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Buddha images galore…

14 Feb

I love Buddha images!… particularly from the Indo-Tibetan tradition. I think I appreciate them both from an artistic as well as from a devotional standpoint. I guess I got this from Tsem Rinpoche’s passion for explaining, obtaining and giving out some of the most exquisite Buddha images. He said that as lay folks, we should place great importance when setting up a shrine because it would probably be our biggest source of purification and collection of merits.

Anyway, I recently rediscovered a whole treasury of high-res images on Rinpoche’s blog. It was meant for people to download, print and meant to be an object of veneration. I thought I put together a collection some of my favourite images here. All of these images I have collected here are from Rinpoche’s blog except for the pictures of the Zanabazar Tara statues at the end. Feast your eyes and be blessed…

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This is probably the earliest statue of Lord Buddha and according to Rinpoche, it is carved according to the description of a woman who had actually met the Buddha when he was alive. It is said to be the closest to the likeness of the Buddha. Over time, it was lost and rediscovered by the British archaeologists in Bodhgaya, India. It is actually carved out of a dark-colored stone but His Holiness the Dalai Lama had it layered in gold.

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I had always loved the Indian pandits… I guess because they had developed a powerful way to present the Buddha’s teachings in a logical and systematic manner especially against the onslaught of fierce opposition of the other Indian religions. This thangka depicts some of the more famous Indian pandits surrounding the Buddha. Traditionally, it is suppose to have the Two Supremes (Nagarjuna and Asanga) and 6 Ornaments (Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, Dharmakirti, Gunaprabha and Sakyaprabha). But this one include Atisha and some other pandits I am unfamiliar with.

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This simple thangka of the Buddha reminds me of the one used for a makeshift alter that was setup years ago before the renovations of Kechara House commenced. It reminds me of simpler times I guess.

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This bewildering image is a Gelug Refuge Tree. Each Tibetan Buddhist tradition have their own refuge tree and this one is the Gelug one centering around the incomparable Je Tsongkhapa, the founder and great elucidator of the Buddha’s teachings. Love it for its intricate detail and rendering that seems to give the impression that each Buddha is sticking out of the image… much like a 3D effect. Love it! Also, I believed to have seen it for the first time in Rinpoche’s ladrang before I even knew anything about Buddhism.

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Ahh! I love Manjushri! But this is not a particularly wonderful Manjushri but it is a copy of a Manjushri thangka I sold while I was working in Kechara Paradise and about to enter ladrang to assist Rinpoche. You see, I am not a particularly fantastic salesman and so I took this sale to be a good omen for my next step. What’s unique about it is that there are 108 Manjushri’s rendered in gold leaf while the large central figure is highlighted in color.

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Now, this beautiful painting of Manjushri was painted by a student of Rinpoche and it was based on an original picture of Manjushri that used to be a childhood favourite of Rinpoche’s. This painting is detailed and absolutely divine! Would love to have a huge print of this Manjushri on my wall.

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Vajrayogini is a powerful tantric practice advocated by Rinpoche and Kechara for everyone to eventually receive her initiation and master her meditations. Her meditations are embodied in her form and thus, her image is both sacred and powerful way to create merits in relations to achieving her meditations. Thus, i really like this  antique statue of Vajrayogini that’s believed to be made during the Chinese Qing Dynasty. It’s exquisite and extremely well-made although it is quite tiny. Rinpoche has one like this statue that was once part of the treasures of Tashi Lhumpo monastery and was given to him by his biological father.

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This is another antique thangka of Yamantaka that is extremely well painted and intricate in detail and seems to evoke the power and ferocity of this wisdom deity. As an emanation of Manjushri, Yamantaka is believed to be the Vajra (indestructible/divine) Terrifier that is part of a powerful meditational practice. Naturally, I am drawn to Yamantaka’s magnificence and power.

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This Zanabazar Green Tara statue is probably one of the most beautiful statue of Tara I have ever seen. She’s maternal, sensual and majestic. Zanabazar is not just a style but a Mongolian lama who had tremendous contributions of establishing monasteries, furthering the teachings and also in the realm of devotional art pieces like this one.

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Behold this Zanabazar White Tara statue. It’s hauntingly beautiful, proportionate and refined. Her face is painted and although faded, one could still appreciate her unearthly face. The lotus that she sits on is rendered in an almost modern and graphic manner. If money was no object, I would get a skilled artisan to recreate these antique statues.

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This is Kalarupa and his puja is something I perform pretty often to purify negative karma and avert great obstacles. An emanation of Manjushri, protector of the Yamantaka tantras and the protector of the whole of Gaden monastery, he must be pretty effective. Like Yamantaka, he is bull-faced and not a deity that’s considered appealing but somehow, there’s a draw to his unique form. This rendering looks like he is glowing and has an ‘electrifying’ appearance.

 

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Pelden Hlamo… is how rinpoche spells and pronounces this unique protectress. She’s the ferocious protectress of the Dalai Lama and also a unique emanation of the peaceful lute-bearing goddess Saraswati. To me, she has a dream-like quality. The first time I saw her in Rinpoche’s ladrang, I recalled an old dream I had. In my dream, I saw a picture of her hanging on my aunt’s altar. The thing is… I have never seen her before and my aunt does not have such an image. It’s was all very strange and surreal.

