Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc.
Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable institution dedicated to encouraging Buddhist prayers and rituals along with the growth, development and study of Buddhism, and Buddhist philosophy in accordance to the Gadenpa Tradition (Tibetan Buddhism), teachings of Je Tsongkhapa and H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. The Foundation’s also provides the public with Buddhist-related and spiritual services and educational content.
Incorporated officially on 19th February 2014 in the USA, Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc. is affiliated with a global group of Buddhist associations and social enterprises. This includes Kechara House, a non-profit Buddhist association in Malaysia, and Kechara Soup Kitchen, a charitable project whose primary goal is to feed and empower the homeless and underprivileged in Malaysia, Indonesia and Shanghai, China to become independent and self-sustaining.
Tsem Rinpoche Foundation is open on Sundays from 12pm to 3pm. We are located at:
20655 Soledad Canyon Road
California 91351, USA
For further information about Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc., please contact [email protected].
You can make a contribution to our work via the following account:
Account name: Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc. dba Kechara
Account number: 002-018-299
Bank address: EverTrust Bank
200 S. Garfield Ave., STE 100
Alhambra, CA 91801
CITY NATIONAL BANK
Account name: Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc. dba Kechara
Account number: 28027885
Routing Number: 122016066
Bank address: City National Bank
1012 Swarthmore Ave.
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Our PayPal information will be published soon as we are further working on this section. Do visit again.
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If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible.
For further readings please see:
The Pastors of Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc.
Pastor Khong Jean Ai (sangha-to-be)
Jean Ai wishes to become a vessel that holds the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa to benefit future generations, inspiring others to live by the Buddha’s teachings.
Jean Ai met His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche as a young child and through her parents’ involvement with Kechara over the years, she has never known a life without His Eminence. Jean Ai was a regular volunteer of Tsem Ladrang during her childhood and teenage years. After graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Warwick in the UK and working at the London Probation Service, she returned to Kuala Lumpur to join Tsem Ladrang’s e-division. There she managed kechara.com, responsible for the weekly Kechara e-newsletter, including content generation and editing. Since then she has joined His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche’s writing team, responsible for executing Rinpoche’s personal instructions and managing his correspondence.
Having visited a nunnery in India in 2004, Jean Ai remembers noticing how happy and purposeful everyone was. She had a feeling of familiarity and the sight of the robes comforted her. Immediately, Jean Ai messaged her mother who told her to ask Rinpoche’s advice. Rinpoche told her to complete her secular education so that when she taught the Dharma her words would carry the credibility and weight of a university degree, something she completed with the motivation that some day she wanted to become a nun.
Through her ordination as a nun, Jean Ai wishes to become a vessel that holds the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa to benefit future generations, inspiring others to live by the Buddha’s teachings. Through this she hopes to repay the kindness of her parents and her Guru. Above all she wants to abide in a state free of suffering, and she wants this for others as well.
Update 14th September, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
The pastors have had a very busy week hosting guests and students from Canada and Malaysia!
As part of their teaching duties, the pastors took their guests on a pilgrimage to the various places in Los Angeles that Tsem Rinpoche frequented as a teenager. The visitors were fortunate enough to visit the first and second locations of Thubten Dhargye Ling, the Dharma centre that Rinpoche attended as a teenager where he had studied under the great Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen. The pastors also brought the group to the site of Fenmore Apartments, where Rinpoche lived as a teenager, and Sun Cleaners where Rinpoche was working when he received news that his root guru H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche had entered clear light.
At each location, the pastors spoke about Rinpoche’s life at that point and the significance of the location. They explained which rooms Rinpoche had stayed in, where he was working at the time, who his friends were and what they did together, what his thoughts were, and any other interesting anecdotes that Rinpoche had previously shared with them. For example, at the first location of Thubten Dhargye Ling (on St Andrew’s Place), the pastors shared that Rinpoche had met Zong Rinpoche there. It was at this place Rinpoche had made a promise to his teacher to become ordained as a monk.
At the second location of Thubten Dhargye Ling (on La Cienega Avenue), the pastors shared that when Rinpoche used to live and and serve his teacher there, Rinpoche had the use of a car lent to him by another student at the Dharma centre. He would go out with his friends on weekends but unwilling to disturb his teacher with the engine’s ignition, Rinpoche would put the gear in neutral, silently push the car out of the driveway then start the engine further down the street. Rinpoche had laughed as he recounted this story because he knew his teacher, Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen, knew all along what Rinpoche was doing. Geshe-la however, never said anything because he knew Rinpoche left in this manner out of respect for him, and that he would not break his vows even if he was going out.
With so much information being given, one of the guests remarked that it was like The Promise, Rinpoche’s pictorial biography, had come to life because it was one thing to read it in a book, but very much something else to see the location for themselves. He said that he was memorising all of the information given to him by the pastors, so he could share it with his friends back home.
