Kechara’s 13 Departments (Part 1)
A lot of new people who first visit Kechara or just heard about Kechara get quite confused about how many departments there are…or where they can contribute and volunteer! hehe There are 13 departments in Kechara Organization…all of them are extensions of my interests and I have seen them open and grow over the past few years.
A few of my students have written a very good summary of what each departments do, why they exist and have added a few relevant photos.. Have fun reading them!!
Part 1 – 6 Departments
H.E. Tsem Rinpoche has loved the Buddha since he was a child living in New Jersey, USA. He would draw little paper Buddha pendants and photocopy rare Buddha pictures that he found in books to give away to people. Though no one had ever taught it to him, he had always believed that an image of a Buddha would bless and protect people.
This passion lives on in Rinpoche until today and was the main reason that Kechara Discovery was conceptualised in 2008: to make Buddha images accessible and plentiful for people everywhere, especially for their spiritual practice.
One of the main functions of Kechara Discovery within the organisation is to source for new Buddha statues and create a range of Buddha pendants based on Rinpoche’s designs. Liaison Paul Yap was selected to head this department and his hard work is well paying off now: the things he has achieved are just spectacular! Since its inception, Kechara Discovery has managed to source for many of the statues and create various exquisite ranges of pendants that Kechara Paradise carries now.
KD’s largest and most recent project has been in creating the central Buddha statues for Kechara House’s new gompa. This is no small feat, we can assure you! Paul has to travel abroad every other week to personally oversee the construction of these statues and advise the manufacturers on correct iconography and details. But with plenty of creative energy and a great eye for detail, there couldn’t be any more perfect a person for the job!
The central images in Tsem Ladrang – the heartbeat of the Kechara organization – were also created by Kechara Discovery. For example, the statue of Rinpoche’s previous life which sits in the grand hall and Rinpoche’s personal Vajrayogini statue in his room were all the result of KD’s incredible hard work. What fantastic and huge merit they must be creating!
While Rinpoche was growing up in America, and later when he was living in the monastery in India, such delightful statues and pendants would have only been a dream. Although he would very much have liked to give away pendants and statues, funds were very limited. Now, with the creation of so many beautiful statues in varying sizes, portable tsa tsas and pendants, Rinpoche is much closer to fulfilling a wish to make Buddha images available to everyone, no matter what their budget or style preferences may be. Ultimately, these images are to inspire people in their practice and form a central focus for their daily prayers and contemplations.
As well as introducing people to many Buddha images, Rinpoche has also taken many students and friends on pilgrimages to numerous spiritual power places in Bodhgaya, Gaden Monastery in South India, Nepal and even within our sacred Kechara organisation in Kuala Lumpur. Rinpoche takes his students to these places so that they can be blessed by the energy of enlightened Beings to further their spiritual practice, attainments and work, and to plant innumerable spiritual seeds within their minds. Click here for more information on the benefits of going on pilgrimage. Rinpoche has also blogged about these various sites, such as the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Naropa’s cave in Kathmanu, Nepal and Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet.
Rinpoche’s dream to help many people to connect to these sacred places is also being realised by KD. Now, a second part of their portfolio is to make arrangements for such pilgrimages. All the logistics and tour details, as well as explanations, specific prayers and meditations to be performed at these specific locations are all handled by KD so you can be assured of a most spectacular trip. Many of the locations of these sacred power places are rare and off the beaten track, but KD make sure we can get to them, offering us a much more exclusive and insightful spiritual experience.
Moving forward, this young and dynamic team of five now have bigger plans to bring their pendants and Buddha statues to the world. The small but vibrant department is also working on a showroom that will showcase many of their unique masterpieces. This showroom will introduce the art of Buddha statues to the masses, so that they can also be appreciated and welcomed into the homes of non-Buddhists.
Paul the head of department says, “I plan to expand Kechara Discovery into a showroom to highlight various concepts of home décor and to make the concept having a Buddha statue a very attractive and viable proposition. On top of that, Kechara Discovery will have a lot of work in the future sourcing and producing the large statues for Kechara World Peace Center. We have a lot of work ahead and it’s all going to be very exciting!”
KD1: A cosy corner of KD’s current office, where many vast and exciting ideas manifest into reality!