 

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This is an old nakthang rendering of Kechara’s Protector Setrap. Nakthang is a style of painting the outlines and highlights of the deity in black. Needless to say, this is an antique thangka and one that is done really well and leaves an impression of divine power upon the beholder. That’s why this is my most favourite image of Setrap. He is old, he is grand and he is incredibly protective and powerful.

That’s all folks. These are my favourite images and I am glad to share them. You can click on each picture and download it if you like or check out Tsem Rinpoche’s full collection here… http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?cat=60

 

A Vajrayogini pilgrimage… (part 1)

15 Jan

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Happy 2014 guys and I know I have been 2 weeks late in blogging about this but better late then never… Over Christmas last year, I took 22 (including myself, Su Ming (the main organiser) and Nicholas Yu)  intrepid pilgrims seeking an intimate spiritual journey – a pilgrimage of sorts to Nepal. Needless to say, I was the tour guide since I had been the author of the Vajrayogini Power Places In Nepal coffee table book. The journey began on foot traversing the colorful and busy streets of Thamel in the midst of the wintery air. It was 16 degrees at midday and it dips below 10 after dinner time. Needless to say, I dread to leave the comfort of my heated hotel room after dinner. Fortunately, we were staying in the new and posh Siddhi Annex of Kathmandu Guest House where there was central heating.

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Thamel is a mecca for offbeat mountain trekkers, tourists, shoppers and pilgrims and it is also a great introduction to Kathmandu valley. The street is  a riot of color and shops hawking all manner of woolly jackets, pashminas, jewellery, statues and thangkas lending a festive atmosphere to the otherwise dusty streets. Malaysian pilgrims being Malaysians were mesmerised and tempted but all shopping instincts were put on hold as we were on pilgrimage and so we marched on through the streets crossing what seemed like a sea of trishaws, bikers, pedestrians and pedlars.

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After traversing what seemed like lifetimes through the sea of Samsara/Nepalese folks, we arrived at the shore of liberation – Itum Bahal. Bahal meaning a traditional Nepalese courtyard. We entered a narrow doorway and the sight of a simple shrine flooded through our senses. It was a simple little shrine to the goddess Drolkar (Tib), Seto Tara (Nepalese) or White Tara.  I guess the pilgrims were underwhelmed by the simplicity of the shrine. I had to tell them about the significance of the central image (flanked by newer statues of Yellow and Green Tara).  The White Tara image apparently is very old and according to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, this image had flown in from Tibet to benefit the people of this region. She’s highly blessed and I just found out on the net that she is also a talking Tara – a magical experience that occurs to the faithful and the highly attained. In reverence, we offered garlands of marigold flowers, butterlamps, circumambulation, mantras and prayers.

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A local Nepalese woman came by to offer a platter of offerings to Tara.

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The unassumingly sacred image of White Tara is in the center of the shrine amidst garlands and various offerings.

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Pilgrims doing their rounds around the shrine to Tara. Told them to pray not for themselves but for their loved ones. I recall rinpoche telling us to think on a higher more altruistic level when going on a pilgrimage. When all was done, we filed out of the courtyard into the busy streets again and moved on to another nearby shrine… well, more like a temple in terms of size and grandeur. This is a temple to Seto Machindranath and it is decked out with various elaborate carvings of various emanations of the Buddha of Compassion all around it. Check out the wonderful pictures…

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According to Wikipedia…

Seto Machindranath,also known as White Machindranath, Aryavalokitesvara, Karunamaya and Jamaleswor is a deity worshiped by the Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal. The temple of Seto Machindranath is located in Jana Bahal(also known as Machhindra Bahal). A place located between Ason and Indra chowk,Kathmandu and is believed to have been established around the 10th century. Seto Machindranath is worshipped by the Hindus as the god of rain and the Buddhists worship the deity as an aspect of Avalokiteshvara.

Every year the deity is placed in a chariot(also known as Rath) and the chariot is paraded around Kathmandu. This festival is known as Jana Baha Dyah Jatra. The deity is bathed and repainted every year as a ritual that symbolizes the changes occurring throughout our lives.

It is believed that during the rule of King Yakshya Malla, in a place called Kantipuri people used to bathe in the holy river and visit Swayambhunath this led them to heaven after death. Once Yamraj(god of death) came to know the power of Swayambhunath and he visited the holy temple. During his return from the temple he was captured by King Yakshya Malla and his Tantric guru and demanded immortality and would not let Yamraj leave. So Yamraj prayed to Arya Awalokiteshwor(Seto Machindranath) to free him. The god heard his prayer and instantly appeared from the water. The god was white in color with eyes half closed. He then told the king to build a temple where Kalmati and Bagmati meet and to organize chariot procession so that the god could visit the people and bless them with happiness and long life.

The chariot procession festival of Seto Machindranath is celebrated during the month of Chaitra. This is a three days long festival. The chariot of Seto Machindranath is pulled from place to place during these three days. Each day when the chariot has reached its destination a group of soldiers fire their rifles into the air.
On the first day the deity is brought to Jamal by the priests. Then it is pulled to Asan, Kathmandu via Ratna Park and Bhotahity. The next day it is pulled from Asan Kathmandu to Hanumandokha. Finally it is pulled to Lagantole via Maruhity and Jaisideval. During all three days people come and pay their respect to the god.

