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!