The maternal Tara is one the most widely revered within the old Indo-Tibetan Buddhist world. However, she is not as well-known within the earlier diffusion of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. Even then, some Lamas proclaim that Kuan Yin (a popular Chinese Bodhisattva of compassion) as a manifestation of White Tara (one of the more popular forms of Tara).
Tara is Sanskrit and is loosely translated as the saviouress. She has 21 main forms which is derived from Green Tara, which incidentally is her main form and the most popular image of her. She has emerald-green skin with her left hand lightly placed at the level of her heart with her ring finger and thumb joining - a symbolic gesture of bestowing supreme refuge.
Her right hand rests downwards near her knee with her palms exposed and her thumb and index fingers joint, which means that she grants worldly and ultimate (spiritual attainments) boons. Her left leg is enclosed in the posture of medition while her right leg is uniquely outstretched. This is of powerful significance for devotees of Tara because the posture of her legs signifies her strong affinity she has with us (because she is ever ready to come to our aid).
Tara was first revealed to us by Vajrapani, one of the 8 main Bodhisattva students of the historical Buddha. She is said to be a female student of a Buddha of another place and time. Her refusal to accept gender discrimination and her eventual enlightenment led her to assume her female form. She is said to assume that form to protect all Beings from fear and from our their limitations imposed by gender, preferences and various other attachments.
Tara is said to be one of the most sensitive to devotees. She has manifested to innumerable Indian and Tibetan masters of the past. She manifested to Atisha, the great Indian master of old and told him to go to Tibet. Tara and Lama Tsongkhapa statues are some of the most common deities to manifest miracles. She is also very efficacious to help those who seek her assistance.
I was in Penang last weekend for the launch of Kechara Soup Kitchen there. It was a relatively low key event but we were still graced by the Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng. He seemed rather down to earth, attending the event with his wife and son. It was nice, fair-weathered day, with downcast sky and the event was soon over and we took a walk around town.
From left to right: Mr Ng Wei Aik (Penang State Assemblyman for Komtar), Datuk Dr Victor Wee (Patron of Kechara Soup Kitchen and Chairman of Malaysian Tourism Board), Penang's Chief Minister YAB Lim Guan Eng, Ms Betty Chew (wife of Penang Chief Minister), Dato' Ruby the President of Kechara Soup Kitchen, Ms Patsy Lim (Branch Director of Kechara Soup Kitchen Penang). Congratulations KSK! Kechara is going nationwide!
No trip to Penang is complete without savouring its rich and vibrant street food. Here in this picture is James Won, Paul and Iryne (not pictured here) tasting the yummy Cendol on Lebuh Keng Kwee. We went to numerous places and tried lots of stuff. Clearly, I overate. There goes my diet regiment!
I just love the old-world charm of these old colonial buildings. However, not all of them are restored beautifully. Now, this dentist looks a little too paranormal. Would you want to get you teeth checked in here?
Most of downtown Georgetown, Penang is best spent walking on the streets. If you were like me, you would be snapping away. Unfortunately, I am not photographer so many of them didn't come out beautifully as they looked in real life.
In Penang, I met James Ooi, (pictured above with me) and he turned out to be a Penang fan of mine. He read my book, There's No Way But Up and has turned more towards spirituality and has even taken on H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche as his spiritual guide. Good for him! Thank god we have Patsy who nurtures him in Penang. He does frequently sms back and forth with me as well. It's really nice to know that people appreciate my book.
Almost everyone I meet in Kechara would ask me whether the stones are out. It is almost like a standard greeting from the people I meet to ask me about my 'stone'. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not complaining but I find it rather amusing. Unfortunately, the stone is not out and so I have to resort to alternative treatment, which is where Just Life comes in. Just Life is an organic/vegetarian store that has this Detox program for kidney, gall bladder and liver. It is so effective, my housemate Paul swears by it. So I decided to take the plunge and bought a whole detox retreat, which basically consists of 10 fancy bottles of organic lemon juice.
The retreat consists of diluting a bottle of 200ml of lemon juice with 1400 ml of water and drinking it. A bottle is for one day and the entire retreat lasts 10 days. So, I got myself a fancy water bottle with the right amount of water to dilute the lemon juice. Let's hope this works because the fancy lemons costs way too much for mere lemon juice. I am right now half-way through and I see no stones except for a few extra zits on my face. But anyway, I am now taking more fluids than I ever have. I guess that's a good healthy habit that I should keep.
This is Ms Geetha Madavan, the executive assistant to Mother Mangalam, Malaysia's very own Mother Teresa. She is holding a copy of my book, There's No Way But Up. Apparently, she loves to read real books or rather books in their physical form I assume. However, there are many out there who love to read books in their electronic form called eBooks.
Recently, my book There's No Way But Up is out in eBook form. This is way better than the physical book for readers across to globe because you don't have to wait for the book to be packed, shipped and delivered. So there's no shipping costs involved and you can download it immediately! This is the future of publishing but I frankly don't think it will ever replace the real thing. Nothing beats picking up a real book and flipping through the pages to read.
Anyway, here are the link to the sites where the eBook of There's No Way But Up is available for download...
Last Thursday morning, I woke up with a slight dull pain on the left side of my stomach. I thought I had stomach ache so I sat on the toilet bowl and it took me quite awhile to realise nothing was coming out. I thought it might be a food poisoning so I grab my keys, changed and drove myself to the clinic.
