DAY THIRTY: Monday, 19th April 2010
Before I begin, I just want to thank the kind readers and friends who have taken the time to write, share their comments, thoughts, feelings and even experiences. I value all of them very much. They are all most encouraging and useful. And I do mean ALL - even those constructive criticism. To know that people who do not even really know me, or have not even met me, care enough to pen down their thoughts and ideas so that I can improve, moves me deeply.
So, I thank you everyone HUMBLY and DEARLY.
As one reader/friend put it so well - it is really wonderful to be able to give and receive support in this way.
Today's technology is so highly developed and it allows us to do many beneficial things, when used correctly.
Is it amazing that all our 'outer technology' are so well developed, but we neglect to develop our 'inner technology' with the same conviction, passion and dedication?
Is it even more amazing that a lot of people say that they do not need to learn Dharma and that spirituality is not important in their lives? They actually believe that these are separate from life and that they do not need it at all.
Here lies our greatest divide -the way we perceive.
At this juncture in my life, there are many things that I have to learn to do. Yes, I may use the words: HAVE TO quite a fair bit, but not in a negative way because it is not defined in a negative way, from my perspective.
The reason I say that I have to is because I never had to do all these things before, and most of these things are new to me. In fact, I really NEED TO learn how to do them well so that they all become part of who I am. Then and only then, I can safely say that I AM all of the things that I aspire to be.
So, for now, I have to and I need to - and it is with great urgency that I do them and learn them.
I cannot take my own sweet time with Dharma because it is everything to do with life and people I love. So, I undertake all of them with a joyous heart because I am doing it now and not walking away or quitting.
Finally, I am beginning to understand one of the 6 Paramitas - Joyous Effort. There is no pain and suffering anymore in doing more and in pushing myself more. And I like it that I do get it now.
So, it's 30 days down, and 70 days more to go in order to complete 100 days.
Today, I want to celebrate a little milestone of mine for coming this far by sharing with you some of my most priceless possessions in life.
They are letters, or rather emails from my Guru, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche.
Yes, I keep all the letters and cards from my Guru.
And I am not even a sentimental kind of person either. So, imagine that.
I read them again and again because I know that everything my Guru teaches me are all spelt out in them. So, from time to time, I would go back to them. No different than a refresher course. And then I check my own mind to see if I have changed, improved or gone worse.
This is an email I got from Rinpoche when I just first got to know HIM, dated 23rd November 2006
Dear shirley, thank you for your heartfelt and honest email. I appreciate getting it. I have read it thru and there's not much I need to say as you have doubts just like everyone normal person and they come and go. But you overcome and become stronger because you are intelligent and can see deeper than many people.
I am very glad also to see you in dharma talks, because the more you attend, you will see the meaning sink into you and your mind/actions will eventually follow.
You have helped in the past and I have never forgotten your kindness. I do sincerely request to help in the future. Everyone would benefit from that. I thank you in advance.
I am very happy that you are doing the 8 line prayer. They will help you gain wisdom, push away obstacles and fears, protect and open the conditions for your sacred connection to vajrayogini open. That is important. Along with your prayers, offerings, black tea, do attend Manjushri and contribute. Don't wait and have people just fill you with information, you read up and contribute because you can. Very important. And attend dharma talks..those are vital for you. The ones you have missed, please get the dvds and listen. I am sure it will help you.
You have all the qualities to benefit people and you can. Dharma will give you direction in doing that. You are a bright, young, and fast lady who has a helping heart...let that manifest........let it out and manifest please....
May Mother vajrayogini keep you.. tsem tulku
OMG – I was so erratic then. Those were the days when I really did not like doing any daily prayers at all. Not one bit. It was a kind of hell for me to be sitting in one place, chanting the same things over and over. I would have rather gone to bed earlier or stayed in bed for much longer periods.
You can see what Rinpoche highlighted. He wrote, “Don’t wait and have people just fill you with information, you read up and contribute because you can.”
Not long after that email. I stopped going to Dharma Talks altogether. I invented ingenious excuses to keep myself away for a long time.