What was interesting is that despite being in the heart of samsara, in a city famous for its beautiful places and people, Rinpoche as a teenager was not distracted by all of this. Although he led a normal teenage life, going out with his friends and working hard, Rinpoche remained fully devoted to his teachers and never gave up his commitments to them. By day, Rinpoche held three jobs in order to pay his rent; in the evenings and at night, Rinpoche served his teacher and Dharma centre by cleaning, cooking, arranging, making offerings, doing his sadhana (daily rituals) and being there to receive teachings.
The pastors also brought their guests to visit the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades. Rinpoche had previously visited the shrine and had been very moved by the students’ devotion to their teacher, Paramahansa Yogananda. Rinpoche had also seen many aspects of the shrine that he felt could be incorporated into Kechara Forest Retreat in Malaysia. The pastors shared these remarks with their visitors, one of whom is involved with the development of Kechara Forest Retreat.
Class on Sunday Sept 14th was focused on the third and fourth of the Four Noble Truths – there is an end to suffering, and the Buddhist path is the end to suffering. The pastors spoke about the differences between liberation and enlightenment, as well as an explanation of the differences between:
- symbolic cessation (of suffering): this is temporary cessation and can be reversed, for example the temporary stopping of our anger until we can overcome it. However, since the root cause has not been addressed, the afflictive emotion can occur again
- residual cessation. At this point, we achieve the mental cessation of suffering but still have residual karma to purify because we still have the body that is produced by our previous lives’ delusions and karma. Thus although the mind is cleansed of delusions, the body is still subject to the sufferings inherent in its nature (old age, sickness and death)
- non-residual cessation. At this point, when the body ceases, the cessation becomes non-residual.
The pastors then explored the cessation of suffering as viewed by the Theravadan and Mahayana schools, and gave a brief overview of the various paths within Buddhism that a practitioner can follow to achieve a cessation of suffering. Class was concluded with a meditation session, beginning with the Nine-Round Breath Meditation followed by a sitting meditation focusing on the breath.
Update 7th September, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
This week, we welcomed new student Andree who has been following H.E. Tsem Rinpoche via his blog for the last two years. We also welcomed Keong and Gim from Canada, who were introduced to Rinpoche via Pastor Loh. The class covered the life of Lama Tsongkhapa (the founder of the Gelug lineage), his teachings and his impact on Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet. For most of the attendees, it was their introduction to Lama Tsongkhapa so an interactive session was expected…and the pastors were not disappointed!
Questions ranged from the focus of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings, to the benefits of reciting Migtsema (Lama Tsongkhapa’s mantra) for our loved ones even if they are not spiritual, let alone Buddhist. The pastors explained the significance of Lama Tsongkhapa’s posture and appearance as a monk, and the meaning of Lama Tsongkhapa’s prayer and its benefits. They also covered the history of Buddhism in Tibet, and answered questions on the perceived difference between sutra and tantra, as well as the differences and similarities between the various schools of Buddhism.
After class, many students stayed back for one-on-one sessions with the pastors, to engage in more personal discussions. During this time, Pastor Jean Ai gifted Imelda with a pearl mala (rosary) and Pastor Loh gifted her with a copy of Miracles of Tsem Rinpoche, which he himself had compiled and published. Imelda had previously expressed a desire to engage in retreats and had remarked she did not have a proper mala. Following in Rinpoche’s footsteps, the pastors gifted her with these items to encourage her spiritual practice and learning.
As H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s personal attendant, Pastor Loh also presented some gifts to Keong and Gim on Rinpoche’s behalf. Our guests were blessed with a mala (rosary) each as well as an 8″ statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. To say they were pleased to receive this blessing would be an understatement! More than receiving just a statue, Keong and Gim were also receiving the gift of Dharma from Rinpoche. In gratitude, the couple made an offering of dana (food offering) to the pastors and to Rinpoche after the class was over.
Update 31st August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
This week’s class covered the first two of the Four Noble Truths. Although there exist many Buddhist traditions, schools and lineages around the world, fundamental to all of them is the Four Noble Truths. These are:
- Suffering exists
- There is a cause of suffering
- There can be an end to suffering
- The Buddhist path is the end to suffering
After Siddhartha gained enlightenment and became the Buddha, he contemplated on whether he should teach the Dharma. Using his omniscience, Buddha saw that if he taught, most people would not fully understand these teachings and that they would be lost or become perverted. Thus Buddha contemplated on whether there was any purpose in teaching. Seeing this, Brahma and Indra requested Buddha to turn the Wheel of Dharma, saying that some beings would benefit and gain attainments from Buddha’s teachings. Brahma said to Buddha that if he did not teach, all beings would suffer unceasingly; if he taught, at least some would be saved.
Moved by their request, Buddha gave his very first sermon at Sarnath. He taught his five former disciples who had previously abandoned him when, as Siddhartha, he gave up his extreme fasting practices. Buddha’s very first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths, and it underscores the importance of accepting these Four Truths when we step on to the Buddhist path. And if the Buddhist path is our recovery from the ‘intoxicant’ that is samsara (cyclic existence), Pastor Jean Ai said that the Dharma is like our recovery from substances such as alcohol and drugs – the first step requires our recognition that our existence is suffering (that is, until we achieve enlightenment).
