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

Gratitude as a spiritual practice

July 14, 2016 2

Been wanting to write about this for a while! Early last year, I was headed back to Malaysia from the States and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a home to go back to. While I’d been in Los Angeles, the lease on the place I shared with my old housemate Su Ming expired so she moved into her own apartment since it was ridiculous I paid rent for a place I didn’t live in. Moving back with my parents wasn’t really under consideration. They would have been happy to have me back but I hadn’t lived at home since I was 18 so to be honest, I wasn’t really hot on the idea of it.

So that was my living situation. I’m not a fan of uncertainty but I figured I could find a spare room in one of the Dharma houses and rent that. Until then, I planned to live in the Kechara House guest hostel if a room was available. Living in the centre appealed to me. Anyway I didn’t talk about this with anyone, I just thought I’d do my own thing and sort it out when I got home.

Then before I left the USA, Rinpoche asked to see me. Rinpoche told me he knows I don’t have a home to go back to and that he was inviting me to stay in the Ladrang. There were guest rooms available and I was welcomed there. Before I could say anything, Rinpoche held my hand and told me I will not be a burden, to think of the Ladrang as my home and be comfortable, and to come and go as I needed to. Rinpoche said he had already spoken to the Ladrang changtsos (liaisons) who were aware of this, and that preparations were already underway.

Suffice to say, I was in shock. I had previously stayed in our Ladrangs in other countries, and even helped to set them up but had never considered I’d ever be allowed to stay in the main one back in Kuala Lumpur. The Ladrang is the Private Office and Household of the lama and to be invited to live there is an incredible honour. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the guru is the foundation of all good qualities; he is the essence of Dharma, with all its wisdom and compassion manifested in the form of a teacher. So students try to spend as much time with their teacher as they can, to try and soak up some of this enlightened knowledge. And so if you live under the same roof as your lama, well…

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I flew back to KL, excited but not knowing what to expect. This is what I came back to…a room set up by the gift team and volunteers led by Sock Wan, with new sheets, new bedding, toiletries, an altar, flowers, stationery. The room even came replete with my favourite snacks and soft toys. Soft toys has become something of a tradition between Rinpoche and me – every time I move into somewhere new, Rinpoche gifts me with a soft toy.

In fact, every time I’ve moved into somewhere new, Rinpoche has gifted me with way more than a soft toy. When I moved into my first Dharma house (Naropa House) back in 2009, Rinpoche sponsored the renovation and set-up of my room – mattress, wardrobe, carpet, air-conditioning, bedding, new coat of paint.

When I moved into a bigger room in the same house, again Rinpoche kindly sponsored the set-up. And when we moved into a new Naropa House, Rinpoche personally came to supervise our move, even sponsoring food, snacks and furniture for our place.

People say that Rinpoche is kind and I certainly know this, probably more so than many others. Rinpoche has saved my family’s life, helped to fund my education, talked to me when I was down, given me advice when I was confused about secular things, scolded me when I wasn’t trying to control my arrogance, given me pocket money, paid for my bills, sent me on holiday, bought groceries and snacks, gifted me with all manner of things…all of this on top of all the Dharma opportunities and teachings I have received. It’s embarrassing really, how much the lama has given compared to the students. The ‘hilarious’ thing is that Rinpoche does all of this and only expects us to become better, kinder, nicer people in return. There is nothing that I / we have that we can offer to Rinpoche, because nothing secular appeals to Rinpoche, only mind transformation. That’s right, after all of this, Rinpoche doesn’t even expect anything for himself!

It’s why I never tire talking about how kind Rinpoche has been to me and everyone else. People might think, “Why is she talking about it again? WE GET IT” but for me, I take gratitude seriously as a practice. I think that it’s a dangerous thing when we forget how to be grateful towards those who have been kind to us, or when we get bored of gratitude. If we can’t be grateful to even people who have been kind to us, how can we possibly be kind to anyone else?

And if we can’t be kind to anyone else, and have the conscience to do something to repay their kindness, where does that leave us on our spiritual path? Hence, gratitude and devotion should never be considered fanaticism, especially when it has a basis and it is an open acknowledgement of the kindness of our teachers.

Just some things to reflect on in the course of our everyday lives…

Tsem Rinpoche, Gifts

2 Comments → “Gratitude as a spiritual practice”

  1. HAN 1 year ago   Reply

    Thank you Pastor Jean Ai for sharing this genuine post with great gratitude. Mind transformation is the highest offering to our dearest Lama and in the process of transformation, we are trained to be aware and always be kind to others as our Lama always advise us.
    I like what you wrote,” if we can’t be kind to anyone else, and have the conscience to do something to repay their kindness, where does that leave us on our spiritual path? Hence, gratitude and devotion should never be considered fanaticism, especially when it has a basis and it is an open acknowledgement of the kindness of our teachers.”

    Again , thank you for sharing this great post.

  2. Michele Marie 1 year ago   Reply

    This is such a wonderful touching story about how much you received from Rinpoche. Thank you for sharing your infinite gratitude towards Rinpoche and all the kindness you received from Rinpoche. It is bringing me in a state of gratitude too and value my own contact and precious advices I received from Kecharian, Pastors and especially you Pastor Jean Ai as well as Rinpoche and his very exceptional generous teaching!

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