Thekchen Choling

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"Thekchen Choling" is also the name of the 14th Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala (in the Kangra district of the state of Himachal Pradesh, India).

Thekchen Choling is a registered Buddhist organisation in the Republic of Singapore.[1][2] The organisation was started in 2001 by Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje Tulku and a group of his initial disciples. The organisation promotes non-sectarian Buddhism, emphasizing understanding of Theravada [3] and Mahayana teachings.

TCCL is committed to the Rime (non-sectarian) movement within Tibetan Buddhism [4] though it is of the Gelug trandition. The primary practices and teachings of this temple are from Guru Rinpoche lineage and Lama Tsongkapa lineage.

History[edit]

The temple was started in accordance with the instructions of Geshe Lama Konchog of Kopan Monastery, with whom Lama Namdrol Tulku studied in the late-1980s and early 1990s. Other teachers from this monastery include Lama Zopa and Lama Yeshe, who have written many books and founded many Buddhist centers. Lama Namdrol Tulku’s other root guru (primary teacher) was Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel, known to his students as Khen Rinpoche.[5] TCCL regularly hosts teachers from Kopan Monastery, Sera Jey Monastery, and several other Tibetan Buddhist teaching centers.

Teachers[edit]

Resident lama[edit]

Lama with Dagri Rinpoche

Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje Tulku, born Felix Lee, was initiated as a Yogi. Lama was advised by his gurus not to take monastic vows, and remain a lay practitioner. Trained as a chef and owner of a restaurant, Lama was advised by his gurus in 1998 to give up the business and instead focus on spreading the Dharma. Geshe Lama Konchog also entrusted him with the task of setting up a Tibetan temple with the mission to change the existing mindset that one needs to be a monk or nun to practice Buddhism. Lama closed his restaurant, and in 2001 formally registered the temple ‘Thekchen Choling (Singapore)”, a name meaning “Mahayana Buddhist Temple,” bestowed by Geshe Lama Konchog.

As a lay lama he offers practical advice to those who seek his counsel for problems they encounter in daily life. Lama Namdrol Tulku is the author of the book Direct Expressions.

The TCCL homepage describes Felix Lee’s initial meeting of his teachers in Nepal in this way:

In 1989, at the age of fifteen, a Buddhist master appeared in Lama’s dreams and instructed him to fulfill the vows of his previous life which was to teach those who did not have teachers. Following the instructions in his dreams, he was brought to Nepal by Venerable Sangye Khandro. Upon his arrival, Lama first met Lumbum Rinpoche and made light offerings at a temple. At the time, Rinpoche told him, “We have been waiting for you”. It was later revealed that the Buddhist master who had first appeared in Lama's dream was in fact the great Buddhist saint, Guru Rinpoche.

Lama presenting relics to Khen Rinpoche (Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel)

Visiting lamas[edit]

Within Tibetan Buddhism, teachers study closely with more than one senior teacher. Lama Namdrol Tulku’s primary teachers include:

  1. The 14th Dalai Lama
  2. Dagri Dorje Chang (Dagri Rinpoche is the 5th reincarnation of Pagri Dorje Chang, one of the very great Geshes of Lhasa who was the teacher of many high lamas in Tibet.)
  3. Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Delek of Gyumed Tantric College.
  4. Zopa Rinpoche
  5. Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel of Kopan Monastery
  6. Geshe Lama Konchong (later said to be reincarnated as Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche)
  7. Geshe Khechog of Kopan Monastery
  8. Geshe Wangchen of Sera Monastery

Temple[edit]

Located at 2 Beatty Lane in Singapore, was registered in 2001 by Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje Tulku as instructed by his teacher Geshe Lama Konchog and given the same name, ‘Thekchen Choling (Singapore)’.

Architectural history[edit]

The address of Thekchen Choling used to be Ji Gong Temple, a heritage site in Singapore. A statue of Ji Gong from the previous Ji Gong Temple is still being revered at the main hall of the temple for devotees to make offerings.

Devotional objects[edit]

The field of Religious Studies involves the analysis of architecture and various material material objects, and TCCL has a number of outstanding devotional objects.[6]

Jowa Shakyamuni Buddha (centre) Guru Rinpoche (left) Green Tara (right)

Buddha Rupas

Tibetan Buddhist mindfulness training practice include the devotional treatment of statues of the Buddha (and his various forms); these statues are known as Buddharūpa (literally, 'Form of the Awakened One'), which is the Sanskrit and Pali term used in Buddhism for statues or models of the Buddha. Devotees treat the statues exactly as if they were the living bodies of fully realized Buddhas. TCCL contains several outstanding examples of Buddharupa in Thai, Chinese, and Nepali styles.

