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By Ven. Tenzin Tsultrim
In July 2013, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Chonyi accepted his first long life puja in the presence of some 200 students and well-wishers at Amitabha Buddhist Centre (ABC) in Singapore. Khen Rinpoche, who is ABC’s resident teacher as well as the abbot of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery, said he enjoyed receiving the puja, which was organized to celebrate his 51st birthday.
For 10 years, Khen Rinpoche joked, he was used to being the one making the offerings during the long life ceremonies for Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup. This time, the ritual master was Geshe Thubten Sherab, who had accepted the invitation to travel from Kopan Monastery for the occasion. The puja itself was led by the chanting master of Kopan Monastery, Geshe Lobsang Sherab. The resident teachers and directors of the three FPMT centers in Malaysia also made a special trip to Singapore to be part of the celebration.
Khen Rinpoche spoke before the puja on how to make the practice meaningful:
We all know what Lama Zopa Rinpoche has mentioned before about the long life puja. Mainly when we offer long life puja to the gurus, we have a Dharma connection with them. From your heart, when you make strong requests for the gurus to live long, that helps the guru to live long. The whole point why you are requesting is because you see some benefit for the guru to live long. If you can see from your heart why the guru needs to live long, then make single-pointed request to the gurus. When you request the guru to live long, at the same time you yourself have long life. That is the benefit. Both of you [guru and disciple] get the benefit.
When you do the long life puja, it is mainly the practice of Guru Puja. Remember to visualize or think that your own guru is in front of you. It doesn’t have to be me. Those who have a close Dharma connection with your own gurus, you can visualize them. Then you make these extensive offerings to the guru from your heart, and make strong requests for the guru to live long.
Make sure, as you are doing the Guru Puja, to make it meaningful for yourself. When you do it well, that means you are closer to the gurus. That means you are closer to enlightenment, closer to the Buddha, closer to the Dharma, closer to the Sangha. Make sure you do that. I think it is extremely important.
Among the procession of offerings presented to Khen Rinpoche was an impressively large Dharma wheel, a gift from the center and the second batch of Basic Program students whom Khen Rinpoche has taught for the past two years. Representing the center and the students, ABC’s director Tan Hup Cheng and vice-president Fred Cheong presented the gigantic wheel to Khen Rinpoche together with a strong request that he would continue to teach at ABC for a very long time.
Besides the Basic Program, Khen Rinpoche teaches a weekly lam-rim class that is translated for Chinese speakers, and a monthly “Dharma for Seniors” class. Khen Rinpoche has also formed a bond with some of the youngest members of ABC, including ten-year-old Melody Wee, who offered a song. Her mature and captivating rendition of “If We Hold on Together” held all the grown-ups in misty-eyed rapture.
At the end of the puja, Khen Rinpoche offered an insight into his life and why he has continued to stay as ABC’s resident teacher:
I was born in 1962. I spent 12 years with my family. After that I spent six years in Kopan Monastery, then I spent another 18 to 19 years in South India, then I spent 14 years in Singapore.
When I look back at myself, how I became a monk is because I met Lama Yeshe, the first time when I was aged 12, in 1974. Lama Yeshe came all the way to my hometown and I met him there. Because of that I was able to become a monk, to be ordained. After I became ordained I spent six years at Kopan. I was able to stay as a monk because of the late ex-abbot Lama Lhundrup. When I was 15 to 17 years old, my mind was always wandering. It was not an easy time, under different conditions. Because of his advice, I was able to remain as a monk at that time. After that I moved to South India. I had all this education [at Sera Je Monastery]. All this depended one hundred per cent on my teacher [Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsering, ex-abbot of Sera Je Monastery]. Because of his kindness, I was able to complete my studies at the level of geshe. After that, I came to Singapore.
Being able to live here for 14 years is all from depending on Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice. I mentioned before, when I came for the first time to Singapore, I thought I would stay just one year. I told my friends, everybody, I would try for one year. After one year I will be back, I said! Somehow I have stayed until now, because of Rinpoche’s advice.
Why I have stayed here so long is because of the members and students of Amitabha Buddhist Centre, because they all have some interest to learn Buddhadharma. That is the main thing that has made me stay here, so far, because I see that people have interest, put in effort. Some of them really, for 14 years they are here with me, without missing class, twice a week. When I see their lives, how busy they are. They have to work from morning to night. Also, they have families, have to go out with the family, need time for the family, but still they put in so much effort and come to class. So really, that really makes me stay in Singapore, here, to teach. That is the main reason. How long I stay here all depends on that. Entirely depends on that.
In keeping with the occasion of celebrating Khen Rinpoche’s birthday, there was a festive mood to the puja. And true to Singapore’s culture, the celebration was made complete with hearty eating, a Thai-style lunch buffet treat for everyone from ABC’s Executive Committee, who requested Khen Rinpoche to accept the long life puja and who also organized it.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
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