Gaden Trip

Kechara House organizes a pilgrimage trip to Gaden Monastery, South India

13 May 2009 - 12:36am Comments Off

In early November 2006, four members of Kechara House including two liaisons Jenny Wong and Paul Yap, and members Lim Tat Ming and Ben Thain performed a journey to Gaden Monastery in South India. The trip was especially meaningful for Tat Ming and Ben because this was their first trip to holy Gaden. The purposes of their trip were to hand over to the monastery monetary offerings from Kechara House members and friends to build a new altar for the new Protector House in Gaden Shartse Monastery (click here to see sponsors list), as well as to meet the Abbot of Gaden Shartse Ken Rinpoche to obtain his endorsements and forewords for Tsem Rinpoche’s upcoming new books, in which the Abbot gladly agreed. These are their stories.

L - R: Jenny Wong, Paul Yap,Ven. Kating Rinpoche, administrative monk, Lim Tat Ming, Ben Thain

A Trip to the Holy Abode

By Paul Yap

Every trip going to Gaden is like going to Tsongkhapa’s rehab center. We recharge ourselves every time we enter this holy abode, surrounded by blissful energy, listening to 3000+ monks holy chanting, and focusing our mind at altruistic objectives. It truly purifies and polishes our body, speech and mind again and again. It awakes our deepest nature to become who we really are, what our purpose is, and we strive to achieve true happiness!! At Gaden, we witness the root cause of our hard work, sweat and tears in Kechara House. We saw the evidence of the authenticity of our lineages and practices back in our homeland in Malaysia. And it really amazed us all the sacrifices and hard work that were put into this piece of land bared handed by the monks and holy lamas over the years and build a city of dharma consisting 3000+ sangha. So, whenever you are lacking behind in your practice and need a push, go to Gaden! You will be ever-ready when you are home along with a big smile and an open heart!

Paul Yap (in black) and the other KH members with Gen Phuntsok

Spiritual Rebirth in Gaden

By Ben Thain

Ben Thain with Geshe Yeshe

Still shaking from disbelief after receiving a telephone call from Jenny that Rinpoche has nominated this newbie to go to Gaden. Ben ponders and reflects, it’s not merely rewarding me for my efforts but it is Rinpoche’s kindness and blessing to want me to open up Dharma seeds from my past and to receive more blessings enabling me to share the wondrous teachings of Je Tsongkhapa. Am humbled and overwhelmed with emotions that mere words cannot describe my feelings of being able to receive such blessings. Deepest gratitude to Rinpoche and all generous sponsors whose unceasing kindness supports the growth of Gaden.

All my bags are packed and ready to go, Jenny, Paul, Tat Ming and I gathered in Damekhang. The day we left for Gaden was Jenny’s birthday, how very auspicious it was, whilst mine was just a few days passed. This ‘rebirth’ in Gaden can be closely felt by the both of us and will be such a treasured event in our lives.

Within three and a half hours we arrived in Bangalore airport. At 11.30pm (local time) on November 5th 2006 , we were greeted by Kating Rinpoche, Gen Gyasong (Pukhang Khamtsen disciplinary teacher), and Ven Bhujong. Apart from Tsem Rinpoche, it was my first time meeting actual monks (in splendid burgundy monk robes). Kating Rinpoche placed Khatas over our shoulders extending a warm welcome from Gaden Monastery. I later found out that Kating Rinpoche is a Tulku like Tsem Rinpoche and to be taken cared of throughout our stay by such a kind monk is such a humbling feeling. He made sure we were comfortable and all his efforts in helping us expedite our endeavors are tireless and heartfelt. Am even ashamed to say that he went through lengths to ensure our comfort and put us up for the night in a nice hotel whilst he and the other monks stayed in a lesser ‘motel’ next door.

The next day, after a simple American breakfast at the hotel, we met up with the money-changer at our room. Watching Jenny hustling an Indian moneychanger is a sight to behold from which I witness a dedicated student of Tsem Rinpoche in action. We got a very good rate for the money offering from Kechara House despite the plummeting exchange rate. Hugging the cash like our babies, we adjourned to a nearby restaurant for a taste of India.

The eight-hour train ride from Bangalore to Hubili was a most wonderful journey not only due to the anticipation of nearing a holy place but also the selfless sharing of Dharma from my fellow travelers. As a newbie to Kechara House, amongst the many things that leave a mark in me is my Dharma brothers and sisters generous imparting of knowledge. It is truly a lesson of selflessness.