'Jowa Shakyamuni Buddha'

Modeled after the Shakyamuni Buddha in Tibet (Jokhang Monastery)

'Guru Rinpoche'

Larger than lifesize, this Guru Rinpoche statue is adorned with semi-precious stones and crystals. This figure represents the quintessential teacher (or guru), as Guru Rinpoche (or Padmasambhava) [7] is said to have transmitted Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century.

'Mother Green Tara'

This life-sized Mother Green Tara rupa is adorned with semi precious stones and crystals. Tārā is regarded as a Bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig) and in some origin stories she comes from his tears.

Medicine Buddha
Mig Chenresig

'Mig Chenresig and Medicine Buddha'

Mig Chenresig’s main activity is healing the eyes and is a unique form of Chenresig. This rupa is the only emanation of Chenresig in Singapore and was specially commissioned in line with the temple’s aim to be a healing temple.

Medicine Buddha is an enlightened being who has unbiased compassion for all living beings. He protects living beings from physical and mental sickness and other dangers and obstacles, and helps them to eradicate the three poisons – attachment, hatred, and ignorance – which are the source of all sickness and danger. He is a Buddha Doctor. Medicine Buddha was also the main practice of Geshe Lama Konchog.

Giant Mani Wheel

Giant Mani Wheel

A prayer wheel,[8] in Tibetan Buddhism, is a device that spins on an axis containing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of copies of a specific mantra. Instead saying one mantra at a time, a devotee who spins a prayer wheel believes himself to have said the mantra hundreds, thousands, or millions of times, depending on how many copies of the mantra are in the wheel.

Commonly, prayer wheels contains Chenresig’s mantras which devotees consider the turning of the wheel to be a manifestation of the Chenrezig’s holy speech. Chenrezig, of whom the Dalai Lama is considered by Tibetan Buddhists to be an incarnation, is the protector of Tibet and is also known as Avalokitesvara (Guenther). Through this practice, one is believed to develop purity of body, speech, and mind. Buddhist texts teach that spinning the Mani Wheel (or prayer wheel) is equivalent to having recited all the mantras inside the wheel (Ladner). Turning the Mani Wheel is thus considered extremely beneficial.

The Giant Mani wheel in Thekchen Choling (Singapore) was commissioned and installed in 2003. It stands 3m high, is 1.38m in diameter, and contains 213 million of Chenresig’s mantras.

Sacred Relics displayed in Thekchen Choling

Sacred Relics On Display

  1. Relics of Buddha Shakyamuni
  2. Relics of the Buddha’s closest disciples Ananda, Upali, Shariputra and Mahamaudgalyayana
  3. Hair of the 13th Dalai Lama
  4. Relics of the 3rd and 16th Karmapa
  5. Relics of the great Tibetan saint Geshe Lama Konchog
  6. Relics from numerous other Buddhist masters

Kangyur and Tengyur Text

Under the recommendation of Dagri Rinpoche, the whole collection of the Kangyur and Tengyur Text are now kept in TCCL. Also known as the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, this collection consists of loosely defined list of sacred texts recognised by various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Practices and events[edit]

The temple has weekly teachings in English and Mandarin, chanting and prayers sessions. It is the only Tibetan Buddhist temple in Singapore to be open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The main hall is available to all who seek a place of quiet, for prayers, for meditation at any time of the day.

The temple provides free traditional Chinese Medicine consulting service, acupuncture service and medicine twice weekly. The temple provides free medicine distribution, free meals and financial support, with emphasis for the poor and elderly.

The devotees chant sutras in Mandarin wearing the traditional Chinese Hai-Ching and chant prayers in English and Tibetan while wearing the layman robes of white and maroon. This temple is unusual for the youth of its devotees; most are below the age of thirty five. The temple was granted permission by the Office of the 14th Dalai Lama to publish thirteen of his books in simplified Mandarin for free distribution.

