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Rinpoche had us writers watch this video today of Professor Donald S Lopez narrating the story of Devadatta. Whilst the Professor’s narration was very clear, I have to say that it was our discussion afterwards that really changed my perspective about Devadatta.

Lesson #1: don’t be surprised when people are never happy with how well you have done. If they can be better, they will try. So just relax and be yourself, because eventually they will tire out.

Devadatta’s life was essentially a competition against his cousin Siddhartha, who was an Indian prince born in modern day Nepal and who was destined to become Buddha Shakyamuni. Throughout his life, Devadatta competed against his cousin to be the best archer, the strongest weightlifter, the best equestrian, the most successful ladies’ man…but with Siddhartha being who he was, he won all of these competitions effortlessly (much to Devadatta’s annoyance, I’m sure!).

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When I was younger and much less concerned about understanding what Buddhism really meant, I used to combine it with all sorts of Judeo-Christian concepts, that there was Buddha, and he could save me from heaven and hell, and karma was my mother scolding me when I bullied my siblings.

Later on, it developed into a combination of tradition, superstition and custom, paying my respects to land deities and visiting Kuan Yin my “godmother” every weekend. Do it because it’s good to learn how to pay your respects, I was told.

When I was a little older, it all got muddled with some Hinduism - Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Hanuman - my memories of the Jataka Tales are fuzzy now, but they were some of my favourite comics to read when I was younger.

So my early childhood was really a muddled mix of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and sometimes Hinduism.

When I was older still, after meeting Rinpoche and as a teenager, Buddhism for me became about the very deep concepts of reincarnation and karma, and impermanence and suffering. There were long pujas, and philosophical Dharma talks that were much less about overt methods to make yourself happy, and more about the inner workings of the Dharma. The deep philsophical stuff that the maroon-clad ones debated deep into the balmy Indian nights.

Over the years, Rinpoche’s style has changed. Rinpoche has mentioned before that he changed his style because he realised Malaysians weren’t ready for the ‘heavier’ stuff. He was receiving requests on how to make businesses grow, when all he wanted to do was teach about emptiness, wisdom and compassion. People simply weren’t interested in the philosophy; they wanted quick fixes, or they were going to look elsewhere, and probably miss their chance to connect to Buddhism.

So Rinpoche compassionately changed his style, to keep people interested long enough so he could impart at least some real Dharma to them later in the future. To say that Rinpoche was completely at ease with this watered-down Buddhism would be a lie - he would’ve given anything for it to be any other way but then that’s Rinpoche, accepting the situation for what it is, and working with it to create something good.

After all, you can drag the proverbial horse to the water, but you can’t force it to drink. If people weren’t ready for it, they simply weren’t ready for it and that wasn’t going to stop Rinpoche (nosiree!), he was just going to find another way.

So now that I’m older and people ask me what Buddhism is, I tell them this - it is about empowering yourself. It’s about the choices you make that lead you to cause less hurt to others, and lead you to create fewer causes to hurt yourself. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and your future, and for the future of others.

I mean, why give the public what they don’t want, eh? ;)

"A monk is holy and great until he starts teaching you the real Dharma"  ~ Tsem Tulku Rinpoche
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In both a Buddhist and secular sense, I’ve been extremely lucky because I’ve always been surrounded by people that I can love and respect not because they’ve spoilt me, but because they’ve been unafraid to teach me the hard lessons in life.

This post is about my mother because as I’ve grown older, she’s become less of my mother and more of my friend.

My mother has taught me some of the greatest lessons of my life, like giving up comfort for the sake of others, and bearing hardships for the sake of others. She taught me that just because you are kind, doesn’t mean you are weak and just because you are giving, doesn’t mean you are defeated. She has taught me the meaning of sacrifice, and how I shouldn’t be scared to make the harder decisions in life. She taught me how to stand up for what’s right, and not be afraid to speak up when I see injustice being done. She has taught me how to recognise true friends from false ones, and how to turn pain and anger into productivity.

Most people won’t know my family’s history and they don’t need to. They only need to look at my mother and they will see the product of our history. Over the years, she’s become tough, resilient and wise. She’s never been afraid to tell me the truth, or afraid to risk her reputation in my eyes to slap me down when I’m being a brat…

…and what’s more, she’s like that with everyone. She lives without favouritism or bias. She applauds everyone’s successes as equally as she chides them when they might hurt someone.