Late 2006 was the time I decided to return into the world of the living. Prior to that, I was in like a cold storage – self-imposed exile from the rest of the world. I did not want to go out, see anyone or any friends. I did not want to talk to anyone. I was pretty much keeping communication with the outside world to a bare minimum. So much so that my dearest friend, Sharon, became a “reluctant complaints desk of Shirley”. Anyone and everyone who has any complaints of, or about Shirley, would go to her and air their grief or displeasure.
Poor Sharon. She got the brunt of it. For a long time, I did not even answer her text messages or phone calls either. And yes, Sharon is one of my dearest and oldest friend.
When I decided to shut out, I cut off completely.
I simply did not know how to cope with myself, and the remains of my life.
So, after much contemplation, I realised that the ONLY real loser was me. Then I decided to do something about it.
Having not attended any of Rinpoche’s Dharma Talks and having missed a lot of his teachings, I then decided to go back to the audio teachings and listened to them. But I did not want to just listen and then, write to Rinpoche to inform him that I have already listened to everything I have missed.
I wanted to go show him that I listened, contemplated and even took the teachings home to my heart.
Hence, I went through about 12 to 15 teachings and started short listing those quotes that spoke to me. All in all, it took me about 2 years. Then I decided that the best gift to my Guru would be to show him what I have understood and what I have learnt from all his teachings.
At that same time, Kechara Media & Publications (KMP) was also in the midst of collecting quotes from all of Rinpoche's teachings. KMP wanted to publish a Coffee Table Book of Rinpoche's quotes paired with beautiful pictures. So, they were very kind to let me be involved and become a part of the team.
Here, I’d like to explain something that most people may not realise.
Any contribution or donation, big or small, towards any Dharma work is most meritorious. Because we are helping to promote the Dharma, we are helping to get the Dharma out to benefit others. It is one of the highest spiritual practice we can engage in. It is not them doing us a favour, it is us having the honour and priviledge to be able to contribute and donate to such compassionate noble work of the highest sense. Very meritorious indeed!
The highest is, of course, serving one’s Guru directly.
So, at every chance or opportunity that we can get hold of, we should be rushing in to just donate and contribute to any form of Dharma work. Again, the honour and priviledge is ours.
We not only collect tremendous merits, but we also purify our own bad karma at the same time. Therefore, like I said, it was most kind of KMP to give me the precious opportunity to contribute in a very small way.
So, KMP decided to combine all the quotes that I have collected and what they have already short listed as well. Jamie and Sharon helped a great deal. They were both so patient and tolerant of me. Bear in mind, this was in 2006. I was still my bitchy and witchy self. So, I was not exactly a “Mary Sunshine” to work with. More like a "Chainsaw Massacre Nightmare" type. Yet, they remained lovely and wonderful throughout and we became very dear friends as a result of it all.
Yes, KMP even gave me the honour and priviledge to name the Coffee Table Book. Yes, I chose the title especially. Because it was in itself a teaching and reminder to myself.
Can you guess it already? HAHA
The first edition of IF NOT NOW WHEN? looked very different from this current Peace Edition. But the essence of it all is still kept very much ALIVE in the book.
So, everytime I look at this book, I remember what pains and grief I gave to my darling dearest friends, Jamie and Sharon. And yet they endured me, because the fruit of our labour was more important than our petty little issues. Well, it’s actually more of Shirley’s petty DIVA issues, to be exact.
If they were not Dharmic in any sense of the word, they would have just walked out and say, “WE DO NOT NEED TO PUT UP WITH YOUR BULLSHIT AND BAD ATTITUDE!”
But they didn’t. They cared about the book being beneficial to others when it is done and out, and they cared about me – wanting me to receive the benefits, merits and purification of my bad karma as well. So, in the end, it is all thanks to them both. I do love them both dearly.
There were other people who helped a great deal, like Joy. But they were spared from my raving tantrums, because Jamie and Sharon were the human shields.
This is why I say and will always say - Dharma brothers and sisters, our Dharma Family – they are truly irreplaceable. They will allow themselves to become many things just so we can gain the merits and the attainments. They are all my very best friends, my BFF.
