Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yes, I'm moving...

After trying to maintain two blogs while I explored typepad, I have decided to defect. Mostly because HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche is on typepad and it'll be easier to follow him if I'm on there too.

I will still maintain for as long as I can because of my archives (which i haven't figured out how to transfer over to typepad yet). I'm quite a technoretard so this may take awhile.

In the meantime, please follow me over at

Thanks for joining my continuing journey..

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

His Eminence Kyabje Lati Rinpoche Enters Clear Light

I've received many teachings, audiences, divination results, and persoanl advice from this incredibly eminent master. He was one of the greatest living Buddhist treasures left in this century. He was tulku (reincarnated master) and also Kensur (Abbot Emeritus) of Gaden Shartse Monastery. He was the guru to thousands around the world with several books out. He was the pillar of Gaden Shartse Monastery. One of the reasons for the success of Gaden Shartse is Lati Rinpoche. He took birth to benefit others in Kham Tibet in 1922.
Please read HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's touching tribute to his Guru HE Kyabje Lati Rinpoche who has passed into clear light earlier today.
Tsem Tulku Rinpoche is the perfect embodiment of Guru Devotion. He never wavers from his Gurus teachings and instructions and keeps all the commitments he has made to his Gurus all through his life. 
I am so grateful to Lati Rinpoche for asking Tsem Rinpoche to come to Malaysia and gift us with the Dharma. May Lati Rinpoche swiftly return to benefit more beings. Lati Rinpoche's blessings will continue and be amplified through the Dharma teachings and work of his eminent disciples who are also highly attained like Tsem Rinpoche.

May Tsem Rinpoche's vision of KWPC manifest smoothly and quickly.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Taking from the homeless...

This evening, I went on the Kechara Soup Kitchen Petaling Jaya route, with Mr. Lim driving, Clifford and Joyce in the car. It started pouring just as we headed out and many of the homeless were nowhere to be seen. We still ploughed on and Mr. Lim was the hero of the evening, heading out into the rain with our solitary umbrella to look for our usual clients.

At a particular bus stop, we gave some packets of food to a one-legged man on crutches who is one of KSK's regulars. As we left, we saw two big tough looking guys going up to the one-legged man and helping themselves to his food. What kind of people are these who can take from a homeless person who was an invalid? These two guys had a motorcycle, they were wearing watches, they obviously could afford food, yet they had no compunction about taking from the homeless.

We wondered if we should step in but what was the point? Those two looked like they could have us for breakfast. In the end, we just drove away in disgust.

What is the world coming to?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Gifts from Ann Woo

I received a surprise gift from Ann Woo today - a t-shirt and a couple of scarves. So sweet of her. She is truly someone who is all heart. Not just because she gave me a gift but that she is so genuinely caring for others.

Ann is the Executive Director of Nanyang Press Foundation and I met her last year at a Soroptimist talk about fund raising. She has raised millions for charity and said that we have to embrace fund raising rather than do it reluctantly. We often don't like to ask for money but we are not asking for the money for US. So why do we feel bad about it? We are asking for money to benefit others. How Buddhist, I thought.

I found that it such a great and inspiring talk and knew it would benefit Kechara greatly. At first, I was a bit nervous to ask her because I knew she was Catholic and Kechara is a Buddhist centre, but when I asked her, she immediately agreed and said that she liked Buddhist philosophy too.

She couldn't immediately come as there were some work and personal issues, but as soon as those were over, she came to give a talk to Kechara as she had agreed. She also had the opportunity to have an audience with Rinpoche after 'The Legend of the Conch Shell' show last year. She was extremely impressed by Rinpoche (after all, who wouldn't) and she has also been supporting Kechara in her own way.

She will be retiring from Nanyang on 17 April this year and she will be doing her own consultancy. I hope she will have more time to visit us at Kechara!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Quote from HH the Dalai Lama - shared by HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche

To be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Overheard at the Ladrang

"I can't hear because I'm munching" - David Lai

And in between - a blessing from the Lama

Just after we finished making the tormas and about to begin the Drolchok practice, we were suddenly invited to have an audience with H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. Excited as always, we went upstairs to see Rinpoche.

First, we had a surprise: Rinpoche unveiled his alter ego: Buddha man (as opposed to Superman)! This was a t-shirt Rinpoche had designed!

We all loved the t-shirt!! Only our Rinpoche is so multi-talented - a true Renaissance Rinpoche! Leonardo Da Vinci eat your heart out!

