Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spiritual tests

Have you been tested by your Guru? Well I have...I think a few times. Let me relate a major test that happened recently. This is a long one, so take your time to read after several days of not blogging.

Right from the beginning it was a test of my resolve. That’s how it seemed like because there were obstacles all the way till just before I was on the way home after meeting Khenchen Rinpoche last Saturday. He was my first official lama that I regard as my Vajrayana guru since I did have a refuge card given by him. And I had not met him since 2006, I think. I have heard in the past few years that he had been sick. And I had written a longlife verse to dedicate it to him for his quick recovery then. So, due to his illnesses, I wanted to see him very much in case he might decide to leave us too soon. Touch wood, I hope not. It was after receiving a stern “PRACTICE!” and that strict look on his face that I decided to be more focus on my practice in vajrayana. And not long after that, I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Gelug tradition, and the rest is history. But in the beginning I did practice a little bit of Drikung, but due to the unavailability of teachers and the disunity of the drikung devotees here, it sort of did not take off seriously. At that time, I did not really go indept into Vajrayana yet.

Back to story, it was a certain “Madam” who called me to inform me that Khenchen would be here in Malaysia (but not visit my home town because noone invited him) and told me to call another man. And she gave me his number and said she will be leaving for U.K. in the next few days. So I won’t get to call her again. As I was outside my home, I did not get to write down the exact dates of Khenchen’s visit. But I got that guy’s number and soon I wrote him an sms. I waited for him to reply, but nothing. I sms again, I think. Still nothing. So I called his number but no one pick up the phone. I left a few messages. He did not return my voice messages/sms. His silence had made me think that perhaps he did not want Khenchen to be disturbed and perhaps his silence is a polite way of saying “No”. Some people are like that, you know?

But I did not give up. At last, I manage to speak to him. So, I told him I am interested to go to AS to meet with Khenchen. I asked him for details. He said ok but did not have much interest…at least it appears that way to my ignorant mind. After that, he did not sms me his house address nor the dates of Khenchen’s schedule. But I remembered roughly the dates Mdm told me, and I decided to request for his house address one week before the Saturday that I had planned to go. Thankfully he sms me back with the details. With that, at least I knew I had his permission to go to his house. So that week, I printed the longlife verse I wrote, in colour and have it framed up. It costs me RM25. I have had my car serviced to prepare for the long journey. That costs me RM198.

Two or three days before the journey, I sms that man in AS of my intended trip and he reverted by giving me a shocking reply. He said that Khenchen and he are going to Thailand and asked me to visit him only after 5pm Saturday. What!? I thought my plan to visit him was then in shreds. As I donot drive in the highway at night, especially to a unfamiliar location, I thought maybe I should re-schedule it to Sunday instead. As I learned later from Khenchen himself, Sunday he would be leaving to KL already. Had I postponed the visit to Sunday, I will not have got to meet Khenchen. Thankfully I did not decide to visit on Sunday itself. My wife was also instrumental in supporting me when I said that I could drive earlier to AS and go sight-seeing in the city centre first before meeting Rinpoche at 5pm. So, that was the decision made and I was happy about it and it was a crucial decision. I sms that man my decision to him and said I might arrive earlier and request him to revert when he is back in town from Thailand with Khenchen.

And then came the second shocking news. But it’s a positive one for me. He said they were not going to Thailand anymore but to another smaller town in Kedah (Merbok), and will be back home by 4pm. I was happy because if they had gone to Thailand, there might be delays in flight, customs, etc. Maybe Khenchen knew and wanted to see how I would react when I was told of his trip to Thailand, to test of my resolve to see him. I supposed that made him chance his plan to go to another local town instead. I was ecstatic at this change in plan. It enabled me to travel to AS and arrive there earlier and go back earlier too before dark, perhaps. At least that’s how I had planned.

On that Saturday morning I woke up feeling excited and happy to start the journey. But my wife was still rolling in bed, unable to get up. I told her she had better get up and start preparing. Then we’ll go at before noon. It wasn’t until 12.30pm that the journey officially begun. It was because we took some time to check the internet for info on AS town by searching for the map. Then we had wanted to go shop for some local biscuits to buy as gift for the AS host. We could not find any tambun biscuits nearby, so we decided to forget about it. We’ll buy it when we reach the AS town. Then we went to fill up the petrol tank, that cost me about slightly above RM30. The first obstacle there was when I over-shot the exit toll and went to exit 180 instead. I should have exited at exit 178. I had to make a huge turning and incur extra toll charges. RM13.00 toll. Plus entering the toll at AS = RM0.40. It was about slightly after 2pm. Then we went to the new shopping mall built by the generous Muslim millionaire. We took lunch there. At about after 3pm, my wife reminded me better to start looking for that man’s house as we were not sure of the location, except that it was near another shopping mall (S Parade).

On the way to my car parked outside the mall, we decided to start asking for directions to the actual housing estate of that guy. We asked a few strangers before meeting one man who surprised us by volunteering to take us right to that place. He said he was going there anyway. Could he be a manifestation of a benevolent protector? Reminded me of the young woman I met at Bangkok airport who volunteered to give me a ride and take me right up to the doorstep of Root Institute 3 years ago. I believe all these people are blessings from the guru. Anyway, that stranger took us to the particular road. I thought it would then be easy to find the host's road. After going several rounds around the place, we could not find that road. It was my mistake. I should have asked the stranger just now to take us specifically to that road. So it’s not the fault of the protector. It’s my fault for not being exact. This was the fourth obstacle. We decided to wait outside a nearby church and contact that host of Khenchen and see if he can direct us to his house. Later he came in his car and we followed him to his house. It was really difficult to find with all the twists and turnings. The problem was that the district council did not put up road signs for the small roads. We were told to wait because Khenchen was resting upstairs. This was also a test of my resolve and fifth test. Well, once I was there, I had no other choice but to wait anyway. But it means a shorter time since darkness will descend soon and we need to travel back.

