History revisited: Rinpoche’s first home in Malaysia

28 August 2010 - 5:57am 7 Comments

THE house in SS2...


Eighteen years ago, when His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche first arrived in Malaysia, he had little idea of what to expect. All he knew was that he had to honour his promise to his gurus, who requested he raise funds to build living quarters for monks. The year was 1992 and with little experience of the world outside America and India, Rinpoche spoke to the only contact he had – a Malaysian monk he had met on a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya. The monk invited him to Malaysia and thus he arrived, alone except for a few monk attendants, and armed with the dharma and guru devotion.

Rinpoche's room eighteen years ago

Mama How had the throne and altar specially made for Rinpoche

As Rinpoche began to teach, offers to help slowly started to come in. One particular offer stood out, from a lady affectionately known as Mama How. Because Rinpoche and his attendants did not have a permanent place to reside, Mama How offered her home to Rinpoche. This would be a place where he could give teachings, hold audiences and conduct divinations.

In a few short weeks, Mama How sponsored a significant sum of money and built an extension to her house. She also furnished the room, complete with a beautiful altar and simple throne, all according to Rinpoche’s specifications. As per Tibetan tradition, she dedicated this area solely for the use of the sangha.

The altar, filled with the deities practised by Kechara House today, as recommended by Rinpoche

Mama How’s offering extended beyond the monetary level. As a place for Rinpoche to receive students, Mama How opened her home to strangers from all walks of life, coming to see Rinpoche at all hours of the morning. Uncomplaining, she continued to serve Rinpoche as a genuine practitioner of the dharma, receiving these guests warmly.

The sitting room which Mama How so generously opened up so guests had a place to wait before their audience with Rinpoche

With help from Mama How and other kind students, Rinpoche was able to raise sufficient funds for the monks. He returned to India to present the offering to his gurus but unfortunately, lost contact with Mama How over the years. However, Rinpoche never forgot Mama How, and her openness and kindness during his time in need.

Rinpoche always offers the best he can afford and back then, this was plastic bowls...

...and colourful plastic beads. The desire to make offerings has always been strong in Rinpoche

With Kechara’s growth, it was not difficult for Mama How to reconnect with Rinpoche. Recently she contacted his students, saying that she would soon move out of her home. Unsure of the correct protocol, she requested for advice as to what she should do with Rinpoche’s old room, prompting us to visit her home. It was a surprise to find out she lived a mere stone’s throw from Kechara Paradise SS2, but we were in for even bigger surprise…

For the last 18 years, out of her respect for the dharma and for Rinpoche, Mama How has been cleaning and maintaining the room in Rinpoche’s absence. Everything was exactly as it had been when Rinpoche left so many years ago, kept tidy for his return. Every cup, every book, every poster, every statue, every offering bowl – nothing had been changed or moved. Every single day, without fail, Mama How had made offerings in this room, doing her meditations and sadhanas in front of Rinpoche’s throne.

Rinpoche's throne, which Mama How made prostrations to every day for the past 18 years

Mama How even kept Rinpoche's medicines and multi-vitamins, just in case!

For Rinpoche’s newer students, the room felt strangely familiar. Most of what we saw exactly reflects Rinpoche’s teachings today. On the altar were Lama Tsongkhapa, Vajrayogini, Setrap and Dzambala, the same practices which Rinpoche spreads or wishes to spread today. In front of the statues were many plastic offering bowls filled with colourful beads. These were all that he could afford back then – nowadays, due to the generosity of sponsors who wish to collect merit, Rinpoche is able to offer silver bowls filled with pearls.

There was even a mini gift section in this room, with books, posters and cassettes for Rinpoche to give gifts to his students, visitors and friends! The books may have been yellowing, and the tape in the cassettes brittle, but there was clear recognition of the same generous gift-giving philosophy that Rinpoche continues to actively practise today.

The gift section in 1992

In Tibetan tradition, those who can afford to will reserve a room in their home for the sangha. Doing so creates the causes for them to receive the dharma and due to the vastness of Tibet, this tradition has also proved practical for travelling lamas. It has always been considered a great honour to host a lama and despite not being Tibetan, Mama How understood this fully.

