Alone in the Dark ~ A Spontaneous Teaching

15 Sep

It was early Friday morning and I was just wrapping up on some work here in Kechara Forest Retreat (KFR) when H. E. Tsem Rinpoche called Pastor Jean Ai, Pastor Niral Patel and myself into his room. Rinpoche spoke about a few things and midway through the conversation, he told us that he would like to go for a car ride in order to check out some repair works to the car itself.

Before we knew it, all four of us squeezed into the little MYVI car and Rinpoche was in the driver’s seat. I offered to drive instead but Rinpoche said he wanted to drive himself. Everything checked out a-ok. While driving around Kechara Forest Retreat, Rinpoche suddenly had the brilliant idea to go to Chamang waterfall, which was a 15-minute drive down a lonely road with no streetlights. Rinpoche was jovial and he was teasing and joking all the way. Along the way, he said he would like to drop me off at the waterfall and get me to walk towards the gushing water in pitch-black darkness.

Needless to say, I was mortified because Rinpoche may sound like he is joking but he is always up for a Dharma prank – which was designed to expose my ego in the funniest of ways. Furthermore, the waterfall was notorious for claiming lives – accidental deaths due to a variety of reasons and that meant that the place must be real haunted. Rinpoche cracked a string of jokes along the way (at my expense) and we arrived at the carpark of the waterfall in no time. It was somewhere around 5am and there was a crowd of shuffling figures. That was pretty eerie but fortunately, it turned out to be a group of eager-beaver campers. On the other side of the riverbank was a popular camping spot. Rinpoche exclaimed in dismay that his plans were foiled. Phew! I was relieved to hear that.

Rinpoche turned around and was heading back through that same lonely road. Midway, Rinpoche suggested for me to check the blinker lights. He stopped the car at a bend in the road and asked me to get off to do just that. Uh-oh! I am gonna get it. I mustered some confidence and got off the car and began to walk around the car to check the lights on all four corners. Then, I got back in but Rinpoche asked me to check it again and the moment I turned to the back, he sped off. Immediately, I expected Rinpoche to stop halfway but he didn’t and the car disappeared around the bend and I was enveloped in darkness.

I felt like I was in the middle of a real-life horror movie. I quickly whipped out my phone and turned on the flashlight. I began to walk down the road and wondered how long it would take for me to get back to KFR. The air was still and I felt the hair on my back stood on end. I told myself not to turn back as my imagination ran wild. There must be a dozen spirits tailing me and getting ready to pounce on me at any moment now. But nothing happened as I walked a dozen or so steps down the road and an idea came to me to recite mantras aloud and that might calm me a little and keep the malevolent spirits at bay.

At that exact moment, the bright headlights of an oncoming car suddenly appeared ahead of me. My heart leapt and I was overjoyed to discover that it was Rinpoche’s car. The car swung around in my direction and I could see Rinpoche gesturing for me to get in. Rinpoche greeted me with, “Awww… Were you scared?!” I hesitated because I wanted to tell Rinpoche that I am not afraid and it was just a walk in the park. Yeah right! That was a lie of course and somehow, I found myself admitting that I was afraid.

“Why were you scared?” Rinpoche asked. “Look deeply. I am not looking for something philosophical, just an honest answer to yourself,” Rinpoche added.

I explained that it was self-preservation and Rinpoche asked if I was afraid of a person or something else. Definitely it was something as I believe in ghosts. Then Rinpoche pop another probing question – what was I afraid if I got killed? Almost without hesitation, I said that I was afraid of dying a horrible death. Naturally, Rinpoche went on to ask if I was ready for death. Nope! I was definitely not ready to die on that early morning. Later, I found myself admitting that I was afraid I would hover around the area after dying along that lonely road.

“That’s a good one. We should be afraid of death because we would like to keep our bodies to do Dharma practice. But if you were afraid that you’ll hover around the area after death, you have to examine that thought and think how you live your life to generate that fear. Examine deeply.”

I was quick to respond with a sweeping word, “Attachment.”

“You don’t need to tell me that. You examine yourself and it’s a meditation. What are you doing every single day? And don’t give big words like attachment. Really, what are you doing every day to generate that fear that you will hover around that area? You think about it to yourself.”

“Good, so you have three fears – one is the potential of being harmed, the second is the actual gory death and the third is to hover around the area. That’s very good. That’s a meditation. Next time you are doing your sadhana, especially when you are doing your Manjushri mantras, that’s the meditation you should do. Think about the experience. Think about those three things. Think about those three fears. To have something harm you, to have someone actually harm you and to hover around and that means a bad rebirth. And you were really scared, weren’t you? No joke.”

“Yeah.” I admitted sheepishly. I was scared and there’s no denying that.

“Good! Because if you weren’t scared, it would be hard to bring that feeling into your meditation because it will just be your imagination. Next time you do your sadhana, I want you to think about this. Actually, your hair stood up and your skin was tingling because you were so scared. Remember all those feelings and sensations when you do your meditation. Think about that. When that feeling comes up, that is your ego. Don’t lose that feeling.

In old times, you would be left in the cemetery overnight. So, the feeling you had for that 3-4 minutes will be the whole night. So, I won’t leave you there the whole night. But you can recall how frightened you were. There’s a difference between three minutes and the whole night but you can expand that feeling. That’s your ego. How strong and powerful it is!

You are advanced enough to know that that’s Dharma. But if I were to drop off someone else, he or she would probably run home and never come back. The thought that it could be Dharma wouldn’t even cross their mind because they would be caught up in that fear. How cruel Rinpoche is! Why does he scare me like that? How can he be so mean? I am sure you must have thought of that.

You know what? There was actually nothing there with you. It was all in your mind. It was all in your imagination and yet, you felt it was so real. In fact, your lama could have extended a net of protection around you but you wouldn’t know.

Relive that fear and examine where that fear comes from. Where did it come from and why do you have that fear? Is it because you are not ready for death?”


“But it is going to come. So what you need to do now to prepare? You ask yourself and when that answer comes, that’s your Dharma practice.”

Rinpoche drove to the Manjushri statue at Kechara Forest Retreat and he got us to circumambulate around Manjushri 3 times and recited dedication verses. Rinpoche ended with the dedication with the following beautifully improvised verse:-





By this virtue, may I quickly

Realize Guru-Manjushri-hood,

And transfer each sentient being

Into that Enlightened state.

2 Responses to “Alone in the Dark ~ A Spontaneous Teaching”

  1. Freon September 15, 2018 at 10:24 pm #

    This is a beautiful experience.
    Rinpoche uses many methods to made us awake and know ourself better. It is true what Pastor have experience I might be experiencing it too.
    But, one thing Pastor David do not feel anger. He trust in Guru and Three Jewels and recited mantra. Instead of scolding and wandering why did he left there, Pastor just walk on the path.

    Thank you Pastor for sharing this wonderful experiences

  2. Abby F October 13, 2018 at 11:11 pm #

    Thank you Pastor for the article. It is indeed a powerful meditation that we can do daily.

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