KD2: A showcase of KD’s huge range of Buddha images, to suit every person’s practice.
KD3: KD gets their inspiration for beautiful statues from traditional cultures like Nepal, but have since created many of their own exquisite images.
KD4: At the Self-Arising Tara Chapel in Kathmandu, Nepal, one of the many places that KD travels to on pilgrimages.
KD5: Take a trip back in history and visit the temples of old, like Kumbum Monastery, Lama Tsongkhapa’s birthplace. Kechara Discovery shows you how!
One of Rinpoche’s passions has always been to take care of friends and students in order to bring them closer to the Dharma. However, as Kechara House and its various departments grow, it soon became difficult for Rinpoche to maintain the amount of people that was coming in. Hence, Kechara Care was formed to take care of these new people, give them guidance and help them as they start their spiritual journey.
Liaison Chuah Su Ming, who is immensely kind, attentive and always looking for ways to benefit others, is the head of this department. Kechara Care’s work is huge and spans many departments as Su Ming and her fellow Kechara Care staff are involved in every Kechara event or activity to talk to and assist new friends in the organisation. On top of that, Kechara Care also does its best to support existing members and Kechara staff by providing help when they are ill or facing difficulties, and by encouraging them towards the Dharma with many gifts, advice and love.
Liaison Su Ming, head of Kechara Care shares, “Kechara Care holds great responsibility to manage the new people who come into Kechara House everyday through its various departments. These people need nurturing, care and someone to talk to. That is where my department comes in, to talk about Kechara and Rinpoche. I will ensure that is all done with lots of love and care!”
Kechara Care has just recently opened Kechara Lounge, just a few doors away from the new Gompa in SunwayMas. The lounge is opened to all members and friends as a place to chill out, dance, make friends, sing their hearts out and sip on yummy non-alcoholic drinks. Birthday parties, receptions, celebrations and all types of events are welcomed to be held in Kechara Lounge. More regular events and Dharma parties will also be planned for Kechara Lounge in the near future.
But how does this all fit into a Buddhist organization? A disco in a Dharma centre? How radical! Yes, it might be, but Kechara Care and its hip, happening lounge is all about creating conducive, comfortable, relaxing places for people to meet, gather, create friendships and develop support for each others’ spiritual practice. Dharma isn’t just about sitting in a puja session for hours; more importantly, it’s about what you do after you get off your meditation cushion and how you’re bringing this same benefit to others.
In the near future, Kechara Care will be expanding further to the lot right next to the lounge. This will be transformed into a museum and gallery as well as provide essential office space for even more staff to join. With this new museum/gallery new people will be brought on visual journey through the history of Kechara and its various departments, and introduced to the many varied activities and aspects of the organisation. This space will also include cozy discussion areas with comfortable seating so Kechara Care staff and friends can further engage in conversation about the Dharma and Kechara.
Besides Kechara Lounge, KC also handles a monthly animal liberation activity that brings families together in this meritorious activity. Fish are released into a large lake in the Kepong Metropolitan Park with recitation of prayers and mantras of Medicine Buddha. Fish pellets are also abundantly given to feed these fishes right after the liberation. KC also organizes Kechara Mini Tours around various departments within the organization which everyone is welcome to join.
The future doesn’t end there. Kechara Care has infinite room for expansion into activities such as baby blessings, weddings, parties etc. In the future, Kechara Care will also be overseeing a children and youth department to nurture a future generation of Kechara members and Dharma practitioners.
KC1: Kechara Care’s gorgeous lounge / disco is more than just a beautiful place. Underneath the glitter, it is all about care, love and sharing the benefit of Dharma with others.
KC2: KC organizes mini tours around the various departments of Kechara, to give newcomers an insight into the many activities we have.
KC3: KC plays a pivotal role in organizing the Kechara family days and monthly animal liberation sessions, to bring friends and family together and cultivate a culture of great care, even for our fishy friends!
KC4: Celebrate the good times! KC will make every day a special one for you, especially your birthday! Here they are throwing their first birthday party in the new lounge.
KC5: The other “secret” portfolio of the KC team: they are also all Santa’s Elves! Sharing gifts with new friends is a very big part of what KC do as a means of connecting people to the blessings of Dharma.
