Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Life is to Learn How to become Good Human Being?

I think the problem is different people have different definition of what constitutes as a “good” human being. I am sure you have seen many of these “good human beings” behaves generally well when they are around Buddhist friends or surroundings or when things are smooth. But once things are not that smooth, or when they are at home or in their workplace, they become another personality. Totally in contrast to their earlier good nature. They become selfish and uncooperative in office, etc, etc. They become angry and agitated easily at home. Come back from work and scold the husband/wife and children. They develop bad habits they don’t even realize it’s a bad habit. But yet, they donate from time to time to charitable bodies, they volunteer their time for Tzu Chi Merit, they contribute to print dharma books, etc.So, they do know how to do good deeds. The problem lies in dealing with their mental afflictions. I can assure you that 99% of us do not know how to deal properly with our mental afflictions (me included definitely :)). Actually not knowing how to deal with it, is better than not recognizing it as a problem. Many people don’t even know mental afflictions are a problem. They give excuses such as “I am a nice person, I don’t get angry. It is you/him/her who provoked me. My anger is justified.” By the Buddha’s standard (common in all traditions), a“good” human being has to do 3 things on a CONSISTENT basis:-

i. doing deeds that generate merits
ii. not doing deeds that will result in demerits
iii. purifying the mind

The third component above is the hardest to do and onethat many of us do not do. Or not yet do. Or don’tknow how to do. But the key is consistency. Rememebr that. That’s all. Thank you for reading –sorry if it’s a bore :) !

Purpose of Animal Liberation

I share a lot with a good dharma friend of mine and I thought maybe it's good to share here too, without naming who, something on animal liberation:- Slightly more than a year ago, I would have thought that releasing of animals is just releasing of animals out of compassion for their pain while in the trap or cage. In Mahayana, all these while, I see the release of animals as just that, i.e. release of lives from their cages, water tanks, aquariums, containers, cooking pot, etc. Then there are those critics who saythat by releasing some animals into the open/ natural environment, we would be opening them to even more danger. This group of persons says that we would be harming them more than reducing their pain. So, there is this controversy of whether you should release their lives if it’s just a matter of releasing of lives. Of course, saving from cooking pot is one thing. But is it just at that level? But now, my guru has opened a whole new understanding to me. Yes, by doing animal liberation, we are not literally liberating them straight to enlightenment. However, we are assisting them in planting good causes and condition for a better life or better chance to be reborn as a human or god in the next life. We are also helping them plant seeds for their own future practice so that they are able to meet with dharma in the next life and practice to achieve enlightenment. So, it is not about this life alone. In the long term, indirectly we are indeed “liberating” them. And because we are able to practice such compassionate activities, thanks to these animals, indirectly they are also “liberating” us. That is why it is said in the dharma verses that we should see all sentient beings as our precious mothers and fathers and more precious than the wish-fulfilling gem. That is why in certain dharma centers, before the animals are released, not only are prayers chanted for them, the animals are actually taken round stupas and other holy objects. Indirectly the animals are circumambulating the holy objects and these will result in some future good causes and condition. Yes, practically they may still be an animal after we“release” them and perhaps so (or even be reborn in the hell or hungry ghost realms) in their next few lives depending on their existing karma. But one thing is for sure, they have planted imprints or seeds that will one day surely result in a happy rebirth for them no matter how long it takes. If their animal karma is short, by chanting prayers and mantras to them, they may even quickly die as an animal and be reborn in the better realm or one of the pure lands. So, when you see animals dying after an animal liberation event, or after you recite some mantras to them, it may actually be a good sign. Don’t take it that your mantra is ineffective, or mantra is effective but your chanting is ineffective whichever way you see it. Don’t think of it like that. In otherBuddhist centers, the animals are not taken to goround holy objects, instead sutras and other prayersare recited. This is also good because even though the animals cannot understand a word of the prayer or sutra or mantra, it will create imprints for connection with the dharma in the future. And certain mantras are powerful for creating a strong imprint or seed, and will quickly bloom for the animal. Hence, it is not the term we use for this activity,whether Animal Liberation or Animal Release, the important thing is what we do to the animal. Yes, releasing a caged animal is good but it is of not much use from the Buddhist long term point of view. For that matter, it does not have to be confined to animals, we can apply the same practice to hungry ghosts (if you can take those that are trapped in bottles by local wih doctors, why not? And moreover, it’s the hungry ghost month, isn’t it appropriate?), and humans and even gods in the heavenly realms. Terminally sick persons such as cancer victims, they should circumambulate Buddhas and other holy objects as much as possible. In my area, we are fortunate that thereare so many places we can do that. The tiered pagoda at PBA (at the pool outside) and the large Kuan Yin statue are goodplaces to do “Human and whatever-Being Liberation”.

I have attended one animal liberation with KhenchenKonchog Gyaltsen several years ago and he brought my attention to an important point. It’s still there in my head after so many years. I kept thinking about it whenever there is animal liberation. He told me sort of in private after the chanting session, that there is not much point in doing animal liberation if you continue killing animals. You release some, you kill some (or maybe, more?), so if it is just releasing ofanimals, obviously there is not much point in doing so. Initially I thought of his comments from the vegetarian point of view. But then now I get a different understanding of what he could mean. Of course, being a vegetarian is good but then, there is this whole debate about this vegetarian issue, which I shall not enter. Rather I think it is not what you eat. It is how you are able to benefit those animals killed in the process of producing the food; be it meat or vegetables. Therefore, it is important for me to think before eating any food and see it as an offering. I won’t go into details here, but in summary, we should strongly think that we are grateful to all those alive or dead that results in the food on our table. And we dedicate it to the Triple Gem and by their offering their lives or service, we undertake to practice the dharma in return until we achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. By this simple motivation, all our food become pure and all the sacrifice for the food becomes worthy. And it is not only during eating. By reducing killing and applying dharma in every other aspect of our lives, our animal liberation activity becomes even more powerful. So, that’s my understanding now of the point made by my Khenchen-la. I’m sorry but my understanding of dharma is just up to this level. If there’s some mistake, please point it out.

Don’t be shy. So, peace and namaste!

Don't be so racist!

Turning this into a dharma discussion...As Buddhists, it is best not to get too carried away with this racial thing. Remember this (and I am reminding myself too) - that we are chinese or Indians or whatever only in THIS LIFE! We never know when we are going to die. And when we die, how do we know we won't be reborn in the exact race that we dislike/hate/oppose/seek justice or whatever we call it - as a result of our strong racial karma? If our dharma roots are not strong enough, we may not even get the opprtunity to listen to the dharma again. Buddhism is not only attending pujas, recite mantras, receive empowerments, etc ... we can have perfect attendance at every dharma events, but if we cannot actualise the dharma in practical situations and daily life, then what use is that? It means there's no transformation yet in our life. Think about it!


I would like to take this occasion of our nation's anniversary to wish all my friends in this group a HAPPY LIBERATION! And to urge us altogether to think about our own spiritual "liberation". When is that going to happen? More and more I have heard of young people having serious illnesses or dying young. The other day I reading the papers of a young Malay 30 plus customs officer having stroke and now unable to feed the family. His wife is not working and have 2 young children. another insurance agent's younger brother, also 30 plus, now has kidney failure and every month incurring thousands of dollars for treatment and kidney dialysis. And he only has RM30k odd insurance coverage. That's not going to be enough for the rest of his life. His elder brother died suddenly some years back (40 years plus) leaving the wife and children to fend for themselves. And also stories of young people having cancer. I am sure you have heard of more such stories. There's a saying that when things go smoothly in your life, you don't care much about the dharma. It is only when things suddenly go wrong, or life gets a terrible shaking, then this serves as "alarm clocks" to wake up and start practising. I do know about the dharma but sometimes also act as if I don't give any heed about it. So, I am also terrible , and if I am not careful, I will also get one of these "alarm clocks". Age is also catching up with me. Like my parents, they seemed resigned to the fact that they are old and will inevitably get some diseases/illnesses. I know her feelings when my mother said these words to me. Indirectly, they are just waiting for their time todie. I wished then that I could do something. But at this moment, I am quite helpless myself. So, I feel sort of anguish at that moment. You know what I mean? So, please reflect on these as we celebrate independence and ... enjoy the fireworks while it lasts!

Cheers and May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with all citizens and every sentient beings as well!

Buddha's contact number

A few things came to my mind and would like to share with you:-Pure Land , Zen and Vajrayana are diferent dharma doors and if we are not conversant enough in them, we can easily confuse and criticise the others. But if we truely understand, none of these contradict the others. All the teachings of the Buddha does not contradict the others. That's basically the essense of the Lam Rim teachings. Whether you recite "Amituofo"or "Om Mani Peme Hung", both are "phone numbers" we dial into to reach or "contact" the Buddhas. I like to use this analogy: The Buddhas' Headquarter has a lotof phone numbers where upon sentient beings can contact them. And unfortunately people tend to makethe "phone number" they choose as the General/MainLine. But actually there is no main line. The "phone number" you choose is not necessarily more important than the phone number I choose and vice-versa. You choose which phone line you are comfortable with and use it. The important thing is to pick up the phone and dial the number, not continue playing with the phone device. Only then can we "contact" the Buddhas or their assistants, i.e the Bodhisattvas and Sravakas.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Preciousness of Human Life