We arrive in Hubili station at 10pm and as we alight the train, we were greeted with the scent of jasmine, which I took as an auspicious sign of welcome. After packing the offering items and our luggage onto the official monastic truck, it was an hour and a half on the terrains of Indian soil to Mundgod. Throughout our journey in Gaden, Rinpoche was very caring and kept in close connection with us. I felt it not only through means of telecommunication but also a spiritual closeness with our Guru.

At 11.30pm, we arrived at the gates of Gaden. Through sms, Rinpoche advised us to do 3 prostrations and recite the dedication prayers. Under our Gurus blessing, he wants us to develop good motivation and create the merits to return to Gaden, and continue serving the holy Sanghas of this pure and holy land in this life and future lives. Landing feet on such precious grounds is enough to move even the strongest man to tears. The essence of what Gaden Monastery represents in Buddhism is bliss to all who has the opportunity to have connection with it. And being amongst the fortunate, I was overwhelmed with wonderment and gratitude. In silent prayer, I thank Rinpoche for welcoming us to his humble abode and to create an affinity to Gaden, his home our home.

A light drizzle greeted us at the gates of Gaden and according to Rinpoche, it is a sign that the Protectors are happy and is very auspicious. Indeed, signs of auspiciousness kept appearing throughout our pilgrimage to Gaden. It is likened to the heavens expressing glee for the meritorious acts of offerings from Kechara House to rebuild the Protector’s altar, perform Pujas, etc. We were warmly welcomed to Gen Phuntsok’s house where we spent 2 wonderful days in. Surprise! Surprise! Kunga, the Thangka painter was there too! We were escorted into our rooms and it is later I found out that ‘little dust ball Ben’ here got to sleep in a bedroom and bathe in a bathroom reserved for Tsem Rinpoche. Feeling honored but never proud, this again is Rinpoche’s generous nature in action. What more to be living under the same roof together with High Lamas such as Geshe Yeshe, Ven Kalden Rinpoche and Gen Phuntsok is such great privilege not to mention blessing.

Soon it was morning and Kating Rinpoche escorted us to Gaden Lachi where a Druchok Puja took place. The unison chanting, the sea of Holy Sanghas, the magnificent prayer hall, the omnipresent energy I was at awe. It’s exactly how Rinpoche described it; It was like the ‘Journey to Gaden’ DVD I watched before coming over here; It was how I pictured it in my mind and so much more. Never would I have thought a person who has done so much wrong in his life could earn such merits to step foot in the pure land. It was a moment of reflection and of deep contemplation. With Jenny leading the rest of us, we made Khata offerings to the thrones of the high lamas including H.H. Gaden Tri Rinpoche, also to various Buddha statues. To be in the presence amongst 3000 monks was a humbling experience for they exude humility and kindness; everyone from the youngest monks to the Highest Lamas. A feeling of warmth and comfort surrounded me. A certain calmness and of feeling ‘at home’. After the Puja, monetary offerings were handed out to the monks in an orderly manner. There, I noticed and am impressed by the tight upholding of discipline.

Due to our tight schedule, we could not stay longer in Gaden Lachi and was whisked off to meet the Abbot of Gaden Monastery, H.E. Khen Rinpoche. Kating Rinpoche managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the Monastery kitchen. Mountainous stacks of freshly baked bread that makes up the monks staple diet. ‘Is that sufficient? Is it nourishing enough?’ One would ask. Though I do not waste food but I take for granted the choices we have at home. I am fortunate and am thankful.

