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

Spending time with students

December 1, 2019 2

Tsem Rinpoche explaining the purpose of live-streaming.

These sessions were always very important and precious for Rinpoche. Rinpoche saw them as a means of connecting with people from all over the world, particularly those who did not have easy access to a centre or teacher, or had not met with Rinpoche before or in a long time.

Engaging with people on such a wide scale was contrary to Rinpoche’s so-called personal preferences. It has always been the case for as long as I have known Rinpoche. What many do not realise is just how private Rinpoche was as a person. What everyone saw was a highly engaging, very knowledgeable and eloquent teacher. Rinpoche was all of that, certainly, but by nature Rinpoche always preferred solitude and anonymity.

Rinpoche liked nothing better than to turn on some light, spiritual music and read a Dharma book, or look for images of the Buddhas, or spend hours doing his sadhana (daily prayers). Where most people rush through their prayers, Rinpoche would always take his time. Before each section, Rinpoche would pause to meditate and engage in the visualisations, before continuing with the recitation. When a particular part of Rinpoche’s sadhana struck him very deeply that day, Rinpoche would recite it repeatedly.

That was what Rinpoche liked, doing that kind of practice away from crowds. It was an imprint from previous lives when, as a hermit meditator, it was Rinpoche’s habit to get as far away from society as possible. In those lives, Rinpoche would seek out the most remote caves to meditate in. Eventually, when Rinpoche was discovered, throngs of devotees would invariably make their way to his abode to receive blessings.

Now, when faced with such a situation, some stay because of the benefits they can potentially receive from so many faithful coming to see them. Perhaps by staying, they also feel they can gain greater renown.

Not Rinpoche.

Nope, Rinpoche would instead get up and go far, far away, deeper into the wilderness, further away from ‘civilisation’.

I have always found the thought of this simultaneously inspirational and amusing. In my mind’s eye, I pictured Rinpoche in a cave high in the mountains. As soon as the first people were sighted at the bottom of the mountain, I imagined Rinpoche going, “Nope, not this time” and skedaddling out of there haha

So in this lifetime, Rinpoche tried to do the same. Rinpoche rarely granted audiences or agreed to meet people. All Rinpoche wanted to do was his sadhana and practice, connecting over and over again with his Yidam and becoming one with him. All Rinpoche wanted to do was create lasting resources that would spread teachings on Dorje Shugden, the importance of guru devotion, the path to develop renunciation, bodhicitta and realisation of emptiness.

Driven by previous lives' imprints, Rinpoche always wanted to be a monk in the forest but it was not to be. Because of the ban on Dorje Shugden, Rinpoche was compelled to take on a more public role.

Driven by previous lives’ imprints, Rinpoche always wanted to be a monk in the forest but it was not to be. Because of the ban on Dorje Shugden, Rinpoche was compelled to take on a more public role.

So it makes the last few months all the more significant for me. Because when I think back now, I can see just how much planning Rinpoche did in the last few months of his 25th incarnation. (Hindsight is a powerful tool indeed.)

In the first half of 2019, Rinpoche really opened up his rooms and gave an unprecedented level of access to far more people than ever before. For those of us who have been in the Ladrang for years, it was a bit of a surprise, especially given the precautions we had practised for so many years.

As a result, people whom Rinpoche had not seen for ages were invited to meetings; people who had no prior experience being in the Ladrang were invited in to get involved. Every other day, Rinpoche would go on tours of our land, accompanied by many who were now receiving greater levels of private time with Rinpoche than they ever had before.

Almost everyone who requested for an audience was granted their request and oftentimes, Rinpoche stayed up for hours talking to and counselling them, as though it would be the last time he would ever see them. Rinpoche’s advice to them also became more direct than ever, as if Rinpoche knew time was short and there was not much of it left to spend beating around the bush.

Gifts were sent out to people whom Rinpoche had not heard from for many months, sometimes even years. People were invited to visit Kechara Forest Retreat. Rinpoche also wrote and published many posts about his formative years, his family, his experiences in Gaden Monastery and Nepal, and about his precious gurus and teachers.

Rinpoche also gave teachings on very ‘practical’ things, like how we can bless statues ourselves and, over and over again, taught people how they can very simply rely on Dorje Shugden. Rinpoche even revisited many of the old ‘basic’ teachings, covering topics about Dorje Shugden that Rinpoche had not touched on for many years. The teachings also became more overt in training us to deal with the interesting questions we might receive over the coming years, like why are our statues so big? Or why does Rinpoche live-stream? As though Rinpoche knew we would have to answer all of those questions when he was no longer around.

Then there are the many projects that Rinpoche initiated or emphasised that he wanted to complete. Projects that will take years to fruition, and that will give us something to focus on, to develop, to build and, in some cases, to take our minds off the pain of temporarily losing our teacher.

There are so many more instances of Rinpoche’s planning which I have not covered here and like I said, it is always easy to come to these conclusions with the benefit of hindsight, but much harder to perceive them when they are happening right in front of us. When I contemplate all of the steps that Rinpoche took to prepare us for a time when he is no longer around, I am once again reminded of how kind my lama is to always have our welfare in his mind. How completely he thought things through, so thoroughly that I struggle to comprehend its magnitude and depth. I am also reminded that it is us whom our lama, not himself because Rinpoche himself was already prepared and always has been.

To my Lama, who is one with Heruka, we look forward to welcoming you home soon.

Tsem Ladrang, Tsem Rinpoche, Behind The Scenes

2 Comments → “Spending time with students”

  1. Mark S 1 week ago   Reply

    Thank you Pastor Jean Ai for your kind, well written blog and fond, exceptional memory of Rinpoche. To be amongst those considered part of Rinpoche’s Mandala and to receive his unconditional love and compassion are cherished blessings indeed. Grateful for all the ways Rinpoche so knowingly taught to exact such positive change that will continue to benefit and live on, as we welcome the return of the Guru, who very much is still my Forest Lama who is never gone, close in heart and mind, I pay homage. Hands folded and head bowed in reverence for this great and precious gift. May all signs of Auspiciousness arise in accordance to the teachings of the Buddha. May, Wisdom, peace and understanding reach far and wide to liberate the suffering of many, so very much in need in this age.

  2. Prince 3 days ago   Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experiences Elena. Having learned of Rinpoche only a few months before he passed, I’m glad to glean more details of his life. I’m sure many of Rinpoche’s followers can live vicariously through your posts.

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