Kechara Saraswati Arts Department
Kechara Saraswati Arts began in the back room of Kechara Paradise’s first outlet in SS2, Petaling Jaya, where volunteers would gather in the evenings to roll mantras, paint and do beadwork on Buddha statues.
As this department grew in its work and volunteers, it evolved into a whole department of its own. It branched off and was named after the female Buddha of the arts, Saraswati. After much development and a few changes, this department is now led by Liaison Paul Yap who also heads Kechara Discovery.
H.E. Tsem Rinpoche started this department because of his passion and belief in collecting merit through making offerings to the Buddhas. In KSA, offerings of our time, effort and money are made by adorning Buddha statues and thangkas with precious stones, brocades or intricate painting. Rinpoche encourages his students to make as many offerings as possible to collect lots of merits for our spiritual practice to be successful.
With the development of many services and by exploring many different styles of atrwork, KSA is now able to offer practitioners many different methods for beautifying and painting their statues. For example, some people prefer a more traditional style, while others prefer their statues to be painted in brilliant colours or given a unique antique finish.
In the past, Rinpoche would offer plastic or costume jewellery onto the statues. Now that we have better resources, KSA offers practitioners the opportunity to offer real and semi-precious stones onto the statues. The artists of this department do very fine beadwork of pearls and various semi-precious stones to adorn statues, wealth vases, butterlamps and ritual implements, all according to the customers’ preferences.
KSA also offers traditional sewing methods, such as for brocading of thangkas or in making traditional clothes for Buddha statues. These techniques are all handed down from generations of artists that have learnt their craft from Tibet and the Himalayan region. Our very good friend from Nepal, Raj Kumar, came to KL especially to teach traditional sewing skills that are still being used by KSA.
When all is done, KSA can also insert mantras into Buddha statues as a way of “sealing” and consecrating the statue. Before this is done, many volunteers get involved in rolling strips of mantras or prayers into scrolls which can then be inserted into the statues. This activity is actually a very old practice which is still done in the monastery and is also very perfect for those of us who can’t paint, handle beads or do anything creative!
Besides these services, KSA also organize various art activities for children and adults, such as flower arrangement classes, mala restringing, jewellery-making, painting and beading workshops. Rinpoche’s dream for KSA is to have people craft Buddha statues just like what one of KSA’s staff, Lili Ng, has done recently for Rinpoche. Rinpoche’s other dream for KSA is for the department to expand into an art studio in one of the major shopping malls. It will be a creative heaven for people who like all things creative and arty.
But it isn’t just about an outward appearance. KSA’s deeper purpose is to create a very strong spiritual connection for people. Whether it’s about inviting a statue home, beautifying it or contributing your time as a volunteer, KSA offers people the most precious opportunity of practicing and expressing their spirituality through the arts. Behind every activity in KSA is a very deep and significant meaning for our practice; the very Buddhas that we are painting carrying many profound Dharma teachings just on their physical form. Within this one department alone, there is so much to learn!
As the arts have also been a very therapeutic method for soothing the mind, KSA’s many activities also provide people the chance to unwind and relax, while contributing to something very meaningful. There’s even a relaxing space, called the Hring Room, which encourages volunteers to spend time with each other and work in a calming, fun environment.
Since its humble beginnings KSA has really gone on to great heights. On top of providing all artistic work for the organization, it has also uncovered many hidden talents of individuals throughout Kechara.
Now, they have a firm team of seven staff and many talented volunteers. An example of these talents lie in Lili Ng, a volunteer who has now committed to working part-time with KSA. She has done extensive restoration work on statues, as well as contributed to many painting projects within KSA.
There’s also Pat who decided several years ago to swap her job working with a local fashion designer to sewing clothes for the Buddhas instead! Now, she heads the sewing division of KSA.
The head of Kechara Saraswati Arts, Liaison Paul Yap says, “KSA has come a long way since its early days in the back room of Kechara Paradise. It has since moved into a studio of its own and is now on the brink of even more expansion. The current KSA studio in SS2 will move into SunwayMas in the near future. I will also be looking into expanding into a creative studio in a shopping mall to connect to the vast numbers of young creative people who hang out in the malls. There will be lots more to come for Kechara Saraswati Arts!”
KSA1: The bright, versatile space of KSA allows for many different types of artwork to be done by many volunteers.
