Scaling to New Heights

A blessing ceremony at Camp5 by Anonymous

13 May 2009 - 12:05am Comments Off

It was a weekday night and we found ourselves, surreally, in the midst of a cave listening to a Dharma talk, the gentle lights of a Lama Tsongkhapa statue and candles on the altar just bright enough to keep us warm and inspired.

Camp5, Malaysia’s largest indoor rock-climbing centre in the heart of PJ’s busiest shopping mall, 1Utama, had requested for Tsem Rinpoche to bless and preside over their 1-year anniversary celebrations. Rinpoche graciously agreed to attend, and so the entire entourage of Kechara House’s ‘groupies’ also had the great fortune to accompany him and join in the teachings.

The rock-climbing centre was founded by a dynamic, young group of five keen rock-climbers who identified the growing interest and need to develop such a sport within Malaysia.

The consistent efforts to help individuals overcome fear and develop self-confidence is immediately apparent in rock climbing itself, but the group has chosen to extend this to other activities that serve the larger community.

Serene Lim, one of the co-founders explained, ‘Apart from rock climbing, we are also planning other events like parties, and clean raves which will show that you can have fun without drugs and drink. We’ll also be involved in a project of healing next year to help the breast cancer cause, and drug addiction.’

One of the founders and his wife are also deeply involved in an education project for children in a remote area of Nepal. The project supports the building of schools in the area and raising funds for supplies needed within the schools. Professional photographs of the children and region displayed within the centre are sold in support of this project.

With its emphasis on raising awareness of social issues and actively engaging with the community, the centre is a stunning example of the active practice of benefiting others that forms the crux of all Rinpoche’s teachings.

To be somehow connected to Camp5 through this blessing seemed entirely auspicious for the joining of two paths that seemed to be headed towards similar goals of benefiting the world at large. For many of us, it was a wonderful insight into the different ways people can contribute their time and effort for others, and it inspired us towards finding new methods ourselves.

The Kechara House groupies (more than 30 of us!) who had tagged along for extra blessings (we are all greedy for merit, after all) were given an unexpectedly huge welcome by the Camp5 troop. The preparation that had gone into that evening’s event was astounding & the members’ care, attention to detail and warmth was apparent the minute we stepped in and were offered huge platefuls of food. This was a 21 st-century version of a blessing ceremony that so unusual, innovative and thoughtful that even the sages of Shakyamuni’s time would have applauded!

Rinpoche soon arrived, bringing in with him the all bright light of Dharma and the blessings of the Buddhas. After a cheerful reception by Camp5′s founders and staff, all of us made our way up to a mezzanine floor to a little alcove between the climbing walls, designed to resemble a cave.

A simple, though stunning altar had been prepared to the side, complete with candles, mandalas, pearls and pretty Chinese take-away boxes filled with tsok offerings. Climbers had climbed up the walls earlier in the day to hang up thangkas behind a throne, set up specially for Rinpoche. The unusual though deeply personal touch that had gone into such specific details demonstrated a level of reverence and care that represented what it really meant to make an offering from the heart.

In the seamless mlange of cultures, people, backgrounds and religious histories, and in the midst of climbers astonished to see us halfway up the wall, Rinpoche shared a deep teaching of what it really meant to be follow a spiritual path. His message encouraged us particularly towards focusing on the similarities we all share  our want for happiness, need to be loved, desire for security. ‘When we look at the differences we lose ourselves,’ he reminded us.

It seemed extraordinarily fitting that in this first large-scaled public blessing, Rinpoche urged us all towards ‘developing harmony within yourself, with others; from there to share it with society, and then to the world. That’s how you get world peace, one step at a time.’

The simplicity of his message the call for us all to ‘recognise that compassion and kindness is a natural part of you’ rang unmistakably true for everyone there, inspiring everyone towards the strengthening of their own faiths and beliefs.

Following the short Dharma talk, Rinpoche performed a tsok puja to bless the centre (and therefore, the entire shopping mall) for its success, stability and growth, while the audience recited mantras, said prayers from their own religion, or basked in the evening energy of prayer and peace.

And as with all blessings, they come and go all too soon, within a blink. After a few private audiences with individuals Rinpoche was on his way. Celebrations had begun and a kooky, young band started up with their guitar strings and a gorgeous girl singing Bic Runga (she had shaved, cropped bald-hair like a nun  manifestations of the Sangha and its blessings were popping out from all sides of the cave!). The groupies went back downstairs for supper and reveled in the air of true celebration.

As we were winding down, Serene shared, ‘We had invited Rinpoche for the blessings because we had wanted to close this first very successful, smooth year and get a blessing for the new year.’

‘We wanted to show that we are non-denominational. I’m Christian, another director is Muslim; none of us are Buddhists but we’re very open. In these modern times we need someone to relate to like that. And we have a lot of foreigners among our members so this blessing is something we can share with them that is Asian.’

The evening had been extremely comfortable in its small scale. Receiving teachings next to climbers, in the heart of a shopping mall, next to people from all over the world underlined, as always, how applicable and relevant the wisdom of Dharma can be, anytime, anywhere.

Comments are closed.