In the month of Poush every year the deity is bathed and repainted. In this event the deity is brought into the courtyard of the temple. All of the ornaments and clothes of the deity are taken off. Then the deity is bathed with several containers of water both cold and hot,milk, ghee and honey. All of the actions are carried out by the priests of the temple. Main highlight of this event is that the living goddess Kumari attends this ritual.

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But according to Rinpoche, this Chenrezig/Avalokiteshvara image is a self-arisen statue meaning it arose naturally and is believed to have ‘arisen’ from sandalwood. This image is known as Jowo Samling Karmo by the Tibetans and is believed to be part of a set of 3 similar statues known as the The Three Self-Arisen Brothers.  The other statue is believed to be in Jokhang cathedral in Lhasa Tibet and another in the possession of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Some of the pilgrims were staring at the statues on the poles (as depicted in the picture above) just outside the temple and I explained to them that they were all various statues of Chenrezig.

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The pilgrims did their rounds and were reciting mantras, offering prayers, aspirations in front of the sacred image here. All Nepalese shrines had little bells hung over the window that peer into the inner sanctum of the shrine. Pilgrims ring these little bells as if calling the Gods to attention but I told the pilgrims that they were an offering of sound to the Buddha.

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Halfway as the pilgrims slowly filed in to make their prayers, Su Ming grabbed my hand and we went into the inner sanctum and knelt down  just a feet away from the image and we did our prayers there. Su Ming told me to pray for Rinpoche, which I did and uttered an additional prayer I recalled that Rinpoche told me to recite at holy places. I am glad I memorized that prayer. After the prayers, the photographers in our group went trigger happy with the camera as almost every angle is a National Geographic moment. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of this ancient temple and felt a deep sense of serenity and I even noticed that my achy feeling of flu (that I felt coming on to me) subsided somewhat.

That’s all for now… more to come… Keep your eyes and ears peeled, folks!

The Meaning Behind An Altar

10 Nov

Dining Hall and Living Room

Here a picture of my altar to Lama Tsongkhapa in the living room of my apartment. 

Due to a request, I am going to share a thing or two about altars today. I think most Chinese families here in Malaysia have that little “Sun Toi” or ‘Altar to the Gods’ at home. That ubiquitous red altar to Kuan Yin, Buddha or Kwan Gong with glowing red lights and a porcelain incense urn containing burnt and half burnt joss sticks that’s placed right under the nose of the deity is pretty much a standard affair. I guess it’s pretty much a Chinese thing to blur the lines between Taoism, Buddhism and folk beliefs here if you know what I mean but I am not going to go there.

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Absolutely love this beautiful altar with the Buddha, Lama Tsongkhapa and Kuan Yin. 

I am just going to talk about the Buddhist practice of setting up an altar. Yes, it is the focal point of the little bit of spiritual practice (mantras, offerings, prayers and meditation) that we do and it is also the place where we can collect spiritual merits. What are merits? They are causes towards achieving enlightenment. In the meantime, these causes helps us along the way to transform our minds towards virtue and towards becoming better people. Ultimately, all of us want to improve on our lives and merits helps us to do that. With merits, we  improve our careers, relationships, transforming nasty habits to better ones, gain spiritual attainments, contentment, happiness, harmony  and so forth. The reason for this effect is because the focal point on the altar is to an image of a fully enlightened being – a Buddha.

That’s the power of a fully enlightened Buddha. The reason the Buddha is able to do this is because he has become fully perfected and has overcome all limitations and possesses infinite wisdom and virtue. Therefore, any image of the Buddha can and will bless us in this most special of ways and whether we know it or not. When we make offerings and prayers, we are doing it towards the realizations that is in their physical form. That is why the image of the Buddha is one of the most popular interior decor item that seems to bring a sense of tranquility to a room. That shows that one doesn’t need to a be a Buddhist to experience the effects of the Buddha.

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A modern altar with a statue of Lama Tsongkhapa in the center, a Dharma text on the left and a clear acrylic stupa on the right. 

On top of that, we are actually using money that would otherwise be used to feed our attachments and self gratifications and that would ultimately not help us in the long run. However, setting up an altar and presenting offering on it to the Buddha has far reaching effects especially when we do it with the right aspiration and prayer. It takes a special type of merit and wisdom to understand the immense benefits of setting up an altar. Also, if we plan to engage in a life-changing endeavour like a career change, starting a business, expanding one’s business or engaging in large projects, it would be good to make lots of offerings to create the merits and good karma to sustain such an endeavour. The same goes if we want to do charity or engage in more Dharma works, making consistent offerings creates many causes for our works to be successful.

The object of our offerings and prayers on the altar is not just a Buddha but also a Dharma text and a representation of a Stupa. Respectively, they represent the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. These are what they call the 3 doors from which we develop the thought resulting in the creation of karma and its repercussion. Hence, we make offerings the body, speech and mind of the Buddha, we are creating causes to develop the Buddha’s body, speech and mind. That means, we are literally creating causes to be enlightened and purify a lot of negative karma as well.

