Bringing Gaden to Malaysia

24 February 2010 - 9:50pm Comments Off

Kating Rinpoche (left) and Gen Lobsang Yeshe of Gaden Shartse Monastery

Can’t read Tibetan? Thinks that stops you from accessing holy pujas? Well, it hasn’t stopped Kechara!

If some of our departments have been quiet for the last couple of weeks, it’s because something really special’s been going on. For long night after joyous long night, a group of people have come together to begin the process of bringing the Gaden traditions to Malaysians here.

Torma-making begins with making the mixture

It began just over a month ago with the arrival of two monks from Gaden Monastery, Ven. Kating Rinpoche and Gen. Lobsang Yeshe (‘Gen’ is a respectful Tibetan term for ‘teacher’). With Kating Rinpoche and Gen-la’s help, the group have been working to expand the repertoire of pujas that Kechara members are able to do in Kechara House.

Puja is a Sanskrit word meaning offerings. During a puja, prayers and offerings are made to the Three Jewels to request their blessings and invoke their help. When the pujas are directed at certain deities, they help the patron or sponsor to create connections with those Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Gen-la's deft hands make light work of the tormas

Kating Rinpoche and Gen-la have been working to teach the group 11 different pujas. Some of you may recognise these names, having sponsored these pujas in the past – Drolchok (Tara), Menlha (Medicine Buddha), Sheningdundok (Heart Sutra with rituals), Sherabnyingpo (Heart Sutra Recitation), Jamphel Tsenchok (chanting the names of Manjushri), Jigje (Solitary Heart Yamantaka), Gyabshi (400 Obstacle-Clearance Puja), Lhapsang (incense offering), Namgyal Tsechog (Long Life Puja), Chagsum (Obstacle-Clearing Puja) and Damtsik Dorje (Samayavajra to repair broken samaya).

After the tormas are shaped, they are painted with ghee to prevent cracking

Learning the pujas is an extensive, day-in-day-out process. It begins with the monks slowly reciting in Tibetan to the team who transliterate the sounds into Roman characters. This means where there are once squiggles on a page, the team record it as something more recognisable like “SANGYE CHO DANG CHO KYI CHO NAM LA”.

As one can imagine, there are many opportunities for errors to be made, especially when dealing with a language containing as many subtleties as Tibetan…it became a running gag whether a syllable was spelt “DI, DHI, DEE, DHEE, DIK, DHIK, DIG, DHIG”!

The tormas are adorned with beautiful symbols made from a special wax-ghee mix that the monks brought with them from India

After the text was checked repeatedly by the team, and approved by His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche, they began to learn torma-making. Tormas are traditional representations of food offerings consisting of a mixture of finely ground oat flour, butter, milk, honey and sugar. They are shaped into beautiful tapered cones with flower decorations, and then painted over with ghee to prevent cracking.

Each puja has a specific set of tormas and altar set-up to learn so the entire process was filmed and photographed, and careful notes were taken throughout. Once the torma-making class was over, the team then sat down with the monks to learn how to recite the text. For hours and hours, they recited the pujas, learning the rituals and mudras (hand gestures), and visualisations.

Tormas come in different shapes and sizes, like these ones for Yamantaka and Setrap which have yet to be painted a brilliant red

That’s not all – separate to eleven pujas being learnt by this group, the team also transliterated and learnt the set-up for Vajrayogini’s daju (self-initiation) and ruchok, and Je Tse Zin Ma (Long Life Tsongkhapa initiation), so that they could be puja assistants when Tsem Rinpoche himself performs these rituals or gives these initiations in the future!

Don’t think it’s a big deal? Well, it is because after receiving the initiations, the practitioner is qualified to visualise THEMSELVES as the deity!

Everyone gets involved with making tormas

Shaping lüs for the gyabshi and sheningdundok pujas

Yes, learning the pujas was a lot of ‘work’, even more so for the kind monks who have taken away precious time from their busy schedules to bring Gaden to Malaysia. Gen Lobsang, for example, is currently studying for his Geshe Lharampa degree, the PhD of Buddhist studies. Every year, for six years, Gen-la sits one month of exams to test his understanding of Dharma’s most subtle points. With a full month of upcoming examinations to prepare for, being in Malaysia for five weeks was a considerably long period of time to be away from his studies…so we are all hugely appreciative of his and Kating Rinpoche’s kindness in being here!

Every step of the puja-learning process was meticulously recorded and checked over by Rinpoche and Gen-la

The pujas are being learnt in preparation of Kechara World Peace Center (KWPC). Rinpoche has often talked about the necessity of an inner KWPC so that our outer buildings do not become just another tourist attraction bringing no lasting benefit to others. Learning pujas is one way of building KWPC from inside out, to ensure it becomes a living, breathing educational institution for Malaysia.

The entire torma-making process was filmed... was the altar set-up... were the puja recitations!

The monks and puja team made sure nothing was missed!

The monks will finally be returning to Gaden this week but the work is not over for this team. They will be busy for the next month practising and mastering the pujas…before teaching them to others! For many of us who have benefited from the power of prayer, this is one opportunity you do not want to miss to pass on that benefit to others.

On behalf of the Kechara organisation and all the people who will benefit from these pujas, we would like to thank Kating Rinpoche and Gen-la for their patience and compassion in teaching us these ancient, very holy practices. Please return again soon, to teach us more methods for changing the lives of others!

The monks taught us everything about the pujas, including the mudras which the team were keen to try out for themselves

Everything was checked and double-checked, and triple-checked!

Realising the importance of the work they were doing, every session had the participants' full attention

Everyone, including Liaison Datuk May Phng (left - President of Kechara House), thanked both Kating Rinpoche and Gen-la for coming to Malaysia, and requested that they return soon to teach us more pujas

Always thinking of others, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche gave the monks many thoughtful gifts, including a desk lamp for Gen-la to ease his studies for his exams

Rinpoche also asked the monks to bring back with them many vitamins and medicines for his teachers and friends

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