H.E. Khen Rinpoche was expecting us in his quarters where we, representatives of Kechara House made offerings to him. Among the items offered were a Mahakala Statue, Lam Rim prayer books, Tza Tzas, and fruits. Khen Rinpoche was very happy to see us. His warm disposition is amazing and the kindness he exudes is just inspiring. Having the opportunity to meet the big wig of Gaden Monastery is a chance of a lifetime. Stood in front of us was the most gentle and humble man in excellent stature. A person of such high position in the Gelugpa tradition and does not have an air about him. His humility is a true example of seeing oneself as lower among all. May I even add that his genuine smile is so contagious! I was awe-struck the whole time being in Khen Rinpoche’s humble abode, whilst Jenny gave a presentation of Kechara House’s recent Dharma activities and aspirations, KMP’s latest books and ‘Journey to Gaden’ DVD. Khen Rinpoche smiled as he flipped though the DVD booklet and even pointed out,’my photo in here!’ Not laden with pride, he was surprised and pleased that for the first time, his photo is featured in a book. Jenny then requested Khen Rinpoche for his foreword to endorse KMP’s books- Compassion, Be Greedy (Chinese), and Journey to Gaden DVD booklet. Which he gracefully agreed but was careful to ask for some time to read through it before putting down his signature and seal which holds such great weight in endorsing Tsem Rinpoche’s efforts in Malaysia. Before leaving, we humbly ask on Rinpoche’s behalf for Khen Rinpoche’s mala, chogyur, and prayer book for purposes of fund-raising to promote the growth of Buddha Dharma. Without thinking twice, he agreed and asked us to return again to collect them. Not only was it a fruitful meeting, I find it a rare opportunity to create an affinity with a High Lama and to receive his blessings.

We had the esteemed honor to visit His Holiness’ quarters in Gaden Lachi. High above the prayer hall is the very room His Holiness stays in when He is in Gaden Monastery. I was taken back as to how simple the room is and yet it carries such magnitude of significance and presence. Upon stepping into His room, I could no longer contain myself, as the rush of emotions was overwhelming. I was in cloud nine getting a taste of bliss. I was humbled yet gratified. “This is a rare chance” I told myself and I made an offering in front of His throne to thank Rinpoche and all who steer and guide me onto this path. My eyes watered profusely and I took it as a sign saying that I am on the right path with the right Guru. Oh how I wish this experience could be shared with many. Mere words cannot describe this feeling of bliss. I pulled myself together and joined the rest of them next door, which is His bedroom that is ever so simple with rays of sunlight hitting onto the yellow bed sheet. So much warmth can be felt in here.

Back in Gen Phuntsok’s household, after a sumptuous lunch, we seek audience with Kalden Rinpoche, the young Rinpoche who’s affinity with Tsem Rinpoche remains very strong. He speaks very fondly of Tsem Rinpoche and like the many Sanghas we?ve met he shows much care towards Rinpoche. A Yamantaka statue was offered to Kalden Rinpoche who was very pleased, as it was very timely for his Yamantaka practice.

Next up, Khensur Kunchok Tsering Rinpoche, the ex-Abbot of Gaden Monastery who’s also Kating Rinpoche’s Guru. We made way to Phukang Khamtsen in Kating Rinpoche’s ‘Mr. Bean’ car. Upon arrival, a certain closeness fuses in. ‘So this is where Rinpoche lived and spent his formative years as a Dharma teacher.’ This is what he hopes for us to connect with- the root of his teaching. I’ve never doubted Rinpoche’s genuine lineage but being here takes it to a whole new level of authenticity. Now I see why he loves it here.

Khensur Rinpoche looks like Master Yoda of Star Wars fame. His eyes are sharp and very observant. Like all the Lamas we met in Gaden, he is sincerely concerned about Tsem Rinpoche and asked about our Guru’s health and well-being. Our Guru’s presence is felt far and wide whilst we take his close proximity for granted. Time to reflect within again. We have borrowed the son of Gaden and he is tirelessly showing us the path to enlightenment. Rinpoche’s kindness goes to the extent of neglecting his physical body and it pains me to learn of Rinpoche’s failing health from Jenny and Paul. As my eyeballs are watering up, I tell myself I should put in more effort in helping Rinpoche to promote the Dharma, I must be more committed and responsible to Rinpoche’s requests. This, I am ashamed to say I have failed to do so. But that’s going to change as He is compassionate enough to take in a tainted rabbit into his care, now it’s time this rabbit returned the favor.

A Dechok statue (Heruka to the high practitioners) was offered to Khensur Rinpoche. Such an offering is optimal for Kechara House members to collect vast amounts of merit for current and future endeavors. Khensur Rinpoche was delighted with our presence and even offered us coconut milk from his nearby coconut tree to quench our thirst. He also expressed admiration and acknowledged Tsem Rinpoche’s efforts in spreading the pure doctrine to Malaysia. We humbly requested for Khensur Rinpoche’s mala, dongka, and prayer book for purposes of fund-raising to promote the growth of Dharma. He humbly blessed his mala before handling it over.

