Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

Making kindness an attitude

January 23, 2020 0


Tsem Rinpoche gifting many weeks’ worth of groceries to our Nepali boys.

Rinpoche was never one to do things by halves. When Rinpoche said we should be kind to everyone, Rinpoche really meant it. It was kindness with no and’s, if’s or but’s – no exceptions, even for those who have been cruel, unkind or caused the most pain and suffering to us.

Rinpoche, as usual, led by example and those familiar with Rinpoche’s biography and childhood will know the kindness Rinpoche extended even to his adoptive parents who abused him. But there were other ways in which Rinpoche was consistently kind to others and it all stems from Rinpoche’s underlying motivation. It was Rinpoche’s way to always pray to be reborn in places with the most suffering, where he could do the most for others. Recalling a profound teaching Rinpoche gave us in the middle of West Hollywood, Rinpoche taught us about how we can generate a bodhisattva motivation.

Everybody prays to be reborn in the best circumstances, with all of the comforts and luxuries possible. No one (except a Buddha) prays to be reborn in the worst situations. And that is why we should pray to be reborn there – those are the people who need the most help, because no one ever wants to go there. They have no one to help them. How will we ever develop that seed of compassion in us if we are always praying to be comfortable?

2018-07-06 11.42.15

So in the last 22 years, wherever we went, Rinpoche would always seek out the most downtrodden of society. It did not matter if it was in Malaysia, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Nepal or India. The poverty-stricken, the medically ailing, the financially down, the ignored, the forgotten – Rinpoche was always on the lookout for beings in pain and whether it was physical or emotional, it was Rinpoche’s way to immediately extend a hand, a hug, a kind word to them. So often we would be driving and Rinpoche would shout for the car to stop because in the distance, Rinpoche had seen a homeless person. I recall one particular instance in Los Angeles. From their body language, Rinpoche could tell the person was depressed and close to losing all hope. Rinpoche instructed for our car to back up, stop at a restaurant and had a couple of us go inside and buy lots of food. Simultaneously, a couple more students were sent to go and look for the person, and not lose track of them so we could definitely get the food to them.

And then, although we were on our way to a meeting, Rinpoche diverted us to the closest Walmart to stock up on tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, shoes, socks, bottles of water and toiletries. From there on out, we always carried these items in our car just in case we ever came across a homeless person.

2018-07-06 11.42.29

Kindness without compromise was Rinpoche’s way, and so Rinpoche would always find the best way to help someone without compromising not just his values and beliefs, but also the level of help extended to them. This was one of the most special things to witness, how Rinpoche would help even at his own personal cost. Where many would hesitate helping someone if it meant we lost out in some way, that was not Rinpoche. Even if helping someone meant that Rinpoche ended up destitute, Rinpoche would do it if it resulted in the other being’s pain being somehow alleviated.

All of this was about putting the teachings on compassion into action, taking them off the meditation cushion where we are at risk of falling into complacency; that is, meditating on the teachings on compassion but never actually doing anything about them. As a result, wherever we went, Rinpoche showed that there is always, always an opportunity to practise compassion.

In Malaysia for example, foreign workers from developing nations do not receive the best treatment. Where do I even start? It is sadly commonplace to hear about domestic workers from Indonesia or the Philippines being abused. Stories abound online of Nepali security guards being forced to work even when they are sick, or slapped on the side of their head until they are dizzy or their ears are ringing.

Rinpoche asked us to meditate on their situation, not to look down on them but to generate compassion and an understanding for the reality of their situation. If we want to attain compassion, we cannot be cruel, mean or ignorant of people’s situations. If we want to attain compassion, we must see someone’s pain and immediately think about how we can take it away. No one with a choice will take on huge debts by borrowing thousands upon thousands so they can go abroad to work, whilst letting other people raise their kids and miss all of the milestones, all at the risk being cheated or at the risk their own personal safety. People do it because they have no other choice, because they have to.

Understanding this, Rinpoche said Kechara must be an island of kindness in an ocean of suffering that is samsara. And while we might not be able to change the world, we can definitely change a few people’s worlds.

2018-07-06 11.42.57

So Rinpoche would initiate all kinds of activities for our Nepali boys. Rinpoche would sponsor weeks’ of groceries for our boys, to help them save money for those few weeks by not having to buy their own food. In this way, they would have more money to send home and their families would benefit. Rinpoche would organise and host sports tournaments with attractive prizes, not only to let them blow off some steam and be entertained, but also to foster camaraderie and brotherhood in a foreign environment.

Rinpoche was also always on the lookout for their health. Because many foreign workers are usually involved in manual labour, Rinpoche knew their strength was basically their only means of earning an income for their families. At Rinpoche’s request, everyone always had the equipment and clothing they needed. Rinpoche would get them supplements, send them for regular check-ups and make sure they were going for their treatments. Rinpoche guided them on nutrition, and what foods they should avoid for certain ailments.

2018-07-06 11.42.55

At Rinpoche’s encouragement, some students would organise outdoor movie screenings and pizza nights, or video games. Rinpoche himself would take the boys on outings to the cinema, theme parks, to pizza joints and Indian restaurants (a particular favourite!). On those outings, Rinpoche would sit with them and joke and play, all to find out more about their personal situations and see how else we could help them. During those times, Rinpoche would counsel our boys on the importance of being frugal, of not being frivolous with their money, and to save up as much of it as possible for their families and for their futures. Rinpoche would advise them on the importance of education and making sure their kids complete school so they can break from the cycle of poverty themselves.

Most of all, Rinpoche introduced everyone to Dorje Shugden. It was never about converting someone but about offering them another avenue for assistance, blessing and protection. For this reason, Rinpoche took care to explain the practice and origins of the Protector to them.

2018-07-06 11.42.18

In Rinpoche’s eyes, a difference in language was an inadequate reason for any inability to transmit knowledge. Just because someone does not share the same language as us, does not mean they are less deserving of knowledge and information. Compassion is finding a way of helping someone overcome the challenges and barriers to something that will help them.

And so because Rinpoche really, really wanted everyone to understand why relying on Dorje Shugden is beneficial, Rinpoche would speak slowly, and learn some Nepali or Hindi words to help facilitate the conversation. There would always be a translator on standby as well, and Rinpoche was always open to questions.

No matter how awkward, petty or mundane, Rinpoche would always be happy to answer any questions. Over and over again, I witnessed people asking the same questions to Rinpoche and never once did Rinpoche falter. Rinpoche once told me that it might be our 100th time hearing the same question, but it is that person’s first time asking it. And even if it is their 100th time asking it, be happy to answer because they need the answer. So Rinpoche never once showed he was tired of explaining; explaining and teaching about Dorje Shugden was one of Rinpoche’s greatest joys.

With every explanation, there was always a reminder that someone should never relinquish their own beautiful faith but to add to it. Be whoever or whatever they want to be but add more spirituality to their lives, was always Rinpoche’s message. It was just like Rinpoche to be respectful of a person whilst finding a way of helping them access the ultimate blessing that is Dorje Shugden.

But if you really think about it, the ultimate blessing was Rinpoche for without Rinpoche, Dorje Shugden would not have been present in all of our lives. The truth is that life was always better with Rinpoche around, for everyone and all beings involved.

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

2018-07-06 11.42.34

2018-07-06 11.42.37

2018-07-06 11.42.39

2018-07-06 11.42.42

2018-07-06 11.42.47

2018-07-06 11.42.49

2018-07-06 11.42.52

2018-07-06 11.43.00


Life in Kechara: Behind The Scenes

Leave a Reply