From a Free Thinker to a Buddhist
Before I begin my story, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my guru, H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche for giving me this opportunity and platform to learn the Dharma.
I was brought up with a Taoist background, and since I was a child, I was told to pray to get my wishes fulfilled. For example, I would pray to get good grades in school, I would pray to win a lot of money when I gambled (occasionally during Chinese New Year), I would pray to strike the lottery and so on. I would offer a lot of joss sticks to the gods at the family altar and pray for all those things.
Then as I grew up, I realized that the Gods, Buddhas or celestial beings could not help me just through prayer alone. I figured that if everybody could get rich just by sitting at home and praying, then there would be no need for work. Hence, I stopped praying and began to idolize money. Money became my religion. I would only do things to benefit myself and maintain friends only if they were of benefit to me. I would limit my time with friends that did not benefit me in any way.
I was introduced to Kechara early in 2008 when I was looking for a part time job before Chinese New Year. My uncle is a longtime student of Rinpoche; he happened to visit from the UK and heard that I was looking for a part time job. So he introduced me to the Kechara Paradise outlet and I was hired on a part time basis. In my third month working in Kechara, I met Tsem Rinpoche for the first time and that meeting with Rinpoche totally blew my mind. He totally changed my long-held views on life and spirituality and turned my life around.
That month, we were having a roadshow in 1Utama shopping mall to showcase our statues and Himalayan items. Rinpoche dropped by to show his support and that was how I came to meet Rinpoche for the very first time. At that time, I didn’t know who or what a Rinpoche is but I did find his name quite ‘interesting’.
Somehow, Rinpoche knew I did not believe in Buddhism and so he used a skillful way to give me a teaching. He said that even though I can’t see the Buddha, that does not mean that the Buddha does not exist. This is just like electricity; we can’t see electricity but when we see the lights are turned on, it proves electricity does exist. Similarly, when we see the growing Sangha community and the temples, it proves the existence of Buddha, because without electricity, there would be no light and without the Buddha, there would be no Sangha. After listening to that sound logic, I was still stuck on the need for more proof that the Buddha existed. But it made me think deeper because what Rinpoche said made a lot of sense.
The following month while I was working in the office, Pastor Shin came knocking on the door. She said that Rinpoche had a gift for me. I was very surprised, not so much by the fact that I had received a gift but because I had barely worked in Kechara for three months and while most of the people in Kechara still didn’t know me, Rinpoche had already noticed me. Just imagine the CEO of a company giving a gift to a new staff that he only met once and who is still under probation. This had never happened before in any of my previous jobs (in fact, I think this would never happen in most companies!)
Pastor Shin then presented me with a briefcase so that it would be easier for me to carry my documents, files and notebooks around with me. This was my first time experiencing Rinpoche’s kindness and generosity. Rinpoche will always be Rinpoche and since the first day I got to know Rinpoche, he has always shown us kindness through his actions. He will always notice what people need and he will present that person with the most suitable gift. Rinpoche’s actions have totally undermined all my long-held beliefs and practices and I began to realize what I had done in the past was a waste of time as I was engaged in meaningless activities.
At the end of 2008, I was invited to observe the Liaison Council meeting (now known as the Board of Directors meeting) in Rinpoche’s residence. The meeting started around 10pm, which I initially thought would end very quickly since it was already so late, but the meeting unexpectedly ended around 5am. This was my first time attending such a long meeting. Although it was tiring, I felt really excited and fortunate to be able to participate in that meeting with Rinpoche. From what I can remember, they talked about the operations and updates of every department. Just imagine, with 13 departments, even if it took just 20 minutes per department, the meeting would have lasted at least 4-5 hours.
On top of that, the liaisons had to address human resource issues – how best to handle people with attitude problems and deal with those who had damaged the organization. They would discuss various ways to help that person overcome the issue and become better. This is unlike any other organization, where an employee with an attitude problem that damages the company would immediately be fired. But in Kechara, they are given a second chance to prove themselves. In fact, they are given many chances and Rinpoche would even assign certain Liaisons to counsel that person and guide him/her to improve their attitude so they can continue to practice the Dharma. During the meeting, Rinpoche would also always slip in a Dharma teaching that was relevant to the issue being discussed. That would help the group resolve the problem in the best possible way that is beneficial to everyone involved.
After the meeting, I told myself that this is so strange. They are a bunch of crazy people because everybody on the outside are just fighting against each other to gain fame, power and money, but here, they are fighting to help each other. This meeting was really an eye-opener for me and after hopping from so many jobs, finally I found where I want to be. This company is amazingly meaningful and Rinpoche is even more incredible.
While working in Kechara Paradise, I read some Dharma books written by Rinpoche and watched his teaching videos. This broadened my understanding of Buddhism and changed my perception of spirituality, that it was not just about praying to fulfill our wishes and wanting things to go our way all the time. In one of the teachings, Rinpoche explained that we are already very greedy, thus we don’t need the Buddha to make us even more greedy with our selfish prayers. When we pray, we shouldn’t tell the Buddha what to do; we should instead humbly request for guidance and ask the Buddha to guide us through our difficulties.
In 2009, I was very fortunate to be selected to join a purchasing trip to Nepal. The trip was to acquire many new holy statues and various other items for Kechara Paradise. During the 10-day trip, Pastor Henry shared about Dharma Protectors and their functions, and we also visited a few holy temples in the Kathmandu Valley to make offerings and to learn more about Dharma.
In March 2010, I decided to take refuge with His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche and to officially begin my journey in Kechara as my spiritual path. In the process, I had to unlearn my past beliefs and to take to heart the new spiritual teachings of Rinpoche and Kechara.
Kechara Paradise has been a great platform for me to share the Dharma that I have learned from Rinpoche. For the past eight years in Kechara, I was glad to have been able to help many people overcome their problems by sharing what Rinpoche taught me. I was able to assist them in setting up their altars and to show them how to pray to the Buddhas with the correct motivation. This is the type of satisfaction that money can’t buy. Yes, I used to earn a lot more but there was never a single night that I felt as contented as the days I had spent in Kechara. I used to think that money is more important than anything else in the world but today, I actually feel that money is far less important and we should not focus on it so much. When we are too attached to money, it will corrupt us and create even more suffering. Dharma should be the most important aspect of our lives. These days, I feel a greater sense of security when I practice the Dharma than when I had more money.
I cannot thank Rinpoche enough for what he has given me all these years. Since the first day I met Rinpoche until today, his compassion and motivation has never wavered; he is always consistent in benefiting others. With such a great example from my Guru, I realized that no other path is more important than my spiritual path, and I want to spend my remaining days in Dharma and to do work that benefits others. I feel very happy whenever I see someone overcome their difficulties, hence in 2016, I requested Rinpoche’s permission to be ordained as a Buddhist Pastor so I can follow in Rinpoche’s footsteps to serve others and to benefit more people.
Rinpoche scarcely does anything for himself, it is always for others. Thank you Rinpoche for all you have done for others and for me.
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