Then Rinpoche sat down and gave us a brief but inspirational Dharma talk. Rinpoche explained that the practices we were doing came from the illustrious Gaden Monastery, so they are authentic. Monks from Gaden came to teach us and we were the pioneer group of puja practitioners who would teach other lay people how to do the pujas. This would all lead to Kechara World Peace Centre (KWPC) - our future retreat land.

Most of the puja group were full-time Dharma workers or part-time. Rinpoche reiterated the same message which he has been giving for a long time - do not quit. Never quit. If we leave and wish to come back, things will be different already. Rinpoche also talked about Vajrayogini - that if we do not fulfil our commitments or finish work we have promised, when we get Vajrayogini's practice, we will not be able to fulfil her commitments either. Even coming to get the empowerment may not be possible because of the karma we have created. The effect resembles the cause, so we have to create the causes now.

Dharma work is what is ultimately fulfilling and what will give us happiness. Everything else will not make us happy. Rinpoche as usual, spoke with such pure passion for Dharma and uplifted all of us - what a beautiful motivation to begin our Drolchok puja session.

Rinpoche giving a Dharma talk

The Puja group with Rinpoche

Rinpoche and Mumu

Drolchok - Tara Puja - practice

This evening, we had a Drolchok practice (and train the new puja people) session. As with everything in Kechara, everything is speeded up so we were practising today and a 10 day puja session starts tomorrow! Here are the pictures of the group:

Prof Choi, Shirley Maya and David shaping their tormas.

Jamie showing everyone how to make tormas. "It's easy," she says.

moulding away

Adding the decorations

Girlie and Nicholas Lee in deep concentration

David making his torma

Here are the happy torma makers!

Practising in the beautiful prayer hall.

Jamie explaining how the puja was going to go.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Vege burgers at the Ladrang

Some delicious vege burgers which were homemade
by the Ladrang überchef, Justin Ripley

Head Ladrang Liaison JP Thong with a couple of burgers

Want one?

One of the wonderful (and fattening) perks of working at the Ladrang, where the pace is frantic and the pressure intense, is that there's sometimes a minute to spare for some good healthy food! You will never, ever go hungry in Kechara!


I was parked innocently outside Tutti Frutti in TTDI when a car just came and hit me! Luckily the damage wasn't too bad - just scraped up the bumper and knocked it a bit out of alignment. The lady came out grinning and said, "Sorry, I didn't see you!"... oh well. Some purification perhaps.

KMP is moving

Yes, it's time to move out and on. After a couple of months' delay, KMP is finally in the throes of moving out from our lovely, comfortable office on Jalan PJU1/3G to our temporary office just in the road behind.

KMP is vacating our office to make way for our new gompa. We moved in barely two years ago, in September 2008, but as Kechara has grown exponentially since then, the current gompa, affectionately known as KH1, is now too small to accommodate the crowds who attend Rinpoche's teachings.

Kechara has since acquired a few more shoplots, which together with KMP's current office, will be renovated to become our new gompa.

Today, KMP Liaisons start working at the Ladrang because most of the KMP office has had its aircons and lights removed from all rooms aside from two, where the non-liaisons will be working from.

The admin office currently looks like a sweatshop, full of boxes

This was the editors' office - my desk was on the left, closest to the corner. The aircon, lights and built-in cabinets have all been stripped and taken to be reinstalled in our temporary office. We will be in the temporary office for around a year before we move to our next office.

This was a cake we bought to commemorate our moving
- the bees represent the presence of the Sangha
so we thought this was kind of appropriate.

Here's some of the gang. From the left at the back, there's Judy our super admin who tolerates a lot of our nonsense and is developing the siddhi of non-attachments as things are always impermanent at KMP. Next to Judy is Deborah Pereira, our production manager, who is always cool no matter what. May i achieve her equanimity. Then there's me. Below Judy is Dr. Lanse, a qualified medical doctor who decided to devote her time to Dharma, where healing the mind is much more powerful that healing the body, which is impermanent. Next is David, our star writer and author of "There's No Way But Up".

On the right side, there's Fang, our very talented art director, Susan, our ex-intel e-communications manager and last but not least, Allan, our newest addition to the KMP fold - the marketing guy.

We offer the cake to Manjushri first.

David cuts the cake - to also celebrate that his book, "There's No Way But Up", has now been sold out and we need another reprint! Congrats David!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Kechara Soup Kitchen

This Saturday evening, Shirley Tan, Dr. Lanse and her sister Shiau Wen joined KSK's midnight round. We started off at KH2 around 9.30pm to pack the signature plastic bags of food then proceeded to the centre of KL to distribute them to the homeless.