We had taken some pictures with Khen Rinpoche and Khensur Rinpoche earlier; our next task is to get the pictures developed and request for their signatures on it. To do so, Kating Rinpoche took us to Mundgod town where Tat Ming and I had the chance to hang out and do what the locals do. Mundgod lacks proper infrastructure and is in desperate need of development. The air of a simple life is there but much more can be improved to bring up their quality of living. Basic necessities like clean water, sewage, electrical supply is inadequate and is in desperate state. Initiated projects such as an all girls hostel, school buses and now the hospital project are admirable due to the generosity of kind sponsors which goes beyond helping Gaden or Mundgod community. It is a selfless act of improving human kind. I rejoice and plead for more able people to follow suit. It felt like a Brad Pitt in Africa moment all of a sudden.

Just before nightfall, whilst the rest of us took a break, Jenny and Kating Rinpoche went to Gaden Library for official matters. Soon came night fall and we all went along to Camp 9 to collect a Thangka commissioned by Rinpoche. It was a bumpy ride in the dark. Surrounded by pitch darkness we arrived at a shack (which was barely visible). The Thangka painter was painting in the dark with only a candle to illuminate his room. ‘This village is in serious need of development’ I told myself but was quickly distracted by the amazing piece of Yamantaka Thangka. After scrutinizing the painting for 15 minutes, we packed up and moved onto our next stop, the Setrap protector hall to check on the Tsok offerings for the following day. A beautiful set of 8 auspicious symbols is offered to the protector hall from Kechara House.

In the Gen Phuntsok’s household, I made a friend, Kalden Rinpoche?s younger brother who was visiting from Bhutan. Both of us together with Paul, Tat Ming, and Kunga took a short walk to Gaden Jangtze to experience the mass open debate by the monks. Hundreds of monks from junior to senior gathered in the courtyard. In groups of 2  4, the monks debate on the vast teachings of Buddha with such passion. Their attitude towards learning the Dharma is admirable. The Holy Sanghas of Gaden put in so much effort in preserving the pure teachings of Buddha.

The next day we work up bright and early to join the monks for a Tsok offering to Setrap. The Setrap protector hall holds such a rich air about it and it’s not just the exotic Tantric rituals and burning of incense. It?s the richness of practice and holding of monk vows. The large number of monks flood the protector hall and the junior monks had to sit outside. It’s obvious a bigger prayer hall is needed (and our next visit would be to the new protector hall currently being constructed). Monetary offerings were then made to the monks who participated in the Setrap Tsok. Looking into their eyes, you’ll see looking back at you is untainted faith, humility and clear mindedness. Being surrounded by these righteous examples, I find myself naturally being more watchful of my body, speech and mind. After Tsok, I witnessed the generosity of the Sangha whom with the money offered to them, they in turn reoffered to Lord Setrap. Such is an excellent example of generous nature when they give despite barely ‘surviving’.

A short drive away is the yet to be completed protector temple. Three floors of excellent detailing and that’s just the exterior. Once inside, we are marveled by a set of 10 feet statue of Je Tsongkhapa and disciples. Though yet to be finished, these highly blessed statues grace the temple that houses a main prayer hall, protector chapel, library, meeting rooms, and guest rooms. Then it dawned to me that set up is identical to Kechara House. Rinpoche is bringing Gaden to Malaysia, everything from the pure teachings of Je Tsongkhapa to the set up of the Holy Temple. It’s authentic, it’s not reinvented just modernized with a touch of glamour. Kechara House is Gaden Malaysia!

Back in Gen Phuntsok’s house, we seeked audience with Geshe Yeshe, a High Lama who is known to be a master in divination. This old master has such kind and gentle demeanor. How fortunate of us to receive direct blessings from Geshe Yeshe. He expressed deep concern when Tsem Rinpoche’s poor health was brought to his attention. He quickly did a divination and gave specific instructions to Kechara House members on improving Rinpoche’s health. His actions were swift and instructions were clear. One would not expect such skillful reactions from a person nearing the age of 80 but from a highly skilled master. Tsem Rinpoche is much loved and appreciated by the Holy Sanghas as I’ve seen by Geshe Yeshe’s expression of far-reaching love and care towards him. Kating Rinpoche and Kunga translated Geshe Yeshe’s instructions and it is immediately fared out via sms to our members in Malaysia. As a new member, the proactive ness displayed by Paul and Jenny inspires me. It could only stem from genuine love towards our Guru. I aspire to do so but am ashamed to say that I have a long way to go.

