El·e·na [el-uh-nuh, uh-ley-nuh; It. e-le-nah] /ˈɛlənə, əˈleɪnə; It. ɛˈlɛnɑ/ –noun a female given name, form of Helen // A proud student of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche // Personal assistant with a BSc (Hons) Psych from Uni of Warwick // These are snapshots of my life, in words and pictures

A gift of kindness

August 23, 2014 6

A few of us were in Rinpoche’s room last night having a meeting. In front of Rinpoche on his desk were about 15 new statues, a mix of White Tara, Avalokiteshvara and Amitabha. After the meeting, Rinpoche casually asked us which statues we liked more. Pastor Niral and I both liked Avalokiteshvara; Pastor David said he liked White Tara. Rinpoche asked us why, talked to us for a little bit, consecrated the statues then said, “Well, you guys better have one each then.”

So why did I say I liked Avalokiteshvara “more”? A couple of years ago, my maras were really manifesting and I had a lot of inner obstacles arising. I saw fault in everything and I still do but the difference is two years ago, I let them overwhelm me. What’s more, I saw nothing wrong with letting my mind run rampant with criticism for everyone and everything.

That was the real problem, I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing.

Avalokiteshvara

People like Beng Kooi were extremely kind. They patiently put up with my ups and downs and wildly illogical tantrums, and talked to me with no judgement. Looking back now, I can see what a burden and a pain in the a** I was being but back then, I felt like I deserved the attention. Sick, I know.

Anyway, it was around that time that Rinpoche was travelling, and eDivision were called to Bangkok to meet Rinpoche. We were supposed to stay in Bangkok for three days but for me, that stay ended up stretching to four (five?) months. During our time there, we helped to find, secure and set up a Ladrang in Bangkok.

How does this all relate to Avalokiteshvara? By the time this Bangkok trip rolled around, Rinpoche had learned about the problems I was causing to the eDivision team because of my lack of willingness to control my mind. So Rinpoche was manifesting a lot of disappointment and upset with me.

On Rinpoche’s first visit to the Bangkok Ladrang after we had cleaned it up, we were walking around the Ladrang trying to figure out where to hang up pictures of the Thai monarchs. Rinpoche has always taught us to respect the law and customs of the land, so that was our intention.

There was a large group of us following Rinpoche around the Ladrang. What was noticeable was that Rinpoche ignored all of my suggestions, but was very normal and jovial with everyone else. At one point, Rinpoche teased Carmen and it was swiftly followed by a very sarcastic remark for me:

Oh and we got Avalokiteshvara over here.

My god, how my bruised ego yelped for sympathy, and my face positively BURNED in embarrassment. Outwardly I laughed it off but I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all myself. I went to bed that night replaying the comment over and over again. What could I have done differently? What did I do to deserve that remark? Why was Rinpoche picking on ME?

I woke up the following morning with a new resolve. Overnight, I realised the comment bothered me so much because it was so true – I was being deeply unkind to everyone around me and my ego suffered because I had been exposed. So I had a choice. I could either accept the remark as the truth and do something about it, or continue to sulk and whine about not getting the sympathy I wanted.

I really buckled down and tried to stop whatever difficulties I was causing. Rinpoche wouldn’t accept my change so easily and quickly, and I knew that I was up for a lot more sarcastic remarks and critical comments, and that they would be uttered in public too. Rinpoche has no hesitation about exposing our negative afflictions in public if doing so will help us, and Rinpoche definitely has no ego about what we think about him afterwards because his only intention is to help us, and not to gain good reputation for himself.

So I knew what was coming and I had a choice – I could either face myself or avoid Rinpoche and never have to hear anything painful to my ego. After all, there were plenty of jobs around the Bangkok Ladrang that did not require me to see Rinpoche, and I knew I could go weeks like this. But was avoidance the best solution? And who was I really avoiding, Rinpoche or myself? I figured I had to go through it. It would be painful but it would reflect the amount of pain I caused others, and it would be Rinpoche’s way of teaching me how other people feel when I let my mouth run rampant. It would also test my resolve, and test if my realisation was real or only existing in the spur of the moment.

It took about one month before Rinpoche started to decrease whatever displeasure he was manifesting towards me. It took about one month before I was called again to receive direct instructions from Rinpoche and even then, the remarks continued for at least a couple of weeks afterwards before they went away entirely.

Avalokiteshvara will always remind me of that resolve I made to curb my negative habits. That’s not to say I’m an angel now – I still don’t suffer fools gladly, I am still direct and I still have my hang-ups which I am vocal about. But Avalokiteshvara reminds me of the greatest kindness I’ve ever received, which is the chance from my lama to do battle with my ego, and a lesson about how something done with a kind motivation can be fierce or gentle, but will ultimately be beneficial (in the way Rinpoche was fierce with me but out of kindness). I am grateful that Rinpoche has given me that chance to realise and experience the importance of controlling my thoughts, and to cultivate kindness starting with those closest to me.

It’s funny how the story above has made such an impact on my mindstream and stuck with me over the years. When I recounted the story above to Rinpoche last night (albeit a much briefer version), Rinpoche said he doesn’t remember any of it…but I do because I guess the “trauma” to my ego was that great. But Rinpoche still gave us the statues anyway, saying kindness is something everyone should develop :)

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6 Comments → “A gift of kindness”

  1. aniatara 3 years ago   Reply

    More evidence that Rinpoche is an authentic master…

    • Elena 2 years ago   Reply

      What’s incredible is that Rinpoche’s giving is consistent across time, cultures, backgrounds and religions. Rinpoche 20 years ago is the same Rinpoche now. Rinpoche in Beverly Hills is the same Rinpoche in the Delhi slums. It must be realisations that fuel his actions, otherwise no one is consistent for that long in every situation!

  2. michele marie 3 years ago   Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this story Pastor Jean Ai..

    • Elena 2 years ago   Reply

      You’re most welcome! <3

  3. Sharon Ong 3 years ago   Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story. Your 4-armed Chenrezig is very beautiful indeed. May you be eternally blessed by this beautiful Buddha of Boundless Compassion. :)

    • Elena 2 years ago   Reply

      You’re welcome Sharon :) I’m very fortunate to receive so many gifts from Rinpoche, most of all an understanding of what this statue means.

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