It was a quiet night though and when Nicholas Yu, our team leader, asked some of the homeless we did encounter what happened, we heard that the welfare department had cleared many of the homeless because of the current F1 race in Malaysia. This happens regularly, especially when there are any major public events in KL.

I hope that wherever they are, they are not hungry.

"There's No Way But Up" Book Club

At KMP's book club today, David Lai presented his autobiography, "There's No Way But Up", which relates how he met HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche and how Rinpoche literally changed his life. Articulate, off-the-cuff, natural and passionate, David shared how he never thought he could write and that it was only through Rinpoche's advice to write and Rinpoche telling him he would be successful in it that he finally decided to write his autobiography.

Of course Rinpoche is never wrong as David's book sold out the first print and David has received great response from readers - not just from Malaysia, but other countries too.

David's writing style is his own and he speaks directly to the reader from the heart, sharing his love for Dharma always.

I am very proud of David - he has matured over the past few years that I have had the privilege of knowing him and I look forward to seeing him fly!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Death Meditation

Rinpoche came in and delivered a stunning Dharma talk - as usual. For me, it just pulled in the focus tremendously. He began by saying that people do Dharma for three different scopes of motivation. The biggest scope was for Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The middle scope was for happiness in this life and other lives. The lowest scope was to improve our business, our family life, relationships. Rinpoche explained that no matter which scope we had, it was still Dharma.

He asked - do we have difficulty choosing Dharma over secular life? Do we have trouble changing our habits for the better? Do we gain intellectual knowledge about Dharma but our minds don't change? If we have actualised death meditation, we would immediately change. We would be kind. We would work in the Dharma.

The reason why we do not choose Dharma over secular, Rinpoche said, was because we have wrongly placed value on Dharma. For something that we see has value to us, we will do anything, climb any mountain, cross every stream. Rinpoche gave a cute analogy. He said, if we were driving on our way to another town to collect 10 million dollars, if we have a puncture, would we just give up? No! We'd beg, borrow or steal something somehow to get over there.

We'd walk if we had to. We wouldn't give up. Because we see value in 10 million dollars.

When we don't know the value of something, when we are ignorant, we quit easily. We are lazy, we run away when things get difficult.

How much Dharma you do and how much you transform is 100% dependent on whether you do the death meditation. Rinpoche explained it very easily like this. We can always debate if God exists, or Buddha exists. Some people believe, some don't. But everyone believes in death. Everyone knows that they will die.

Rinpoche then took us through a death meditation where we imagined our senses closing down one by one, then our bodies being prepared for the coffin. We see ourselves from inside the coffin looking at the four walls around us. We imagine the soil being thrown on top of the coffin until we're fully buried and our bodies will never leave that box ever again.

If we are being cremated, Rinpoche said, then imagine our bodies melting like wax in the furnace. And everything we are just becomes dust.

Believe in death, Rinpoche said.

When you do Dharma work, you benefit yourself, your loved ones and those around you. If you're in Dharma and you experience problems, it purifies the karma for impatience, for failure, for anger. If you are not working in Dharma and you experience problems, it doesn't purify anything. You are just experiencing your karma.

I remember Rinpoche mentioning before about Dharma work where he said if you work in Dharma or if you don't work in Dharma, you will still come across obstacles. The difference is that when you are in Dharma, you suffer to benefit others. When you are not in Dharma, you are suffering to benefit yourself.

Rinpoche also talked about KWPC - our future spiritual retreat land and institution of alternative arts. KWPC stands for Kechara World Peace Centre, and was formerly known as Tsem Kachö Ling (TKL). Recently, the liaisons decided to change the name to be aligned with the Kechara organisation and for the name to be easily understood and not require extensive explanations. Voila!

Kechara will be having a get together with the members and Liaisons to explain the scope and objective of KWPC on April 10th. Rinpoche has a big vision and to achieve it, we all need to be aligned with it. It's really time to give back. We have gained so much from Rinpoche - from gifts to meals to movies to massages and of course the ultimate gift of Dharma. What have we given Rinpoche (except heartache and stress!). It's time to give back.

I won't mention so much of what he said here about KWPC and save it for another day! Rock on April 10th!

Watch this space.

Drama and Dzambala

Wednesday was a bit of a drama.

I was happily in the middle of a KWPC Fundraising meeting when I received a frantic call from Umi, who was picking Sean up from school. Apparently Sean was nowhere to be seen and ALLLLL the kids were gone. All the equanimity, calm abiding etc hurtled out of the window as I immediately panicked.

