Rinpoche reminded us that this life will end, everything will end, and everything will be thrown to the wind. So while we have the chance now, we should develop the courage to transform and not just sit here at another holy place saying, “I’m changed, I’m moved but NO transformation.”
It was in the year 2005, I was one of the fortunate 52 pilgrims that went on a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya with Tsem Rinpoche. Yes that was probably the highlight of the whole pilgrimage… that you were travelling to Buddha’s enlightenment spot with Rinpoche. Why because Rinpoche makes the entire pilgrimage so much more meaningful with so many explanations, stories and teachings. Those who were approved to go, or asked to go considered themselves very very fortunate! Yes approved by Rinpoche, because going for a holy pilgrimage requires merit and sometimes some people’s negative karma may arise to create obstacles for them during the trip and thins may hinder them during the trip. Maybe they’ll fall sick, get injured etc. and that may cause problems for the entire group, so it really depends on the individual’s merits and that is the reason why Rinpoche would actually approve the name list. So yes I am very grateful that Rinpoche asked me to go and not only asked me to go, but also ask Justin and Jason Ripley (my late husband and his brother from New Zealand) to go for this trip! Well, it was more like I had to make them say YES to flying down all the way from NZ to join this pilgrimage and “No” was not part of the equation. We were all first timers on such a holy pilgrimage. Not only was it my first, our first, but it was also the pilgrimage where I had the greatest gift… to take refuge and receive the refuge vows from Tsem Rinpoche,
This was also the time of the big Tsunami hit and whereby Penang Island was quite affected. And would you have it, apparently 52 of us pilgrims from Malaysia were reported “missing” in the news. It was hilarious hearing it because we were all safe and it felt like we were in a different realm, far away from samsara. We got this news when we arrived safely in our Guest House and as we were gathered together for our first briefing with Rinpoche. Rinpoche informed us that our air plane had flew out of Sri Lanka just minutes before the Tsunami wave hit them, it was as though Setrap had carried us over safely, wow! We are indeed so lucky, so blessed and so protected. Well of course, we were with Rinpoche! So Rinpoche reminded us of how fortunate we are to be alive, to have this precious human life and to be here together on this powerful pilgrimage trip.
Under a Bodhi tree, in front of the Mahaboddhi temple, Tsem RInpoche gave us a final teaching on the impermanence of life and the significance of taking refuge. Those who wanted to take refuge were granted refuge with Tsem Rinpoche… and I was one of them! I requested and Rinpoche granted me refuge that year. It was the happiest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me and I kept thinking how lucky and fortunate I am to be able to receive refuge on such holy grounds… where Buddha himself conquered Mara and gain Enlightenment! What did I do to be so lucky, to have met Rinpoche and ended up here?! Everything seem quite surreal at that time. Plus I had two newbies under my care, Justin and Jason who was also absorbing everything for the first time while awakening seeds of familiarity. I am grateful that they were able to be there to receive the blessings, at least.
Basically I have requested to take refuge with Rinpoche every year for the last 3 years before and this was my 3rd year requesting, I was getting impatient and feeling a little down, I told myself if this time I still don’t get a response from Rinpoche, I will not request again cos maybe I’m just not suitable. How ignorant, arrogant and shallow of me to be thinking this way. When I receive my refuge name… it was really befitting of me…. Drakpa Zopa… meaning “famous for be patient”. New Dharma/refuge names that are given are the qualities one need to aspire to achieve. So when Rinpoche accepted to give me refuge, you can imagine my excitement. I am grateful because this whole event is an official mark on my personal spiritual journey and it signifies my spiritual commitment with Rinpoche which is one of the most significant things that has happened in my life.
I could still faintly hear Rinpoche’s key advice on taking refuge which is along these lines… it was receiving a second chance in life, of being reborn again back in to the world but this time as Buddha’s sons and daughters, protected by the three jewels and having the Dharma in mind to activate the good imprints, to practice the mind transformation, and to cut down the negative karmas we’ve accumulated through purification practices. This was a chance given to us, to start changing our lives for the better. Thank you Rinpoche for giving me refuge and the ultimate peace that is permanent… the Dharma.
Check out the 12-part video teachings on http://youtube.com/tsemtulku
Or you can also read about the pilgrimage to Bodhgaya with Tsem Tulku Rinpoche here