Gratitude Series #16 – Tara Wedding

It all began sometime in November 2007, when I told Tsem Rinpoche, my Guru, that I will be tying the knot with my partner Justin Ripley from New Zealand for 10 years. Justin had finally returned to Malaysia this time to stay for good. Justin was on a social visitor’s visa and he only had like about 3 more months before his visa expires completely and no more extension would be allowed. So we finally made the serious decision to commit ourselves and get registered once and for all. The first person I informed was Rinpoche.

Rinpoche has always been concern about our well-being and have always asked me to update whenever we were off to the immigration to get Justin’s extension. I guess Rinpoche knew this was coming. So when I informed Rinpoche that we will be registering soon, Rinpoche suggested that we should have a proper wedding ceremony and that Rinpoche would be more than happy to sponsor the whole thing and to have it Kechara House! We were stunned when Justin and I heard this news. We really did not expect this and really did not in the wildest dreams think of having a proper wedding in such a short period of time, let alone be blessed and sponsored by our Lama. We just couldn’t believe our ears! I don’t think anyone who does not love and care for someone like family, would actually do something as significant as this. At that moment Rinpoche had acted like a father to me and it really touched and humbled me deeply because this meant a lot to me since my parents are both deceased.

Rinpoche had adviced me to request Pastor Henry Ooi to give me away on my wedding day, seeing he is one of the senior students of Rinpoche who has known me well since the day I joined Kechara. Upon Rinpoche’s advice and suggestion, I requested Pastor Henry and he graciously agreed to doing me this big favour. Pastor Henry is one of Rinpoche senior students and has always been there through thick and thin. He’s also always been like a senior advisor/big uncle/counsellor to all of us youngsters at that time and I definitely respect and look up to Pastor Henry. I humbly thank Pastor Henry for giving me away on my wedding day. It was literally every girl’s dream come true in a worldly sense.

My wedding was the 1st Kechara wedding in history. At that time we had Kechara House 1 (the prayer hall where the blessing ceremony was to be held) and the new Kechara House 2 (the multi-purpose space where the reception was to be held). Kechara House 2 had just been completely renovated and it was just perfect timing. So Rinpoche announced this wedding in one of the talks in Kechara and asked who would like to be involved in the planning and making of this whole event?! Rinpoche wanted my wedding well planned out with every detail necessary arranged and covered. Immediately many hands were raised and people were so eager to jump in to help and sponsor, and next thing I know we had my wedding planner committee set up which consisted of Dato’ Ruby, Shin Tan and a few other students. These were the ladies who selflessly and happily made the time and effort to help me plan out, organise every little detail of the wedding right up to my nail appointment!

It was quite a fuss as it was the first wedding event we’ve ever done, though we tried to keep it as simple as possible, but Rinpoche made sure all the necessary was arranged and done. It was scary, hectic, exciting, fun, humbling all at the same time and I was about to go through it all for the first time. I could not believe this one “samsaric” event which is basically a one day event could take so much time, energy and months of preparation that can somewhat be quite challenging as there were so many decisions to be made, so many details, from the colour of the deco, the theme, the dress, and I thank the wedding planner committee who helped me planned and made some of the decisions. It sure was not as easy as we thought.  There are a few people I would like to personally name and thank below, who basically went through this journey with me and was very kind in sponsoring or played a major role in helping out during this occasion.

I specifically would like to specially thank Dato’ Ruby as I recalled her taking one day off just to take me to various wedding boutiques, trying to find a decent wedding dress for me. Yes a decent one that fits me! It was really kind of her to take the time out to hop from one boutique to another with me, looking for that one wedding dress that would actually fit the bill, the size and the style I was looking for. It was not exactly an easy task as I can be quite particular when it comes to something I need to wear for the so called “big day” and I humbly thank Dato’ Ruby for being extra patient with me ~ the bride from hell! Yes in the end I finally found a dress I was happy to put on and did not go to wedding naked!

Another person I would like to thank for her kindness and generosity is Angel, Pastor Henry’s wife. She sponsored and did all my “facials” that would lead up to the wedding week. She thought I really needed to be scrubbed cleaned  before the wedding, well I sure did. I thank her for making me come every week without fail to her facial boutique and for giving me the special treatments I needed that would have costed me thousands and she never charge me a cent!

I would like to say thank you to the wedding planner committee for organising the whole wedding, from beginning to end. For holding all the crazy meetings, for taking me out shopping, for planning out the whole event, keeping track of the budget and coordinating everything with everyone. I truly appreciate every single person who volunteered to help because I know I would not have been able to do it all alone, I would have gone crazy doing it, and probably just get registered and that would have been it! I would also like to thank Annette Chan for kindly loaning me her personal car for the big day. Last but not least, most importantly, I would like to sincerely thank Rinpoche, I know I can never thank Rinpoche enough for if it wasn’t for Rinpoche’s support for our wedding, his care, love and genuine wish for us to be happy, none of this would have happened and all the people who helped and volunteered would not have manifested.

Rinpoche also got some friends to help out with the decorations and the catering done for my reception in Kechara House 2. Kechara House 2 was literally transformed into an oasis of paradise (see pictures below). I could not believe my eyes when I saw the flowers and decorations set up. The effort that they put in to make the place look so beautiful was totally beyond my expectations. And all this is for my wedding?! I just could not believe it for everything that was being done for the wedding.

