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!