The visit proved poignant for Rinpoche’s more senior students, as a moving reminder of how Rinpoche’s connection with Malaysia began. It was also an opportunity to remember the kindness of people like Mama How, whose contribution has led up to Rinpoche being with us today.

Justin Cheah takes the opportunity to visit Rinpoche's life eighteen years ago

Through Mama How’s efforts, students now and in the future will be able to experience Rinpoche and his life before the idea of Kechara was even conceptualised. It will serve as a strong reminder of Rinpoche’s unwavering dedication to the dharma, and how steadfast he has been in his practices – it was not difficult to recognise in the room the various aspects which influence Kechara House practices these days.

So to Mama How, we extend our gratitude for caring for Rinpoche at a time when many of us did not have the merits to do so. Through your actions, you created the causes for a source to great joy to remain in Malaysia and touch the lives of many around the world.

One of Rinpoche's most senior students (Chia, left) poses with a newer student (Bryan, right) and the first version of Rinpoche's official biography

7 Responses to History revisited: Rinpoche’s first home in Malaysia

  1. “The visit proved poignant for Rinpoche’s more senior students, as a moving reminder of how Rinpoche’s connection with Malaysia began. It was also an opportunity to remember the kindness of people like Mama How, whose contribution has led up to Rinpoche being with us today.”

    This is an amazing example of the devotion which His Eminence generates in us. I have never set foot in Malaysia in my life or seen Rinpoche in person. That being said, I would not give him up for the sake of my life. I am a person who indulges in many unnecessary and “bad” sensory pleasures, but I simply would not be able to exist without Rinpoche and Kechara. I have never even spoken to Rinpoche on a telephone, I have not had any need to use his precious time; but I could not live without his shining example to follow. I can’t imagine my life without a pure monk to lead me.

  2. What touching incidents – Mama How’s FAITH and DEVOTION bowls me over! So precious and pure! Josh’s amazing faith, despite the circumstances! i am so inspired!

  3. [...] by admin on Sep.22, 2010, under Uncategorized This was the room Tsem Rinpoche stayed in 1992 when Rinpoche first came to Malaysia, it was a room offered by Mama How (read more here: http://www.kechara.com/news/kechara-moments/before-kechara-there-was-mama-how/) [...]

  4. Hi Josh
    Although we are Rinpoche’s students in Malaysia, not many of us have the merits to realise or feel the “humbleness” of a pure monk.

    I was awed and humbled by the little small room that Mama How had built for Rinpoche through her strong faith in him and his teachings. Mama How is a rare jewel. I had been in that room.

    I thank Mama How for keeping the room in pristine condition for the past 18 years to benefit newer students like us to see for themselves the original condition when Rinpoche first arrived in Malaysia.

    I felt sad for Rinpoche who had so little possession at that time but as I reflected further, even in that condition, Rinpoche had never lost his duty to teach the dharma to benefit others.

    I am humbled by such humility, humbleness, strength of mind and determination to spread the dharma to benefit others. Thank you again Mama How and Rinpoche for bringing the dharma to benefit many in Malaysia.

  5. [...] by his monastery, Gaden Shartse, to raise funds through giving Dharma teachings. During his short visit to Malaysia, Rinpoche had already gathered a group of students in this region. After accomplishing [...]

  6. Rinpoche must be some miracles yet to be fully discovered.In such a short time, he is able to attract strangers to come forward to offer help in his difficult moments, speaks volumes of his very good karma. I will certainly in future dedicate all my donation merits to his long life and good health to be able to carry out his wishes to help all beings and to bring peace and loving kindness to this difficult time

  7. [...] Isabel Rendon)、南洋基金前职员胡安、拿督Eric Tan、给初到马来西亚的仁波切提供住处的侯妈妈、洗都寺庙住持萨拉那卡拉上人(Ven.B. Sri Saranakara)、Pure Life [...]