Some may find that Buddhism focuses too much on suffering and death, and criticise the teachings as morbid where in fact, they are quite empowering. Pastor Niral spoke about the inevitability of death, and how our life is a preparation for the way we die. Pastor Jean Ai narrated the story about Kisa Gotami, the mother who lost her son and begged Buddha to bring him back. Buddha asked her to retrieve for him a single mustard seed from a household which had no experienced or known any death. Desperate to bring her son back, Kisa Gotami searched frantically for such a household, but found that every house she came across had suffered death. It was then she had the realisation of the inevitability of death. She returned to Buddha and became his disciple, and eventually attained arhatship herself.
Therefore understanding that death is inevitable, instead of going into denial, Buddhists focus on the best ways of preparing ourselves for that moment. In this way, we take control and responsibility for our ‘fate’. To do this, we need knowledge and this goes back to our initial acceptance that existence is suffering. Pastor Niral explained that what we think about suffering should actually be amended. He said that the original Pali / Sanskrit term ‘dukkha’ was mistranslated into English as ‘suffering’ where in fact ‘dissatisfaction’ would be a more accurate translation. Mistranslation notwithstanding, the pastors explained about the three types of suffering:
- the suffering of suffering
- the suffering of change
- pervasive suffering
The first type of suffering arises from the physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying. The pastors spoke about these being the sights that Siddhartha saw on his trips out of the palace when, for the first time, he was exposed to these realities. It was these sights that prompted Siddhartha to renounce his palace life, and to enter the life of an ascetic to seek the truth about our existence.
Pastor Jean Ai said that if we understand and practice the teachings on impermanence, it helps us to escape the second type of suffering – the suffering of change. This suffering arises when we get stressed about trying to hold on to what we find desirable, and when we are frustrated because we cannot get what we want. Pastor Jean Ai said in this instance, she found Alanis Morisette’s quote particularly apt: “I wish people could achieve what they think would bring them happiness in order for them to realize that that’s not really what happiness is.”
The pastors also spoke about the causes of suffering being the three poisons of ignorance, attachment and aversion/anger. Ignorance is the root poison, and attachment and aversion/anger arise from ignorance. Pastor Jean Ai said that knowledge is very important in stopping us from committing non-virtuous actions; if we know something is wrong, we are less likely to perform an action arising from attachment and/or anger because we know it is wrong. We feel a twinge of guilt, and something holds us back. All forms of suffering can somehow be categorised as arising from one or a combination of these three poisons. Rinpoche has previously given an excellent teaching on this, called Snakes, Roosters and Pigs (representing aversion/anger, attachment and ignorance) which can be found here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/snakes-roosters-and-pigs.html and here: http://www.vajrasecrets.com/snakes-roosters-and-pigs.
The pastors also briefly covered the third of the Four Noble Truths. Pastor Niral said that because suffering has a cause, this cause can end and therefore suffering can end. For example, what we know as a table is a combination of wood, screws / nails and workmanship. Once the table is assembled however, it begins to rot until one day, it falls apart and no longer exists as a table. Being atoms and also subject to impermanence and decay, humans are no different except our sentience and gross faculties grants us the ability to learn, understand, contemplate and practice the Dharma to change our ‘fate’.
The pastors will continue with the third and fourth Noble Truths this Sunday. All are welcome to join in the puja and class, regardless of ability, background and experience.
Update 24th August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
Last week, Pastor David and Pastor Jean Ai spoke about the life story of the Buddha and why it is important for us to study the biographies of great and inspirational masters. The pastors covered the Buddha’s painless birth, his life in the palace and the sights that prompted him to renounce his princely life for that of an ascetic.
Pastor David said that when he first read about the Buddha, what moved him was when Mara’s army of demons launched weapons at Buddha and how, through Buddha’s lack of karma to be harmed, those weapons turned into flowers. He found that moment to be particularly symbolic and beautiful.
Pastor Jean Ai said she was particularly moved by Buddha’s response when Mara insisted that that seat under the bodhi tree rightfully belong to him. Mara’s demons called out to bear witness to Mara’s claim. Then Mara challenged Siddhartha and asked him, “Who will speak for you?” to confirm his spiritual awakening. In response, the prince calmly reached to touch the earth with his right hand. It was then that the earth herself spoke, saying, “I bear you witness!” and Mara disappeared. Soon after that, Siddhartha realised enlightenment and became Buddha Shakyamuni.
The two pastors also shared with the class Tsem Rinpoche’s favourite parts of Shakyamuni’s story. Pastor Jean Ai referred back to her time when she served Rinpoche in Bangkok, Thailand. During that period, Rinpoche had taught the team about the symbolism of the Fasting Buddha, a particularly popular representation of the Buddha in Thailand. Rinpoche had spoken about how Shakyamuni’s form as an emaciated ascetic reflected his compassion and perseverance achieve spiritual awakening to benefit all sentient beings. Pastor Jean Ai said that if at any moment Siddhartha had given up on his quest and thrown in the towel when he came across an obstacle, none of us would be sitting in the foundation today learning the Dharma. It was through Shakyamuni’s compassion that he became enlightened, and thus gained the knowledge and skilful means to turn the wheel of Dharma for sentient beings long in to the future.