That’s basically it and what I have explained is just the tip of the iceberg but I decided not to write too long of an essay to bore the readers. There is much more to an altar which I will talk about in future postings but for now, this would suffice. For me, I have always loved setting up an altar even before becoming a Buddhist and I never knew why. Perhaps, I had done this before in previous lives or I am just a born idolater. Whatever it is, I know its immense benefits and so it has become more meaningful and beneficial.

Below are some of the significance of the different types of traditional offerings -

Candles/tealights/lamps ~  In the way light dispels darkness, offering of candles to enlightened beings enable us to open our minds towards wisdom and clarity of mind. It is through wisdom that opens the door for the Buddha to enter and clear our obstacles and grant our temporary and ultimate wishes.

Fruits/Food ~ Just like food is sustenance for our body, Dharma is sustenance for our mind. Food offered to enlightened beings enables us to sustained our Dharma practice on our journey towards finding ultimate liberation. Fruit offerings are particularly auspicious to symbolize the ‘fruitioning’ of our Dharma practice. Offering of food also creates causes for Lord Setrap to clear obstacles towards acquiring  livelihood, clothes and shelter.

Flowers ~ Flowers are objects of fleeting beauty, which are offered to enlightened beings so we may come to realize the impermanence of our existence. It also beautify the altar and our environment and thus create the cause to be reborn in pleasant rebirths where our environment is clean, pleasant and conducive towards spiritual practice.

Incense ~ Incense invoke upon the pure morality of the enlightened ones. Those who uphold morality purely have a charismatic presence and emit a fragrant scent. Offering of incense creates the causes for us to hold our promises and vows perfectly. The Buddhas are very pleased with those who hold their promises and vows because it allows him to help them even more.

Water ~ The purity of water evokes the immeasurable qualities of an enlightened mind. Just like how water quenches thirst, offering water creates causes towards fulfillment of our necessities of livelihood. Offering of water is the closest we can get towards making an offering with completely no attachment. (An ideal offering). Thus, when coupled with powerful prayers, it allows the Buddha to fulfill our wishes quickly and easily.

Pearl/Jewels ~ Pearls/jewels are popular jewels that symbolize wealth in abundance. The causes towards real wealth are created through having a generous heart. Offering of pearls creates the cause for us to be generous and for the Buddha to bless us with immense riches in this and future lives.

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A Khata is placed in Manjushri’s hand symbolic of offering our wishes and aspirations to him. 

Khata ~ Khata is a white silk scarf offered to the enlightened ones as symbols of our earnest prayers. It is also  offered  as a mark of respect and veneration towards an elder or someone higher in rank. Towards our lamas and enlightened Buddhas, we offer onto their hands and not over their head to denote humility and submission. Offering of khatas to the Buddha creates a bond with him and allows him to fulfill our wishes.

New Buddhist Pastors in the making…

21 Oct

Kechara recently celebrated the ordination of new Buddhist Pastors and the renewal of existing Pastors in our very own Wisdom Hall at Kechara Forest Retreat. I couldn’t make it…. Boohoo! Anyway, I heard that it was a simple affair but steeped in the Buddhist tradition of taking upasaka vows or layman vows. This is the 3rd Pastor ordination for Kechara and one that reflects the growing spiritual needs of Kecharians.

The Pastors are the ones to conduct the education of Kecharians and the ones that would go out to perform blessings, pujas, rituals, funerals, counseling and such. They are meant to be Buddha’s/ Rinpoche’s little helpers and the power to bless is invested in them and is based upon the vows they uphold and the pure devotion they have for their Guru. The Pastors are also a stepping stone for these young students (most of them. Hehe!) of Rinpoche to becoming Kechara’s very first Sangha members. I wasn’t there but received these wonderful pictures as you will see below…

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This year, we have 6 new Pastors and 5 existing Pastors who are renewing their vows. And they are…

(L to R) Adeline Woon, Jean Ai, Shin Tan, Moh Mei, Martin Chow, Jay Jae, Pastor Chia, Pastor Choi, Pastor Han Nee, Pastor Yek Yee and Pastor Lance.

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Amazing Pastor Yek Yee is tremendously busy benefiting people 24-7 and nurturing a lot of volunteers for Kechara as well as initiating so many people into the Dharma. And because of such pure devotion and hard work, Rinpoche has instructed her to bestow the Upasaka/upasika vows upon the new Pastors. She sets a wonderful example to the new Pastors and has become an inspiration for many new people who enter the doors of Kechara House.

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Some of the Pastors would be wearing all white to prepare them for the time they would take on the monastic maroon robes. These boxes contain sets of white uniform for these Pastors.

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As befitting their spiritual role and the vows they are taking, the new Pastors are wearing their new white uniform and sitting on cushions and special puja tables. Lovely respect for the vows they have just received and the spiritual work they are about to embrace.

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Kechara House President, Datuk May Phng presents each new Pastor with their new sets of robes. Lovely reminder of their future destiny – maroon robes. For now, they look like hospital orderlies but later, they will be real monks and nuns… Great!

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For the Pastors, receiving respect and offerings begins here. But real respect as all monastics know is earned through hard work, perseverance and taking in criticism and slack that the public would  hurl. However, they would return all that with patience, kindness and the Dharma.

