Anyone who had the privilege to be part of *Tsem Ladrang and got a chance to work directly with His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche would have had this interesting experience, or shall I say Dharma teaching. One of Rinpoche’s favourite activities is… redecorating. In the beginning I just thought this must be Rinpoche’s favourite hobby, but after a few times redecorating, you realise this was definitely not a hobby or just for ‘fun’ (though there’s always lots of fun redecorating Rinpoche’s room). It’s more of a test and training for us students. What test, what training? Well for starters, it is challenging us to focus out and think outside the box! Redecorating is not just about being creative, it’s about creating something nice for someone else… it is about the other person.
Often Rinpoche would ask, and we would propose our ideas on how to improve and transform Rinpoche’s room. We would have to take in all of Rinpoche’s concerns into account in creating a practical comfortable space. Just presenting our ideas alone helped us to focus out on the other person’s needs, in this case our Guru. This teaches us ‘care’ for the other person. This is often a spontaneous activity, and decorating after midnight teaches us to ‘let go’ of our fixation on time, our projections of the norm and how things should be. In normal circumstances people usually go to sleep after midnight and would definitely not redecorating an entire room. So here is where Rinpoche would break all our projections; teaching us not to be limited in our thoughts and actions. We should not be stuck in our preconceived ideas of how things “should be” or “should not be”. It is a whole Dharma lesson in real life!
Working in the Ladrang is slightly different from working in other departments in Kechara. This is because the Ladrang being the Guru’s abode is the heart of the entire organisation for everything stems from the Guru. It is where our selfless Guru resides and works from 24/7 in the service of others. Hence, it’s only natural that those in the Ladrang team are always ever ready to be of service to others at any time. This is the same in any other Rinpoches’ Ladrang. Think of it as the ‘Emergency Trauma Centre’ of the Hospital which operates 24 hours to help others.
So when it comes to actually implementing the idea, we would have to shift our mind on to planning it out right and working as a team to achieve this very quickly, as time is ticking and the sun is rising soon! So here we learn how to be organised, how to problem solve instantly, make the impossible, possible and work in harmony so that the job gets done. Throughout this whole process, Rinpoche would expound some Dharma teachings on us, explaining the meritorious deed we’re literally engaging in as we clean, beautify and transform the Lama’s abode. I find these moments precious, because it is during exercises like these, we sometimes get a glimpse or a taste of what it is like to not conform with the norm and be out of *samsara, even for just a few hours, it can be quite liberating.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, one’s Guru is the highest object of reverence, respect and offering as He is the same as the Buddha himself. From the Guru, one is bestowed blessings and attainments to one’s spiritual progress as everything we learn stems from the Guru. Hence cleaning, beautifying, making offerings, doing any good deed in our Guru’s abode, helps us purify lifetimes of negative karma and collect tremendous amount of merits. This isn’t just something quoted from a Dharma text, but something we can relate to as we read the many examples of how Rinpoche personally served His own Guru(s) such as H.H. Zong Rinpoche and H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe with great devotion. So whenever one comes across such opportunities like redecorating the Guru’s room, we should grab it and rejoice for having such honour!
It’s amazing how Rinpoche is always so skilful and never seizes to find creative ways to benefit us, even redecorating Rinpoche’s room is for our own benefit. It is for us to create good causes to receive the Dharma now and in to the future. For those who could see this as a huge learning curve to be embraced and appreciated, will probably receive the blessings to realise the essence of this teaching. What I learnt from redecorating Rinpoche’s room is… impermanence. How things is always changing, can always change, and how change can help us grow and that we should never be afraid of change. This entire precious teaching is something we can definitely take in and apply immediately into our lives. For instance when things do not go our way or when we come across an obstacle in life, instead of freaking out and reacting negatively, we can be calm, think positively and get creative, improvise and find solutions. The key is to not to be attached to things being permanent, but to accept what is happening and from there create actions that bring positive results. Being attached and fixated on things being permanent is the main cause for our suffering and we are the only ones causing this pain upon ourselves, no one else.
Each time we redecorate Rinpoche’s room, I will discover a new lesson to be learnt. It is different for each one of us as Rinpoche presents the mirror for self-reflection in the many different tasks given; this is just one of them. I am humbly grateful and thank Rinpoche for giving me a chance to experience such wonderful live teachings that open up one’s mind to greater realisations. Anything that Rinpoche does is always about learning, improving and expanding our mind. It’s always about Dharma. This is the privilege of having a Guru to help us discover our inner Guru. So if you have a Guru, treasure it, for we’ll never know when we’ll ever have this great chance of having a Guru again. With folded hands …I can never thank Rinpoche enough for giving me so much, especially the Dharma.
*Tsem Ladrang : Private residence and office of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche
*samsara : the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.