Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Is "Tsa-Wa-i Lama By H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche

What exactly Is a "Tsa-wa i Lama" or "Root-Guru"?
There are several forms of Tsa-wa i Lama but we need only discuss the two most important ones here. The first form of Tsa-wa i Lama is the head of the particular school of Tibetan Buddhism that you are considering joining. The heads of that school can be traced right back for many centuries and this is called "The Lineage". The head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism is His Holiness, Urgyen Thrinley, the XVII Gyalwa Karmapa. You could say that the heads of the schools hold a similar position to that of the heads of the Christian orders of the Benedictine or Franciscan monks.

The second form is the Lama (who may or may not have the title of Rinpoche) under whose guidance you feel you can learn most and travel furthest. It Is someone for whom you have total respect; the person you turn to in need; someone you can follow without doubt or hesitation - whose words "enter your bones". It is the person who helps you most to realize the true nature of your mind. This Tsa-wa i-Lama wall be your strongest connection with the Dharma.

What does the phrase "true nature of your mind' mean?
It means your "Buddha-nature". It Is the essence of the Buddha, the innate goodness, which lies within every sentient being. It is the revelation of the supreme qualities of compassion and wisdom.

What is the difference between a Tsa-wa i Lama and any other Lama or teacher?
You can learn, or should be able to learn, something from any Lama; indeed from any person and every situation. However, you will learn more from your Tsa-wa i Lama than from any other. The contact will be deep and will last for the rest of this life. It may have lasted for many lifetimes already and the connection will probably continue for many lifetimes to come. "Tsa-wa i Lama" is sometimes translated as "spiritual friend" or "spiritual guide" because he or she will be your main guide along the path of Dharma.

Is your Tsa-wa i Lama the Lama you take Refuge with?
Not necessarily. We call this Lama your "Refuge-Lama". The Refuge-Lama is the one who opens the door of the Dharma and introduces you. That Lama may become your Tsa-wa i Lama but only time will tell.

How does someone go about finding their Tsa-wa i Lama? How do you recognize him or her?
Have patience. Follow the advice of your Refuge-Lama. Practise diligently. Go to teachings when possible and the situation will become clear.

Is it possible to have a woman Tsa-wa i Lama?
Of course, why not?

Once someone has found their Tsa-wa i Lama does this mean they should not attend teachings or initiations given by other Lamas?
No, of course not, but a little care should be taken. Each tradition of Buddhism, such as Zen or Theravadin, and each school of Tibetan Buddhism has a different way of presenting things. If you listen to a great variety it is easy to confuse issues without realising you are doing so. It is like a paint box! The red is a nice colour, and those two greens are both clear and bright, and the yellow and that rich purple - all are fine colours but if you mix them all together you get a muddy brown! It is better to stay with teachers of the same lineage as far as you can so that your mind does not become muddy brown! However, a little of one colour added to another can be good. Ask your Refuge Lama or your Tsa-wa i Lama for advice.

It is said that there is a strong connection between the student and their Tsa-wa i Lama and that the student should offer uncritical obedience. Is this correct?
Yes, there is a strong connection or bond between the Tsa-wa i Lama and the student but the student will offer what he or she can. Some students learn more by simple acceptance; others learn more by asking questions. Both are good. This is not the army! The role of the Tsa-wa-i Lama is to bring you to know the true nature of your mind-to see the truth as it is - not to brain-wash you.

If someone learned that their Tsa-wa i Lama had behaved in a manner contrary to their own moral standards, is it possible for that student to break the bond and find another Tsa-wa i Lama?
The student should remember that the bond is voluntary and it is possible that that Lama is no longer appropriate. Perhaps it was not their true Tsa-wa i Lama so in that case there was no bond to start with. If the Tsa-wa i Lama should break his own personal Samaya (deep vows) then that dissolves the "contract" with the student and there is no longer a bond to break. If the student is unsure or uneasy then they should try to discuss the issue with their Tsa-wa-i- Lama, or with another Lama whom they respect - perhaps their Refuge-Lama. There may be a misunderstanding and an easy explanation. Time and common sense will show the way. If this is not possible, or if the student is still distressed, they should turn to their own Buddha-nature for guidance.

