - Joe, Susan, Jamie, Yek Yee, David, Shin, JJ, Joey, Chris, Ms. Han, Julia - started our prostration retreat to collectively undertake 100,000 prostrations. 100,000 prostrations is one of the preliminary practices which all Tibetan Buddhists should complete in our lifetime. Our motley crew have been planning this prostration retreat since last year but somehow it never manifested. Finally, while the new KMP/KIT/KIM building is under renovation, we finally got our act together and requested for HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's blessings and advice.

Rinpoche kindly gave us a series of prayers to do, namely the preliminaries, the nine attitudes of Guru Devotion, the eight worldly Dharmas, Guru Yoga and the 35 confessional Buddhas. Our KMP sponsor, Annette Chan, and KMP patron, Professor Choi, were invited to join our retreat and they happily accepted. I dare say every single one was quite excited about starting this endeavour.

The group prostration retreat clears personal and group obstacles, which KMP felt would be very much appropriate as we embark on the next stage of KMP's growth - when we move into our own building.

We started at 10am and gave ourselves an hour for the prayers and prostrations. Yek Yee managed 270, Susan 250 while I only made 108. We gave ourselves 10 weeks to finish the prostrations, averaging 10,000 a week. Watch this space!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Four months

It's been four months since I last blogged. A lot has happened over four months. I don't know even where to begin. One of the highlights was definitely having the honour of being appointed as one of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's liaisons. The liaisons are Rinpoche's personal assistants and today, there are 17 of us. The liaisons council runs the entire Kechara organisation under the direction of Rinpoche as our spiritual guide.

The liaisons consist of Rinpoche's students, ranging from senior students who have known Rinpoche for more than a decade to those who have met him for a couple of years. Length of relationship is definitely not the criteria for liaisonship but 110% commitment to the Dharma and to Rinpoche's work is. We all come from different ages, educational and occupational and other backgrounds yet we are able to happily work together towards a common goal, continuously supporting each other through our personal transformations and growth in order to benefit others. Of course we're not all bodhisattvas - far from it - but at least we know what we aspire to and we have a kind and compassionate Guru who will show us how.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Woke up at 5am this morning and couldn't sleep... it's kind of weird because I only had like 4 hours sleep yesterday and the night before. Maybe it's jet lag from Bandar Utama to Bangsar. Thursday night was spent revamping the ksk website, and though it's nothing near our flashy site, I'm quite proud of my work! Friday night was spent with Rinpoche, an amazing experience as always and ended in the wee hours of the morning.

Then I had to wake up before 10am yesterday to have a photo shoot with some kind donors of an all women's sporting group, Dboleh's team 'wind', towards an SIPJ project. We then decided to go to visit Sheila, the receipt of the donation. Sheila is an autistic girl whom SIPJ is sponsoring for a few months. When we first met her, she was very unkempt and had no social skills due to neglect. After 2 months, she has blossomed and we were very happy to receive donations towards her care. It costs RM1400 per month for board and lodging as well as special coaching.

After that, Susan had to go for a land blessing and Sean and I went to distribute food for KSK. Traffic in town was atrocious, with roads closed off for the election rallies. While waiting in the stagnant traffic and then being told by the traffic cops that I was in the wrong lane so I couldn't turn right (I wasn't in the wrong lane), I had my first real regret that I had not registered to vote!

Anyway, I tried not to have negative thoughts since I was supposed to be emanating positive energy while doing community service. It was my first time driving the Pudu Market route on my own, and for company I had Madam Han Nee, a retired lady, and Sean, my 10 year old. It was really three generations in one car. When we arrived at Pudu Market, we didn't find many of our usual clients except for one who ranted and raved at Mdm Lim, fortunately from a distance.

We finished around 8 and after depositing Mdm Lim at Central Market, Sean and I went to see my mum at Crown Princess Hotel. She arrived today with her sisters and the St. George's Girls' School alumni group to perform for a charity event today.

By the time I reached my mum, she'd already had dinner so Sean and I grabbed a quick bite and headed home. I should be sleeping til the cows come home but somehow I wasn't sleepy. So here I am.

Maybe I'll read something trashy - that usually puts me to sleep.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

If not now, when?