KSA2: At the service of the Three Jewels: Kumar and Nani are KSA’s resident artist and tailor who offer all their talent, time and effort to the department’s growing works.
KSA3: Kids classes organized by KSA bring out the most creative, imaginative talents of all children (and those who are young at heart!)
KSA4: The artwork at KSA is very highly detailed and intricate, and requires great patience and skill. Fortunately, we have many very talented people in this department!
KSA5: An example of the beautiful paintwork and beadwork that KSA can do on Buddha statues.
KSA6: Learning the art of traditional sewing from expert tailor Raj Kumar from Nepal.
KSA7: Even adults have a chance to unleash their inner child in KSA’s many varied workshops. Here, a volunteer Kien Wong teaches participants how to make their own jewellery.
There are books that make us laugh. There are books that make us think, and there are books that inspire us. However the most valuable books are those that move us to look within and help us change for the better. They shape our lives and give us meaning. This is the kind of literature that Kechara Media & Publications produce.
Kechara Media & Publications (KMP) does more than just print spiritual books. The dynamic, young publishing house also produce videos that spice up minds and make a difference in people’s lives.
KMP began like most departments in the Kechara organisation, by a small group of dedicated students. It started out with two or three people working on books over someone’s dining table; the first official KMP office was made up of two desks pushed together in the corner of a room. As many students experienced the benefits of Rinpoche’s teachings, they wanted to share it with as many people as possible and make these valuable teachings readily available to all. A media and publications department was formed to spread the good word.
Originally, this department just documented Rinpoche’s teachings and transcribed them into articles and books. Today, KMP has evolved into an entity of its own and its books are sold in all major and independent bookstores across Malaysia, as well as online onkechara.com/eshop and amazon.com etc. To date, KMP has published over 25 books in both English and Chinese, elevating Rinpoche’s name in the book world and creating a platform for local authors such as Jamie “Paris” Khoo and David Lai to emerge too.
The books published by KMP are designed and written for the Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. There are inspirational collections of teachings from Rinpoche, biographies of Rinpoche’s students where they share their personal spiritual journeys, comic books of our Spiritual Lineage Masters and gorgeous box sets to introduce the world to some of Kechara’s most central, sacred practices.
In addition, there are beautiful coffee table books that complement one’s home as well as enrich one’s mind. Beyond all else, KMP’s books are aimed to benefit as many people as possible with its inspiring message and beautiful pages. Although its primary ingredient is Buddhism, its presentation of content is universally appealing, fun and hip – even the likes of celebrity journalist Lorraine Hahn and internationally-renowned author Anne Jones, love our books!
The team itself reflects the teachings they are working with. While many of them held highly respected and well-paid jobs as journalists, designers and business owners, they chose to trade in a life on the corporate ladder for the much more exciting and meaningful work of Dharma publishing. The trade-off was worth it – you’ll never see a happier, more fulfilled group of individuals who have that special fortune of working directly with Rinpoche’s teachings on a daily basis.
KMP’s books and videos are a testament that Buddhist teachings are relevant and easily relatable to everyone. The team in KMP comprises a team of 13, including full-time writers, translators, a designer and a cool CEO who believe that spirituality is very relevant, applicable and necessary for our modern daily lives.
The success of many of their titles, including If Not Now, When?, Call Me Paris and There’s No Way But Up are testament to the fact that Buddha’s teachings are just as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago. Call Me Paris even made it into the Top 10 Bestselling list of Local Authors – a sure sign that her spiritual story is inspiring many young Malaysians around the country.
The importance of KMP lies in getting as many books out to the world’s audience so that people can get the help that they need. Many readers around the globe have been expressed how KMP’s books have touched their lives and changed them. KMP’s books have also landed in the offices of Presidents and Royalty such as former Vice President of USA, Al Gore and the King of Thailand. This goes to show how KMP’s books appeal to all spectrums of society.
For every life that KMP’s books have touched, it is a life benefited. This is what motivates KMP each and every day to do more for others, push the envelope and continue creating beautiful books to inspire the body, mind and spirit. This is the true living mandate of Kechara Media & Publications.
KMP1: The cosy, colourful spaces of the KMP office reflect the vibrant, happy energies of the team itself.