Pastor Jean Ai said that this was a reminder for anyone on any spiritual path to persevere whenever obstacles arise. You can learn more about the Fasting Buddha here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/art-architecture/fasting-buddha.html
This week, we welcomed new friends Imelda and Carol. Both have been practising Buddhists for the last three to four years, and are interested in sitting meditation as well as the teachings on compassion. Pastor Jean Ai presented them with a copy each of The Promise, which is H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s pictorial biography. Imelda expressed an interest in doing more retreats and spoke about her affinity with Medicine Buddha and doing retreats. Because of this, Pastor Jean Ai also gifted Imelda with a copy of Tsongkhapa: A Simple Guide to a Powerful Practice. Pastor Jean Ai was able to speak to her at length about Kechara Forest Retreat, as well as show her photos of the Kechara Organization in Malaysia. We look forward to welcoming both Carol and Imelda back next Sunday!
Pastor Jean Ai going through The Promise with Carol and Imelda
Update 11th August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
Whenever we clean any temple or a lama’s residence, we should visualise the abode as a mandala. In doing so, we turn an ordinary environment into one that helps us to purify our negative karma and generate merit, since the cleaning becomes a service to the Three Jewels. Rinpoche previously taught us to visualise the impurities and dirt (ignorance) of our mind being swept away as we clean, and that we should recite Dulpung Drima Pung (“Abandon dirt, abandon stains“) as we do this. This well-known meditation follows in the tradition of Arya Panthaka who, although a dullard, achieved arhatship by the end of his life because of his meditations as he swept. Thus in Dharma centres and monasteries all over the world, students who are genuine about their practice will rush to clean up because it offers them an easy but effective method of purifying their karma. You can read more about Arya Panthaka’s story in Page 107 of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.
Cleaning a temple, Dharma centre or a lama’s residence is a very effective method of purification
Update 5th August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
Yesterday Rinpoche gave an impromptu teaching to an intimate group of students. For nine hours, Rinpoche spoke on a whole range of topics, starting with an explanation on Zechariah Sitchin and his works, before expounding on the Babylonian belief in Annunakis and the planet Nibiru. You can learn more about this HERE.
In the top left corner is a depiction of our solar system, identifying nine planets which revolve around a star. Even the planets are depicted in sizes relative to one another i.e. Jupiter is appropriately sized next to Earth. How did the Babylonians know how to do this, when they lacked the technology to observe the solar system?
Rinpoche then spoke about the delicate balance of the solar system and how anything single small change in life’s delicate balance can have catastrophic results. For example, it is commonly believed that the dinosaurs were wiped out because an asteroid collided with the earth, either throwing up so much atmospheric gas that global temperatures dropped, or causing the earth to shift ever so slightly off its axis, thereby changing the way the sun’s rays reached the earth.
The trajectory of Planet X’s orbit, which the Sumerians knew as as Nibiru. As you can see, Nibiru’s orbit comes very close to Earth, close enough for the Anunnakis to traverse the gap and visit Earth.
Zechariah Sitchin with the reproduction of the Babylonian plate which depicts our solar system, and wrote prolifically on the topic
Life’s fragile balance was explored because of its relevance to the Hindu teachings on Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva’s roles as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe. Rinpoche explained that Hindus believe all existence was created when Brahma uttered the primordial syllable ‘AH’. From that, Rinpoche expanded to include the healing properties of the syllable ‘AH’ and its presence in all mantras, Buddhist and Hindu for example OM *AH* RA PA TSA NA DHI (Manjushri’s mantra) or OM M*A*NI PADME HUM (Chenrezig’s mantra). Rinpoche spoke about how this primordial sound is also an effective means of clearing blocked channels in our bodies (in the same way as acupuncture), and how it triggers a regeneration of dying atoms.
Shiva doing his cosmic dance
In explaining about Vishnu and Shiva’s role, and the aim of Shiva worship, Rinpoche spoke about the purification of the elements that make up our solar system. Rinpoche provided an analogy about a cup of water being recycled until it can no longer be recycled. Dumping it into a lake purifies it, until that too can no longer be recycled. This lake is then dumped into the Indian Ocean to be purified, until it too can no longer be recycled. Thus the Indian Ocean joins with the world’s oceans to be purified, until it too is so used up that it can no longer be recycled. And things will reach such a point when all resources have been used up and can no longer purified. At this stage, Shiva steps in with his cosmic dance to destroy the solar system, in order to return the elements to the greater cosmos and purify them for a new solar system to be generated by Brahma.
Chinnamasta, a depiction of Vajrayogini.