Now! Now! Now! Yes - it's finally out.. the long awaited 1st ever KMP produced Coffee Table Book.. also known as "If not now, when?". This perfectly titled perfect book was conceptualised eons ago.. by one of the dinosaurs of KMP, Andee, who typed out Rinpoche's smses with two fingers. Jamie, Joe and i attempted to bring this one step further by compiling these quotes into a book of digital Dharma.. but as the smses went to his students, they were quite deep and we were not sure other people would understand them. The idea then evolved into getting quotes from Rinpoche's Dharma teachings, which had been published.

Then Shirley came up with a proposal to do a coffee table book of Rinpoche's quotes, which made Jamie and I scream Eureka! Shirley contributed a huge pile of lengthy quotes which Jamie and I added to our previous list of quotes. We then systematically went through and edited them down to bite-size morsels. Then we had the gargantuan task of choosing which quotes would be more easily illustrated. And which quotes to include! We loved every one of them, which made the whittling process even more difficult. We also fretted about an appropriate title, then Shirley came up with 'If not now, when?' which we all loved, loved, loved! And i still do. What better question should we all ask ourselves? And Joy and Justin's interpretation of the title on the cover design is fab.

Joy and Justin, our graphic designers extraordinaire, also came up with the wonderful graphics within. JJ, our 23 year old chicken, was the production manager and aged visibly by the end of the production phase.

Final artwork became not-really-final as we kept finding mistakes at each proofreading session. Were we blind?? Why didn't we see them the last round. And this was just the editors beating ourselves us! We won't even mention what the long suffering designers thought of us. Finally, JJ decided to take it off our grubby little hands and sent it off to the printers.

Anyway, finally, finally, finally - it's out! It's great! Rinpoche loves it! Andee, who is extremely critical about books, loves it! We love it! And we hope the whole world will too! If not now, when?????!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Manjushri graces Sean's altar

Doesn't Sean's altar look fabulous... Rinpoche blessed the Manjushri thangka we bought at the exhibition and I promptly rearranged Sean's room so his altar went against the wall and Andee helped hang the thangka up.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another blast from the past

Today, I met up with Catherine Durham - someone I hadn't seen for about 20 years.. another old Queenswoodian, who's been living in the South of France and working as a yoga teacher and massage therapists for billionaires on their yachts in the Mediterranean. In her other life, she travels the world and is about to go to Cambodia to teach English for a couple of months.

It was lovely to catch up and I brought Karen along since she was also an old Q. We had a splendid tapas lunch with a bottle of white... I discovered how many of our friends were divorced - and updated her on my state of things to which she just nodded, unfazed. Maybe Queenswood does that to you - nothing shocks us! Catherine was very sweet and treated us to lunch so I invited her to stay when she next passes through on her way back to Europe.

After lunch, I took Karen to pick up something in Bangsar and dropped by at Eric Choong's. It was lovely to see Ee Ling and her gorgeous little baby there. Unfortunately, Eric was ill so he wasn't around. Karen tried on a beautiful purple dress and Catherine said it was a looooong time before she could wear purple (purple was the colour of our school uniform)!

Catherine, Karen and I

Catherine and I

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sean gets a gift from Tsem Rinpoche

Ever caring, ever generous Tsem Rinpoche gave Sean a DVD today. His personal assistant, Beng Kooi, played Santa Claus today and dropped over the gift. Sean is his usual serious self?! Watch the video! hahaha...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Others are many while I am only one

On Friday, Rinpoche gave a fantastic Dharma talk. Even though the essence was not new, it was a much needed reminder for me to always focus on others, for others are many while I am only one. Rinpoche said that everything we do must be motivated by compassion; compassion for others, to take on burdens for others. To be happy to be sick, to shorten our lives, to lose money for others. This is the thunder-like proclamation of the Dharma. And how much we do that is how much success we'll have.

We all have fears and we are often debilitated by them. Don't hide behind your fears, Rinpoche said, focus on what's more important than your fears - think of others. Inspirational people and heroes all have fears. The difference is that they push themselves because it will benefit others.

He also taught us how to cut attachments to material things. Having or not having material things is not the issue - the attitude towards having or not having is the crux. If we lose everything, how do we feel. This is one way of assessing our attachments. How can we cut our attachments? Material items can be used as a powerful practice to exhaust attachment. When we buy things for ourselves, especially things we like, we increase attachment. However, by changing our attitude - that whatever we have, is not for ourselves, then it changes our motivation and thus our attachment.

Rinpoche then taught us some simple but powerful visualisation of having one's yidam on top of one's head and how we can transform everything we have into the eight auspicious signs and by focusing and believing strongly, we offer everything up to our Yidam or any Buddha we choose. And because everything now belongs to the Buddha, we have to take great care of our things. We have to keep them clean and in good condition.

