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.