Khen Rinpoche, the Abbot of Gaden Monastery invited the representatives of Kechara House to his quarters to have lunch with him at 2pm. When we arrived, he graciously invited us into his office where he then happily signed the photographs we took earlier and presented us with gifts. He even granted us permission to use his personal fax/printer to prepare the foreword for KMP’s books. His humility and patience is inspiring to many. Khen Rinpoche was kind to allow us a video interview that would be used to inspire many in and through Kechara House. His words of encouragement are uplifting and clear. He also asked of us to be devoted and listen to our Guru. His words are endorsement that Rinpoche’s teachings are correct and reflect the pure doctrine of Je Tsongkhapa and Gaden.

The esteemed honor of having lunch with the Abbot of Gaden Monastery is beyond what we expected of our journey. Then again! It’s not about us. It is Khen Rinpoche’s way of expressing appreciation and admiration towards Kechara House and Tsem Rinpoche. There’s a subtle message that he sees very highly of Rinpoche’s efforts in teaching the Dharma and approves of it. Meeting Khen Rinpoche was a true lesson of altruism. Examples like when he generously served us a wonderful Tibetan meal that is VIP standard whilst their staple diet is bread with dip. He made sure all are seated before begin eating (which he waited patiently since it was way past his lunch time). Lunch was brisk but very meaningful. We thanked Khen Rinpoche for his hospitality and made our way.

Next up, Kating Rinpoche who tirelessly helped us throughout our journey, took us to Geshe Wangchen’s Ladrang where there was a Long Life Puja offered by Tsem Rinpoche to his Guru. Meeting highly attained Lamas one after another is such a blessing and having the opportunity to do so in this lifetime is the blessing of our Lama. Rinpoche’s far-reaching love and compassion extends to Gaden Monastery and all his Gurus whom he has close affinity to. Being able to represent Rinpoche in offering the Long Life Puja to Geshe Wangchen is such a privilege. Love and compassion goes both ways and in Geshe Wangchen’s words he asked me to pass a word to Tsem Rinpoche to remain and continue spinning the wheel of Dharma. Rinpoche is my role model for Guru Devotion and I aspire to imitate this virtuous example.

We were then requested to make offerings in the prayer hall to Geshe Wangchen for his long life. On behalf of Rinpoche and Kechara House, we also made offerings of Tara statues and money to the monks participating in the Puja. We joined in for a short prayer and I observed that the Pujas conducted at Kechara House emulates the Puja here to the tee. Everything is authentic and meticulously followed. How fortunate and opportune we are to have a Guru who brings the whole essence of Gaden to us in Malaysia.

On the way to meet Khen Rinpoche, we bumped into a herd of goats and a newborn baby goat (kid) caught our attention. How auspicious it is to commemorate our ‘spiritual rebirth’ in Gaden. Khen Rinpoche was so accommodating when we went back to collect the forewords for KMP’s books. After making some corrections on the foreword, he signed and put down his seal, which is to be a very significant piece of validation for Tsem Rinpoche’s teachings and publications. Khen Rinpoche has much aspirations and see very highly of Rinpoche’s work through publications. He even expressed that currently Geshe Kyalsang Gyatso’s book fill up most Buddhist library space and hopes that Tsem Rinpoche’s book will catch up and emulate his vast spreading of Dharma through books.

In efforts to help us connect and create strong affinity with Gaden, Rinpoche advised us to make prayers and offerings to a particular Manjushri statue in Gaden Shartse. Tsem Rinpoche’s influence in Gaden is immensely felt to the extent that the rarely opened glass casing protecting the statues is opened for us to make offerings. Rinpoche who appears laid-back is much respected and revered in Gaden. Under his advice, I made a dedication prayer to my mother and mothers of all sentient beings to be free of suffering. I am touched by Rinpoche?s altruistic kindness.

It was getting late and we were invited to Rinpoche’s fraternity house, Pukhang Khamtzen for dinner, which turns out to be a buffet spread fit for a Tibetan king. Half way through dinner it began to rain and I’m glad it did for which, we got to see HH Kyabje Zong Rinpoche who came indoor from a debate in the courtyard. How meritorious to even catch a glance of this High Lama who exudes much wisdom and charisma. Jenny and I were so overwhelmed with joy and disbelief that we did not finish our dinner.

