A new chapter: Kechara offers a prayer hall

27 November 2010 - 1:14am 1 Comment

The Buddha taught that opening gompas (prayer halls) and Dharma centres, and rebuilding old ones is a tremendously powerful way to generate good merit. The presence of a gompa is enormously beneficial for its immediate surroundings, the country, region and the world at large. Why? It is not so much the building itself (after all, that is really only brick and mortar!) but what it signifies. Symbolising the flourishing of spirituality, a gompa is a place for people to learn and meditate, and to contemplate on the Dharma that is conveyed there.

Before, we had Kechara House 1...

There are few events as memorable in a Buddhist organisation’s history, as the offering of an entire prayer hall to the spiritual guide and for this, 27 November 2010 will be a day forever remembered in Kechara’s history.

It was a night where 630 people gathered to mark the start of a brand new chapter in Kechara’s history. It was celebrated in the usual Kechara style, with traffic flow down Jalan Kechara blocked off to provide ample space for the grand marquee erected for the occasion. Ushered in by graceful dakinis, the air-conditioned marquee was a swanky setting for guests and members to mingle over some mocktails and canapés courtesy of Kechara Oasis.

And now we have the new gompa!

The marquee also provided the perfect base for guests to pop in and out of the newly-opened Kechara Care gallery. Totally conceptualised and designed by Kechara members, the gallery is a wonderful visual history of Kechara’s background and humble beginnings. It begins from His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche’s birth, and goes right up to his vision for the future, Kechara World Peace Centre.

The gallery provided the perfect opportunity for members to talk about the organisation they call home. Kechara, in fact, refers to Vajrayogini’s heaven and in a nod towards the direction the organisation is moving, our very own Margaret Lee made an offering of a performance of the Vajrayogini dance. Performed live for the very first time in Malaysia, Margaret’s set was the start of many more cultural performances, including a Tibetan cultural dance and candle dance choreographed by Mr Woon Fook Sen and Ms Chan Soo Leng of Legend of the Conch Shell fame.

Preparations for the offering of the gompa began weeks beforehand

It was to the sound of longhorns and smell of fragrant incense that Rinpoche arrived to officiate the event, and to accept the offering of the gompa. Stepping onto flower petals and shaded by a golden parasol, Rinpoche recited auspicious prayers before cutting the ribbon, as a flood of spotlights lit a giant portrait of Rinpoche gracing the front of the new gompa.

Over the cut ribbon, and as an auspicious light rain began to fall, guests filed into the gompa for the very first time, gasping in sheer admiration for the wonderful minimalist architecture that the Kechara House Gompa Committee had so successfully designed for the new prayer hall.

The Kechara House team worked closely with everyone to ensure the offering of the new gompa went smoothly

With the new gompa, gone are the days when large gatherings of Kechara members and friends had to squeeze in to receive the Dharma. Instead, in this new prayer hall, Datuk May Phng (President of Kechara House) was able to invite guests to be seated comfortably. Explaining that the gompa is an offering by the students to Rinpoche, Datuk May said that the purpose of the new prayer hall was for Rinpoche to continue turning the wheel of Dharma, and for us to benefit by receiving the teachings.

At the core of Rinpoche’s teachings is the practice of Dharma in action, where it is not enough to just sit and receive teachings and meditate. From the knowledge we gain, we should practise what we preach, starting from being more kind and concerned about others. In his Dharma talk after Datuk May’s speech, Rinpoche reminded us that when we leave the gompa, we must be better people as a demonstration of our spirituality.

The night before the offering of the new gompa, the volunteers gathered to receive a briefing

In fact, the night may have begun with a beautiful marquee, great food and a wonderful modern gallery but the most traditional part of the evening began soon after Datuk May’s speech, when Rinpoche entered the gompa. After performing three prostrations, Rinpoche took his seat on the central throne. It was then that, on behalf of the Kechara organisation, Datuk May made offerings of body, speech and mind to Rinpoche, signifying our request for him to turn the wheel of Dharma.

Rinpoche also accepted a full set of keys to the gompa, and signed the commemorative plaque before giving a short discourse. Speaking on the universality of religion, Rinpoche said it does not matter what faith or sect we belong to. If we claim to be a religious person, then we must apply what our respective faith teaches and become more kind, forgiving and compassionate, creating harmony, happiness and acceptance wherever we go.

And then came the night itself! Beautiful dakinis were on hand to greet guests

The best religious person we can ever be is to have compassion with no agenda, to genuinely care for another being without expecting anything back, to be tolerant and forgiving of others. In this way, Rinpoche said, religion can create a big beneficial contribution to humankind. Giving without agenda is the basis for Kechara’s work and the best way to demonstrate our commitment to this is via our 12 departments…made 13 on the night when Rinpoche announced the happy news of approval by the Malaysian authorities for us to open Kechara Animal Sanctuary.

Amongst those in the congregation receiving the good news were Y. Bhg. Datuk Dr Victor Wee, who is the Chairman of Tourism Malaysia and kind patron of Kechara Soup Kitchen. Kechara were also fortunate enough to receive esteemed sangha member Ven. B. Sri Saranakara, the Chief Monk from the Sentul Temple, as well as Datin Paduka Mother Mangalam Iyaswamy Iyer, the co-founder and president of the Pure Life Society.

The media also received a warm welcome

In attendance also were Her Excellency Maria Isabel Rendon, the Argentine Ambassador to Malaysia as well as Ms Anne Woo, formerly of the Nanyang Foundation.