This exposition led into a narration of Narasimha’s story, to the importance of surrender in our Dharma practice, to an explanation of Chinnamasta’s iconography. In this form of Vajrayogini, Chinnamasta shows us that we have to cut off the ego to cut off samsara and to end our suffering. The ego is represented by the head / face, which is what we usually use to identify ourselves. The cutting off of the head is the ultimate form of surrender. If we cut off the limbs (which would represent, for example, anger, hatred, jealousy) we can still survive but no one can survive without a head. And thus the head, which is our ego and self-grasping mind, is the root cause of our remaining in samsara.
And the fact Vajrayogini is not dead even after she has cut her head off reflects her enlightened nature. The three spurts of blood from her severed neck represent the three poisons – ignorance, attachment, aversion – which are the three lifelines which feed our ego. Her naked breasts (representing sex) and the knife (representing violence) depict the emotions which pervade throughout our world today, and they are the energies she uses to draw us to her in order to transform these energies and direct them towards Dharma practice.
Because of this explanation of Chinnamasta’s appearance, Rinpoche followed on with a narration of the mahasiddhas’ stories. Rinpoche spoke about the headless sisters who offered ultimate renunciation to their guru Krishnacharya, as well as Kukkuripa the Dog Lover, who left the pleasure realm of the gods to return to his dog. Rinpoche explained that these mahasiddhas were all Indian in origin and that any practice in Tibetan Buddhism can be traced to India where it was originally taught by the enlightened masters and sages there.
Rinpoche later showed us videos about reincarnation and instances of reincarnation that exist outside of Eastern culture, where regular American families for example found that their children were exhibiting signs and providing information that they could not explain.
As you can see, Rinpoche’s knowledge spans a great number of subjects. People often ask, “Why does Rinpoche talk about this stuff?” Well, Rinpoche talks about this stuff for many reasons – to expand our horizons, for us to consider other possibilities and explanations, and not to be stuck in our way of thinking. To break us out of our projections for the way things ‘should’ be and how we cause ourselves great suffering when our expectations are not met. And quite simply, to expose us to different cultures, backgrounds, tradition and information. For anyone to become an effective Dharma teacher, we cannot remain ignorant to the world. The human mind is such that when someone shares a similar interest as you, they automatically open up. Thus we learn about what others are interested in, so that we can speak with them not for the purposes of converting them but to teach them knowledge which will benefit them.
There is never a dull moment with Rinpoche, when every bit of information taught to us will be useful someday!
Update 2nd August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
When we engage in any kind of spiritual path, it is important for us to engage in a path with a qualified teacher from an authentic lineage. The best way for any student to gain this understanding is through study of their teacher’s life. This is a form of study common in the monasteries, and the texts are known as namthar. Pastor David Lai, who was previously attached to Kechara Media & Publications, and Pastor Khong Jean Ai, who had researched H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s life for his pictorial biography The Promise, spoke about Rinpoche’s journey from his birth in Taiwan (and the auspicious signs that accompanied), and his adoption to New Jersey by a Kalmyk family as well as Rinpoche’s devotion to his first teacher Kensur Lobsang Tharchin.
They also spoke about Rinpoche’s departure for Los Angeles and his studies there under Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, and finally his time in India at the monastery. The sharing was peppered with personal anecdotes which Rinpoche had shared with Pastors David and Jean Ai over the many years they have been Rinpoche’s students.
Pastor David shared that Rinpoche never wanted to publicise his life story and felt it was nothing especially remarkable. One of his teachers however, instructed him to do so, saying that his story would be a source of inspiration for many. Indeed, over the years many students have written in to Rinpoche saying that he speaks to their heart because they feel he understands what they are going through, or what they went through – the physical beatings and emotional abuse, the pain of being unloved by one’s parents, the unrealistic expectations, the lack of financial stability, the obstacles to practise Dharma, amongst many other things.
Pastor Jean Ai noted that although Rinpoche’s life has been filled with many difficulties and obstacles, he has never used the pain he suffered as an excuse to abuse and cause pain to others. Instead, Rinpoche has always sought to take pain away from sentient beings because he does not wish them to suffer in the way he did. Pastor Jean Ai shared that when Rinpoche arrived in Los Angeles and was under the tutelage of Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen, Geshe-la asked Rinpoche to call his mother back in New Jersey to apologise for running away. Rinpoche was taken aback and asked why, when she was the one who had caused him so much pain over the years. Geshe-la said that as the son, it was important that Rinpoche make an attempt to heal his mother’s pain and that regardless of her behaviour, she still loved him. Since Rinpoche always followed his teachers’ instructions, Rinpoche called up his mother to apologise. Although Rinpoche’s mother rejected his apology, she never stopped loving Rinpoche and many decades later, Rinpoche received confirmation of this. After his mother’s passing, when her belongings were being sorted, relatives found a picture of Rinpoche in his monk robes which she had kept in her wallet.
H.E. Tsem Rinpoche visits Mark Keppel High School. After running away from his home in New Jersey at the age of 16, Rinpoche came to Los Angeles to pursue his Dharma studies. During this time, Rinpoche also completed his GED at this high school.
Update 1st August, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
A quiet moment in the staff house. Pastor David lights the candles on the altar for daily puja. Each day, we pray for the manifestation of Rinpoche’s vision and goals, free from obstacles inner, outer and secret.