However, when we arrive at his house, Khenchen was sitting right in the living room sofa, waiting for us. It was wonderful to behold him. It was a surprise because the host had told us he was resting upstairs. I prostrated to him 3 times and then presented him the frame-up longlife verses. However he returned it to me saying he cannot take it back because it will add weight to his luggage. Then he gave me his books “Calling the Lama from Afar” and “Transformation of Suffering”. He autographed both books. After that we talked for a while and I requested for oral transmission of his composition: “Permissions and Prohibitions; the mode of abiding” as well as the short Guru Yoga. I asked for any advice on those oral transmission. And he told me he had written a new one entitled, “Samsara and Nirvana; Two sides of the same hand”. He said it is in the internet and I can find it there. Since he mentioned it, it means it had given me the oral permission to read and study it. Later I found that this was a profound Lam Rim text – longer than Lama Tsongkhapa’s Foundation of All Good Qualities. I love the text, especially some of the warnings and succinct points contained in some of the verses.

I also told him my wife’s health problems and the “thousand arms” issue. He blessed my wife by reciting something and touching her head with the book “Calling the Lama from Afar”. I told him I am currently doing Chenrezig practice – not much of a practice actually. Just reciting the mani mantra and visualising the lights radiating out to all beings, esp. bardo beings. He said he was going to teach something on the guru yoga that night for short session starting at 7.30pm. And he asked me if I could go. It’s up to me, he said. Later I realized that this is actually another test (sixth one) of my resolve. Having gained the oral transmission, had I not gone it would have been a waste. Moreover, it is a direct explanation from the guru himself – the one who composed it. Not someone else. Therefore, it is a direct blessing from the guru for anyone who practices it.

However, initially I hesitated. It was because it was getting dark and I wasn’t sure if I could drive home at night. Khenchen said I have to decide myself, it’s up to me, but he said that the next day was a Sunday. So, he was saying that I could stay. And indirectly hinting that I should stay and receive the instructions. I did not get the hint right away, only realized it on the way back to Penang. I said to Khenchen I will discuss it with my wife. I told him I planned to go to Nepal in December and mainly to go for pilgrimage. I did not tell him that I would be going to Kopan too, but I suppose with his mind he would know. Also I told him I do study the Lam Rim Chen Mo and he said it is a very good book. However he added, I could also read The Jewel Ornaments of Liberation. I expected that to come because Khenchen is a Kagyupa and the Jewel Ornament is the Lam Rim text by Gampopa. I have read both. I also showed him HY’s book which he knew about and told him the teachings we are getting through internet audio-conferencing.

Not knowing what else to talk about, I suggested perhaps he may be tired and if he needed a rest, he can go have a rest. We will not disturb him. He agreed and got up to leave. At that point, I requested for blessings too and same thing, he took the book and placed it on my head. I could feel a heavy energy channeling through my head. I felt good to be blessed after that. Then we left after Khenchen had gone upstairs. Along the way to AS town, I discussed with my wife whether to go for the teachings. I donot know what or why but suddenly it occurred to me that since we were already there, we might as well stay back for a few hours more and receive his teachings. Otherwise why would I want to go back so fast? It makes more sense to stay back even though it was a guru yoga on Lord Jigten Sumgon. Even though I prefer to practice the Gelug guru yoga, I reasoned that I could still learn from Khenchen. I decided to keep an open mind and go for it. After all, this was a guru yoga written by Khenchen himself and I definitely consider him as one of my living gurus. Anyway, it’s not like I have received any guru yoga practice from Lama Zopa. Apart from reciting my personal secret mantra, there wasn’t any substantial official guru yoga that I am practicing anyway. So I decided to contact the host again and asked for directions to the place he was going to be teaching.

My wife and I went to S Parade and had our dinner there. We got lost our way a bit and this was the seventh test to test our resolve. I could have given up and return home but I did not. We kept on calling the poor host who had to entertain these 2 “kids” who could not find their way to their centre. With persistence and kindness of the host, we finally arrived at the centre just shortly before the Khenchen arrived himself with the host and his wife. We stayed through the teaching and it finished at just before 9pm. We bid farewell to Khenchen and the other members of the centre. They were very friendly and one man even led us with his car all the way to the main road (near the beautiful Nine Emperor Gods’ temple). But we said it is okay and we can find the rest of the way back to the exit toll to the highway. We thanked him and went on. Exit toll cost RM12.60. Along the way home, I mentally recited my personal secret mantra until completed my number of rounds. We arrived at about 11pm. About one and half hours later. Faster than arriving there in the morning. Maybe at night there were lesser vehicles on the highway and I drove most of the time at 100-110 kmh. I think I drove slower when arriving. We ate supper at Kayu Nasi Kandar before going home. Hence we stayed until the end and I think I passed all the tests that were ditched out to me. On hindsight these are difficult tests. I could have given up going to see him, but I did not. In fact I was even considering going to KL if the host continued to “ignore” my phone calls. But I am sure he had his reasons for not responding to my phone calls and messages. Hahaha…LOL! But I could not have done it without the support of my wife and her help was crucial throughout the journey. Also, I must thank the help by my unseen protectors all along the way. THANK YOU.

Mission accomplished.
Thank you Khenchen for testing my resolve and determination.

No comments: