On a cool, cloudy morning, I arrived at the Kechara Forest Reserve (KFR) in Chamang with 62 other visitors. Upon arrival, my phone conversation was abruptly cut off due to the poor reception in that area. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I could focus on being present on my first visit to KFR.
As I gathered with everyone else within the compound, Pastor Ngeow gave a short introduction on his own experience of his first visit to KFR, when it was undeveloped, untouched and unexplored. As we walked inwards and were shown the location where the Shakyamuni Gompa and Vajrayogini Stupa are to be located, it felt different from reading about it online. The whole experience of actually being there made everything seemed more tangible, more real. It was amazing.
When we reached the proposed site for Tsem Ladrang, I started feeling hot and flustered. But within a few moments of just standing there, amidst the gentle breeze, I felt a sense of peace that only being back around nature could bring and I could hear myself think!
One of the questions raised to Pastor Ngeow was on the difference between building a hospital and building a spiritual centre such as KFR. I personally think that a hospital is to heal the body while a spiritual centre is to heal the mind and soul. An insight is that one is more shortsighted as it relates to this present life, while the latter is far-sighted as it relates to the many lifetimes to come.
I wished I could be a part of the development of KFR and I had a small part of that wish come true almost immediately as we found a group of Kecharians who were there gardening! We formed two human chains to transfer the flowers to be planted from the road and onto the ground under the tall mango tree. When we finished re-locating the flowers, Pastor Yek Yee led a recitation of the Manjushri mantra and we ended with a Mexican wave of “dhi, dhi, dhi” back and forth the human chain. Everyone came together in such an impromptu “gotong-royong” and it created a great sense of belonging in a community.
I took a solitary walk back to the waiting bus, accompanied by the sound of birds, insects and running water. As I contemplated on the road that was laid down, on the butterlamp house and on the completion of the temporary private office, I find myself very thankful for the people who came before me to set up the whole place. Most importantly I asked myself; what footprint do I wish to leave behind?
Since I am working full time in the secular world, I came to decide that what I can do right now is to introduce KFR to the people around me, to raise awareness on KFR (and perhaps in this process, someone I spoke to would be able to contribute their time and money). In the meantime, count me in for the next gardening session! I promise I will do my best not to damage any plants in the process!
If you would like to visit KFR, come to the Kechara Front Desk and register with Lucy Yap or Lim Tat Ming or call us at +603 7803 3908 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.