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.

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