Fortunately, good old Henry was in the same meeting and his daughter goes to the same school so he promptly called her up and heard that Sean was seen heading back into school fifteen minutes ago. I told Umi to go to the school to look for him and she did find him in the end.

Basically, there was a miscommunication because over the weekend, I had received an SMS which was in Mandarin. Someone translated it for me and told me that it meant Sean did not have tuition at school until 18 April. Sean was supposed to find out about it and get back to me, which he never did. And I forgot to ask.

To cut the long story short, he did have additional class which was why he didn't show up at the bus stop where Umi was waiting for him. So instead of 2.45, his school would finish at 4.30pm. And Wee Liang was supposed to pick him up at 4pm and bring him for Dzambala puja.

Argh. I was tearing my hair out.

We were having a Dzambala Puja that night, which Rinpoche had recommended that we do 108 Dzambala pujas, where each participant would count as one puja. I had wanted to Sean to join in but because of his tuition finishing late, AND that he didn't do his homework the day before *sigh*, I decided that he should stay home and finish his homework. So I had to tell Wee Liang that he didn't have to fetch Sean but could he still please bring Sean's Dzambala set so someone else could use it. You see, only the puja participants with full sets would count as one of the 108.

So off I went to Dzambala puja. We had 54 people with Dzambala sets which meant coincidentally that we could complete the required pujas in one night if we repeated it twice. (Thank Buddha for Sean's set which Anila borrowed)

I do like the Dzambala puja - we get to bathe Dzambala, flick peacock feathers, do mudras - exciting stuff. And of course connect with the Buddha of inner and outer wealth.

After we finished the first round and happily went to wash our ritual implements to get ready for the second round. There was a bit of a commotion. A good one though. Rinpoche was coming over to join us!

But we had to finish our puja first.

So Girlie, who was our Dzambala Queen, galloped through the puja at a cracking pace! I didn't even notice how long it took - the first session took one hour and 15 mins so the expedited one must have taken less than an hour.

Before i could calculate, Rinpoche was there!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From KPss2 to KSA to BSC to STYLO to Solaris

Yesterday started off with a liaison task force visit to Kechara Paradise ss2 and Kechara Saraswati Arts - both a mere hop and skip away from each other. The liaison task force was set up as a roster for all liaisons to visit different departments in order to get to know how and what the whole Kechara organisation is doing. It is very easy to get so consumed by our own departments that we lose touch with what is happening in the other departments. As liaisons, we decided to implement this taskforce roster among ourselves to make sure this doesn't happen. My taskforce of Irene (HOD of Kechara Oasis) and JP (Head liaison of Tsem Ladrang, Exco of Kechara World Peace Centre (KWPC) and BOD) and I went to visit our outlet in Petaling Jaya.


KPss2 (ss2 is the area of Petaling Jaya where the outlet is) was our first retail store which was founded in 2000. It was also one of the first places I had visited when I got to know Kechara. It's managed by the petite always smiling Liaison Wan Wong who is always welcoming to all. I love looking at the items at KPss2.. there are more Buddhist statues and ritual items here as this outlet caters for Kechara members and the more serious Buddhist practitioner.


Wan is also the HOD for Kechara Saraswati Arts, which is the first ever Himalayan Arts Studio in South East Asia. Here, sewing of Buddha's clothes, brocade for thangkas, rolling of mantras for inserting into statues, beading, painting of statues and various other artistic activities happen. It is a fun and relaxing place to spend time while doing something superbly meritorious. It's a great place for families to hang out too as there are many different things to do. Anila, our Sangha member, is often seen at KSA helping to roll mantras.


After that, I rushed over to BSC to meet with my fellow liaisons Li Kim and Jamie aka Paris. Jamie had a fabulous fund raising idea for KWPC and we were meeting up with someone to brainstorm. I cannot reveal what the concept is yet as it's still extremely embryonic but suffice to say that the meeting was exciting, the potential is great and I can't wait to see how this develops.


From BSC, i ran back (literally, since I live almost next door) and after a quick check of emails, got ready to go to one of Malaysia's premier fashion events, STYLO. STYLO was conceived as part of the SE Asian region's Formula 1 activities to showcase Malaysia's top fashion designers. It was held in a boys' school in Sentul of all places - quirky but Dato' Nancy Yeoh, the organiser - did manage to carry it off!