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Pastor Han Nee, a senior Pastor receiving an offering from a family. Delightful picture of a lady devoted to teaching the Dharma in her silver years. She’s one passionate teacher if you ever sat in her class and this year, she’s renewing her pastorship.

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Pastor Moh Mei is smiling sweetly. Taking on the pastorship is an occasion to celebrate, a sort of spiritual homecoming shared with the other Pastors. Lovely sight of devotion. I am sure she would smile even broader when she takes puts on the maroon robes…

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Pastor Martin folds his hands and looks down in humility. For these Pastors, the vows and spiritual responsibility calms the mind and alleviates all the negativities that lay folks normally experience because their lives are lived for others instead of just for oneself alone.

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See… Pastor Moh Mei as Anila (Nun) Moh Mei and she looks so comfortable in her robes. Well, she’s not even ordained yet. These robes belong to Rinpoche and he offered it to her without alteration and she look so good in it. (There is no difference between robes of a monk and nun except nun upper monastic shirt is thicker for modesty) This is the destiny for Pastor JJ, Chia, Jean Ai, Shin, Anila Choi (called Anila before she’s even ordained), Adeline Woon, Martin and Moh Mei of course. All of them received robes as a special blessing and reminder to hold their vows well.

We are about to have our very own Kechara Sangha. Splendid! The Dharma has taken root with these young men and women. Congratulations to all the new and renewed Pastors.

While writing this, Pastor Jean Ai had written her own account with wonderful pictures. Do check it out:- http://www.elenakhong.com/2013/10/21/pastor-ordination-and-all-that-comes-with-it/

Pictures were taken by various Kecharians attending the event. 

A Talk About Engaging In A Je Tsongkhapa Retreat

15 Oct

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Recently, I was requested by H. E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche to share my experience and knowledge of engaging in a Je Tsongkhapa retreat to people who would be interested to engage in it. This is fantastic despite the fact that the last time I performed a Tsongkhapa retreat was many years back. At that time, I was very green about all things Buddhist and the thought of going into retreat was pretty exciting and frightening at the same time.

However, I went through it and although it was only a 10,000 Migtsema retreat, it took a month because I was working on the outside and did my retreat right after. I cut down on my entertainment, clubbing, hangouts with friends and shopping. It was rather difficult for me at that time but very rewarding. Later, I did perform other retreats but this experience made it easier.

The actual talk was recorded and uploaded onto YouTube, which is available below. I have also accompanied some interesting pictures from the talk, which was held in Kechara House along with the actual slides that was presented during the talk. These basically form the main body of presentation during my talk. Enjoy and I hope my little presentation would inspire you to engage in a retreat yourself.

What is a Retreat?

  • Retreat is a period or place of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.
  • But, what are we retreating from?
  • Worldly life of pleasures, attachments and self-gratification.
  • What’s that? TV time, kids, meat, clubbing, sports, Internet, movies, friends, parties, shopping, beer, boyfriends, girlfriends and the things boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives do, so on and so on…
  • Ultimately, we are retreating from the ‘me, me me…’
  • Why do we need to do that?
  • It has not brought any sense of fulfillment or lasting happiness. If it did, the more we have, the happier we should be. Think about it.

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What are we retreating to?

  • From ‘me, me, me’, we retreat into the sacred practice of Je Tsongkhapa. In Tantra, it is called relating ourselves to the Yidam/Buddha.
  • Retreats traditionally involves all of our body, speech and mind.
  • Retreats in the past are mostly closed retreats but due to time and circumstances, open retreats are more popular these days.
  • Retreats accumulates a lot of merits and purify a lot negative karma.
  • You will feel tremendous peace, develop tremendous understanding of the Dharma and spiritual transformation.
  • You will also encounter difficulties, obstacles and its basically spiritual detox. Hence, it is important that Setrap is propitiated during retreat.

 

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Benefits of Je Tsongkhapa’s Practice

  • We can pacify all our negative karma and obstacles in dependence on the 7-Limbed Practices in Guru Yoga:-

         • Praise of Body, Speech & Mind
         • Offerings
         • Confession
         • Rejoice
         • Requesting teachings
         • Asking our teachers to remain
         • Dedication
• Can increase your life – there’s a meditation toward the end on the Lord of Death
• As he is mainly the embodiment of Manjushri, we will increase our wisdom quickly – which is important as it’s the antidote toward ignorance, the root of all sufferings. The best way to protect ourself from suffering is to increase wisdom.
• As we practice we purify negativities of the Body, therefore health will improve.
•  We will make a connection with Maitreya Buddha (when Je Rinpoche passed away, he took rebirth as the Bodhisattva disciple of Maitreya called “Essence of Manjushri” of Jampal Nyingpo. From the Space of Maitreya’s truth body – clouds of his compassion for the beings of this world arise and as a result a rain of Dharma teachings descends upon beings through Je Tsongkhapa – as he descends from Maitreya’s heart.
•  One will gain connection to be born as a disciple of the future Buddha Maitreya by this practice.
•  Powa practice need not be practiced separately. One can take rebirth in Tushita or make a strong link to be born there eventually.
•  On the basis of pacifying our negativity and obstacles and increasing our lifespan, merit, compassion, wisdom and spiritual power, if we rely upon this practice we shall gain all the realizations of Sutra and Tantra easily. Eventually attain the states of Union of no more learning or Buddhahood.