I feel that people don’t really understand how precious human life is. They only know the preciousness of their brains. But what else and why is human life precious? We are told of the story of the blind turtle surfacing to the yoke floating on the ocean once every hundreds thousands of aeons. Almost everyone has heard of that story. So, we know it is rare, but does that automatically mean it is precious? I think not. Something that is rare does not by itself mean it is precious. Lately, after contemplating on the preciousness of the human existence, I managed to get an understanding. I think it is precious because of the potential within the human body itself. As long aswe still have it, we should strive to realise its potential. Until then, it is kind of hidden. It’s like in the movie “Transformers”, Sam did not realize his old car is actually one of the Autobots until it transforms itself. No other type of body in the other five realms of existence has this potential. The body of the lower beings are replete with only suffering, whereas the higher realms, some of them have no body at all (i.e. formless) and most have a subtle body. It is only the human body (flesh, blood, everything) that is endowed with the cakras, winds and channels. If combined with the mind, there is great potential there. And since ancient times there are humans that have understood this potential. In Hinduism, they practice various types of yogas to tap the potential. We have seen them in their twisted bodies. The Taoists harness the potential in the human body for longevity and immortality through various qigong exercises and meditations. Buddhists are slightly different inmotivation. We don’t strive for immortality. Instead,we strive for enlightenment. Gautama Buddha, thehistorical Buddha, tapped the potential in the humanbody and mind to become the Buddha of our era. Hence, we can see therein within this human body of ours,lies so much potential, so much precious “jewels”.However, if we merely keep it but do not know how torealize it, it remains only a potential. It is likehaving a credit card that you do not have to repay butyou are not using it to buy things. Only keeping it. Nevertheless, for human life, keeping it is a respectfor its precious potential and rareness. Majority of humans do want to live as long as possible and they do respect other lives.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Building a Rock Solid Devotion

Dear J,
Actually my main point is relating to Guru Devotion.Our karmic delusion is the one that obstruct us fromseeing the Buddha as a Buddha. Even if the Buddha wereto appear before us in all his splendor we will not beable to see him due to our karma. Even in dreams, howmany of us actually have dreamt of the Buddha?Nevertheless, devotion is not just a feeling inside.There are steps in the Lam rim meditations that ismeant to enable us to actually gain the realisationthat would let us see the Buddha or Lama as a Buddha. Our lineage is unique in the sense that it emphasise alot on lam rim, getting a firm solid grounding on eachstep of the gradual path. Not just an intellectualunderstanding or emotional/feeling kind of devotion. The realisations that would come from having devotionwould only come about if we have a solid "seeing theGuru as Buddha", i.e. actually able to see it. And notsweeping aside any doubts pertaining to the Guru. Anydoubts must be resolved but not in an aggresive orrude manner like the "open letter". I pray you wouldbe successful in your lam rim meditations.

J wrote (July 2):
Dear ,
I think the answer lies in how we see things. Karma sometimes lead us to see, hear and feel differently. Understanding of karma is very different. When I posted to you the question about the lama's eating meat, I did not sit and meditate on this subject and jumped to conclusions. I was wrong in that sense. I don't know the exact translation in mandarin but I think it is "zhe zuo". If you can eradiate that then all answer lies there. What you think?

J was responding to this email dated June 29th:
More ramblings from me...hahaha... A lot of people are definitely loyal to HH The Dalai Lama. And a lot of people say he is the living Buddha and is a emanation of Chenresig. But are we ourselves able to see him as a Buddha? The question is: how do you support your faith in him by actual wisdom and experience? Not just devotion built on empty sky? By that I mean: devotion based on other's wisdom and experience. Not our own. Most people's devotion to guru is like that, very few devotion are actually based on own wisdom. Any Guru for that matter. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am not asking you to doubt your guru, no. Of course it is better to have devotion base on other's wisdom and experience than nothing at all. However only genuine> devotion from being able to substantiate that devotion from one's own experience of seeing the Guru as aBuddha will bring about realisations talked about by the Masters. I think the mistake that guy made in that open letter is that he is nto patient enough to wait for an answer from HH Dalai Lama. I don't think it was wrong for him to question the Dalai Lama but it was certainly rude to publish it in an open letter to humiliate him. If I had a doubt like he had, and it is certainly a genuine case. I mean, he had real reasons to question him and he is not wrong as far as the Buddha is concerned. The Buddha donot believe even himself just because he is the Buddha. Similarly we are not to believe or justify the Dalai Lama just because he is the Dalai Lama...IF IT IS A GENUINE DOUBT like in the open letter. While waiting for an answer from His Holiness by writing him a personal letter, he should wait and> adopt an open mind. Wait, even 10 or 20 or 30 years. Or longer. Meditate on it. He only wrote to HH for a short time (2 or 3 years is a short time). These kind of doubts must be cleared and not brushed aside or baseless justification. Does he know monks' vinaya allow him to eat meat? Like you had a doubt the other day, why the monks are eating nasi kandar? I also had that question before. I wasnot able to answer you> satisfactorily. We cannot adopt a double std - for monks we donot know, we question their acts. But for Dalai Lama, we try to justify. This kind of justification is not genuine devotion. So, I went around asking other monks. And my doubt was cleared. So, I have justified with proper reasons why His Holiness can eat meat even if he has no health problems. But in the open letter, the writer is questioning more than that. He is saying that the Dalai Lama is not> walking the talk, i.e. Not doing according to what he preaches. I'm afraid I also donot have an answer to those yet. I'll keep an open mind that someday I'll understand his actions and I'll just follow whatever he advices me to do. Not necessarily to follow what he does himself. I'll also pray everyday that he will make me uderstand quickly. Supplication to Guru is important to clear doubts. Remember that devotion is no different from blind faith without wisdom. Please keep this email to yourself.

Email sent dated June 25.
I am going to post a link that is controversial butnevertheless this is going to test you a lot on yourguru devotion and how you see His Holiness.

Sometimes in our practice things are not going to besmooth sailing. we are surely going to be tested everynow and then. This criticism should be seen in thecorrect way and remember the Eight verses of ThoughtTransformation. Would you react to the writer angrily?Or sugar-coat it or brush it aside? Or... Are you sureit is Guru devotion or you're just sugar-coating thereal issue? That reminds me of what Ajahn Sumedho said in one ofhis books. He said that in the West, Tibetan Buddhismis growing so well mainly due to the influence of HHDalai Lama. But Ajahn asked, what if the Dalai Lamawere to convert and become a Christian or marry awoman and become a layman. What would be theimplication on you? Yes- you, me, us! Are you going toleave Buddhism as well? If you are a monk, are yougoing to become layperson just to follow the DalaiLama "out of devotion"? Is that the correct meaning ofdevotion? We are not going to debate on what the writer wrotenor about the Dalai Lama nor about vegetarianism...rather it is about reflecting on ourselves. WhetherTheravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana, we can certainlyreflect on our own actions. Religious people sometimescan be so self-righteous, isn't it? This is just for your thoughts. PEACE!

My friend's first published book

This is such a precious piece of work that I think I should share it here, irrespective of lineage. I think everyone can benefit from it. As his friend, I have waited for "ages" to see his name on the front coverof a Buddhist book. I have encouraged him in the past to write some books. There is so much knowledge andexperience in this guy that it would be a waste for usnot to get some benefit out from him. What I am today,in terms of my spiritual knowledge and connections, isalso partly due to him. Even now, when I want to checkcertain things on dharma or get another perspective ofan issue, it is him I turn to. So, I often get a fair"check and balance" view. Not just listen to one side.So, out of this gratitude, and this is the small thingthat I can do in return is to share this email postedby himself to all of you here. Even if you are not from Drikung Kagyu, not to worry.Reading life stories of other lineage saints can be of tremendous benefit. For me, all these other Gurus comefrom my Guru. So, it strengthens my own devotion.That's how I see it. As I have mentioned to a fewfriends, devotion is not just a feeling. If it is justfeeling, it is like a house built on weak soil, itwill collapse anytime. I believe reading Namtars ofenlightened saints will supplement our devotion andmeditation, & gradually we will be able to actuallysee our Guru as a Buddha. Not just a feel or beliefthing.So, to end my "rambling", I am happy to see this work,which is co-written together with Khenpo Ts├╝ltrimTenzin.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Reflections on Kyabje Lama Zopa's visit

Well, Rinpoche has come and gone back. I managed to accumulate about 105,000 Tara mantras for Guru's long life. And also 500 mantras of Long Life Sutra and 18 days of Vegetarian pledge for both Guru and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's long life.

During the visit, I manage to ask Geshe Tenzin Zopa about the Dorje Khadro fire puja and he adviced me to get a oral transmission of the mantra from Rinpoche. Rinpoche agreed and said he will call me. On the last day of his visit before going back, he said he will call me from the capital city. As he did not call me, I take that as he thinks I may not be ready yet for this practice. However, due to his kindness, someone from Wisdom Publications offered me a book at no charge on The Essential Nectar. It is a book by Geshe Rabten and teaches the Lam Rim meditation in detail. Previously I had been trying to source for this book, even from Amazon. The Amazon sellers donot ship to my country and I even asked my US friend to buy for me. However, he had to leave the USA the next 2 days. So, he had no time to buy for me.

Haha...now I think fortunately he had no time. Otherwise, i would have to pay him. Then things started to turn around. Previosuly someone from Wisdom Publications told me they had no more copy left and it was out-of-print for many years already. Suddenly someone found a copy and decided to offer it to me due to it was adviced by Rinpoche to me. I thanked him so much.

So, you see, with proper Guru devotion, your Guru knows how to plan things for you, including your future realisations. After consulting Geshe Tenzin Zopa, he thinks that Rinpoche is trying to ask me to join the 3 years retreat. Geshe-la says I have so much prostrations and fire puja to do, and other things that it is better I do a long term retreat to finsih the preliminaries. Now that Geshe-la mentioned it, I think so too.

And after a lady friend from Drikung Kagyu let me see a video "Yogis from Tibet", now I realise I want to do a long term retreat. Maybe I will start with short ones, then one month, then 3 months, slowly increasing to 3 years.
In his letter, Rinpoche did ask me to do retreats. He saw that it is good for me. So, now I thank him profusely for his kindness and for taking care of me. But I must also take care not to rush things. Otherwise, everything may crumble.

All said, May my precious Guru live a long healthy life and may all his wishes be fulfilled immediately!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche live long!

I will just write a quick one here because lately he has been manifesting illness in Singapore's Amitabha Buddhist Centre. Some initiations and teachings had been cancelled.

May Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche live long!

I still need you! I am sure others still need you! So, please...please... live long!

Thank goodness, it was made known that the initiations will be given today and tomorrow! Rinpoche is better now. LDC had been asking people to accumulate Tara mantra and ABC advises students to recite the Heart Sutra 100 times.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Praise to Lord Je Tsongkapa !!

Over the last one week I have successfully defended Je Tsongkapa's view on emptiness as not nihilistic in nature. There were people accusing him of nihilism and using Gorampa's Freedom from Extremes work to cricise Tsongkapa. And they also mentioned the 8th Karmapa. However, in the end, they admitted that Je Tsongkapa is a saint and scholar and that he is not nihilitic morally. To me that is good enough as admitting that he was not wrong in his views. It is just interpreted as nihilistic by other analyst who may nto be a saint.

Anyway, I am not trying to say Gorampa is not a saint but there were no account of his practices and I was certainly not as impressed with his biography as I am with Je Tsongkapa. I am extremely glad that I was able to uphold the Ganden tradition high and not letting down my Victorious One!

My humble 3-times prostrations to My Lord!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why you should be born as my son?

To all sentient beings with good roots still in the bardo:

10 good reasons:
1. You will have a loving and good mother.
2. You will have loving and good grandparents who can take care of you.
3. You will be born into a Buddhist family.
4. You will have the opportunity to take refuge in the Triple Gem -Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
5. You will have the opportunity to meet with the Precious Guru - Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
6. You will have the opportunity to meet with other Buddhist Masters/Teachers and hear the dharma.
7. You will not born into a family which is poor/in poverty.
8. You will have a proper education and upbringing.
9. You will have the chance to be blessed by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche on this 28th and 29th May 2007 - very soon!!
10.If you are born whole and complete, and have the merits of dharma practice, you will be able to benefit us - your parents, as well as benefit all other sentient beings.

We have all the means and condition for proper dharma activities, so if you are my son, you will be able to benefit many many sentient beings!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Buddha: “ In the heavens as well as on earth, I am The Most Supreme”

When I started learning the dharma, I did not start with Vajrayana. And yes, even though you can learn about the small and medium scope path within Vajrayana itself, that would be to learn them from the side of Vajrayana. But I learned it direct from the side of the source. I started with Theravada, not by choice but by circumstance designed by affinity and previous karma. I learned from Theravadin teachers such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, the Burmese Sayadaws and the Thai Luang Pors, and others. In Mahayana Buddhism I learned about the Pure Land schools and Ch’an Buddhism and Zen from a few Masters and read countless of Mahayana Sutras such as The Lotus Sutra, Surangama Sura, Ksitigarbha Sura, The Platform Sutra, etc. I have also gone through many texts and commentaries from past Masters.

I have to state this, not to boast of my “learnedness” (because I donot think I can be considered as that yet). Rather it is for encouraging new learners not to form quick conclusions when you learn something. In fact what I am writing here is considered kindergarden stuff. Basics that I pick up as a beginner. I am still learning the really harder stuff like understanding how karma works, dependent arising, emptiness, etc. And that’s why I am still learning. But I have to write this to dispel doubts that the Buddha never said anything about him being the best. I also want to reconcile and put the pieces together between different views about how Buddhism should regard itself in relation to other religions.

It took me over two-and-half decades to learn Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Now I am like re-learning Vajrayana, i.e. seriously entering it as a tantric path. Even though I did not just started learning about the Vajrayana school, it was only recently that I could “see” and truly understand why Vajrayana path is considered the “swiftest” path to Enlightenment. Suddenly the Lam Rim that I have read before had “new” meanings. I have read about Lam Rim many times but this time, it is like “a path actually opened in front of me”. I am not sure how to explain this but it is not mere superficial understanding/intellectual only. After so many years, now I am truly ready to enter the quick path and take on a root guru.

The Path that I took is actually risky. Not many people could actually progress from Theravada to Mahayana and eventually to Vajrayana. But I did it. Some people stayed back in those schools by choice. Some could not progress further because if you are in those schools, there is a chance you might receive some misguided teachings that the Mahayana teachings are not true and merely fabrications. This is a fact. They will be telling you that theirs is the “original” teachings of the Buddha. This may be true to a certain extent because the Buddha did not actually teach tantra. And some Sutra did not exist at the time of the Buddha. But that is the beauty of Buddhism. The beauty of Buddhism is that it doesnot rely 100% on the truth of the historical Buddha himself. It means that even if you can proof that the historical Buddha did not exist, the buddhadharma would still exist. Anyone who has realized Enlightenment would in actual fact demonstrate the truth of the Buddhadharma.
So, to me, when someone talks that Buddhism is the best religion, they are merely referring to the eternal Buddhadharma and not the religion that was founded in the year 632BC. [Note: This ideal is, however, not found in Buddhism as religion alone. There are other variations of the same ideal and they are called by other terms/names. But from the side of the Buddhadharma, due to our ideal consisted of no existence of an inherently existing self, we consider that version of the ideal the best. And whatever religion/lineage has that version of ideal, is considered having the most supreme ideal. Unfortunately the concept of emptiness itself is in dispute within different Buddhist traditions due to different concepts of Emptiness].

It was the later enlightened saints that preaches tantric Buddhism and employs the Mahayanic skillful means to teach Buddhism. These are considered the 2nd and 3rd turning of Buddhism. In Mahayana, especially in the Lotus Sutra, it was mentioned about the Buddha using all kinds of skillful means to preach the dharma to sentient beings. These are considered Buddhist teachings and attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha (even though there is no conclusive evidence of how and whether in fact Sakymuni Buddha was the one who was reborn to teach tantric Buddhism in Tibet for example) because he was the one who represent the Buddhahood ideal. So to me, it doesnot matter if you cannot trace any teaching back to the historical Buddha as long as the spirit of the teaching doesnot clash with the general principles of the Buddhadharma such as the 4 Noble Truths, the ideal of Buddhahood, etc.

We can see Vajrayana employing plenty of skillful means such as the different deities, mantras, visualization techniques, prayer accessories, use of mandalas, etc etc. All these are for swiftly attaining of Enlightenment and nothing else. These are not to be attached to. In Zen Buddhism, there is a saying that before enlightenment, you use a boat to cross the river, but after reaching the shore, you don’t carry it around your shoulders. You leave the boat behind. When you have learned all the schools of Buddhism, you see the entire picture. But I am not advocating you to do the same (i.e. start learning all schools). No, because I have my own previous karmic pattern and path and so do you. To each, his or her own path to walk.

While it is true that HH the Dalai Lama doesnot emphasise differences in religion a lot, this is merely because of his skillful means in his role and responsibility to maintain harmony. Moreover, he is a Noble Prize winner. You cannot expect a public figure like him whom many regard as a living Chenrezig to be actively advocating Supremacy of Buddhism, can you? Like I said, Buddhism itself as a religion is not the best but the ideal of Supreme Enlightenment is. And this view is held normally in secret. It is not publicly acknowledge, especially during interfaith dialogues. But many high lamas and teachers have talked about it in their teachings. Lama Khunu Rinpoche may have talked before in his teachings that Buddhism is the best and a lot of people are aware that even a lineage Guru of FPMT - Pabongka Rinpoche also has this similar view. (And some people may even say he has an even more “extreme” view than merely saying Buddhism is the best, which I shall not go into). Some argued that it is because of maintaining harmony between the different lineages of Vajrayana and between different religions that His Holiness has the difficult task of disassociating himself from this so-called “extreme view” of Pabongka Rinpoche. So, in this respect you can see and reconcile His Holiness and Pabongka Rinpoche both playing their roles. The former is playing his role to preserve harmony among religions and the latter is playing his role to preserve the lineage of Je Tsongkapa and prasangika emptiness as he see it. Since both are considered enlightened beings, by reconciling their actions in this way, you have pure view of your gurus.

Vajrayanist talk a lot about Hinayana being the small scope and Mahayana as the medium scope. I would like to think of the terms “Hinayana” and “Mahayana” along the line of Lama Yeshe’s teachings. He said that whether we are practicing Hinayana or Mahayana, it is all in our attitude. The terms are not referring to any geographical or cultural set of persons or believers. And moreover, if you are in those other schools of Buddhism, they will be able to share with you whom they think has attained enlightenment. At least, some level of enlightenment. The only question is: which level of enlightenment? Enlightenment is not just one level. You can think of it along the lines of primary school, high/secondary school and university level enlightenment. When Vajrayanist talk about it being the swiftest path to enlightenment, it means the swiftest to the most ultimate state of Buddhahood. And if you fail to achieve that state, at least perhaps you will achieve quite a lofty state as well, and be assured of achieving it later.

Going back to the matter of the Buddhadharma (again, not Buddhism!) being the best, did the historical Buddha himself said to that effect anywhere? Actually that is one of the first few things I learned as a beginner. When I started learning Buddhism, I started with the life of the Buddha. When the Buddha was born, he took seven steps (and each step a lotus flower appeared) and at the seventh step, with the right hand pointing upwards and left hand pointing downwards, he proclaimed, “ In the heavens as well as on earth, I am The Most Supreme”. It can be viewed in two ways. As the historical Buddha, there being no other Buddha at that time, He indeed is the most Supreme One. Or, it can be viewed as him saying that the ideal of Buddhahood is the most supreme. Not rebirth in heaven as a god/goddess nor a brahma. At that time, most of the founders of modern day religions were not yet born. So, I donot think he was comparing religions. Not even with the religions at his time. He was referring to his state of Buddhahood. And if there are any other religion that is able to lead anyone eventually to this ideal, then that religion is also considered buddhadharma.

