If I examine my life honestly, I can safely say that all of the good things that have happened to me have been the result of my teacher, as well as any good qualities that may have scratched their way just a little bit through the mud.
I first met Rinpoche in 1997, when he came to visit us in our apartment and over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to such a person. Let’s not even talk about ‘guru’ for now but about Rinpoche as a person, as someone who is overwhelmingly kind, fiercely loyal, unbelievably caring, extremely sharp and hilariously funny. Anyone would be fortunate to have such a friend in their lives. What more is there to say about having such a person who possesses Bodhicitta motivation as one’s spiritual guide?
Now having known Rinpoche for more than half my life (18 years!), you can be sure that such a conclusion was not developed overnight, free from any kind of observation. Such a conclusion has come from years of observing Rinpoche both in public and in private, always in action to assist and benefit anyone in need, even if they themselves do not realise at the time that they needed his help.
I can also tell you that 18 years means a lot of pictures and as I was going through my archives (as I often do, apparently!), I realised that except for 1999, 2006 and 2008 to 2010, I pretty much have one photo with Rinpoche for every year I have known Rinpoche…which is kind of cool 🙂
What comes to mind when I look at these pictures? Good memories, no doubt but I am definitely reminded of impermanence. Impermanence in appearance, for sure and not to hang on to it. It is a foolhardy endeavour to hope that our permanent happiness can be based on our impermanent appearance, or our impermanent-anything for that matter because everything that exists beyond attainments in our mind will never be permanent.
It also strikes me that through it all, I never realised how much I changed. I know, you would think, “How can you not realise that you have changed in 18 years?! Two decades is a long time!” but that is the delusion we are all under. As we live out our lives, we generally fail to actively observe it and as a result, we abide in the delusion that we have always been the same. Think about it – how self-aware were you as a 5-year old? And how self-aware were you as a 15-year old, a 25-year old, etc.? Did your level of self-awareness change? Did you spend more moments in awareness, or did you just go through life taking it as it comes? For most people, it is safe to say that we generally abide in the latter state which is why, when we apply hindsight, you hear statements like, “Gosh! How quickly time flies!” Time flies quickly because we were never truly aware of what we were doing, and how time was passing and upon examining it, realised how much time we have lost.
So instead of losing even more time, why not apply a remedy to the situation so we don’t have the same kind of epiphany 10 years down the line, having wasted even more time? This kind of thinking, the one where we lack self-awareness, is dangerous and it would benefit us to develop awareness through, for example, meditation practices. Why? Well, instead of relying on hindsight to examine how different we are, would it not make more sense to try and always be aware of the change? That way, we can move beyond dealing with the consequences of change, and progress into being in control of the change itself.
When I look back, I am most definitely not that kid who first met my teacher 18 years ago. My life has taken twists and turns I could never possibly have imagined but at every major intersection and point of my life, my guru has always been there, lighting the path and guiding me along the way and for that, I will always be very grateful to him.
1997 - in the Burmese Temple, Penang. My first picture with Rinpoche.
1998 - in one of the early Dharma centres that Rinpoche established. I am in the white shirt on the right. It was around this time I realised if I'm going to be dragged to a Dharma centre every weekend, I might as well make an effort to understand what was being taught than sit there with a forever-bored look on my face!
2000 - in Royal Selangor Club, Bukit Kiara at an appreciation dinner for flea market volunteers. Everyone was having severe financial difficulties during this time and some senior students, led by Pastor Henry, organised a flea market to raise funds for Rinpoche's living expenses. Rinpoche organised this dinner to thank everyone who helped.
2001 - in Jurong Reptile Park, Singapore receiving refuge from Rinpoche.
2002 - in Eastin Hotel, when Rinpoche organised a surprise birthday party for my mother. I remember this was at a time when everyone was still doing very badly financially. Despite these worries, Rinpoche still brought everyone together and organised the surprise for her.
2003 - in SS22, in our family home.
2003 - in a Javanese restaurant behind Jalan Bukit Bintang, celebrating my aunt's birthday after we had just invited a 3ft Lama Tsongkhapa statue into my family home. Taken just a few months after the previous picture!
2004 - in Kechara House 1, just after I (accidentally!) tipped a whole monk's bowl of fruit all over Rinpoche. I was mortified but Rinpoche very kindly laughed and said that this spillover was a good sign that I would be doing more Dharma work in the future.
2004 - in Colombo, Sri Lanka on our way to Bodhgaya. Rinpoche was scouting Sri Lanka and Bodhgaya so he could lead a group of 62 pilgrims on pilgrimage the following month. Rinpoche has always taken a personal and deep interest in every aspect and activity of Kechara, to ensure everyone has the best opportunity for spiritual advancement.
2005 - in Dagom Ladrang, Kathmandu during an audience with His Eminence Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche. I had no idea he was a Dorje Shugden lama; to me, he was just a powerful being that my guru told me is one with Yamantaka. If I recall correctly, Rinpoche presented me as someone who wishes to become ordained in the future. I was immensely lucky to meet him because Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche passed away just a couple of years later.
2005 - in a cafe in Sunwaymas, at an appreciation dinner for Kechara Paradise directors. If I recall correctly, I was about to leave Malaysia to attend university in England, hence the khata around my neck – it would be the last time I would see Rinpoche for months.
2007 - in Bangkok with His Eminence Gangchen Rinpoche and Venerable Lama Michel, after attending the cremation of His Eminence Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche.
2011 - in the Samsung store in Gardens Mall, checking out some phones.
2012 - at the Chamang Waterfall, after recovering from a long period of illness. I was in the hospital for a month recovering from a laparoscopic appendectomy which normally takes three days to recover from. After being discharged, Rinpoche put me in a Shize retreat because I was still extremely weak. This photo was taken the day I finished my retreat, which took exactly 100 days, and the first day I felt well enough to leave the house. Rinpoche had no idea I was finishing my retreat that day; I got the call to join everyone just as I finished reciting my dedication prayers.
2013 - in Cahaya Suria, Chow Kit, Masjid Negara, Pudu and Jalan Bukit Bintang distributing face masks and eye drops to the homeless suffering from the haze.
2014 - in Topanga, USA looking at beautiful properties.
2014 - in the US Ladrang, in front of the sponsors' appreciation shrine. Rinpoche wanted this shrine to be created, to generate merits for everyone who has been so generous to Kechara's work over the years, in thanks for their kindness.
2015 - in Kechara Forest Retreat, Bentong after Rinpoche took pictures of our 24-foot Dorje Shugden statue for the first time.
2016 - in Tsem Ladrang, in front of the main altar. The elaborate offerings on the altar is to generate merits and resources for the great works we need to accomplish throughout the Kechara Organisation. As the Ladrang is the heart of the organisation, it's the Ladrang's responsibility to generate these merits.
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