Apprentice Liaison Bill Keith was chosen to showcase his beautiful designs (how i wish i had the figure to carry off his kebayas - kebayas are traditionally Malay figure hugging tops which Bill has interpreted in his own style) and he really did put on a show! He had a Malaysian version of Lady Ga Ga singing live while his models strutted their stuff on the catwalk. Awesome!

After the show, I bumped into a couple of Oxbridge friends who said nothing has been happening at the Society. Er.. yes... things have been rather quiet but we will have the Boat Race Ball in May which we are constitutionally bound to have.

Then Shirley Maya Tan, a long time friend who has been very busy in her media career, suggested we go for supper to catch up so off we went.


Shirley took us on a quick tour of her beautiful apartment while she got out of her glamorous dress and into comfy t-shirt and jeans while Susan and I remained in our STYLO outfits. I think we must have looked a trifle odd at the coffee house in Solaris that we eventually ended up in.

We sat there chatting, nursing our drinks on the pavement until the waiting staff politely told us that they were closing and needed to take our table away to keep. It was nice to catch up with Shirley which I hadn't done for awhile since both our schedules are quite hectic. I'm determined to make more of an effort to keep up with old friends this year. Especially since the passing of an old friend a couple of weeks ago.


After all that, I came home and promptly got on my laptop to finish off some work.

So another day ends and now another begins. And so the cycle goes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Memorial to Hock

The memorial for Hock this evening was really special. The room was packed with friends, colleagues, family. All the people whose lives Hock had touched and it was really quite ironic that it would take such a tragedy to get us all in the same room. I met some friends I had not seen for over 20 years. I just wish it wasn't under such stupid circumstances.

The eulogies were of course heart rending, yet every single person shared a medley of Hock's unending stream of practical jokes which drew laughter all round. Tributes were also given to his brilliant mind - he was truly a Renaissance man. Every sharing was a reminder of how full Hock's life was. A life truly well lived. During the recounting of the jokes Hock used to play, I did have an extremely irrational thought that Hock was going to jump out from behind the satin drapes and scream - surprise! It was just a joke.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

So, it's done.

Here's to you Hock. And we WILL have that bloody London reunion this year - and it'll be in honour of you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Choong Kuat Hock RIP

Last Tuesday, i was woken up by a phone call from an old friend, Michelle, who called from Singapore. She asked me if i heard what happened to Hock. I had no clue. And that was when the nightmare began. He had been missing since last Monday. I immediately smsed one of my oldest friends, Pyng, to ask what it was about and she was away in Germany but confirmed that Hock had gone missing. Later that day, I spoke to Huei who confirmed Hock's death as he was one of those who were at the police station to identify Hock's body. The rest of the day was spent fielding phone calls from friends and acquaintances, all asking about Hock. Some were just busybodies who wanted the inside scoop and I personally wanted to slap them. How macabre to use someone's death just for gossip. Oh well. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Anyway, I couldn't believe it. Hock was my neighbour in Penang but I only really got to know him in London. There was a group of us, mostly from Malaysia, who hung out together and later we always called ourselves the London crowd. The London crowd then basically consisted of the Queensway gang, who were Pyng, Huei, Jon, Don, Hock, Swee Im, Mee Lyn (yay - one person from Marble Arch!), Choy, Sook Kuen and many other friends. I was the youngest and only joined them during weekend exeats when I could steal away from my boarding school. Then we would have weekends of no sleep and plenty of parties. All legal though. We didn't do drugs though we did attempt to drink ourselves into oblivion and succeeded often. We'd rent cars for the weekend and go racing up and down Park Lane. Those were the days of Hippodrome and sometimes Stringfellows. Shopping in Bond Street and South Molton Street. Discovering Michiko Koshino and Issey Miyake. And Ixis in St. Christopher's Place.

We were young and restless. Very restless. I revelled in it. My parents had a flat in Marble Arch but I never went there if I could help it. I would come straight from school to the safe, friendly arms of Lancaster Close in St Petersburgh Place, where Pyng, Huei, Jon and Don and Honey lived. I'd stay in Pyng and Huei's flat, which was like a pub, so many people came in and out - the door was hardly locked. On the weekend, we'd invariably meet up with Hock and Swee to eat in our favourite hangouts in Queensway. And after a weekend of partying, one of my friends would often call my school to tell them I was ill and could I only return a few days later. Actually after too much partying on Saturday night, I did feel rather ill by Sunday evening. Those were the Halcyon days.

Then one summer, things changed.

We all grew up overnight when Don, Jon's brother, passed away. That summer, the London group grew closer, more sober (only just) with a realisation that we were not immortal.