Teaching in Thekchen Choling

Regular scheduled practices[edit]

Dharma Education Teachings

  • English with Mandarin translation Friday Evenings
  • Mandarin or English with Mandarin translation on Thursday Evenings
  • Various courses

Dharma Practices of Mahayana Tradition

  1. Food offerings
  2. Sutra Recitation (Chinese)
    1. Confession to 88 Buddhas
    2. Amitabha Buddha Sutra Recitation
Fire Puja
  1. Pujas and Sutra Recitation (Tibetan & English)
    1. Guru Puja & Green Tara Puja
    2. Medicine Buddha Puja
    3. Dharma Protector Puja (Palden Lhamo)
    4. Tara and Chenresig Group practices
Annual unveiling of the Giant Thangkha on Vesak Day

Events[edit]

Lunar New Year

Prayers are performed for fifteen days coinciding with the days of miracles

Qing Ming

Typically associated with remembrance of parents and ancestors, the temple provides prayers for the deceased

Vesak

The event marking Buddha’s conception, enlightenment and parinirvana is marked by the unveiling of a 42-foot-tall (13 m) thangka of Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples. Throughout the month, numerous activities are held including pujas, sutra recitations and animal liberations.

Ullambana

Prayers are held in the Chinese Mahayana tradition with the recitation of sutras associated with Buddha Ksitigarbha and various confession text.

Healing Festival

Combining prayers to Chenresig, Mig Chenresig and Medicine Buddha the main focus of this prayer event are prayers for good health and healing.

Community outreach[edit]

Free Medical Services
Children Enrichment Workshop
Youth Outdoor Activity
Rations Distribution to the Needy

With the vision of “Connecting All with Divine Hearts”, Thekchen Choling hopes to complement the spiritual healing of the temple with a focus on giving aid to those in need.

Thekchen Choling Community Outreach offers the following community services:

Healing Services

TCCL is developing ways to provide effective health care to the needy. The healing services consist of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Reiki Healing sessions held weekly at the temple. Future plans include a western medical health clinic. The temple regularly hosts Healing oracles from Ladakh providing their unique form of healing.

Education Services

The temple grants education bursaries to needy students each year regardless of religious background

Youth Development Services

The objective of Thekchen Choling Youth Development Services is to groom youths to be courageous, caring and socially responsible adults. Programmes are planned to help in the overall development of youths. These programmes include self-awareness and social skills and community outreach opportunities.

Elderly and Needy Support Services

Given the rising prices of food recently, TCCL hopes to lend a helping hand to the needy by distributing food rations to them. Project Maude is a ration distribution project held quarterly during Chinese New Year, Vesak Day, Mid Autumn Festival and Winter Solstice. More than 1000 people are supported on each occasion.

Location map for Thekchen Choling (Singapore)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Studies of global Buddhism tend to focus on traditionally Buddhist countries such as Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Korea, China, Tibet, and Sri Lanka; or, they look to new developments in the United States and Europe. Less attention is given to countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. See, for example, The Life of Buddhism, edited by Frank E. Reynolds and Jason A. Carbine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
  2. ^ Kuah, Khun Eng. State, Society and Religious Engineering: Towards a Reformist Buddhism in Singapore. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003.
  3. ^ Trainor, Kevin. Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravāda Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  4. ^ See “The Sage's Harmonious Song of Truth: A Prayer for the Flourishing of the Non-Sectarian Teachings of the Buddha,” a prayer composed by the XIVth Dalai Lama, for an official expression of the wish that sectarian division will not harm Buddhism.
  5. ^ TCCL homepage: http://www.thekchencholing.org/Templates/intro_abt.htm. Accessed 9/9/2008.
  6. ^ The academic journal Material Religion explores “how religion happens in material culture - images, devotional and liturgical objects, architecture and sacred space, works of arts and mass-produced artifacts. No less important than these material forms are the many different practices that put them to work. Ritual, communication, ceremony, instruction, meditation, propaganda, pilgrimage, display, magic, liturgy and interpretation constitute many of the practices whereby religious material culture constructs the worlds of belief.”
  7. ^ Guenther, Herbert V. The Teachings of Padmasambhava. New York : E.J. Brill, 1996.
  8. ^ Ladner, Lorne (editor and introduction), with translations by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche [et al.]. The Wheel of Great Compassion : the Practice of the Prayer Wheel in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston, MA : Wisdom Publications, c2000.

External links[edit]