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•  If we follow the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa, we will be able to understand his commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings easily.
•  A class of spirits such as Behar cannot harm us. Yamantaka or Shinje She means “opponent of outer, inner and secret obstacles”. This practice of Gaden Hlagyema and Migtsema are powerful methods for pacifying the three types of obstacles.
•  Outer obstacles includes harm from human or non-humans, changes from the outer elements such as fire and water, different kinds of accidents, lacking necessary conditions for spiritual practice.
•  Inner obstacles include sickness, strong delusions, and negative thoughts that arise within our mind.
•  Secret obstacles are ordinary appearance, ordinary conceptions and subtle dualistic appearance.
•  One will have harmony as Je Rinpoche is the Bodhisattva Vajrapani who pacifies the disharmonies from the outer and inner aspects of our lives if we rely upon him.
•  Four separate practices of Riksum Gonpo and Maitreya will be accomplished at once.
•  One will be able to make merit all day long and night in between the meditation sessions when in the practice. Je Rinpoche has dissolved into oneself.
•  Purifies impurities – very important to break negative habits, change laziness, avoid diseases, anger & repercussions.
•  Two parts – 7 wisdoms and * attaining realizations on the stages of the path.
*attaining realizations – recite Yonten Zhigyurma before dissolution & after migtsema. This will help us understand Dharma, Lamrim & realize it easier.
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Altar setup based on the Tsongkhapa Retreat Instructions on Tsem Rinpoche’s blog
 7 wisdoms:-
•  Great Wisdom. Understand what to abandon easily
•  Clear Wisdom – Understand subtle teachings such as emptiness.
•  Quick Wisdom – Dispells doubts, wrong conceptions & unknowns in our minds. We understand the actual nature of these objects
• Profound wisdom – understand scriptures easily
• Wisdom  of expounding the Dharma.
         •  Special Wisdom to understand the listeners aptitude
         •  Speak orderly
         •  Analogies/conclusive reasons
         •  Helps us to become good teachers
•Wisdom of Spiritual Debate to eradicate ignorance through skill of words
•Wisdom of Composing Dharma books – Understanding of subject matter, confidence to write books to reach many & bless them.
Actual Tsongkhapa Retreat instructions:-
For instructions on how to engage in Gaden Lhagyama/Guru Yoga:-
For other articles on Lama Tsongkhapa:-
For a complete explanation on Lama Tsongkhapa’s practice:-

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Temple in the Mall

9 Oct

When Tsem Rinpoche first started the Kechara Paradise outlets, he noticed that some people would come to the outlets to leave simple offerings in front of the main image there. Hence, Rinpoche brought his personal statues to be placed in these outlets precisely for these people to make offerings. These statues are very holy because they were procured with money that were offered by faithful and poor Tibetan devotees in dedication of those who are very sick or deceased. It is a Tibetan tradition to make such offerings to the Rinpoches in order to collect merit. Rinpoche would never use such money for himself and instead uses it to buy Buddha statues and the jewel and silk ornaments on them.

Some of these statues are quite old and have been consecrated by the late Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche. Kensur means ex-abbot and in the monastery, this grand old lama had a reputation of being very kind, hardworking and a great monk. Many lamas in the monastery considered him not just a lama but a living Bodhisattva.Tsem Rinpoche had a wonderful connection with this lama as a student and even served as his attendant during his tenureship as the abbot of the monastery.

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An old picture of Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche and Tsem Rinpoche

On top of that, Rinpoche did everything he could to heal this lama of his serious diabetic condition. In the monastery, especially amongst the elders, Rinpoche is well-known for his devotion and one of his great deeds during this period was to save the life of Kensur Rinpoche. Many Geshes and lamas are very grateful towards Tsem Rinpoche because it allowed Kensur Rinpoche to teach and share his wisdom. Hence, Tsem Rinpoche has a great relationship (samaya) with Kensur Rinpoche and thus, the rituals that Kensur Rinpoche performed to consecrate these statues has made these statues very much alive. They are now available to all visitors of the Kechara Paradise outlets to make offerings and prayers. The following are some pictures I have taken of these temples:-

Kechara Paradise SS2 with Mother Tara

No. 19 (Ground Floor) Jalan SS2/67,
47300, Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia.
Tel: 603-7877 0071
Fax: 603-7877 0061

Opening hours: 
11am-7pm daily
Closed on Selected Public Holidays

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Kechara Paradise 1 Utama with Arya Maitreya

S328F, 2nd Floor (Oval),
One Utama Shopping Centre,
1, Lebuh Bandar Utama,
47800, Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia.
Tel: 603-7710 4435
Fax: 603-7710 6141

Opening hours: 
10am-10pm daily

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Kechara Paradise Sunway Pyramid with the Conqueror Buddha Shakyamuni

LG2.70
Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall
46150, Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia.
Tel: 603-5632 6575
Fax: 603-5632 6576

Opening hours:
10am-10pm daily

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Kechara Paradise Viva Mall with the Bodhisattva of Compassion 4-armed Chenrezig