So, who says the Buddha never said he was the most supreme? Anyway, in all schools of Buddhism, we believe in the nine virtues of the Buddha. We always use these titles “Bhagavan, Tathagata, Arhat,… etc” to mean “ Omniscient One, Supremely Enlightenened One, Thus Gone One, or Thus Come One, …etc” to describe the Buddha’s qualities. Everytime we use these titles to describe the Buddha, we are in fact acknowledging Him being the Highest! We are acknowledging there is no one else that is higher than the Buddha. And if you are not acknowledging that, then why recite those titles associated with the Buddha? It will also mean, you have not completely taken refuge in the Triple Gem since you still have doubts. But I do understand sometimes it takes time to develop complete faith.

Therefore, it was not the Khunu Lama nor Pabongka Rinpoche, who was the first to claim the Budhadharma being the highest and best ideal. The truth is the Buddha himself said so. However, it is an ideal that is best kept close to our hearts and not go everywhere and preach to others like an evangelist. The Buddha also taught us to use “Skillful means”, and use wisdom and compassion. Believing that the Buddhahood ideal is the best is a personal confirmation of our faith in the Triple Gem; not a tool for creating disharmony/converting others. Buddhism is not interested in converting others. I remember, Lama Yeshe pointed out that after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, he did not go about preaching immediately. Someone from the Brahma realm had to request him to teach the dharma, then only he started to teach. This is one important point Lama Yeshe stressed that Buddhism is different from other religions.

As a religion, Buddhism is another skillful means, just like other religions probably are too (if viewed from the side of Buddhism). So, in that respect, it is equal to others. But as a way of cultivation or path to an ideal, there is none equal than releasing from the cycle of rebirth (which is empty from its own side) and attaining Supreme Buddhahood (which is also empty from its own side)!

By the merit of this sharing, may my Gurus live long, and may all sentient beings be healthy, successful and finally attain Supreme Enlightenment!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lama Zopa Rinpoche - Letter to the Glorious Buddha!

My Dear Glorious Buddha - Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche,

I heard You will be going to Malaysia and Singapore soon. I hope to be able to meet you there - either in Penang or Singapore or both. I pray that you guide me so that I know whether to go for the Ksitigarbha initiation or not. Or should I take the great Medicine Buddha initiation? And I pray I will have the conditions to be able to meet you without any obstacles.

I will always pray in my heart that you live long in this world to guide us all lost beings. You are the Spiritual Superman benefitting all sentient beings.

Long Live to you, my Dearest PRECIOUS GURU -

I humbly bow to you and seek the blessings of your holy body, speech and mind!

In Prostrations,

Your humble servant.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Message to Fellow Buddhists

After the retreat, I may still have my personal flaws and problems and delusions, etc etc, but it sealed my conviction that the Buddha's words and teachings are correct. After Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and now Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I have had the fortune of meeting true masters - Masters who are beyond all doubts Enlightened Beings, walking on this earth together with us. And we, normal humans could potentially achieve the same status. Don't just beleive me. You have to check it up yourself. This is also the advice given by the Buddha himself, i.e. to check up his words whether true or not. And not just accept it as truth. Only Buddhism talks about such thing. The Buddha is never afraid of telling people to go check his teachings and NO NEED to ask his followers to go propagate his teachings. He knows the truth of Dharma will stand the test of time and the truth of Supreme Enlightenment will propagate itself. By teachings I mean all the 3 teachings embodied in the main traditions of Buddhism, i.e. Therevada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. So, how then do I prove the Buddha's words were true?

The prove of Buddhism is in Buddha's Supreme Enlightenment. Buddhism is different from other religion in that it is not specifically based on one particular book, nor even baskets of books. The teachings of Buddha is any teaching/method that systematically bring one towards Supreme Enlightenment. So, in this interpretation even "other religions" can be considered as the Buddha Dharma. But the huge difference is in the method and time taken to achieve the final goal, i.e. Nirvana. Since the Buddha's time, thousands of people have achieved some form of Enlightement, be it Arhatship, Boddhisattvahood and even Buddhahood. Most of the time, people I know who converted to other religions often cited Buddhism as empty or without the "glorious salvation of their lord" or the "promise of resurrection". I find actually these persons donot know enough of Buddhism. They donot know enough of the Buddha's great teachings.

Buddhism is not just going to temples and putting some joss-sticks or lighting some candles and praying for this and that. This type of behaviour is really more suitable for other religions. In Buddhism we believe more in self-purification for the purpose of ultimately liberating all sentient beings. By liberating we mean, causing the same purification in others and hence, helping others achieving the same Enlightenment. Even if you donot achieve the Supreme Enlightenment of the Buddha, by sincere and proper practice of meditation, you will be able to gain some little, little Enlightements, i.e. lower levels of achievements. And there are many many thousands of Buddhists who have achieved that. And as long as you are on that track, you will be surely on the way to Supreme Buddhahood one day. So, there is no reason whatsoever in giving up Buddhism!

Other religions engage in a lot of active "spreading of the gospel" and they have a lot of support system especially if you are having emotional, health or social problems. These systems provide so much emotional and friendship that you feel like "saved" in the end. That is why a lot of Buddhists who were sick (or near death) or having social or family problems converts and turn to other religions for help. This kind of support system is good in a sense, which is not that apparent within most Buddhist organisations. That is why Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup adviced Buddhists to set up support cells within Buddhist groups, to provide needed suppport to their own members or friends. But the Buddha really provided more than this feel good temporary relieve.

I have participated in other religious functions many many times and often music is used to pump up your spiritual adrenaline. When you feel HIGH, you feel like you have entered some sort of estacy and bliss. You dance and move in praise of your Lord. I am not saying there is something wrong in this kind of "feel good stuff", in fact it may be a good thing to experience temporal bliss now and then, to remind you of the final BLISS. Moreover, such singing and dancing are usually acts of devotion. However, in Buddhism such indulgence in HIGH experiences is of not much use in your path towards Enlightenment. In fact it can be a hindrance. You can become so attached to such "happy moves" and "high spirits" that when you are unwilling to let go of such experiences. When the "high experience" ends, you experience much misery and unable to cope with your normal miserable life. Also when you die, there is a chance you may be reborn as a wandering spirit, i.e. smiling ghost. Happy... but nevertheless still a ghost. Still very much trapped within the cycle of birth and death. Behind such happiness, actually there is much sorrow! When you are still trapped like a bird in a cage, how much happiness can you enjoy? How much freedom do you have?

Of course, such happiness also exists within Buddhism if you want to, but this is not the approach of any of the traditions of Buddhism. Buddha exhorts you to engage in practices that bring REAL JOY, REAL HAPPINESS. He asks you to always remember the ultimate happiness - liberation from cycle of birth and death. When you become a Buddha yourself, you can experience all the bliss and happiness you ever wanted!

As Buddhists, we must remember that this is the main essence or message of the Buddha! As Buddhists, this is what we must know and not be easily swayed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Part 12: Going back home and picture gallery

On the last day of retreat, it lasted till the next day. By the time Rinpoche finishes giving blessings to each and everyone, it was nearly 4am. We slept only for a couple of hours. But I think most of us could hardly sleep anyway. Everyone was still excited - not because of it being the last day. Rather it was the long marathon teaching by Rinpoche and ended with the giving of precepts and refuge. There was new found joy in suddenl;y getting new brothers and sisters of this extensive FPMT family. And we were happy also for the meditative effects of Maitreya sadhana had on our minds. I think it made everyone think more of kindness and compassion. By the time we got to bed, it was 4am, but still some people were still lighting lamps and candles at the Maitreya statue outside in the cold night. They slept later. Nevertheless there are people who could not sleep and they are those who will be leaving the home life on NEw Year's Day. One guy from France in my room was shuffling in and out of the room. I could sense his uneasiness. Later I found him in the monk's robes and then only I knew. The Root Institute spiritual coordinator told us that we could go witness the ordination ceremony because Rinpoche had allowed us to. It would be early in the morning before Rinpoche leaves Root Institute.
When the ceremony started with Rinpochge inside the gompa, I went in the gompa too for a short while. Then I had to hurry to Bodhgaya market to get some stuff I need before I leave India. I hurrried there and got back as soon as I could not sure whether I had the chance to still see Rinpoche leave Root. I was fortunate, because when I got back, Rinpoche was still inside the gompa. It was way past 9am on 1 Jan 2007. It was only about 11 am that Rinpoche left Root Institute after blessingand receiving kata from the long queue of Buddhists/admirers. I gave kata twice - the additional one being for my mrs. I showed Rinpoche the picture my mrs and I took with Khenrinpoche. He was happy. And while waiting for Rinpoche in the long line, we saw a dog who stayed at the center and William from LDC commented that the dog was said to be a monk in a previous life. He must have done something wrong, but because of his connnection with the dharma, he was still able to be born at a place where there is dharma. Nevertheless, being a dog he now could not understand the precious dharma. That kind of underscores the importance of the precious human rebirth. DON'T SCOUNDER AWAY YOUR LIFE AS A HUMAN BEING!
Immediately after Rinpoche left, I had to leave too with Chung Han and Mr and Mrs MK Sen and their LDC group. I hitch-hike on their 4WD to the Gaya airport. I was reluctant to leave, considering all the pleasant experience with Rinpoche and the Sangha here. But then, ... "non-attachment, non attachment"! ha!ha!ha!
At the airport manned by Indian military personnel, we were checked so throughly (and so manually because there was no computer systems) that we felt like we were terrorists suspects or something. They even use the handheld metal detector to scan my shoes!
And the other interesting thing that happened at the airport was I met the Hing Kong actor named Wu Chen Ee. I didnot know him prior to that until William Foong of LDC asked me if I knew him. He asked me because I was talking to him earlier. He thought I knew him. Later I went to get his autograph in which he wished me a happy 2007 year!
And the rest of the journey back is boring stuff, till I arrived at Bangkok for a one night stay overnight. On arrival, I was told by the taximan that there was bombing somewhere near the hotel I would be staying. So, I should not wander around too much. Goodness! When I was planning for this trip back in December 2006, I had thought of arrival in Bangkok a day earlier. But due to the retreat not expected to end early on 31 December (expected to finish late , which it did!), I re-scheduled the flight back to Bangkok to 1 December. I donot know what would have happened had I reached Bangkok a day earlier. I can only see it as a blessing from Rinpoche that I was safe and sound throughout the journey.
So, this has been a long series of my blogs on the Maitreya Retreat. I plan to go for this retreat again at the end of 2007! Long live my Guru!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Part 11: Happy New Year 2007!!

