Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tales My Lama Told Me by David Lai

Recalled what my friend told me, yes, I am having some Buddhist root and in my past life I must have got good connection with Buddhist teaching.

My parents are coming from a strong Chinese culture background passed down by my grandparents and ancestors who came originally from China. Both of them always pray to Tian Gong (heavenly God) using joystick, put it into a small cone hung on the wall outside our house almost every night.

Every year my parents would wake up early in the morning to go to the market and buy chicken, pork, vegetables, fruits, cakes, etc., then they would cook and prepare a table full of food and pray to my grandparents who had passed away many years ago, and another time praying to the other God. On this day, all of us (children and grandchildren) needed to help up such as: preparing the food, laying it on the table, folding the hell notes, etc. Then we would gather, start to pray, put our joysticks inside the can filled with rice (red paper written with the names of the person/God intended to was sticked into it). While waiting for the joysticks to burn, which usually took about 2-3 hours time, we would sit nearby the table chasing out the fly and sometimes the cat, chit chatting, and after, burnt the money together.

My parents would regularly drive around the island when we were young, visit one temple to another, at the same time we took it as family vacation. They would equip themselves with packets of joysticks, candles, and pray there. Before going back home, he would pass the donation to the temple.

My parents never set an altar at home. They do have statues of some Gods, such as: statue of Goddess of Compassion or Kwan Im, Guan Yu or commonly called Guan Gong – who is perceived to bless the upright and protect them from the wicked, and so on. Every midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve, both of them would go to the temple and pray to all Gods inside the temple.

Short to say, both of them have learned a lot from Chinese Confucius (basis in common Chinese tradition and belief, which championed strong family loyalty, ancestor worship, respect for elders by their children and husband by their wives, and so on. One early version of the Golden rule was “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” The Taoism impact was to live in harmony.

These are things we’ve learned from them. My parents always put an emphasis to ensure we, as family, siblings, to live in harmony, protect those who is weak, support and help each other, do not give unnecessary burden, share what we have, teach our children well, and so on. These are actually the valuable treasures given to us.

My father never steps into the temple to sit and listen to the Dhamma, nor does he chant any paritta or Buddhist chanting. However, he knows what is right and what is wrong. He has done his responsibility well as a son, a parent, a brother, a grandparent, a friend, and so on. He knows the basic rules in life not to harm others, not to be selfish, share when you have more and while still alive, and he believes a lot in karma. Many people he knows that did bad things in their lives had received their bad karma, mainly resulting in short life due to sickness. No matter how bad other treated him (including his former best friend), he was just accepting it and not even once he had a thought of getting revenge or making him suffer. Because at the end, it was all karma that works in this universe.

Unlike him, I had learned about Buddhism since primary school one up to class six. That was where I got my basic Buddhism teaching (more on Theravada Buddhism). After that, I went to Christian and Catholic school. However, I started going to temple since I was 16 years old for another 3 years. When I was studying abroad, I just visited any temple that was available. Even until now, it’s just like that.

But during my traveling time, I observed about any Buddhist teachings in different countries, different sects, like Mahayana, Tantrayana, Vajrayana. Although the way they do is different, but the basic teachings are still the same. Sometimes I was amazed by it. I respect all the different sects because at the end all teaches the same, about Buddhism.

Tales My Lama Told Me by David Lai

Lately I wish I have good karma to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. Lots of time I don’t know why they do this and that, what chants they are praying, and so on. Also, I feel that my karma is not good enough that I don’t learn much about it. So when I went to library about two weeks ago, I saw this book, ‘Tales My Lama Told Me’, written by David Lai. I immediately borrowed and slowly read it. Since I don’t have good karma yet to have Guru to guide or to learn, so why not borrowed and read from other people’s experience?