No. 1-43a-17, 18 & 19,
First Floor, Viva Home,
85, Jalan Loke Yew,
55200 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan,
Malaysia.
Tel : 603-2727 2818
Fax : 603-2727 2819

Opening hours: 
10am-10pm daily

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Kechara Paradise Penang Times Square with the Dharma Protector Setrap

77-G-83, Penang Times Square
Jalan Dato Keramat
10150 Penang
Tel : 04 2270295
Fax : 04 2278869

Opening hours:

Opening Hours : 11am to 8pm
Closed on Selected Public Holidays

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Childhood Buddhas

20 Sep

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Just a few days ago, I was with Rinpoche sitting in front of his Manjushri altar. As the picture above shows, the dominating icon is this large wooden statue of Manjushri with a thousand arms fanning out around him in a complete circle. There were of course various other smaller forms of Manjushri and exotic Tantric imagery sitting amidst neatly arranged silver bowls and electric candles on crystal stands. The altar is always replete with flowers and various other offerings by many devoted students from across Kechara and the world over.

It was just Bryan, Joy, myself and Seng Piow in the room with Rinpoche. Rinpoche was in the midst of rearranging the offerings so everything is perfectly symmetrical. He told us that he wanted his altar perfect for Manjushri. Somehow, the conversation drifted to iconography and he asked us what we thought were his most favourite aspect of iconography. It was really late and I remember saying, “Something between Yamantaka and Heruka.” In the end, it was Seng Piow who nailed it when he said Manjushri’s sword. He said Manjushri’s sword and book was once the emblem of Rinpoche’s previous centre. With that, Rinpoche replied that it was indeed an old logo that Rinpoche had Irene register with the ROS for the old centre that Rinpoche used to managed in Malaysia prior to the formation of Kechara.

Then, Rinpoche turned to look at Manjushri and said that when he was young living in America, every Kalmyk family in New Jersey had a shrine. They would have various Buddhist icons on it. At home, he was not allowed to display any signs of devotion at his family shine but when his mother (foster) took him to his aunt’s for a visit, she would be too busy to mind him. So, he was able to spend quite a bit of time praying and admiring a beautiful 4-armed Chenrezig picture on the shrine. That image of Chenrezig was the most beautiful to Rinpoche but he has not seen it since. When he was young, he loved Chenrezig/ Avalokitehsvara a lot and would do a lot of meditations and rather complex visualisations on Chenrezig to invoke his compassion.

However, Rinpoche explained that he always had Manjushri in a very special place in his heart. He would recite Manjushri’s Gangloma praise daily and he would recite thousands of Manjushri’s mantras every day for practice. In the local temple that he went, he would make the normal beeline beginning with the Dalai Lama’s throne, the various Buddhas and he would make an extended prostration to Manjushri. At that time, he kept a beautiful picture of Manjushri with him all the time. This Manjushri was from a Dharma center in England that he had a student reproduce on canvas recently. The following picture of Manjushri is a faithful reproduction of this original one that he kept in his childhood.

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Rinpoche loved this picture of Manjushri so much that he would sleep with the picture. He placed the picture on his heart and he covered it with his blanket. At that time, his foster parents had deep issues that was affecting his mother’s sanity. Although an affectionate and generous woman, she quickly degenerated into schizophrenia with many bouts of violent abuse and destructive behaviour particularly directed at him. This coupled with his parents disapproval of his innate spirituality that left him to languish in despair. He had prayed to Manjushri and with Manjushri by his heart, he downed pills. Fortunate for all us, Rinpoche didn’t die. So it seems that Manjushri was the main object of refuge and prayer in times of despair and difficulty. Since childhood, he had always kept an image of Manjushri near him till this day.

I have various other such childhood stories of Tsem Rinpoche  in Tales My Lama Told Me.~  http://vajrasecrets.com/books/english-books/tales-from-my-lama.html

 

The Goddess of the White Parasol

19 Aug

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This is the Sitatapatra statue that just arrived in Kechara Forest Retreat. Photo courtesy of Martin Chow.

This magnificent 8-feet wood-carved statue of White Umbrella or Dukkar has recently just arrived at Kechara Forest Retreat. She is placed at the Dukkar apartments (aptly named Dukkar after this grand deity) within KFR where volunteers and those working in KFR reside. She provides powerful protection against negative entities and interferences and that’s why I recite her powerful mantra daily. Her image would gather her sacred energy to provide power protection for those living in the apartment and beyond. I found a writeup that I wrote a while ago on her and I would like to share it here in celebration of her arrival at KFR…

Sitatapatra (Sanskrit) or Dukkar (Tibetan) is regarded as the female counterpart of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. Just like him, Sitatapatra appears in many forms but her more common emanations are the one with two arms and the one with thousand arms.

Her name translates to ‘White Victory Parasol’, which is a reflection of the powerful protection that she offers to practitioners. According to the Sitatapatra Sutra, she emerged from the sacred crown protrusion of Buddha Shakyamuni’s head while he was at Trayastrimsa heaven. The Buddha pronounced her role to “completely cut asunder all malignant demons and all spells of others and to turn aside all enemies, dangers and hatred.“ Her benign and beautiful form belies her ferocious protective nature, as she is a “fierce, terrifying goddess, garlanded by flames, a pulverizer of enemies and demons.“ She emanated from the Buddha’s crown protrusion called the Ushnisha, which is a direct manifestation of his Enlightenment.