Let me share with you one incident that occured atBodhgaya, during my retreat with K. Lama ZopaRinpoche. While the rest of the world was celebratingthe New Year 2007 on eve night of 31 Dec 2006 (I think so) , Rinpoche was busyrescuing Saddam Hussein. He got news of his death by hanging and asked us to follow along him in reciting prayers for Saddam's liberation. We recited powerfulmantras and dedicated merits to Saddam Hussein. We didthat before Rinpoche proceeded with other teachings.When we practice the 4 immeasurable attitudes, we do not choose one being and ignore another. I am sure if it was Bush who died, we would have done the same prayers.

While there was sound of fireworks all around us and I could not help that sometimes my mind keep flying far away back to my home town, but I could excuse myself because this was my first time celebrating the New Year's eve away from my loved one and away from my home town. There was no celebration this year, no evening candlelight meal, no "crazy" crowd, no "mad" spraying, no deafening music and screams, etc. Instead there I was chanting, praying and meditation in the peaceful gompa, surrounded by brothers and sisters walking the same path to peace. Most important of all, we are in the midst of our great Guru teaching and leading us to Final Emamcipation. My mind was thinking that maybe it was unrealistic to expect Rinpiche to allow us to shout and celebrate the new year, but at the least Rinpoche was going to wish us Happy New Year. Big Fat Hope!! hahaha!!

There was no such wish because for Rinpoche and perhaps same for all Buddhas, this kind of worldly happiness in at best temporal and doesnot contribute to liberation of the mind. In fact, such New Year madness often results in more suffering like drunkenness, untowards accidents, and what's more appaling is resulting in more delusions and ignorance. Engaging AND INDULGING in such samsaric activities would merely sink us deeper into pain. Hence, it is Rinpoche's opinion, I think, that it is far better to engage in Lam Rim practice than wasting time even in wishing "Happy New Year!". I am reminded of Je Tsongkapa's verse that worldly happiness is "the door to every pain".

So, 12 midnight went by quite uneventfully. BUT if looking from point of spiritual development - it actually was the most eventful night I had ever experience. Rinpoche explained about the Triple Precious Gem and the Precepts, among other things. So that was the way we greeted and ursher in the 2007 New Year! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2007! May All Sentient Beings be Free from Suffering and Achieve Buddhahood!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Part 10: Dharma Brothers, Sisters and Elders...

Now I am going to attempt to describe a little of the people I meet at Root Institute. I hope they will forgive me if somehow my description of them has inadvertently put them in a bad light.

First the people who share the same dormitory as me. As I mentioned, I was the only Asian in the room that sleeps 11 persons. One of the first persons I made friends with was Roman. He is a French student. Must be in early twenties, a new Buddhist (just received the Three Refuges at the 3-day Introduction to Buddhism by Ven. Sangye Kandro. He speaks English with a French accent. He is tall and lanky. He slept opposite of my bed.

The person who slept on my left was also a French, but older than Roman. He seldom talk to me and sometimes ignore my "hi"s. Maybe because of that, I have a feeling he dosnot like me very much. Only at the end of the retreat, he warmed up a bit to me. I donot know his name. And there were 2 or 3 other French..Hmmm, did France invade India?...hahaha...! Anyway, one of these other French guys, a burly huge guy, took the ordination vows on the early morning the day after the retreat! Now I know why he look restless the last few days of the retreat. Was he having last minute doubts (??) . He was mostly bald and not much hair left to cut anyway. Anyway, I feel proud of him and another guy who became monks and 4 other ladies who became nuns.

2 beds away on the left was a US war veteran and he now works with a construction company in the US. He reminded me of Hitler because he has a plaster patch on his upper lip..reminded me of Hitler's moustache! :-P He looked fierce and I was afraid of him initially. In fact, I don't like him very much from day one...and I have a feeling some of the others donot like him very much especially after he insisted the lights be switched off for him to sleep on the first day! hahaha...
Due to the patch I think he might be the one who snored at night, causing sleepness nights on the first 2 nights. It was so loud. On the 2nd night, there was the same loud snore, only this time every time he snored "GNORRR", someone else on the opposite side (not sure if it was Roman or not) would follow with a "Phewww" . So, it sounded like music - GNORR Pheww, GNORR Pheww, ....it was so funny I nearly wanted to laugh out loud! O-yes, I did eventually talk to this US war veteran. During one of the Q&A session with Ven. Sangye Kandro, he asked how to explain the many rituals in Vajrayana to Western students. He said Western students mostly are not familiar with these rituals. He was not satisfied with Ven. Sangye Kandro's answer which was very general and too simple (due to the many new students present there). A few days later, I had lunch (or was it dinner?) with him and I told him even Asian Buddhists not familiar with Vajrayana would find Vajrayana rituals and practices hard to comprehend. I suggested to him that perhaps these rituals aid in the path to enlightenment and that was why Vajrayana was called the swift path. He agreed with my explanation.

Then there was another US guy from Alaska..yes, Alaska...so far, right? He walked with me to the Mahabodhi stupa on the 26th I think. The day I bought the robes, which I mistook for a vest that look like a lama's robe. Actually it was a lama's robe! I even tried to put it on and I told myself I would wear it on puja days. I felt proud to wear it. Actually later I found out it was the robe of high lamas or abbots. haha...it was so funny. After I found out I asked Rinpoche's assistant , Jampa if I could give it to Rinpoche. He said it was not Rinpoche's size and the cutting was different. I checked with Ven. Tsapel later and she said the cuttign was corrct and she suggested I could offer it to Rinpoche. If Rinpoche could not wear it, he will give it to someone else. That's up to him then. I took up that advice and offered it to Rinpoche. It was auspicious actually, because on the 6th January 2007, I had read on the notice board that Rinpoche himself would be offering the annual robes to Buddha Sakyamuni at the Mahabodhi stupa. It was with that motivation in mind that I offered it to him.

Then there was the guy from England who never smiled to me, never talked to me until the last day when he was about to leave. That also I was the one who approached him. He slept at the far corner on the opposite row of beds. Right on his opposite was Matthew, a native Hawaiian (I think - because he has a tanned look and dark hair) . He was nice to me and someone who considered me as friend. At night he would be alone at the Maitreya statue making light offerings and circumambulating in the cold. I was amazed at his practice. He regarded the Dalai Lama as his guru and also Lama Zopa Rinpoche and another. He had already taken refuge and had taken some high Yoga Tantric initiations before, including Kalacakra from HH Dalai Lama. He is currently studying Tibetan at Dharamsala. Then there is another guy who didnot stay inside Root Institute (he stayed outside at oen of the hotels) and he smoked like chimney. Everytime he smoked, he would go outside the gates. No smoking allowed inside Roots. There was naother guy that looked liek chinese but actually not, from Netherlands. He also stayed outside and had to travel to Roots. If the lecture finsihes late, they had to go back late too. Another girl of chinese descent is also from Netherlands.

Besides Chung Han from LDC, there were 3 other girls - Sharon and Priscilla (the 2 most beautiful Asian girls I think :-) ) Then there was ...hmmm..Oh No! I forgot her name...she wear braces and she's short, and has short curly hair.... was it Mandy? She said she is "not a big fan of Rinpoche"...but came because Ven. Sangye Kandro is her heart guru and Ven. Thubten CHodron is her root guru. I find her friendly and helpful. She and her Singaporean friends (one more elderly lady and I thought is her son) bought small bottles of medicated oil for the many people coughing and having flu. Even though it didnot help much, still it's her thoughtfulness that matters. Then there was Ng (?) Swee Kim, the VP of Singapore's Amitabha Buddhist Center (ABC). He is so devoted and took the 8 precepts for almost the entire retreat except the first day! I think among the friends here, he talked the most to me.

At Root Institute, among the many elders I met was Ven. Tenzin Tsapel from Chenresig Institute, Ven. Damcho (the one who maintains the Sanghata Sutra website and responsible for the translation), Ven. Chonyi (an elderly nun who introduced me at Ven. Damcho who said she will be so interested in my story because Sanghata Sutra brought me to Rinpoche), Ven. Sarah Tresher (I just loved her voice when she led in the prayers), Ven. Mindrol (I am sure she was there but forgotten how she looked like), Ven. Namdrol (there were 2 Ven. Namdrols - one of which is a student of Khenrinpoche, and the other the assistant for Ven. Roger serving Rinpoche at Rinpoche's residence). Ven. Dekyong is the nun in charge of the library and previously served at Singapore's ABC. There was one embarassing moment in which I had to ask someone whether this Sangha was "a nun or monk?" My goodness!??!

And of course, Ven. Roger is so huge. He has a tattoo on his arms (I suppose from his "before Buddhist) days and he wears a red thread on his arms as does Swee Kim. And I suppose others too. I presume these must be those who had taken some level or kind of Highest Yoga Tantra.
Ven. Roger always looked stern to me like some protective diety. Yeah, maybe he is!

So, the above people and others I have not mentioned were my brothers, sisters and elders during my stay at Root Institute. Each one of them has made an impact no matter how small on me, and it is this brother-sisterliness that kept the entire FPMT family together. And we feel like a close knit family...at least it felt so at the retreat!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Part 9: Serving the Lama

One interesting incident happened on the Saturday 30 Dec 2006. At about the time scheduled for Rinpoche to begin lecture after the visit to the Stupas (3pm), I was rushing back from the Great Stupa, had a quick shower and was preparing to walk to the Gompa. The lecture was to have begun early. Usually it is at 4pm. At that time, I saw a lama about the size of Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup walking in a hurry in front of the Maitreya Statue and asking Melissa (Root's Spiritual Program Coordinator) someone something. He doesnot seem satisfied and looked worried. Then seeing me, he waved his hands to me and called me over. He asked me to take me to see Rinpoche.