Today, I fall on my knees with my palms pressed together - I thank each and everyone in Kechara. Especially, Ruby, Jamie, Sharon, Su Ming, Beng Kooi, and JP. They are the true Warriors of Compassion, braving all our arrows, venom, spit and wrath in order to help us remain in our spiritual path.
In any case, this is how the book was born – from the kindness of the Guru, to the kindness of our Dharma brothers and sisters. And the reason I brought this up is so that those reading will get to know how wonderful Kechara members are. They truly embody selflessness and loving kindness. Above all, their warmth and friendship are REAL. Next time, I shall share other stories of my experiences with other Dharma sisters and brothers in Kechara.
But for now, please allow me to truly rejoice. The book has become so much better, with a new sexy look as well. So, what other proof do one need to see that COMPASSION DOES CONQUER ALL and DOES BENEFIT so many? It is really beyond words.
That was how IF NOT NOW WHEN? began. This Coffee Table Book that summed up everything that I had to battle within myself, from 2002 to 2006. The words in the book literally saved my life, and opened up my mind.
Hopefully, it does the same for many people reading it.
What I truly love about the words in the book is that they will never be dated. They will not just go out of fashion and become irrelevant after next season, or even in a decade.
In fact, the words will grow with you.
As you grow and see more, you will find that the book reveals even more to you in time. And depending on what you may be going through, you will find that the words will speak to you in different ways, at various levels.
It is truly an eternal companion, like a good dear friend – no different than how Sharon and Jamie are to me. No different than how valuable the Guru is to me.
In the highest regard, I always imagined that Rinpoche is speaking to me directly whenever I read the words. So, I take them to heart even more. And with each realisation, I begin to incorporate the verses into my daily life.
Here is another email I’d like to share with all of you. I received this from Rinpoche in December of 2006.
You are not bad. So dont use that as an excuse to not do more. You're bad would be the same bad as anyone else.
You really do want to do more. But you're very afraid of commitment. Don't be afraid of commitment...it's never forever...but while we have the chance, then we should commit because i won't be alive forever. Why is it not forever, because death is near, old age/sickness which inhibits us is near, because time is not on our side. So no matter how 'committed' we are, it's not forever.
We at kechara house, including you, are a good group, we are sincere and we are the leftovers from the goody too shoes...so don't worry. I would love to have you as a 'student' and very happy for you to join Kh....you found something good that can only enhance your life..so don't think too much. We spend more time and energy deciding a car we want to buy, at least with dharma don't waste time and energy but just do it.
You don't have to go into deep practice at this time, and deep meditations....just be involved with our committee and work...you would enjoy that. Certainly your quickness, intelligence and soft heart is needed. We have so many obstacles from the outside, inside and left and right and sometimes we are just plain bullied because we are nobody here and now...but that is ok, compassion and love is the key. Why, because i don't want to be unhappy so having compassion and forgiving takes care of that.
You please get involved. Get involved with the work aspects because you are fast. Stop waiting till you're a perfect being THEN YOU ONLY do dharma...do it now because you and I are not a perfect being and that is WHY WE DO IT.
Think about all that and jump in and stay in my friend that wears herself down with all types of thinking....relax and do..
much care, tsem tulku
I chose these two emails to share with you all today, because they showed how I veered and strayed from time to time. It was not immediate for me. I certainly took my own sweet time. And now you can understand why Rinpoche said that I taught him the real meaning of patience. And then, Rinpoche laughs.
Rinpoche knows me better than I know myself. That is scarily true.
So, that is what I did – I ran, I hide, I go back and forth and run around in circles again, thinking that I had to figure it all out, believing that I need to sort out myself and be ready, when the truth is so simple but I just could not see it. May be I did not want to see it.
No wonder Rinpoche shakes his head and rolls his eyes, BUT still, HE will continue to just wait and wait, and Rinpoche will always continue to pray that all his students will come around sooner and not later. Rinpoche will never give up on anyone. Even when they have left, even when they can give up on themselves. Rinpoche will continue to wait until every 'child' comes 'home'.
In truth, the Guru is already here, right infront of our very eyes, waiting and eager to help us.
But what do we do?