That was a good couple of decades ago. Eventually, over the years, the London group went our separate ways, even to separate countries. People got married, had kids. No more partying. Jon was busy in Penang (though it was lovely to see him recently at Bangsar!). Mee Lyn is living in Hong Kong. Charmie is in Jakarta. Of course we'd meet up now and then and reminisce over the old times. Swee was in KL and i'd see her on and off too. I keep close to Pyng, who lives nearby and who i am very grateful for the friendship. Huei's kids and mine went to the same school for awhile, so we'd see each other occasionally. We'd talk about our kids, which school they are in, what medication we were on! Yes, we're growing old. All of us, probably except for Hock.

Hock - I had caught up with now and then. He was building his dream house in Bangsar, complete with pool and lifts! And this was for his mother who he loved very much. This was the kind of nice guy he was. We'd always did the muah muah air kiss thing and said we'd catch up soon. After all, we'd soon be almost neighbours - again. Or so I thought.

Famous last words. We were supposed to have another London reunion last year but everyone and I were just too busy in our little lives and never found the time.

So now, Hock has left us.

Now, all we can do is remember him. I remember him as someone completely mad. If there was a choice over two evils, he'd always try the one he hadn't tried before. He was always one for a laugh. A die-hard Peter Pan who never grew up and an irrepressible prankster. We got him back a few times though. Of course, aside from being this joker, he was an incredibly intelligent and talented guy. Qualified as an engineer and a chartered accountant, he was considered a financial wizard who had authored books and also wrote for The Star newspaper, 'Hock's Viewpoint', and the Edge.

Last Friday, a few of his old (literally and figuratively) friends got together at Swee's to remember Hock... I came with Pyng, and I saw Honey for the first time in years. That was a blast from the past. Sharon Wong was visiting from Singapore. I hadn't seen her for close to 20 years. The Choy family turned out in full - Wai Ceong, Wai Hin and Sook Kuen. George and Lai Cheng, who hadn't changed a bit. David Mah. We had cheese and wine and remembered Hock fondly. All his practical jokes. His joie de vivre. He was larger than life.

When I first heard of his untimely death, I wept. I wept for the old days. I wept for the times I was looking forward to catching up with him but never did. We always think there's plenty of time, then time passes. I forgot our mortality. Impermanence indeed.

Thank Buddha for being in Buddhism now, for I managed to pull myself out of the trough I was wallowing in. Fortunately for Buddhism, I can offer Hock something more substantial than tears and regrets, which would not benefit him one iota. Thank goodness for H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's Dharma teachings and letting me have the opportunity to do Dharma work, so that I can dedicate my daily merits to his good rebirth and benefit him in the long term.

Our Friday London group get together was nice because no tears were shed. Instead we drank to Hock and his effervescent life. I'm sure he is wandering around somewhere, playing tricks and practical jokes on the dakas and dakinis or angels in heaven. Hock was an agnostic (well, at least now you know for sure whether God exists!) though we did have some good conversations about Buddhism, which I think he identified with the most out of all the religions. He was by no means religious, except about having fun.

Wherever you are, Hock, you're missed. I'm praying for you. May you have a swift and good rebirth.

A moving eulogy by Mark Chang

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning Pujas

It feels like I've been in retreat these past few days - sitting in Ladrang with two lovely monks, Ven. Kating Rinpoche and Gen-la, who came all the way from Gaden Shartse Monastery to teach us Malaysians pujas. This was of course all H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's brainchild - to teach Malaysians how to do the pujas so we can practice here in Malaysia and even teach others in future. All this is part of Rinpoche's grand plan which leads to our future retreat land, TKL.

What's so special about the Ladrang is that it is designed purely for others. Every comfort is available and everything is prepared for our convenience, and the Ladrang Kitchen team prepares meals for us at the drop of a hat. Jamie, who has kind of become the Puja Queen by default, has been working on the pujas for weeks and weeks. Her desk at KMP has been vacant and she seems to have almost moved into the Ladrang permanently. During this week where the puja team is learning how to make tormas and the rituals involved in each puja, Jamie has been toiling night after night to prepare for the next days' pujas. I rejoice for her hard work (yay - i get some of her merit!).

What I love about these pujas is learning how to make the tormas and actually getting involved with painting them and making them. I learned how to roll the tormas to get that conical shape, how to paint the tormas with upward strokes so they don't crack. I got to paint Yamantaka, Setrap and Dakini's tormas. How blessed I am to get to do these wonderful sacred activities. And yes - these pujas will hopefully become books for practice in future!