I have no idea who he was but said to myself, I cannot reject giving my service to a lama, ...any lama. He was walking with a walking-stick, so I took held him by the hand and we went to the building where Rinpoche was staying. He had been informed that Rinpoche would be meeting the students at 4pm, so he had to hurry to see Rinpoche. He had some offerings to give Rinpoche. So I helped him up the stairs and Rinpoche's assistant I think his name is Jampa (Kopan's puja chant leader) was there to greet lama. Lama took out some fruits and Jampa put them on a plate and took them inside. He then sat on a chair and keep asking Jampa what Rinpoche was doing and if there was someone with him. I asked him what is his name, and he said "Geshe Tsering". Jampa said Rinpoche was doing some practices. Ven. Roger (Rinpoche's personal assistant and recently appointed President of FPMT) was also inside. I was asked to massge his tired legs. The lama was getting nervous and moved to sit inside the lounge area. I went in too to massage his legs and knees.

A short while later Ven. Roger came outside and talked to Lama. And then Ven. Roger had his lunch ( very late lunch!!) . Ven. Roger signalled me outside and said that the lecture had begun. And asked me if I wanted to go attend the lecture at the gompa. He said that they could take care of lama from then. After all , he said even when lama goes inside I would not be allowed inside (to meet with Rinpoche). I knew inside my heart that Ven. Roger thought that I was like trying to sneak inside to meet with Rinpoche. But I never had any such thoughts. I wanted to serve him by relieveing him of his pain in the legs. It was over 3pm and Rinpoche still didnot come out of the private chambers. He was giving consultation with a lady. After sometime, the lady came out and I think it was the other assistant - Sangpo- that said Lama could now go in.
At last Lama went inside to meet with Rinpoche.

While they talked and I heard Rinpoche laughed a lot (he was obviously happy to meet with lama), I met with Chung Han (of LDC) and he told me then that that lama was the late Lama Yeshe's brother! I almost floored...I had no inkling I was serving the Lama Yeshe's own brother?? Wow, I was actually massaging Geshe Tsering's legs and I didnot know?! What ever gave me this opportunity to serve him? It certainly felt like I was serving Lama Yeshe himself. At least I imagined it that way! Lama came out about 15 minutes later and I walked him out. Then he wanted to meet with the Librarian (Ven. Dekyong) but Venerable was already in the gompa and could not be disturbed. So he went to the kitchen and meet with the kitchen Indian staffs. They seemed to have known him and served him with some bread and milktea. Lama gave me his milktea, he said he doesnot want it. I took it since lama insisted but it was too hot to drink. Lama then went inside the kitchen and I (as attendant) had the duty to follow him. I oput the bread and milktea to oneside and went with him. He gave blessing to the staffs and then I walked him to the gates. He said no need but I had the duty to walk him there nevertheless. Half-way he stopped and searched his bag as if he wanted to give me something. But all he had were the balance of the fruits for Rinpoche. There was nothign else and he walked on. To me, lama didnot have to give me anything. To be given this opportunity to serve him was all that I needed. I paid the rickshaw 20 rps and asked if he had 10rps change. The rickshaw peddlar returned me 10 rps and I passed them to lama/ Lama refused to accpt initially. But I insisted and just said if he cannot accept it, then he should donate the money to the Great Stupa on my behalf. It was only then that he accepted my small gift to him. Small amount, but it was a pure gift from my heart. I waved goodbye to him and wished him all the best. I hope we will meet again.

Then I rushed back to the gompa and was told Rinpoche's teachings would start at 4.30 pm (just as I had overheard earlier at Rinpoche's building when Ven. Roger was talking to the recently appointed Director of Root (Ms Sally Dudgeon). During the teachings, Rinpoche certainly knew about the event even though I didnot meet him once at the chambers. He didnot see me with the lama. But he knew and immediately at the start of the teachings he said serving the lama will bring inconceivable benefits and realisations. It was my consolation because I had felt a little disappointed that Ven. Roger didnot arrange a private inteview for me with Rinpoche. I had felt that CHung Han and some of the others from LDC and ABC (Singapore center) were more closer to Ven. Roger and they had so many opportunity to talk to Rinpoche and ask him things, and observed him doing the pujas/practices... whereas I was so distant from Rinpoche. During that evening's teachings, a lot of his teachings directly hit me point blank. His dharnma teachings seem to be aiming at the problems that I had and had wanted to ask him. I had passed him a letter to him on the 28th asking for advice on my practice and a certain personal problem I have. The teachings that evening certainly was prove again that he was my Buddha and there was so much kindness in him to accept me even thought I was not the most pure hearted, morally pure student. There was so many flaws in me , yet Rinpoche accepted me with kindness. And gave me teachings that would be useful to me. I felt thankful that he knew my innermost heart.

That day was also that day I observed tha 8th precepts and it was certainly wonderful serving the lama. I had doubts for a few days whether I could observed it or not. I kept thinking of my stomach/gastric problems. But then I told myself that I must not miss this chance. There are many people who took it. I reminded myself of the verse in the "Source of all my good qualities" ... " protect my vows even though it cost me my life". It means if I take the precepts, I must not break it even if I were to be threatened to give up my precepts or die, not to mention gastric. Protecting ones vows and precepts are much more important. And I have also read Rinpoche's explanation that taking even one precept will create skies of merits. So I undertook the 8 precepts with these motivation in mind and woke up early (5am) that day and join a dozen others in taking the 8 mahayana precepts. The day ended without much of any stomach problems. I guessed I worried too much...hahaha!

It was a GREAT DAY! 8 precepts. Serving Lama Yeshe's brother. Rinpoche's teachings that serving the lama was the best thing to do, and his advices for my practice. One word: WOW!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Part 8: The Retreat Schedule

The retreat schedule was very tight. Except for the breaks in between for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and shorter breaks for morning and afternoon tea, there was no time allocated time for relaxation or "free" time. Even the 2 hours after lunch was not as "free" time. They were meant for us to go to the Stupa to practice prostrations and circumambulations. And we were adviced to do the Maitreya Sadhana at the Stupa, and visualise the Stupa as Maitreya Buddha. It was especially powerful to practice there. The concentration was especially powerful. Believe me, it is! I saw our retreat master, Ven. Sangye Kandro practiced right in front of the Bodhi Tree. After her session ended, I saw her face changed, I donot know what was her meditation nor what meditation diety she had practiced but her face certainly turned into diety-like. I could feel it that her visualisation was so powerful, she practically became a walking diety!

Rinpoche wanted it to be part of the retreat practice. Of course, there were no one to force us to go there and punish us if we donot circumambulate or prostrate, but it depends very much on our own self-discipline. If we take the time to go to sleep, then you might as well don't attend this retreat! Go home to sleep, don't waste time at Root Institute!

It is with this motivation, that I took every visit to the Stupa very seriously. Only on several occasions I took oppurtunity to take pictures. Other than that, I would circumambulate as many times as I can and prostrate several times. Of course, I am not up to the level of those lamas and lay Buddhists who prostrate so many hundreds of times a day...I really salute them!

Anyway, the retreat starts at 5 am every day for those intending to observe the 8 precepts. For the rest, it starts either at 5.30am or 6am. After the 8 precepts transmission of vows, the senior retreatants would do the 35 Buddhas' Prostrations and followed by Lama Chopa and Jorcho. Those who are newer to Buddhism, they were given guided lessons on meditations in the smaller gompa at the back. After breakfast, both groups join in the main gompa to do the Maitreya Meditation Sadhana. The joined group would first do the 35 Buddhas Prostartions first before the sadhana. After the short "milk tea" morning break, we continued with repeat of the Maitreya Sadhana until lunch time. After lunch, it is Stupa practice time until 4pm when we gathered back at the gompa to attend Rinpoche's teaching or another round of Maitreya Sadhana. The retreat was structured such that we practice the Maitreya Sadhana many many times repeatedly. And we were asked to observed the vow of silence at least until lunch time. Even after then, we were not supposed to mindlessly chatter about. After all, we were doing retreat, not playing games!

Rinpoche's teaching schedule is legendary for its timing. We just had to be prepared for any last minute changes all the time. The schedule changed practically every day for the first few days, then stable a bit only to change in the last 2 days. Due to Rinpoche had to attend to many of his students and projects, there were many unscheduled calls to him or sometimes he would see a need to do an immediate practice to clear an obstacle for someone or something, he would attend to it. Therefore his schedules had to be changed constantly. But it always turn out to be blessings and right for everyone. Noone ever feel tired waiting for Rinpoche, but they do feel unable to maintain the wakefulness state especially if the teachings drag on into the late nights or early mornings. This happened on the first night which ended at 1.30am (by the time we go to bed) and the last day which ended only at 4am. I did feel sleepy on a few occasions during the teachings and was trying hard to keep awake. However, generally I felt great especially towards the end during the Taking Refuge and 5 Lay Vows and where everyone lined up to offer thanka to Rinpoche for the last teaching session and to offer money! OK, that will be the subject of another part.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Part 7: At the Original Maitreya Project Land

On the 1st day of the retreat proper we were told that Rinpoche would do a 1000-offerings at the Maitreya Project Land. Everyone was wondering: what? At Kushinagar? If Kushinagar, then it will take about 2-3 hours from here. Could it be? Or is there another Maitreya Project land? We found out later that it is at the original site fo the Maitreya Project before it was moved to Kushinagar. A smaller statue of Maitreya is still at the Bodhgaya site and a group of us went there by Jeep in the afternoon to prepare the tables, rows and rows of water bowls filled with rice or water. We were divided into groups with the guidance of a group leader. I was tasked with handing the empty bowl to the tall American guy ("Tim" I think) and he would scoop a bowl of rice grains and handed it back to me , so I can put it back in position on the table and hand him another empty bowl.

