Lord Setrap extends his reach

Story By: Joey Wong, Edited by: Sharon Saw

11 May 2009 - 8:34am Comments Off

In a housing estate in the small town of Batu Pahat in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, a yellow canopy juts out of one of the row of terrace houses. Usually such canopies are signs of a wedding or a funeral, except that this exciting event is neither. Instead it is the opening of Dharmapala Setrap’s Chapel, Southern Jewel. The chapel was inspired by H.E. Tsem Rinpoche, who had brought this powerful Dharmapala of the 600 year old illustrious Gaden Shartse Monastery to Malaysia. Setrap himself has a strong connection with this region. Firstly, he is the emanation of Amitabha Buddha, with whom a lot of people in this country have strong affinity. His sandalwood cudgel is also said to came from the forests of Malaya. Therefore, it is only natural that Setrap would come to Malaysia and benefit many people in this region.

The first chapel to Setrap in Malaysia was established in Kechara House in Kuala Lumpur six years ago, and the birth of Southern Jewel is evidence that Setrap is extending his reach to benefit many in the Southern region.

Southern Jewel manifested as a result of the hard work of a group of individuals from Batu Pahat. The Southern Jewel committee is led by one of Rinpoche’s long time students, Wong Kok Thai, more affectionately known as Fat Monk. The other members are Steven Chew, Teo Lai Seng, June Tang, Alan Chan, Yen Pin and Grace Leu, who were responsible for raising funds and arranging the logistics for the entire chapel. The chapel finally manifested as a result of the kind sponsorship of Steven Chew who donated the actual building for the chapel. The Setrap statue was then invited from Kuala Lumpur to Batu Pahat on Sunday, 23 December 2007, an occasion celebrated by Southern Jewel and Kechara House members.

The night before the opening, dedicated Kechara House members, James Long and JJ Chong had gone to Southern Jewel to start setting up Rinpoche’s throne and help out with the chapel. By 11am the next day, the chapel was filled with familiar faces of the liaisons and committee members from Kechara House, such as Wan Wai Meng, and Liaisons Susan Lim and Chuah Su Ming. Many people from KL and Batu Pahat were running around, setting up and preparing the place for Setrap’s arrival, while several locals were busily enquiring about Setrap and Rinpoche. A television that played Rinpoche’s Dharma talks was also set up in the living room to educate the public.

At exactly 12 noon, everyone chanted Setrap’s mantra, with Chinese incense in the form of a jossstick and a flower or two in hand as Lord Setrap’s statue was respectfully carried from the Mitsubishi Storm, in which he had been invited from KL, to his altar within the chapel. On his altar, Bonita Khoo, James Long and Liaisons Chia Song Peng, Maliwan and Joy Kam installed Setrap’s five flags as the crowd chanted his mantra with devotion. During this time, several members were overwhelmed with emotion and burst into tears, including one of the Southern Jewel committee members and our Kechara House president, Tan Sio Chan. A few moments later, Andee Uetz, who was tending the Protector incense outside, reported that he saw five eagles circling the chapel. These two signs were a very strong indication that Setrap has arrived.

Soon after Setrap was enthroned, the melody of cymbals clashing and drums pounding filled the air as a traditional Chinese lion dance, in the form of two lively ‘lions’ and a cheeky monk, danced their way into the chapel, paying homage to Setrap and welcoming him into the area. Since Setrap appears in the form of a general, it was almost like welcoming a general that has defended the city during ancient times. This was how the people of Batu Pahat welcomed Setrap, which was in accordance with their own culture which is perfectly fine with Setrap as he is an enlightened Dharma Protector and he appreciates any form of sincerity.

Tibetan and Chinese culture intersected yet again in a harmonious way during Rinpoche’s arrival. Everyone was holding a stick of Chinese incense and a stalk of flower, as opposed to everyone having khatas and Tibetan incense. The blend of the ritual music welcoming Rinpoche blasting in the chapel with the clashing of cymbals and drums created an extremely grand impression. Rinpoche, in his full monk regalia and his Pandit’s hat, proceeded to bless the lions as well as the cheeky monk as they paid respects to him. Rinpoche then entered the chapel and gave a lighthearted talk about Setrap. He predicted how the chapel will become big and bless the region while Liaison Joe Chan and James Long translated into Mandarin for the crowd. Just as Rinpoche said that Dharmapala Setrap will show signs, there was loud thunder and lightning, and a very light rain fell. There is no such thing as coincidence and all these signs throughout the day and night indicated that Setrap was present. Rinpoche also played a rarely seen video of the oracle entering trance with Setrap, as proof to the local people that Setrap is real. The talk ended at around 12am but Rinpoche, ever tirelessly compassionate, stayed on to bless the people.

At the end of the day, the event left a powerful imprint in my heart, as Setrap’s energy was felt throughout the event. The lively, determined force was prevalent throughout the entire event and would really be something that would push away your doubts and difficulties. That aside, there will surely be more Setrap chapels around the country in the future as the Dharma grows!

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