The best part is of course the chanting of the pujas. I love to listen to the monks chanting in Tibetan. It just makes my heart sing. Perhaps i was a yak in the monastery field in my past life and the chanting brings back memories. I have always loved to hear Rinpoche chant and when Rinpoche and the two monks have chanted together, it's really, really stunning.

It just seems like that is what heaven should be like.

Today, we did the Gyabshi puja, which is the 400 offerings for the clearing of obstacles. It was really quite amazing. We made 100 torma offerings to the spirits, 100 stupas (represented by images printed on paper though originally, the monks would make 100 stupas to offer!), 100 spirit tsatsas, the sponsor lu (which we decided would be Sean!) and the accompanying offerings. It was all great fun to prepare!

Some photos:

Day 1: Gen-la making beautifully uniform tormas for the Menlha puja.

Day 1: Kechara Puja Team wondering if they can do the same.

Day 2: Sheningdunduk Puja - Heart Sutra
Day 2: Gorgeous Tormas to Yamantaka, Setrap, Dakinis, Kalarupa, Ngondro, Chindro

Day 2: Spirit Lus - colours representing different directions

Day 3: Stunning Gyabshi offerings set up on the side of the main altar.
Looked a bit like 'Lord of the Rings' (i thought rather irreverently).

Day 3: The Gyabshi Offering table in relation to the altar

Day 3: Sean as the sponsor lu!

Day 3: Here is the sponsor lu on the Gyabshi offering table

May all our obstacles be removed!!

I'm very thankful to Tsem Rinpoche for letting us have this opportunity to learn these ancient rituals to benefit our spiritual journey. And what a great journey it is!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grand Setrap and Dzambala Puja 2010 - day One

Today was the first day of the Grand Setrap and Dzambala Puja - our second annual event, and as promised, it surpassed our event last year in decor and atmosphere. The decor was done by our incomparable celebrity designer and Liaison Bill Keith - who has barely slept all week to make sure that the hall looked spectacular - and spectacular it was!

The theme of the event was 'A Garden of Wealth and Protection' and Bill achieved this by bringing lots of green plants and orchids which were strategically placed throughout the hall. A large water feature was created amidst rich greenery with a golden Dzambala statue within, which impressed many visitors.

Beautifully put together with Himalayan touches of traditional thangkas, skirtings and victory banners, the entire KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall was transformed into an ethereal atmosphere of colours and lights. Flickering candles adorned every corner, from the entrance of the hall up to the balustrade of the upper balcony.

Each of Kechara's departments had its own area, decorated with its individual and unique style. Kechara Media & Publications had a turquoise carpet, in synch with the colour of its logo. I even brought over my Bill Keith turquoise jacket which Bill designed and tailored for our London Book Fair trip last April!

We had a steady stream of visitors all day - from the moment the doors opened at 11am, all Kechara volunteers and staff have been talking, talking, talking about our departments and our organisation. In between, there were lovely pujas to clear obstacles for the New Year and for the hungry, there was a plentiful buffet provided by Kechara Oasis - vegetarian of course.

Today is also the funeral of one of my dearest friend's mother. I desperately wanted to attend the funeral but with what I know about Dharma, it would be more beneficial to her if I was to dedicate the merits from these two days to her good and swift rebirth, and to my friend's happiness and peace of mind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Care of my Guru

I've been sick with flu and Tsem Tulku Rinpoche smsed me as soon as he heard, asking if he can do anything. And before i knew it, a flask of herbal tea was on its way. My Guru is so extremely kind. He's so incredibly busy and yet he always takes a moment out for his students - and it's not that i'm special - he does that for all his students. Amazing. May i be able to care for others like Rinpoche.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The History of Wealth Vases

Time flies so fast... I've been to Penang for Christmas, Singapore for New Year, with a day in KL in between. Sean has started secondary school and goes to school via taxi, which relieves me to not have to leave the office during the day.

At KMP, we've had a book launch for If Not Now, When - the Peace edition at MPH Bookstore, 1Utama Shopping Centre, book signing by Jamie and David at KP outlets today, and several fabulous Dharma talks from H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, the latest of which was last night. KMP had gone over to Ladrang to have a meeting with the Kechara Paradise Outlets staff and e-Division to discuss promotional issues at 11pm. Why so late? Because the outlets at the malls, 1Utama and Sunway Pyramid, only shut at 10pm, so meetings involving the outlets usually only happen around 11pm.