Update 26th July, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
With any course of study, it is always helpful to examine and understand the origins of the practice. This week, we spoke about the development of Buddhism throughout the ages, and some of the key tenets of Shakyamuni’s Dharma.
The class explored how Buddhism as a religion guides you to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of your thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding. As a spiritual path and practice, Buddhism helps us to understand the apparent injustice and inequality around the world (through learning and understanding about karma), and to provide us with a way of life or code of practice that leads to true happiness.
The concept of ‘dukkha’ was clarified to mean ‘dissatisfaction’ as opposed to the commonly mistranslated ‘suffering’. This was followed by a brief exploration of the Four Noble Truths, which we will examine in greater detail in the coming weeks.
The class also had the chance to explore the differences between the three vehicles (yanas): Theravadan, Mahayana and Vajrayana, which lies mainly in the motivation of the practitioner and their reasons for wanting to gain liberation from suffering.
An explanation of the Lamrim, which is the core text of our practice, and its origins was also given. Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa lineage, wrote the Lamrim Chenmo which was based on the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment written by Atisha. Tsongkhapa’s text followed in the same style of writing as Atisha’s, but explained the path in more detail. From Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, Pabongkha Rinpoche gave a 24 day Lamrim teaching, later transcribed as Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Trijang Rinpoche. It is a condensed version of the Lamrim Chenmo, which places more emphasis on an experiential understanding of the path, and it is the core text used by Tibetan Buddhist students (of the Gelugpa school) all over the world today.
After class, a group of students adjourned to a nearby restaurant to celebrate the 25th birthday of one of the Foundation’s attendees where Pastor Jean Ai continued to speak briefly on the life story of Atisha and how the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment by Lama Atisha came to be composed.
Update 22nd July, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
The Buddhist’s definition of attachments applies to many aspects of our lives. Having a relationship with a partner is one of them but then again, just because we are in a relationship, doesn’t necessarily mean we have strong attachment; and conversely, just because we are not in a relationship, does not mean we do not have attachment, or that we are truly spiritual.
In general, people crave for relationships for various reasons: companionship, security, pride, physical satisfaction, etc. Being in a relationship is not just simply being physically together with another person, it is much more complicated than that. What might arise when we get in a relationship with another person includes responsibilities, arguments, ups and downs, suspicion, jealousy, and occasionally some “happier” moments. When we are in a relationship, we need to spend time with our partner going out, having dinner, watching movies, shopping, travelling the world, etc….all the seemingly meaningless mundane activities. Furthermore, the relationship may lead to marriage, and then having to deal with in-laws, children, the children’s babysitting, nursery, education, discipline, food, bigger houses and bigger cars to accommodate them…the list goes on and so do the rest of the mundane aspects of life, which takes time away from our spiritual development. If we choose this path in life, then we have to be ready for what it entails. Most of the time, choosing this path in life leads us further and further away from spirituality, even if we have the intention to devote more time to Dharma.
What’s the bigger “danger” of the above? It perpetuates our attachments again and again, to our future lives and beyond, and ultimate liberation is nowhere to be seen. The inner and subtle attachment is what prevents us from attaining liberation. For example, in this life our attachment may be a girl called Nadine. After we and Nadine pass away in this life, our attachments which abide in our subtle mind do not die or disappear. They are carried into our next life, and will manifest in the future when perhaps another girl called Emily comes along, and then another girl (or boy, or non-humans) in future lives to come. The physical person or being will be different but the attachment is the same because we feed it every lifetime. What we are actually feeding is the mind that abides in attachment, and the samsara continues on and on. The situation mentioned above applies to us in general. However, it is not possible for everyone in the world to physically renounce from worldly life and to be ordained. Therefore how can one still lead a spiritual life and embrace spirituality without having to physically join the monastery to become monks and nuns?
We observe and check ourselves when we are in a relationship. When we are with our partner, are we doing so out of “biased attachment”? Do we want to spend more time with our partner, over and above other equally important people in our lives like our Guru, Dharma brothers and sisters, parents and siblings, etc.? Do we take care of our Guru, friends and parents as caringly and lovingly as we take care of our partner when he/she is sick? Do we buy as many gifts for them as we do for our partner? Do we defend and protect them as much as we protect our partner? These are the yardsticks by which we can check our own mind to determine whether or not being in the relationship has brought us nearer to or further away from spirituality.
Why is this form of checking a good yardstick for us? Because the very quality that Buddha embodies when He helps all sentient beings is “EQUANIMITY”. Regardless of whether the person is as close as His wife, child, father or mother, or as damaging as His “enemy” (for example Devadatta), Buddha’s love and compassion for them is the SAME. Regardless of whether the being is just an ant under His feet or a bird above His head, or as important as a king of a country, Buddha treats all of them with the SAME love and compassion. This type of attitude is known as Equanimity and when a person acts out his/her love and care with Equanimity, eventually he/she will develop real and irreversible compassion like that of a Buddha and Bodhisattva.