On the eve of the wedding night, everyone stayed up really late, preparing the tormas (food offerings) for the wedding, decorating the gompa (prayer hall) and reception hall. We had our rehearsals and Kechara House was in such a happy, busy, bustling energy that up till today I could still the recall the positive energy that filled the room.

Rinpoche also arranged and found sponsorship for our white gold wedding bands with our names carved on it. Thank you to this kind generous sponsor by the name of Shirley Tan for this. We did not have a cent and we did not have to spend a cent, everything was literally arranged and covered. Justin’s family who came all the way down from New Zealand was put up in Kechara Hostel and everything arranged so that they we comfortable.

Besides that, our honeymoon trip to Bali, which costed around RM10k was also sponsored by Rinpoche. It was an all expenses paid trip for 3 days 2 nights stay in a very nice resort called The Elysian. All this is beyond us, and we would have probably postponed our honeymoon to a later affordable stage. My entire wedding was literally arranged and completely sponsored by the kindness of my Lama, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche, Kechara, friends and supporters. From my wedding dress and Justin’s tuxedo, our shoes, make up, my cake, the catering, the reception, right up to our honeymoon trip, everything was sponsored for us, it was like as if we just won a wedding lottery or something, but even far better.  Rinpoche personally blessed us and also gave us our wedding vows!

Our entire wedding cost was approximately RM20k. None of this would have happened if not for Rinpoche. Justin and I did not have the means nor the money to have such a magical wedding, we basically would not have a wedding. On top of all this, I also received angpows (monetary wedding packets/gifts) on my wedding day which accumulated to just below RM10K which I did not even had to use any of it to pay for anything for the wedding event.

It all felt like a fantasy that happened only yesterday, like a dream. When Rinpoche announced all this, I felt embarrassed which I still do, because this is not something anyone would ordinarily do for someone unless they truly genuinely care for them, and let alone a Lama monk. Usually it is the opposite, we would sponsor and donate to the Lama, not the other way round, so I am definitely not here to gloat about how much I received but more to share the kind generosity Rinpoche has shown me and my family. I still cannot believe I had the good fortune to receive all this from Rinpoche, it is really more than what I deserve and I know I could never repay Rinpoche’s kindness back for giving me so much. This is not a blog post to boast I got this and that from Rinpoche but rather to remind myself of how compassionate the Lama is and much kindness I’ve received from Rinpoche. It is a small way to show my sincere gratitude towards everything Rinpoche has given or done for me over many years. It would be 12 this year, and this is one of the biggest highlights in my life! Rinpoche has given me without any agendas except for us to be better humans, to transform and perhaps show a percentage of care back in return.

As I type this post and looking back at the pictures and recalling everything that happened, yes indeed everything seems like a dream, one minute you’re in paradise, next minute it is all gone. It’s made me realise even more strongly how short of time we have with each other, and how short of time I have with Rinpoche also. Now Justin has passed on, his father before him, 3 months after the wedding, everything is a huge lessen on impermanence for me, and it seems the only right way forward to keep the mind sane is to remember, treasure and appreciate whatever moment we have now with one another and those who has been kind to us and to realise it can be gone in an instant. Thank you Rinpoche for this exercise, for making me write all this up, to remember and to give back.

On our wedding day in 2008, Rinpoche performed a beautiful Tara ritual blessing ceremony for Justin and I. We invited our main Buddha Tara from home and brought Her over to the gompa to bless our wedding, and as a representation offering we gave one Tara to Rinpoche. Rinpoche blessed our wedding rings, did a puja and gave us our wedding vows…

Wedding vows given by H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche at Kechara House:

– I will be faithful to you
– I will support you in all difficulties
– I will improve on my weak points for you
– I will defend you
– I will respect your beliefs
– I will share what i have with you
– I make this promise to you

(This is a teaching given by Rinpoche not on my wedding day but another student’s which was recorded, I thought I’d share it here as the essence of the teaching was the same Ingredients for a successful relationship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc88LRHFLlY)

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Every Kechara member came together to help decorate and transform Kechara House the eve of the wedding. They stayed up very late decorating and preapring the place. Thank you so much!

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We invited our 21 Taras from home over to Kechara House. We are indeed so fortunate to have Her bless our wedding.

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Justin, his brother Jason Ripley and friend Kelly hard at work making the tormas for the Tara Puja.

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The shrine of 21 Taras in front of Lama Tsongkhapa beautifully decorated in Kechara House 1 (main prayer hall, wedding ceremony)

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Kechara House 2 (reception hall) was transformed in to an oasis of paradise by one of Rinpoche’s friend who kindly sponsored the flowers and deco.

ON THE WEDDING DAY

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Pastor Henry, walking behind Justin kindly gave me away on this special day. I am humbled and thank him very much for his kind gesture. The flower girl in front is Pastor Shin before she became a Pastor and nun-to-be. Below Pastor Henry is seated on my left.

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The arrival of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche

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Offering a Tara to His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche and later Rinpoche would offer the Tara back to us as part of the blessing ceremony.

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His Eminence giving us our vows…

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Exchanging of wedding bands that has been kindly blessed and energised by Tsem Rinpoche.

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Justin’s father, Peter Ripley was so moved and grateful for the whole wedding that he went up to Rinpoche and personally thanked Rinpoche for everything. We were glad that we had the wedding just in time and a few month before the unfortunate happened to Mr. Peter Ripley who passed away 3 months later. I humbly thank Rinpoche for all that Rinpoche has given me and may I give back and show gratitude by working hard for Dharma as everything else is impermanent.

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