It all began with a close friendship with Liaison JP Thong of Tsem Ladrang, who continuously insisted that she should attend one of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s talks. When she finally acquiesced to JP’s persistent requests, Datuk May Phng very publically challenged Rinpoche to answer her questions – captured on camera, the resulting debate between Datuk and Rinpoche has become one of Kechara’s most-watched YouTube videos.
Datuk later attended a land blessing ceremony at the site of Kechara World Peace Centre where, under an auspicious drizzle of rain, she was gifted a Lama Tsongkhapa statue by Rinpoche. Unaware of its significance and keen only to escape the rain, Datuk May reluctantly accepted the statue… little did she know it was to be the first of many statues she has since invited home!
After that land blessing, business took Datuk May away on frequent trips to Shanghai. Knowing her schedule, JP arranged for Datuk to attend an intimate audience with Rinpoche when she was likely to be in Malaysia. With a few other people, Datuk May received a teaching on karma which she said blew her mind away. After the audience, Datuk May clamoured for more – she wanted to know when Rinpoche’s next talk would be, and when she could receive more teachings. However, with Rinpoche’s teachings being infrequent and Datuk always being away in Shanghai on business, it was difficult for her to fulfil this wish of hers.
So when the Nepal pilgrimage was announced, JP thought it would be a good opportunity for her to see Rinpoche more regularly and receive more teachings, just like she wanted. JP asked her if she would like to go; Datuk jumped at the chance and said yes- until she heard there was a prerequisite to the trip, involving a talk held a few days before the pilgrimage departed from Malaysia.
Being in Shanghai at the time, Datuk said that it was too short notice and she couldn’t come back for the pre-trip talk. After much talking and convincing, JP told her that he knew what kind of person Datuk was – tenacious to the core, if she wanted something, she would find a way to get it.
So trusting JP’s judgement, Datuk May rescheduled her flight back to Malaysia, attended the talk and joined Kechara on the pilgrimage. Whilst touring Kathmandu with Rinpoche and the Kechara group, she bombarded JP with questions – who were Kechara? What did they do? Why this deity? Why that deity? Why religion? Why so many deities? Who was Rinpoche? What were his beliefs? What did he teach?
It was in Nepal when, convinced by the sincerity of Rinpoche, JP and the Kechara group, Datuk May experienced her turning point. Every morning, on her way to breakfast, Datuk May had to walk past Rinpoche’s room where he would be having his breakfast, looking out of the window into the garden. They would have short chats when he would impart some Dharma, which left a deep impression on her – she told JP that she could not understand why this Guru and his teachings had not already gone out to the world. She said that Rinpoche’s Ladrang needed to grow, because it was from his household and private office that the Dharma would spread. She said she would do whatever it took to help the Ladrang improve.
Rinpoche saw the change in her, and said that she needed to return to Nepal. Later that year, JP took her back to Nepal and although she did not get to spend as much time with Rinpoche, May became even more convinced that something had to be done to help Rinpoche’s teachings spread.
After that second Nepal trip, Datuk was offered the role of Director of Operations and Fund-Raising for the Ladrang, a position that well-suited a lady of her capabilities and interests. She immediately threw herself into Dharma work – never doubting of Rinpoche’s motivation and capabilities, Datuk May had always wanted to do Dharma work but had not wanted to do it just yet. Her struggle was between doing Dharma and providing for the future of her family – when Rinpoche told her that she did not have to abandon one for the other and in fact, both were inseparable, Datuk May accepted Dharma completely.
Thus, in the short time that Datuk has been with Kechara, her transformation has come in leaps and bounds – since her trips to Nepal to Gaden Monastery, Datuk May has sworn in as a liaison and devoted herself to Kechara, using every opportunity to bring Dharma into other people’s lives. Taking it upon herself to bring her Guru’s teachings to the world, Datuk has introduced highly qualified, highly intelligent people into the Kechara fold, starting with her daughter, Li Kim (CEO of KMP).
So how did her Datukship come about? A highly accomplished businesswoman, Datuk May was offered a Datukship nearly a decade ago. Not needing external recognition for her accomplishments, she graciously declined the offer.
So when Rinpoche asked her to pursue a Datukship again, she was resistant; she reasoned she had everything she wanted in life and since nothing was missing without the title, there was no need for the Datukship.
Her mind changed when Rinpoche pointed out how many people she could help, and the number of doors she could open with the title. A devoted student with her Guru always in her heart and mind, Datuk May immediately said yes, she would do it.
On 10th October 2009, May Phng became Datuk May Phng, dedicating her title to the growth of Kechara, and to the spread of her Guru’s teachings and his long life.
Immediately after the investiture, celebrations and acknowledgements began for Datuk’s transformation, and letting go of personal preferences for a bigger goal that benefits others. Ladrang representatives drove down to Malacca, where the ceremony was held, to surprise Datuk with a thank-you dinner, where Datuk also received the blessings and congratulations of her Guru.
On 12th October 2009 and amongst family and friends, Kechara were there to help Datuk May celebrate her investiture and her birthday at Kechara Oasis. As course upon course of delicious vegetarian food was served, JP Thong gave a touching presentation about Datuk’s journey in Kechara. The evening ended in typical Kechara-style, full of love and joy as we belted our hearts out to old classics blasting from the karaoke machine.
On behalf of Kechara, and all of the people she will benefit in the future, we congratulate Datuk May on the conferrment of her title, and for putting into action her commitment to benefit others through the Dharma.