KMP2: More than just officemates, KMP members see each other as real family.
KMP3: Bringing the word to the world! KMP also participates alongside KP in roadshows around the country.
KMP4: At the heart of all KMP’s publications are the teachings and spiritual message of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche
KMP5: We wanna be heard! To promote the teachings and books, KMP also organize regular book clubs and book talks in our own Kechara Paradise outlets and in mainstream bookstores.
KMP6: KMP’s books are now in all major bookstores around the country and have been widely promoted in the most prominent outlets’ store windows and displays.
KMP7: Fame beckons for KMP’s two youngest members, David and Jamie, who have each written spiritual biographies of their experiences in Dharma.
Documenting Dharma teachings and making them interesting to watch is not as easy as it sounds. However the work does become a lot easier when the “star” is a Lama who possesses great screen presence as well as in-depth Dharma knowledge to impart the priceless teachings for all to comprehend.
Kechara InMotion, otherwise known as KIM, is the media and video production department of the Kechara organization. Although they are a small team of only three full-time staff, KIM captures everything audio and visual in Kechara and beyond, and have become a vital arm in documenting everything that happens within Kechara. Content ranges from Rinpoche’s private and public teachings, to personal spiritual journeys of Kechara students such as the Who’s Who series, personal testimonials and the Dharma Princess Diaries; from overseas pilgrimages to special events within the Kechara family. There is always something for everyone because Rinpoche’s teachings cover all aspects of life.
The objective of KIM is to project valuable information and teachings in an exciting format in order to engage the audience. It is only in engaging the audience that actual learning can be shared with all.
Prior to KIM, many of Rinpoche’s teachings were not documented. Some were archived only as audio recordings. It is only with KIM that video documentation has really taken off. Almost every teaching of Rinpoche has been uploaded onto YouTube for everyone’s free viewing pleasure. From YouTube alone, hundreds of people around the world have been able to receive Dharma teachings and begin their practice. It is from these videos that people from as far as Australia, Portugal and Scotland have come all the way to Malaysia to visit and join the centre.
Much like the other departments in Kechara, KIM is also started by a group of students who have been immensely inspired by Rinpoche’s teachings. These students have left their high profile jobs in order to work alongside their Lama to bring valuable teachings to the world’s audience. Liaison and Head of KIM, Han Siew Fong was herself a highly qualified producer who worked on internationally-renowned programmes such as Fear Factor and Deal or No Deal. She has openly shared her expertise with the rest of the team and KIM now boasts a team that can cover every aspect of film production, from filming, to scripting to post-production and extensive editing.
Although KIM’s main mission is spirituality, its scope of work is not limited to Dharma videos. KIM also undertakes commercial jobs to be self-sustaining. However, it is not commercial for commercialism’s sake. All works from the Kechara organization – whatever outward form they may take – is to serve and benefit the greater whole. By its Dharma and commercial projects, KIM realises this vision and is able to bring Dharma to both Dharma practitioners as well as a larger audience who might not otherwise connect to spirituality.
Under the superb leadership of Han, the KIM team is deeply committed to using their talents and skills for a higher purpose. Han herself undertake commercial jobs in order to bring in funds to sustain KIM’s spiritual works. In this way, the team has been able to sustain KIM and even contribute to the entire organisation through their unique talent and skills.
Through KIM, the mass audience can witness the various aspects of how spirituality can be incorporated in our everyday life. Real people and real life are happening through the lenses of KIM, capturing how people’s lives have changed and why spirituality is the pulse of humanity. In documenting all that is valuable and meaningful in life, we are able to give present and future generations the insights to life’s essential learning.
KIM1: Han (left) with her volunteers are the silent heroes who work hard at every single Kechara event to photograph, film and archive every part of our history.
KIM2: From live film coverage to chat-shows and interviews, there’s nothing KIM can’t do!
KIM3: On-site filming at a Nepal pilgrimage in 2008 meant KIM staff were constantly on the go, 24 hours a day through the dusty, tricky streets of Kathmandu.
KIM4: Full-time staff Chris Tan was not professionally trained in video production but thanks to KIM has picked up all the skills needed to be right up there with the experts.
KIM5: KIM have really made stars out of our own people and places within Kechara! Here they are filming one of our members in a series of personal testimonials.
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