Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

It's all in the details

August 30, 2019 2


Tsem Rinpoche directing a photo shoot.

“It’s amazing all of this could’ve arisen from one mind” is a statement I often hear people utter about Rinpoche. It is usually accompanied by a look of awe on their faces, their eyes widening and jaws dropping as they look around to take in the extent to which Rinpoche has planned. They cannot believe just how involved Rinpoche is, and how Rinpoche cares about everything right down to the smallest detail.

There is a story I often tell visitors when I take them on a tour of Kechara Forest Retreat. When Wisdom Hall was being built, Rinpoche personally oversaw every inch of the construction, right down to the material for the walls and the choice of colour for the floor tiling. Right at the very beginning however, before construction even began, Rinpoche stipulated that when the hall was being built, all supporting columns should be down the left and right side of the hall. Not a single column should be constructed in the middle of the hall because it would obstruct people’s view of the altar.

Rinpoche said he learned this from his experience in Tibetan monasteries, when he saw monks strain to catch a glimpse of the altar or a teacher when a column was in their way.

It was also Rinpoche who stipulated that the Dorje Shugden statue should be a certain height, and the Shakyamuni statue in front of him a certain height as well so that when someone stands outside Wisdom Hall at night, they have a clear view of both Dorje Shugden and Shakyamuni’s face at the same time.

The design for our beautiful Wisdom Hall came from Rinpoche's mind, so no one inside the hall would have to strain to catch a glimpse of the altar.

The design for our beautiful Wisdom Hall came from Rinpoche’s mind, so no one inside the hall would have to strain to catch a glimpse of the altar.

When the lighting was being installed, it was Rinpoche who came to Wisdom Hall to tweak and adjust the angle of the lights so that they fall on the statues’ faces, highlighting their features instead of creating shadows and obscuring them.

It was Rinpoche who came in the middle of the night to check that the lights were exactly how he wanted them, and it was Rinpoche who instructed how they should be further adjusted.

It was Rinpoche who, when he was in America, saw outdoor rock grottos and kept the idea in his mind to implement in Malaysia, to make it fire-safe for devotees wishing to offer candles to the Buddhas.

And so in this photograph above, a photo shoot was taking place to capture professional shots of Pastor David and a few other Kecharians, in scenes that Rinpoche had conceptualised for specific messages and teachings that Rinpoche felt was necessary to promote. Many of the scenes had already been shot when Rinpoche spontaneously, as he so often does, decided to come and see what was going on.

What arose were more ideas and scenes for more photographs.

So here you see Rinpoche directing the angle and height at which Beng Kooi should hold up the Rubik’s cube but did you know that it was also Rinpoche who had artfully mussed up Beng Kooi’s hair? Who had advised her to maintain her wardrobe? Who had even directed the expression on her face?

Whether it is designing a building, conceptualising greeting cards, decorating a room, setting up an altar, creating statues, buying dog toys, establishing a new shop – there is no project that benefits others that is ever too small for our lama. It has never been in Rinpoche’s nature to stand on the sidelines as a silent observer when someone’s spirituality and well-being are at stake. If a job can be done better because it will help them, even if it makes the task all the more difficult, even if it puts Rinpoche himself in an untenable situation, even if it opens Rinpoche up to attack and abuse, Rinpoche will always, always gets involved.

Part of the reason Kechara strongly opposes the ban on Dorje Shugden practice is because Rinpoche observed what was happening and realised if nothing was done, if no one spoke up, if nobody resisted this egregious attack on people’s religious freedoms, it would be the death of a precious practice that has the capacity to benefit a tremendous amount of people. And so if Rinpoche had the means to speak, Rinpoche was going to do so even if it meant being attacked and abused for the rest of his life.

All for the sake of the lineage.

So when I see my teacher, I see the embodiment of ‘tirelessly working for others‘ come to life. For where we would normally opt for the easy route, it is always the road less travelled that our lama treads.

I know I often talk about how detailed Rinpoche is but for me, it is a reflection of how caring he truly is. He could just as easily say “I’ll do it later” or “That’s enough”, like so many of us choose to do all too often, but Rinpoche never does.

So there are many aspects about this image that I love. What are some of yours? 🙂

Life in Kechara: Behind The Scenes

2 Comments → “It’s all in the details”

  1. Michele Marie 4 years ago   Reply

    Thank you so much Elena for all the precious work you are doing withHis Eminence Tsem Rinpoche and all your writing about caring and your sentence ” So when I see my teacher, I see the embodiment of ‘tirelessly working for others‘ come to life. For where we would normally opt for the easy route, it is always the road less travelled that our lama treads.” is inspired me deeply in my daily actions, Also your writing is exquisite and it is a delight and such a learning to read you always. Thank you and I encourage you highly to assemble your writing in a book. With folded hands and my heart in resonance with you all in Kechara and with Rinpoche.

    • Pastor Elena K. Jean Ai 4 years ago   Reply

      I’m very fortunate that in this lifetime, H.E. Kyabje Tsem Rinpoche found me <3

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