When I was kid, I’d often say that if I could be half the people my parents are, I’d consider myself very lucky and I still hold that to be true. I’m proud of my mother because her life is about kindness. I don’t care that she isn’t the most beautiful or the wealthiest, or has the latest designer fashions or rubs shoulders with famous people. I’m proud of her because she lives, breathes, works, eats and moves for the sake of others.

Thank you mummy for being you.

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This needs no words.

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(Taken on my iPhone)

Whenever we face obstacles, our lama might prescribe us a series of pujas (rituals to invoke the blessings of the Buddhas) to do. Depending on our affinity with the deity or the type of obstacle, or even the severity of the obstacle, the type of puja we do will differ.

On the less elaborate end of the scale, we have pujas like Kechara House’s weekly Setrap puja. Conducted on a regular basis, the Setrap puja invokes the blessings of Amitabha appearing in a wrathful Protector form as Setrap.

When I say “less elaborate”, I don’t mean that the pujas are any less effective than the more elaborate ones. I simply mean that in terms of the tormas / offerings made, what is required to complete the puja in its most basic form is less extensive…of course you are encouraged to offer more if you wish!

Now on the more elaborate end of the scale, we have pujas like Gyabshi, the 400-obstacle removing puja. As its name suggests, 400 sets (yes, really!) of each offering are made to Shakyamuni, to generate the merits necessary for Shakyamuni to clear our obstacles.

One of the tormas made in preparation for the Gyabshi puja is the (sponsor) torma, made in the likeness of the sponsor. During the puja, the (for lack of a better word!) bigged up - the obstacles are told that the is more handsome, more intelligent, more wealthy, etc. in comparison to the sponsor. Towards the end of the puja, the is then removed from the room and the obstacles are invited to follow the which has been promoted to be more attractive.

So yes, on sight perhaps it would appear a little odd that we have people-shaped tormas but really, there’s a reason to all of it!

Need a puja? Contact Kechara House for more information.

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The day would’ve passed by rather unremarkably (did the world stop? No) had I not had a task that was specifically designed to send me down memory lane.

It just so happens that this weekend, my mother, my sister and I will be giving a talk at the Kechara Sunday Service about our journey in the Dharma. My mother asked me to look for old photos of myself and my siblings with Rinpoche to accompany our talk.

After scouring thousands of photos since the 1990s, I’ve come to a conclusion - I have led a pretty privileged 26 years.

I know that hindsight can have blinders, and you forget the bad memories because they’re never captured in photographs. But for all that I complain about in my life, I really shouldn’t. Yes things get difficult but those times in my life are interrupted by long spells of general contentment and everything’s-gonna-be-okay.

And it’s these moments that are captured in photographs. Looking at them, I want to go back to the moment captured in that photograph, to experience the sounds, the sights, the smells and the feeling of it once again.

But the trouble is, once I’m dead, all of these memories are meaningless. They’re precious to no one but me and the people in the pictures, and once THEY are all gone, the pictures become…irrelevant. Nothing but bits of ink printed onto scraps of paper.

So what’s a girl to do?

When I was in my late teens, I read a quote by Bruce Lee that has stuck with me forever - “The key to immortality is to live a life worth remembering”.

I think that’s what I’m going to do :)

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I was with a friend last night, and we got on to talking about numerology. He found the results of his number rather interesting, so we started working on mine (I’m a 7).

I did a quick search online and found this report about 7s. Whilst I’m interested in these types of…mystical endeavours (I <3 Rinpoche’s horoscope widget), I always approach these kinds of reports with some trepidation because I find them to be generalised, playing on our wish to find something that will explain the way we are. I also find that people tend to read them with a biasness which makes me distrust the ‘accuracy’ they find in these reports.

What do I mean by bias? When we read them, we identify ourselves with the positive aspects of the report, and disregard the irrelevant / negative. We read these reports to valid who we are and what we do; we read these reports and invariably think, “OMG, that is SO true about me!”

But this report? This report was uncannily accurate in both the positive and negative, so I just thought I’d immortalise it (ha.) by posting it here, with bolded sentences to reflect what is true (did I just contradict myself? Hehe)

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Chelsea shirt -_- #football

(Taken with Instagram)

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Happy birthday Sharon!

(Taken with Instagram)

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Sohealthycandie #vegan #vegetarian #omnomnom

(Taken with Instagram)