Anyway, Rinpoche rang me during the break and told me to ask everyone to take a look at the wealth vases which he was sending down. And wow... three gorgeous wealth vases came down - in three different sizes, encased in glass and looked like they were floating on a sea of pearls. Rinpoche then came down and gave a fantastic introduction to wealth vases.

The concept of wealth vases seem to contradict Dharma in that Dharma is about renunciation so why would monks make these items to attract wealth? The monasteries made wealth boxes so that they could have enough financial resources to be able to carry out Dharma. The purpose of having a wealth vase nowadays is the same as the original objective of Atisha, who started this tradition - to provide resources for the growth of Dharma. If we would like funds to sponsor our Dharma work, the wealth vase will do its job. However, if we request for funds which will sink us deeper in samsara, logically, the Buddhas will not help us.

Rinpoche gave a brief background of the lineage of the wealth boxes. He explained that when Lama Atisha, the great Kadampa saint, came to Tibet from India, Tibet was a very barren land. As Atisha was a pioneer in Buddhism, it was difficult to get resources to build monasteries and support the Sangha. Atisha had achieved 3rd stage Bodhisattvahood, which meant that he could perceive deities directly and converse with them. His Yidam was the Bodhisattva Tara, and Tara advised him to make wealth boxes.

With these wealth boxes, Atisha was able to attract enough financial resources to create a strong foundation for the growth of Dharma. Atisha passed down the lineage of creating these wealth boxes to all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, which continues till today. The KEY to activating these wealth vases are our motivation.

These wealth boxes are called Yang Kam (Yang means wealth and Kam means box in Tibetan). They could be any size - some like a small cupboard or as big as a room. These boxes should not face a window or door, and could only be opened once a year to change or add to the items in the box. The boxes, once put in place, should also not be moved. The outer casing can be made out of any material, such as wood, glass, metal, though like all offerings to the Buddha, the better the material the better. Popular colours for the wealth box are gold, silver, white.Within the wealth box, there are 3 shelves. Usually there are 2, but Rinpoche said he prefers to have 3, so I'll go with 3.

There are two hooks on either side of the box on the top shelf. These hooks are to hang 2 bags separately. 1 bag is full of personal items from successful and people who have high achievements, such as Ministers, Celebrities, powerful people, the elderly and High Lamas. It is a Tibetan tradition to ask for a token from these people for their wealth boxes. The Tibetans would immediately know what you are requesting for, though non-Tibetans may wonder if you want a personal item to put a charm or black magic on them!

This bag of personal items represents wealth. The second bag is filled with jewelry, bought by ourselves. It does not have to be real jewelry - just whatever we can afford and would like to offer. The contents of these two bags are not to be changed but can be added to. If the items are too much, you can change to bigger bags.

Rinpoche explained that inside the wealth box, we place at least one wealth vase on the top shelf. There are different types of wealth vases - the most popular being Namse, Dzambala, Setrap, Tara, Mahakala (four-faced) and White Mahakala. The vases represent the deities themselves. As such, they are very holy items.

In the wealth box are several items:

1. Two containers - not to be changed but can be added to:
i) One of sacred earth and stones - which contains earth from holy places, like Bodhgaya, Nepal, from monasteries like Gaden etc.
ii) Another holding holy water from sacred lakes and rivers. The earth and water can come from any countries overseas too. As water evaporates easily, we place salt inside the container and then add the water to it. The salt absorbs the water and represents the sacred water.

3. Tormas (ritual cakes), represented by 4 containers of biscuits - to be changed yearly:
i) Yidam ii) Yidam's entourage iii) Deity iv) Deity's entourage

4. Sensory Offerings (total of 23 offerings)
i) 8 x Sensory Offerings to the Yidam
ii) 8 x Sensory Offerings to the Deity
iii) 7 x Wrathful Offerings

5. An arrow, usually wrapped in 5 colours, to attract wealth

Other items that can be placed in the wealth box are:
i) Animal figurines ii) 8 Auspicious Signs iii) 7 Royal Emblems iv) Pictures - preferably framed - of deities and High Lamas v) Brocades/Silks vi) Extra Biscuits vii) Medicines/Vitamins/Herbs

So that's the history behind the wealth box.

Rinpoche's glass casing with pearls is a modern equivalent to the wealth box. There are no special instructions with the wealth vase box - it can be near a window, door etc. It is designed from the kindness of the Lama to suit our busy, modern lives. It's clean, respectful, creates awareness, generates merit and activates the deity's energies.

Absolutely Fabulous!! Thank you Rinpoche for so passionately sharing knowledge as always.