Therefore, Buddhism does not say we cannot have relationship, and Buddhism also does not say that not having relationship means we are spiritual. We have to check our actions and motivation. Yes, we love our partner in a romantic way that we do not have with any other person in this world, but does that relationship takes us further away from being a truly spiritual person? Or do we practise real Dharma such that being in a relationship with that person does not damage but enhance our spirituality? Then “Equanimity” is the key. If we can have Equanimity with our partner as well as every other being around us, then we are truly spiritual and being in the relationship will not lead to our downfall in our spiritual development.
Conversely, if we are not in a relationship (to the extent that we are ordained as sangha) but we do not practice equanimity and, for example, we favor one person over another for sponsorship or status’ sake, then in actuality we are still not embodying spirituality or practicing Equanimity, although physically we may appear to do so.
Update 19th July, 2014 (by Pastor Khong Jean Ai)
We welcomed visiting Pastors David Lai and Niral Patel this week at the foundation. The topic of the class was karma, which is one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. H.E. Tsem Rinpoche has previously taught that to develop complete understanding and faith in karma is the best protection we can receive, because such understanding will guide us to behave in a manner that is always virtuous and always propels our spiritual practice. When we behave in a naturally virtuous manner, we stop creating the causes which leads to our suffering. Thus practising any teachings on karma is a protection because when we lack the karma to suffer, we will not experience harm or suffering!
In class, we focused specifically on:
- the different types of karma
- the difference between karma and merits
- the difference between positive, negative and neutral karma
- how to make positive, negative and neutral karma
- the results of positive, negative and neutral karma
The class used the following karma chart to aid our study of karma and its workings.
In order to end cyclic existence and to be reborn as a Buddha, we engage in practices that generate positive karma and merit, and purify our negative karma. Emphasis was placed on the practitioner’s motivation in whatever actions (of body, speech and mind) that they perform.
A student seeking clarification into the teachings, and how imprints can affect our body, speech and mind in this lifetime so that we generate positive, negative or neutral karma
Pastors David Lai, Niral Patel, Khong Jean Ai and Ong Moh Mei. Pastor Seng Piow had been requested to assist H.E. Tsem Rinpoche on this day.
Pastor Khong Jean Ai (left) and Pastor Loh Seng Piow (right) leading the prayers in the Foundation
Update 6th July, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
Participants of our Sunday service watching a video on puja in Gaden Monastery
Having discussion and sharing experience about puja
Presenting His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche’s books to our new participant of the Sunday class – a lovely lady called Ann
This Sunday’s class is about puja.
In Buddhism, puja (Sanskrit & Pali: puja) are expressions of “honour, worship and devotional attention.” Acts of puja include bowing, making offerings and chanting. These devotional acts are generally performed daily at home (either in the morning or evening or both) as well as during communal festivals and special days at a temple.
Breathing Meditation (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow) – July 2014
Pastor Loh Seng Piow and Pastor Khong Jean Ai demonstrating the breathing meditation
Nine Round Breathing Meditation to Purify our Subtle Wind Energy
Sitting in the vajra posture we begin by visualizing that our gross physical body, composed of flesh, organs and bones, gradually melts into light until we are left with only a holographic image that sparkles like a rainbow. At this point we make a vajra fist with our left hand and place it under our right armpit. With our right hand we make a vajra fist and extending the right middle finger, placing the index finger on top of it, we gently block the left nostril.
I. Visualizing clearly our three inner channels, we inhale through our right nostril imagining that the pure essences of the five elements, positive and healing energies and all the holy beings’ blessings enter our right channel in the form of white light. This white light absorbs into the subtle wind energy at our heart. We now block the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril in three short breaths, imagining that all our sicknesses, polluted elemental winds, inner demons and interferences, relating to the left side of the body, are expelled in the aspect of polluted black smoke.
II. This exercise should now be repeated on the opposite side to purify the left channel and expel all negativities relating to the right side of the body.
III. Placing our hands in the meditation mudra and breathing evenly through both nostrils, we should visualize that all the positive and healing energy of the holy beings enter both the right and left channels and absorb into the subtle wind energy at the heart. In three short breaths, through both nostrils, we breathe out all negativities, physical and mental sicknesses, interferences, demons and polluted winds from both sides of the body.
Update June, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
Today’s class is about clear light meditation (death meditation), about how Dharma practice can lead to control in rebirth. Seen on the TV screen is an advanced practitioner in death meditation state.
Update 1st June, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
This week’s class was on “Reincarnation” based on videos on this blog post:
Update 18th May, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
Today’s class is a continuation of last week’s class on “The Dying Process”, seen here in the TV screen a picture of Thupten Rinpoche in “death meditation”, see this article on Tsem Rinpoche’s blog: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/new-zealand-tv-reports-thupten-rinpoches-death-meditation.html
Update 11th May, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
This Sunday’s teaching was about “The Dying Process”, and it was based on His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche’s teaching given a few years ago (http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/the-dying-process.html). The detailed process of the four main stages of dying was discussed with the class, and also personal experience of dying relatives was shared.