By the time I arrived at the clinic, the pain became more severe and it was throbbing. It got so intense, I had to lie down on the row of chairs while I moan and groan quietly to myself. Fortunately, there was no one at the clinic. Then the nurse called me in to see the doctor and by that time, I was sweating from all the pain and slight contraction going on in there.
The doctor suspected kidney stones but couldn't give me the painkiller injection until my urine was examined. So I mustered every ounce of energy left in me and took the little plastic cup and went to the toilet and issued a tiny bit of urine. By that time, the pain was at its peak. When the doctor examined the urine, she said there is a trace amount of blood and it should be kidney stone. She muttered the name of the painkiller and she jabbed in the butt.
But there was no relief after that. So she said that I had to be sent to the hospital. She smartly asked for my phone and I gave her. Then she asked me who to call. I only managed to whisper hoarsely, "Paul or my dad." Before I knew it, a series of phone calls was made and Paul arrived with Jace. They brought me into the car and I was driven to the hospital.
By then, I was screaming in pain as if I was going through labour pain. Paul just asked me to concentrate on breathing. Somehow, I managed to follow what he said and was suddenly conscious of the fuss I am making. So, I kept quiet and thought of some virtuous thoughts (of taking the pain of obstacles of Kechara. Very YSH! I know.) and the pain didn't lessen in intensity but seemed to be distant.
I arrived at the hospital and they gave me a big jab in the butt and took me for CT scans. Here are some of the scans taken by Paul. The little white dot in the center is the stone, apparent 3-4 cm in diameter that was causing all that pain.
Well, the pain is gone and I am still taking some urinal alkalizers and diuretics to hopefully dissolve the stone so I can pee it out. Well, I have no pain but the stone doesn't seem to be out yet. Wish me luck!
There was a time when I was constantly being attacked by an unseen spirit when I was asleep. I would hear a buzzing sound and then I would be rudely awakened by the feeling of paralysis. I would struggle for awhile before I would be set free. There were times I would feel hands pinning me down and there was once I saw a rough white image of a face turning towards me.
I freaked out of course and sought help with my spiritual master, H. E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. He adviced me to recite White Umbrella's mantra and keep a consecrated image of White Umbrella next to my bed. So I recited it every day and initially the spirit problem got worse but after that it eventually died down. It was very effective for me and for a few of my other friends. Hence, I always advice people with similar spirit problems to recite White Umbrella's mantra for protection. There's also a White Umbrella chakra amulet if its needed for those who don't want to recite the mantra.
Have you heard of the Kinsey scale? I have not and I just came across it recently and I was very fascinated to read about it so I thought I share it here on the blog for the world to discover their sexuality. Just kidding. I guess anything about sexuality 'arouses' (pun intended) my curiosity.
According to the Kinsey scale, sexuality can be scaled between two opposites, heterosexuality and homosexuality.
0 Exclusively heterosexual
1 Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2 Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 Equally heterosexual and homosexual.
4 Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6 Exclusively homosexual
X Asexual, Non-Sexual
The last bit is rather funny and interesting at the same time. I cannot imagine anyone being asexual except perhaps plants. I am sorry but I don't think monks and highly attained Beings are asexual. I think they just channeled that energy towards spiritual realisation and/or benefitting others.
Hence, I think Tantra is such a powerful and effective method toward reaching enlightenment. I say that because all beings are consumed by desire and Tantric methods taps into such a powerful source as sexual desire and convert it into spiritual transformation. How this is done is beyond the scope of this little blog post but I might get into that later. Anyway, what's your scale and can you guess mine? Hehe!
There was a break in this afternoon at Heruka House, the place where I am living. It is scary to discover this but fortunately nothing was taken. There were only three of us living in this house. The intruder went into our rooms and opened all of our cupboards and rummaged through everything including our underwear. Perhaps they were hoping to discover some money or jewellery but there were none. They left everything else untouched including our pastports and gilded statues. Zamkar, our little Schnautzer was exceptionally quiet in the aftermath, perhaps he was traumatized by the intruders.
I am sure Zamkar would have been barking at them but was scared into his little corner under the coffeetable. Paris warned me that dog-napping is getting very popular these days. The way the robber tore through the flimsy front door grills hints of either security or the maids that usually come on Sunday to clean are in cahoots with the robbers. Now with the broken grill, we have to chain it to secure Heruka House. This is a temporary measure until we move out.
I have always loved this photo that I saved from the Internet sometime ago. This sepia photo depicts a Chod yogi wielding his ritual Chod drum and thighbone trumpet along with a display of ritual implements right before him. Chod is a practice of cutting off the self-cherishing mind. It is a meditative practice developed uniquely in Tibet by the awakened yogini, Machig Labdron, an emanation of Vajrayogini herself.
Such practices are usually performed under the cover of night and right in the heart of all all fears - the cemetary. It is also a solitary practice that requires one to come face-to-face with our biggest internal foe - fear itself. The meditations is to graphically cut and chop up a replica of ourselves (representing our ego) and offer it to the spirits and various supernatural beings. This is clearly not for the feign hearted.
That is how fear is used as a means to cut away at the root of all evils - our self-cherishing mind that we conventionally call the ego. I don't think I will ever be able to practice such an advanced practice but there is something alluring about it and the hynotic and rhthymic chant seemed ethereal and otherworldly, that perhaps hint of its supernatural origin.
Whatever it is, this rare photo evoke a time of the Mahasiddhas of old and the tremendous power they held over the imagination of the people and the development of Buddhism in Tibet.