Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

Is Dharma work for me? Can I do Dharma work?

June 19, 2013 0

Rinpoche with Jean Mei and me at the Chamang Waterfall

Rinpoche with Jean Mei and me at the Chamang Waterfall

Over the years, I’ve noticed that upon finding out what I do, most people ask me the same set of questions. My answers don’t vary much, so I will attempt to record them here! Perhaps they’ll help you to understand a little better why many of us have given up our secular jobs to join Kechara.

Or perhaps you’re thinking of joining us or a similar organisation. After all, Kechara may be a Buddhist organisation but remove the spiritual aspect and we are just like any other charity engaging in social work. So if you’re not religious, then replace the word ‘Dharma’ with the word ‘charity’ in my answers below 🙂

I hope my answers help to allay any concerns you have about a young person ‘sacrificing’ her life for spiritual work, or any insecurities you may have about leaving your old job for something different.

What do you do? I recently blogged about this…see my long answer here! In short, I do anything that needs doing – correspondence, cleaning, prayers, counselling, choosing gifts, packing, construction, photography, travelling, sourcing, purchasing, social media, video editing, coordinating, inspecting, talking, attending meetings, researching, writing, editing, uploading, HTML…stuff, learning, serving.

Having fun in China

Having fun on a
‘work’ trip in China

Is there that much work to do? Don’t you guys just chant and meditate and stuff? Not really. As Rinpoche recently put it, “Prayers, recitations and retreats aren’t real Dharma practice. Those activities support your Dharma practice. Real Dharma practice is transforming your mind.” Mind transformation can happen in many ways. Since we are always selfish, in Kechara we do activities that are kind without agenda, to ease people’s suffering without gaining anything in return. When we get into the habit of being selfless, then we can break lifetimes of habituation into selfishness. So yes, there is plenty to do because there are 7 billion people (and not to mention, countless animals) to help.

Do you like what you do? Why did you choose to do it? Are you doing this because you couldn’t find another job? On the contrary, I chose this ‘job’. I was perfectly happy working in London’s criminal justice system but it was going nowhere, and the rehabilitation programmes I witnessed did not address the root causes of criminality. I feel that sometimes, legislation is not always the best way to deal with society’s shortcomings, and I think Buddhism presents a much better solution to such manifestations of human suffering, if people are willing to be open-minded. And yes, I really like what I do; I’m here out of passion and belief.

Can everyone do this? Is this life for everyone? I would say yes, everyone can do it. Am I being naive? No, I just think if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it. You’re already working this hard at your current job anyway, so how would this be any different? And why work that hard to make someone else richer? I’ve never understood that.

You can do this because your family is well-off. I can’t because I’m poor. Not true. Am I able to do this because I’m privileged? Yes and that brings its own different set of problems and expectations. In fact, if you’re not well-off, how is secular work going to make any significant improvement your circumstances? And how is Dharma work going to adversely affect your financial circumstances? So don’t use my circumstances as an excuse for why you don’t do it 😉

Chilling out in Bali

Chilling out in Bali

Don’t you guys ever take a break? We can have a break if we want, and we do take breaks (I’m not a machine. Yet. Hehehe). But if people don’t get a break from their suffering, how can we take a break from helping them? Is this pious, self-righteous bullshit? Well if someone calls you at 4am, in a panic because their child’s just been in a serious car accident, what are you going to do, put the phone down? If that’s pious and self-righteous, I’m okay with that 🙂

How do you pay your bills if you gave up your job to do Dharma work? Well, how do you pay your bills now with your current secular job? Moneyyyy. That’s where my stipend goes to. Anyway, if you can pay your bills now with your current secular job, what else do you get from your current job aside from the ability to pay your bills? Happiness? Satisfaction? A legacy that you can leave behind and be proud of? Bills are bills; I pay them and move on because there’s more to life than worrying about bills!

What about my kids, how will I pay for them? How will they go to school? Four words: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. No college, plenty of money. Your kids not a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs? Then all the more reason why you should join Dharma work, because your kids will need the lessons that Dharma can teach them in order to deal with a life without all its finer trappings (that’s a good word actually because it really is a trap). How? By teaching them it isn’t important. And if you STILL can’t figure out how it’s possible, talk to Nick who has a young wife and three children under 10.

The Khongs during Chinese New Year 2011

The Khongs during Chinese New Year 2011

Don’t you want a normal life? Baby, my life is normal. I still go out with friends, still travel, still crave good food (and get it bwahahaha) and still shop. No one said I can’t get married, have kids, go out to parties, go shopping. I just don’t want to do all of that, all of time. Because after I hang out at the restaurant, bar or pub, I would still like to have something to go back to.

What about your future? Don’t you worry about your future? Nope, not at all. In a secular company, no matter what you say about how great it is, you have to admit one thing – there’s always an underlying worry about job security. Maybe it’s because you’re insecure about how good a job you’re doing, or maybe it’s because you’re insecure about how well your company is doing. You’re not really in control either – you’re at the mercy of your boss, your economy, your moods…

But in Kechara, if you do a good job, transform your mind and don’t cause any trouble, it’s a job for life. As for my future? With Kechara Forest Retreat, I’ll have a roof over my head until the day I die, and people to wipe my butt when I get old (sorry guys!). Why live in a retirement home, when I can live and die amongst friends in the forest? And why bother with cruises when I’m in my 80s? Good Lord, when I’m 80, don’t make me travel, just let me sleep!

I can’t think of all of the questions I get asked at this very moment but if there’s anything else you want to know, leave a comment below or email me at elena DOT khong AT kechara DOT com…and if you like what I’ve written here, share it so people know we Dharma babies not THAT weird after all 🙂

Reflections and Teachings

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