Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I will still maintain yangchenma.blogspot.com 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 http://sharonsaw.typepad.com/..
Thanks for joining my continuing journey..
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
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
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
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Monday, April 05, 2010
Sunday, April 04, 2010
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
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.
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
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
Saturday, March 20, 2010
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.
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.
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
Day 1: Kechara Puja Team wondering if they can do the same.
Day 2: Gorgeous Tormas to Yamantaka, Setrap, Dakinis, Kalarupa, Ngondro, Chindro
Saturday, January 30, 2010
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
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
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.