Merry Christmas & A Fun-Love Filled New Year

I can’t remember when I last spent Christmas with my siblings. If I back track, it must have been some two decades or so. What about Chinese New Year? Ditto!

In the past years I spent most of my year end time in the Himalayas. This year I came back prematurely on an urgent matter. I am now preparing eagerly to go down south for my first Christmas reunion with my siblings after the two long decades. (Oh no, don’t get me wrong – not that I have not seen my siblings for two decades. For the past one year I have been going back every other month or every quarterly.)

It’s party time folks – Merry Christmas and a very Happy Abundantly Filled New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I have this terrific phobia of balloons. About a decade or so, I used to envy my friend who was twisting balloons into the hearts of children. She volunteered to teach me but I steered clear of the idea.

Two weeks ago, when I was bumping around at a shopping complex I came upon a couple who was making every kid happy. An idea came to me – why not have this at Minam Rinpoche’s Tibetan Medicine, Herbs, Arts & Culture Tour?

Yes, I will include this into the program or rather an “off-program” event. But who is going to do it? Me? No! Yes, it’s me! No, not me! I came to terms with myself and decided to try to discard this fear. I purchased a kit, complete with video, pump and some balloons.

Hilarious – my first few pieces, I asked my grandson what it is and he told me bluntly, “I don’t know”. It cannot be that bad. Over the next few days, I made a few more animals and this time I asked my daughter what this pink balloon thing looks like Took her some moments and she still could not tell me what it is. I proudly told her it is a parrot. She blinked and laughed and laughed and still she could not tell me what it is even though she knows it IS a parrot. And to add more salt to the injury she said that for another 100 years she still would not be able to tell me it is a parrot. End of story but not the end to my determination.

I overcame my fear even though the animals did not look what they are supposed to be but to me they are just what I made them to be – dog, rabbit, parrot, mouse, giraffe, elephant. Yes, I can make all of these now. And I tell my family members what they are so that there is no mistaken identity. It’s really fun!

If you want to see my masterpieces see me at Chempaka Buddhist Lodge, Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya on 23 & 24 January 2010. By then, I hope to see an expert

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Angels Knocked On My Door Today

With only a pair of hands, a pair of legs, a pair of eyes, a body with a head sitting on top of it, how far can one stretch. For the past 3 weeks since I came back from India, it had been mind and nerve cracking, trying to piece and gel everything to the best that I can. It had been meetings, computer work, raising funds, making necessary phone calls, mind boggling flyer and poster designing – all to get things running for January’s Tibetan Medicine, Herbs, Arts & Culture Tour by Minam Rinpoche.

Everyone has a breaking point and I guess last night my bubble burst. I found tears rolling down my cheeks but I was not sad or disheartened or feeling low. It was just tears welling up due to too much pressure (ha ha I got my pressure normalized now – its 125/79 versus 105/68 before). With tears streaming down I was actually laughing while talking to my daughter.

Today some ‘angels’ knocked on my door. They were people I just got to know and someone I don’t even know except for one exchange of email in the afternoon. For the past weeks I only saw my own footprint and occasionally another set but today I felt comforted with all the footprints.

Thanks to all these people who touched my life today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lunch with tibetan friends

Lunch at Lhamo-la's house
This write up is specially for Tra Ring-po. Was not able to do the loading whilst in India because of the slow internet line. So here it is ....... specially for you.

My tibetan friends and I

Ping Sha

This is a tibetan dish. The name denotes the bonding of a great friendship. Ping is actually glass noodles and sha is meat (in tibetan language).

Fried noodles

Fried mixed vegetables


Ras Malai

Ras malai is an indian dessert/delicacy. It is made of curd and cheese and it is definitely not one of my favourite or rather will never be something that I can like. The best is found at Kumar Sweets Shop just off Baltan Bazaar.