Update 4th May, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
Pastor Loh Seng Piow with (from left to right) Gabriela, Kajal and Sunil. In this class we talked about setting up the altar and making offerings.
The class was conducted by showing the video of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche teaching the significance of setting up an altar and the meaning of making offerings (http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/floating-market-dharma-sharing-on-offerings.html). After the video, Pastor Loh demonstrated the ways to set up a simple altar and make offerings.
Update 27th April, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
This week’s topic was about setting up altar at home, and we shared with the class how to set up personal altar, the offerings needed etc. It is great to be able to collect merits everyday by making offerings and doing prayers in front of our personal altar!
Update 20th April, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
On April 20th, we had Gabriela and her son visiting our Foundation for the first time and joining our prayers and discussion. Marvin the audio/video expert came with his gadgets to do some recordings of the prayers and Buddhist class, as well as to interview the pastors and the people behind the (UN)expected book for promo videos.
In the class, we were glad to be able to answer some questions from Gabriela about tantric commitments, the history and functions of protectors in Tibetan Buddhism. We also shared about individual’s real-life incidents on how the protector Setrap helped in emergency cases. A short video of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche visiting Gaden Monastery and making offering to protector Setrap was also shown to the class.
Marvin doing recording of the pastors’ views on Rinpoche and Kechara
Pastor Loh Seng Piow sharing video of protector Setrap in Gaden Monastery with the class
Dharma sharing class at Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
Buddhist prayers at the Foundation
Gabriela sharing her thoughts with the class
Update 13th April, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
On April 13th, we have a special guest Marvin Mendez visiting our Foundation for the first time and joining our prayers and discussion. Marvin is a very sincere guy and brought a lot of offerings for both His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche as well as for the Foundation. It is very interesting how we met Marvin. Marvin lives in Los Angeles and has been following Tsem Rinpoche’s blog and YouTube teachings for years, but has never met Rinpoche. Then a few weeks ago, Rinpoche and a few of us went to Venice Beach and were walking along, suddenly someone from the crowd called out “Rinpoche!” and it was Marvin recognizing Rinpoche among the thousands of people there, talk about good and strong karma! So today, Marvin came to visit our Foundation, and Pastor Khong Jean Ai and I shared with Marvin the background of Kechara organization and our Kechara Forest Retreat photos. Marvin is a sound engineer who has his own studio, and he passionately shared with us that he would like to produce many innovative Dharma videos and music using his technical skills. Welcome Marvin!
Two days ago, the permanent sign for our foundation was installed.
We shared with Marvin Kechara’s background and Kechara Forest Retreat
Marvin’s kind offerings to His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche
Marvin’s kind offerings to Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
Marvin and his dog Scooby meeting His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche by chance at Venice Beach a few weeks ago!
Update 6th April, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
With the blessings of our spiritual advisor His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche, we have set up our new Tsem Rinpoche Foundation premise in California! The team here spent a few days arranging the necessary furniture, decorations, offering items, thangkas, books, prayer items etc., culminating in the invitation of the holy Buddha Shakyamuni statue onto the main altar. Thanks to their great effort, the foundation is now ready! Once again we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to His Eminence for the manifestation of this place, which will create the causes for Dharma to flourish in this region!
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche at the Foundation, with Pastor Jean Ai (in white) and Pastor Loh Seng Piow (in grey)
Buddhist prayers at Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
Pastor Loh Seng Piow and Pastor Jean Ai conducting Buddhist class at Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
Tsem Rinpoche Foundation’s main altar with Buddha Shakyamuni statue
The prayer hall of Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
The prayer hall of Tsem Rinpoche Foundation
Setting up the merchandise area
Setting up the merchandise area
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche ‘s Dharma books are available at the Foundation
Prayer flags, tsa tsas, key chains and prayer beads (rosaries or malas)
For a wider selection of Dharma items, please visit our online store www.vajrasecrets.com
The exterior of Tsem Rinpoche Foundation in the USA (the signboard is just temporary, a proper one will be up soon)
The exterior of Tsem Rinpoche Foundation in the USA (the signboard is just temporary, a proper one will be up soon)
The entrance to the plaza where Tsem Rinpoche Foundation is located
Update 22nd February, 2014 (by Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
Our place of work and residence currently for the Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc in USA. It is convenient so we are renting it.
Tsem Rinpoche taken on our grounds where we have a beautiful view of the mountains as the backdrop.
The hardworking group that has been dedicated, committed and fully responsible for all the pioneering work here in the USA with Tsem Rinpoche. I am deeply grateful for their genuine care for others motivating them to engage in Buddhist works with me. They have set aside so much of their personal life to work for dharma so it brings enhancement to the lives of others.
Our shrine here in Tsem Rinpoche Foundation, Inc in the USA.
Our hardworking team again. Facing us is left to right: Mr. JP Thong, Pastor Elena Khong Jean Ai, Tsem Rinpoche, Mr Clifford Khong. Back row: Dato’ Ruby and Ms Patsy.
Myself in front of our shrine.