We should do it not just as an exercise but as a daily practice. Even the scented soaps we use can be offered up. Beautiful sights we see. Nice textures we touch. We dress ourselves to look good for the Dharma. Everything we do becomes Dharmic practice.

So Susan and i promptly went to buy some new clothes - after all, Chinese New Year's coming, the shops were on Sale, we need to represent Dharma well and we get to make offerings to the Buddhas.

Isn't that fabulous?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fish Spa at Pavilion

Imagine a hundred little fishes nibbling at your feet.. ticklish? You bet! It's one of the weirdest things I've ever felt.. ok maybe not the weirdest ever *thinks hard and deletes some memories quickly*, but weirdest in the recent past.

Anyway, last night, I took Susan to try out the fish spa at Pavilion. I'd been curious about the spa ever since I read about it a while back. Fish that exfoliated your feet by eating your skin? One of the 'gotta try before you die' experiences. So we did.

Of course, I let Susan stick her toes in first. She collapsed into giggles as the little fish swarmed over her feet. Then it was my turn. I gingerly dipped my feet in and watched with slight consternation at the little fish (and not so little, as I noticed with sudden apprehension) gathering around my feet. It was almost unbearably ticklish at first and I had to try to focus away from the sensations in order not to whip out my feet (and wimp out in front of people - yes my darling ego is always with me).

Eventually, my feet got used to it and Susan and I simply got fascinated with watching the fishes work their way over our feet and calves. It was a rather strange feeling to be feasted on. Susan was worried that the fish might get poisoned! The half an hour session passed almost too quickly. Afterwards, Susan's feet were very much smoother - she says it beats any pedicure she has ever had. For RM38 a pop, it's not too bad.

My feet, which normally feel like leather anyway, marginally felt better and I was happy enough with the result to want to do it again.

Fish spa, anyone?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Andee reads my draft...

I've been so damned nervous about my Setrap book (is one allowed to say damned and Setrap in the same sentence) - even though I finished the first draft by Christmas last year, I've been fretting about it being not good enough. Is my faith in Setrap not strong enough that it would be successful? It was more like my faith in myself was not strong enough. Anyway, Andee - one of KMP's senior writers and known for being extremely critical of Dharma books - finally took a look at my draft.

Andee's face was inscrutable and I practically held my breath when he was reading through it - my intestines proceeded to perform triple axels. He turned each page slowly and measuredly and just as I was about to pass out from pure consternation, he finally looked up and said he liked it!

What a relief... of course he hadn't read it all yet - but whether he was simply being kind and compassionate to a budding writer or he really liked it, I'm just going to take his feedback at face value and continue to refine the book with added confidence!

Thanks, Andee - you know how to make a writer feel good..

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An ode to my Guru

His loving kindness
gently mends our broken,
confused, fractured lives,
casting an invisible breath
of blessings on mothers, fathers,
children, husbands, wives.

Sometimes he sends
a soft, velvet nudge to all,
sometimes it’s an
urgent blaring, clarion call
to us to dig ourselves out
from under the mud we call ‘me’
to uncover the Buddha we can be.

In this changing world
where nothing makes sense,
Where dreams are false and
full of impermanence,
He shines a beacon
Of logic and strength.
So when we weaken,
Falter or fall,
He’s always there
to guide us through
from near, far or anywhere
and teach us how
to transcend it all.

Stunned by love

While at the thangka exhibition yesterday, I decided to buy one. I agonised over which I preferred - the beautiful blue Medicine Buddha with gold brocade, or the unframed Chakrasambhava - Heruka and Vajrayogini in cosmic embrace or the three long life deities - the exquisite White Tara with Amitayus and Namgyalma. - or... the list was endless but those three particularly caught my eye. I asked Susan which she preferred but we still couldn't decide. Eventually, we both decided on the three long life deities.

I particularly loved the face of White Tara so whipped out my credit card and with a swipe and bated breath whether my credit card would bounce, it was ours. I had already planned where I wanted to put it.. in the dining area of our house, so I would see it every time I came downstairs. I asked Susan if she thought Rinpoche would sign on the back for us, and she said she thought he would - we would just request for it through the ladrang staff and hope for the best.