Seated near Ms Woo was Dato’ Eric Tan, one of Rinpoche’s supporters from his early days in South East Asia, when he was giving Dharma teachings in Singapore. The event became even more of a trip down memory lane with Mama How and Papa How seen in the crowd – this lovely couple provided Rinpoche with his first home in Malaysia, and opened their house to guests coming to receive Rinpoche’s blessings.

Guests and members clamoured to make offerings in the new gompa

Both Dato’ Eric and the Hows may have known Rinpoche since 1992, but no one has known him longer than his very own Aunt Matza and cousin Sara. Flying in specially from the USA to witness the historic occasion of the gompa opening, Aunt Matza and Sara watched the little boy they once knew receive a full set of keys to the gompa. It was Aunt Matza who offered Rinpoche sanctuary from a difficult childhood and home life, and Sara who kept in touch with Rinpoche for the past 30 years. It may have been three decades since they last met, but their deeds have not been forgotten and they were there to witness the commencement of a new chapter in the annals of Kechara House.

The new Kechara gompa caps off a wonderful decade of achievements by the Kechara organisation, and propels us into a new decade of more growth and expansion. Rinpoche began giving teachings from people’s houses, then from an upstairs shoplot in SS2, before moving into Kechara House 1 in 2001. Who would have thought that a young monk arriving in Malaysia in 1992 with just two suitcases would one day be the spiritual guide of 13 departments (and counting!)…

Then again, after all, as Rinpoche always says, you only need one person, committed to the vision of benefiting others, to see the start of something big…

The poor weather early in the evening did not dampen people's spirits

Guests came dressed to the nines to lounge in this swanky marquee

Old friends and new faces enjoyed the atmosphere

The event was emceed by the ever-effervescent Phng Li Kim, CEO of Kechara Media & Publications

Everyone made an effort to come dressed to the theme - Kechara purple chic!

Friends flew in from Shanghai to help Kechara celebrate this auspicious occasion!

Dato' Ruby Khong, President of Kechara Soup Kitchen, with friends

The canapes were gooooooooood!

Bonita Khoo (left) with Eric Choong's mother

Rinpoche's relatives flew in from the USA to witness this occasion (left to right: Katee Ruppert, Sara Andreyev and Aunt Matza)

The chocolate-coated asparagus were a real hit...

...as were the stuffed cucumbers!

The gallery provided a stunning visual history of Kechara's roots, as well as an overview of our current activities

On hand were liaisons, members of staff and trained guides to explain the different displays

Head Liaison of Tsem Ladrang JP Thong explains Rinpoche's childhood in Taiwan to some guests

The gompa all ready to receive Rinpoche

Margaret Lee prepares to make her debut as Vajrayogini

The red Queen of the Dakinis strikes a pose!

Comments after the performance included how graceful she was

Vajrayogini will lead you to her paradise, Kechara

Volunteers and children from the Manjushri Kids' Class perform a candle dance

The Tibetan cultural dance mesmerised the audience

The dance was choreographed by Mr Woon Fook Sen and Ms Chan Soo Leng of Legend of the Conch Shell fame

After the performances, excitement was rife as the crowd anticipated Rinpoche's arrival

Rinpoche arrives to bless the opening of the gompa

Rinpoche recited prayers to bless the opening

As he cuts the customary ribbon, spotlights light up the front of the gompa

After the ribbon was cut, the crowd surged forwards to enter the gompa...thank Buddha for crowd control measures!

Under the gaze of Lama Tsongkhapa in long life form (Je Tse Zin Ma), the congregation took their seats

The attendees applaud Datuk May Phng's entrance

Datuk May addresses the gathered members, students and friends

Rinpoche enters the gompa to turn the wheel of Dharma there for the first time

Rinpoche makes offerings of speech...

... and mind!

Rinpoche is renowned for his great guru devotion

Rinpoche gazes at Je Tse Zin Ma

Prostrating to Kechara's Dharma Protector, Lord Setrap

Rinpoche greets Mother Mangalam

Rinpoche has deep respect for all sangha members, regardless of their tradition. Here, he pays his respects to Ven. B. Sri Saranakara, Chief Monk of the Sentul Temple

Her Excellency Maria Isabel Rendon, the Argentine Ambassador to Malaysia, had the great fortune to meet Rinpoche

Rinpoche greets Uncle Siang, Datuk May Phng's husband. Uncle Siang is a great supporter of his wife's works, and she in turn is a great supporter of Kechara - Datuk May sponsored the renovations of the gompa!

Signing the commemorative plaque, much to Datuk May's joy (bottom right)

It is done! Kechara's new gompa is open!

Speaking on the universality of religion

Rinpoche's talk was warmly received, with the congregation breaking out into applause many times

Datin Ng Wee Chin (former President of Kechara House) with Sara Andreyev and Aunt Matza

Rinpoche takes his leave

After Rinpoche left, everyone clamoured to make offerings on the altar, as well as take home some blessed fruit that had been offered during the ceremony

Devotees were able to make pearl offerings to create a connection with the Buddhas

When we make offerings to our lama's throne, we create the causes to receive the Dharma in the future

Making pearl offerings creates the causes for us to attain the real jewels, the Six Paramitas

Guests and friends mingled in the new gompa well into the wee hours of the morning

Hard-working volunteers finally got their rest!

The night was a picture of harmony

One Response to A new chapter: Kechara offers a prayer hall

  1. How wonderful to be able to participate through these beautiful photos. Thank you. May the Dharma flourish thru the kindness of our teachers, and by us surrendering to the deep abiding compassion of our hearts that they display for us.