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche - photo taken from his biography official website

This book consists of 2 parts. Part 1 – Chapter 1 to 12 consist of stories that H.E. Tsem Rinpoche told the writer about popular traditional tales that have been told for generations in the monastery, while Part 2 – Chapter 13 to 21 consist of stories from Rinpoche’s own experience. I am halfway reading it and feel grateful being able to read all those stories I’d never heard before and there are many things we can learn from Rinpoche’s own life experience. Currently Rinpoche is living in Malaysia. He has a very interesting background, believed to reincarnate from Lama of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism in his previous life, was bornt in Taiwan, moved to US then India, and finally founded and became spiritual guide of Kechara House Buddhist Association in Malaysia.

It’s interesting to read about his life’s background, showing that even as Rinpoche, life is not bed of roses. Whatever karma brought from the past life, we still have to pay it in any time of our lives. He has gone through a lot of suffering during his younger time. However, he took it all positively and taught us some important lessons in life.

Below I quote from his phrases in this book:

“What I am trying to say here is that whenever you have a chance to do something for others, you should do it. When you have an opportunity to make a difference, you should do it. When you have a chance to learn something or to absorb something, you should do it. You should get your priorities right and you should ensure your future with it. This is because a lot of people out there do not have such an opportunity or chance. They suffer tremendously; I know a lot of people like that. We shouldn’t waste this chance.” He wrote this as the harsh training that he got while growing up with his mother came in useful to serve his Lama and the center.

“We really have it easy when our parents allow us to have freedom and we can basically do whatever we want. But if we continuously fail, disappoint, burden, hurt, damage, break our promises and are flippant about our freedom, then it is a wasted opportunity. People can only remind us and tell us off so many times. Such opportunities can run out, time will run out and the good days will come to an end. Why is it that some of us are born into torture and hell? Why is it that some of us are born into an easy life with no responsibilities? You have to realize that this is the force of karma.”

These were his words when speaking about his abusive mother, “She didn’t want to talk to me and that hurt me very badly. I cried then because forgiving someone who has done so much harm to you in body, speech and mind is not easy. It is not easy at all to forgive someone who hurt you emotionally, damaged you psychologically and physically hurt you all the time.

When you have a lot of pain and difficulty and you know the Dharma, you learn to accept and let go but the pain doesn’t go away. Accepting doesn’t make what happened go away or cause that hurtful person to go away. But what does go away is your feeling that you can’t do it, you can’t make it, you can’t be successful or that you are worthless. That feeling goes away and you will start to feel that you can actually succeed.”

“Another thing I am trying to say here is not to take anyone for granted. When someone comes along and gives you a gift, financial help or advice that really works because it was given out of care, you should really treasure that person. You should never forget such a kind person and you should always return their kindness in gifts or whatever is necessary to repay their kindness. That is why I always give a lot of gifts to people” – Rinpoche got that from his mother as she was very generous. But afterwards, he gives a lot is because of the Dharma and from his experiences growing up.


The writer also wrote about Rinpoche’s journey of learning in giving dharma talks under his Guru’s pressure. Sometimes it was funny and reflection the common human behavior and feelings. After all, Rinpoche is also human being. You can read more about him here and the link of his blog here. Overall, it is an interesting story on this book and it gives me knowledge that I might not be able to obtain it myself. If you have a chance to see this book, you can read it for yourself. Happy reading! :)

4 comments:

Kipchu Namgyel said...

you were definitely a passionate reader and writer...no doubt ..hats off.

Overcome said...

Thank you for reading and your compliment Kipchu! I'm not as good as you said, just to express my interest and feelings here on my blog :) Have a great day!

David Lai said...

Hello Rima Reyka,
Just found your review of the book Tales My Lama Told Me just now by accident. It's nice and I am glad you like the stories contained within. Just thought I drop a comment to say thank you.

Rima Reyka said...

Thank you David for dropping by and leaving your comment here. You have written the book in a smooth flow and I enjoyed reading it.

I should be the one who Thank you for sharing the Rinpoche experience through your book which enable us to learn from it. Keep writing! Hope you can produce more books! :)

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