So, please don’t be like me and waste a whole lifetime because you think that you are not ready and you believe that you are not going to like it. Or you imagine it is going to be like this or like that.
Frankly, we are never going to be quite so ready. That is why the Guru is there in the first place.
Don’t think too much, and waste precious time in running here or there, or hide behind your issues and anger or fears. Without or with the Guru, you will still have those issues. They were all there even before you met the Guru. So, these scary issues are not going anywhere anytime soon until they are properly dealt with.
Believe me when I say this - the issues will not go away and get smaller. They will most likely become much worse. But at least, when you do have the Guru, you have the “DOCTOR” at hand and the remedy is within your reach. And you are rest assured that the remedy is indeed the best and right remedy for you.
So, don’t run and hide just because you cannot take the “bitterness” of the “medicine”. Don’t try to find the easier route to escape because it really does not help you in the ultimate sense. The bad taste of the medicine is at its worst at the beginning, because the real pain is when you actually tear down the walls of your EGO. After that, there will be less and less anger and pain.
If we give up now, we give up on our only true salvation.
Is that what you really want? To live a life of denial?
So, trust the Guru and go all the way.
Anyways, here is my DAY THIRTY :-
No. Of Prostrations: 40
Daily Sadhanas: Check and Done with Death Meditation and Dzambala Mantra.
Physical Exercise: Nada. No time at all.
Daily Reflection from "IF NOT NOW, WHEN?" – Here we go. I close my eyes and I picked out page 109.
“The people who complain, have difficulties, who are bitchy and problematic, the people who don’t transform, and the people who create gossips and problems – forgive them, love them, transform them by your example, and give them hope and courage by your persistence and effort of not giving up.
Do not criticise, gossip, talk about them, write about them or say things about them, but in response to their harm, give them benefit.”
Personal Thoughts and Feelings:
You know how much the Chinese value their ‘image’ and what they like to call, ‘their face value’. They frown at people who open up their wounds, scars and weaknesses and faults for all to see. They look down at such things because to look good is paramount.
Yet, in my blog, I am exposing myself and I do not even know who reads at all.
I open up my wounds, my scars and fears for all to see.
Do you wonder why?
In my daily prayers, among other things, I pray for all those who left and those who gave up.
I visualise each and every one of them clearly as if they are sitting right in front of me. I also pray for those who are un-willing to step into the spiritual path because of their own doubts, anger, confusion or fears.
I do all these because I was exactly like them. So, I know what that feels like and how it was.
But they are the source of my inspiration.
It is for them that I want to open up and I challenge myself each day.
It is for them that I give myself over so that my own journey will be something they bear witness to. Because if I can do it, and I am progressing on a daily basis, that would mean that anyone and everyone also can do it. And I am sure that everyone can do it much better than me. I am an ex-sloth and late bloomer, remember?
BUT it is all only possible, only if they want to, only if they allow themselves to.
So, I pray for them and I dedicate to them.
It is not about me.
It is about what I can do for them.
If I have something of use and can be of use to them, then yes, I would have done something worthy by my Guru’s teachings. I would have done something worthwhile as I am breathing.
It is not much, I know.
I am not much – well, not for now, anyways.
In any case, I matter very little.
This is all about you.
It is for you.
Yes, you – the one reading.
It does not matter that I don’t know you or have not met you or may not even meet you ever.
What matters is that you are important to me.
We embark on spiritual practice not just to heal and save ourselves.
We embark on the spiritual path so that we get healed and then we begin to heal others.
This is why Rinpoche will always say, it is about them, the others. Not about himself or myself.
It is all for you – all of you.
So, whatever your spiritual path is called, or is named - be it Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, etc - please, just start and please stay on the path.
Please, do not stop or quit.
"I humbly request you all to continue your spiritual journey. It does not matter whether it is with us, on your own or somewhere else. But do continue with your spiritual journey."
This is the very last quote in the book. It is entitled EPILOGUE.
I love that picture with Rinpoche turning back and looking at us. Yes, I chose that picture especially and I thank KMP for keeping it like that. That picture means a great deal to me because Rinpoche is already so far ahead and yet HE will always slow HIMSELF down, and look back just to make sure we are all still following behind HIM.