Gaden through my eyes is magical. Having a first hand experience of Dharma in its purest form, I rejoice and am truly thankful. Everything that Gaden embodies and the Holy Sanghas that uphold the teachings are inspiring beyond words. The energy is so escalated that much was accomplished during our short stay but never a sigh of fatigue. This journey to Gaden has opened my eyes and changed my perception in many profound ways. The connection and affinity bridged is treasured and will sprout again.

I dedicate all the merits accumulated throughout this journey to Tsem Rinpoche, his good health and long life to continue spinning the wheel of Dharma, and may all his endeavors reaps success; to the sponsors of Gaden Monastery whose generosity is admirable and may they continue to tirelessly do so; to all who encourage and guide me on this precious path to Enlightenment.

Gaden Experience

By Jenny Wong

Jenny Wong with Geshe Yeshe

This recent trip to Gaden monastery would be considered my 3rd pilgrimage to the land of Sanghas. I thank my Lama, HE Tsem Rinpoche (‘Rinpoche’) for giving me this opportunity again for serving him and to create many positive imprints in my mind towards my path to practice.

Many things ran through my mind when Rinpoche first told me that I would be going for this trip and representing him and our Kechara House to make the offering for the altar in Protector House, getting forewords for Rinpoche’s books from the Abbot of Gaden Shartse, Venerable Khen Rinpoche, to attend the long life puja of Venerable Geshe Para Wang Chen of Drepung Monastery and also, to meet various other high lamas. I was shaking with fear as I am not confident of pulling it through with time constraints and the preparations to do. Well, as NIKE said ‘JUST DO IT’.

Thank goodness, I have Venerable Kating Rinpoche, Geshe Phuntsok Dorjee, the Pukhang Khamtsen’s monks, to help us with the protocols, logistics and arrange most of the schedule and made the necessary appointments to see Venerable Khen Rinpoche, Venerable Kensur Kuchok Tsering Rinpoche, Venerable Geshe Yeshe, Venerable Geshe Para Wang Chen. Rinpoche was very encouraging and supportive whenever an sms was sent to him, Rinpoche would give words of encouragement to guide us along and give us explanations so that our trip is maximize to the fullest and called us to find out our whereabouts as he is concerned about us all the time. Of course not forgetting my dearest Paul, Tat Ming and Ben who has been my tremendous supporters and strength during this trip and our various other journeys.

Making offerings to the monks in Lachi and Protector House was the most joyous events in this trip, I strongly feel members of Kechara House is truly blessed with the support of 3,000 Sangha members chanting prayers consistently for the growth of Dharma individually and collectively. How wonderful!

Going for the Drulchok puja in Lachi, Lama Chopa in Protector Chapel and witnessing the long life puja of Geshe Para Wang Chen has given a new insight that everyday is a journey into our next life, it is my choice to make sure that I will never be separated from my Lama and his lineage. It is the utmost importance as it will paved a way for me to see my objectives of serving Rinpoche more clearly and ride out whatever obstacles that may come and of course, with the kindness of our Dharma Protector who unceasingly assist us all the time.

How blessed and fortunate we are to have met our beloved Rinpoche who tirelessly paved ways for our members and staff from pushing for the first trip by Kechara House in April 2006 till to date to obtain blessings from high eminent masters from the right lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa to see their holy body and be in their presence to get blessings to open up our karmic seeds to practice the Dharma. I truly believe my Lama wants us to have all the blessings to be able to practice and have attainments so that we can better ourselves to serve others.

This trip has been monumental to me as it has opened up many facets of my unfounding fears and strengthen my faith in my Lama and my Dharma Protector who has been enveloping me with their compassion and much kindness to move forward in my chosen path.

Lastly, with folded hands, I wish to thank all sponsors and members of Kechara House who has made all these events possible by generously contributing their time and effort for the benefit of all sentient beings and their genuine concern for the spread of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings into the ten directions.

A Taste of Tushita Pure Land

By Lim Tat Ming

From 3 Nov to 8 Nov 2006 , Jenny Wong, Paul Yap, Benjamin Thain and I visited Gaden Monastery in Mundgod , India . The visit to Gaden Monastery was very meaningful to me and beyond my expectation. It was such a rare opportunity that I had the good fortune to have. Through H. E. Tsem Rinpoche?s kindness and his divination, I was selected to represent Kechara House on this fully-sponsored trip. From the depths of my heart I wish to extend my sincere gratitude and thanks to H. E. Tsem Rinpoche and Kechara House members.