Happy with our acquisition, we then just continued with looking after KMP table and helping out at the exhibition where we could. Our shift ended at 4pm but we were still there till around 6. GL came and we went for an early dinner at a Korean restaurant nearby. Then Ruby called and asked if we'd be there til 10pm. We weren't planning to be, but if we needed to, sure.. why not. Susan said - why not ask her to come over to our house? I was like well I don't know what she wants, let's just wait til she gets back.

Anyway, around 8pm, Ruby came over and said ask the others to come, there's new stock.. so we rushed over to 'kay po' (busy body!). Then we followed her round the corner and Ruby stopped in front of the thangka we bought.

Then she told us that Rinpoche wanted to make the thangka a gift to us. And he had written on the back and.. he even put his thumbprint and seal on it.

We were stunned.

When I saw his writing on the back, I couldn't help but burst into tears. I was so touched by his kindness. Thinking of it now as I type, I am still feeling very emotional (hah.. so much for equanimity).

He is so very kind and generous. Susan was also speechless. I did immediately think that I was not worthy of such a gift but in the next split second, I decided that I had better make myself worthy then.

So - work harder, do more, contribute more, transform more, kick my own butt more..

Thanks Rinpoche, for your love and kindness and for always being the light.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tibet comes to the Pyramid

Kechara is holding its first public thangka exhibition at Sunway Pyramid this weekend. Thangkas are exquisite Tibetan paintings - usually of Buddhist deities or mandalas. All the thangkas on exhibition come from Nepal and are brightly coloured with the most elaborate ones painted with real gold. Thangkas are also traditionally brocaded with real gold thread and silks - all the best to represent our offering to the great Englightenment thought.

So the orange wing at LG2 Sunway Pyramid has turned into a Himalayan bazaar overnight - with stunning thangkas, gleaming singing bowls, painted tsatsas, consecrated wealth vases, shiny prayer wheels in copper and brass, silver mandala sets, gold plated serkym sets amongst others. A veritable treasure trove of Tibetan artefacts.

Kunga, our genuine Tibetan artist, who came to Malaysia specially for the exhibition is even giving classes on thangka painting. Joy, assistant director of Kechara Saraswati and other volunteers from her team are also here - showing people how to paint statues.

And we even have Raj, our visiting super tailor from Nepal, who has set up a sewing station to demonstrate the intricate sewing of brocade for the thangkas.

Several Kechara members and friends are sprinkled throughout the aisle, sharing with curious onlookers little known facts and explanations about each item. Of course KMP is here with its little table, which I am manning, offering our Tsongkhapa calendar for sale at a discount since we're already steaming away into January. Poor Tsongkhapa to be on discount, but on the other hand, if we can promote his image to bless more people, why not. It's the motivation that counts after all. KMP also has some of Rinpoche's books and audio book here too. Though officially we weren't really allowed to sell anything - it was meant to just be an exhibition but don't tell anyone, ok?

Anyway, it's all for a good cause. So let's hope we don't get a complaint from Sunway - though if we do, it's nothing new...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Karen meets the Buddha

On New Year's day, Ruby, Karen, Susan and I were at Rakuzen for dinner and JP called up asking if Karen was available for audience with Rinpoche at 8pm the following night. We of course said we were and Karen and I were extremely excited.

So last night, I picked Karen up at 6pm and took her over to KMP to get Susan for dinner. The party grew to include Shin, Yek Yee and JJ, and we left for centrepoint around 7.15pm. Time was running short and my order would have to be slow. In the end I cancelled it and we left centrepoint at 7.45. Fortunately there was no traffic at the overhead bridge and we made it to KH2 in ample time.

Karen was starting to get nervous which made me nervous so I decided to distract her by giving her a quick tour of KH2. Rinpoche arrived soon after and we settled into the audience. I love watching Rinpoche talk to people - he manages to put them at ease so easily and explains complicated things in the simplest, most comprehensible way.

After the audience, Karen said she was blown away by him. She said he brought clarity to her life and that she has much to think about. He had advised her to develop her spiritual side more as that is what will give her fulfilment in the end.

I really hope she takes the blessings he has given her to further her spiritual quest - wherever that lies. Oh shucks.. what I really hope is that she'd come and join us at Kechara - but I guess I shouldn't.

Anyway, we shall see :)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Susan's Birthdy and New Year's Eve

We celebrated Susan's birthday and New Year's eve at Bilique - the pub AP and Ester co-owns. We had a fab time.. a complete immersion in samsara - though we had many KH members there to keep us in Kechara!