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Sitatapatra’s more elaborate form with a thousand faces, hands and legs.

Her elaborate form with a thousand arms, has skin that is white in colour like the moon. This form does not have just a thousand arms but a thousand faces and legs too. On each palm and sole of each foot, Sitatapatra has eyes that watches and protects all sentient beings. She holds onto an assortment of implements like Dharma wheels, vajras, jewels, lotuses, double vajras, bows, swords, lassos and vajra hooks. But her principle implement is a white parasol that symbolizes victory over death, demons and negativities. Her thousand feet trample upon gods, demigods, ghosts, demons, humans, animals and all manner of obstructive beings.

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Sitatapatra’s simplified form with only two arms. 

Sitatapatra’s simplified form is white in colour and is depicted with two arms. Her left hand holds a white parasol to her heart while her right hand extends downwards, holding a Dharma wheel. Like many other Buddhist deities, she is crowned and decked with the six ornaments of a Bodhisattva.

Dukkar’s special protection is the pacification of black spells. Her practice brings great blessings and protection. It cures illnesses and pacifies harmful spirits and black magic. It stops all evil forces, and is very effective for purifying the karma of being wrongly accused such as in arguments or legal cases. All these threats are eliminated by her power, which is like a sharp diamond sword. Dukkar protects practitioners and helps them avoid obstacles.

Her short sacred mantra is OM SITA TAPA TREY HUM PHET.

Mental Note to be Grateful Always

6 Aug

gratitudeIt’s been awhile since I last posted on this blog and I just received a wonderful sharing by Rinpoche just the other day. Rinpoche had been sharing a lot lately about gratitude on social media and he explained what dawned on him recently. He noticed that friends and students who transform and take on more responsibilities for others always do it because they have a sense of gratitude either for themselves or for the Dharma. This is in sharp contrast to some students who rarely profess gratitude and hence, their minds go up and down and always have doubts about the Dharma and often have thoughts of leaving the Dharma.

Rinpoche further explained that this does not just apply to the Dharma as it also applies to the secular world. You will always hear people who have succeeded always attributing it to a supporting loved one, parent or teacher. Whatever it is, this does not take away from the fact that gratitude is one of the cornerstone practices of Mahayana Buddhism. Rinpoche explained that one would need to develop a deep sense of gratitude for all mother sentient beings in order to develop real compassion. Rinpoche revealed that one of the greatest Buddhist classics that affected him deeply when he was younger was the Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life or Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva. The author Shantideva based his entire treatise on developing the highest wisdoms and realisations based upon the foundation of developing deep gratitude for all beings for having been our mothers before one lifetime or another.

I went to be bed thinking and realising how blessed my life is for having everything I really needed to be a deep practitioner (although I am not one yet). I have good parents, good friends and a great spiritual friend like Rinpoche. There were close to no real obstacles except self-created ones. There’s just a lot to be thanked for and I just regret not being able to share this with some people who have decided that they needed to walk away. Gratitude is indeed a powerful way to develop spiritually.

Making Yellow Hats

6 Jul

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Stephen Tang, a student of Zasep Rinpoche

Recently, I got in touch with a young student of Zasep Rinpoche in Toronto over Facebook. His name is Stephen Tang and we were just talking over Facebook chat and out of the blue one day, he said he would like to offer little Lama Tsongkhapa hats onto the statues at Gaden Choling**, Zasep Rinpoche’s center in Toronto and he asked me where he can get it done. I told him that he could get it done in one of the those little tailors within the Tibetan community in India or Nepal or he can get it done with Kechara Saraswati Arts (KSA), the arts department of Kechara. They have a tailor in the department that can can sew up traditional silk brocade thangkas, yellow Lama Tsongkhapa hats and so forth. They even have artists that can paint the detail on the faces of Buddha statues and much more.

(The link to Kechara Saraswati Arts - http://www.kechara.com/arts/ )

He was told that he needed to get Zasep Rinpoche’s permission regarding this matter. Finally, word came back that Zasep Rinpoche himself allows and approves of this. Thus began to process of getting the right measurements for this and boy, did he got me a very comprehension measurement of the statues. Then the tailor got to work and voila. The hat was ready. We went back and forth on this matter and finally the hats was sewn up and shipped to the Canada. He received it and offered onto the statue just a few days ago. Just before sending the hats, I messaged him to give him advice on how to offer the hats so the proper aspiration is generated on such an auspicious offering:-

When you offer the hats, make sure you offer incense and make a prayer to Lama Tsongkhapa and his two son that you will gain his wisdom to be of benefit to others and to always meet authentic spiritual guides and to have authentic Guru devotion. Recite Migtsema and/or Lama Tsongkhapa’s dedication. Make sure you do this. It will be very good for you.”

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Upon my request, I told him to take a picture of the altar with the Lama Tsongkhapa statues to see if the hats fit and it does fit perfectly!

** I do recall that Tsem Rinpoche had offered a Setrap statue to their center a few years back. Recently, Stephen Tang told me that Zasep Rinpoche proudly showed the statue to his students after a recent Vajrasattva retreat.