Lim Tat Ming with Geshe Yeshe

Going to Gaden Monastery is like visiting Buddha Maitreya’s Pure Land , known as ‘Tushita’ in Sanskrit or ‘Gaden’ in Tibetan, which is where Je Tsongkhapa went to after his death. Je Tsongkhapa is the founder of the great monastery in Tibet called Gaden Monastery. And he spread throughout Tibet a pure doctrine that became known as the Gaden doctrine. This doctrine is a special, pure Buddhadharma that comes from Buddha Manjushri’s wisdom. Since then Gaden Monastery has moved to its present location in India . Gaden Monastery is very significant me and to all who follows and practises the Tsongkhapa Tradition.

Prior to entering the gate of Gaden Monastery, H. E. Tsem Rinpoche advised the four of us to make three physical prostrations to Gaden Monastery. This marked the beginning of my pilgrimage to this holy Pure Land . I was very happy because I had the opportunity to establish an affinity with the Gaden Monastery and its holy Sangha, to create the cause to visit this place again in the future and to create the cause to seek a rebirth in this Pure Land after my demise.

Paying homage to the great master like H. H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and H. H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche whose relics are kept in two stupas in the Gaden Monastery are really dreams come true. I was very glad to be able to circumambulate these two holy stupas. Both these great masters are root gurus to many lamas and practitioners and highly revered for their accomplishments and contribution to the spread of Buddhadharma around the world today.

This visit to Gaden Monastery provided me an insight to the Gelugpa Tradition as well as the Tibetan way of living. Gelugpas are the followers of Tsongkhapa Tradition. Though Gaden Monastery has moved to India , its rich tradition and culture remain intact. This can be seen from the architecture and design of the prayers halls and other buildings. The temples are beautifully adorned within and without.

The lineage of Tsongkhapa teachings remain unbroken till today. There are many prominent high lamas who hold the lineage of this tradition residing in the Gaden Monastery. We will treasure the private audiences we have had with a few high lamas listed below. We were indeed very fortunate to be able to pay homage to them; to make offerings to them; to receive their blessings; to create affinity with them so that in future lives, we will meet all these high lamas again and again; and to listen to Dharma advice and teachings.

  • Abbot of Gaden Monastery Venerable Ken Rinpoche – We had the rare honour of having lunch which was hosted by the Abbot personally. We also had a group photograph taken with the Abbot.
  • Venerable Geshe Yeshe – We had the opportunity to witness Venerable Geshe Yeshe blessed some malas and performed divination for H. E. Tsem Rinpoche’s health. Some of us including me had the opportunity to have individual photograph taken with Venerable Geshe Yeshe.
  • Venerable Kalden Rinpoche – We received a short Dharma Teachings from Venerable Kalden Rinpoche about Kindness – the essence of which is to be kind and cherish others.
  • Venerable Kensur Konchok Tsering – We had a rare glimpse of Venerable Kensur Konchok Tsering expounding Dharma to the Sangha at the Pukhang Khangtsen. We also had the rare opportunity of seeing Venerable Zong Rinpoche (H. E. Tsem Rinpoche’s root guru) walking into the room where the teaching was held. And we also had a group photograph taken with Venerable Kensur Konchok Tsering.
  • Venerable Geshe Wangchen – Venerable Geshe Wangchen is from Drepung Monastery.

I was touched by the simplicity, humbleness, generosity and kindness of these high lamas. They don’t have many possessions, yet they are generous in giving away whatever they have like precious Dharma Text, personal malas and even their robes for fundraising purposes. We had also received some gifts from these kind high lamas. Their abode is very simple and equipped with only the basic necessities like a bed, meditation table and cushion, chair, etc.

In fact all the monks whom we have met are very friendly and kind. One of them is Kating Rinpoche who had tirelessly helped us, attended to our needs from the beginning to the end of our journey to Gaden Monastery. Due to Venerable Geshe Phuntsok’s hospitality, we had enjoyed our stay at his Ladrang and felt very much at home. Not forgetting also the other lamas from the Gaden Monastery who assisted us at the train stations in Hubli and Bangalore City and at the Airport.

We stayed in Venerable Geshe Phuntsok’s Ladrang in the Gaden Monastery. Living in the close presence of high lamas is really unforgettable for me. We have Venerable Geshe Yeshe, a high lama staying upstairs and Venerable Geshe Phuntsok in a nearby room, and Venerable Kalden Rinpoche right next to our room. That’s how close it was!