I did that until about 4pm plus. The pain in my leg was killing me, I had to go back to put some oitment. Even though it was annoucned that Rinpoche would be coming for a short "inspection" trip at about 5pm with the someone (this someone turned out to be MK Sen and his wife, he has just been appointed as the director of the project at Bodhgaya - more of this below), I could not stay for it. Anyway I wanted to go for the Orientation at 4.30pm at the gompa. So, I went back with Swee Kim of ABC and a few others.

After the Orientation, Swee Kim and I took a ride at the rickshaw to the project site at a cost of 20 Rps each! But that was the price to pay since I could not walk much. Some of the others took the tut-tut outside the main road and it only cost 15 Rps each person. We had been told the teaching would be on the open air and it can be cold. We had been warned to talk our jackets, extra blankets, etc. "Cold hell" in Pure Land? hahaha... The rickshaw ride back to the site was cold and when we arrived, all the lamps and water bowls were already set up. I pick a spot nearer to the front so that it would not be that cold. Rinpoche arrived at about 8pm and we did the Maitreya Puja. And some teachings in between. Hot milk tea was served when it got colder at night. At one point we were asked to moved in closer to Rinpoche because there was still some space there and so that the people at the back could move closer. If it was cold at the front, I just imagine those at the back must be freezing cold! I was sitting right next to Rinpoche's right side. I was so fortunate!

O-yes, the toilet...there was no toilet near where we did the puja. We had to walk about 500 feet to the administrative building for the toilet. And it was dark along the way, worst I donot have a torch light! Luckily there was a group of Singaporeans and we huddled together to go to the toilet. Ealier in the evening, I went ot the toilet with Roman, my dorm mate from France.

Initially when I saw MK Sen , I thought he was Rinpoche's brother. His face looked a bit like him and I thought the beautiful lady that came too was a "Datin" from KL's Losang Dragpa Center (LDC). Actually she was his wife and MK Sen is the VP of LDC. She was just sitting next to me at the beginning of the puja when I sat in front of Rinpoche in the inner side just in front of the offering tables. Not in the front row behind the Sangha where initially I sat. MK had been appointed to revive the project at Bodhgaya but with the much smaller statue already there. He said he was shocked upon hearing the news. He used the word "almost floored". As someone said, "You need not go to Rinpoche. When the time is right, he will find you." He gave himself a 30 year timeline for the project to complete. As I found out from the director of the main Maitreya Project at Kushinagar, a simple signature of approval can take 10 years! No wonder the project seems to be dragging at its feet!

It is Rinpoche's wish to fulfil Lama Yeshe's vision to built as many Maitreya statues as possible here in India as well as hopefully, in other places around the world later. The finished the puja and teachings well late into the night at 12 midnight. But we had been warned that it will be like that - cold and late - yet with Rinpoche around, everything was bearable. Bearable because we were there to create skies of merits and offer them to the success of the project and to all sentient beings. At the end of the dedication, Rinpoche mentioned something about sponsors - from LDC, and I spontaneously mentioned "Penang!". I donot know why I did that but it made Rinpoche turned to me and laughed , "Penang?". Rinpoche had such a good humor.

All through the puja, I had the benefit of knowing Rinpoche's incredible mind. He could really read my thoughts. The moment I think of something, or wished that he would mention something, Rinpoche really said it in the next few seconds. Once he was dedicating to sentient beings, and Rinpoche was specifically mentioning "...crickets, bugs..." Then it occurred in my mind "Cockcroach..Rinpoche, cockcroach...". The next thing I heard was "cockcroach" from Rinpoche's lips! Incredible. Then there was the time when Rinpoche dedicated to success of FPMT centers.."I quickly thought in my mind, "May Rinpoche dediocate the merits to CGC so that CGC could own its own property soon". The next thing Rinpoche mentioend was that FPMT centers would have enough money to own its own building or pay off debts!

Not once, but twice. I am convinced! And again it happened back at the gompa on the last day of the teachings. He just read my thoughts and gave advice to be on guard against tsunamis of emotions, negative actions, etc. He said something like we should declare war on these negativities. And he just know what I needed to hear...what would benefit most considering the problems I have. He somehow knows my innermost problems! It was a great experience there.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Part 6: Meeting with the Buddha

I hurriedly did a few rounds of circumambulation around the Stupa, got the Buddha robe and quickly got back before it gets dark. In Bodhgaya, around this time fo the year, day time is shorter. It gets dark at 6pm- the same darkness as 8pm back in my hometown. The time difference is about 2 and a half hour.

The office had pinned a notice that Rinpoche would arrive at 5pm that day. I thought I had missed him, but thanks to some blessing, when I got back at RI, I found out that there would be a delay. Rinpoche would only arrive at nioght but not sure what time. We will just have to wait. Thank goodness I didnot follow the KL group to the Stupa at night because I would have missed Rinpoche.

As the night grew darker and darker, my heart grew with much anticipation. Wow - my first time with Rinpoche. Wow! The time I had been waiting for. Finanly at about 11pm, Rinpoche's blue jeep drove in, and out comes the Magnificent Guru!

He was smaller in built than I had in mind, but larger in life than I thought. There was a long line of waiting eager devotees/potential devotees each with a kata cloth in hand. I could not find the yellow golden kata I thought I had brought here with me, so I bought a new kata. When Rinpoche reached me, I said to him " It's so nice to see you ...". I think he put the kata over my head and laughed (or smiled and said "Yes" I am not sure) and held my head with both his hands. I saw that for the others before me, he was very quick in putting the kata over their heads. He was tired by now with all the travelling. He needed rest and there was not going to be any teaching for that night.

I retired that night feeling so happy, almost estatic ..kept thinking over and over again Rinpoche's blessing of me awhile ago. That was my first meeting with the Guru. Good night my dear Magnificent Guru! Thanks for the sight of you and the blessing!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Part 5: Mahabodhi Stupa and HH the Karmapa

After arrival and checking in, I went to the Mahabodhi Stupa alone. Actually I was supposed to go with the KL people but I after waiting for some time and could not find them, and moreover my watch time was stopped (it fell down in the bath room!) and hence, I was not aware at the time we were supposed to meet. Anyhow, those KL people didnot go in the afternoon, they went in the evening, after dinner.

I went there by riding on a rickshaw - it's about 15 minutes ride from the gate. There would usually be a few rickshaw peddlars at Root's gate waiting for potential customers. If there were none, then you need to walk out a bit to the main road, that will take you 10 minutes walk through the paddy fileds, along the way you will see a lot of cowdungs lay everywhere. These local people would pick the cowdungs with both hands and put it on the road side for it to dry. For them, they see it as money or fuel or somekind of cement to patch up their wall. But for most of us, we shun those dirty "shit". See how different our perceptions are. The same thing but different mind see it differently. This is a good example that objects have no inherent existence. Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness.

All along the narrow road to the Great Stupa, there were rickshaws, motorbikes, tut-tuts like those in Thailand, old rusty cars and occasionally you see some new cars. And the culture here seems to be that you need to hon to every vehicle you pass by. Initially it was quite annoying. Everywhere they go, they would sound their hon or ring their bicycle bell when from my own judgement most were not necessary at all. All these noise make the road seem busier than the roads backhome such as Penang Road. I guess maybe because the road have no lines and were not properly divided into lanes. Or maybe it has become part of their road culture. I don't know but after one or two days you get used to the hons and rings on the road.

There were smaller temples all along that stretch of road: Cambodian, Thai, Japanese, there is supposed to be a Korean but I didnot see it, Chinese temple, and of course, Nyingma, Gelug and other such Tibetan-styled temples. And needless to say, motels lined up all along the way to the Mahabodhi Stupa for the many tourists. Towards the Stupa, there were petty traders manning stalls selling from clothes, fruits, beads, bells, and other Buddhist prayer accessories. The scene reminded me of the night markets ("pasar malam" in Malay) back home in Malaysia. It was busy and you can see hundreds of saffron-robed lamas - young and old - almost everywhere. There wasnot much time for shopping really, but yet time and again I had reminded myself that the reason I was there was not for shopping. It's for the Maitreya Retreat and my aim was seeking some kind of realisation (even if a little) from Rinpoche. If I had wanted shopping, then I might as well stay home - there's a spranging new shopping mall back in Penang.

At the main gate, there I saw the majestic Stupa. Rising up into the sky, it seemed to greet me and at that moment I just felt extremely grateful for the Buddha's blessings to enable me to actually be there - on the same earth that the Buddha walked more than 2500 years ago. I saw hundreds of people diligently doing full length prostrations all around the Stupa. They have special planks and hand cushions, so it does appear like they were just sliding down the plank. But I believe their hearts were sincere. I circumambulated the outer ring before going inside. Had to take off my shoes. Went in the main shrine and saw the monk changing the Buddha's robes. Devotees would go to him and offer robes for the Buddhas and he would take out the old one and put in the new one. Then there was the "black thing" on the floor - a monk explained to me that it belonged to a Hindu god. If I am not mistaken, it is Siva's footprint. Devotees would bow their head to the footprint or offer money/flowers. I followed others and bowed. Outside the shrine, there were two standing Buddhas and I bowed down to the one on the right. Immediately I felt a gush of tears flowing to my eyes, as if Buddha was really there. There I laid my claim to full enlightenment just as Sakyamuni Buddha did, by aspiring to full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Later I did the same thing to the footprints of the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. I felt the same emotion there. It happened many times on different visits to the Stupa.

On several days of the retreat, we were requested to go to the Stupa to do our practice. So, I did several sessions of Maitreya sadhana there. And we were also taught what to recite before circumambulation and while circumambulating. Several mantras were orally transmitted to us. We were also taught to visualise numberless bodies of ourselves while prostrating and reciting. The experience was tremendous and so was the merits and blessings from this practice. The practice would not be complete without dedication of merits. So, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught us how to dedicate the merits the proper way.