How wonderful it was when we woke up at 5am one morning we could hear the powerful chanting and prayer of Venerable Kalden Rinpoche who stays just right next to our room!

Once after dinner, I heard the beautiful sound of prayers when the monks performed a night puja in a prayer hall opposite Venerable Geshe Phuntsok’s house. I really enjoyed listening to the melodious sounds of Dharma when the monks chanted their prayers with complete Tibetan ritual instruments like longhorns, drums, cymbals, damarus, bells and etc during the pujas that we have attended. Many of the senior monks could recite the prayers from their memory without even looking at the text.

I was fortunate to experience the sight and sound of the Tibetan longhorn and the conch shell being blown during the Protector puja and Lama Chopa puja respectively. I have also heard the sound of the Monastery Bell signaling the start of Dharma Debate for the monks in the debating courtyard.

Tibetan food is really tasty. I enjoyed my first Tibetan tea and bread at the Gaden Lachi Administration Office. Venerable Geshe Phuntsok was very kind to play host to most of our meals throughout our stay at his house. Most unforgettable is the lunch with the Abbot of the Gaden Monastery as mentioned above where we were served an abundance of and a variety of food. We were honoured to have the dinner offered by the Sangha of Pukhang Khamtsen too .

Another memorable event is that we circumambulated the Gaden Jangtse Monastery building after observing the traditional Tibetan debating where many monks in the monastery gathered at 8 p.m. to debate Dharma in groups of two, three, or more at the Gaden Jangtse Monastery debating courtyard.

To have the opportunity to make offerings to the holy Sangha is another experience I will never forget. It reminds me the teachings on the Perfection of Giving. We performed the monetary offering to the monks in two different ways. After the completion of the Lama Chopa puja at the Main Lachi, monks filed out through the main entrance singing the 4-line Migtsema Prayers as we offered each monk 50 Indian Rupees each, about 1000 of them. We also approached each monk to offer 200 Indian Rupees each while they were reciting the prayers at the Protector puja in the monastery and 150 Indian Rupees to each monk while they were reciting the prayers during the long life puja for Venerable Geshe Wangchen (tutor to H.H. Ling Rinpoche). All of us have the honour to make offerings on behalf of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche to Venerable Geshe Wangchen during the long life puja. We also offered a White Tara Buddha statue to each of the monks at the long life puja for Venerable Geshe Wangchen.

We also paid homage through making physical prostrations and offering of khatags to many Buddha and Dharma Protector statues/images (including to the Abbot and some high lamas thrones in their absence) in Gaden Lachi  the main prayer hall, Gaden Shartse Monastery Prayer Hall, current Gaden Protector Hall, Drepung Para Khamtsen Prayer Hall, Pukhang Khamtsen Prayer Hall.

We had the honour to offer the pearl necklaces to Lord Setrap and a very holy Manjushri Buddha statue in the Gaden Shartse Monastery Prayer Hall.

While we were at the Pukhang Khamtsen Prayer Hall, Namgyalma Buddha caught my attention. Right here I had the good fortune to create an affinity with Namgyalma Buddha because I have never known this Buddha before.

Life in the Gaden Monastery cannot be more meaningful because we are surrounded by the holy Sangha who keeps their monastic vows, engages in studies, retreats or other Dharma activities. They set good examples for us to emulate. They inspire us to turn our minds toward Dharma constantly. There is also the serenity and peacefulness in the people and the environment at Gaden Monastery and its surrounding areas. It is very conducive to engage in the study and practice of Dharma there. Hence, I hope to visit Gaden Monastery again to serve the holy Sangha, to receive teachings and to engage in a long retreat there.

To conclude, I would like to share the message that H. E. Tsem Rinpoche told the four of us earlier on how to make our journey to Gaden Monastery meaningful. The essence of the message is, ‘In reality there is very little that we can do to really benefit all sentient beings. Hence one of the best ways for us to really benefit all sentient beings is by serving the holy Sangha of the Gaden Monastery. Why is that? Gaden Monastery can produce many qualified pure Dharma teachers who are able to benefit more sentient beings than we could. Hence, we are going to Gaden Monastery to make the offerings to help the holy Sangha of Gaden Monastery with the motivation of wanting to benefit more sentient beings.’

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