O-yes, and on a Friday (29th Dec I think), HH karmapa was teaching at the Mahabodhi Stupa compound. He was just right near the Bodhi Tree. I caught many glimpses of him. Ming, Sharon and Priscilla from LDC all were trying to catch him in their phone cameras. I think Sharon got a really close-up shot at him. I got one too but not that close-up. Later they had a brief meet-up session with HH Karmapa and he gave them mani pills. I was so frustrated that noone told me about it even though I was with them. But it's okay - it was not much of a problem Just to catch a glimpse of the Karmapa is considered very blessed indeed!

On another occasion, I went to his temple nearer to Root to listen briefly to his teachings. I saw him from very far. Actually this was the first glimpse. The Stupa was the second. The third glimpse was when on the way to the Stupa on the Saturday (30st), his jeep and entourage sped by. The rickshaw I was on had to stop upon hearing the police siren. His face was calm yet attractive just like the Buddha's. I am considered blessed already. By the way, I learned that Root Institute has hosted him to give a teaching there once before. I think in early 2006. Root also hosted other teachers like HH Dudjom Rinpoche and HH Ling Rinpoche.

I think I definitely will return back to this holy place again and again. Hopefully my wife will come too next time. She'll fall in love with it. Hahaha!

No money could buy that experience I had at the Stupa. No money...!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Part 4: Root Institute

A Brief History (extracted from www.rootinstitute.com)
Root Institute for Wisdom Culture came about at the wish of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a highly qualified and respected teacher of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
'Lama' as he was known to his students, passed away in 1984 after having spent the last 15 years of his life tirelessly sharing the Buddha's message of wisdom and compassion with thousands of Western and Indian students. After his passing, his reincarnation was officially recognized by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama in the form of a young Spanish boy, Tenzin Osel.
Lama Yeshe inspired many centres around the world under the banner of the FPMT, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. This organization now has a membership of over 110 centres with varying purposes such as monasteries, schools, leprosy projects, retreat centres, publishing houses, city centres and hospices. The activity of each centre depends upon the needs of the local community. All of these centres however, are inspired by the universal Buddhist ethic of compassion for other living beings.
It was the intention of Lama Yeshe that Root Institute be a dynamic centre where the Buddhist ideals of universal responsibility and education could be taught and practiced.
Also, due to India's role as the source of the Buddhist teachings, her kindness to the Tibetan people and continued support of Buddhadharma, Lama Yeshe wanted Root Institute to preserve and spread the rich variety of India's ancient wisdom culture in its religious, philosophical, educational and cultural manifestations.
Today, Root Institute is under the spiritual directorship of Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the heart disciple of Lama Yeshe, who took over the responsibility of the FPMT after Lama Yeshe's passing. The Institute is a multi-faceted Dharma centre providing for the needs of both spiritual seekers and the local community.
His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama visited and kindly blessed Root Institute in 1989 and again in 1998, expressing the opinion that it will be of immense benefit to the numerous people who visit Bodhgaya throughout the year. His Holiness was particularly pleased with our social work projects.

Root Institute was started in the 1980s and Rinpoche remembered very well even the first house that was built by an Indian benefactor. On his last day, he introduced us to the lady and his daughter. RI is indeed guarded by a 10 foot wall all around it. And there were guards outside the gates. Outside on the gates, we written clearly for whosoever steps inside it:

1. No Killing
2. No Stealing
3. No Sexual activity
4. No Lying
5. No taking intoxicants (including tobacco)

It stated that it is a semi-monastic center with monks and nuns living inside, therefore these serve as policies for everyone who steps inside. I have to walk a bit on stony, dusty earth before I saw somebody. I quickly wave to the huge Western lady (compared to me, that is) and she turned and greeted me. She turned out to be Ms Karein, the person I had been corresponding with from RI before I came here. She was very friendly and asked me to put my luggage outside the office because it was lunch time. And because it was Christmas day, a special Christmas luncheon was done. The requested donation was 120 Rps. Well, I put the dishes on the dinner plate and went up at the dining place above the kitchen. It was an open air dining place with no lights. So , in the evenings, we usually eat in the dark, lit only by the dim lights from lights below and the kitchen light.

There I met Chung Han. He was talking to Sally who is the new director of RI. And another girl, Helen who is Karien's assistant. I see a lot of Western volunteers and staffs here. They come from all over the FPMT centers worldwide. An estimate 120-150 participants were expected to this Maitreya Retreat. Out of this total, I would estimate that 90% are Western, the only participants from Asia were from Malaysia, Singapore, India and maybe one or two from taiwan (but I am not sure). By West, I meant those from Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, various parts of USA such as Hawaii, Seattle, Oregon, San Jose, Washington, and others. There were also a number from various parts of Australia, mostly from various FPMT centers there.

The participants were split between those who are experienced practitioners...i.e. already taken Highest Yoga Tantra and those who are only beginners. About 30 students had taken the 3-day Introduction to Buddhism course prior to this Maitreya Retreat. And most of them were Westerners. But yet, I learned that at least one of them was not really new to Buddhism, they took it because Ven. Sangye Kandro was going to teach meditation. And they had never formally learned meditation before, and they didnot want to miss the opportunity to learn from the experience Western nun who wrote "How to Mediate?" I believe there were more of such persons.

Anyway, I was provided a bed in the dormitary that sleeps about 11 persons. It's just above the office. Root institute is just such a wonderful place to practice. The big sitting Maitreya statue and the stupas surrounding it provide such a wonderful place for us to circumambulate on daily basis. And it's also a place for us to do lights and flower offering. My journal would not be complete if I donot mention also the toilets. OK, it's not clean as 5-star hotel standard, but it's livable. Some are "flushable", while some have to pour water to drain our pee and poos. And I kinda have got the habit of not throwing the tissues into the bowl after spenidng one week there. We have to throw them into waste backets provided.

O-yes, the gompa is very beautiful. It is supposedly the only gompa that also houses 4 Kadampa lamas besides Lama Atisha. Rinpoche informed that he had given instructions for the 4 other Kadampa lamas to be there on the altar. Then his disciples had people commissioned to build them. I'll try to post the pictures later.

Part 3: The Arrival

As Christmas day approached, i.e. the day of my flight departure my heart beat with anticipation, but really not sure what to anticipate...hahaha...I will be going there without any friends. Except for Chung Han who is from LDC, the sister center in KL, other than that, noone else from CGC would be going for this Maitreya Retreat. I felt lonely, but for me it's okay...although I would love it if my wife could have gone too. She kept saying she could not take leave because her lousy company allows only 2 persons to take leave at any one day. Later she found out that her boss herself took leave. That means 3 persons. You see, the boss take leave - can. But the staffs want to take -cannot! Not fair, right? Either no karma, or didnot try hard enough. Whatever it was, it's too late now. Next time.

As I checked beyond the airport immigration counter, I kept looking behind to see my wife. Poor fellow, she'll be alone! Kinda miss her already at that time!

Upon arrival at the new Bangkok Suvarnabumi airport, I thought it was big and the signs and directions was superb. But I thought the design of the roof was ugly. I like KLIA roof design- something like palm trees better.
Anyway, the wait there was about an hour and I knew I was at the correct waiting Gate to Bodhgaya when I saw several monks there - several chinese nuns and korean monks. There were also a few Westerners whom I knew were Buddhists because they were fingering malas and/or walking meditating. Later a group of Lamas came. At the waiting gate, I met with a Taiwanese lady who offered me a ride to Bodhgaya town from the Gaya Airport once we arrive at the airport. Wow, I donot know what lucky star I have, there seems to be people helping me all along the way. Blessings from the Guru? That must be it!

Her name is Miss Lin (Lim in hokkien) and she is with a group organising a series of talks by HH Karmapa at the Karmapa temple at Bodhgaya.She said there will be someone holding a card at the airport and i can "tumpang" (board) her taxi if I want. In Bodhgaya they use 4WDs as taxi.She was very friendly.

The Gaya airport turn out to be kind of empty. Controlled more by militants, who also acted as the airport staffs. There were noone at the checkout immigration counter when our group (TG8820 flight) arrived. We had to wait and finally there was someone who had to check and write everything manually. They donot use computers there except for the bag scanners (as I found out on the day of departure).

Bodhgaya seems to me like a dusty land. Mostly lived by farmers whose income I am unsure could meet the day's expenses or not. They were living from hand to mouth on daily basis. As the Malay saying: Kias Pagi Makan Pagi, Kias Petang Makan Petang. They were so backward materially that I thought things didnot change much from the Buddha's era. Even spiritually, I am not sure if they had benefitted much from the stream of Buddhist tourism to that region. There are a lot of lamas there but most of them were foreign/immigrants. Sure, you have the Indian people setting up small hotels and all kinds of traders but generally I donot see much progress materially or spiritually for the indigenous Indian people. It is due to this first hand experience of the life here that I could really understand the Supreme Wisdom and Compassion of the late Lama Yeshe who envisioned the Maitreya Project and set up Root Institute here in Bodhgaya. Lama Zopa Rinpoche said Lama Yeshe is kinder the the Buddhas of the 3 times. Seriously, it is not exaggerating. Some people think that by making donation and contributing this and that aid would help these people. Yes, it would but only in the short term. But even sometimes, short term benefit also may not come. Like what happened top all the food and water when it arrived in the remote parts of Africa. All the water became stale, undrinkable. All the help of the generous public could not help them. Why? Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained that it is due to the people's deep karma. In order to truely help them, you need to enable themselves to generate the merits. Having them involve in building of the Maitreya Buddha and letting them see such huge statue even from a distant, will have the momentum to change their karma for the entire region. I am truely convinced of this now. Ordinary people will not have seen that effect. Only a great Buddha like Lama Yeshe would be able to envision such a project that would truely benefit the people. And also by establishing Root Institute where they have a Dharma programme in Hindi, Lama Yeshe had enabled the Dharma to return back to the original Indian people. Lama Yeshe's contributions are beyond description but often goes under-appreciated!